Archives For love

We love because he first loved us.  Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

I John 4:19-20

I’m just returning from a week of vacation at the Jersey Shore.  This was actually the first time I ever stayed at the Shore for more than a night or two.  We had a great week!

As I was catching up on work emails and other news last night, I was surprised to see my news feed full of updates about what is going on in Charlottesville, VA.  I don’t claim to be at all up to speed on what is going on there.  In fact, I feel rather behind when it comes to knowing the details.

One thing I know for sure is that when I see signs promoting “white supremacy”, I know something is wrong.

What happened to the song we used to sing in Sunday School?

“Jesus loves the little children – all the children of the world – red and yellow, black and white – they are precious in his site…”

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Romans 12:9

Hate is alive and well in the world, and I hate this fact.

I have more questions than answers.

  • How can we change the hearts of those who hold such hatred deep inside?
  • What can I do to be part of the solution?
  • When will this kind of hatred end?
  • Where can I have the biggest impact on helping to encourage positive change and a move towards love?
  • Why do people think this kind of behavior is appropriate?

God, again I ask You for a heart that breaks for the things that break Your heart.  Give me wisdom in knowing how to share Your love.  Help me to be a voice against evil.  Thank You for loving me despite my shortcomings.  Thank You for sending Your Son and for showing us how to love.  I ask for peace and understanding in Charlottesville, and I ask for Your wisdom and love to fill the hearts of our leaders as they respond to the current situation.  Amen

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

I John 4:10

Ice Breaker – Love Songs

February 12, 2016 — 5 Comments

ICE BREAKER Love Songs

Most weeks on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question on Fridays. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

(I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at jon@jonstolpe.com.  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

With Valentine’s Day coming up on Sunday, this week’s question seems appropriate.

Question:  What is your favorite love song?

My Answer:  Songs have a way of connecting us to a past memory.  For this reason, I have several favorite love songs:

  1. Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton is one of my favorites.  My wife and I shared our first dance to this song.
  2. In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel is another favorite.  My college friends who were there will remember the dance floor clearing, so Leanne and I could dance to this song.
  3. It Must Be Love by Rickie Lee Jones from the Thirtysomething soundtrack takes up one of my spots.  I listened to this track over and over again the summer after Leanne and I first met as I was traveling to Connecticut and Massachusetts for my summer job with ServiceMaster.
  4. I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers is another favorite.  This song is a little more energetic than your traditional love song, but it reminds me that love is fun and it often means going the distance for the one you love.
  5. I Will Be Here by Stephen Curtis Chapman has a spot on my list.  This song was performed at our wedding, but I don’t think the words of this song fully resonated with me until Leanne and I went through some of the challenges of life.

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!

Don’t forget to sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  You can sign up right here:

STRETCH QUOTE Expand Your Heart

Today, see if you can STRETCH your heart and expand your love so that it touches not only those to whom you can give it easily, but also those who need it so much.

Daphne Rose Kingma

It’s easy to love the lovable.

Who do you find it hard to love?

What can you do to show them love today?

 

Called To Love

January 14, 2015 — 4 Comments

We are called to love.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37-40

Christ did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  John 3:17

As Christians, we have been quick to judge.  We turn people away from Christianity, because we pass judgement rather than demonstrate love.

Don’t get me wrong.  We need to flee from sin.  There is right, and there is wrong.  But we must be careful to love first.

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34-35

For God so loved the world…

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

…God loves the world.  And we must learn to love as He first loved us.

We love because he first loved us.  I John 4:19

God, teach me to love.

How can you love today better than yesterday?

 

As I mentioned last week, Bob Goff came and spoke at our church yesterday.  As expected, he delivered in amazing ways, and I even had the opportunity to meet him.  He is so friendly!

