Life from the rear-view mirror

What does loving God look like? Vol 76

Kathy and I lead a community group at church. It’s a pretty awesome thing. Every Wednesday evening we gather with 11 people who love God and have come to love each other deeply. It’s like an extended family really. Normally our discussions focus on gleaning additional insight from our senior pastor’s last talk…trying to bring it all the down to personal application. But some nights like this past Wednesday…we talked a little more “off the cuff.” The discussion went from Calvinism vs. Arminianism to “what does it look like to love God?” The latter was of more interest to me…well…because I brought it up.

We’ve all tried to do something new.  It can be downright clumsy at first. I remember learning how to play tennis. I didn’t hold the racket right and every ball I hit either sailed over the fence or into the net. It was pretty frustrating for quite a while. But then I got some pointers from someone who really knew how to play…and my game improved. Slowly at first…but then dramatically.

I’m not saying in any way that learning to love God is anything like playing tennis…but I am saying that I think we might need to learn to love Him.

I’ve been a believer for nearly 45 years. Given the fact that we all come at love from a different place…loving God for me has been a mix of awe, guilt, despair, desperation, jealousy, emotion, questions, faith, knowledge, indifference…in no particular order. I am always aware of His presence, and what I know about God normally trumps how I feel about God. And that is where I get stuck.

That is also where I can get judgmental.

We get our first ideas about what love looks like from our parents. As young kids we observe their interaction with each other and their interaction with us. I think that we infer love if there is no obvious disconnect, like in abusive situations. Most of us may not remember our parents telling us they love us…but they “showed” us..by taking care of us, meeting our needs, physical touch, soothing words, etc. As we get older those queues become more significant and more telling. When voices are raised or we are disciplined, and the “I love you” follows pain…. whether the pain  is emotional or physical, we have to work that out. Sometimes that takes a while… and some adults have never worked that out from childhood.

Following childhood and from adolescence into adulthood some of us get into relationships and maybe get married. And we find that love has new meaning…and new dangers.

I did not come to Christ at 15 because I understood His great love for me. I understood what he did for me on the cross and that I wouldn’t have to pay the debt for my own sin and wind up in hell. (Maybe you really understood the love part…) I don’t know. But I no longer struggle with the fact that God loved me as much as he did (and still does.)

What I struggle with these days is my response back to him.  What is that supposed to look like…to feel like. Is there a right or wrong way to love God.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”

That right there is a big commitment. No room for holding back. Some would say that this verse simply means to love  God with everything you’ve got and they site 2Kings 23:25 and King Josiah as an example. Take a minute and look it up.

So far I don’t have any issue. I’m not saying that you could look at my life and tell that I was loving God that way…I just mean that I get it in a cerebral sense. And that it all makes sense. He made me. He purchased me. He’s the potter, I’m the clay…all that. I get it.

But in any good relationship, love flows back and forth. Love can be seen and felt and touched. There is an emotional component that we witness in couples holding hands, kissing, sitting by the bed of a loved one, praying fervently. There is an action associated with love that has that emotional component.

And in our relationship with God? Sunday mornings I see people weeping, holding up their hands, praising God in voice and song. I look at them and wonder if something is missing in me. I’m often moved to tears during worship or stand in stunned silence in the realization of what it means to serve a God so far beyond comprehension who humbled himself to save me…an undeserving, wretched sinner. I am eternally grateful. I’ve never raised my hands in a service in my life…and am not likely to…never spoken in tongues and don’t believe it’s for us today

But I’m convinced that I don’t have to lift my hands or jump a pew. Trying to love God according to the first and greatest commandment is my life purpose…and yours if you know Christ as savior.

So maybe the question I’m asking today is how do I enjoy God. That’s a fair question if the chief end of man is to Glorify God and enjoy Him forever….right?  I wish I had an answer. I’ve found that I enjoy what He has made, what he provides, how he answers prayer, how he forgives again and again …  He said if we seek him with all our hearts we will find him…then what?

I’m trying to think of enjoying one of my closest friends and what that means to me right now…today. It means I enjoy their company, their confidence, their conversation, their compassion, (I’m running out of “c” words) I made a decision at one point to invest heavily in a relationship with them. I do enjoy them…thoroughly. I don’t always tell them…it’s kind of inferred. Maybe I should tell my buddies how much I enjoy them…and maybe I should wear a red nose too. You can take this to extremes.

I do tell God I love him…often. But it doesn’t elicit the same response as when I tell my kids or my wife. It is love on a higher plane. it is love realized from knowledge…from walking with God. It’s strange to say but I do sense the love of God from God. But I long to love God in the way I know relationship. That’s pretty selfish right? I know it is…but then again…that’s all I know how to do right now…today…here in this earth suit. But I’m working on it…Loving and Enjoying God for who He is not just what He’s done. Come join me!

