Mate for Life

I never thought a sandhill crane would make me cry.

A pair of sandhill cranes were living in our little corner of the neighborhood for the last year. It seems fitting, since they happen to be the logo of our development.

We’ve watched them establish a routine. Foraging for food. Teasing our dogs by remaining just outside the boundary of the invisible fence that corrals our two eager boxers. Proclaiming, quite loudly, that they were large and in charge.

And always together. Until now.

For the past week, we’ve only seen one. One by himself (herself?) searching for food. And looking ever so lonely. I find myself hoping against hope that he’s alone because his mate is nesting somewhere in the area. Wishing that she’ll accompany him again a month from now with two newly hatched chicks. Mate for Life

Because, you see, sandhill cranes are one of those breeds that mate for life. And life for them is usually longer than 20 years. They mate when they’re about 2 years old, and spend the next 20-30 years nesting, raising chicks, and watching them leave to start their own families.

A circle of life. The rhythm of nature.

It makes me appreciate the lifetime I’ve had with my own husband. Seasons and decades. Experiences that have been good, bad, and occasionally so ugly the only thing you can do is stifle a gag reflex. Otherwise known as life.

There’s something special about sharing all those things across decades with one person. With someone who knows you, sometimes better than you know yourself. Someone who gets your quirks, overlooks your faults, and loves you anyway.

Someone who understands what real love is. Not just the hearts-and-flowers kind of love celebrated once a year on Valentine’s Day. But a love that’s in it for the duration. A love that puts the other person’s needs and desires ahead of your own. And a love that never lets go.

I’m grateful for that kind of love. For the “mate for a lifetime” commitment. I know that not everyone has the opportunity for that experience, and I don’t take it for granted.

So here’s my challenge…
Valentine’s Day has passed, but don’t wait another 12 months to show your love. While hearts and flowers are nice, consider other ways to communicate the deep joy and privilege of doing life together.

Identify a task the other person is responsible for, and surprise him or her by taking care of it. Do something together to get out of your rut. It doesn’t have to be dinner at a fancy restaurant (although that’s always nice!). Perhaps a spontaneous neighborhood walk after dinner. Or maybe sharing, without jokes or teasing, how much he or she means to you. Hold hands. Lock eyes with a smile. Bite your tongue when he leaves his clothes on the floor (again!). Or when she tells you (for the 20th time!) to pick up your clothes.

Expressing love—real love—isn’t easy to do day in and day out. We’re selfish by nature. We want our marriage and our world to revolve around us, not around the other person. And we want it now.

Christians know that to maintain this kind of deep, unselfish, humble love requires the supernatural equipping of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who encourages, prompts, and gives us the desire to love our spouse the way we want to be loved. 

And if you need additional motivation, consider my lonely sandhill crane. Don’t wait till it’s too late to say—and show—your love.

You won’t be sorry!



Bus Stations, Citizenship, and an Eternal Perspective

Bus stations and an eternal perspective

In the past six months, areas of California, Oregon, Montana, and western Canada were consumed by flames. Houston was underwater, Idaho and Mexico experienced strong earthquakes, and North Korea tested nuclear bombs. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria devastated anything in their path.

Then there are personal crises we’re all dealing with. Prodigal children. Health issues. Financial pressures. Broken relationships.

I. Can’t. Keep. Up.

And I don’t want to try.

It’s emotionally draining to read or listen to the news. To know what the people I care about are struggling with. And my heart aches to see the multiplied needs arriving with increasing speed and intensity.

How can we make sense of all these tragedies and struggles? Can anyone make sense of it all? If there was ever a reasonable time to feel anxious, this is it…at least that’s how a growing number of Americans seem to be responding. According to a recent study, an estimated 8.3 million American adults — about 3.4 percent of the U.S. population — suffer from serious psychological distress.

But there’s a better way to respond, and it has to do with citizenship.

No, not the immigration debates creating turmoil in Washington. A different kind of citizenship. A dual one that shapes our perspective on all the events swirling around us, both personal, local, international, and eternal.

