Category Archives: love

that time i didn’t know my neighbor died…

neighbor

 

it was an ordinary weekday. we were talking about our ideas for landscaping our front & back yards. we really want to build a fence between us & the only neighbor behind us that doesn’t already have their own fence up. not because we don’t like that neighbor, but because their yard is really ugly. i commented that we actually like jim pretty well. shaun replied, “jim died two months ago.” 

my brain has been a little fuzzy lately. between being a new momma & battling a sinus infection & allergies that are exacerbating my fibromyalgia, remembering things is not one of my strong points lately. so, i racked my mind a minute before i was sure i didn’t know this yet.

“what?” i sputtered.

“yeah, he passed away a couple months ago from cancer.”

i knew jim had had cancer, but his treatments had been going pretty well. that was the last i knew anyway. how dated was my information? i realized i hadn’t personally spoken to jim in at least a year, maybe longer. shaun’s the one who really talks regularly to our neighbors. i’m good friends with our neighbors across the street from us — a sweet older couple who are retired farmers & an older woman who has lived in that house for over 40 years. but i don’t talk to the ones behind us or down the hill from us much. okay, at all. i don’t even know the name of our “next-door neighbor” down the hill. i’ve felt bad about that before. but not enough to do anything about it. 

[as i sat here typing this, i kid you not, one of our neighbors from across the street walked over to deliver a plate of strawberries they grew. oh, the irony.]

back to the story at hand: that time i didn’t know my neighbor died. i was shocked from the news of his passing. turns out one of his sons [the “good” one] is living in the house now. i clearly haven’t met him yet. shaun has. that’s how he learned about jim. two months ago.

i’m ashamed of myself for not knowing that my neighbor no longer lives behind me & no longer lives. i claim to be a christian, & if i am serious about that claim, then i am serious about following Jesus & His way. it was Jesus who said, “‘you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, & all your mind.’ this is the first & greatest commandment. a second is equally important: ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ the entire law & all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” [matthew 22:37-40, nlt, emphasis mine].

i don’t know about you, but i want people to notice when i die, to care, to miss me. i want people to notice me while i’m alive, too… if i am to love my neighbor as myself & as i want to be loved by others, i must notice them, know them, care for them. and while every person i meet is my “neighbor,” my actual geographical neighbors are most definitely my neighbors! and if i am to follow Jesus, i must notice them, know them, & care for them. i don’t want another neighbor to die “on my watch” without me having any idea. i want — i need — to cultivate relationships with them. i remember when jim first got cancer a few years ago, i thought i should take him a meal. i didn’t. i’m pretty sure that was a prompting of the Holy Spirit that i ignored. i don’t want to make that same mistake again. i want to follow Christ & love my neighbors. after all, that is how i best show God that i love Him. and it is how i best show the world the love of Christ for all people. for them. 

so what am i going to do? well, first i’m going to make some cookies & take them to my neighbors. the ones across the street. and the ones behind me. and the ones down the hill. it’s about time i met them all.

a dream for holy thursday

wash basin

photo by jay w2011

this morning, i awoke from a dream in which we were at war, my church against another, over some desperate disagreement on doctrine. we were armed & ready for first light, waiting for attack. swords, guns, bows & arrows, knives… the battle began with a runner from the enemy charging with a long sword. one person from our lines ran straight for him yelling something about love. she impaled herself on his sword & in her last efforts of life embraced him. he just froze in shock. another broke out in a sprint from our side & skewered herself behind the first, arms stretched out. as the second warrior was dying she looked around for another to follow their example of love instead of war. there was confusion, a pause in the hostilities, as if what happened next would determine the outcome. finally, a nearby man — on their side or ours, i don’t know — took the remaining few exposed inches of the sword into his own stomach as he gathered the bloody group hug into his arms & proclaimed, “choose love!” it ended the war before it really began. only three fatalities. and not from being cut down but from self-sacrifice. instead of killing, they chose to be killed, in hopes of showing the rest of us the Way of Christ.

