Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Keepin' the love on

A few months ago, my friend Christine introduced me to the idea of, "keepin' the love on."  The thought behind the phrase is: not to withhold love toward those around you, no matter what you may be feeling or the state of your own heart.  It can be so easy to turn the love off in response to the circumstantial lows of everyday fallen living, but real love "keeps the light on for ya..." like Motel 6... ;-)

I was reminded of this concept the other day as I realized just how much I fail to, in fact, keep it on.

Love, (True affection for God and Man), rises to take its place above faith and hope as the greatest among these.  However, love is probably the most overused word, whose true meaning has been compromised more than that of any other.

Love... actual love.... like the bearing up under all things kind of love, is rare to witness upon the earth.... yet it is the very example that was portrayed when God's son stepped onto the planet, living 33 years in human skin to display heaven's splendor for us who were made from the dirt.  Love is to be our greatest lesson if we would surrender ourselves to its teaching.  It is so costly though.... that's the usual deal, right?  The worthy things are costly, otherwise: everyone would be doing them...
Man, some things in the Word can seem really broad and hard to understand... churches split over foggy doctrines and people part over disagreements about the seemingly gray areas of gospel living... many things are just so difficult to come to truth about.  What is crazy about all of this though... is that we forfeit huge opportunities to learn love (the greatest thing... the one thing that we can take with us into eternity)... and we choose the opinions and thoughts of our own finite brains over the chance to discover how to love our neighbor.

True Love is easy to distinguish because it goes against the grain and strikes an un-strummed chord within us.  Like Salmon do, love swims upstream and beckons the attention of the schools who are swimming the other direction as they go with the flow.  I sometimes wonder how this story might have panned out differently if Adam would have laid His life down for Eve and, "taken the fall," for her instead of blaming her for the whole apple deal.... would that have been enough love to cover a multitude of sins?  I guess we'll never know... because Adam didn't do that, Jesus did.  He took the fall for all of us.  He, who did no wrong, took on our wrong... so that we could be made right.... amazing. 

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  That sentence alone should evoke something on the inside of us who believe.  However, it somehow becomes so easy to remain unmoved by such miraculous wonders... yet Tom Cruise can arouse our adventurous side and Julia Roberts can bring us to tears while we eat popcorn and drink soda and leave a movie theater... changed? Meanwhile... God wrote and walked out an unbelievably adventurous and miraculous story... and put us smack dab in the middle of it... and we're bored...

Maybe our hearts are a little hard?  Maybe we've let our outward circumstances dictate our inward stance?  We lose our faith because the deaf guy that we prayed for still can't hear.... we feel hurt by the church, and life, and people, so we clam up and withhold love and hurt more people.... and all the while, we came into this whole relationship inspired to love when we understood that He first loved us...  We were love struck by the man on the cross who... while we were yet sinning.... laid down His life for us.... and greater love has no one than this... that a man would lay His life down for His friends.   God became a man and walked around on the very dirt that He once blew breath into to create the first of our kind... and then the Father allowed that dirt to crush His Son.  It is too much to consider.... and Tom Cruise could never do it justice on the big screen. 

The divine will of God will come to pass... and then prophecy will be no longer.....tongues will cease.... knowledge will be superseded by Truth..... and all that will be left to posses is love.  What if we laid it all down for the sake of learning love instead of trying to strive to gain what we can't take with us anyway?  The other day I was at my Grandparent's house and my (eighty-something years young) Pop-Pop couldn't find where he had put his new ipad that he'd gotten as a present.  He was really anxious about it and I said, "Pop-Pop, don't let it stress you out.... you can't take it with you when you go anyway."  His response was so witty... and true.  He said, "Yea, you're right Jul... you never see a U-Haul following a hearse to the graveyard..." :-)

I'm not under the false impression that loving unconditionally is easy.... or that I've ever even really been successful at it for more than like 5 minutes... haha...  I'm not saying that keepin' the love on when you don't even feel loved will just be all warm and fuzzy.... it probably won't.... but love does not demand its own way.  I believe it is worth it though.  The worthy things are always costly... and if this life is all about learning love and knowing God... then when it's all said and done, we will count everything else as dung anyway compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus. 

With love,


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Opposite Day

There have been more than a few times in my life when something difficult happened and I thought, "wow, Lord, I really didn't need that."  My Dad actually said this to me recently and the thought took on a shouting echo in the hollow spaces of my head. 

