If I use it I mean it. I don’t throw it around easily, so when I say it I care about that person a lot.

I’ve been the one on the other end of ‘I love you’ who awkwardly goes, ‘uh, yah, well…me too.’

I think that too many people throw around that ‘L’ word without even thinking about it.

We are not talking about a word that conveys just liking something, or kind of thinking that you are probably at a point that you love someone. Or worse, they said it and I have to say it back.

We are talking about real love. Love that asks for nothing in return. Humility. Surrender. Unconditional. Sacrificial love.

Love manifested as human, crucified, dead, buried, resurrected and ALIVE.

That definition of love far exceeds any version used in describing ice cream. No matter what country, or how hot it is!

Many languages use specific words for specific types of love.

In Creole there is love, love for each other and being in love with someone who is a bit more than a friend.

In Hebrew there are seven different ways to refer to love. The main three are love for God, love for a friend and love for someone who is well…you get the gist.

But in English, there is only one word for love of all forms. See where we get confused with our uses of love?

Several weeks ago, I was at Leogane at one of the villages we support. The kids were playing a game with me and asking, ‘Renmen Jezi?’ Love Jesus? Well yah! ‘Renmen Dieu?’ Love God? Of course! ‘Renmen Satan?’ Hold the phone, what? Non!!!! Which was heard with a resounding cheer by the kids. Over and over we went, other kids would get called over, “She understands! Ask her!” they would tell them.

I got a crash course in the word for loving another in Creole that day.

The next week I was in one of my favorite places, other than the villages, I get to take teams near Petionville in Port-au-Prince. Papillion had started screen printing shirts, and I found one that said ‘Renmen Ayiti.’ All because of the kids at Leogane, I immediately knew what it said. ‘Love Haiti.’ It’s a safe bet that I now own it.

The reason I don’t use ‘I love you’ carelessly is not because I have a cold, black, crusty heart. It is because the intent behind it, and the belief, should not be tossed around as if all love by our American definition is equal. I am intentional with my love. I don’t just say it to make someone feel good, I say it because I mean it and every element that should be backing up those words will be the relationship I have with that person.

I love Jesus, with every fiber of my being actually, and most days, my love for him is completely backed up by my actions. Most days.

Last weekend, I was at the village next door with a team and hanging out with some of the kids that I’ve gotten to know over the last couple of months. Takyra is one of those fellas, although I most often refer to him as the bubble ninja from my first weekend here. He’d been standoffish the last couple of times, but I’d also been spending intentional time with a special kiddo while his American friend was in the States.

There I was…in the heat of the day, spinning Takyra around until we are both so dizzy neither one of us could stand upright. But his laughter, oh, friends, his laughter…it is contagious. You cannot hear his giggle and not join in the fun. For the first time since I got here, I had to use our bus as a safety zone so my head would stop spinning, because Takyra kept wanting spin after spin after spin. Giggle and spin. Giggle and spin.

I got off the bus, spun him again and he landed giggling and came in close for a hug. He looked up at me with these beautiful brown eyes and whispered something I couldn’t understand. I leaned in closer so he could repeat, and still could not hear him. I said, ‘Mwen pas comprend.’ I don’t understand. He repeated and I still wasn’t getting it.

Laughing…I repeated, ‘Mwen pas comprend!’

He looked at me. Smiled that gorgeous smile of his, stepped back confidently and said loudly, ‘Mwen renmen ou.’ While gesturing with his hands at himself, then pointing at me.

All of a sudden…it clicked. I knew this word! Renmen. Love.

I love you.

My mind scrambled. Did he want something? I didn’t have anything, we’d been spinning in circles for about 20 minutes and he knows I don’t bring ‘stuff’ with me. Just myself. He’d said it so quietly at first…did he know what he was saying? Of course he did. He speaks Creole. I’m the language idiot.

After all that finished racing through my head, I just leaned down, wrapped him in my arms and whispered, ‘Mwen renmen ou.’

IMG_3330His grin sparkled as his small hand wrapped within my own while he led me to sit down on the steps…in the hot Haiti sun. Some things you just have to sacrifice a piece of yourself for and in this instance it was redhead skin in the hot Haiti sun. With our sweat joining into one big stream, he landed in my lap, and we sat there until it was time for me to head back home…just over the wall. I’m overjoyed to see where God will take our friendship, and what our friendship will look like over the next year. I never imagined I would feel this attached after just two months. But then again, I know my God does crazy things once you surrender the pieces of yourself that don’t reflect him. And however many times it has happened…in Haiti or Russia or wherever…it is completely supernatural, and it asks for nothing in return.

