Archive for the ‘love’ Category

Living is about routine. Since many of us have been home more than usual, we may think of this as boring, but we don’t have to slant it that way.

We have always done the same things again and again. We do them without thinking, for example brushing our teeth. We utilize muscle memory and neural grooves. The capacity to do this was built into our brains by the creator. It’s good.

Yesterday I saw a baby mockingbird in the backyard. As it walked through the grass it lifted its wings. Flight training? A wing strengthening routine? I know that kind of prep goes on with humans.

My daughter sends me videos of her 2 1/2 month old baby. Same thing. Lots of arm waving and leg kicking. Leg prep for walking. Arm strengthening for picking up and grasping things. She does this everyday. By this routine she is developing, engaging an interior, autonomic, built in gift. It’s her daily regimen. I love to watch her move. Nothing routine or boring about her.

We were made to do some things. How wonderful! God designed us just that way!

We can do so many things instinctively, intrinsically — walk, gesture, sleep — and we can initiate our brains for things we choose to do, new things, needed things.

What do you want to do next? What would be productive, maybe artistic? Perhaps within you lie exactly the right mental and physical gifts to make that a new routine.

Yesterday I made an espresso drink. I value coffee and precision. To me coffee is an art form. I weighed the fresh, locally roasted beans —18 grams — ground them on setting 9 on my burr grinder — achieving the required texture, close to the consistency of flour. I then pulled a two ounce shot — which takes 23 seconds — and frothed some whole milk, the wand at just the right angle and depth to produce microfoam. Exactitude tastes exquisite. It is a routine that I never find to be routine.

I’ve been in pain, chronic pain. At times it shuts me down. Sometimes I can’t manage it.

What helps?

Yesterday I texted encouragements. People love. I cleaned the house. Home love. I washed the cat. Creature love. I watered our garden. Earth love. I fed myself. Self care. My friends and family contacted me. The love of others. Love is a routine, yet beautiful.

Our used SUV — but new to us — came with an interior lighting issue. When you opened the doors, the interior lights didn’t come on. I figured it was just a setting. It was. On the interior roof consul by the sun roof controls there’s a button with the meme of a light on it. It also says “Door.” It simply needed to be pressed. Now the lights work.

What buttons must we press to do what we need to do next? Some buttons have already been pressed. They initiate our beautiful, well-lighted routines. What other buttons need to be pressed?

Life is routine, and the best routines involve pressing the buttons bearing the memes of love.

Friends and family called recently to check in and see how we are. My daughter called today with some ideas that she found to help us with a particular medical problem.

It’s good.

A local UPS driver agreed to do a special pick up for us. We said we would set out a returned product on Friday. And he said, “I’ll remember that and come by.” And he did. He remembered.

It’s good.

During these times of world wide crisis it’s important to see the good in people and in our world.

Where do we see that?

We ordered groceries through Instacart recently. We ordered products from Amazon. We we are doing our part to isolate, to protect ourselves and also to protect others. Look how many people have isolated to protect others. Certainly some haven’t, but look at how many have.

It’s good.

We went out recently. We wore facemasks. Almost everyone else had a mask on too. Look at how many people have worn face masks. Each mask is an act of love for the rest of humanity. Yes, some won’t, but look at how many have.

Every day we either text or spend time on the phone with our daughters. People have connected during these isolating days. They have shopped for each other, reached out with calls and texts to encourage each other, celebrating graduations and birthdays and babies in careful but appropriate ways.

It’s good.

We have kept up with the news. We are dismayed that racism still exists in our country. We want equality for everyone. Protests and marches for social justice and fairness show love and care for people.

It’s good.

We’ve noticed how well the governors have responded to the pandemic in many states. They have lead the way towards protecting people and showed great concern for the economy too.

Yes, some of our leaders have ignored good science. And they have ignored medical experts. Yes, some of our leaders are divisive and have said and done divisive things. But others have stood up for justice and goodness and equality. Others are working to make changes long needed.

