Love Songs & Unselfish Love

Unselfish Love

Love is in many ways fine—
Like a nickel, like a dime.
But love is more valuable to me
than one, two, or even three...

And so begins one of the most *ahem* “memorable” poems I’ve ever written.  (I won’t make you suffer through the rest of it.) Judging by my handwriting at the time, I’m guessing I was around nine or ten years old when I penned that masterpiece. Back in the day, apparently, those two silver coins represented huge value for me, because I compared them to the one thing everyone on the planet desires: LOVE.

It should come as no surprise that my nickel and dime view of love wouldn’t last forever. As I entered the teen years, my experience of love shifted from coins in my pocket to “teardrops on my guitar.” (Well, make that my pillow. Taylor Swift, I am not.)

Photo of 4 hands spelling out the word LOVE

All The Feels

In high school, hormones had me convinced that love was a feeling (or more than a feeling)—one I couldn’t fight anymore. When “the feels” eventually subsided or my heart was broken, that all-consuming “love” evaporated into thin air. And then, I was all out of love, and so lost without ____________ (fill in the blank). Emotion took me over—tied up with sorrow; lost in my soul. And time? It kept flowing. Like a river.

As I matured, I struggled to wrap my mind around that crazy little thing called “love.”

It’s such an ambiguous term, we shouldn’t be shocked people go looking for love in all the wrong places. For with this singular word love, I can express my passion for my husband, my son, penguins, The Princess Bride, quality dark chocolate, NFL football, Ted Lasso, and air conditioning!

If I were to explain the power of love according to hit singles on the radio, it might sound a little bit like this:

Love is an open door…in the air. It keeps lifting me higher and higher. Love is higher than a mountain and thicker than water. It’s all we need, because we found love right where we are. It will keep us together! I love you. You love me…tender. The fact is, I will always love you, because you’re my endless love. And there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to make you feel my love. I’m gonna love you forever. Forever and ever, amen. I’m literally lost in love, but I still have one little proble: I wanna know what love is!!!

Stringing together lyrics from a few famous love songs weaves a fascinating tapestry of the feelings-based, self-absorbed, narcissistic version of love our society promotes 24/7/365. The problem is that this kind of love is a poor impostor of the real thing. And let me tell you, ain’t nothing like the real thing, Baby! 😉

In his first letter to the Christ-followers in Corinth, the apostle Paul, wrote one of the most famous poems about love ever penned—and I think we can all agree that it’s inspired! Check out 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a:

Image of the word LOVE spelled vertically with the "e" extending upwards to a heart-shaped balloon

Love is patient,
love is kind.

It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects,
always trusts,
always hopes,
always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Did you notice anything in this list connecting love to how a person makes me feel? No? Me neither.

Paul’s point here is crystal clear: Loving another human has nothing to do with meeting my own needs and everything to do with how I relate to and treat others in my life.

To offer clarity through contrast, Paul highlights what love is not. Love is neither envious nor boastful. “It is not arrogant or rude. It’s not irritable or resentful. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.” In other words, love literally limits the influence of negative emotions on our actions.

Love is not a feeling: Love is a verb.

Offering Christian love—selfless, no-strings-attached, generous—to another living being is a free-will choice, and that’s what makes it so precious. When we choose to love, it’s always a risk, and it’s always a dare. There are no guarantees that our gift of love will be received; however, since love is not made of physical matter, the only way a person can know he or she is loved is through the selfless actions of another.

Words, while welcome and worthwhile, mean nothing without the corresponding actions to back them up: Love must be demonstrated to be known.

"The Lord Himself modeled this when, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Are we literally called to die in order to prove our love? Of course not! But we are called to die to selfish desires—and our own personal agendas and expectations—and simply LOVE one another. Not merely with words, but mostly with actions. Not for recognition or kudos, but solely for the benefit of the other person. No ropes attached.

You might be wondering, “But what about me? Don’t I need love, too?”

Of course! And who better to supply the exact love we need to fill us up than the Lord God Almighty? Our Heavenly Father. It’s only because of our personal relationship with Him and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we are able to share any love with anyone at all! Out of the overflow of that relationship—knowing that we are drawing from a well that will never run dry—we are able to share unselfish love with others.

A Meditation on Love 🙏❤️🤲

Pause for a moment and inhale deeply. Hold it. Exhale slowly. Do this a couple times, and then offer this simple prayer:

“Lord, thank you for loving me as-is.
Thank you for not giving up on me.

You are faithful and your love endures forever. (lift your hands)
I lift my hands to you in worship and adoration. (open your hands)
I open my hands to receive what you have for me today. (bring your hands to your heart)
Fill my heart with your love once again, O Lord.
I’m completely yours.”

This devotional was initially featured in the ‘Rooted at the Throne’ series, a yearlong collection of devotionals curated by renowned author and speaker Rachael Carman on her previous blog.

Photo credits: 
Love spelled with fingers photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
Love word with heart puff licensed by Laura Zielke for this article

Stop Saying “Praise the Lord!”

Stop saying "Praise the Lord!"

