Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

By This Everyone Will Know

September 25, 2017

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.

Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

We had a few days of vacation last week. Well, my wife had a week. I had four days. I took some time each day meditating. On that saying of Jesus recorded by John in his Gospel—twice. 

Repeating something means it’s important. Something like when your mom called you and used your entire given name. Not that I ever heard, “Gary Alan Mintchell! Get in here right this minute.” Well, maybe I did. And I knew the emphasis.

Look this up in John 13 and again in John 15.

Jesus gives us a commandment—Love one another.

He gives us an example—Just as I have loved you. (John places this teaching immediately following the experience of Jesus washing their feet just as a servant would do.)

He gives us an outcome—By this everyone will know…

It’s simple. 

It’s direct.

There is no room for theology, argument, dispute, equivocation.

It is also so hard to do.

But, wow, if you are ever blessed to be in such a group, it is life changing.

Real Christians…

September 18, 2017

In the southern Bible Belt of the US, the most outspoken theme of Christian messaging is conversion. That is, “accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.”

As we travel south on vacation, we are always greeted by a parade of two types of billboards. One tempts you into visiting an “adult” store or stripper club. I’ve never visited an “adult” store, but I imagine it is, well, for adults. The other series of billboards attempts to provoke a conversion–whether by guilt or fear (usually fear).

This billboard in Virginia was different.

“Real Christians…Love Their Enemies”

Well, that is what Jesus instructed, right?

He said that anyone can love their friends. Even the pagans. But as for his followers, they should take this love thing to a new level.

So, what about this love thing?

Certainly not emotional. How about in action? Like when he followed up that discussion with examples such as “when someone asks you to carry his baggage for a mile, do it for two” or “when someone slaps you on the left cheek, turn the other”.

I’ve been injured by a few people in my life. Some years ago one of these people was talking with me. I listened politely and civilly, then went on my way. A friend asked, “Don’t you hate that guy?”  I replied, well, I don’t like what he did to me, but that’s no excuse not to be civil if I can’t otherwise avoid the conversation.

That’s probably on the weak side of love. But it beats the alternative–for both of us.

We are often too complicated. We overthink things. Why not just do the simple thing and move on?

And life goes on.

Mother’s Day Is Coming

May 11, 2017

Interesting that Jon Swanson wrote about Mother’s Day this morning.

I got into a conversation with an Israeli journalist yesterday in Las Vegas at the computer conference I attended. The subject of Mother’s Day came up. He was staying in the States for a second conference, so he would be here for the holiday. But he was confused about it. His English was not fluent. We could not translate “Hallmark Holiday” into terms he could comprehend.

According to a Wikipedia article, a certain Anna Jarvis began campaigning in 1905 for a day to be set aside as a national holiday in commemoration of her mother–a Civil War peace activist. Some states began recognizing it by 1908. President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation in 1911 setting Mother’s Day as the second Sunday in May.

But it didn’t take long….

Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother’s Day, she became resentful of the commercialization of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of Mother’s Day, and that the emphasis of the holiday was on sentiment, not profit. As a result, she organized boycotts of Mother’s Day, and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved.

Gee, sounds like Christmas all over again. And Easter. And Father’s Day (well, maybe not so commercial, you can’t buy for men, you know). Did you know Sibling’s Day? Grandparent’s Day? Groundhog Day? Ooops, I think that one is different.

It is certainly hard to maintain your focus on meaning in the midst of hype.

My mother passed away quite a few years ago. I still remember the last time I saw her alive. But my wife reminds me that she is the mother of my children, so I should remember and honor her. And I will. For the 17th time in the past 22 years, I’ll be overseeing the referees at a soccer tournament. So, I’m out of her hair and she can do as she pleases.

But, maybe dinner later.

And to my many international readers–perhaps you don’t have a national holiday, but you could still take a day and do something special for your mother.

You Get It, You Give It Away

April 11, 2017

In the world of Website design and business, the best model is the Google model. You go to Google, and it sends you away. Yet, you return. Only to be sent away again. And they make a profit. A large profit.

