Posts Tagged ‘Love’

Ridiculous

Monday, July 28th, 2014

We returned from vacation, well worn, well rested, ready.  Many thoughts …

 

The possibility to live without a lap top for a week is sweet

We tether oursleves to technology.  Much of it blessed.  Much of it obsessive and broken.  A tech “sabbath” opens a different space, a sweet reminder that most of my life, at age 49, I lived without constantly being “in touch.”  And being “out of touch” does not make one “out of touch.” It makes one rested.

There is no strategy to miniature golf

I am competitive.  My ego can’t let that one go … yet.   So yes we played miniature golf and yes I was sure I could strategize my way to victory.  Well I won – good for you ego – on a lucky hole-in-one on the 17th hole.  I promise … this was last time I will try to beat my kids at anything (until I start losing).

No sand castle can hold back the ocean

We built a sand castle.  It included pointed break waters.  Looked like an old painting of the sun, like the one in “Tangled” – spikes radiating out and all.  The boys built the spikes.  The girls built the castle.  The ocean won.

 

And with it all, with a week full, we reminded each other that God’s love is RIDICULOUS!   Deep, sweet, patient, present … all the things I am not.  But the ever gentle reminder of what could be.

 

Learning to Fall In Love With Everything

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Learning how to see. Not an easy task. And what I get more and more clear on is that God is asking us to learn to fall in love with everything, from our loved ones, to our enemies, to the present moment.

Many of you are following, no doubt, the events in the Gaza strip. The current strife was set off by the kidnapping and eventual murder of three Israeli teens. An article written while the boys were still missing recounted the stories of two moms, one Israeli and one Palestinian, each with a missing bed in their house where their teen son had been.

The empty bed and the suffering is not what connected them. Instead their religious beliefs and historical animosities filled that space with disconnection. The only connection remaining … a desire for vengeance in every widening spasms of violence. Their losses flung them apart.

So the work of love is not easy. Vengeance is many times simpler.

And that is where our role lies – for what churches could be/ should be. Not as collections of hurt but as voices for a re-imagined future where we willingly and sacrificially do the hard work of falling in love with everything.

Hidden at the bottom of a story about the violence in Gaza was a simple note. 350 Israelis going to the home of a slain Palestinian teen to stand in solidarity with his grieving family. A different connection.

 

Seventeen Definitions

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

We can list 17 definitions of love and yet fail to be loving.  Simple.  Profound.  There is the definition and there is the experience.  Which drives?  In terms of love, allowing the experience to drive the definition will serve far better than believing somehow that an intellectual mastery of the words somehow creates the experience.  As Emanuel Swedenborg noted we can’t be connected to God “…except by means of love and charity. Love is spiritual conjunction itself.”  (Heavenly Secrets 2349)

Christmas After Christmas

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

“Advent” settles around the rhythmic waiting for Christmas, the time of patience and prophecy anticipating Christ’s birth.  ”Advent-ure” … the other end of it all. And yet ‘the other end  of it all’ at times feels so depressed, so barren.  The difference between 8:00 AM Christmas morning and 2:00 PM Christmas afternoon is palpable, the inevitable let down.

Much of that letdown for me is that I mistakenly employ Christmas to welcome, consistently, the wrong kingdom.  The Christmas I welcome centers around gifts, and food, and the annual “this is the year I finally loose weight” promises that melt come February.   So Christmas then “ends.”  And God, in His gentlemanly fashion, consistently offers a different coming of the Kingdom, one more of a beginning.  This is how Emanuel Swedenborg captured that coming.

The Lord’s kingdom consists in mutual love, in which alone is peace. (Heavenly Secrets, 1038)

Contemplate those words for a minute.  The Kingdom … mutual love … in which ALONE is peace.  And I can humbly receive the gift of mutual love and peace to the degree I humbly offer the gift of mutual love and peace.    That is where the advent-ure might just begin.

What Kind of Faith Should We Avoid?

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

The big question in heaven, according to New Church theology, is not what religion you were but what kind of life did you lead.  That concept challenges many of our constructs around the role of religion.  Religion is no longer a ticket but far more a tool.

That in turn means that there are elements of faith that are positive and those that are negative.  What kind of faith should we avoid?  Faith that is “devoid of caring.”  (Divine Providence, 101)

Faith devoid of caring is one of the most destructive forces in the world.  Recent events in Nairobi speak to such dangers.   A Somali terrorist group comprised of Muslim extremists stormed the Westown Mall killing dozens of innocent bystanders, a number today that stands north of 60.  In open societies, one cannot help but feel a level of powerlessness in the face of such anger and hatred that motivates a select few to terrorize many.

Easy as always to point to the problem “over there” but we need to exercise vigilance in the places in which we are “devoid of caring” and those places where we use faith to excuse that very inactivity.    There will never be enough walls, or police, or scanners to protect us from such wanton acts of violence fed by fanaticism.  What our call remains is the exercise of agape love, self-sacrificing love into the world, the fearsome love that Dostoevsky spoke of.  I am unsure if any other solution remains.  It is love that grieves for the victims and families now left with unimaginable loss.  It is a love that grieves at the complex conditions that warp minds into fanatical, homicidal rampages.  It is love that motivates us to action in ways big and small as we kick back the darkness.  And it is love that despite the inexcusable violence in the world, continues to  be just that … love.

