All We Need Is Love

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bear all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

July 7, 1967, the Beatles released their song “All You Need Is Love” in the UK, which was released three weeks later in the US.  It became one of their many hits as well as one of the anthems of the “flower power” movement, the passive, non-violent protest of the Vietnam War.  The lyrics are very simple—like, really simple:

All you need is love

All you need is love

All you need is love, love

Love is all you need”

The beat is a little odd (or at least it sounded so to me; my brain kept trying to process it in 4:4 time), but the song is pretty good.  Of course, it has its share of musical critics who have complained that “All You Need Is Love” is too simple, too naïve, as if they knew/know what people need.  Seems like to them, love is not enough, which I guess I can see why they might be right…

(…Don’t panic, fam.  I’m not trippin’, so just hang tight.)

If one’s understanding and/or experience of love is that it is only an emotion, that it is a “crazy little thing” like Freddy Mercury once sang, then compared to all of life’s complexities it probably isn’t enough.  It’s probably too small to take on big things like racism, sexism, prejudices, and fear.  It’s probably too weak to tackle low self-esteem and self-worth.  It’s probably too feeble to withstand the ebb and flow of trials and tribulations.  Unfortunately, that human understanding is itself small and quite narrow. 

Thank God for His divinely inspired Word, however, and the followship of the Apostle Paul to break down what love really is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  Real love (better the one Mary J. Blige was searching for in the 90’s) is bigger, stronger, and steadier than anything we can ever encounter.  Think about this:

  • Patient – When was the last time we experienced true patience from someone while we were being absolute numb-chucks?  Answer: every time.  God loves us so much that He allows us opportunities to get our act together, so we can resume becoming the men and women He created us to be.
  • Kind – Remember that moment when we had a chance to act on kindness and be helpful to someone and we weren’t, but the very next moment we received kindness we knew was undeserved?  Yeah, that was the Lord, too.
  • Not envious or boastful – Lord have mercy, that green eyed monster called envy can really be something, especially on Valentine’s Day.  Real, true love is not stuck on who is or isn’t boo’d up.  It’s certainly not braggadocios, either.  The fact that we are loved unconditionally by an all-powerful, unchanging, eternal God leaves no room for coveting or wishing for what some others have.  It’s humbling to know that our imperfections will never be enough to turn the Lord away from us.  Fam, we are indeed good and loved, warts and all!
  • Not irritable or resentful – The King James Version of this verse reads “…is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil”.  True love (i.e., God’s love) doesn’t plot against those who cause it harm.  It doesn’t look for payback, doesn’t subscribe to the Klingon philosophy of revenge being a dish best served cold.  Instead, it makes room so that when we mess up (and that is a when, not an if), it provides correction and guides us back to right standing with God our Creator.
  • Bear all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things – Allow me to put it this way: the true love of God doesn’t give up when the going gets tough, and doesn’t become cynical and merely exist without the hope of a new tomorrow.

Going by Paul’s explanation in his letter to the Corinthian church, I firmly stand by the Beatles’ chorus: a patient, kind, humble, non-resentful, bearing, hoping, and believing love is all we need.  God’s perfect love is absolutely all we need.  It has the power to heal any heart, transform any mind, and renew the right spirit in any person.  It has the authority to cast down the strongholds of fear and hate.  It has the strength to build anew broken relationships and fortify them in trust and truth.  It has the compassion to give us chance after chance when even we wouldn’t.

It’s so easy, fam, it truly is.  All we need is love, His love. 

His love is all we need.

Prayer of thanksgiving:  Thank You, Lord, for Your never-ending, unconditional, fantastic, powerful love.  Thank You for the love that never fails and never gives up.  Amen.

Gonna Be Okay

26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.” – Ephesians 4:26-27

Friday, 12pm hit me like a ton of bricks.  One minute, I was talking and joking with co-workers, eating lunch and surfing through social media and other news feeds for the latest info.  The very next second, I fought back tears and an inability to speak about what was going on with me.  I tried a couple of times, but the words were blocked by pain, hurt, and rage.  From that point on I talked and joked less, my anger hidden behind a facial mask save for my eyes.  My coworkers saw the change and instead of asking what was wrong, they maintained distance and left me be.  You see, it took a few days, but George Floyd’s death finally got to me, and it wouldn’t let me go. 

It brought back memories of my cousin shot and killed by Dallas police 6 years ago this month.

It brought back memories of me being tailgated by a White police person almost until I got home, with adrenaline racing through my heart as a prayer of protection raced through my mind.  The fear of what that person saw when they finally drove past me angered me: did they see a Black woman minding her business, or did they see someone who “fit the description”?

It brought back every memory of every Black man and woman whose lives were snatched by the claws and jaws of some wolves hiding in plain sight, under the pretense of protecting and serving communities that don’t always look like them while endangering those who do protect and serve with honor.

