Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Redeeming love

Photo by Jolinne Balentine-Downey

More of the flowers are opening. Are we also opening ourselves more and more to the redeeming love of God? To redeem is to make something that is flawed better. That's what God's love does for us. It makes us better people. More honest. More trusting. More wise. More strong. More patient. More forgiving. More like God. But it is a process. It takes time. These flowers did not bloom overnight. They did not appear full bloom in the world. They began as seeds and grew over time. Even now they are still growing into the fullness of what they can be. The same is true of people. We do not come into the world as fully realized human beings. We come as crying, perhaps even shrieking, children. And we grow over time. When we experience love, it helps us to let go of our defenses and open up more of our hearts. The purpose of life is to grow into our full potential, to become all that God created us to be. So what do we need to let go of so that we can grow into the glorious creations God intended us to be? And how can we encourage others to trust more of their hearts to God?

Friday, April 8, 2016

At the cross

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the Bright and Morning Star
Sheds its beams around me. 
 --Fanny Crosby
I've been watching all week as these flowers slowly open, thinking about how people also open up when they come near to the cross and experience God's love. Fanny Crosby writes about the transforming power of love in the classic gospel hymn, "Near the Cross." I was at a Christian concert in Memphis the first time I truly felt embraced by God's love. It was 1984, and I was a freshman in college. Some friends invited me to go with them to see Second Chapter of Acts. I had never heard of the band but was pleased to be included in the group of concertgoers. Though I had never told anyone, I had felt for a couple of years as if God were angry with me for reasons that I didn't really understand. I had been raised in the Church, read my Bible daily and tried to do what is right. But I had not attended worship in years. Looking back, I can see that I was missing being part of a community of faith. At the concert that night, I was deeply moved by an almost overwhelming wave of love that seemed to emanate from the band and encompass everyone in the crowd. In that moment, I knew that God was not angry with me. God had never been angry with me. God surely did not like every decision I had made (or would make) but God loved me, and I loved God, and I loved being in a place where I could worship God with every ounce of my being. I still do. Praying today that you find yourself engulfed in love and mercy.

Photo by Jolinne Balentine-Downey