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Inigo Montoya

This is one of my all-time favorite quotes from the movie The Princess Bride. In this scene, the Inigo Montoya confronts Vizzini, his boss, about repeatedly uttering “Inconceivable!” every time he notices something surprising happening right in front of them (or behind them, as the case may be). Vizzini, Inigo concludes, is clearly confused concerning the meaning of the word “inconceivable.”

His observation is simple, yet profound. For with it, he shines a spotlight on one of humanity’s most annoying tendencies: the habitual repetition of a common word or phrase by someone who lacks a clear understanding of its meaning.

As children, we initially learned how to speak by mimicking sounds and words and phrases. Unless we make a conscious choice to stop, think, and choose our own words, we may accidentally adopt a favorite phrase without giving any thought to what it means. Take for example this exclamation: “Praise the Lord!” Although you will find it throughout the Old Testament (most frequently in the Psalms), it is often misused in Christian circles today.

In this post, I’m going to make the case that “Praise the Lord!” does not mean what we think it means. And I’m going to challenge you to think twice before saying it in the hope that you will replace it with something else. Got that? Ok, let’s unpack it.

“Praise the Lord!” is a literal translation of the Hebrew word hallelujah which is the first word in a number of the Psalms. It is formed by combining the verb “hallal” (to boast or praise) with “yah” (a shortened version of the name of the LORD). 

But our modern use of the phrases “Praise the Lord!” and “Hallelujah!” makes no sense, because hallelujah is a verb in the imperative mood. In other words, hallelujah is a command

In the same way we might tell a child “Clean your room!” the Psalmist commands us to “Praise the Lord!” A more precise translation of hallelujah is “Praise ye the Lord!” 

In other words, when you say “Praise the Lord,” you’re actually issuing a command: “You, praise the Lord!” (Or, as my friends in the South would say, “Y’all, praise the Lord!”)

A command to praise is typically followed by a recounting of His deeds (Psalm 135); a recognition of His majesty (Psalm 148); a recitation of His virtues (Psalm 145); or further instructions about how, when, and where to praise Him (Psalm 150). Think about this with me for a minute.

To praise the Lord is to honor and recognize Him for who He is, what He has done, and to trust His promises. Praise is neither complicated nor simplistic, but it does require engagement of the mind. I need to pause and ponder: “What attribute of the Lord’s am I wanting to praise? What has He done that compels me to praise Him? How is God making Himself known to me in this moment?” It is only after I’ve identified the reason(s) why I want to praise Him that I can truly offer a sacrifice of praise.

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”
Hebrews 13:15 ESV

We praise the Lord when we ascribe His attributes back to Him. His character. His name. In fact, this is only this type of praise we can genuinely offer in midst of life’s harshest trials and tribulations.
We offer the sacrifice of praise with the sentences we speak; the words we write; the thoughts we think; the songs we sing; the dances we perform; the art we create; and so on—NOT through the mindless repetition of an idiom that seems like the right thing to say in the moment.

The fact is, praise itself is like an empty box, and the only way to give praise is to fill the box with actual praises, otherwise it remains empty. Cliché. Vain. Devoid of meaning.

For example, when your son, Micah, aces his math test, you don’t praise him by saying, “Praise Micah!” That doesn’t mean anything. Instead, you speak truth to him about who he is and what he did.

Similarly, when your daughter, Leah, is hired as the summer camp intern, you don’t praise her by saying, “Praise Leah!” That would be weird. Instead, you speak truth to her about who she is and what she accomplished.
In the same manner, when God shows Himself faithful, you don’t praise Him by saying, “Praise the Lord,” which doesn’t mean anything. Instead, you speak truth to Him about who He is and what He did. You could say something like, “Lord, you are amazing! You promised you would take care of us, and you did! You are awesome. Your ways are not my ways. You are sovereign. I honor you for who you are!”

THAT, my friend, is what it means to PRAISE the Lord.

I hereby challenge us to remove the empty cliché, “Praise the Lord,” from our vocabulary and replace it with authentic praise from our hearts. This might take a while and require re-training ourselves, but it is a worthy goal.
Imagine a scenario where a friend shares good news with you.

For example, “My son just got his driver’s license on the first try!” You could respond out of habit, “Praise the Lord!” But what does that mean? “Yay!”? If so, you’ve used the Lord’s name a in mindless manner. If not, you’ve commanded your friend to “praise the Lord.” Either way, you’ve tipped your proverbial hat towards Heaven with no personal investment, no acknowledgement of who the Lord is or what He has done deserving of praise.

Is that what you thought you were doing? Or were you attempting to praise God for something? If so, what? Say that!

Imagine how transforming this practice will be in our daily lives and our relationships. Instead of saying the word “praise,” we actually give praise to God. And in the giving, we glorify the Lord by expressing His goodness, His faithfulness, and His sovereignty. We testify to His greatness, and in so doing, edify each other in Christ—which bears witness to those who are seeking the truth about God.

Printable: 12 Alternatives to saying "Praise the Lord"

To help us get started with this new practice, I’ve created a free printable for you with “12 Alternatives to ‘Praise the Lord!”