It brought up anger such as I haven’t felt since the death of my cousin, something deep and simmering in my heart and soul, along with a frustration and tiredness of the “same old same old”: of the digging up Mr. Floyd’s past as if it justified his life being literally smothered away, of the seeming refusal to understand why “Black Lives Matter” without the automatic defensive response of “All Lives Matter”, of the opportunistic crowds who see the protests and demonstrations as an excuse to act a fool…at the expense of still more lives.

I became so angry, and so tired.

On Friday afternoon I was not okay, and in that moment I did not see when I would be or felt that I wanted to be.

Friday night, I sat in the prayer corner of my bedroom and poured it all out to God, pleading almost to the point of demanding that His justice “…run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:24).  “Lord,” I said aloud, “People have got to stop fearing and demonizing skin color that doesn’t look like theirs!”  I said a lot of other things, amongst the tears, deep sighs, and still that churning anger.  Somehow I went to sleep, woke up early Saturday morning, began the usual scroll through my Facebook feed, and became utterly disgusted.  Shutting it all down, that day kicked off “No Social Media Day” because all it did was add fuel to what was growing inside me.

Early Saturday morning I was decidedly not okay, which made what God did next such a God thing to do. 

Opening the Bible app, the verse of the day was Ephesians 4:26, part of this week’s thought.  I looked up to the ceiling, gave the Lord a side-eye glance and said, “You think You’re slick…good one, Lord.  Good one.”  And in that one moment, the rage that was trying its best to boil over cooled considerably.  It still lingered, but without clenched jaw and fist, or the disappointment in unexpected silence.  It also tried to come back many times, but that verse stayed up in my mind and heart like a massive shield that would not be broken.

When I wanted to be enraged, the Lord blocked it.     

See, Paul’s instruction in this verse didn’t give me (or any of us) license to be –pardon my French—pissed off and act out until sunset.  Nor did it invalidate the strong emotions that I had and still have.  The righteous indignation at injustice, cruelty, inequality, victimization, and racism is real and true; all of these are contrary to the will and way of the Lord.  Plainly speaking, all of these are sin and cannot be excused or tolerated by anyone who is a child of God.  Reacting and responding to these moral and spiritual offenses ought to be expected.

How we react and respond makes the difference.

Do we go all “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”?  Of course not.  Do we all bury our heads in the sand and wait for this all to blow over?  Absolutely not.  Following either course does exactly what Paul cautioned in verse 27 and gives the Enemy a foothold in our lives.  He already has too many under his influence as it is.

No, we lean heavily on God for the words to speak out and the strength to stand firmly in the gap for people.  We call on the power that is in the name of Jesus Christ to bind the Enemy from snatching up anyone else.

We use our talents, gifts, and abilities to bring about positive change in this nation and world which are dying from a clear lack of it.  We show this nation and world what the diverse, intelligent, beautiful children of God can do: we show them how we shine.

And every day, we must choose to forgive until the act itself requires no thought.  It must become second nature like breathing.  For if Jesus could ask God to forgive his persecutors and executioners “…for they know not what they do”, we can forgive, too.

When we do these things, it becomes harder for Satan to find purchase in our souls.  It becomes difficult for anger and pain to harden and stay.

It becomes easier to talk and listen to each other.

It becomes easier to love each other.

It becomes easier to accept that we’re all gonna be okay.

Prayer: Lord, You know what we truly need even before we say it.  Let Your justice, righteousness, and peace flow through us all, seasoning our thoughts, words, and actions with the love of Jesus Christ.  Make us better people, Father.  Please.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

A Great Love

“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.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” – John 3:16-17

For the past two weeks our church has been fasting, praying, and meditating on the book of John, going all the way to the last chapter on Easter Sunday.  Through technology we have shared and discussed some of the prevalent themes in this gospel, particularly the arrival of the Messiah and the personal relationship that God desires with His creation.  Today’s focus was on chapter 14, but since the devotional on chapter three my imagination has been painting the picture of the One who was both 100% human and 100% divine at the same time.  I’ve wondered, “What was Jesus feeling in these moments?  What was He thinking?” more times than I can count.  Why I’m wondering this now, I honestly cannot say.  What has become clear through this devotional is just how much God loved –and still loves—this world. 

John 3:16 is hitting me differently, causing tears to well up even as I write this.  For the Lord to develop His plan of salvation that would require the ultimate sacrifice so that many may be saved, that they would be passed over, is seriously blowing my mind.  Because let’s be honest, fam: we aren’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea.  If there is a nerve to get on, we have that uncanny ability to find and park on it.  If there is a foul attitude to catch, or cross words to sling at someone, or foul thoughts that would smell if they could, we can be about all that.  We can grieve the Holy Spirit with our “…bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (Ephesians 4:29). 

We human beings demonstrate far too easily how much we don’t deserve the grace, mercy, and love of an all-powerful God, our heavenly Father.

