Love: A Not So Concise Definition

Love: A Not So Concise Definition

What it is, what it's not and what it should be.
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In the Greek language, there are four words for love: agape, phileo, eros and storge. Each of these different "loves" encompasses a different type of relationship—agape is total love, eros is sexual love, etc. But in the English language, all we get is one little four letter word. Yes, it's understood that when someone says "I love cheese puffs," they're not referring to the same love as when they say "I love my boyfriend" (unless they have some issues they're working through, but that's just weird and I'm going to stay away from that). Still, that tiny, simple word, is incredibly powerful. The depth of meaning behind it is enormous. Think about it. Humanity is centered around the need and desire for love. We are constantly searching for fulfillment in relationships—family, friends, significant others, spouses—unless you're a monk (and even most of them don't live in complete solitude), you find some sort of satisfaction in at least one other person. But what really is love?

Love is sacrifice. It's giving of yourself when you have nothing left to give. It's not keeping score. There's a cliche that says we accept the love we think we deserve, but is that really even love?

Love is not proving your worth. It's not proving that you deserve it.

No, real love, love in its truest form, is unconditional. It is given freely and not taken back, no matter how much or how little it is deserved. You can't earn love. Acceptance, yes. Friendship, sometimes (though it would likely be a shallow one). But love? Never. It's a decision, a daily one, to give patience, forgiveness, time and self. It's a repeated devotion to grace. Love does not judge. It does not condemn. Love sees a person, with all their flaws, all their brokenness, and says "What can I do for you?"

Love is not physical attraction, though I think sometimes our society thinks that. Romantic love is usually evident through physical actions, but that does not mean those things are love. Hugging, hand-holding, kissing and even sex are side effects of love. But they can also be side effects of lust. There is a massive difference between the two. While love sees the soul, lust struggles to get past the body. It's selfish. It's dangerous. It can destroy relationships because lust sees a person and all of their physical features and says "What can you do for me?"

Love is also correction. It's having the guts (and sometimes, the hard words) to tell someone they're wrong. It's caring enough to tell someone they should stop being stupid, but understanding enough to know how to say it. Love, when it is reciprocated, is a constant push-and-pull of strengthening each other's character. It's challenging someone to be the best that they can be. Love is not accepting of mediocre attempts. It sees potential and pushes for it.

As a Christian, I have found that the only source of perfect, unconditional love comes from a perfect, eternal God.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—" Ephesians 2:4-5

I'm just as messed up and broken and confused and lost as anyone. I have done nothing to deserve any form of love. And yet, I am loved and chosen and saved by a God who knows my flaws better than I. That love, the kind that says "You are mine, for whom I have a perfect and wonderful plan" is the love that has put me through countless trials and hardships. I have been overwhelmed by it in moments of peace, but also moments of fear, moments of grief, moments of complete and utter emptiness. For, in being emptied of myself, I'm filled with a love I could never have on my own.

My God is a God of love. The God of love. I am broken and flawed, but my worthiness was not and never will be a factor. I have been saved by sacrifice and by grace, and I am constantly being put through trials so that I can grow stronger. That is ultimate love.

Cover Image Credit: favim.com

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When God Says, “Not Right Now.”

“God give me faith to wait and not manipulate. To trust You fully, no matter how my circumstances may appear." — Lynn Cowell

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One of the most frustrating yet beautiful things is when God tells us “no" or “not right now."

At the time, you may have agony or desperation for this one thing to work out in your life, but it slips away from you. You may ask God why. Why does He want you to be unhappy? Why does He want to take away your dreams?

At the time, you cannot see how much God truly is working in your life, but He is. In my life, every time that I was disappointed that a plan or dream didn't work out, I was devastated. I didn't want to be in a position where I was challenged and tested. I wanted all the blessings to flow and to fulfill what I thought was my plan in life. But that's exactly what it was: my plan.

I did not see at the time that that is not what God intended for me and that He actually had far greater plans than I did for myself. He needed to mold me into who I am supposed to be today. Along the way I have met the most amazing people that have had a huge impact on my life, have gone through the most amazing experiences with God, and I wouldn't trade going through all the trials because it has truly made me into the woman I am today.

“What God does in us while we wait is as important as what we are waiting for." – John Ortberg

God is continually, endlessly, working in our lives.

We may not see it, but He is. We may blame God for all the things that are going wrong in our lives, but we never see that in the end, we were supposed to go through the low valleys to get to the high, amazing, and beautiful mountains in our lives.

I truly believe that it's when you're at the bottom of the darkest pit in your life that you can actually see the light of God shining brightly upon you. During these times, pray to Him to lead you to understanding that this is all a part of His plan for you.