It’s good.

The world is a mess. The world is also full of love, kindness and goodness, even from strangers. It’s OK to see what’s wrong, but don’t forget to see what’s right too.

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.”

Isaiah 11:6

I want that world! We need that world.

I want the world that ends harm. I want an end to suffering. I want to end racism. I want to end the pandemic of 2019- 2020. I want to end all disease. I want to end all poverty. I want enough food, enough good shelter, enough clean water for every creature. I ache for an over-spilling love for every creature. My desiderata, the desire of so many others too, particularly the oppressed, is the universe of Isaiah the prophet.

Is this peaceable kingdom possible? If so, what volition can make this harm-free world possible?

Our volition must play a role. We must act to bring changes. Justice, fairness, care, sharing provision, choosing good leaders, choosing love can be our choice to make a better world, but we need God to be our agent. He has the power to change hearts, confront evil powers, inspire and lead this change. He is the prime player in all reform, in all justice, in all redemption. Earlier in the Isaiah passage “a shoot … from the stump of Jesse,” a clear reference to Jesus, brings the peaceable kingdom about.

Isaiah writes, “He [the shoot] will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.”

I love that world! I love the poor and needy taken care of. I love wickedness trounced. I love righteousness won. I love pain defeated. I choose to believe that world is yet possible. Why? Because it is God’s vision, his intention, his choice. He wants to end oppression, injustice, violence and suffering and he will defy resistance and do just that.

And he can — for he exists as and in his own freedom — and he will do what he says he will do. He is the source of all agency and the creator of all redemption. He is the one who will undo the underpinnings of current harms and make a safe world for his own.

By agentic power — the power that flung the universe into place — God will water his garden and nothing will stop him.

Yesterday was a good day! I gardened, mowed the grass, and changed the oil in the lawnmower, something I haven’t done in ages. I painted a door, and I made dinner. In between I read and wrote a little. I drove our census over to the post office and then took a nice drive through the neighborhood. In the evening I watched TV with my wife. I am at my best, busy!

Today is different. It’s a beautiful day here in sunny California and the sun is shining, but I woke up in pain and haven’t been able to get away from it. It’s a beautiful day but I’m having trouble enjoying it. I’m taking medication and lying down. Life is up, and then life is down.

Yesterday on the phone with a friend we talked about wanting to live in the bubble. I want to live in the middle-class bubble, life safe, life resourced, life on vacation, life fun, life the way I like it, life that I control.

And I have. Many Americans have. We have gotten a good deal of that. But not every day, and not every season. Right now, during the coronavirus isolation, struggling with pain, life is up-and-down for us.

Sometimes the bubble pops. Dysbiosis. What do we do with that? We live it. We live it all. We live what we can control, and we live we can’t control. Welcome to reality! This is pretty much everybody’s reality. We don’t get everything we want. Some people hardly get anything they want.

We are headed into a season where many people are and will experience losses, the loss of loved ones, the loss of health, the loss of finances, the loss of careers, the loss of homes.

I don’t like this. No one does. So what still stands when all around things are lost? What still stands in all the world is full of fear? Despite our difficulties, two things haven’t changed. Two salient callings come to mind today: Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. Neither a virus, nor the status of my body changes those two great ethical commandments for me. Discomfort doesn’t change those wisest of priorities.

Question: do we still love when we don’t get what we want? Do we love God? Do we love our neighbor? Do we maintain entente? These questions challenge me. Sometimes I fail in love — for God and my neighbor.

But yesterday my wife shipped my daughter and her husband two masks. My daughter is pregnant. We want her safe. Love.

And yesterday and today I worked on forming an online reading group to better connect with friends as we practice social distancing. Love.

Today so far I am holding my tongue and guarding my heart. It’s hard to hurt. I want to be healed, but I’m working on not being offended when I’m not. I’m not okay with pain, but I am working on not blaming anyone for it. This is life, part of life, and even compromised I am not off the hook to love. That’s hard. That’s love. Love doesn’t insist upon its own way. Love exists outside the bubble of what I want.

