Friday, November 21, 2008

What is Love?

The following is an excerpt from recent journaling. If you have any thoughts, please share them. I want to become more like Christ, so I must at least endeavor to understand His prominent characteristics.

In Greek, there are four different words for love- "eros" (passionate/ romantic love), "storge" (familial love), "phileo" (brotherly love that often presents in the form of community), and "agape" (unconditional love). However, in the English language, the only word for love is... well, love. Of course, we attach all sorts of adjectives to it to delineate different types, but maybe having one word as a catch-all term is confusing us.

If you asked 100 people what "love" means, I would predict you would get at least 25 different answers. What would you say?

Although "feeling" love is really a very small part of the entirety of love, I believe we have gotten to a point in which people only associate love with feeling. If they don't have butterflies in their stomachs every time they think of their significant other, it is time to end the relationship. Maybe someone decided to term all forms of "warm fuzziness" love; no wonder it can be confusing.

Maybe the thread that ties all of these forms of love together is choice. I can choose to love and care about someone even when I don't like them. Maybe the Hebrew language gives us a hint; "ahava" has a root word "give." Not in terms of words, gifts, or service (necessarily), but rather of oneself in a sacrificial manner. We choose to care for them in spite of how they hurt us, even if they have mistreated us to the point we can't be around them anymore. We want the best for them.

Easy enough, right? Right.

Our greatest example of love is love personified in Jesus Christ. But His love doesn't fit into a little neat category. How do we emulate it if we can't comprehend it? His love included fellowship, emotion, sacrifice, discipline, accountability...we have descriptions of His love, but studying only them seems akin to getting to know a person through his or her friends.

I want to dig in, to analyze this (go figure), to understand it.

But I am looking at it the wrong way.

If God is Love, this explains my soul-burdening desire to know God's heart.

Falling in Love All Over Again

A while back, as I was doing my devotional, the book I was reading was talking about the character of Christ, and how we should reflect it better as we come to know Him more. I was expecting to read something about being committed and willing to sacrifice, and exhibiting Fruit of the Spirit. Specifically, we should “become a progressively more joyful, loving, and winsome person.” I completely agree with the first two, but winsome? Hmm. I wanted to know exactly what the authors meant by that term, so I looked it up. Synonyms include charming, pleasant, likeable, attractive, engaging, endearing, and appealing. Our relationship with Christ cannot be akin to the friendship with our childhood best pal. We seem to forget He is God. I found the following online, and decided I couldn’t say it any better:

“…we’ve tried to present Jesus as someone people should like, someone who is
“relevant” and fun and always good to have at parties. But mostly this “new
Jesus” ends up looking about as interesting as the store manager down at
Office Depot. He’s friendly, tame, middle class and safe!

No, you can’t re-imagine Jesus! You can’t turn him into the ‘nice guy’ down
the street. You have to take him for Who He really is – as He’s revealed
Himself in Scripture. And there you find that he’s rarely “safe”. As Mr
Beaver says to Lucy in C S Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia (the book, not the
movie!) ”He’s not a tame lion!” Nor is He “safe.”

In that same passage from the book, Lucy asks Mr Beaver if Aslan, the Lion representing Christ, is “safe”. To which he responds, "Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you."

If I recall correctly, Jesus was not most concerned with people liking Him. In fact, he was rejected by many, if not most. He was bold, wouldn’t support sin, and offended people in the process. But he also had a spirit of ready forgiveness when people repented. He cast out evil spirits. He was and is mighty and loving and confident and kind and He works miracles with no strain at all. He secured His own death by refusing to acquiesce to Jerusalem or Rome. It doesn’t seem to me that His priority was to be winsome at all.

This week has been a time of refocusing, and I am so grateful the Lord called us to it. Time is important in missions, but not more important than keeping our eyes on God. I have fallen in love with Him all over again, not just as my Savior, but as the one who knows everything about me, even the less-than-winsome parts, and loves and adores me anyway. I can't think of a better way to prepare for our time on the mission field.

Monday, November 17, 2008


This picture seems to pretty much sum up part of our lives right now. We have been presented with several opportunities (a blessing), but really that means we aren't positive which ones God wants us to be involved in. For example, right now we are considering two assignments simultaneously. How do we know which to choose? We are [im]patiently waiting on the Lord to make that abundantly clear to us.

At this point, the best choice seems to be continuing to move forward, but with cautiously and prayerfully. We know part of God's plan (missions together in Africa for at least 1 year), but the rest is all a little sketchy. Therefore, we have decided to step back from it all (for at least this week), and refocus. Instead of seeking after the answers, as we've been doing, we need to seek after the Lord with our whole hearts. After all, it's because of Him we are doing this in the first place.

Lately, my quiet times have been...lackluster. Usually I am excited to dig into Scripture, pray, and listen to what God has to say, but recently it has become a spiritual discipline in a new sense of the term. This week, I am committed to challenging myself to meet God in new ways. This morning as I was driving, I was awestruck by the beauty and complexity of the natural beauty I witness every day. The amazing part is that He probably made it in less time than it takes for me to remember my own name. I was inspired to spend a little time with God, photographing His creation. [None of these photos have been edited].

After all of the dreary weather in the past week, today's bright blue skies were a welcome respite. I drove (it was cold!) around the "neighborhood" (a 3-mile block), and actually took many shots from our car.
This photo is a great reminder to me to consider perspective. As a detail-oriented person, I sometimes focus too much on the little things, which breeds anxiety.