Listening to Bob Goff speak is like hooking your head up to a firehouse and turning on the water full blast.  I took quite a few notes as Bob shared.  I may dissect them later, but I thought the best way to start reflecting on Bob’s message might be to simply share my notes.  Here they are:

  • Bob is a hugger.  He’s not into handshakes.  If you meet Bob, you are now is friend, and friends don’t shake hands – they hug.  (Sure enough, Bob hugged me when I introduced myself to him.)
  • Before he started Bob proclaimed, “This is Jesus’ room.”
  • He repeated several times, we don’t need to agree with Jesus.  We need to go do it.
  • He’s not into Bible studies; he’s into Bible doings.
  • Galatians 1:6 – “LIVE IN GRACE.”
  • I John 1:6 – This is love that we follow God’s command and that we WALK IN LOVE.
  • Stop trying to win.  LIVE IN GRACE and WALK IN LOVE.
  • Jesus wants you to be his friend, and He wants you to follow Him.
  • We have to be more fearless to follow Him.
  • Jesus made himself more available to others.  (This is part of the reason Bob left his cell phone number for all to read at the end of his book.  He wants to follow Jesus by being available to people.  I almost called him during the service.)
  • Living a life following Christ means constant interruptions.
  • Don’t be right.  Be humble.
  • We fly under the banner of Christ.
  • Proverbs 4:23 – “Above all else guard your hearts.”
  • We are porters.  How can I help you?
  • We’re supposed to help people get home.
  • Love everybody.
  • God wants us to live on the edge of “Yikes.”
  • God doesn’t’ want us to be comfortable.
  • Give them love.
  • Don’t stand in love.  WALK IN LOVE.
  • God wants to blow your minds.
  • God wants to use the foolish things of life (I Corin.).
  • “Be not afraid.”
  • If you have a guide you can trust, you don’t worry about the path.  (We have the best guide ever – Jesus.)
  • Look how far you’ve come.  Not, look how far you have to go.
  • God makes people.  People make issues.  God doesn’t make issues.  God loves people.
  • Renew your vows with Jesus everyday.

All this in 30 minutes, and it went by so quickly.

If you were there on Sunday or you’ve read Love Does, what have you learned from Bob Goff?

When was the last time you heard someone speak who totally captured your attention?

Over the holiday weekend, I rented the movie, Chef, from our local Redbox.  My wife and I saw the movie over the summer on one of our weekly date nights, and it was a movie that brought a smile to my face.  In fact, I remember smiling throughout most of the movie.  I knew back in the summer this was a movie I had to see again.  When it came out on DVD, I knew it was time for another viewing.

(Let me warn you though, Chef is rated ‘R’ for the use of profanity.)

There was a scene in the movie that really made me think as I watched it again last week.  In the scene, Chef Casper’s son just burnt his first Cuban sandwich.  He was getting ready to feed it to some nonpaying customers when his dad quickly pulled him aside to have this conversation (there is no profanity in this scene).

There was humility, passion, and a desire to leave a legacy rolled up in this scene, and I think it flowed throughout the movie.  In this particular scene, I was reminded that we don’t always get it right.  In fact, we screw up more than most of us would like to admit.  Despite this, we still have a desire, passion, and even a responsibility to leave a legacy by doing the things we love.

Chef Casper could make a mean Cuban sandwich along with the rest of his culinary creations.  This was the love of his life, and he wanted to share it with others – especially with his son.

I want my kids and others to enjoy the things that make my heart beat.  I want them to be passionate about the things they love to do.  For my daughter right now, it’s running.  For my son, it’s making music.  These are gifts to them and to those around them.  I hope they will share these passions with the world around them.  And I hope I can make the most of the opportunity to share my passions with them.  This is a legacy worth leaving.

What do you love to do?  How are you sharing your passion with others?

God-Given Appointments

September 8, 2014 — 15 Comments

A Hispanic woman and her three small children set out on a long journey to a city forty miles away.  They had one large suitcase with rollers which contained all their belongings.  They didn’t have a car or a cell phone.  They simply had their suitcase and their tiny legs.  She had just enough money to pay a taxi to get to them to the city.  She couldn’t call a taxi though without a cell phone, so they set out on their journey walking along an old railroad track that had been converted to a recreational path where bikers, runners, and walkers could be found in multitudes especially on beautiful, sunny days.  Secretly, the woman hoped she would find someone who could help.

Shortly after beginning the journey, she saw a woman on a bicycle approaching from the other direction.  As the bicyclist came closer, the Hispanic woman began waving her arms in an effort to get her to stop.  It was not hard to miss the waving arms and the three small children, but the woman on the bicycle stared straight ahead and even appeared to speed up as she passed the Hispanic woman and her three kids.

