Category: Threadbare Words

Threadbare Words – LOVE

My earliest memory of the word LOVE, is listening to my mother sing along with singer/song writer, Jackie DeShannon. “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. It the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. No, not just for some, but for everyone.”

This song, released in the mid-60s, was a plea for something that was missing in the culture –love. The United States had just become involved in the Vietnam War, then Robert Kennedy was assassinated. This song became a sort of audio vigil for a country shaken by political violence. A Los Angeles radio station played the song again and again for over 24 hours. It was an old-school “social media” instrument that pulled a mourning country together.

That tragedy, and a whole generation, confronted our country for its lack of love. I believe we still need to be confronted for our lack of love, because the whole world is crying out for want of it!

Not the mushy, emotional, thing we think is love. The thing that demands, “Be this way, or that way. Be what I need, so I can love you.” No, what the world needs is real love, love that has no demands, makes no claims, and is marked by an outward focus.

The meaning of real love, or agapé, as the Greeks called it, encompasses the attributes of acceptance, equality, tolerance, and respect, yet is uniquely focused on the other. Love does not demand these things for itself, it extends them to the other. In its highest expression, true love is selfless love.

Thinking more about the needs of the other person elicits a change in me. As I begin to release my expectations of who the other person should be, accepting them as they are, I am able to really love them.

After all, this is how I want to be loved, as I am. Isn’t this the way God loves us? With. Out. Condition.

Yes, we should always strive to be the best version of ourselves, but love needs to be expressed along that process. The greatest gift you can give someone is to love them as they are, not as you think they should be.

Everyone loses as we continue to tout the importance of personal preferences, and promote the good of the individual, over the good of the whole.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love. But love that is extended, through acceptance, equality, tolerance, and respect. And this love is not just for some, but for everyone.

Threadbare Words is a series of pieces exploring thin, worn-out words. The idea is to examine their real meaning, consider their overuse and, finally take a fresh look at them through the filter of a 21st century mind to discern if they’re still relevant.

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Threadbare Words – FAITH

It’s no wonder this word is ambiguous for us today. Once, if you had a faith, you were different, you stood out. Now everyone has a “faith.” I was recently contending with an atheist, (as I enjoy doing) and when I pressed him on some of his vaguer reasons for choosing NOT believing in God, he said, “Well, you know, somethings require a bit of faith.” Yes, I suppose they do.

As I look at a dictionary definition I read: faith 1) an institution to express belief in a divine power, 2) a strong belief in a supernatural power, or powers that control human nature.

Not sure that faith is believing in a power that can control human nature, that kind of negates free-will, but I digress.

So, faith, with a capital F, as in “I’m a Christian” or “I’m a Muslim.” Easy, Faith is an identifier, connecting one with an institution. I think it’s this second part of the definition that we’re after, faith as a “strong belief in a divine power. A divine power that is trustworthy, firm, secure, stable, and certain.

As I’ve spent time contemplating this word, I realize faith, that is a “strong belief” in a divine power, resides in two places. It resides comfortably in my soul, an anchor for me when times are hard. There is an element of trust in this aspect of faith. It is based on my experience with God, and my knowledge of who He is.

“I trust God to bring about a good result, because He has before.”

I feel an emotional sigh almost. The comfort of being dependent on someone stronger than myself, a divine power.

But it has been my experience that faith must also reside in the WILL. There is an element of intellectual ascent that must be present, I must decide to trust. This trust is also based on my experience and knowledge of God, but it does not rest on my feelings.

There are situations where my feelings have betrayed me, or have not been present. In these situations, I must say “I decide to trust that God will help me through this, although there are no signs that this is actually true, yet will I set my mind to believe that I will not be overcome.”

My mind leads, my heart follows.

I thank God for the times I feel uplifted in my trust, and I thank God for the times when I don’t. God’s faithfulness doesn’t depend on my feelings or my thoughts. He is always faithful, for He cannot deny who He is.  And it is in this truth that my faith is grounded.

I encourage you to examine your own faith in God. Does it reside in both your heart and in your mind? Can you join your voice to the psalmist’s?

“Nevertheless, though I am sometimes afraid, yet I will put my trust in Thee.” Ps 56:3

In 2010, I struggled with this issue of deciding to trust. I wrote a longer piece that appeared in our faith community magazine. You may read it here.

Threadbare Words is a series of pieces exploring thin, worn-out words. The idea is to examine their real meaning, consider their overuse and, finally take a fresh look at them through the filter of a 21st century mind to discern if they’re still relevant.