And yet despite all this, despite us, God loves us anywayHe loves us so much that He did what none of us would do, if we’re completely honest with ourselves.  He gave His Son so that everyone who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior, will have eternal life.  He gave His one and only Son so that the world could be saved from eternal damnation, so that we could be part of God’s family.  Of the countless ways to demonstrate His love the Lord’s plan involved this one-time supreme, ultimate sacrifice to atone for the sins of every single person through the whole of human history.  By believing in His Son, by accepting Him as THE way, THE truth, and THE life, the effects of our sins no longer separate us from God. 

That personal relationship that the Lord has always wanted with you, me, and everyone is real and active.

…And then this amazing sacrifice rose from the dead after three days, with all power in His hands.  Death, hell, and the grave were conquered by Jesus Christ.  The Accuser who’s working even now against us is being thwarted and overruled in the heavenly places, because the Son is there saying, “No, my blood covered that” with every charge he can lobby against us.  The blood of Jesus covers a multitude of faults.  The power in His blood protects us during this season of pandemic and global uncertainty and reminds us that there is nothing too hard for the Lord to handle.  That includes COVID-19.

This is why I tear up, why my heart feels so awed and humbled right now.  I know I have been loved and am loved now by family and friends.  But to experience a great love like this, to really process it and what it means…fam, there really aren’t any words to adequately describe it. 

I am so humbled.

I am so grateful.

All I can say is, “I love You, Lord.  Thank You so much for loving me, for seeing the best in me, for saving me, for blessing me.  Thank You for staying by my side, for healing me when I was sick, for comforting me when I was feeling broken.  Thank You for teaching me to be better, and for being patient with me when I wasn’t.  Thank You for the joy and hope that You bring to my life every moment.  Just…wow, thank You, thank You, thank You.”

Prayer of thanksgiving: Lord God, I just want to thank You and tell You how much Your love means to me.  I love You, Lord.  I truly, truly do.  Amen.

Friendly Reminder

“For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.  Praise the Lord.” – Psalm 117:2

On the way to church yesterday morning, I stopped by Starbucks for my usual breakfast sandwich and chai tea latte.  Driving to the cashier window and whipping out the gift card I’d received for Christmas, my favorite employee appeared.  To protect her identity, let’s call her Mrs. Darla.  Silver hair, bright blue eyes, and warm smile, we chatted briefly about the fog, speedsters down the on ramp, and how I’d planned to avoid the highway altogether.  (Living in Texas has taught me that most of us don’t do well on the road when there’s a single drop of precipitation…no exaggeration, either.)

When food and drink were ready and she passed them to me, we exchanged a “Merry Christmas” and I drove away with a big smile on my face.  I didn’t smile because I had my favorite food from the bucks of stars, but because of the kindness Mrs. Darla exuded towards me.  This was a feeling needed after two weeks of navigating around the standard life stressors.  I told God, “Thank You for that, Lord.  This came right on time.”  

This was the first reminder.

I made it to church safely and worked in the media ministry per usual.  One of the songs ministered by the praise team was “Lord, You’ve Been Good.”  An old school Gospel tune, it filled my heart, or rather it refreshed it.  It brought to remembrance how the Lord had indeed been good to me in the past week, month, even year.  It brought to remembrance how the Lord is still being good to me.  Like the first sermon I gave in November 2015, I saw the Lord’s provision, protection, and prevention in several circumstances, and felt such gratitude.  I know I haven’t been the best me each day, which is why His loving me anyway is just so amazing.

This was the second reminder.

The third came a few hours after worship service wherein I spent time with my paternal aunt and grandmother who turned 103 this year.  Being in the presence, talking with them, laughing with them, making them laugh (because I’m a jokester through and through), watching the Cowboys try to play – there was no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Familial warmth and peace enveloped me…all three of us, really.  I even got a picture with my grandma, who smiled big and bright.  I think she likes selfies now.  😉

Three separate moments demonstrated God’s goodness so perfectly.  When my spirit needed lifting, He sent to Mrs. Darla.  When my heart needed renewing, He sent me to church.  And when my soul needed connection, He sent me to family.   And He did this because His love is great.  His faithfulness to keep thoughts and feelings fixed on what is good, pure, and honorable endures for all time.  He knew what I needed long before I could even think.

His love and faithfulness are great to all of us.  Think about that unexpected early Christmas gift, or that little boy in the store smiling and waving as you passed by, the verse of the day that spoke beautifully to your situation,  or the financial blessing that enabled you to pay bills with some left over.  All these good moments we experienced these past weeks have all been friendly reminders that the Lord is with us and He ain’t going anywhere.  We don’t have to be anxious about having enough, because He supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory.  We don’t have to fear being alone or lonely because He is with us to the end of the age.  We don’t have to worry about being unloved, because He’s already shown how great and unconditional His love is on a hill called Calvary.

I don’t know about you, but I’m okay with these reminders.  Keep ‘em coming, Lord.  Keep ‘em coming.

Prayer: Lord, Your timing and ways are impeccable.  Thank You for making Your presence known.  Please let others know and experience the same.  Amen.