 

 

 

Phil Craig…An honorable man…a day to be remembered. Vol 75

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LEST WE FORGET! This is a bio I found about my childhood neighbor.

CRAIG, PHILLIP CHARLES
Remains Returned 26 November 1985

Name: Phillip Charles “P.C.” Craig
Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 15, USS INTREPID (CVA 11)
Date of Birth: 13 July 1940
Home City of Record: Oneida NY
Date of Loss: 04 July 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 203700N 1063800E
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 4
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: A4C
Refno: 0751
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 from one or more of
the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence
with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.
NETWORK 1998.

REMARKS: POSS DEAD FIR 317/09072-73

SYNOPSIS: Lt. Phillip C. Craig was a pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 15
onboard the aircraft carrier USS INTREPID. On July 4, 1967 he launched in
his A4C Skyhawk attack aircraft with others from his squadron on a combat
mission over North Vietnam. “P.C.” was on his second tour of duty and had
flown over 100 missions on his first tour.

Craig was flying an A4 bearing the side number 208 on a bombing raid at the
railroad yard at Hai Duong. The aircraft was last observed visually in a
dive-bombing attack on the target. Enroute to the target, Craig maintained a
loose wing position on the other aircraft and was at all times visible in
the mirrors. Upon arrival in the target area, anti-aircraft fire of light to
medium intensity was encountered. The division leader commenced his attack,
and the other aircraft in the flight rolled in almost simultaneously.

Lt. Craig failed to make the scheduled recovery, and search and rescue (SAR)
forces were alerted. A thorough visual and electronic search was initiated.
Two radio transmissions indicated the aircraft was crossing the coast line
and was over water. However, later attempts to contact the aircraft were
unsuccessful. Reports of debris and an oil slick in the water were
thoroughly investigated by search aircraft, but revealed nothing
significant. There were no emergency beeper signals and no radio
transmissions from Craig to indicate that he was having trouble in the
target area.

The communists later announced that two U.S. planes had been shot down later
that day, but no further information surfaced directly relating to Craig.

Phillip C. Craig was placed in a casualty status of Missing in Action.
During the time he was maintained in this status, he was promoted to the
rank of Commander.

In 1973, 591 American prisoners of war were released from Vietnam. Craig was
not among them. Like over 2500 others, he did not come home. Military
authorities at the time were horrified that hundreds who had been expected
or suspected to come home did not. There were about 100 who had been known
prisoners and were not released. The Vietnamese denied knowledge of these
men. Scores of others were alive and well when last heard from, some
describing their imminent capture.

In 1978, based on no evidence to prove he was alive, Commander Craig was
preemptively declared Killed in Action.

In late 1985, the Vietnamese “discovered” and returned to U.S control the
remains of Phillip C. Craig.

According the Peace agreement signed in Paris in 1973, the Vietnamese would
release all American prisoners of war and account for the missing. They have
not done so. The U.S. Government has termed the return and accounting of
Americans “highest national priority”, yet advocates for the missing have
had to fight for position among countless “high priority” concerns.

Evidence continues to mount that some of the nearly 2500 Americans left
behind in Southeast Asia are alive, in captivity, awaiting their country to
come to their rescue. The Americans who remain missing in Southeast Asia
deserve the full effort of their country to bring them home.

Today May 25th, 2014…5:38am…

The Vietnam war was significant to me for a lot of reasons. Not so much on the political side until much later because the real issue for me and the war was the draft. In 1973, the year I was supposed to graduate, (and did graduate) from high school, my draft number was 43. My draft classification was 1A. Which meant that if college wasn’t in my future….Vietnam was.

But six months later the war was all over but the shouting. I was going to get to live whatever life God was going to give me here in the states and not in some rice paddy or in the skies over southeast Asia. That was not the case for Phil Craig.

Until I was 10 years old I lived at 469 Main St in Oneida, NY, in a small apartment, in a very big house…right next door to Phil Craig and his family. He was 15 years older than me so we were never really friends. Dad would tell me that Phil liked kids and used to push me around in an old pedal car I used to have when I was three or 4. Honestly I’m not sure if my memories of Phil are my own or my parents memories of Phil passed on to me. Dad liked the Craigs. We all did. So as neighbors go…we were pretty close. I remember hearing that Phil had joined the Navy to fly fighters and I remember when dad told me he was MIA…presumably shot down. And that’s all I knew for sure until about 30 minutes ago when I found this bio. Tomorrow, Memorial Day will hit a little closer to home for me. I’m sure Phil would have wanted his own little boy to push around in  a pedal car and play with…watch him grow up. But he left it all in Vietnam. All his tomorrows, his hopes, dreams…his whole future…so that we could have ours. Phil’s sacrifice and the sacrifices of young men and women like his are worth remembering…worth honoring. And so tomorrow I will do both.