Last night at dinner we prayed for everyone who is suffering loss right now. We thanked God for the good things in our lives. Love.

Whether we’re on the mountaintop or in the ditch, in the bubble or watching it pop, the highest calling on our lives hasn’t changed.

Yet love.

Last week I finally came around. I said I’d take care of emptying the cat box each day. My wife had been doing it. Why? Why should I begin to do it? Perhaps it is the lowliest task in our house. Perhaps I have to too often assumed the highest status.

One of my current goals is to make sure my wife feels as important as possible, as important as she is.

What seems to be important to much of the world is the issue of who is important. Who gets what they want? Who does the world revolves around? Who does the nation revolve around? Who does the business revolve around? Who does the family revolve around? Who do I revolve around? Myself? You?

For too long I have too often revolved around myself. I’m working on changing that. I’m working on putting other people first. Why? This is one of the keys to a better world. This is one of the things that wisdom teaches us to do — to count others better than ourselves.

Roles, titles, status, patriarchy, primogenitor, pecking order, gender, race, socioeconomic class, geography – all seem to determine importance in our world.

The problem is epidemic. A person in New York may look down on a person from Mississippi. A person in Shanghai may tend to look down on a person from Canton. Shiite may despise Sunni. Perhaps the Catholic looks down on the Protestant. Perhaps the cab driver despises the businessman, or the businessman the cab driver. Male lords it over female. Bosses dominate workers. Liberals despise conservatives and vice versa.

It’s interesting, but it seems that everybody has some kind a need to look down on somebody, and perhaps up to somebody else. No matter how much we tout the need for social equality, we seem set on the purveyance of inequality, preference, bias and privilege.

The world is crying out for justice. The world is crying out for attention to the underprivileged, the needy, the hungry, the broken, the poor. Many of us simply ignored such looked-down-ons or blame such ones for their status, for their own situation. We look out for ourselves, not others.

Considered poverty for example. The world revolves around the rich. It does not revolve around the poor. The rich are important. The poor are not. Is this right? Is this fair? If it is not right, then who is responsible to change it? Who has the power to change it?

Businessman Pete Kadens recently announced that he will pay college tuition, room and board, books and fees for the seniors at Scott High School in Toledo, Ohio. He will be spending about $3 million to send the students to college. He will also pay for one of their parents to attend college.

He said it wasn’t a gift. He said it was his responsibility. His parents set him up to go to college; he feels it is only right for him to set others up to gain the same opportunity. This brings up the issue. What is our responsibility to create equality, to put others first, to make other people besides our self important?

The question rings through the ages, “Am I my brothers keeper? The answer is, “Yes.”

I heard the other day that perhaps as many is 1/5 of our preschoolers in the United States live below the level of poverty. What a shame. How hard that is on them and their single moms. Are those preschoolers responsible for that? Can they change their status? Perhaps when they get older they can, but certainly not as preschoolers. One way we could change that is to put politicians in power who care about this issue. How do we help moms in such situations train, get good jobs, kick bad habits, stop making poor decisions, take responsibility for their households?

A few years ago my wife and I decided to pay the tuition of some students in Tijuana to go to school. Without such help they could not get an eduction. It is a small thing, but it matters. It is one small way we can give importance to someone who has very little. We were inspired to do so my friend that teaches at the school.

In 2019, some 70 percent of the world’s poor lived in Africa, up from 50 percent five years ago. Do people born in Africa choose to be born in Africa? Do children born in Mexico in the shanty towns of Tijuana choose to be born there, born in tin and tire sheds to parents with no money?

Poverty is often caused by forces beyond the poor’s control, a lack of education, systemic racism, being born into a culture of poverty and illiteracy. Great forces like overpopulation, epidemic diseases such as malaria and environmental problems such as lack of rainfall cause poverty.

