Lie: Love should always feel good.

The greatest act of love in human history was the Son of God being crucified on a cross. Crown of thorns on his head, nails in his hand, 40 lashes on his back, suffocation on a cross.

And we have the nerve to look someone in the face and say “I just don’t love them anymore. That feeling is gone.”

The  greatest act of love in human history did not revolve around feelings. Thorns, nails, whips, hanging on a cross till He suffocated? Sorry if I’m jesus-juking* everyone here, but the Cross didn’t feel good…at all. If we as Christians are to love like Jesus did, then with the pain of the Cross, we can conclude that perhaps Love is not about feelings. then what is it about? well let’s look at the Cross and the man who died on it:

Love is a choice: Jesus willingly came to Earth and willingly died. Every whip, every beating, every breath he struggled for, was him choosing to save you over himself.

Love is action: Jesus didn’t just waltz around the Earth talking the talk telling everyone He loved them. He proved it with his life and death.

Love is sacrifice: Jesus put the needs of others (reconciliation with God) over his own needs.

Love is submitting: Jesus submitted Himself to His father’s will, “Not your will but Mine” He said as he sweat so hard, that he sweat drops of blood.

Want more? please go to 1 Cornthians 13. replace the word love with God.

read it again and replace the word love with your own name. Did ya cringe, feel like you were lying at some parts? Congratulations welcome to the club. We’re self-serving, self-righteous, self-seeking human beings. But God loves us right where we are. I pray  that knowledge travels from our head to our heart., that we may grow in the understanding of the height and depth of our Father’s love for us.

Can love involve feelings? Of course. There’s nothing wrong with that. Do not use the words love and feelings interchangeably.  I heard a pastor say once “As I spent more and more time married to my wife, I realized love was not about my feelings, love was a choice. I had to wake up each morning and choose to love my wife that day no matter what. Because no matter what, God loved her. And who was I to say anything different?”

For God so loved the world…

And who are we to say anything different?

Love today.

(((***In case you are unaware of this term, this is an example of what the kids call being “Jesus-juked”: Boy 1: “these books are so heavy.” boy 2: “I bet Jesus wasn’t complaining when He carried the cross! Boom. Jesus-juked!”*)))

I spent almost a full year as a 13 year old pretty unscathed. Well, I guess we all spend a year being 13. But, I’ll never forget that year because it was the biggest wake up call of my life. Several things happened to me in about a four month span and they all hit me pretty hard. Some people get hit by actual buses, and others get hit by psychological buses. There must have been a parade of psychological buses cause I got hit multiple times.

I spent years begging my parents to get me a dog. We had one cat at the time, he was old though…not the most interesting creature. I wanted a dog, a best friend. Lo and behold,  when I was 9 my mom took me to the pound and we adopted one. Her name: Sweetie.  We learned through the years that that name applied to her on conditional terms. Sweetie was strange. She was a lhasa apso/shitzu mix, so she had that awesome tail.  she LOVED car rides, french fries and barking. BOY THIS DOG COULD BARK. She looked like a dog that would chirp or yelp. nope, she barked like a hound dog. Anyways, she was old when we got her (had back problems) and right around Christmas of 06′ her health started declining, and fast. I think we’ve all been there before. It’s so hard seeing the life drain out of an animal that had so much energy and personality. (Sweetie was a diva) In December, I walked into the Vet’s office with my dog in my arms (as she shook) and walked out that same door with nothing but memories. The house was very empty and quiet when I walked in that evening. I missed her so much, but she wasn’t in pain anymore. I learned a life lesson that Christmas: Sometimes the best gift you can give someone you love is to put their needs above your own desires.

February rolled around and so did some more rough news. My friend had invited me to her youth group since I had stopped going to the one at my old church. I had a blast the first time I went. Me, her and my other good friend went every Wednesday. The youth leaders were fantastic. They were hilarious and engaging as they brought the message each wednesday. By the time February ended, both youth pastors had left. One by choice and one by circumstance. At that age, you believe that everyone has it all together…especially adults… and hearing that one left because God called him somewhere but he doesn’t know where, and that the other was asked to resign…it was a pretty big moment where I realized “Hey…adults aren’t perfect. and they don’t have it all together.” I’m thankful for that lesson at an early age because it helps me feel okay when I didn’t have everything together (which is always)

March was the toughest, though. Without a doubt. I’m very confident that this part of my life has been used by God and will continue to be used by Him because otherwise…I just don’t have a clue why it had to happen. So, I met my best friends in Junior High. They had all gone to a different Elementary school in the district than me  ( they all had grown up together) and when I met them in band, they welcomed me into their circle right away. Bunch of personalities they were. We were always laughing, making jokes, being crazy hormonal acne covered teenagers. Invincible and the smartest things on earth, we trudged through classes…and spent the afternoons playing airsoft, watching TV and playing Halo 2. March rolled around and we all day-dreamed of Summer and tried to not pee ourselves with the reality of High school around the corner. There were 7 of us in  that tight knit group. And on March 22, there were 6. We all had 7th period together and didn’t think much of it when he wasn’t there that Thursday. That night my best friend’s mom called to talk to my mom. I didn’t think much of it when I handed the phone to my mom and ran up to my room to continue playing computer games. And when my mom called me downstairs and told me that he had committed suicide, I couldn’t stop thinking. My best friend came over that night with her mom. We all talked for a little bit, then my friend and I ran upstairs and sat on my bed, like we usually did on sleepovers, but instead of talking about boys and school, we talked about him and avoided the question we both were thinking: why?

