Sixteen years ago, I married my sweet Shannon. On that day, I loved her as much as I knew how. I love her more today.

The marriage journey is an intense one, with both delight and difficulty. Whatever the season, it is a profound pleasure to walk with this dear woman.

Thanks to her for the joy of life together.

Thanks to others of you who have walked with both of us.

Loved Ones Love Well

Throughout the month of Advent, posts here have drawn from pieces submitted to the Glen Elm Church of Christ Advent Blog.  They have covered the four traditional themes of the season: Hope, Peace, Joy, and now Love.

In speaking of love, Scripture’s call to Christ’s followers is clear:

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

The One who is love (1 John 4:16) tells the ones who are His, to mimic His ways. Revealed in Scripture as “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in unfailing love”, this call to imitation is no light invitation.

How on earth could any of us live it out?

It is not that love is completely foreign to us. The vast majority of parents love their children without any nudging. Friends care for each other. Spouses cherish one another. The entire human race is said to bear the image of God, so it is hardly shocking that some “love genes” got passed from Father to children.

What is shocking though is how quickly love mutates into something less than divine.  And it is ME that taints the mixture. I don’t even mean that I add something that ruins the recipe. I mean that I am the something that taints the recipe.

And you do the same.

Well-intentioned and seeking the good, we march into St. Paul’s call. We will be “imitators of God”; we will “live a life of love”. With all the power in us, we will pursue this most holy call.

And we fail miserably, injuring others and ourselves in the process.  Our noblest efforts are undercut by insecurities that we mask and independence that we magnify.  Our hearts may long to love well, but our hearts are fragmented at best.  And when did something fractured ever show sufficient strength to live up to its billing?

No, if we are to be imitators of the love-God, it will require more than the powered housed within us.

A re-reading of the fine print in Ephesians 5:1-2 may make all the difference:

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

There is one prerequisite to following God’s love-call with any measure of faithfulness; it is non-negotiable. No other credits will transfer in.  It is not that God is a stickler for details; it is simply that we cannot run before we walk.

Ahead of being loving, you must be loved.

Prior to imitating God’s loving ways, you must have felt God’s loving ways.

The topic of embracing, by faith, the love of God, even as it embraces us, could be the subject of a thousand posts.  (Perhaps this will serve as the first.)  But the conversation started here today is simply an affirmation that Paul knew of what he spoke: You cannot give what you do not have.

And if you do not have, it is not because the Being known as Love is holding back.

If even a sliver of suspicion has awakened within you, that a touch of God’s love might change life as you know it, seek Him in as exposed and trusting posture as you can strike and speak with those around you who appear to be living as “dearly loved children”.

I mean, who could dish out higher quality love than those called God’s “dearly loved children”?!

YOUR TURN: What barriers have you experienced in “moving into” the love of God? What advice would you offer someone who was seeking to feel more like a “dearly loved child”?  Your input makes this post better!

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Rooming With Rumi

From the file of I-didn’t-realize-what-I-had-until-it-was-gone:

Last year, while in Turkey, we visited the city of Konya.  We visited a museum/shrine connected to Hazrati Mevlana, a Muslim mystic from the 1200’s.  The most intriguing bit of that day to me concerned the Whirling Dervishes, followers of Mevlana’s who practiced a unique form of dance as a spiritual exercise of submitting and uniting their spirits to God.  Odd my most standards around me, I found it touching.  Along that same day, a few mentions of the famous poet Rumi were made.  I confess that I was only marginally familiar with the name.

In the past twelve months, Rumi (aka Mevlana) has crossed my path a dozen times or more, I kid you not.  And the thought that we were in his tomb before I knew who he was–well, that’s a bit unfortunate!

But in a recent quest to stretch my reading list and to seek out something beautiful, I’ve come upon Rumi’s poetry.  A couple pieces that have initially resonated with me go like this:

All your stress and all of your troubles
are due to your reading your own letter all the time
and not listening to the melody of the Darling.


