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It could have been disastrous…..

01/07/2017 - Author: Natasha Phillips

Love is an interesting word. Often times it is overused or not used enough. It can be used to express an enjoyment of something as in “man, I just LOVE this movie’, it can be used when talking to another person…usually family or friend in saying ‘I just love you’, and it can also be unspoken…in a marriage or in a relationship with our kids where it isn’t maybe said as often as it should be but you know its there. There are at least three different words in the Greek language to describe love and the word to describe the strongest sense of the word is ‘agape’. Agape means “love: the highest form of love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God.”

Anglican theologian O.C. Quick cautions however that this agape within human experience is “a very partial and rudimentary realization,” and that “in its pure form it is essentially divine.” Quick suggests that,

If we could imagine the love of one who loves men purely for their own sake, and not because of any need or desire of his own, purely desires their good, and yet loves them wholly, not for what at this moment they are, but for what he knows he can make of them because he made them, then we should have in our minds some true image of the love of the Father and Creator of mankind.

If I understand what O.C. Quick is saying than I will understand that it is nearly impossible to love another with agape love. Isn’t that what many of us aspire to do though or would like to think we do? I know in my own life I look at my relationships and have such love for that person and want to believe that I am loving selflessly…but am I? I think that the closest we can get to that kind of love is for our kids or by our parents. Over the years I have received many graces or examples of love that they have had for me and many of those stories will unfold over this series. However…one of the earliest memories I have of an unadulterated form of love, where they truly wanted nothing from me other than what was the absolute best for me is when I almost burned our house down. Okay…that might be a bit of an exaggeration but it could have happened.

I was born in Chillicothe Missouri and when I was about 3 weeks old my parents moved to Kirksville Missouri to finish college. My dad had decided to become a teacher as did my mom although she became busy with my sister and I and her dreams were fulfilled in a different way. After my dad graduated he got a job in Hermann, MO and when I was three we moved, not knowing anyone or having any family anywhere close. Until I was 9 we lived in a rental property about 25 mins outside of town. The summer I turned 9 though we moved to where my parents currently live…and although now it has turned into a beautiful home…it was a total disaster when we moved. So much so that we had to work on it three months just to get it barely livable for when we moved in. But, it was theirs…they were going to own it, raise their family here and saw visions that couldn’t be seen by most for this place. While the house is large there was only 4 acres attached…to us though that felt like 100!! Us kids could do anything and our imaginations were our only inhibitor. We had this shed…kind of like a lean-to that was pretty small. It was open on one side…the perfect place to pretend was shielding you from a wind storm, housing you in a blizzard, the first home on the wide open prairie or even a hideout when you just needed space. It was located in our pasture and the grasses would grow tall around and beside it.  I was about 11 or 12 when the following event happened so far old enough to know better. I forget what exactly what I was pretending that day…probably that I was fixing dinner for a caravan of travelers and that we had to have a fire for the kettle of soup but also to keep the impending wolves and wildlife away. We were NOT allowed to play with fire…it was just something we could pretend we had. That particular day though it seemed like a good idea for me to start a real fire. It was dry, windy and of course the prime burning opportunity. You can imagine what happened next…the fire grew and started to spread in the tall grass of the pasture. Before I knew it there was about a 5 foot area that was burning and I didn’t know what to do so, of course like the responsible child I was I went and told my dad. NOT!!! No…I decided that the pain of telling him that I had disobeyed and played with something I knew was wrong would be too great so I decided to run away to the oasis found in the shed. I did a pretty good job of running too…the whole 500 feet that I had to run…because no one saw me. Pretty soon there was a great deal of the pasture burning and my dad was running around, stomping it out and asking my brothers to bring water and help. It took every bit of what seemed like eternity at that time to get the fire out. I, all the while, was crouched down in the shed crying and watching/praying that I wouldn’t burn down the house and everything my parents were working towards. Eventually my dad figured out it was me who started the fire and started calling for me. I stayed put…afraid of his wrath but more than anything embarrassed beyond belief and mortified that I could have done something so horrendous. I don’t know how long I hid out. It wasn’t dark when I went to the house so it probably was only about a half hour but it felt so much longer. My parents were believers in corporal punishment but that day, when my dad saw me, he didn’t lose his temper, he didn’t take me in the bathroom to spank me, he didn’t yell at me or even walk away from me…no, he hugged me. I don’t think that I can put into words the feeling that swept over me in that moment. I still felt guilt for disobeying but I knew, in that moment, without a shadow of doubt, that I was loved and forgiven. I knew that what my dad wanted for me in that moment was to forgive myself, to not carry the guilt or weight of what I had done. It was completely selfless, it wasn’t about what he needed to say or do, it was about me…his daughter. When I look at my boys I feel the same kind of love, the same kind of desire. That their life is valued above mine.

