Tag Archives: love

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“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another.” —Jesus (John 13:34)

photo credit: greg

Like everyone else, I have relational challenges in my life.

Author Mary Southerland calls them “sandpaper people.”

Maybe  I am  someone’s sandpaper person. :)

Loving difficult people intentionally and well can be very hard work.

It is the work that Jesus is calling me to right now.

Regarding I Corinthians 13, D.L. Moody wrote, “The one great need in our Christian life is love, more love to God and to each other. Would that we could all move into that Love chapter and live there.” 

As of today, I am moving in and living there.

Fortunately, I won’t be there alone. Jesus will be there with me, every step of the way.

He will direct my cold, selfish, stubborn, hard heart right into the very center of His love. (2 Thessalonians 3:5).

That is my only hope.

I don’t have much love to give on my own. I love those who love me, those who are easy to love. There is nothing supernatural about that; it’s human nature.

But Jesus calls me to live in HIS love, to display HIS love to a dark and dying world.

His  is a love that prayed for His enemies even as they viciously killed them.

His is a love that laid down His life so that others could rise to eternal life with Him.

His is a reconciling love, a passionate love, an unconditional love, a redemptive love, a perfect love.

I need to be willing to die to self and let His love flow through me. I need to cooperate with Him and submit to Him because He is Lord. I need to always remember the astonishing love He has shown to me.

Love is so important to Jesus that He tells me in His Word that without love my life amounts to nothing in His eyes (I Corinthians 13:1-3).

It does not matter how talented I am, how much money I give away, if I am in church every time the door is open, if I volunteer five days a week at the local soup kitchen…if I do those things without genuine love, it means nothing at all to Him.

N-o-t-h–i-n-g.

That is very sobering, is it not?

When I accepted His invitation recently to take an honest, no-holds-barred look at my life in light of I Corinthians 13, I had to admit that much of what I was doing amounted to nothing because I didn’t do it with love…especially when it involved the sandpaper people in my life.

To my dismay, I realized that I had actually been patting myself on the back because of all that I had sacrificed, thinking I was doing the noble thing. But all along, it meant nothing to the One I want to please the most.

While on the outside, I may have appeared accommodating, in my heart I was filled with resentment.

“Pretending” to be loving doesn’t cut it. Nor does gritting your teeth and hiding behind a fake smile.

The love that Jesus requires of those who follow Him must be genuine and sincere. (Romans 12:9). It must be real to the bone.

That is my stumbling block.

So, He is going to take me on a journey with Him to learn how to love like He does.

I made several copies of I Corinthians 13 from my Bible. I put one on my bathroom mirror. I will carry one in my purse. I am using one as a bookmark. I will listen to it being read on my Bible on CD while I drive around town. It is the first thing I will see when I turn on my Kindle.

I will memorize it until it drops the eighteen inches from my head into my heart.

And I will watch to see how Jesus takes my willing, imperfect heart and transforms it until it beats in time with His and pours forth His love.

Something our Sunday school teacher said yesterday gave me an excellent place to start.

During class, he quoted author John Maxwell. When dealing with difficult people, Maxwell advised focusing on just 1% of the good in them. My first thought was, “I can do that!  I can make the choice to focus on that 1%!”  (Philippians 4:8).

I left the class filled with resolve and optimism.

You can imagine what happened next.

I have said it before and I truly believe it. Our God has a sense of humor.

One of my sandpaper people called!

I saw the name on the caller ID and just burst out laughing.

Then I prayed, “Lord, show me the 1%!”

And He did, praise His Name!

I am marking that one down as a victory! :)

I am under no illusions. I know that this is going to be one tough battle. Love in the Bible is not portrayed as a fluctuating emotion, though emotions are involved. It is primarily an act of the will.

But I also know that Christ promises that He will always lead us in triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14) when we are doing His will. He will do that for me.

If I speak in tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails…And now, these three remain: faith, hope, and love.

But the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:1-8a;13).

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Weekend Moment: Josh at 15


Yesterday was my son Josh’s 15th birthday.

This is a photo of him when he was fifteen months old.

Where has the time gone?!

When he was 19 months old, his sister Julia was born. When Doug brought him to the hospital to meet her, I greeted him and said, “Josh, this is your sister!” He leaned in to take a good look at her and said with great enthusiasm, “Hi Sister!” To this day, that is what he calls her. He has never called her Julia…just “Sister.” Oddly enough, my mom’s brother called her “Sister” which was later shortened to just “Sis”, so I suppose Josh is carrying on a family tradition. :)

Today, he is nearly 6′ tall. He runs 5K races and is my workout partner at the gym. Soon his dad and I will be sitting in the stands cheering him on when he competes with his high school track team. He loves playing Airsoft with his buddies, camping, and hiking  the many mountains near our home.

