Love Is The Foolishness of Men

“Love is the foolishness of men, and the wisdom of God.”
– Victor Hugo

“Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants.  When he had begun to reconcile, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  But because he couldn’t pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.  The servant therefore fell down and kneeled before him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!’  The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.  “But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him one hundred denarii, and he grabbed him, and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’  “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you!’  He would not, but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay back that which was due.” 
– Matthew 18:23-35

We humans are a funny lot – that’s putting it mildly.

We want others to be patient and bear with us as we grow, yet we are quick to criticize, quick to show anger, quick to pronounce judgment.

We want to be accepted for who we are yet condemn others for failing to be a certain person for us.

We want the friendships that make us better, sacrificial friendships, yet we dispose people who have offended us or threaten us – proving their value to us was based on how they made us feel.

We want to be treated as important and be served yet do not show compassion to those who need it most when they need it most.

We want complete forgiveness while selectively being unforgiving.

We want true unconditional love yet we burden others with our conditions – conditions that change depending on how we’re feeling.

We want our record of wrongs to be erased yet we engrave their sins, even their past sins against others, on our stone hearts and hard minds.

We do these and we call it justice, we call it wisdom, we call it survival, we call it discernment, we call it practicality, we even call it obedience sometimes. Yet at the center is fear, self-preservation and the preservation of the chosen ones (those we are comfortable with loving and forgiving). At the center is hurt or the avoidance of hurt. At the center is pride and selfishness – I am more important than him or her. What I think about him or her is more important than him or her. My protection is more important than him or her. My comfort is more important than him or her. My feelings are more important than him or her. My opinions are more important than him or her. My success is more important than him or her. My relatives are more important than the relatives of others. My friends are more important than the friends of others. My children are more important than the children of others. My beliefs are superior to the beliefs of others. My choices are better than his or her choices. My sins are not as bad as those of others.

This is the human heart. This is my heart.

And this is so far from God’s.

If our stronger faith, our learning, our wisdom, and our better decision-making have made us more judgmental and less patient then we should search our hearts.

If our obedience to the law has made us more condescending and suspicious of others then we should search our hearts.

If our relationships with good people have made us less forgiving, more disdainful and less welcoming of bad people then we should search our hearts.

If our blessings and answered prayers have made us forget the prayers of others then we should search our hearts.

If our higher positions have made us look down at others then we must search our hearts.

If our kindness to others, our generosity, and our good works have made us less forgiving of the unkind and selfish then we should search our hearts.

Our hearts are never stagnant, never just in one place, it is either beating towards someone or moving away. We can check our own growth by very simply asking:

“Am I more patient today?”
“Am I more kind today?”
“Am I less envious today?”
“Am I less boastful today?”
“Am I less proud today?”
“Am I more honoring of others today?”
“Am I seeking the interests of others more than my own today?”
“Am I less easily angered?”
“Am I less bitter, more forgiving, and not keeping yesterday’s wrongs on record today?”
“Am I not holding on to evil, but rejoicing in the truth of God’s love today?”
“Am I more protecting of others today?”
“Am I more trusting today?”
“Am I more hopeful today?”
“Am I more persevering today?”

For me, the answer is usually a resounding “NO”. That is the honest truth. Yet when I turn the question back to God and ask:

“Has He been more patient with me today?” YES. He has given me another day with Him.

“Has He been more kind to me today?” YES. I’m breathing His air. Living on His planet. Enjoying His sunshine.

“Is He less envious?” Was He ever envious? He has never zapped any of the girls I liked. In fact, He loves them more than me.

“Has He boasted less today?” He never has. His works boast of His greatness and those who know Him boast of His love, yet all He ever tells me is how much He loves me.

“Has He been proud towards me?” NO. On the contrary, He made Himself lower than me by taking my sins once and for all.

“Has been honoring towards me.” YES. More than I deserve. He has taken a dishonorable man like me and honored me with His loving kindness.

“Has He been self-seeking?” NO. He has been seeking me. He has been self-giving.

“Has He been easily angered with me?” NO. He has been forgiving. He has been patient with my continuous faults. He has been gracious.

“Has He kept a record of my wrongs?” NO. He has taken them upon Himself and paid my price. He has erased my debt.

“Has He rejoiced in my evil?” NO. He has brought the Truth of His love: the Gospel, the Good News, that Jesus died for my sins.

“Has He protected me today?” YES. He has protected me from my sins, from my wrong choices and the wrong choices of others. He has used my hurt to build my character, to strengthen me. He has protected me with His love.

“Has He trusted me?” YES. More than I deserve. I have let Him down, yet He continuous to entrust me with time on this planet, with relationships with people, those He loves most, with His purpose for me.

“Does He still hope for me?” YES. He continues to work in me to realize His plan and purpose in my life.