I think it’s reasonable and responsible for each of us to ask what we can do. What is our responsibility? Why do we have what we have and what is our responsibility in using it?

There’s a tendency to think that such overwhelming problems cannot be addressed at our level. That’s not true. While it may take the force of institutions such as education and business and government to make significant changes, we can vote those into power who have a heart for the marginalized, lowly and oppressed. But do we do that? Do we vote for those with big hearts? Do we vote for those who are full of love? Are we voting for those who will empower the least among us. Or are we only voting for those who will retain our power, protect our power, increase our power?

I’m not talking about voting for those who simply give handouts. I’m talking about voting for those who have solutions to empower people to be responsible for themselves.

But we can do things on our own too. Changes can take place in our own homes within the ranking of the family members. Who gets to decide? Who gets to talk? It’s possible to be a snoutband and not even realize it, talking over other people, interrupting other people, always having the say, the final word.

Needed changes can take place at work, with how people are treated there. Do we come alongside those who struggle or do we simply criticized him or fire them?

Such changes to bring about opportunity equality can take place when we eat out, how we tip or treat those who wait on us. Needed changes can take place in what we do with our money and how much of it we are giving to help others.

I think of Jesus. He said, “Blessed are the merciful!” Approved are those who care for the sick, feed the poor and visit those in prison. I think of Amos. “Let Justice rolled down like a mighty stream.” I think of Martin Luther King junior, of Gandhi, Mother Theresa. All were highly esteemed for esteeming those who were not highly esteemed.

Who will be next to pace the way in our community, in our nation, in our world to set things right, to make the unimportant important?

It could be you and me.

Jesus — he was pretty curious about things, interested in things other people weren’t.

He was fascinated by vacant lots, the things growing in them. He wrote the book on neglected areas; he catalogued the things living there. He hung out in disturbed areas; he knew the names of weeds.

Along this line I have a confession. One the books that has had a big influence on my life is Natural History of Vacant Lots by Wessel and Wong. Really!

I’ll give you a taste of it.

In the opening, the authors state that there are no so-called weeds but instead plants that voluntarily colonize disturbed and wasted areas. These plants are best referred to as ruderal plants or pioneer plants. No negative connotation. The authors consider them worthy of attention, study, notation. They have value as habitat, they are niche communities for a great variety of life.

The authors go on to talk about the vast, fascinating community of organisms that make up vacant lots — mustards, wild radishes, thistles, dandelions, pig weed, clover, mallows and flea bane. And then there’s the creatures, monarch butterflies, mourning cloaks, swallowtails, cabbage white butterflies, bee flies, crickets, western fence lizards, robbins and mockingbirds and hummingbirds.

Why know such things? Because life, life on the edges of the main stream, life in the ditches, life in the neglected areas, weedy life, ruderal life is life and it has value on the planet as part of the ecosystem we all inhabit.

Back to Jesus, back to people. Seeing, observing, identifying, naming and valuing the people on the edges, the people overlooked, the people that were not considered to have value, Jesus pushed that.

Check this out.

Jesus said to his [one of his hosts], “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:12-14

Many of us will not hold such a banquet, although we might work in a food distribution, but the point here is that in every day life as we passed through life’s vacant lots — and everybody eventually resides in a physical or mental or social wasteland — we are to take note of, see, name and value the creatures living there.

The world is fascinating. Jesus thought so. The world is full of different types of landscapes, inhabitants. All around us are those wanting and waiting for us to know their names, call out their value, even the members of our own homes.

Look around. Note the edges, verges, borders, waste places in your family, your social circle. Note the weedy places in yourself.

What’s there?

Who is there?

Be fascinated. Be gentle with your own inner vacant lots and others. See what grows there, even your less attractive plants and creatures, your thistles, your bugs. They are part of you. Invite them to the banquet.

And as you pass along the road, through your family and friend circle, look to the edges. Note the cripple at the edge, your daughter, an uncle, someone who has moved away, a friend.

