Approach it with love

What does love feel like? Can you see it, does it have a voice? Do you always know it’s around you or can you sometimes miss it? I don’t think some terms have definitions. We can try and explain what love is based on our experiences and reasoning, but lately I’ve been thinking love is something more than a word in a dictionary.

I placed a sign above my door a few weeks ago that says “Approach it with love.” And ever since having that sign up, it seems that I have been more intentional with finding acts of love surrounding me. I feel like for so much of the time I miss the love around me. I catch the obvious acts, but the littler stuff is harder. I get too caught up on the latest important thing that I forget to focus on what I should really be looking for. It’s been neat to approach each day with the intention of seeing how the people around me portray and demonstrate love to others.

There are some things that seem so simple yet mean the world to people, and it’s these things that have been standing out to me the most recently. And most of these things usually arise from simply asking how others are doing. Sometimes this comes through a specific question, but more often than not it’s just sitting down beside someone and asking how their day went.

I think this is the part about people who hand out tracts or shout the Gospel to passerby’s that really annoys me. For me, a follower of Christ is meant to live a Christ-like life, which from reading through the New Testament seems to mean to live a love-filled life. How is it that a person shouting on the street corner is demonstrating God’s love to their neighbors? I don’t see how that can happen until you sit down beside someone and ask about their day.

And sometimes I forget that non-Christians aren’t the only ones we are meant to act like this towards. It’s equally as important for us to love other Christians. And yeah this seams obvious, but this week it finally became evident to me. Simply to see others pray for me and take the time out of their schedules to connect with the stuff going on in my life was the coolest thing. Personal prayer is important, but praying with other Christian friends is equally as important.

Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged and unsure about the state of affairs around the world. A few days ago I walked through a World Vision exhibit about AIDS in Africa and what is happening around the country. Then tonight I heard a speaker talk about his background as a former terrorist who used to train radical extremists in Iran, and then his eventual encounter with Christ. And we hear about all these things happening around us that make our hearts just ache. Because deep down we know that God did not intend for the planet to be like this.

I’m working on my thesis project for the next two years and will be focusing on community development and relief work in areas such as South America and Africa. And it seems that each day, more and more people are looking for answers. Why is it so hard to turn things around? Why can’t the world just be the way that our hearts truly long for? Where do we look for a solution?

I don’t think we can find the answer to these questions anywhere on a website or in a book. Because the only solution is love. And love has no definition, it is only experienced. This is why when you go to Africa and witness the love around you, the spark of hope ignites within you that there truly is a solution. But you won’t find that in a book. You can’t even find it in an organization’s mission statement. It’s something more.

Its Christ’s love.

But we don’t really know or understand that kind of love. Its’ something that we try so hard to obtain, yet always fall short. That kind of love is so different that we don’t know how to approach it. Yet we know that it is pure and good and what this world needs.

Crowder put a new album out this week and his one song has a verse that refers to this kind of love.

“Surely We Can Change”
-David Crowder

and the problem is this
we were bought with a kiss
but the cheek still turned
even when it wasn't hit
and i don't know
what to do with a love like that
and i don't know
how to be a love like that

So how do we be that kind of love. If we want to start making a change in this world, it’s time that we start making a change in the way we love others. I don’t know what forms it will show up in, but the opportunities are there, we just need to look for them more intentionally.


Sometimes I wish God would just write the first sentence to my thoughts. Because I know there's all this stuff up there that I want to try and piece together, but I don't know which piece to pick first, or even for that matter, what piece says what. Even with things in my life, I wish God would just give me that nudge (or maybe a more noticeable nudge than normal) which tells me where to go. At times I feel like I really know where I'm going, and that God has his hand on things. However recently I had to look back on all the things that I've been prioritizing and see how they were fitting in to my whole puzzle. I don't know why I chose to describe this as a puzzle but it seems to make sense in my head. As if I find some puzzle piece lying off in the corner (one in which I had to spend awhile looking for) which seems to be the perfect piece, and I start devoting all my time to try and figure out how to make this puzzle piece fit in. However, there's no way that I will be able to make it fit in unless I realize that I can't overlook the pieces right in front of me which will form the opening for that piece.

I know that that is vague, but for some reason that's kind of what I'm thinking. Apply it however you want to yourself, but it seems that all of the sudden I've realized that my thesis and future career and wife and all these things that are "important" really aren't important unless I make time for other things and people first. The pieces that may seem too ordinary at first but are crucial for the final picture.