Someone once said this world is really just a glorious bus station. Have you ever waited for a long-distance bus? People mill about or sit on benches, with their luggage close by. You won’t see them unpack their suitcases, hang up their clothes, and arrange their toiletries inside the station.

Instead, they’re prepared to board as soon as the bus arrives. They’re not focused on where they’ve been, but rather on where they’re going, who will meet them, and what they’ll do when they get there.

The Bible tells us Christians have an eternal perspective. Our citizenship is in heaven. To paraphrase an old hymn, we’re just passin’ through this world.

I’m an American and proud of it. But I also have a dual citizenship. Here and there. Now and then. Temporary and eternal.

Sadly, while I know this is true, I don’t always live as if it’s true.

I can become so attached to the things of this world that I forget that this world and all that’s in it is temporary. The one Abraham looked forward to, as the writer of the book of Hebrews described it:

“Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations,
a city designed and built by God.”
~ Hebrews 11:10 (NLT)

Do I care about the events occurring in the world around me? The things happening to the people I love? Of course I do. I want to help. To encourage. To love others both emotionally and in practical ways.

At the same time, I know I’ve been restored to my heavenly Father through the gift of salvation found in His Son, Jesus. So, while the events of this life and this world are disturbing, I have an eternal perspective. I know this world is a just a glorified bus station—a temporary stop on the way to the destination of my eternal citizenship.

How about you? Do you have dual citizenship?

The Weight of Our Words

When Hurricane Irma blew through south Florida last September, we were fortunate not to sustain damage to our home. But the natural environment did not fare as well. Trees toppled all around us. Hurricane force winds snapped off branches and uprooted trees. Root balls sometimes 6 feet across lay upended on top of the ground instead of underneath it.

Many trees died. Some are still hanging on, shadows of their former, vibrant selves. Still others, with human assistance, have been replanted, pruned, and nurtured, and are now thriving.

But all that pruning cost us something. It cost us in time and labor. And in our efforts to save some of the landscaping surrounding us, other landscaping died. 

We piled tree trunks and branches on the curb for collection. The final mound of dead foliage was 6 feet high and wide, and 15 feet long. By the time it was all picked up, we had an equally large patch of dead grass in our lawn. Five months later, it’s smaller, but still distinctly visible.

The grass that died under the weight of the branches has me thinking about my relationships. How many relationships have I killed with the weight of my words? How many people stuck with me for just so long before they needed to move on, allowing the relationship to die?

It goes the other way, too. How many friendships have I walked away from over the years, because the weight of the other person’s words brought death to my spirit instead of life?

Someone once said, “Be careful of your words. Once spoken, they can be forgiven, but not forgotten.”

So true. I confess to having rehearsed hurtful words, long after I claimed to forgive the person who spoke them. Their words pierced my heart, arrows that found their mark, long after the sender may have regretted speaking them. I said I forgave, but I said it from a distance.

Or perhaps we are the ones consumed with regret for words spoken in the heat of the moment. We attempt reconciliation with the other person, but even years later, their hurt is still raw and they choose remoteness rather than reconciliation.

Of course, healthy boundaries are important. If the other person won’t acknowledge their responsibility for the damage they’ve caused, then it’s not wise to continue the relationship at the same level of intimacy. God calls us to forgive unconditionally, but restoration and reconciliation are processes that may or may not occur.

Still, what if you and I were more careful of the words we speak? What if we stopped those words before we spoke them, instead of asking forgiveness after they leave our mouth?

Winston Churchill once said, “We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.”

The writer of Proverbs observed, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18 ESV), and “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21 ESV).

It’s easier to maintain a good relationship than to have to repair it. To that end, I want my words to be gracious, even when I’m hurt or angry. It’s worth it because people are worth it. People created in the image of God and people for whom Jesus Christ died.

I know I can’t do this in my own effort. I need the Holy Spirit’s work in my life to strengthen me in this area. So today, my prayer is, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3).

Will you join me in that request?

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