it made me think of a book edited & contributed to by my dear friend justin barringer — a faith not worth fighting for. the various authors defend that our faith is worth dying for, but not killing for. such a crucial distinction.

i remember speeches & conversations from my dream that followed the failed battle. i recall us talking about what we were willing to do for one another in sacrifice to preserve unity. we also talked about those things we would not do, things in which the restraint was sacrificial.

i think these are timely dreams & thoughts for holy thursday as we remember Jesus wrapped in a towel & on His knees. what was He willing to do? in what ways did He choose love? we might first reflect on His crucifixion, innocent but dying for our guilt. He lowered Himself to the death of a slave. but before that, He lowered Himself to the station of a slave in life. He loved in a way that was humiliating, especially considering His position among them, not to mention His position in the heavenlies. He even washed the feet of the youngest james who, in the absence of a servant to perform the task, should have taken up the towel himself. He even washed the feet of peter who argued with Him in his usual naive hot-headed manner. He even washed the feet of judas. the one who had already traded Him for a handful of silver. the one who would hand Him over to that death of a slave.

some versions of scripture say He did this foot washing to “show them the fullest extent of His love.” from my research, i don’t think it a very accurate translation [the new niv changed it], but i enjoy pondering over the phrase anyway. because you would think it would be attributed to His crucifixion! not mundane foot washing. but i think when we consider how He asked us to follow His example, maybe the towel is an even greater test of our devotion & love than the cross. for us, in the after-Christ era, literally dying for someone else can offer air of grandeur. it begs that our name live on in glorious story, in awe of our sacrifice, in praise of our character. but to take up the towel & quietly wash dirty feet offers no marquees of acclamation, no reward of being cast the hero, no honor of others wishing they might do the same if in your shoes. the towel is ironically the height of humility. and to follow Jesus to the cross, we must first don the towel.

so who are the least in your community? who are the dirty in your family? who are the frustrating ones in your work? who are the enemies in your life? and what will you do to choose love? how will you pick up a towel & quietly, humbly wash their feet?

 

You donned the towel of the slave

while they argued who was greatest.

You washed their feet of the dirt

From which they were created.

 

You then commissioned them & us

to do as You had done:

to serve the least in ways beneath us,

even the undeserving one.

 

in an act of basest service You showed

the way of those most blessed.

in following You & Your ways,

we become first by being last.

 

f.l.y. // taking care of yourself, love in action

this is a series of blog posts i’m writing called f.l.y. // finally loving yourself in response to emily wierenga’s dare to love yourself challenge. i’m framing my thoughts about the subject through the lens of agape — unconditional love, God love, love in action. [my previous posts in this series are finally loving yourself & why taking care of yourself is important.]

my main thesis is that we cannot truly love others [& thereby obey Jesus’ second greatest command, matthew 22:37-40] until we learn to love ourselves.

agape is nothing if not action, & this applies even to finally loving myself. i wrote last week about why taking care of yourself is important & why it’s part of loving yourself [& loving God & others]. today, i want to talk about actually taking care of ourselves. what that means in specific action. i like to categorize everything in my life & to make lists, so here’s my areas of self-care:

>> physical — taking care of my body from the outside in
>> nutritional — taking care of my body from the inside out
>> mental — taking care of my brain
>> emotional — taking care of my heart
>> spiritual — taking care of my soul

taking care of yourself PHYSICALLY  >> this means exercising, stretching, toning, strengthening, hygiene, taking your makeup off before bed, moisturizing, sleeping enough, going to the doctor for regular check-ups, keeping your nails clean & neat, shaving!

taking care of yourself NUTRITIONALLY  >> this means eating good food, limiting junk food, watching your portions, drinking lots of water, taking a multi-vitamin, taking other needed supplements &/or medications, & for me, giving yourself necessary shots.

taking care of yourself MENTALLY  >> this means learning [never stop learning!], retaining what you know & learn, reading, doing puzzles, challenging yourself, practicing hobbies, taking breaks when needed, setting goals & working towards them.