Not giving up, the family continued down the trail.  A third of a mile later, the woman noticed a runner coming towards them.  He was drenched in sweat, but he was going slow enough that woman felt more confident that she could get his attention.  She waved her arms, and the runner slowed to a stop.  He removed one of his earphones which was connected to the smart phone which he held in his hand.  In her broken English, the woman proceeded to ask the man for some help calling a taxi.  The man was clearly perturbed – “How dare this woman interrupt his workout?”  He made up some dumb excuse as to why he couldn’t help her.  Then he put his earphone in and ran off in the other direction.

The woman was starting to get a little concerned.  She still had a long way to go, and no one seemed interested or available to help her.  The small family walked slowly down the trail toward the city.  After walking a mile or so, they came to a small park.  This was a good place for the family to take a break.  The kids made their way to the small playground in the park while the woman found a nearby park bench where she sat down and began to pray.  She needed to find help soon or she would be forced to find cover in the woods along the trail for the night.

After a few minutes of prayer, she opened her eyes and looked up to check on her kids.  They were still busy playing on the playground.  Just past the playground, she noticed an older man resting next to his old ten speed bicycle.  The man looked a little disheveled with tattered clothes and a face that hadn’t been shaved for several days.  Tied to his bike were a sleeping bag and a black garbage back filled with who knows what. This was clearly not the person you’d expect to provide any assistance.

The Hispanic woman decided it was time to get moving again.  She rolled the suitcase over to the playground equipment, and she began gathering her children.  The old man stood up and walked toward the woman.  Unsure how to respond, the woman froze and looked away.  As the man drew closer, he removed his weathered hat, and he spoke softly, “Can I help you?”  Startled, the woman looked down.  Could this man really help?  Could she trust him?  Remembering her prayer just minutes ago, she explained her situation to the man.  The man smiled, and he told her he could help.  After a few more exchanges, the man asked the woman to stay in the park for fifteen more minutes.  He explained that he would be right back.  With few other options, the woman agreed and told the children to head back to the playground.  The man got on his bicycle and rode away.  Should the woman stay and trust this old man, or should she take her kids and walk on down the trail?  She wrestled through with this question as she waited for the man to return.  About fifteen minutes later, a yellow mini-van with the letters T – A – X – I prominently displayed on the sides and roof of the vehicle pulled into the park.  The old man stepped out of the driver’s side, and he invited the young family into the taxi as he opened the side doors.  He loaded the suitcase into the back, and they were on the way to the city.

This story has haunted me for a couple of months.  I was the runner in this story, and this happened to me early in July before I went to Guatemala.  I’m not sure what happened with this woman and her small children, but I trust they are okay.  I kick myself, because I could have done something to help this woman and her children.  I had a smart phone.  I could have looked up the number to a taxi service and called on her behalf.  I didn’t have any money on me at the time, but I could have run home, grabbed my wallet, and returned to give her money to help pay for the taxi service.  But I didn’t.  It was inconvenient at the time.  I was late for something that probably didn’t matter that much, and I was in the middle of a long workout.  I’m willing to travel to Guatemala to help those in need, but I miss out on opportunities like this right in my own area.  When will I learn that these types of interruptions may actually be God-given appointments?  The words of our mouth have to be more.  If they don’t turn into actions, we are simply blabbering.  I don’t want to be a “blabberer.”  I want my faith to be real.  I want it to be shown by my actions.  I want to have a mission mindset right where I live and work.  I can’t change the past, but I can look toward the future.  May God keep my eyes open for these opportunities, and may I keep my hands ready to serve others right where I am.

Which person do you identify with in the story?

Have you had any “God-given appointments” recently?  How did you respond?

Love With Urgency

September 2, 2014 — 4 Comments

Love with urgency

There is a lyric from a Mumford & Sons song which always hits me when I hear it…

“I will love with urgency but not with haste.”

(From “Not With Haste” on the Babel album by Mumford & Sons)

When I hear the lyric, I’m reminded of my own need to love more urgently, and I’m also intrigued by the thought of that permeating our culture.  Can you imagine if we all learned to love with urgency?  What would be different?

In today’s world, we are dealing with all kinds of conflict and strife.

I think of the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.  How differently would it look if everyone involved responded with urgent love?  How would the police respond differently?  How would protestors respond differently?  How would the news media respond differently?  How would the citizens outside of Ferguson respond differently?  With a different response – a response marked by urgent love – I have to imagine the situation would be much different.