He plays the clarinet, the oboe, the piano, and the bass guitar and enjoys playing in both the high school band and a community band called New Horizons. This thrills me, as I have no musical talent whatsoever. I love the sound of his music filling the house.

Even as a young teenager, Josh has a strong sense of self and is fiercely independent. He was an extremely strong willed toddler which made for some major parenting challenges. However, it has been wonderful to see all that energy now directed toward what he is passionate about, producing a focused, self-directed, and goal-oriented young man.

His sense of humor and dead-on impressions keep us laughing.

He sees much of life through the lens of his camera. Last summer, he had his first paid gig as a videographer at a local wedding. I will never forget watching him walk out the front door wearing his suit, holding a tripod, with two camera cases slung over each shoulder. He looked so professional. My little boy was growing up.

I am so proud of him. It is a joy to be his mom.

“Son, you outgrew my lap, but never my heart.” —Author unknown

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Tribute


Dad at 13 playing baseball on his street

My dad, Ralph, was born on March 10, 1931 in Donora, PA.  He would have been 80 years old today.

He was the youngest of six children, was passionate about baseball and dreamed of being a pilot. Due to his bad eyesight, that wasn’t meant to be but he did join the Air Force during the Korean War and was stationed in the Philippines. The photos below were taken on the base:

Following his time in the service, he obtained his college degree at the University of Pittsburgh. Shortly after that, he met my mom Mabel on a blind date, and they married on June 16, 1962:

My dad adored my mom. Toward the end of his life, he shared with me that after nearly 40 years of marriage, he still couldn’t get over the fact that such a beautiful lady had been interested in him. I can still remember the faint sound of wonder in his voice and the faraway look in his eyes as he recounted their wedding day.  It was such a sweet moment.

I came along three years later in 1965. Here I am surely impressing him with my mad guitar skillz:

Dad and me

The 70s produced endless opportunities for cringe-worthy clothing, as this photo clearly displays:

I’m not so sure my dad would be happy that I have posted that photo on the world wide web, but this is actually one of the more mild ones that I could have chosen! As I recall, that leisure suit was powder blue. My dad was obviously very secure in his masculinity. :)

I loved to hear my dad laugh. Sometimes he would laugh so hard that tears would  just stream down his face. I have that in common with him. This is one of my very favorite photos of him because it so captures his personality. He could spin a story like nobody else:

Another thing my dad was famous for was The Christmas Pants.

Anyone reading this who shared holidays with us is smiling right now because this was always a highlight of the day.

My dad was well-known for being a snazzy dresser. (with the exception of the above 70s photo, obviously). However, on Christmas Day 1987, he made a huge fashion faux-pas when he inexplicably decided to wear plaid pants paired with a shirt that had a wide horizontal stripe emblazoned across the chest. We were all incredulous that he would wear that shirt with those pants and teased him mercilessly all day long. By the end of the day, he vowed that he would wear those same pants every Christmas for the rest of his life…and he did!

Right before coming downstairs on Christmas Day, he would loudly announce: ” The Christmas Pants are about to make their appearance!” Then he would descend the stairs with great pomp to cheers and clapping. It was all just silly fun but we looked forward to it every year. In the photo below, my dad is modeling the famous pants with my mom and our son Josh, who was five:

In 1994, Dad retired as the head of human resources for a branch of the Department of Energy. He was deeply respected by his co-workers as a man of integrity, who was tough but fair, and saw and nurtured potential in his employees. He was excellent at his job because he  was deeply perceptive. He could read people like no one else I’ve ever known. Within five minutes of meeting anyone, he had their number and he was always right. It was almost eerie.

This came in very handy when I brought Doug home to meet my parents for the first time. It didn’t take Dad long to pull me aside and say, “This guy is all right.” I couldn’t have asked for a better vote of confidence. (Not that I had any doubt!).  :)

Dad was so proud to walk me down the aisle. He knew I would be in excellent hands.

One of the great joys of Dad’s life was becoming a grandfather. Julia had him totally wrapped around her little finger.

Dad and Julia on a bike path in RI

In 2002, my dad began to experience shortness of breath, so he went to the doctor to have a stress test. The results were shocking. Only 20% of his heart was working. None of us could believe it. Dad was a lifelong health nut…he exercised daily, watched what he ate, and took a ton of vitamins. He was the last one we would suspect of having a bad heart.