Have you heard of the two “seas” in Israel? There is the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Guess which one gets water in and then sends it on its way.

Right. The Sea of Galilee is fed by mountain streams. Then it send water southward via the Jordan River to the Dead Sea. Where it stops. The Dead Sea is in one of the lowest places on Earth. Everything goes in. Nothing goes out.

The Sea of Galilee is a vibrant place for water sports and fishing. I’ve eaten fish along the shore. Great place.

The Dead Sea  supports no life. It is so mineral dense that you cannot sink if you go in. You float.

The Dead Sea is shrinking. All the water from the Jordan flows in, and nothing goes out, yet it is shrinking.

These stories are just like us. If everything is about me, if everything comes in to me, and nothing goes out, well I shrink. Emotionally, spiritually.

Thinking first of others before ourselves actually increases our own happiness. Teenagers who serve, whether they want to or not, live better lives, suffer less depression, and are more prone to be servers throughout their lives.

You’ll never deplete your supply of love by giving it away. Hoard it to yourself, and it will shrivel and die.

And The Foundation Of My Faith Is…

April 6, 2017

We received a solicitation for donation recently. In order to stir up our passion and cause us to open our bank account to them, the solicitor assured us that the foundation of their faith was [pick the religious/political topic du jour].

Well, we decided right there that this Christian organization was not going to be the beneficiary of any more of our money.

You see, the foundation of our faith is Jesus. We are followers of Jesus who lived, died, and lived again.

I know, that’s too simple for some people to understand. They want more rules. More ways to separate “us” from “them”.

In the eyes of that organization, I am proudly “them”.

They hit me just as I was studying Paul’s advice about how to live in community as a follower of Jesus.

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hinderance in the way of another.

I ask and pray daily, why do we continue to do these things? Why keep trying to divide? Why put stumbling blocks and obstacles in front of people? Do they think that more people will become followers because of such hard-hearted attitudes? Or, do they care more about making points than living with-God?

The early church grew because people looked around and said, “I want what they’ve got.” Today, people look at the Christians who get all the publicity and say, “I don’t want that.”

The question is not “do you agree with me” but rather “how can I serve you.”

What a Jesus-Follower Look Like

April 4, 2017

I’ve been writing at the beginning of the year for several years that we should determine who we wish to be, what sort of person we want to become, and then choose actions and attitudes that support that outcome. Many people think this is far better than some of the Resolutions or goals that people make.

The last 13 verses of chapter 12 of Paul’s letter to the Jesus-Followers in Rome paint a great picture of what we should become. It’s like a list–and humans love lists. But it’s not like a checklist where you can compare your “score” with someone else.

Rather this is a description of a person.

I’d like to be that person.

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I know people who resemble this person. I wish more of them were inside the church rather than outside. I pray that there would be more people like this.

Love Isn’t A Strategy

March 31, 2017

No promises
(No demands)
No demands
(Love is a battlefield)
Love is a battlefield

What is love?

An emotion? Yes, I guess.

A Battlefield? Pat Benatar sang it was.

Battlefields imply strategies. Winners and losers. And losers in the battle often also lose their lives.

Believe me
Believe me
I can’t tell you why
But I’m trapped by your love
And I’m chained to your side

That surely doesn’t sound like the freedom promised by the kind of love Jesus and Paul and John (the apostle) talked about.

Bob Goff, an interesting guy, a “recovering lawyer” and honorary Consul for the Republic of Uganda, writer of “Love Does.” Goff recently said, “Love People isn’t a strategy; when it has an agenda, it isn’t love anymore.”

I guess we all know manipulators. We don’t like them. Even when we fall under the power of one.

No, love just does things for others. Not with an agenda, say, to get love back, or to gain some sort of power over the other. No, just service from the heart. Sometimes love means doing nothing–just quietly being there for someone. It means watching out for others’ needs. Awareness of the other person without thought of ourselves.

Love is a way of living from a heart in tune with God. I think that’s what Jesus was talking about when he said, “You will know my followers by their love.”

