“The Heart Photograph”, From L.Willows (marvel, awaken, fellowship, see God’s beauty)

Many years ago, I lived in New York City, in Manhattan. I remember the all of the parades and festival days with a deep smile. Today for example is, May 5 Cinco de Mayo which celebrates Mexican heritage and freedom. On this day I remember that I used to get a coffee and a special pastry from a place on the avenue and then look for a good seat on the parade route in the morning alongside many neighbors with the same idea. One year, it was usually a beautiful blue sky spring day. As we waited in the uptown streets, there was a tranquil sense of hope. Families would start to gather. Mothers and nannies arrived with young ones as parade time grew near.

We all knew that Cinco de Mayo in New York City was a party not to be missed! A sense of anticipation grew. The streets filled with the smells of vendors offering Mexican foods. The neighborhood started to transform. The calm uptown streets felt playful. We were all smiles, especially the children. I held on to my seat.

Then, in the distance I heard music and voices. It was like a rumble arriving from somewhere. Straining to see, it was as life-in living color was arriving! There was dancing and singing in the streets as the procession came our way. Brightly colored costumes twirled their way towards us. Children and adults squealed with delight. Sticky fingers grabbed to greet the passing celebrities that paraded by. The music became louder than our praise. Group by group of bands and musicians and performers passed for hours. Sometimes it was just people and families that joined and proudly walked by in costume celebrating heritage. It was singing and dancing all the way. This was a City Party!

The Street spilled with music, people, colors, dance, running, singing, shouting, prancing- at times the watchers moved in out between the parade as if to become part of the festivity. Others will engage even more senses to see and marvel the beauty of the world and life as all passes by. This is the “heart photograph”. It imprints joy in another way.

We just never know how precious a moment is until it has passed by and become a memory that we retrieve years later. We don’t even know when we will unknowingly be a special part of someone else’s special heart photograph- imprinted for years to come. Moments like this are often simple but have some things in common that cause them to be impactful.

Here is a suggestion:

  • They are about something more than ourselves. We are caused lift up and to gaze at life from a viewpoint larger or “other” than our own (by the circumstance) Someday, even today-we long to see from the view of God’s Heart.
  • There is a condition that causes or creates a fellowship with others. (We recognize that we belong and are not alone) We are together, in the Kingdom of God. We are commanded to love one another.
  • We are taken out (even temporarily) of our world state or status. (by the event, the shift, the beauty around us, the change in status, the difference) In God’s Kingdom, worldly state has no bearing upon us. We are seen by His eyes from the view of His Heart.
  • We notice our environment with our senses and marvel at life (we awaken and marvel) This world is created by God’s love. Using our Spiritual senses heighten awareness and increase our ability to marvel, wonder and receive His love.

Have you ever taken a Heart Photograph of something? Where all or any of these four conditions included?

You can take Heart Photos now.

As you encounter the day, allow yourself to go through the four steps: 1. Lift up your gaze to a viewpoint larger or other than your own. 2. Recognize Fellowship and Belonging; move towards conditions of Fellowship. 3. Allow yourself to Shift Status by seeing the Beauty around you, in the world, in your life, in others. 4. Notice your environment with your senses and marvel; awaken, see God’s beauty everywhere.

Imagine, as the world become filled with digital photos- it is possible to develop and even more precious way to create imprints of life’s wonder in ways that can be savored with delight, even tempered by wisdom in years to come. It is in your heart, equipped by the eyes of your soul.

With the our spiritual eyes, we can see God’s beauty everywhere because His Spirit is in every living thing.

© 2021 Linda Willows

“Ten Things You Should Know About Love”, From Paul Miller, author of A Loving Life (Faith, Humility, Compassion)

1. Love begins with looking.

On nearly 40 different occasions in the Gospels, Jesus either looks at people, tells others to look, or teaches about looking. When Jesus encounters the widow of Nain (Luke 7), he looks at her first—then he feels compassion and acts on her behalf. We see the same pattern in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). This is why we instinctively look away from a homeless woman or a disabled man. We know that if we really see that person, we will be drawn into the mess of loving another human.