This was on a Friday and the plan was for Dad to have a bypass operation first thing that Monday morning. We were in New Hampshire and couldn’t get home to Pittsburgh in time. So, that Sunday night, Dad and I had a tearful phone conversation. Knowing the risk of surgery, we didn’t know if this would be our last conversation, so we said everything that needed to be said.

At one point, I told him that I was pretty sure I needed him on earth more than Jesus needed him in Heaven.

I could hear the smile in his voice when he said, “It’s a win-win for me. If I survive the surgery, I get to continue enjoying my wonderful life. And if I die, I go to live with Jesus. See? Win-win.”

He never did have the surgery. Once in the operating room, they realized  that his heart was so badly damaged that he would not survive an operation. So, they sent him home and put him on a regimen of strong drugs in hopes that those drugs would build his heart up to a point where he could have a bypass.

He was released the week before Thanksgiving, so Doug and I made the decision to take the kids and go home to Pittsburgh for the holiday. We spent all of Thanksgiving week staying at my childhood home. My dad looked more frail than he ever had but he was in excellent spirits.

It was a wonderful week. I spent a lot of time with Dad. He shared memories with me that I had never heard before and I asked him a million questions. I think that deep down, we all knew time was short.

Thanksgiving Day dawned bright and sunny and to this day, I remember the laughter. We laughed all day long, especially after all the relatives arrived. I had the videotape going all day long, intent on capturing as many moments as I could. When I watched that tape later, I could see that Dad was quieter than he usually was. At one point, I left the machine running as we sat around the table. I didn’t notice it at the time, but the tape revealed that as he sat at his customary spot at the head of the table, he eyes rested purposefully and thoughtfully on each face, as if he was trying to memorize us, especially his grandchildren.

The next morning, my family and I left early to head back to New Hampshire. As I hugged him one last time before we hit the road, I said, “Bye, Dad.”

He smiled at me, shook his head, and said, “Let’s not say goodbye. Let’s just say ‘see you later’.’” He told everyone that he loved us and we were on our way.

That was the last conversation I had with my dad. He had a massive heart attack later that day and never recovered.

My mom later related that as he had finished his breakfast that morning, “Amazing Grace” came on. He listened for awhile and said, “I love that song” before going into the family room for the final time.

And it is precisely because of the amazing grace of our beautiful God that I will see my dad again when we meet in Heaven.

This is the last photo taken of my dad. I took this on a Tuesday and he had his heart attack that Friday:

(If you look closely, you can see Julia hiding next to the sofa). :)

He has been gone for nearly nine years now and I miss him everyday. I miss his sense of humor, his advice, his stories, his seemingly endless knowledge of trivia, his incredible wisdom. To this day, I regret that I didn’t speak at his funeral. I wanted to but I just didn’t have it in me at the time. So, this is my way of honoring my dad’s memory in a way that I didn’t  get to do on that day.

The most amazing thing happened just as I was finishing this post.

My dad loved to sing. He had a deep, rich voice and he sang constantly. One of his all-time favorites was the classic song “Smile” by Nat King Cole. I have so many memories of him singing that tune.

I had just finished writing about how much I miss him…when one of the contestants on American Idol began to sing… “Smile.”

I froze and immediately began to weep. It was as if Dad had literally just walked into the room. The TV singer’s voice faded and all I “heard” was my dad singing.  I just sat still and let the tears fall.

Smile though your heart is aching

Smile even though it’s breaking

When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by

If you smile through your fear and sorrow

Smile and maybe tomorrow

You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness

Hide every trace of sadness

Although a tear may be ever so near

That’s the time you must keep on trying

Smile, what’s the use of crying?

You’ll find that life is still worthwhile…if you just smile.

I will close this post with a photo of the lady who made my dad smile more than anyone:

Happy birthday Dad! I love you. And I can’t wait to see you again.

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Judgment Free Zone


Today, I got called out by a friend.

We were having a discussion and I found myself making a judgmental pronouncement about a mutal acquaintance. It wasn’t mean and it wasn’t rude,  but it was completely unnecessary and I had no business saying it.

I am grateful that my friend (gently) called me on it, which resulted in me asking for her forgiveness. The second I left and began to drive home, I asked the Lord to forgive me as well. I felt terrible and slightly ill. I know how awful it feels to be judged; yet I was willing to do that to someone else. And I know better!

