Life Without Love = Meaningless

As I’ve grown older and reached the ripe age of 37, I’ve come to realize something:  LIFE ISN’T ABOUT WHAT WE DO, IT’S ABOUT HOW WELL WE LOVE.

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT)

This verse is huge for me.  It’s a great reminder of how much God values love and how he could give a rip about what we do if love isn’t the motivator or result.

You could be the most devout church goer in town, but if you treat others like crap Mon.-Sat., you’re pretty much wasting your time.  You could be the CEO of a huge corporation and rake in the cash, but if you’re a cheat and unfair, you’re pretty much wasting your time.  You could be super generous, devoting your time to volunteer, but if you’re not loving to others, you’re pretty much wasting your time.  You see, God isn’t interested in the same stuff that we’re interested in.  The trophies and status symbols that our culture values are garbage to him.  He’s interested in eternity.  He’s interested in life change.  He’s interested in our character.  He’s interested in us being light when all else is dark around us.  He’s interested in stuff that will last, not stuff that is temporary.

God has given us relationships such as family, neighbors, enemies and difficult people for a reason…..to learn what love is….what HIS love is.  I’ve come to grips with the fact that I will never fully understand the extent of God’s love or Jesus’s sacrifice.  I will never fully understand the grace given to me daily, when I totally don’t deserve it.  I DO understand one thing though….I’m grateful for it and BECAUSE I’m grateful for it, my natural desire is to SHARE it with others.  I want others to experience the same love that I’ve received.  I want folks to feel the rush of loving others because amidst that sharing of love, God is there, waiting with a glowing smile and a big ‘ol bag of life change with our name on it.  That’s the good stuff right there.

You know what though?  We don’t HAVE to love at all.  We are given the choice to be selfish or to be selfless because that’s what love is all about….choice.  Friends, I sure hope you CHOOSE love, you CHOOSE Jesus, you CHOOSE that solid peace that goes beyond all understanding.

At my funeral, I don’t want people to talk about how nice my yard was or what kind of car I drove or how many hours at the office I put in per week…..I want them to talk about how I loved.  I want them to talk about how I cared.  I want them to talk about my role as a husband and as a father and how I took that honor seriously.  I want them to talk about Jesus and how He reflected Himself through me, even it was just a little bit.

Here’s the thing, love can be intoxicating to receive and terrifying to give at times, I get it.  There’s risk involved, it’s true.  God wants us to love anyways because maybe, just maybe, your smile or handshake or good gesture could alter the path of someone’s life.  I think that’s definitely worth the risk, don’t you?  Go get ’em!

God Bless,

Paul

Why The Simpler Things Can Be Better

004Kids don’t typically care about fancy stuff.  As long as they’re entertained, they’re happy.

You know how it is….you spend a lot of money on a fancy toy, thinking the kids will be totally stoked and over-joyed…..and they may be excited for a moment…..until you come into the room and see them playing with a toilet paper roll, or a rock, or a box.  Meanwhile, that shiny, expensive toy is in the corner collecting dust.  Pretty funny.

A few weeks ago, I sent my wife away to the beach and the boys and I had a guy’s weekend.  We had a lot of fun eating junk food, watching baseball, bowling, farting, burping, etc.

Although we did a lot of fun things, sitting in the back of my truck, at the airport, eating burgers and watching airplanes was my favorite.  I think the boys enjoyed it too.  It was simple-fun, you know, memory stuff.

It seems like, at least with my boys, the experiences that cause life to slow down a little are what matter the most to them….the times where conversation is shared and time has no hold.

Don’t get me wrong, they love video games and new toys and shiny cool stuff.  Usually though, after a while, most of it ends up in the closet.

Finding that balance between shiny stuff and good ‘ol fashioned interaction is tough, especially in this day and age.  Kids are adaptable though and over time, they’ll follow our lead if we’re consistent and deliberate.

As a dad, I’m more interested in creating memories vs. stockpiling toys.  Hopefully my boys will find more value in relationships vs. stuff someday…..I think they’re on the right track.  For now, they’re just kids, figuring stuff out and I’m ok with that.

