Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Seeing The Big Picture

April 6, 2023

I sit in contemplation this morning with the full moon beaming in the sky in front of me. This full moon signifies the special calendar times for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All together. I feel connected somehow. 

Andy Stanley once asked people to consider what breaks their heart. Many things break my heart—one of which is how much those three religions separate from each other and generate hatred while each professes love.

A couple of days ago we had heavy rains. The next morning earthworms flushed from their lairs in the ground were on the streets and sidewalks by the hundreds. Were the robins out there feasting? No. They were in their same hunting areas as usual hopping, looking, pecking.

They couldn’t see the big picture. They were fixated on the way they’ve always done it.

This full moon 1,990 years ago found Jesus’s friends and followers fixated on what they thought the Messiah would be and do. Jesus spent a huge amount of the day teaching them. They didn’t see the big picture.

Even on Sunday with the empty tomb and the resurrected appearance of Jesus they could not comprehend the big picture.

It must have been 40 days later when it all came together for them.

How about for us? How often do we miss the big picture? How long does it take for lessons to sink in for us? Have we even now grasped Jesus’s teachings of love and grace? Sit in stillness and let those thoughts sink in. And see the big picture.

The Answer With The Fewest Possible Complications

March 2, 2023

Occam’s Razor guides us to seek explanations with the fewest possible set of elements. Often we paraphrase it as the simplest explanation is usually the best.

I went from one rabbit hole to another. First a discussion on LinkedIn where I thought the explanations missed the point. Which led me to a search for the meaning of Occam’s Razor. If you follow all the arguments by philosophers on the Wikipedia page I linked, you will find yourself in another massive rabbit hole. Funny that these philosophers take a maxim about simplicity or fewest elements and write paragraph after paragraph.

We do that when explaining Christianity, too. Or, too often.

When Jesus was pressed for an explanation, he cited his scriptures to love the Lord and he added from a different location to love your neighbor. At the end of his ministry he left one command for his followers–to love one another.

When the rich young man came to Jesus asking about eternal life, he said he’d followed all the commandments since he had been a child. Jesus saw still an impediment to his loving others and told him to give away all his wealth to the poor. He saw that this got in the way of the young man’s opening of his heart. Rule following and attachment to wealth weren’t enough.

I follow this line of reasoning simply to go to the argument with the fewest elements–Jesus clearly taught us to guide our lives by love. Why do we complicate things like the philosophers and theologians? Maybe because love is too hard.

You Can’t Do It On Your Own

February 21, 2023

Jesus began his ministry with this message–change the direction of your life (repent). Why? Because the kingdom of heaven is here (actually here, there, everywhere).

We just have one response–part of it is awareness that we are not on the right path, the one pleasing to God. The other part is to choose to follow the right path.

Later, Jesus added a bit to this. Or he clarified. He said our response it to love God completely and to love our neighbor. When asked about who the neighbor was, he told a story where the neighbor was the most despised person his audience would think of.

Think of the person you would most despise–someone of a different race, someone of a different gender identity, someone from another country speaking a different language. That person you must love.

Later, again, Jesus told a story about a camel going through an eye of the needle. I’m not going to delve into different explanations of what that physical image was. What he was trying to explain is that it is almost impossible to be part of the kingdom of heaven through your own effort.

Loving doesn’t come easy.

But, God’s grace helps us. By living each moment with-God, we will be helped into that state of being in the kingdom where we can love those that we think are beyond love. We change our attitude (which means direction) and start walking along God’s path alongside God.

Part of that repentance thing is to realize we can make a choice but we can’t earn entry through our own efforts. But when we let God be God then we get that extra boost into the kingdom.

Then we truly find that capacity to love even our enemies and those we despise.


October 5, 2022

You are on your way to the local coffee house. A brother or sister of the human family is along the way. Obviously hurting. You stop to chat. “I believe Jesus can heal you,” you say. “If you believe the way I believe, you’ll be OK.”

What if Jesus were passing that person?

He would stop whatever he was doing wherever he was going. Stop. Look at the person. Deeply. In the eyes. Into the soul. “What do you want?” he’d ask. Then he’d do it.

Reflect upon the people that he had this interaction with. Remember, he was a Jewish rabbi (teacher). He was culturally bound to interact with Jewish people primarily. Seldom or never with outsiders.

Yet, Jesus listened, acted for, and valued

  • A Syro-Phoenician woman (2 strikes, woman and outsider)
  • A Roman army officer (not only an outsider, but also a hated oppressor)
  • Many people with skin diseases whom he actually touched
  • A Jewish woman with a disorder that caused her to be unclean who touched him

He cared, loved, wept, was moved by all these people who were hurting.

Whom did he not care for? Pompous religious people who thought they had all the answers.

You Don’t Own Me

September 6, 2022

Looking back on the 60s, I thought this was radical for the time–and for many even today in the 20s it is radical.

You don’t own me

I’m not just one of your many toys

You don’t own me

Don’t try to change me in any way

And don’t tell me what to do

And don’t tell me what to say

And please when I go out with you,

Don’t put me on display.

Written by John Medora, David White; Sung by Leslie Gore, 1963

Even in my nerdy teenage years, those words resonated.

And today even more so.

The non-technology part of my Twitter stream concerns women hurt by evangelical pastors and evangelical husbands. I’m sitting here not 15 miles from a guy who famously injured emotionally if not physically many women.