“Does He persevere with me?” YES. Despite my stubbornness, He doesn’t give up. He is faithful. He perseveres in His love.

The greater our understanding of God’s love, the greater the love we will show others.

In The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, the servant owed the King the equivalent $3,000,000,000 USD. Yet the King forgave all His debt. This shows the absurdity of God’s love – the love He wants us to show others.

The servant had a debtor, someone who wronged him, someone who owed him, someone he felt he had the right to collect from, and when that person couldn’t pay, he condemned him to prison. How much did this person owe the servant? The equivalent of $1000.

He had been forgiven $3,000,000,000 yet he could not forgive $1000.

Again, this is my heart. I have banished others to the prison of my bitterness for $1000, maybe even the $1,000,000 offense against me. Yet, God has forgiven my $3,000,000,000 debt.

I don’t want to get what I deserve. I want to get better than I deserve – and I have in Jesus. I must treat others better than they deserve.

We humans are a funny lot – we are a selfish lot. Because of this we cannot embrace fully that His wisdom is summed up in His love. Proof of this is our inability to love – especially those who threaten us, the ones who need our love most.

We humans are a funny lot – we are a selfish lot – we are a rotten lot – we are a proud lot – yet we are loved – so we are forgiven – so we are redeemed – so we are blessed – again, how great have we been loved – so we can love.

Thoughts on a Sunset Painted Windy Day

Looking back,
To connect the moments,
That brought me to you…

Maybe it’s a heart that was once broken
Maybe it’s a promise unkept
Maybe it’s the hope I lost forever
Maybe it’s my fear of what’s ahead

Maybe it’s a dream I wish I’d woken
But I didn’t and now regret
Maybe it’s a step I should have taken
Maybe it’s a shame I can’t forget

Maybe a million things,
A million moments,
That brought me to you…
– Connecting the Dots


They say the lights of the fireflies are powered by memories, the memories of everyone alive and gone. And every night they fly back to this tree, to relive the closed eyes, and hands clasped, the kisses, and the moments long over.
– The Tree of Memories

Sometimes it’s good to slow down. Sometimes it’s good to stop completely. Even sometimes it’s better to take a step back – like I am now as I write this. There’s a lot of work to be finished, meetings to prepare for, emails to send, and numbers to crunch, but there’s also a soul to rest and a spirit to fill, both of which I have taken for granted despite the fact that they’re the parts of us that are eternal. But not anymore. I will remember to value these invisible treasures.

Moment #1: Fireworks
I remember being on a date once. It was her, me, and my slightly overweight wingman. We had climbed the fire escape ladder to the roof of her building and sat on a ledge. I remember her turning to me and saying, “Isn’t this great?” “Yeah”, I said “It sure is.” And I really did think it was great, because when you like someone, as in really really like someone, every simple act or experience becomes a moment, a moment unforgettable.

“Do you know what would really be great?”
“What?” I asked her.
“Fireworks!”
I don’t know why I said this, but I did, and I told her, “You’ll get your fireworks.”

And I’m not making this up, but a few minutes later the dark sky lit up as red and amber sparks rained down from the welding in the building across us – like fireworks. It was amazing. The timing was perfect. Her wish was granted and I was the handsomest man in the world to her.

But that was a long time ago. A lot has changed since.

Moment #2: Primavera
I remember walking through the almost empty Charles de Gaulle airport dragging my suitcase behind me. I had missed my overnight train to Madrid and had to catch the earliest flight in the morning to make it to my meeting. I was too tired to get a hotel for the evening and I didn’t think it was practical to get a room for a few hours. I was being practical but only because I had to: I didn’t have any money and the little I did have went to the only seat I could get: business class on Air France. That hurt, and that was before they lost my luggage. But I didn’t know that then while I sat down on one of the benches. It wasn’t long before I was surrounded by sleeping homeless guys. I don’t remember being scared. I think I was too tired to get scared. I do remember that they didn’t smell very pleasant. You’re never too tired to smell stink.

But looking back, that misadventure was perfect. Sure it delayed my plans. Sure I got no sleep. Sure Air France lost my luggage. But I made it to my meeting, and not before seeing a golden-haired angel from a Botticelli painting behind the counter selling toothbrushes. And I had a thought, that maybe if I had made my train, I would have missed this most unassuming piece of divine art.

But that was just that. It was great. But it was just a visit to the museum.

Moment #3: A Sunset Painted Windy Day
I can still remember walking on the soft grass. I can still feel the wind dancing with my hair. I used to visit that place to escape my responsibilities, but today was different. Because as I looked at the setting sun sink into the darkening sky, I felt an impression in my heart tell me, “Do you see how beautiful that is? I painted that for you.” And I took it all in, the light and dark blues blending with the grays, and whites, and violets, and vermillion and other kinds of reds, and oranges like the one from the fireworks. They were all there.

