A Legacy of Love

Legacy isn’t really a thing I’ve lived most of my life concerned with. I spent the majority of my days content to simply dwell on daily pleasures. And there is definitely merit in learning to enjoy the moment. I just found myself too often caught up in it, unable to look ahead. But the steps in my daily walk have ripples beyond what I can immediately see. I am now more aware of that. But it’s tough to tell what kind of impact your actions will have without the benefit of hindsight. ​I think it’s often right after loss we come the closest to fully realizing the personal legacy others leave behind. It’s sad that it can take a broken relationship, a friend moving away, or the death of a loved one before you can come closer to framing what they mean to you. It’s not like we’re not aware of loving the person, but that shock of the loss has us thinking about all the small and large ways in which they actually changed our lives. I’ve had several opportunities to experience that and I bet you probably have too.

 ​Recently I attended the visitation for one of our church elders. Ron Wagoner had been ill for a while but it was still a surprise to hear of his passing. I drove alone and sat out in my car for a moment before entering the building. My grandmother’s passing was the last time I’d been to something like this. And it was a very emotionally tough time. Immediately I noticed a different feel than other visitations and funerals I’ve been to. It wasn’t a party but did not feel like a somber event. I filed in the line that snaked around and out from the main room and into the entryway with a few friends from church. There were pictures posted by the door, celebrating the life of a good man. The line bent and curved near itself over and over, so I was always close to several others I didn’t know. People who had been impacted by Ron.

 ​What I overheard aligned with what I knew of him. He and his wife Brenda would always take time to invest in my life. They made to sure that I was okay, wanted to know how my sister was. Ron was a man who was always ready to help. A man who carried a great faith. A man who cared. I was in line with people who I shared a connection with because of his and his wife’s love. It took well over an hour to get to the front of that line to hug Brenda. There are never any good words to impart to someone dealing with that kind of loss. And I didn’t have to try and come up with something. Brenda made sure to pour into me and comfort me that day. She told me how good life was because she’d married a man who loved God. She told me to make sure I’d find someone who does the same. I noticed that the people after me got the same treatment. They’d arrive, looking to comfort her, instead they were lifted up by her words. It was pretty powerful.

 That night has weighed on my mind since then. The idea of living and leaving life with a legacy of love. That possibly living in a way that stores up treasures in heaven still leaves a big impact here on earth. I want to live in a way that builds others up. Even after I’m gone.

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A Moment Redeemed is a Memory Cherished

I’m going to tell a story about a couple that I know through my job. A story that I’m only able to know through patience and listening. My job has frustrating times like any job but one of my favorite parts is the chance I get to connect with people. Unfortunately that can also be one of the worst parts of the job too. But I really cherish the times I can meet someone and help them towards a kitchen of their dreams. Even better is when the guests I’m helping are interesting and kind, I enjoy getting the chance to listen to bits of their story. The more I learn, the more I’m aware of how little I know. So I’m grateful for other perspectives on life. Continue reading “A Moment Redeemed is a Memory Cherished”

Do I Really Love You?

To be honest, I’m not really sure I know the answer.

It’s something that I wrestle with constantly. Love is somehow contained in a four letter word in the English language. But definitions, interpretations, and motivations give the concept a lot heavier feel than simply saying the word out loud.

I know I say an awful lot how often I loved others for how it made me feel. I expressed myself in a way that was very demonstrable. I liked knowing that others knew I showed off in big or creative ways. But does acknowledging that out loud keep me from living with that same prideful spirit? Do I really separate myself from my past or do I find a level of comfort of distancing myself from feelings that I still cling to?

I talk about how the revival of my soul has changed my entire outlook on the Bible. That meeting Jesus almost thirty years into life after growing up in church as drawn me to real change. And I know I don’t lie when I say that. But I wrestle with how that translates into how I serve those around me. I believe the greatest act of love to ever be displayed was God’s son Jesus taking my blame on the cross. Where does my service come into my story? While I don’t think that love is always that drastic, I believe that there is a personal cost to that kind of investment. Investing in another parts of myself. I wonder if what I have is true.

Do I love you enough to be truthful and still gentle?

Do I love you enough to hold you accountable? About how I let you treat me? To call you out when the spirit calls me to?

Do I love you past emotion? Am I a slave to circumstance or do I intentionally regard you with a heart that is patient, kind, gentle, and with self control?

Do I love you in a way that speaks encouraging words and inspires love towards others? If we disagree, do I still seek to do so peaceably? When I’m wrong, do I humbly seek forgiveness? Do I freely give it even when you don’t ask?

Do I love you enough to get out of my own way? Do try to take the time to see things from your perspective? Can I speak to you without thinking about what the situation can do for me?