Love Ought To Manifest Itself In Deeds

March 13, 2017

“Love ought to manifest itself more by deeds than by words.” St. Ignatius Loyola

Ever heard the phrase “paying lip service”?

Some people talk well. But their actions, well, their actions leave much to be desired.

There was a character in the old Leave It To Beaver TV show called Eddie Haskell. He was a teenaged friend of Beaver’s older brother, Wally. When he saw the parents, he was always obsequious and complimentary. But when it was just kids, then he was an altogether different person.

Who do you know that is like that?

There was a guy who worked for me once. I hired him. Worst mistake I ever made in business. It shook my confidence in my ability to pick good teams. Our team at Automation World restored my confidence. We put out the best magazine in the industry for eight years. But this guy, he was a piece of work. He’d as soon stab you in the back as look at you. But to your face–Mr. Nice Guy.

I could see the long term and knew the company was doomed. So I didn’t fight anything. It was time to get out before the company closed. He got my job–but only for a few months before it was all over and they shut down. Meanwhile, I was off to a better place that really built my career.

What you do speaks so loudly that one cannot hear what you say. What you do had best be love.

Feelings are not always trustworthy. Words do not always mean what they say. But actions. Let your love be manifest in how you act and what you do.

Let’s Pick The Scripture / Teaching We Want

February 20, 2017

It’s like a buffet. You get in the queue. All the dishes are laid out in front of you. Looking through the sneeze guard, you pick the things you want.

A guy I knew who was firmly and proudly in the Religious Right preferred to black out inconvenient teaching in the text. And often blacked out the context, too.

I’m teaching a class focusing on one of Paul’s letters. “I never liked Paul. He said such mean things about women.”

It is so inconvenient. Reading thoroughly for meaning within context, that is. It is so easy to pick out the things I agree with and ignore the rest. 

And when we do that, we hurt people. Deeply.

I even know of people who have deeply held “religious” and “Christian” views that aren’t even in the Bible. Or even in any reputable Christian writing from the early Church fathers to Dallas Willard and Henri Nouwen.

And they deeply hurt people. And drive them away from the church.

Can I ask an existential question? What happens to both people when a self-proclaimed Christian person separates another person from God? Are there any winners? Are there any losers? Who?

I have only one faith–that God raised Jesus from death to life.

And two commandments that I follow quite poorly (geek that I am), namely Love God thoroughly and Love other people as myself.

So there are two responses, peace and justice.

And where lie peace and justice in a world where we draw lines based on buffet-line-style religion? And a world where self-centeredness rules?

How about instead of a buffet line reading of the Scripture we try a wine tasting way? We try some and learn to savor the different flavors and aromas. Discerning the nuances of each grape and fermentation process. And then try some more.

Spiritual writing is to be savored with discernment, not picked over and swallowed without tasting.

Happy Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2017

Today we celebrate love. But what of love do we celebrate?

It’s almost like a “Hallmark Holiday.” Buy a card and a box of chocolates (that neither one of you really need) and escape for a year?

That almost sounds like an inoculation theory of love. You know, get an injection of a little the disease and then you are immune from catching the full shot of the disease.

Many people get confused about love. They get all sentimental, mushy feelings, pastel colors.

I don’t think that is what Jesus had in mind when he said, by this you will know my followers, by their love.

Somehow, I never saw Jesus as sentimental. Tender at times? Yes.

Bet it took tough love to bring together a Trump-loving conservative and a guy who “felt the Bern” into his small group. OK, I’m taking a few liberties on the tax collector and the Zealot theme–but their animosity probably ran deeper.

At the gym the other day I looked up at the TV (hard to ignore flashing pictures). They were showing a rapid succession of happy, attractive people who had used some miracle product. I wondered, do we try to measure our lives by these artificial happy moments? Do we think, gosh, I wish my significant other made me feel that way.

Love is being present in mind as well as body. Watching for ways to help. Being kind mostly, but tough enough to bring them back when they stray.