taking care of yourself EMOTIONALLY  >> this means allowing & recognizing your feelings, not repressing, dealing with your feelings [both past & present], facing your fears, reducing stress, learning to breathe, cultivating healthy coping mechanisms, taking breaks, journaling, loving, forgiving.

taking care of yourself SPIRITUALLY  >> this means [to me] spending time with God every morning before i do anything else, in the middle of the workday, & before i go to bed, reading His word, memorizing & meditating on specific verses or passages of scripture, taking a personal retreat once a year, journaling, praying, praying, praying, listening, learning, practicing the spiritual disciplines, loving.

so, in keeping with my love for list-making, i hereby present:

the top 10 things i’m going to do 
to take care of myself for the next week

10. exercise every day except sunday. 
i’m pretty nervous about this commitment because i’m a notorious slacker in this area, but i’m hoping making a commitment in blogosphere public will help me get up & get going! exercise can include running, circuit training, aerobics videos, yoga, & long walks. i’m signed up for a 5k on april 13th & need to kick my rear in gear!

9. wash my face every single night.
i also stink at this & go to bed more often than not with my makeup on… but in the interest of my skin, my pores, & my self-esteem, i’m going to prioritize this each night. plus, my face washing routine is one of the most relaxing experiences, so it also helps me go to sleep.

8. cut out the junk food completely.
i’m going to define this as non-nutritional sweets [ex: cake vs. granola], fried foods, fast food, & processed snacks [ex: chips]. my sweet tooth is already aching at the thought…

7. drink only water & hot tea.
hi, my name is danae, & i’m addicted to dr. pepper. seriously. when i have a bad day, shaun knows it because he comes home to me sitting on the couch with a 2-liter… i’m really bad about drinking anything except water, although i don’t dislike drinking water in the least.

6. read one hour every day.
i’ve been working on a book for some time, & i really want to finish it this year, but i still have quite a bit of research to get done, so i’d like to set aside some time for working on this goal.

5. paint something at least two times.
i love to paint. it’s very therapeutic to me, & it’s one of my favorite hobbies. i have hoped to paint more consistently so i can develop my style & skill & so i can produce some art for our home. i even have my easel permanently set up, but i never seem to make it to the stool…

4. decompress three times during the work day.
this just means taking time to breathe & refocus for a minute or two. i’m very task-oriented, & i can get so bogged down in my 2do list that i forget to prioritize or get stressed out. i like to close my eyes, breathe slowly, focus on how i feel physically & emotionally, adjust anything needed, & check my priorities before returning to work.

3. journal every night.
even if it just means a quick sentence about my day, i want to be better about pouring out each evening onto paper because it clears my mind, eases my heart, & prepares me for rest like no other remedy.

2. practicing the discipline of simplicity.
“stuff” can weigh you down & distract you from what is truly important. this is particularly true of me right now. my house has not gone through a good decluttering in too long. this week, i’ll spend at least 15 minutes each night culling through my wardrobe, drawers, cabinets, papers, & basement to release things i don’t need & don’t use. i’ll take these to goodwill at the end of the week so they can bless someone else.

1. keeping sabbath on sunday.
for me this means focusing on God, worship, & rest. i don’t plan to be legalistic or anything, but i am not going to do work or errands or clean anything. most importantly, i am not going to have a single item on my 2do list! i want to spend the day with my church family, in fellowship, praying, reading, indulging in hobbies, writing, or cooking. these things are restful to me & conducive to my focus on experiencing the presence of God.

you’ll notice i have two list items per category of self-care. i’ve set alarm reminders & created items in my 2do list to help me with my top 10 list. i’d also appreciate any accountability. i’ll report back next week with my results — how successful was i at sticking to my top 10, which actions made the most difference, & how i feel about myself as a result.

i encourage you to come up with your own top 10! or top three, or even just one thing you can do every day this week to take care of yourself & thereby make progress in F.L.Y.ing — finally loving yourself!

f.l.y.: finally loving yourself

i discovered the writings of emily wierenga last week via sarah bessey’s international women’s day sychroblog. on her own site, emily has issued a challenge to fellow writers to participate weekly with her in “a dare to love yourself.” her posts thus far have been beautiful, & since my 2013 theme is love, it has really hit home to me along with other various aspects of love that i’ve been pondering & learning.