Do I love you enough to let you go?

Do I provoke you in Godly works?

Do I stay put when you need it?

Do I give you room to grow?

Do I celebrate you? Do I realize that you’re fearfully and wonderfully made and do I let you know that I do?

I wonder if I really appreciate the God given chance to know you. The opportunity to see how exactly my life can serve, cherish, and compliment yours and not in what way your life can accentuate the details in mine.

I don’t look to ever have these questions fully answered. I think when I find myself prayerfully striving to find myself loving well in the story that God let me be a part of is where I’m growing into a man whose love is meaningful.

Your story

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a couple of the guys at church and going over how it can feel difficult to share the gospel with others. We talked about ways that we’ve used in the past and how to approach people, but I know for me I sometimes feel almost like I’m burdening the person and for whatever reason feel the need to say “not that I’m trying to preach at you.” I find it hard to be comfortable sharing the love of Jesus and I’m not okay with that. Rudy said something that I agreed with, that even bringing this up with each other was a good way to practice. I thought about this for a few days, wanting to find my voice. I prayed to discern the proper way to speak my faith to others without smacking them in the head with it. I think one of the best ways is to use our own story. Making our faith personal not only sounds more real but allows us to speak in confidence.

I’ve had things occur in my life that I feel had to be God speaking. I’ve had some rough patches in life. I grew up in church but only recently really came to know God outside of my reading. The changes in my life I feel like are evidence of something that I couldn’t have accomplished on my own. I feel by revealing my experiences to others, it can be seen as more real. I looked to my own story to speak from. When Jeremy was speaking last Wednesday, he made a point that really tied all this together for me. These personal stories are great and probably the easiest way to relate to others, but they only mean anything if they come back to Jesus. The entire concept of Christianity isn’t some set of rules to follow, but a love story. We aren’t saved by adhering to the rules, but by believing in the story. Our story only has power because of his love. Sometimes, meaning to or not, we can imply that we’ve overcome a tremendous struggle on our own power. Our efforts come off as trying to be heroic. That we are the one who brings about the change in our heart. In the Bible, we can look at many stories and relate them to ourselves at any given point. But all of these are examples of God’s power./p>

Until we’ve been through rough patches, we can can still love others, but God specializes in using broken things to show his glory. In facing opposition, we can look to avoid the trouble and seek less conflict. But sometimes we act like Jonah instead of going where he’s leading, we decide that we know better. We resist the difficulties and can miss the opportunities hidden within. We ask to have our lives be more substantial, but shy away from the trial. We seek just the rewards of serving instead of allowing God to show himself when we’re unable to work out the results. I find myself pausing during hard times when I just want to be out of the situation, remembering that God works good in all things for those that love him. I can be so sure of myself in thinking that I’ve already learned my lesson, deciding that I’m ready to move on, and not resting in God that his glory will be shown. I act like I know best for myself, even as I ask for help in prayer. So if you’re facing something now, don’t just seek an easy end, head into prayer to find where you should be heading. Winston Churchill said something I love, “if you’re going through hell, keep going.” Grit your teeth and trust in God. And encourage your fellow believers to keep the faith. Be helpful in their situation, but not just in aiming to be free of it. Often the miracle only comes with persevering long enough to see God at work. Maybe sometimes that leads you to a place you didn’t want to be. God spared the city of Nineveh. Would you be willing to go?

Speak life.

In life, people enter and leave our life so constantly, it’s easy to hold on tightly to a few close relationships and not extend ourselves emotionally past the normal conversations about the weather and winning football scores. It’s easy to miss out on sharing joy with others. The sadder truth is that we all too often miss the opportunity to place words of hope into the life of soul facing struggle. Life is stinking hard. We could all use a little help.

I am a pretty confident guy. I face most things with a strong face and a belief that God has equipped me for for hardships. But the fact is that we’re created for fellowship. We need it. We’re called to stir one another up to love and good works. The church body is the most obvious example of fellowship but unfortunately can be the first place where an opportunity to love is missed. It’s easy to be thinking about what you’re grabbing for lunch after church or be so wrapped up in the craziness of the day or week ahead that we don’t see someone going through something rough right next to us. And when we can miss someone that close to use, it’s saddening to think of how many we might run across in need of a few words of love in other areas of life.

The time when we least think about helping out like this is when we’re having trouble ourselves. But letting go of worry to lift another up isn’t just a calling but is good for the soul. If we’re always worried about building ourselves up, we’re always going to be looking down. By lifting a brother up, our gaze is lifted. Proverbs 18:21 says that death and life are in the power of the tongue. I really believe that sometimes all someone needs is that bit of encouragement to keep that bit of hope alive as they fight life’s battles. So speak up. You could just save a life.