The first step of love is looking at someone—focusing on his or her face, what he or she is doing, feeling, thinking. The person becomes important—not just the role they fill or the problem you’d like to solve for them. And ultimately, God uses this discipline of the eyes to produce compassion in the heart.

2. Love has no exit strategy.

The Bible uses the Hebrew word hesed nearly 250 times to describe a steadfast love that combines commitment with sacrifice, most often God’s love for his people. Hesed is one-way love. Love without an exit strategy. When you love with hesed love, you bind yourself to the object of your love, no matter what their response is. So if the object of your love snaps at you, you still love. If you’ve had an argument with your spouse in which you were slighted or not heard, you refuse to retaliate through silence or withholding your affection. Your response to the other person is entirely independent of how they have treated you. 

Hesed is stubborn. Hesed says, No, you act on your commitments. The feelings will follow. Love like this is unbalanced, uneven. There is nothing fair about this kind of love.

3. Humility is the key to love.

Our modern culture strongly emphasizes that openness, or vulnerability, is the key to love—exposing yourself, your weakness, your sins. I don’t want to denigrate that. We see throughout the Gospels how Jesus prizes the openness of his disciples. But as much as he prizes it, what he points to (and what Paul points to, especially in Philippians 2), is that the key to love is humility. Emphasizing openness without humility leads to the biting and devouring that Paul talks about in Galatians 5, in which both sides are more concerned with the other person understanding them. Both sides are good at honesty—but there is no compassion in it. The key to love is humbling yourself, or putting yourself under another person’s power.

Loving people is hard sometimes. Here is the help we need to embrace relationship, endure rejection, cultivate community, and reach out to the most unlovable as we discover the power to live a loving life.

4. Suffering is the crucible for love.

Suffering is the crucible, the testing ground for love. We don’t learn how to love anywhere else. Don’t misunderstand, suffering doesn’t create love, but it is a hot house where love can emerge. Why is that? The great barrier to love is ego, the life of the self. In long-term suffering, if you don’t give in to self-pity, slowly, almost imperceptibly, self dies. This death of self offers ideal growing conditions for love. You can’t flee the crucible. Love will not grow if you check out and give into the seductive call of bitterness and cynicism–or seek comfort elsewhere. We have to hang in there with the story that God has permitted in our lives.

As we endure, as we keep showing up for life when it makes no sense, we learn to love, and God shows up. We can endure in love, if our God acts in time and space.

5. Love is unsure.

Love doesn’t always know what to do; it is unsure. Legalism (or paternalism) is clear and confident; that’s where we often start in relationships. “I know who you are and what you need.” Love is not sure what it sees, so it incarnates, or steps into someone else’s shoes. Love slows down to ask questions and, in so doing, it begins to see clearly.

Legalism has no questions, since everything is figured out ahead of time. So it is really blind.

6. Love is not efficient.

As I study Jesus’s life, I’m learning that love is not efficient. When my heart is motivated by the love of God, I’m not so driven to move on to the next project. Being a good steward of my time requires that I tune in to God’s heart and see the opportunities to love others that are all around me. The Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesians to “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15–16).

Only when we examine our walks in the light of biblical wisdom and in the Spirit’s presence are we able to make the most of our time. Otherwise, we will absorb the wisdom of the culture and be caught up in the kingdom of busyness.

You don’t find community; you create it through love.

Jesus wants us to be primarily lovers, not stewards, with our time and even our money. Focusing primarily on stewardship is like focusing on the fine print. It gets people thinking about preserving time and money. In parable after parable Jesus tells stories about people who give it all, who love with abandon. Stewardship is the fine print. Love is the large print. He wants us to love with abandon. Jesus presumes stewardship and teaches love.

