Is your goal just to survive or do you want to thrive? You would think the answer would be obvious – you want to thrive! Too often, however, you find yourself just trying to survive because life is hard, painful and far too often unjust. But there is Good News in your worst moments – Jesus always shows up to shower you with megadoses of love. This love doesn’t simply dull your pain – it miraculously changes your perspective, unleashes new possibilities and offers real hope. And when you have these things, you will discover that you are actually thriving and not just surviving.
Yesterday’s rising sun revealed a beautiful winter wonderland. As the sky grew brighter, I noticed a number of animal tracks crisscrossing the powdery blanket of snow on the ground. Those prints in the snow pointed to a reality that is present all the time, even though I seldom see it – animals who call our home their home. Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season when I will take a solemn journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, the cross and, ultimately, an empty tomb. Like millions of Christians across the globe, I will wear ashes on my skin in the form of a cross. And like the snow on the ground, those ashes will point to a reality that is present all the time, even though I seldom acknowledge it – my human frailty, sin and need to repent.
The depth of God’s love is unfathomable, far beyond your ability to fully comprehend. Yet God’s love is also intimately personal, experienced through your relationship with Jesus Christ. You live every day between these two touchpoints of divine love. When you are tempted to make God too small, God reminds you that divine love is far more expansive than you are giving God credit for. When you wonder how God can possibly care about you in the vastness of the universe, God reminds you that divine love died to save, heal and transform in such a powerful way that you think you matter more than anyone else ever has. In a world that seems to have been reduced to stark either-or choices, God’s love is always both-and.
The snow began yesterday afternoon and has continued, blanketing everything with the unique beauty of winter. As I sit and watch the sky growing lighter, I am in awe of what I see. But even more, I am reminded that Jesus’ amazing grace covers everything in my life like the snow covers the landscape. It covers my sin, my mistakes, my pain, my imperfect attempts to do good and all my failed attempts at managing my own life. Unlike the snow that soon will disappear, however, Jesus’ grace lasts forever.
Lord of Love,
Today couples celebrate their love for each other with cards, candy, gifts and Facebook posts. Join them in their celebration. Deepen their love. And help them discover the joy of sharing the blessings of their love with others.
For those, however, who do not know love, this is a bittersweet day. When they are around others, they feel alone. When they are in a relationship, they live in isolation. And when they are with those who supposedly care for them, they are pushed to the side. Let all those who struggle with love know they are loved. Help them experience the joy of being loved. And enable them to love others so they, too, may know what it’s like to be loved.
Draw all of us into the heart of Your love that changes everything about everything forever. Welcome us to live there, today and forever more. And spur us to grow perfect in Your love in this life and the one to come.
We pray this in the name of the One who was, is and will forever be Your pure expression of love, Jesus.
My brother and sister-in-law moved into the retirement home they built just outside Portland, Oregon about a year-and-a-half ago. The centerpiece of the lot they purchased – and one of the primary reasons they bought it – was a majestic 150 year old Oak. About 3:15 am this morning in the midst of one of the worst ice storms on record, they were jolted awake by a loud crash. The massive tree was so coated with ice it could no longer bear the weight any longer, and had fallen over with such force it pulled the root system out of the ground. My brother and sister-in-law assumed the tree that had been there so long and had withstood so much would continue to tower over their property for decades to come. I know I did. But it didn’t, and is a powerful reminder that life is ultimately fragile. Even those things and people that seem all powerful. But the Good News is that the fragile nature of life is not the last word. God’s love in Jesus Christ is. And when you live in him, you can live with confidence that nothing in life – even death itself – can separate you from God’s love.