A great reward for me would be 20 years down the road….while drinking coffee or something, my boys start bringing up memories from their childhood.  The simple, good memories of laughs shared, experiences had and freedom felt.  I hope to experience this kind of reminiscing someday….God willing.

God Bless,

Paul

 

LISTENING, FOOTBALL AND THE DAY MY WIFE SHOULD HAVE KNOCKED ME OUT

ListenIn the 10 years that I’ve been married, there have been many lessons learned.  Many of those lessons have needed reinforcing…over and over and over….I’m a slow learner apparently.

If I could pull one of the many truths out of the marriage hat, it would be this: SOMETIMES, IT’S BETTER TO SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND LISTEN VS. SAYING ANYTHING AT ALL.

You see, as a male, I want to fix things.  I want to solve all of my wife’s issues and settle every one of her nerves.  I have a desire to be this vending machine….pop in a problem quarter and I’ll spit out a can of wisdom.  In a perfect world, it works…..in a realistic world, not so much.

Sometimes, a listening ear and a silent mouth are the best gifts to offer.  To allow my heart to be absorbent, like a sponge, to my wife’s care’s, concerns and passions.

It’s one thing to just be present….it’s another thing to show empathy.  To make eye contact, nod the head in understanding and turn the football off for a bit.

I’m really not one to talk.  As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of the day that my oldest son was born.  My poor wife was being a soldier in that hospital room.  Pushing, sweating, groaning, being more of a man than I could ever be.  We had football on in the background to keep things calm and relaxed.  My wife asked me for ice chips or something and I didn’t hear her.  I was watching football (oh you stupid man).  “PAUL, I NEED ICE CHIPS!” suddenly jolted me from my trance and I quickly grabbed some for her.  The nurse swiftly shut the TV off to avoid my wife knocking me out.  It’s funny looking back, but at the time, I wasn’t present in spirit, only in body.

As a guy, being emotionally available and identifying with feelings is tough because we’re not wired that way.  It’s certainly good to give it a valiant effort though and it takes practice.

When it comes down to it, I don’t need to have all of the answers.  I just need to be there.  To be available.

I’ve discovered that sometimes, what’s most necessary are 2 arms, readily available for a bear hug, always.

God Bless,

Paul

FEELINGS – YOU CAN’T ALWAYS TRUST ‘EM

FeelingsFeelings, what can I say about feelings…..you ever notice that they never stay the same?  They are more fleeting than…well, they’re just fleeting…and inconsistent….and often unreliable.

No relationships last on feelings alone.  How could they?  Commitment and love should be the main ingredients and feelings should be the seasoning.

Whether it’s a friendship, a family member, or a marriage, faith in the process of maintaining relationships is the glue that keeps things together.

My relationship with God is definitely not based on feelings, it’s based on faith and belief.  It took me a long time to figure this out.  I came to a place where I started to doubt my faith because I didn’t “feel” as though I was floating on the clouds all the time.  I was frustrated, confused and pissed off.  Loving God = perfect life, right?  Not so much.

Coincidentally, I am going through a “non-feeling” time right now.  I kinda feel as though I’m just going through the motions.  I don’t feel close to God, but I don’t feel far away either.  It’s ok.  These are the times where I just keep seeking, persevering and absorbing.  Although it “feels” a bit lonely, I’m confident that God is there…He never changes and He never leaves us.

Sometimes, I think it’s good to go through times like these.  It builds our faith and it shows us just how much we need God’s guidance and presence.  I’m committed to keep pushing because my faith goes deeper than my mood or temperament.  It delves into the root of who I am.

My heart has been changed because of Christ’s love for me.  I’m not the person I used to be…..this is a fact and this is what I hold on to.  Each day is a challenge to see other’s through the eyes of Jesus.  I’m committed to keep pressing, holding on to the faith that saved me.

So, I’m gonna keep fighting the good fight.  If I feel lonely for a bit, bring it on.  I’ve been here before and it’s a temporary spot to be in.  After all, feelings are only fleeting, right?

“It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.” -Deuteronomy 31:8

God bless,

Paul

MOONING FOR APPROVAL

LikeHave you ever dropped your pants and mooned somebody to be funny?  C’mon, I know you have.