I had no idea that people could reach such a low point in their lives. I knew people died, but  I didn’t know some people chose to. The six of us, with the floor taken out from underneath us, held on to each other; as we faced a world that remained silent to issues such as suicide and cutting. We held on to each other as we cried, laughed, did memorials, shared stories. When you love someone, tell them, even if you know they already know: hearing you say that you love them will give them something to hold on to when they reach low points in life. I don’t know who I would be today if  I hadn’t gone through this. I experienced some of my darkest nights that summer. I would not have made it without those six amazing, strong individuals who I will always have a very unique bond with because of those months. I lost touch with a few of them but they will always, always be in my heart. I would not have made it if my mom hadn’t taken me to counseling. I can’t stress it enough, you can’t do this alone. Get help. You are worth it.

March 22, 2007 (3/22/07) will always haunt me. A few months after it happened, I found  a verse in Lamentations, Chapter 3, verse 22.

“Because of the Lord’s great love; We are not consumed for his compassion never fail; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”

The verse before it says “Yet this call I to mind and therefore I have hope…”

Because God  loves me, I have not and will not be consumed by grief, sin, lust, depression, addiction or the world. His compassion for me never falters, never gives up. He loves me the same each morning, now that’s what faithfulness is. When dogs die, and pastors fail us, and friends die. God is the constant presence of hope and love. Not the kid on the ant hill, but the Father whose heart breaks for the sin and brokeness of the world. He takes the ashes, and creates beauty out of it.

“Lord you took up my case, you redeemed my life.” Lam 3:58

My time with Hollywood

His name was Hollywood. Well, Chris, but everyone who knew him called him Hollywood. He was a snare drummer in our band and after each rehearsal asked if anyone wanted to go to Taco Bueno with him. I remember he had asked me one time if I wanted to go and was surprised he even cared to ask me because I didn’t think we were that close of friends. I said no and blamed it on time and how I had a class at two. He was famous for giving the best bear hugs and lighting up any room he walked in with his larger than life personality.

Every year our band marches in a Veteran’s day parade. And according to the upperclassmen, the parade that happened on November 11, 2011 was the best one yet all because of Hollywood. It was one of those moments you had to be there for because writing it down just does not do it justice. You might ask “How does one guy make a parade so great?” To which all i can say is “You had to have known Hollywood.” After the parade one of my good friends Laura, a bass drummer, asked if I wanted to go to lunch with her and Michelle. I almost said no but agreed to go at the last minute.

They had decided on Chick-fil-a and once we arrived and I saw the rest of the percussion section sitting down, I got really nervous. I was a freshman and a trumpet player. I didn’t know any of the percussionists that well. This was going to be awkward, I had decided. I ordered my food and hesitantly walked to the table with all them. Hollywood was the the first to acknowledge me and said “Hey, come sit down!” A wave of relief washed over me. I was welcome. He asked what my major was and then started ranting about the Chick-fil-a sauce.

“Have you ever tried this stuff? It’s so good I could drink it with a straw. Here try some.”

He talked a mile a minute and quickly slid one of the 8 individual containers of chickfila sauce across the table to me. It was some of the best sauce I had ever had. I nodded in agreement, letting him know I liked it. He seemed happy to have been the one to introduce me to that delicious condiment.

Later on in the meal, we were going around the table asking each other “If (name) was an animal, what animal would they be?”  I silently listened and thought about each person. Dogs, flamingos, and other animals were passed around as ideas for the different people. When it was Hollywood’s turn, a hawk (or some other bird of prey) came to my mind. Nothing seemed to effect him. He had a wife, two kids, his school work, plus marching band and the band fraternity. Yet, he remained seamless and stable through it all. He spoke first.

“I kind of see myself as some stinking awesome bird of prey.” My mouth dropped. I spoke up.

“Me too! I would have to say a hawk. You seem to soar above everything, like nothing or no one can effect you.” I meant it as a compliment and he took it as one. The rest of the meal was a blur, but as we all got up to leave, Chris and some of the others stopped in line to get something else to eat. Michelle, Laura and I had walked out of the restaurant already. Laura stopped, turned around and  as she walked towards the restaurant said to us “I’m going to go say goodbye to them.”  We stood there and both murmured something along the lines of “We’ll see them tomorrow.”

It was a Friday and I had driven home for the weekend. I was on facebook late that night and saw a facebook status explaining that Chris had died.

“What.” I said out loud. “No, no no no no no. Not Chris. Has to be another Chris.”  I commented on the status asking for clarification.

Chris, the band’s Hollywood, had indeed died that night in motorcycle accident. I remember saying to myself over and over, “There’s no way. I just had lunch with him that day. There’s no way.”  He was gone.

Band rehearsal was weird, almost sickening, without Chris. It was still and quiet. The guy who could make all of us laugh without fail during band was gone. The room seemed darker, thicker without him. I had never met someone who had that much influence on the dynamic in a room, just by being there. We all expected and hoped that he would just burst through the band hall doors during rehearsal. Reality sunk in deeper and deeper as the door remained closed and his drums remained untouched.

To this day, I ask for chick-fil-a sauce every time I go there to eat.To this day, I have yet to meet someone who had the same enthusiasm for life and a love as deep as his for people, the drums and his family. I did not know Chris well, but I am so thankful for the time I had with him. Today I pray for his wife, three kids, his parents, and all of his friends who had shared many meals with Chris.

May God comfort them on this day.