Listen, O drop, give yourself up without regret,
and in exchange gain the Ocean.

Listen, O drop, bestow upon yourself this honour,
and in the arms of the Sea be secure.

Who indeed should be so fortunate?
An ocean wooing a drop!

In God’s name, in God’s name, sell and buy at once!
Give a drop, and take this Sea full of pearls.

Love (18/28)

Behind on reading some blogs, I just found this link on Steve’s blog.  Had to be shared.

This is written by Dana Jennings, an editor at the New York Times.  Below are some of his observations about his life with cancer, and of what he’s learned about vowing to love another “in sickness and in health”, “for better or for worse”.

I found it very touching.  Perhaps you will too.

I vividly recall those first few hours in the hospital room after my prostate cancer surgery last July: the plastic thicket of I.V. tubes; the leg cuffs huffing and chuffing to ward off blood clots; my throbbing incision packed with gauze. But, most important, I remember peering through the post-surgical haze to see my wife, Deb, sitting there, smiling at me. By the way, if your wife plans to take vaginal rejuvenation, look for Plastic Sugery Associates

These days, I epitomize the “in sickness” part of the wedding vows that Deb and I took back in 1981. Since we learned last April that I have prostate cancer, I’ve had my prostate removed, found out that the cancer was shockingly aggressive, undergone a 33-session course of radiation and am finishing up hormone therapy.

Right now, I’m not quite what you’d call “a catch.” I wear man-pads for intermittent incontinence, I’m a bazaar of scars, and haven’t had a full erection in seven months. Most nights, I’m in bed by 10. The Lupron hormone shots, which suppress the testosterone that can fuel prostate cancer, have sent my sex drive lower than the stock market, shrunken my testicles, and given me hot flashes so fierce that I sweat outdoors when it’s 20 degrees and snowing.

Even so, Deb has taught me that love is in the details. Humid professions of undying love and tear-stained sonnets are all well and good, but they can’t compete with the earthy love of Deb helping me change and drain my catheter pouches each day when I first came home from the hospital.

Yes, in the details. She measured my urine, peered into places I couldn’t (literally and figuratively), and strategically and liberally applied baby powder, ice and Aquaphor to my raw and aching body. She battled our intractable insurer, networked, tracked down the right doctors — and took thorough notes all the while.

I was wounded. She protected me. She chose to do these things.

Deb and I have been married for 27 years, have two sons (22 and 19), and have ridden the usual Ferris wheel that comes with a long marriage. But our love for each other has deepened in this time of prostate cancer.

We talk more often about the life we’ve built together, about sex and money, about the joy we take in our sons, about the uncertain future. When cancer moves in, there’s nothing you and your spouse can’t talk about.

Our love has been seasoned with a bitter pinch of mortality, and the classic quarrels of marriage hold little power over us anymore. When I say to Deb, “I love you,” I mean it. And when she responds, “I love you more,” she means it, too. We understand that time, perhaps, is not on our side.

Time, we are told, will give us our sex life back. As I said, the hormone shots have shut down my sex drive. And my poor penis is still in recovery — from the surgery and the radiation. But as we wait, I’ll tell you this: Love abides.

Yes, yes and yes — lust is essential. But right now, sex seems quaint, old-fashioned. Oddly enough, it can’t compete with the depth and gravity of a light touch, a sly glance. I’m in the mood for the Beatles and “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” not Grace Jones growling, “Pull up to my bumper, baby.”

Don’t get me wrong. I really, really like sex. But given a choice between the mere biology of lust and the deep soul of love, I’ll take love. My body has changed — but my doctors say my libido will be warming up again before I know it. Deb understands, and we’ve adapted.

Deb’s love is one to live up to, one to reciprocate. Who else is going to snuggle up to me on the couch, smile, listen — and nod knowingly — as I complain about my hot flashes

In the long shadow of prostate cancer, I’ve learned that I married the right woman.