I know of many who hold to a theology ripped from part of the Apostle Paul’s writings to justify that behavior. They may make fun of how that disciple of the Enlightenment, Thomas Jefferson, famously cut phrases from the Bible that he couldn’t agree with (understand?), but this is the same in reverse. Let us just cut a few phrases out of Paul, paste them on our walls, and follow them.

Count the number of times Paul instructed mutual submission. Observe the way Jesus treated women. Follow Jesus’ command to love our neighbor (and no, not that way…).

The radio in my wife’s car is set to Sirius XM’s 60s Gold (for contrast, mine is on Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville). This Leslie Gore song pops up occasionally as a reminder of how to treat other people.

Try it.

Christ Abhors Vagueness

June 27, 2022

It is easy enough to write and talk about God while remaining comfortable within the contemporary intellectual climate. Even people who would call themselves unbelievers often use the word gesturally, as a ready-made synonym for mystery. But if nature abhors a vacuum, Christ abhors a vagueness. If God is love, Christ is love for this one person, this one place, this one time-bound and time-ravaged self.

Christian Wiman

I read this thought and loved a couple of things in it. It’s easy for anyone to use the term God. Christ abhors vagueness.

It reminds me of an old Peanuts cartoon where Linus proclaims, “I love mankind.” But then he adds, “I can’t stand people.”

We can see this in general society. We see it in evangelical churches. Probably other churches as well.

I hope we don’t see it within us.

Jesus taught us that love is specific. His stories told of specific people loving specific people. He healed specific individual people. He taught us to do the same.

When I leave this desk to go out into the community around me, can I show some act, however small, of love toward each person I meet?

That is the test.

The Test of Love

March 31, 2022

How are we assured that we have learned the material? We pass a test over the subject matter. How do we know that what we’ve built is what was ordered? We test it.

How do we know if we are following Jesus’ commands? Well, we test our actions against the golden measure—Jesus. He left us two tests for us to compare what we do with what he said.

When asked early in his ministry, he said to love our neighbor as ourselves. The test is loving ourselves. Unfortunately, many of us have trouble loving ourselves. Also that is somewhat limited. How much do we love ourselves?

At the end of his ministry, he left another, more stringent, test. He said to love one another as he has loved us. Sometimes our self love falters. But Jesus’ love. That is tough to duplicate. That makes it the gold standard. The ideal. We need to examine ourselves often. Where have we fallen short of loving just as Jesus loved? With that Facebook post? With that comment to a neighbor about another neighbor? With that failure to help someone in need?

If the test is whether we have loved just as Jesus has loved, then have we passed? Or have we failed? What do we need to learn today so that we pass when we check tonight?

Beware The Bits and Pieces

March 24, 2022

How does one live in the spirit holistically? How do we avoid taking one little part of the gospel and making it the whole thing?

The apostle Paul recognized the problem as he closed his letter to the Roman church. He was like the TV detective who is about to leave the room after questioning a suspect and turns back and says, “Oh, and one more thing.” This being the question that gets to the heart of the criminal mind.

Paul says, “One more word of counsel, friends. Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble… They are only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren’t above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.”

I wish that many who have read this letter and taken life sentences from it would have read the letter all the way to the end.

We can only understand parts by relating them to the whole. And also to the first principles of Jesus’ teaching—change your life and love one another.

Discovering Fire

January 27, 2022

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

One of my favorite philosophers, Teilhard (tay-yar) was a French Jesuit priest and a paleontologist. He was also an optimist. We need some optimism today. Everywhere around the globe negative news floods us. Negative, complaining people are everywhere.

A valid exercise for us at the beginning of the day and at the examen at the end of the day would be to inquire of ourselves, “What will I do (have I done) today that harnesses in at least some small way the energies of love for the honor of God?”

How You Treat The Poor

November 16, 2021

Prayer or Words? The guarantee of one’s prayer is not in saying a lot of words. The guarantee of one’s petition is very easy to know: How do I treat the poor? The degree to which you approach them, and the love with which you approach them, or the scorn with which you approach them – that is how you approach your God. What you do to them, you do to God. The way you look at them is the way you look at God.

Oscar Romero

Jesus told a couple of stories.

Once two men went to the central religious meeting point, the place where you could get closest to God, the Temple in Jerusalem. They went because they wanted to be close to God. But there were other, hidden reasons.

One man was a visible member of the very religious club. He actually went to be seen praying. And he prayed on a visible corner with many (probably long) words. The other man went to a place not on the Main Street. He assumed a posture of humility asking God for forgiveness and support. This is the man Jesus said went away justified.

Jesus was tested by another member of the Religion Club. The question centered on the “second commandment” to love our neighbor. He needed an explanation about what love your neighbor meant.

Jesus responded with a story. We call the story The Good Samaritan. All good stories have many points. The man who followed the commandment was an outcast from Jewish society. The man also did not just pause on his journey to say a prayer. No, he stopped. Bandaged the wounds of the injured traveler. He took him to an inn and paid for a room and medical care.

Loving your neighbor is not words—it’s deeds.

Oscar Romero, venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, became one of my spiritual heroes by the early 80s. His teaching to us is actually more than doing. He also addresses attitude. How do you approach others who are different from you? Then what do you do for them?

These are challenging questions. I am challenged. As, I hope, are you wherever you are.