Love comes down to our ability to let God supernaturally flow through us so we are reflecting God in all aspects of presence, time and sacrifice in all forms. Some more extreme in the case of our Savior’s sacrifice, and others are simpler when it is a sacrifice of comfort or time. Real love requires a lot of surrender, and an ability to be honest with who you are when the other person is around. Somehow, God strips off every layer of who I am when I am among the orphans of our world. What is left behind is a woman who chooses her Savior every day and chooses to share the love of her Savior with others.

It all comes to love, and really meaning what you convey. Asking for nothing in return. Constant. Reliable. Intentional. Unconditional.




CLEARING CANON 009There is a stunning, tangled web of beauty at the base of each tree that stretches to the ocean of blue above. But the most beautiful part we can’t even see. It’s hidden beneath the surface, going so deep that if you tried to pry it out it would take hours, if not heavy machinery, depending on size.

Once on a mission trip to Galveston, we were tasked to dig out the root system of a tree that had been taken down by the hurricane. I worked on one section of the root system all morning. It did NOT want to come out. I dug, I pulled, I dug some more…then pulled some more. I even got ‘blessed’ with a large cockroach in my pants for all my efforts. That was not a beautiful surprise when I used the bathroom. Texas does grow them biggest. Several more hours after lunch, I was starting to think the roots were really not coming out.

All of a sudden I was on my ass with a root as tall as I am, and about 3 inches in diameter. It had a dirty dampness to it’s rough surface, and if it could talk, probably pretty angry. I looked at that thing in amazement. I’d put so much time into digging it out, and it had put so much time in growing in that one place. I wouldn’t have wanted to come out either!

A bit later, I heard a roar of celebration…a group of students had successfully gotten out a massive root system from the front of the house.

There we were, all celebrating in our own ways…our vicories over roots. Ironic, right? They had invested so much time in that one place, allowing their tree to have a stubbornly, strong base and we took it from them.

As the crappy caretakers of this world, we think we know all about what should be where, and how long it should be there. What if those root systems were supposed to stay? What if they were going to sprout a new tree, more beautiful and stronger than the last that succumbed to a hurricane?

We dig roots up and throw them out, or we dig roots out to transplant somewhere else with much authority. But we are not the ones who planted them in the first place…

Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” [Matthew 15:12-14]

No surprise that Jesus wasn’t really talking about roots. Also, no surprise that I wasn’t trying to stick with a earthy theme, either.

Right before the disciples asked Jesus if he knew the Pharisees were offended, Jesus had just quoted the prophet Isaiah:

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” [Matthew 15:8-9]

Read that again…conflicted anywhere?

Honor me with their lips. It is so easy to be that Christian around Easter. Do what is expected. Dress nice. Be nice. But if your actions are not matching what is coming out of your mouth…you are doing an incredible disservice to Christ’s sacrifice…and his resurrection. You never know who is overhearing you, and you never know how you actions will be perceived by that person. Which is why you heart should be aligned with…

Their hearts are far from me. Sometimes it’s amazing the show we put on so people see what you want them to see. But you cannot force yourself to be close to God. You have to make an effort, and put work into it. And that takes time. I know I’ve grown a lot closer to my heart being more like his in the last few years, but some days I am absolutely guilty of being consumed by this world and not in the ‘I am a missionary to this world’-consumed. So many distractions to separate my heart from his, and I allow them let my heart drift away from him.

They worship me in vain. I love worship. I feel very connected to my Savior through worship. But the idea that worship HAS to be in a sanctuary, or on Sunday morning, or even in a building is complete crap. Make your worship true. Seek your Abba. Break out of the worship ideas that shackle you to what people have ‘always’ done. Sadly, some worship experiences are so consumed by tradition and performance I have trouble feeling the Holy Spirit. I’m not judging, but that seems pretty in vain to me.

Their teachings are merely human rules. Do you live by the Spirit, or do you live by mandates? Do you live by faith, or restriction? Do you expect the laws of this world to enhance the laws of God’s Kingdom? They are not meant to. We are a set apart people, and we are not held to human rules and regulations. Kingdom rules lay groundwork for love, not hate. For acceptance, not exclusion. For grace, not guilt and judgement. For transformation, not status quo. Kingdom teachings cannot be contained…they are meant to be shard.

What Bible are you reading? Has God planted you? Do you cling to his roots? His roots are trustworthy, and strong.

We are a stunning, tangled web of roots when planted by God…made into beautiful trees. Will you live as though you are planted by him, or will you be a blind guide? If  I am only a blind guide, I am doing a garganuan disservice to the Gospel message. So I better damn well make sure I am planted correctly, and that no one tries to tear me up as I cling to his even deeper roots.