When I got home, I turned on my computer with the intention of continuing to write a draft I had begun earlier. It was a “pretty” post with a good, edifying message. It would have been a perfectly fine message to post tomorrow.  However, try as I might, I could not make any progress on it.

I realized I had a choice to make: Am I going to be real on this blog or am I going to paint myself in the best possible light and not admit to messing up?

I have no interest in wearing a mask here; I have learned in real life how futile that is. Nobody has it all together and to pretend differently is a waste of time and helps no one.

So, this post may not be pretty, but it will be real. :)

We have no way of knowing the real truth about a person’s life, but it is so tempting sometimes to think that we do. We  observe what we can see and think we have all the answers. We may feel somewhat smug, imagining how we would handle the situation. How many times have I said to myself, “Well, if that was me, I wouldblah, blah, blah.”

This is exactly the opposite attitude that Jesus calls me to exhibit. He expects me to be merciful: “Be merciful (sympathetic, tender, responsive and compassionate), even as your Father is all these.” –Jesus (Luke 6:36).

I cannot possibly be merciful unless I continually remember how merciful Jesus has been to me.

Our former pastor in Florida always used to say, “Preach the Gospel to yourself every day.”

Why is that so important? Because I can never forget that in His mercy, He came to me because I had no way of going to Him. He willingly took my sins upon Himself so that I could be free. I can never forget that I owed a debt I could never pay and Jesus paid it for me. He forgave me…how can I then turn around and not show mercy to others when I have been shown such shocking and lavish mercy?

I can’t.

When I made that thoughtless comment this afternoon, I was temporarily forgetting the Gospel.

I was conveniently overlooking Jesus’ very clear command: “Do not judge and criticize and condemn others so that you may not be judged and criticized and condemned yourselves.” — Matthew 7:1

There it is, plain and simple.

I am so grateful that I have a Savior who is always waiting with open arms when I come to Him in repentance and willingly and joyfully grants it. He is the Author of fresh starts and second chances. His mercies are new every morning: “…His compassion never ends. It is only the Lord’s mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His lovingkindness begins afresh each day.” – Lamentations 3: 22-23.

As the saying goes, everybody is fighting some kind of battle. This life can be so harsh on all of us. I do not want to make this world an uglier place with a proud and judgmental heart, so I will continue to ask Jesus to give me His eyes of compassion and mercy for everyone I see. I will ask Him to put a guard on my mouth so that  I will speak  only what is edifying to others. I will meditate on Jesus’ definition of love as found in I Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

That says it all.

Be kind today. :)

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The Greatest Love Story


I have loved you with an everlasting love. — Jeremiah 31:3

Eighteen years ago, I married the love of my life.

Doug is the perfect man for me. He is brilliant, funny, endlessly patient, supportive, passionate, kind, and big-hearted. He is my very best friend and loves me unconditionally. We enjoy being together, whether we are on a romantic date or simply running errands. I love the sound of his laugh and his warm smile still makes me weak in the knees. He is God’s greatest gift to me.

Yet, our love pales in comparison to the powerful and transcendent love of Another.

This One is indescribably beautiful. His love burns like a blazing fire, so strong and intense that it takes my breath away.

This One knows everything about me—the lovely as well as the ugly—yet He continues to relentlessly pursue me.

He doesn’t run from my brokenness…He embraces it…and then transforms me.

He is the personification of  Joy, Peace, and Love.

He rejoices over me with singing.  He calls me His bride.

To Him, love is not just a feeling; it is an action. I couldn’t come to Him, so He came to me.

He came for me.

He gave  everything He had to give so that I could be His for all eternity.

It all happened as a result of the most powerful moment in the history of the world:

His Name is Jesus and He is the human face of God.

A.W. Tozer said this about the cross: “The cross is the lightning rod of grace that short-circuits God’s wrath to Christ so that only the light of His love remains for believers.”

Living in the light of His sacrificial and glorious love is my deepest joy, my sweetest song, my all-consuming passion, my journey to wholeness, my gateway to freedom.

And it is my sincere hope that this is true of you as well. The good news is that Jesus doesn’t have this love only for me; He freely offers it to everyone who comes to Him and admits their need: “To all who did receive Him, who believed on His Name, He gave the right to become children of God.”– John 1:12

Regardless of your circumstance this Valentine’s Day–whether you are single, married, divorced, or widowed—you can be part of the grandest love story of all. I pray that you personally know  the wondrous love of Christ and accept His invitation to you: “Arise, My love, My beautiful one, and come away. The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, and the season of singing has come.” — Song of Songs 2:10-12

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Blessings,

Susan

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