Sometimes, you just have to back up and look at the big picture- same angle, completely different view depending on where the focus is.
That's what it's all about. It's not about the 5- or 10- year plan, or money, or even family. From the Christian perspective, although it often seems to be about ministries or missions or programs or churches, it's not. Those are only tools. The purpose is to glorify God, and to show others how to know Him [better].

I literally drive past these views almost every day, but I never notice them- pathetic. I am usually too "busy" with my to-do list or worrying about something that is probably pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of life.

This is my favorite sight in the world. Even after visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Rocky Mountains, and the Great Wall of China, nothing compares to coming home. This week, it's about adjusting our focus in the spiritual equivalent.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thank yous

Here is a thank you right now to everyone who has supported us through prayer or financial donation. You will be getting a more formal one in the mail, but it might be a while. I sat down last Saturday to design thank you cards to be printed- they will have a design on front and be blank on the back-when I realized after looking at about 500 pictures (literally!) that not a single one will suffice. It is important to include at least a small picture of us for those people who may have a hard time remembering us by name, and AIM has quite a few strongly-suggested guidelines regarding any pictures in any sort of missions literature. We already made a mistake with our initial support letters, in which we included a wedding picture (rule #1 is no bare shoulders). Women should not show knees or have any sort of remotely low neckline, and men should not wear shorts, as that particular fashion is consider boyish in Africa.
I love taking pictures, but the majority of them are either landscapes, animals or other people- which doesn't really do us any good in this situation. All the rest of our shots were group pictures, of us kissing (making up for lost time), with sunglasses on, etc.
We decided to make an effort to rectify the situation by taking an appropriate picture outside. It had been snowing and we thought we'd get in, get out, be done. We asked our friend Liz (see picture) to help us out, and she graciously agreed. I later found out she had written earlier on her Facebook page that she was avoiding the nasty weather by staying inside- oops...Yes, she is an absolute doll.
Well, we decided that we should give our best effort at around 4:30. Oh, yeah, we forgot about the time change and all. So, here are the resulting pictures- fine, but probably not going to make the thank you cards. There is just something about missionaries being surrounded by a cloud of black that I think gives the wrong impression...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Denominational Ridiculousness...

My husband has a burden for the Christian church to be united. I mean, think about it: our primary jobs as Christians are to do our best to emulate Christ and to share the Gospel, right? So what does it say about Christians when we pick apart each others' beliefs? The average non-believer probably doesn't really care if you do believer's baptism or confirmation. If the people who already believe choose to focus on their [minute] differences, why would non-believers ever be drawn to this mess???
This all comes up because we really need some financial support. Of the people we sent letters to, approximately 1/16 have responded. So, I started calling churches. First of all, it is so humbling to ask for money. However, we know it is not for us, but rather for the Lord's work, so we are trying to be bold. Second, some people make things difficult. I talked to some churches that were just downright rude. I understand that many churches already have fulfilled their missions budget, which is great, but 2 of them said they would not even pray for us. Huh? I thought the one guy was kidding at first, so I sort of started to giggle (oops...) I just can't recall anywhere in the Bible where it's written we should not pray for our brothers and sister in Christ. Curious. Very curious. I think we are missing the big picture here, people.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Our Status

Just a quick update to let you know our current status
  • Our former assignment in Kenya fell through. We are disappointed, but grateful that God was so clear in showing us it was not a part of His will for us
  • We are currently praying about an assignment in Tanzania. It is not exactly what we originally envisioned, but we are just trying to be open to the Lord's leading
  • We have continued our efforts to raise support from individuals and families. Almost all of the support packets have been assembled and sent, although a few are lagging behind because I am searching for the addresses and such.
  • We have continued our efforts to raise support from churches. We have met with the mission boards of two churches so far, and yesterday we had the opportunity to share with the congregations of two wonderful churches in the area. Additionally, I began making follow-up calls to churches today. I had moderate success with those I contacted, but after having a dozen or so go to voice mail, I realized it is Monday, and many churches are closed.
  • Prayer requests: for clarity in assignment, and that potential supporters would seek the Lord's will and be obedient to it, whatever that may be.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Misconceptions of...Myself???

Today as I was driving into town, I realized I don't even fit my own stereotype of a missionary; it's really okay, because only like 5 people do. I've always pictured missionaries a certain way- the women all have REALLY long hair and wear floor-length skirts and long sleeves (even when it's 120 degrees), and the men have long beards and suspenders. Similar to my stereotype of Amish people, but...not. This is totally ridiculous, and I have no idea where I came up with it- none of the missionaries I know reinforce it. I am glad it's all in my head, because I don't think Josh will agree to suspenders, which, in this alternate world of mine, would somehow preclude us from missions.

Honestly, how many misconceptions do we carry about all types of people? We are moving to an entirely new culture, and I am trying not to imagine what it will be like, as I will most certainly be wrong.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Minnesota Autumn

Oh, it's been a while. I feel like cataloging the events of this Fall through pictures for more pictures, visit our smugmug site):
In mid- October, we went with Princess, my sister, and the 3 Lovewell kids to an apple orchard in Eastern Minnesota. We had so much fun, and all the kids were precious and well-behaved (yay!)

The next weekend, we took a trip to Duluth for a foster care conference. Nicole's brother Trouper was awarded MN Foster/Adoptive Kid of the Year. During the day, while Nicole's parents were in sessions, we visited Amnicon Falls State Park in Superior, WS, an absolutely gorgeous park with lots to see in a small radius, so it is perfect for kids.

At the end of the month, one of our churches (Calvary Baptist Church) held its annual Fall Fun Fest on Halloween. We had a great turnout and tons of fun with all the families that participated.