I wonder if God wants us to go through life like this though. If we had someone (God) sitting beside us the entire time we worked on a puzzle and telling us which piece to pick up next and where to put it, the puzzle wouldn't be exciting anymore. It wouldn't hold the same value to us when we finished it. What if God expects us to get really frustrated over not finding that one piece that we have spent days looking for so that we may begin to appreciate the complexity and beauty of the puzzle once it is completed. When you work on a puzzle, you have to put your faith in the designer of the puzzle, you expect that they put all the pieces in the box and that it really is possible to complete. It's the same with our faith in God. If we don't trust in Him and believe that all of these little pieces of cardboard actually form together to make something bigger, it would be easy to get discouraged quickly. Because we would never know whether or not it was all actually possible.

But that's the beauty of faith. Because it gives you the assurance that all of this is worth it. That you will be rewarded for your time and effort and will be able to sit back and smile in the end.

Now I guess it's a little different because God doesn't give us the cover of the box. We don't know what it all looks like together. Instead, we are left with these little images and feel that we have to immediately figure out how it all works together. If God gave us the cover of the box, life would be too easy. But this is why God has placed friends and people who love us in our lives, because they can come and give a different perspective on our puzzle and help us find that one piece.

Ok, so this is getting pretty metaphorical for me now and maybe it only makes sense to me because it relates to stuff happening around me. Sometimes its easy to write your thoughts out and other times its pretty hard. And for the record, it is a lot easier to think when the music is turned off. Sometimes I go and take quiet time for myself but leave the music on, surprisingly it is actually a tad bit distracting, go figure. Anyway, I really don't have any wonderful conclusion or anything (sorry to let you down, ha) but I just needed to write something. Hence all of the above.

My Box

Every now and then I get caught up thinking that miracles are only things that used to happen in Biblical times. Sometimes I just can't get my mind around the fact that God really may still be working and sending angels into our lives every day. I feel like too much of the time I try to make God fit into my own little box. Not intentionally or anything, but I'm just so used to what's around me that I expect God to show up throw those things. I think that's why this summer was so awesome for me. Because I was thrown out of my normal scenario and into something I was very unused to. A different continent, different friends, and different culture. And for the first time I was in a situation in which I didn't know what was typical, so I had no walls built up in which to corner God into.

But it's not easy to recognize that there are walls and to tear them down. I keep finding these things about American culture that bug me. And although there's parts that bug me about the way people act, there's also a part that bugs me because I see how this culture has shaped me growing up. But I wonder if I would feel these same feelings had I grown up in some other culture and then come to America. Is it the culture that bugs me, or is it the fact that I've simply grown up in a culture. I guess that part's kind of hard to avoid, but it still frustrates me slightly.

I've realized that when I stop thinking about stuff, I see God working more. Maybe I should say worrying instead of thinking, but its' true. If I stop trying to figure out where God is going to show up, it seems that more often than not, God reveals himself. I think too often we try to figure things out on our own. I know for me, I love to be in control. I like knowing where projects are going and what's happening around me. I feel more comfortable that way. But look at this summer, all my control was taken away and I suddenly started seeing things so much clearly.

This bothers me, because I wish I could always have control. I mean even down to the fact that here in my bedroom, I can scroll through iTunes and pick the worship song that I really want to listen to. Which there's nothing wrong with that, but I've become so used to that form of worship that I sometimes forget to look for worship in other aspects of my life. In Africa, I didn't have iTunes, I didn't have Pulse every Sunday where I could go to and request any song that I wanted. Rather all I had was nature. Anywhere I went, nature followed me, naturally. (ha, I just realized that was a play on words). And I realized that God had placed this beauty all around me and for that entire summer, my worship was tied to nature. It was tied more into God than into the song with the perfect drum beat or guitar rift. I had never experienced that form of worship before. God was no longer confined to my box.

Now the challenge for me is to try to get rid of that box as I sit here in my room at Penn State. I wish I didn't have to try and get rid of that box, I wish it just came naturally. But I'm not in Africa, I'm here. However I've learned things and those lessons will stay with me. Now it's time to apply them to my life here, to the culture that surrounds me at Penn State. Traveling all across Africa is the easy part; it's applying what I learned to Penn State that will be the challenge.

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