i had long forgotten how to f.l.y. it’s an acronym that i spent a semester teaching to college girls at our weekly bible study — finally loving yourself. i taught this to others, & yet, i have forgotten how to live it myself. ouch.

i loved this quote from emily:

Until you learn to like the way your left ear hangs lower than your right; the way you limp a little when you walk, or the way you snort out laughter; until you learn to say “Thank you” to your body for bearing your babies and for carrying you through life and for pumping oxygen through your veins, you’ll never be able to truly love another person.

i agree wholeheartedly.

Jesus taught love as the greatest command(s):

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:37-40]

i’ve often heard this simplified as “love God & love others.” as i’ve been reading about agape so far this year, these are the words that have echoed over & over in my mind. but conspicuously absent have been Jesus’ words about loving myself… if He said i need to love others as i love myself, what happens when i don’t really love myself? [this was the premise of that bible class i taught so many years ago.]

it’s been so long since i’ve thought about loving myself, i’m not even sure where to start! years ago, a trusted counselor told me to experiment with treating myself like i was my own mother. what time would she wake me up in the morning? what would she make me for breakfast? what clothes would she lay out for me? how would she take care of me? she suggested i do those very things. what a revolutionary concept: to take care of myself. i think that’s the beginning of self-love. even if i don’t feel like it, if i go through the motions of the experiment, the feelings will eventually follow the actions. it’s true in so many other areas of life, & i believe it to be true here, too.

like emily, i’ll be posting for the next several mondays on this topic. next week, i want to talk about taking care of yourself, what it means, what it doesn’t mean, how to do it, what to do when you don’t feel like it, & how changing your actions changes your mind & heart.

may God teach us how to love ourselves so that we can more fully love Him & others.

words to LIVE by #4

i have a dear friend who once told me that she had lived so much of her life in fear that she was resolved [in her late 40s] to do anything & everything she was afraid of doing. she refused to let any more opportunities pass her by because of fear. that fear can come from many things — fear of consequences, fear of not being perfect, fear of judgment, fear of the unknown, fear of disappointing someone, fear of failure, even fear of success…

we all experience fear. it is a deeply personal thing. the sources of & reasons for our fears differ from person to person. i have a fear of being alone in my house at night. well, really, i’m afraid of burglars or worse that could break in when i’m alone in my house at night. since shaun travels frequently, i stay home alone regularly, & i’ve gotten better about going to bed without weird rituals of staying awake until i’m exhausted & locking the animals in my bedroom with me! so that’s not really a fear i have to proactively face because it comes whether i want it or not. i’m also afraid of rock climbing… i had a dear friend who was an experienced climber die in a rock climbing accident while we were in college. losing a peer so young is a devastating experience. rock climbing is now on my “top 100” list of things to do before i die.

i’m not going to go rock climbing just for the sake of it, but because fear can rob us of “sucking the marrow out of life.” i don’t want to miss life because i was afraid to face it & let it pass me by. taking chances, whether it be in our relationships, our vocations, or our dreams, is a necessary part of life. without taking chances — that “leap of faith” — we are standing stagnant.

there are reasons that stagnant water is considered a danger: it is a breeding ground for disease-carrying insects; it is unfit for drinking due to bacteria & parasites; & it is often contaminated with other things better left unsaid. a stagnant life is just as dangerous: a place for breeding self-pity, jealousy, bitterness, & other emotional diseases; a source of poisonous thoughts fueling our fears & prejudices; not to mention contaminated by sins we’d rather not list.

but the refreshing movement of the Living water flowing through our lives flushes out the pestilence & fills us with sound minds ready to learn, right motives ready to act, & pure hearts ready to love. and that is the goal of the student of Life. to learn, to live, to love. a student of Life can never be governed by fear. this does not mean the absence of fear, just that a student of Life must have the courage to face their fears & be governed by love.

“there is no fear in love. but perfect love drives out fear…”  — I john 4:18

what are you afraid of?