Power and Love

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

It is so easy to confuse power with love.  Fr. Richard Rohr points to the core challenge and the new paradigm God calls us to …

Any exercise of power apart from love leads to brutality and evil; but any claim to love that does not lead to using that as power for others is mere sentimentality and emotion. I must admit, it is rare to find people who hold both together in perfect balance—who have found their power and use it for others, or people who have found love and use it for good purposes. I think the Reign of God includes both love and power in a lovely dance. I think that is what Jesus means when he tells us to be “cunning as serpents but gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16). It is a beautiful combination of both authority and vulnerability.

A loving person then is not as focused on power as they are on empowerment.  There lies a key.  And it is an emancipatory key that takes one out of the crass business of being a gate-keeper.  It moves towards opening doors, not closing them.  Power and love grow then as we give them away.

Moving In and Moving Towards

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Fascinating.  Just fascinating studying how Christianity moved from a group that numbers in the dozens to a movement that grew to the millions.  As one author noted, it did not start as a religion per se but as a gathering of hearts on fire.  And that start seems so critical to the endeavor we call Christianity.

At times, many centuries removed from the time of Christ, we start things with “hearts on fire” but maybe not often enough.  I look at this congregation.  I came late to the game, enjoyed the task, did the role but it was largely from interest, not from the blessed brokenness of a a heart on fire.  And now, more and more, a heart on fire.  That fire grows from simple witnessing …. a family lost in grief welcomed, new love newly celebrated in marriage, deeper purpose searched for and maybe found,  God’s ever present call to take one more step today.  Both a moving in and a moving towards… that seems to be how this all grows.

And love then gives rise to sight.  As Emanuel Swedenborg captured it:

“To the extent that truth becomes the leader good becomes obscured; but to the extent that good becomes the leader truth is visible in its own light.” (Heavenly Secrets 2407).

The heart bent to goodwill becomes the light by which we see.

 

Others are worthy of a love that does not go away … ever.

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

One author I recently heard talked of his upcoming book, “The Most Over-rated Generation.”  In that book, he talks of his generation and younger, raised on the perpetual sunshine of constant commentary around “how great you are.” The fruit of such loose and shallow sunshine … a generation of folks more interested in talking about change than actual change.  It is again the old bugaboo – Christianity far more interested in self esteem than self surrender, more focused on image than action.

What needs reclaimed is a tenacity that is able to love for the long term.  Such a love continues when those very acts of love have become boring and tedious, a love that in its perseverance overcomes fear.  As one non-profit leader noted, this becomes “long obedience in one direction” characterized by the uncommon willingness to stick with it, tenaciously.  Willing to say, “We do not go away … ever.”

That is hard to “sell” as a Church.  Who wants to be told THAT?  Well my guess is you do!

Now that is Deep!

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

One of the joys of ministry is that you get to experience religious texts first hand without the normal intermediaries – aka pastors preaching.  I remember times in Seminary feeling totally – and happily I might add – befuddled on reading some piece of scripture or theology that I had never heard before.  Here is one that Christ spoke…”By your patience you will possess your souls.”  Hmm.  Now that is a change of perspective.  Scripture and theology have continued to be that blessed unfolding for years now.

This morning I read about a description of heaven by our main theologian in the New Church, Emanuel Swedenborg, who penned his inspired thoughts in the 1700′s.  In it he wrote of heaven as comprised of 3 different levels so to speak.  These levels arrange themselves in a hierarchy that has nothing to do with dominance.  Each level as it were progresses through a learning process.  That process centers on simple truism – an overarching principle – that becomes an organizing paradigm for life.

And what is that overarching principle?  It is mutual love.  ”Knowledge of and desire for goodness and truth introduce them into that emotion, and so far they want what is good, and share in universal love, they … inherit the kingdom.” (AC 1802)  Within that context of universal love, the concept of dominance, one being “better” than another, holds no sway.

Evil vs. Normal

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Reading yesterday an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, I came across this beautiful line. “… the disquieting reality is that the conflict was between not good and evil, but good and normal. The brute racism that today seems like mass social insanity was a “way of life” practiced by ordinary “good” people.”   The concept that the battle lies not in the good vs. the evil but in the good vs. the normal deserves attention!

Normalcy held for centuries slavery was justified, even justified by the bible. Much of Christian apologetics for slavery arose from such renowned seminaries as those located at Harvard and Princeton.  And yet we look back on that time and the Civil Rights battle that ensued in the 1960′s …. just a few generations removed …. and see racism largely as a period of “mass social insanity.”

And what does normalcy hold as justified today that we will look back on …. a few generations removed ….and see in that same light?

I have hints about what those issues might be but not sure, predictive knowledge.   And this is what I think I know.  The role of a church is to continue to speak to the world and those marginalized in it.  The role of a church, prophetically, is to offer, as is often said, painful rebuke and unwavering hope, a critique that MUST start with healthy self criticism.  The role of a church is to consistently point towards love and the knowledge that grows from that place.  As Emanuel Swedenborg noted over 200 years ago, “Anyone who lives a life of love for others knows EVERYTHING there is to know about faith.”  (Heavenly Secrets 1798)  Amen to that brother!