A funny memory came to mind the other day.  I was friends with this girl on my street.  I believe we were in kindergarten.  We hung out here and there and I remember having a big crush on her.  In fact, in my school picture, I was looking down at her with a cheesy smile on my face.  Kinda cute really.

We lived down a country rock road and we often walked together to the bus stop.  One day, as we were walking home, I decided to do something genius…..in fact, I thought it would be the most hilarious thing ever……in fact, I knew that she would be impressed with my wit and spontaneity….I dropped my drawers, turned around and mooned her.  I flung those chubby buns out for all to see.  Awesome, right?  Nope, not really.  I don’t remember her freaking out or anything, but I don’t remember her giving me a high-five either.  What I do remember is not hanging out with her anymore.  I was now the creepy kid who reveals his buns for approval and laughs.

My feeble attempt to gain approval didn’t work.  We all search for approval don’t we?  I know I still do.  We don’t need to drop our pants to gain approval….we do other things like talk about our stuff, status, money, accomplishments.  Sometimes, we may exaggerate a bit, just to add that extra-interesting flavor to our life.

God created each of us in a unique way.  We each have different gifts, abilities and strengths.  The bible talks many times about us using our God-given gifts boldly….if our gift is teaching, then teach….if serving, then serve….if leading, then lead.  So many times, I haven’t been satisfied with myself.  It’s almost like I’ve felt the need to convince others to like me, to think I’m cool.

I’m learning to just be myself.  It sounds simple, but it’s been a long road.  I love how God created me and I love how God created you.  If only we could boldly just be ourselves, gifts and all, without having to show each other our “buns.”

Have you ever found yourself doing silly things to seek approval?

God Bless,

Paul

Learning How to Receive

Give and Receive

Sometimes it’s easier for me to give than to receive.  You ever feel that way?

My wife and I are currently learning how important it is to do both.

Love is a special thing.  It’s special because it goes both ways.  It takes a giver and a receiver.  It’s also good to switch the roles every once in a while.  It keeps life balanced and it keeps relationships fresh.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, we lost a great woman recently, my wife’s mom.  During this process, we have been on the receiving end of many hugs, meals, cards, flowers and condolences.  Most of all, we have been on the receiving end of love.  It’s humbling really.  To let your guard down, accept love and to simply say, “thank you.”

The truth is that giving and loving not only affects the person on the receiving end.  The person giving the love is also touched.  What a beautiful thing.

So, I guess, my wife and I have both learned a very valuable lesson lately: ALLOWING ONESELF TO BE VULNERABLE ENOUGH TO ACCEPT LOVE, IN IT’S MANY FORMS,  IS TRULY LIVING.

God Bless,

Paul

Crowd Surfing and Relationships

Crowd Surfing

We need each other…..we really do.  I’m discovering this more and more as I grow older.

My mother-in-law just passed away a few days ago.  She had a long, well-fought battle with cancer.  It’s been a heavy weight on the necks of all those involved.  We all miss her dearly.  At the same time, we reflect on the awesome impact that she had on our lives.

Through this grieving process, my family has been surrounded by an army.  An army of people praying, loving and giving.  There have been many kind messages sent, many warm meals made and many hugs given.  We are so grateful.

We are all in this together, aren’t we?  We all face the reality of death, of loss, of heartbreak, of sickness, of many things that plague this thing called life.  That’s why we’re called human BEINGS.  We’re meant to BE with each other when things are tough and also when there’s reason to celebrate.  At least that’s my take on it.

God has given us all the gift of relationship.  To be the strength in each other’s weaknesses.  To provide each other with clear perspective when the road seems foggy.  It’s beautiful really….and necessary.

I picture relationships as crowd surfing……folks lying on their backs, “surfing” across a group of people, trusting that all of those arms and hands will keep them above ground.  That’s life man.  We need others to “surf” with.  People we trust and people who love us.  People to lift us up with strong arms and hands when we don’t have the strength.

Right now, my family and I are a bunch of crowd surfers, floating above our strong army of friends and family.  We need it and we’re receiving it……we’re blessed.

God Bless,

Paul