I've been thinking a lot about Character lately... about how we attain it... about the road it takes to posses it... and its not a walk in the park, but more like a walk in a sewage ditch.... not a bed of roses, but more like a blanket of thorns.  Unfortunately, the path to Character has no shortcut and the ground is uneven.  Its hard to keep your footing.  Its painful.  It tears your skin and draws blood. 

The first stop on the journey? 

Suffering. This part sucks... lets just be real.  It doesn't last forever but its the stage where you go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning and as the light touches your eyes- revealing their first few blinks- your heart gets a signal from your brain that calls to remembrance the reality of your difficult season.  I always hate that feeling.  Sleep carries such sweet denial... and the moment when denial gets shoved out of the way by the abrupt sting of reality.... yea, that moment bites. This is when you wish the blinking had never started, but that instead, maybe your brain could have signaled your eyes first to tell them that today would be a good day to stay closed....but this is not how we were designed I guess.  The light comes in, the signals are sent out, and that is that. 

The only way to make our way through this part? 

Perseverance. Well, perseverance and Oreos.  Okay, no- just perseverance.  Its the next natural progression.  In this stage, you consider your choices.  Do I stay in bed and beg for sleep's comforting anesthetic to return... or is it time to get up slowly, walk to the door, and allow your fingers to test their courage as they reach for the handle and turn...?  We must give credit to the small decisions that we make in perseverance, because they do not go unnoticed by heaven.  Someone may look at the tiny choices you make to advance forward in the fight and not recognize the victory because they cannot see the battle within.  God sees the battle though.  God made Himself well-acquainted with the battle of humanity when he chose to make His entrance into this life through the birth canal of a virgin girl.  What?  is that too intense?  Well take it up with Him then... not me.  Would you expect anything less though from a God/Man who would later choose to leave this life with sharp metal pegging Him to wood as a hammer pounds repeatedly?  I'm not being dramatic... its just what happened.  One cannot pay such a heavy price, carry such a burdensome load.... without excruciating pain and sacrifice... its simply not possible.  So we persevere with the strength of the guy who did that instead of flexing our own wimpy biceps in a haughty attempt that is predestined to leave us face down on the floor before we even take the second step out of bed.  This stage takes a really long time.  None of this really comes to fruition over night, but perseverance is especially time consuming.  Endurance is key and Gatorade just doesn't do the trick.  Part of successful perseverance is to draw our energy from His well and not our own.  I think its in this stage that our faith becomes real.  Its no longer ethereal but you can now almost taste it.... you recognize that its becoming tangible.

So when the crap hits the fan we think, Wow I really didn't need that...but we did. we SO did.  After I get over the immediate reaction (which is: "Oh really, James... consider it joy?  Why don't I punch you in the face and you can show me all the joy you are considering!!)... I take a minute- and then I actually do consider it joy... because it means I'm on the road- I'm on the road to Character and I can't wait until perseverance finishes its work so that I may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.  Because this is what its all about, right?  Being sanctified into the character of Jesus? If its hard to look at it this way, just consider everyday to be "opposite day"....because basically that is what living out the gospel is.... one big opposite day.  Someone strikes your cheek?... well, just give them the other too. Have an enemy?.... let your belly just fill up with love butterflies for them (yea that doesn't really happen... its more like swallowing knives to love them, but I guess just pretend the knives are butterflies?) Opposite Day.

The icing on the cake is that Character produces hope... but this hope is not like any other hope.  No, this hope "does not disappoint."  Its the only kind of hope that doesn't end in our shame for having believed in it in the first place.  That sounds like music to my hope deferred ears :-)

I'll come in for a landing with a little wisdom from my husband, Graham Cooke (OK...he is not my husband, that was just a test to see if you are a faithful reader of my blog... if you are not, *see previous blog ;-)  Graham says that it is stupid that we ask for the presence of God... because He is already here.  What we should actually do is practice this presence... to "Practice the presence we believe is present."  My idea of the best way to do this is to take every thought captive and body slam that sucka down to submit to the knowledge of God.  Uh Uh Lie... I don't think so!  It's Opposite Day Playah, so you can put me on trial and try to bring me down all day long and I'm just gonna consider it a big fat joy fest...

"...but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And this hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us" -Romans 5:3-5

So don't be afraid if life makes you take a stroll in a sewage ditch... and just go with it and curl on up to that fire with a thorny blanket... its good for your Character.

We were never promised that we would not suffer... but we do not suffer alone.  We have a High Priest who can sympathize... in every way.  He truly is so very faithful.

