Friday, July 23, 2010

When Love Branches Out

Our yard fence separates our home and lawn from the farmland surrounding it. A huge live oak inside our yard leans toward the front fence, and its afternoon branch-shade spreads at least 30 feet into the pasture. The cool spot that the shade creates has become a favorite gathering place for our small herd of cows and their little ones. And wherever the cows go, the egrets follow. Out of my office window, I have a view of both bovine and bird. This week, that scene gave me a visual about love.

Most of us have an understanding of love, but if asked to explain love then we have a more difficult time using concrete words in a description. I know it’s difficult because that’s what I’ve been brain storming about this week. But that’s when I paid attention to the cows resting in the shade, with white egret perched around. I said to myself, “That’s it -- when we can nap safely in someone’s shade that’s love.”

In the last few columns, we’ve worked our way through the list of the fruit of the Spirit -- “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). Today, let’s consider love. It’s a broad term used to describe our passions for many things. We love chocolate and chocolate labs. We love mini poodles and mini bagels. We love movies and movie popcorn.

We word-sling love around as if its usage carries no obligation. John said, “My dear children, let us not love in words or tongue, but in actions in truth” (I John 3:18). Let’s look at one more familiar Bible text about love.

A listing of love-actions occurs in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Christians. He describes this as never-fail love. He said that love is patient, kind, and that it doesn’t envy or boast. Love is also not proud, rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. And my favorite is that love keeps no record of wrongs. But there are more descriptions of what love does and the traits are coupled with that absolute word “always”: love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

You probably noticed the similarities in the description of the love-actions and fruit of the Spirit. As said before in this column the stellar qualities of the Spirit are innate and shared among the Godhead (Trinity). When God adopted us into his family through Jesus, we received the Spirit and can now bestow an active love upon others.

Some of the most beautiful scriptures in biblical poetry describe God as shading those within his care. When David fled from his enemies and sought refuge in a cave, he called to God to have mercy on him and said, “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 55:1). Another psalm says that God is the shade at your right hand, a picture of God near-at-hand.

Watching our small herd seek shade-shelter gave me an additional description of love. Shade represents protection, safety, rest, and times of refreshing. And so I must ask, who shades your life? Who among your family and friends provides shelter from blistering, energy-draining circumstances? Who comes along side of you when you can no longer help yourself? With certainty, I can tell you it’s not inanimate things that we “love” – like our chocolate, bagels, or popcorn. No. Real people provide our shade, the ones dedicated to love-lived-out, a Spirit trait.

As God-followers we also provide shady rest for family and friends. We simply surprise someone with a blessing because God’s generous spirit gave to us and we in turn give to others. When we witness the wilting of a friend, we know they must have shade to survive. They need a nap away from pressures and that’s when we cast a goodly shadow over them.

God has the ultimate loving wingspread, but he gifts his followers with like capabilities.

Who shades you?

Whom do you shade?

(Photo is of our home and shade tree last spring. Romemary and Lantana is now growing around house)

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