I think of the situation in West Africa where thousand are sick and dying of Ebola.  How differently would it look if everyone involved responded with urgent love?  How would medical practitioners respond differently?  How would pharmaceutical companies respond differently?  How would those outside of West Africa respond differently?  With a different response – a response marked by urgent love – I wonder if more lives would be saved.

I think of the situation in Israel and Gaza.  How differently would it look if everyone involved responded with urgent love?  I know this is hard to imagine as there has been fighting in this area since the beginning of time.  How would Israel respond differently?  How would Palestine respond differently?  How would the United States government respond differently?  How would families who have lost loved ones respond differently?  With a different response – a response marked by urgent love – I think peace might actually be possible.

I think of the situation in Ukraine.  How differently would it look if everyone involved responded with urgent love?  How would Ukrainians respond differently?  How would rebels respond differently?  How would Russia respond differently?  How would NATO respond differently?  With a different response – a response marked by urgent love – I see productive conversation and peaceful resolutions.

I think of the situation in Syria and Northern Iraq.  I have to believe that loving with urgency could possibly bring about miraculous results.  The ISIS crusade and situation seems quite bleak to me, but maybe it takes someone loving with urgency to break through the barriers which are currently ending countless lives in this region.  How would the United States respond differently?  How would the people the Iraqi government respond differently?  How would the ISIS respond differently?  I know these are crazy questions.  With a different response – a response marked by urgent love – is it possible for harmony in this region?

As the song implies, loving with urgency doesn’t mean acting out of haste.  It is appropriate to be well thought out when responding to challenging situations.  However, I think we too often fail to respond because we either don’t care or we are too concerned that our response will be questioned or unproductive.  It’s time we all start looking around and learning to love with urgency.  If we all started living in this way, the world would be a different – better – place.

What situation in your life would have a different outcome if people involved responded with an urgent love?  What is one thing you can do today to love with urgency?

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  I John 4:10

ADVENTure Day 10

December 10, 2013 — 2 Comments

RABBIT BREAD!!!!!!!!!!!

When I was in college, I visited many of the area churches on Sunday mornings.  I went to the local Baptist church, the local Presbyterian church, the local Methodist church, and many other churches.  One church I visited fairly often was the local Christian Missionary Alliance (C.M.A.) church.  Many college students attended this church.  The services were somewhat contemporary, and they did a great job including students from our college in the worship from time to time.

The C.M.A. church had a tradition called I think they called a Love Feast.  I was there when they did it once or twice.  During the service, they brought out baskets of bread.  I don’t remember if they passed out the bread or if you came to the front to pick up a couple of pieces of bread.  As I remember the Love Feast, everyone stood up and walked around the sanctuary or auditorium.  They approached someone in the congregation they knew and selected to receive a piece of bread.  As they gave them a piece of bread, they would share something they loved about the other person.  The recipient would then eat the piece of bread.  It was simple and powerful.

I remember seeing people crying throughout this “sacrament” of love.  I’m sure there were people who were going through reconciliation.  Others were simply being encouraged.  It was a time of healing.  I time of hope.  And I time of love.

Christ came to provide healing, hope, and love to a broken world.  He set the example for reconciliation and forgiveness.  This Love Feast was an opportunity to experience and share this love with others.

As we celebrate Advent, it should be a time of healing, hope, and love.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  2 Corinthians 5:16-20

ADVENTure Activity:  With whom do you need to pursue reconciliation?  Take a step this week towards reconciliation.

ADVENTure Question:  How have you experienced reconciliation with someone?  How did it feel?  Were you pursued or did someone else pursue you?

ADVENTure Day 9

December 9, 2013 — 5 Comments

2012-09-03 16.45.51

A Love That Doesn’t Sense

It’s easy to love others when they treat you well, when they do what you want, and when they love you back.  But what about when people treat you like garbage, when they don’t do what you want, and when they hate you?  Obviously, this doesn’t make sense.

Christmas is all about a love that doesn’t make sense.

Why in the world would God send His Son to save people who sin, who hate, and who continue to do everything contrary to His Law?

But this is just what He did.

It doesn’t make sense to me.  Does it make sense to you?

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:6-8

ADVENTure Activity:  Do something that doesn’t make sense today.  Report back with the details in the comments.

ADVENTure Question:  Where have you seen a love that doesn’t make sense?

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