But…when is it okay to say “no…my value is worth more than this? I love you…I do not hold my desires as a measure for your love, for your attraction, for your devotion. I do not love you expecting anything in return but this treatment of me is not acceptable.” It seems to be contradicting ones self to say I am something to be valued, to be treasured and yet also to give love without expecting anything in return. I will write more on this later…but these are the questions heavy upon my heart. Questions of love, respect, value and forgiveness and how I, as a believer, shows that to others without expecting it in return? Or…can I demand value and respect while still loving someone unselfishly? 10404518_10152263673083401_1396866680189251726_n

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Forgiveness – New thoughts today

- Author: Natasha Phillips

As I have pondered my questions from yesterday on forgiveness and have been wrestling with it today a few things have struck me. Now whether or not these things are true, grounded in some deep understanding of scripture or words…these are the things on my heart.

Can I forgive and still stand up and not accept a certain behavior or behaviors? I believe the simple answer is yes. BUT, it is hard to do. Growing up we were taught a distinct understanding of right and wrong. We knew that if we said a bad word, were mean to each other,disrespectful or didn’t do our chores there would be a consequence…usually in the form of a spanking or, in my case, often Tabasco sauce…Go figure. 🙂 I don’t think that was easy for my parents to do…to be the referee between so many of us. I can remember more than one instance where something happened and my parents forgave us kids for what we had done. I also remember a time, a very pivotal time in my life about age 14. We were attending a church and had been for some time at this point that was comprised primarily of other families similar to ours…homeschooling families that had the goal to raise sound, character filled and godly men and women. It was one of the first times I felt like I belonged somewhere other than home. It wasn’t because I was forced to go either…in our house it was expected we go to church and participate and while my parents taught the scripture and the way of Christ…we were all allowed to make our own decision on our beliefs. No…I felt like I belonged because there were other girls there that ‘got’ me. We were all sewing machine fanatics…yes, we made our own clothes, we all baked our own bread (multiple times a week in our case), we all were familiar with gardening and the tasks that come with it from the care to the canning, animals…especially gathering eggs and milking goats or cows was second nature, and there was an understanding of how to care for younger siblings. Here I wasn’t looked at as odd, unusual, or plain weird…no I was accepted for who I was. It was such an amazing thing. Little did I know or understand the underlining issues my parents were having. To this day I do not completely understand what happened or everything that led up to that fateful morning when I came downstairs and was told we were not going to church…something that NEVER happened. I remember getting a sick feeling a couple days later when one of the couples from the church showed up and us kids were told to go upstairs and not come down until called. The tears on my parents face only solidified the knots in my stomach when we descended a few hours later. We were told we were never going back and that we would probably never see or be able to talk to those people again. Now, understand that I am writing this from a child’s perspective. A perspective that is skewed in ideology, friendships and not having the big picture of what was happening. I do remember though being utterly devastated. Crying tears upon tears for my friendships that were lost and a serious crush I was never going to see again. I anguished in the next months…what had happened…what was going to happen…why was mom crying all the time and was my world ever going to right itself? A few months later we…my siblings and I…were at a competition, sort of like a speech/music/science/math all rolled together. We could enter into different categories and then were judged and placed depending on how good we were. I was in the speech and piano. Anyway, I remember feeling the excitement and dread all rolled together the day of the competition but not because of what I was reciting that day but because my very best friend, in the whole world whom I hadn’t spoken to for four months was going to be there. I felt like Anne of green gables getting to meet her bosom friend, Diana….it was unbelievable. I remember walking into that gym looking everywhere for her and then I saw her and she saw me….we screamed and were in each others arms in seconds. There were so many tears that day, hugs, and promises to figure out how to talk no matter what. I never had blamed her for what had happened but I did blame her parents and the hosts of other adults that had been involved. That day she asked forgiveness for what had been done…even though neither of us really new and it was easy to forgive her. When we parted ways later that day I had a heart full of joy that quickly turned to sorrow and bitterness. In a matter of minutes I went from walking on air to hating everything around me and blaming every single person in that church…well the adults anyway. That anger grew and grew…it lasted months…even after many of the couples involved came to my parents and apologized. No one ever said sorry to me and owned up to the pain I had felt, the betrayal and the loneliness. It wasn’t until almost 2 years later at a revival of sorts that the teacher was talking about forgiveness and it hit me. I had to be able to forgive…even though I was wronged, my parents and family were wronged. The bitterness and anger I had inside was eating me alive…my attitude had changed towards people, toward friendships and towards the meeting of believers. So…I forgave…without being asked or apologized to, but…to this day I do not accept or agree with the treatment of my family. Over the years more information has come out and for me to say what happened was what God would have wanted…well that is foolish. It wasn’t in accordance to His scripture or resembling love at all.

I believe we can and have the ability to forgive but that we also have to stand for what is right, what is true and what is pure. Whether or not that translates into how another person treats you, the words they say, the names they may call you and the constant tearing down of who you are. I believe we can forgive when we don’t agree, when we know what is going on is wrong and that it may separate a friendship or relationship forever, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it. We have to forgive, we have to give grace…why? Because the bitterness, the edges of evil, the discontent and grumbling heart can take hold if we do not. I do believe though…that just because we forgive doesn’t mean that all is repaired or forgotten. If a person does not ask for forgiveness there can be no repair made. Reconciliation can not happen and fences can not be mended. If a person or persons have done something that I need to forgive and can not see it themselves, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I can forgive but that doesn’t mean that I have to forget or act like nothing is wrong…but I CAN NOT let the seeds of anger take root…because that, my friend…leads to more problems.

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