7. Love creates community.

Our modern quest for community has a thousand faces to it: Where can I go to find a place where I am loved? How can the church be a real community and not just a social club? How do I achieve intimacy in marriage? (Intimacy is just a state of heightened community on a small scale.) Instinctively, we know what makes for a good community: a safe place where I am included, where I am known and loved, and I in turn know and love others. Creating an inclusive community is the holy grail of modern culture. But actually doing it is extremely difficult.

The biggest problem people have in searching for the perfect community is just that. You don’t find community; you create it through love.

8. Love thinks.

A neglected aspect of love on display in the book of Ruth is wisdom. Our culture puts “falling in love” front and central, but forgets about “thinking in love.” Not Naomi. She thinks about how to make love happen. That’s wisdom. Without wisdom, Naomi and Ruth’s situation would have remained frozen.

Because we moderns have surrendered love to the world of feelings, we often separate thinking and planning from love. Our culture is quick to call a plan (like Naomi’s plan to bring Boaz and Ruth together) “manipulation,” but that is only because Romanticism hijacked the word love. When buying a home or starting a business, we present a plan to the bank or investors. They want to make sure that we’ve thought about everything. It is not manipulation to want to buy a house or start a business. So why would marriage be any different? Thinking, planning, and problem-solving are completely intertwined with romance, love, and audacity. Life is like this.

When we separate love from thinking, love gets weird and floaty, and finally tragic as lives are destroyed all under the banner of “falling in love.” It’s good to think in love even as you are falling in love.

9. Faith is the power for love.

You endure the weight of love by being rooted in God. Your life-energy needs to come from God, not the person you are loving. The more difficult the situation, the more you are forced into utter dependence on God. Self-confidence and pride are stripped away, because you simply do not have the power of wisdom or ability in yourself to love. That is the beginning of faith: knowing you can’t love. Faith is the power for love. Paul the Apostle tells us that the I-beam, or hidden structure, of the Christian life is “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). In overwhelming situations where you are all out of human love, you discover that you are praying all the time because you can’t get from one moment to the next without God’s help.

You realize you can’t do life on your own, and you need God and his love to be the center. You lean into God because you can’t bear the weight of love. So faith is not a mountain to climb, but a valley to fall into.

10. Death is at the center of love.

Your journey of love will draw you into Jesus’s journey—which goes down into death before it rises in resurrection. I call this the J-Curve, and it is the shape of the normal Christian life. At the center of our everyday lives, we should expect to find a dying love. The command to love is complete. Jesus wants all of us. One word that Christ uses and is used throughout the New Testament that gets to the heart of death is obedience. By that, I mean a surrender of your will. What happens when we surrender our will in that situation, whatever it is where we need to die, that’s where we discover the power of Jesus to love.

When you realize that death is at the center of love, it is quietly liberating. Instead of fighting the death that comes with love, you embrace what your Father has given you. A tiny resurrection begins in your heart.

Paul E. Miller is the author of A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships.

Paul E. Miller

Paul E. Miller (MDiv, Biblical Seminary) is the executive director of seeJesus as well as the best-selling author of A Praying Life and several other books. With the help of his ministry staff, Miller creates and conducts interactive discipleship seminars throughout the world. He and his wife, Jill, live in the Philadelphia area and have six children as well as a growing number of grandchildren.

“Silence Roars”, a poem from L.Willows (Grace, the Power of Christ, See Jesus)

Silence Roars

Softness glistens, silence roars-
these the waves that press heart doors.
Stealth in walking, all towards
the ache that births life forward restored.

Candle held to Light beside,
Hands to hold; to walk astride.
Hearts beheld; Love does abide,
as we join, our worlds collide.

Softness glistens, silence roars-
these, the waves that press heart doors.
All the lives that move toward,
do plea for the love of God’s reward.

© 2018 Linda Willows

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2

Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Proverbs 31:8

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9