Threadbare Words – Integrity

Integrity is both a “now and ongoing” kind of thing. Something that we should strive for NOW, and something that is part of our sanctification. 

I think we’d all have the desire the live a life of integrity, even those on the fringe of our culture. But this idea seems ambiguous at times, and judgmental at other times. What does it really mean, to live a life of integrity? Walking the Talk? Being morally upright? Or just right?

If your goal is just to be right, and feel right – go for it. True integrity involves more than this. It encompasses both moral soundness and innocence.

I remember parenting during those lovely teen years. Oh, the struggles I had with my children. Their rebellion and disrespect touched broken places in me. My pain was activated, and I lashed and behaved very poorly, hardly living a living a life of integrity. My goal was NOT to be innocence. I was right and I wanted to win!

My husband would ask me, “Why do you fight with them? You don’t need to take their behavior personal.”

Don’t need to take it personal? Wait, wasn’t it personal? Felt personal to me! It was a stressful season, and my anger and furious raging made an already bad season, worse!

Exasperated, I realized that the answer lay with me. I remember God telling me, that the situation would never get better, until ONE person STOPED. And since I was the adult, I was chosen … To. Stop. Fighting. A simple answer to a complex situation.

Interesting that the word “simplicity” is found within the definitions of the term Integrity. Moral soundness, an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality, wanting nothing. Wholeness, simplicity.

In this unsettled world, many of us are not behaving with integrity. Let’s admit it – life is complex, and nuanced. The “old school” right and wrong don’t appear to apply anymore. We are all so very attached to our opinions, we treat them as truth. Behaving with integrity sets us apart from the world. The goal of integrity is not to be “right,” the goal is to be like Him.

Here it is in the words of Isaiah: “Listen to me, you who pursue integrity, who seek God – consider the rock you were hewn from, the quarry from which you were cut.”

WHO is the rock we were hewn from? Christ. He set the example for us! He was kind, forgiving, and always 100% present to each person He spent time with. He was extremely gentle with those living in the lowest ranks of their community, and patient with those who had deep questions and those who held conflicting viewpoints. The only people He treated harshly and judged, were the religious leaders who were misusing their power and authority.

Integrity, is more than being right, it is remembering the example of Christ. Our goal is to emulate that example, remembering the Rock we were hewn from, and the Quarry from which we were cut.

Threadbare Words is a series of pieces exploring thin, worn-out words. The idea is to examine their real meaning, consider their overuse and, finally take a fresh look at them through the filter of a 21st century mind to discern if they’re still relevant.

Threadbare Words – HOPE

We don’t really use this word – HOPE – too much, anymore. I mean, we might hope to get into this school, or hope we land that job, or hope our health improves, or hope we meet that perfect person.

But the idea of real HOPE (a noun) is not something we think about, until we “need it.”

We’re relatively comfortable now, advancements in modern technology have eliminated most sources of suffering.

  • If I’m cold, I turn on the heat.
  • If I’m hungry, I head to the fridge.
  • If I’m sad, I take a pill.
  • If I’m lonely, I check my new feed … again.

But when my world is hit with something I can’t “fix,” then I call to mind this idea of HOPE.

I was forced to think about this concept when my teenage daughter was almost killed in a car accident. So many things were outside my control. Well, actually everything was outside my control, expect me. That first lonely night I sat at her bedside begging God to let her live. But in a all-too-familiar conversation, I knew that God owed me nothing. I also knew that preserving her life was not the measure of His love for me. God let’s those He loves die everyday.

I learned this watching my mother die, now I had to revisit it – this persistent concept of “letting go.” It is an irritating and aggravating concept, and one that does not go away.

HOPE, is the reality, that no matter what happens to me, or those I love … there is something more waiting for me and them.

Something that will not disappoint me, something that is true. A place where there will be no more crying or fretting or illness or sorrow. A place where all will be well.

I do not say this flippantly, as I have experienced many sorrows, and many losses. Through these experiences I have been confronted with the truth, that, no matter what happens while I live, I will not be overcome.

I may not get what I pray for, but I will not be overcome. Not an idea that makes me happy-clappy, but this is HOPE, the anchor of my soul.

HOPE is a thing, a noun. It is more than a feeling or an expectation. HOPE is a reality.

Threadbare Words is a series of pieces exploring thin, worn-out words. The idea is to examine their real meaning, consider their overuse and, finally take a fresh look at them through the filter of a 21st century mind to discern if they’re still relevant.