👈 👉

Click to download a PDF of the POSTER(S) that accompany this devotional. 

12 Alternatives to "Praise the Lord!"

This devotional was originally published as part of a yearlong series of devotionals called “Rooted at the Throne.” Every month spearheaded by author and speaker Rachael Carman and featured on her blog. 

Insights: A Prophecy of Pentecost?

Insights from the Word

As often happens when studying various passages of Scripture simultaneously, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to new insights and correlations. It’s no wonder we say that the Word is alive!

I’m currently leading a weekly in-depth, verse-by-verse study of the book of Acts at my church, and for my own personal study and reflection, I am reading through the book of Isaiah. I love the juxtaposition of studying both Old and New Testament books at the same time. It’s like ham and eggs—different, but complementary! This morning, however, I ate an omelet!

Lemme ‘splain! No, there is too much… Lemme sum up:

A couple of days ago, I taught on the arrival of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1-13. We observed that there were three external signs given to Jesus’ disciples as sensory evidence of the internal arrival and infilling of the Holy Spirit: Sound. Sight. Words.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Acts 2:1-4

Insights from the Word

This morning I read Isaiah 32 which contains prophetic words concerning the “Kingdom of Righteousness” as well as a warning to the “women of Jerusalem.” Isaiah 32:1 says, “See, a king will reign in righteousness, and rulers will rule with justice.” This could be interpreted as a Messianic prophecy.

Then the eyes of them who see will no longer be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will listen.
The fearful heart will know and understand,
and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.
Isaiah 32:3-4

I realize this is plucking a verse out of context; therefore, I am not going to force this to mean something it doesn’t. But there is no denying a strong correlation between the two passages: Sight. Sound. Words. And something happening internally—an increase of knowledge and understanding.

Was this a prophecy fulfilled at Pentecost? Possibly. One could postulate that the “king reigning in righteousness” is Jesus and that the “rulers ruling with justice” are the Twelve apostles sitting on thrones at the renewal of all things (cf. Matthew 19:28). Or, it’s just as possible that this prophecy has nothing to do with Pentecost.

Either way, though, these verses in Isaiah describe what happens when we receive and are filled with the Holy Spirit: We see things more clearly. We hear the Lord. We know and understand Him and His Word. And we are given words to speak the truth clearly to those who the Lord brings our way.

Amen, and amen.

‘Twas the Night before Star Wars (Poem)

'Twas the Night before Star Wars
Many thanks to Michael McMaster and the international droid builders club for making this poem come alive in 2020!

‘Twas the Night before Star Wars

An adaptation of the “‘Twas the Night before Christmas” poem – by Laura Zielke written in 2015 on the night before the official release of The Force Awakens. 

‘Twas the night before Star Wars
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even my spouse.
The props were laid out on the table with care
In hopes theater workers won’t care what we wear.

The padawan was nestled all snug in his bed,
While visions of light sabers flashed in his head.
And I in my blue jeans, sweatshirt, and cap
Had just settled down to check Fandango’s app.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the kitchen I flew like a flash,
Grabbed the Glad Bag and sneakily took out the trash.

The moon on the grass after new-fallen rain
Glistened like mid-day all down the lane.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But the Millenium Falcon—I had to cheer!

With a slightly old pilot, and Wookie in tow,
I knew right away it was Han Solo.
More rapid than X-Wings his companions they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Luke! Now, Leia ! Now, C3PO-ah!
Come, Chewie! Come, Lando! Come, R2DayTow-ah!
Move away from the porch! And away from the wall!
Now hide away! Hide away! Hide away all!”

So, into the driveway the rebels they ran,
With blasters and sabers, they hid in my van!
The droids were much slower with nowhere to go.
They pretended to be trash cans, so no one would know.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard someone say,
“What happened? Where are we? What day is today?”
I walked back inside, began turning around,
And through the window burst forth a Sith lord with a bound.

He was dressed all in leather, from his head to his foot,
And his face had been painted the colors he put.
A red light saber he lit to impress,
And he looked like a demon, just from his dress.

His eyes–they glowed yellow! His horns they were ugly!
His cheeks were striped boldly; he smiled so smugly!
I then froze in fear—so unsure what to do.
He laughed, and he paced with his saber blades two.

When all of a sudden behind me I hoid (that’s northeastern for “heard”)
The princess, the jedi, the pilot, the droid.
They came to my rescue and fought the Sith lord,
They battled for hours; I never was bored.

They fought in the kitchen; one jumped on a shelf.
And I laughed when I saw it, in spite of myself.
Luke Skywalker in MY kitchen—too good to be true!
Han Solo and Leia and R2D2!

They killed the Sith lord, and then stopped to rest.
Then Yoda appeared saying, “Passed you did the test.”
With a sigh of relief, the Rebels rose to take leave.
They protected my family, I fully believe.

They boarded the Falcon, having done what they came for,
And away they all flew in the midst of a downpour.
But I heard them exclaim, ‘ere they flew out of sight,
“May the force be with y’all, and to y’all a good-night!”

© 2015-2016 Laura Zielke All rights reserved.

#starwars #theforceawakens #rogueone