Trying to make every day Opposite Day,
~Mrs. Graham Cooke

P.S. Graham Cooke's actual wife, if you ever read my blogs... hopefully you have a sense of humor...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Julie "I lean" Doggendorf

I've been listening to a guy named Graham Cooke because he is basically my friend Kathy's other husband... I mean he's not reeeeaaaally, and she might be mad that I said that... but it shows her appreciation for what he has to say... and what kind of man he is.  My friend Kathy is happily married... to one man... she is not a sister-wife... don't worry.  She has always told me about Graham Cooke and she let me borrow a teaching of his.... way too long ago to admit, and I am just now listening to it... and now he is my husband too... no, but I now understand her esteem :-)

I love to listen to people speak of Jesus.  I don't just like sermons all the time, but I like when people communicate Jesus as they see Him through their eyes... and in truth of course. 

There is something so refreshing about being renewed with the love of God.  To remember such a simple truth... that He loves us.  Its an everyday thought but a rare belief. I taste it all the time but I can't always drink it down. Sometimes though, I get it for a second and I cry.  I love to cry because of love. 
Sometimes I feel like old cheese... gross I know... I do though sometimes, like I've been aged by the cares of this shadow life... its only a breath.... here and gone in a moment.... yet it has great capabilities to wound us.  I wish I could remember, say like on a Tuesday at 3pm while in the grocery store... that life is so short.  That no matter what comes our way in the shadow, there is the hope of eternity just waiting to be pondered.  Maybe that would make me stop for a moment amongst the one million cereal choices and remember Jesus.  I want to remember in the moments that feel meaningless- that there is actually so much to glean because God did an amazing thing and that gives meaning to even the moments that are hidden in the isles of mundane grocery shopping.  I want to remember in the moments where conscious thoughts seem to evaporate from our minds as we turn down the same streets in our cars like robots in the routine of our everyday.... that this moment is actually extraordinary.... because God did an extraordinary thing.  But oh how easily we forget... and we let the cereal isle overtake us; our routine leaves us thoughtless... and all of these things muddy the moments that have the potential to be crystal clear snippets of praise.  Sure, life is not always adventurous, and sometimes the event of the day is deciding between Captain Crunch and Cocoa Pebbles, but we are actually, simultaneously seated with Christ in heavenly places too... we just don't grasp it... and its hard to grasp it under the florescent light of the grocery store while Cinnamon Toast Crunch is flirting with your heart.  I want to spend my moments in grace and truth... whether in the grocery store or deep in worship.  I want to age well with God.  Some things get better with age.... like wine.... and I'd like to be wine instead of old cheese.  Could I be wine Lord? Let every wrinkle come with wisdom please.... 'cause if not, then I will just be stinky, old cheese. When my hair goes gray and crows land their feet on the outer corners of my eyes.... let it not be for naught Lord, but if it must come, let it be accompanied by the wisdom of Solomon.

I'm glad I'm not 17.  I mean... 28 can be really hard sometimes... but I'm not 17.  I remember 17. So epic and gut-wrenching.  The thought of getting older is avoided and believed to be tragic in our culture... and I admit I hate it too sometimes, but the beautiful wisdom that comes with age and another year of life-lived is priceless.  Something that would have absolutely killed me at 17 is only a bump in the road these days.  Imagine when I'm 70... sigh.. I'll have this life thing in the bag... no problem.  I know that's probably not true... but I won't be 28... and I'll remember 28 and think, "I'm glad I'm not 28..."  The actual truth is that I'm not all that much greater than I was at 17, but I've learned to lean a little harder.  With every passing year, I find that I'm leaning just a little more on Jesus as life throws me curves and twists and sometimes punches me in the face.  I get tired and can't stand up as straight as I did before, but its a lovely thing to know I can lean..... that He can take the weight of some of these burdens I'm toting around. Graham Cooke says the cross is light.  We are to take on His yoke... because it is light and easy.  How nice.  Why do we make it seem so heavy?  He did all of the heavy lifting for us and now our burden is light.  He took in the milk and all of the soda cans out of the car from the grocery trip and left us only the chips to carry.  So nice.  I hate taking in groceries from the car... hate it so much, but I don't mind carrying the airy bag of chips.... I can handle that. For real though, life is too short to take on burdens that have already been carried and the moments are too few to waste.

Thank you God... for being extraordinary... and for doing extraordinary things.  You are what makes life worth living.  You are more than reason enough to lift our gaze and You are worth every snippet of our praise.  Thanks for your shoulder to lean on.... and thanks for carrying in the milk.

Julie Eileen