It hurts God to see that His child is suffering, but in order to carve out just the person that you are supposed to be, you must go through challenges. Where you are today is no accident. God is using the challenge you are in to shape you and prepare you for the place He wants you tomorrow. When it comes to God's plan, timing is absolutely everything.

Looking back on all the events that I had to endure before getting to where I am now, I know that I had to go through the trials in order to be just who I am today, which is happier than I have ever been because I know God and His plan for me. Waiting is the most difficult job of hope, but you must remain faithful and know that God is guiding you.

“When I wait, you strengthen my heart." Psalm 27:14

When you are waiting for God's righteous plan, don't lose faith in His goodness. He only wants the best for you, and in the end, you will look back and see just how much He truly was working in your life. Be patient and the blessings will flow.

Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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I'm A Christian Who Practices Yoga And That's Okay

Yoga and Jesus: Is it possible?

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I have a confession: I am a Christian who practices yoga daily. I even teach it twice a week. It may not seem like a big deal, but to some, my yoga practice is considered demonic or blasphemous to my faith. I understand why other Christians hold this belief. Yoga is rooted in the Hindu and Buddhist tradition. Christians do not believe in actively practicing any other religion but Christianity, and monotheistic doctrine is 100% scriptural.

But, it is important to remember that in today's Western culture, many of the specifically religious parts of yoga have been stripped to offer a more inclusive approach to the exercises. To be honest, I have never attended a yoga class in which I felt pressured to conform to the ways of another religion. Yoga teachers see the melting pot of races and religions that walk into the studio every day and know that they have to make class inclusive or they won't have any students! I like to compare yoga to the Christmas tree. Christmas trees definitely have pagan origins, but Christians across America put up a Christmas tree to celebrate Jesus' birth. Although we are aware of the original purpose of the tree, we are also aware that such old traditions mean very little to society today. Yoga is a similar situation.

Most Christians who practice yoga know of its origins but also understand that hundreds of years have separated the practice from its original intent.

When I take a yoga class, I have a very specific mindset that I try to enter each time I approach the mat. This has very little to do with "altering my spiritual state." It's more about making sure that I'm getting the most out of each stretch and breath physically so that I am maintaining emotional regulation. All of these benefits, of course, extend to my spiritual life as well. Because my Christian walk is a part of everything I do, Christ has really, truly blessed me in my yoga practice. When I'm going through a flow, I pray, I seek answers, I ask questions. I get to focus on how God holds together all of my operating systems: physical, mental and spiritual.

Yoga is literally medicine. Doctors are starting to prescribe it like a pill. Here are just a few of the countless benefits of having a regular yoga practice:

- increased flexibility

- more effective circulation

- weight loss

- boosts immunity

- better focus

- increased oxygen intake

- sinus relief

- depression/anxiety relief (lots of serotonin!)

- better posture

- natural pain relief (even for menstrual aches and pains!)

- improved metabolism

- lowers blood sugar

- supports connective tissue

-maintains the nervous system

- releases physical and emotional tension

- relieves drug withdrawal symptoms

- prevents loss of bone and cartilage

- increased strength

- relieves insomnia and other sleep problems

For me and millions of others, the amazing benefits of yoga happen not because of calling on any other deity, but because of the strengthening and relaxation that happens when you go through the physical act of yoga. Of course, this physical positivity changes my emotions and spiritual posture with God, but for the better! I walk away physically invigorated, emotionally purged and spiritually more in tune with my Father's voice.

I think that's a really cool thing to experience, but it's not for everyone, and that's okay! If you're a Christian and do not feel inclined to start a yoga practice, that is valid! No true yogi would ever try and force a practice on anyone! But, it's hard to see a lot of my Christian friends bash yoga as "a practice from Hell" or "a way to open up portals" when it's been a Godsend for so many people ailing from things they never thought they would find relief from.

God, through the redemptive grace of Christ, is in the business of making all things new (Revelation 21:5). He can turn ashes into something of magnificent beauty, and I believe He can do it with yoga. Looking back, I can see how God has given me discernment with my practice to know how to worship and serve my God in yoga without compromising my heart in the process. Because of God's clear direction in my life, maintaining my spiritual integrity in yoga has not been hard.

I totally understand that an 800-word article may not change anyone's mind, and that's okay! I just ask everyone who might disagree with me to take into account not only all that I have said, but all that God says in Scripture, and use discernment to make a decision for yourself. I think that's really the heart of yoga today: asking others to consider a different way of observing life while staying completely true to themselves and what they believe.

Blessings.

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