We walked down that hill with the painting frescoed into our minds.

Thoughts on that Sunset Painted Windy Day
As I drove home, I still couldn’t get over it.

“You painted that for me?”

“I painted that for you. I paint every sky for you.”

“Why?”

“Because I love you.”

“But why?”

“Because you’re mine.”

That never used to make sense to me, how having someone was enough reason to make you want to make every moment special for him or her. But then I began to understand, and as I did I could feel every beautiful experience being relived and every regret redeemed because I realized, what I didn’t see then, that every moment, was made especially for me. Every welder’s spark, every delayed plan, every deferred hope, every embarrassment and every failure, every dream, every open door, and every lesson was and is made especially for me.

So tonight this post ends, and my midnight starts, by looking back at the moments that brought me to You.

A Shopping Guide for Life

“But you can never go wrong with the priceless things. They’ll always be a steal.”

The start of a new year is always a good time to step back and take deep look at the state of our lives. It’s a good time to evaluate ourselves, our desires and dreams, goals and accomplishments, our challenges and concerns, as well as our actions and decisions.

I actually think we should be doing this regularly – as in all-year regularly.

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions simply because, based on my experience and casual observance of others, we rarely sustain these grand decisions. Instead, I like to follow the Japanese practice of Kaizen – continuously growing through small improvements each day. So every evening, right before reading a self-imposed number of chapters before bed, I like to evaluate my day, what went right, what went wrong, what should I work on tomorrow or the next few days, what goes on my to-do list, what are the challenges, and after considering them I lift them to God to bless, to redeem, sometimes to forgive. I try to apply this practice of incremental growth powered by God’s grace to the things I do, whether it be business, social work, study, my creative pursuits, or whatever.

Despite this I can still be a jerk (a capital JERK to some), still be selfish, or unkind, or lustful (Yes, you women can be incredibly beautiful – and irritatingly illogical so don’t let your head get too big.). I can still be arrogant sometimes (Ok, more than sometimes.), still insecure (Which is why I’m arrogant.), still fearful (Which is why I’m insecure.), and incredibly limited in my goodness and capabilities (Which is why I’m fearful.).

All these shortcomings are products of wrong decisions, which in turn are products of a skewed value-system. Somewhere along the way, whether consciously or unconsciously, I learned to value the wrong things. Not everything of course, I do have right values, but enough mistaken valuations to leave a mark.

When my brothers and I were kids my parents read us a story from the book No Wonder They Call Him Savior by Max Lucado. It tells the story of an unusual kind of robbery where some thieves broke into a store, and instead of taking items all they did was switch the price tags around. Some expensive things became cheap, and the cheap things became expensive.

The funny thing was that no one noticed the price change at first. So people shopped as usual, buying things at unusually huge discounts and unusually huge markups.

And sometimes our world is like that. We shop around through life sometimes making decisions that cost us more than what we get for it and sometimes taking other things of value for granted. And just like walking through a superstore, walking through life can be overwhelming with all the options calling out to you.

And so to help me remember (because I can be immensely forgetful) I have brought out a shopping list – a shopping list for life that I thought about when I was a teenager, detailing the things I would pursuit. I’ve changed some of the words and ordering but the treasures have stayed the same. Proof that, despite my lack of experience and knowledge at the time, an open heart can see with amazing clarity.

I use the article “a” instead of “the” because I don’t want to suggest that my list is the only list possible list or even the best. This is merely MY reminder for MYSELF that I hope will cause you to evaluate your situation, to see what it is you’re purchasing with your life decisions, and to weigh the cost that you’re paying.

My simple shopping list for life:

1. A real relationship with God
Where I’ll find it: In time spent with Him
Where I won’t find it: Religion

2. A family with a lot of kids
Where I’ll find it: With the birds and the bees, and a ball and chain – Kidding. I’m still trying to figure this one out.
Where I won’t find it: In my chauvinism, E-Harmony (Not that there’s anything wrong with E-Harmony. How do I say it? It’s just not me?)

3. The means to help the poor and unjustly treated
Where I’ll find it: Proper valuation
Where I won’t find it: In my selfishness that only focuses on what I want and what I need

4. The ability to steward the resources that are entrusted to me
Where I’ll find it: In humility – I don’t have it. I don’t know. Father, give me grace.
Where I won’t find it: In my arrogance and self sufficiency

Every now and then I get lost, while driving, while looking for a restaurant, or a shop, or just inside my head. Sometimes I get distracted, by a looming concern, a pretty face, a smart conversation. And even sometimes I lose my way, forgetting what’s really important, purchasing baggage at crazy prices. So I have to keep reminding myself of what I really want, of what’s really important to me. Because you’ll always go wrong by buying something you don’t really want, no matter how seemingly cheap. But you can never go wrong with the priceless things. They’ll always be a steal.