Don’t avert your eyes. It’s life, part of life, the vacant lots, the people living there, to be known, to be invited in.

Interesting that we call those places vacant.

They aren’t.

The lots are all full, for those paying attention, those with the loving curiosity of Jesus.

You can never really have enough of what you don’t really want.

Yesterday we lollygagged and casu-shuffled through Louis IV’s chateau at Versailles. It was exhausting, just trying to see part of it, just trying to comprehend that kind of over-the-top-of-the-top, squared-off pile of stone, wood and velvet luxurification. 

Did Louis really want all that — that many rooms, that many stairs, that many painted ceilings, that many mirrors, that long of a garden, that many people to back up his that-many indulgences — 10,000? 
He may have. Apparently he convinced himself and many others to pretend that he was sunshine. 
But maybe, just maybe — not sure — Louis just wanted to be loved, wanted the sanguine apricity of the court, and it was his mother who duped him in to thinking that he wanted to be obeyed, over-indulged and glorified.

Wow, glorified? How would you live with yourself, fragile and human — yet Mars, and Apollo? 
Those who cultivate worship, or even settle for mere obsequiousness may really — beyond their overly-conditioned and underly-personalized level of ankle-deep consciousness — actually be craving for even just a splash of radiant sincerity. 


But the opposite may be true too. 

You may never really be able to have enough of what you really want either, even if it is simple, basic, early-morning, in-your-heart kind of stuff. It’s raining in Paris. I’m sitting in a coffee shop, no sunshine, lots of love, from my wife, my friends, my people back home. I really wanted a good coffee this morning. I got it, as ordered, an extra shot in my latte. It’s epidemic with me, with all of us. We want more caffeine — and more love. We all do, we always do. 

But at some point the caffeine stops adding energy, the checked-off world destinations stop adding cultural texture, and the love stops adding value — because we already have value.  More? Want it or not — perhaps it just adds to our anxiety. 


“What’s left?” I asked my friend Tim McConnell as we sat eating lunch at Roberto’s in Del Mar today. “What else do you want out of life?”

He paused, then said, “To be meaningfully connected to people.”

I like it.

I agree with Tim, and would like connection even more if I wasn’t also hard wired to adore places, plants and planetaries — plus various, sundry and other unspoken pleaseries and delightifications.

My friend Tim has it right, however, and nicely dialed in: To be with people — that’s the good stuff.

Last Saturday night I attended the wedding of two friends  — Violet Mendez and Mathew Opdycke — in the REFINERY Church courtyard.

After the ceremony — which was full of laughter and love —  the inner patio of the church was transformed as it filled with people laughing, drinking, eating, dancing and celebrating this new couple’s relationship.

In the warm, spring evening air we were suddenly living large, whooping it up with two beautifully connected young people who had just made one of the ultimate connectivity choices —  to get married, to fuse lives, to become union, unit and united force.

Several years ago, I hired the building of the stage that Matthew and Violet married on last Saturday night. I remember designing the stage, pouring over the plans, negotiating with the contractor, making it happen.  I knew it would become something good, but little did I know how good.

I didn’t anticipate something this gently gorgeous — the two lovers, my good friends, these two adorable aspirants — these two moving together, heads close, giggling, twirling  bonding there. As they danced — and we all watched in hushed reverence — the stage became sacred space for love.

Then later that same evening, on the same pavered stage we all danced, wedding party and guests, mutual celebrants, romping in the church courtyard, shaking sacred booty in the holy place, moving as one to the music — alive, happy, connected.

I love places — planned, planted, planet-making places — but like Tim, I love people more. To hold a lover’s hand and walk together through a park, to sit in the evening on a couch and read to a child, to kiss your grandma’s cheek, to sing with your friends, to lift a glass with mutual revelers, to dance with anyone — this is the good within the good of the unremittingly good.

Yesterday we celebrated my daughter Roz’s thirty-second birthday. I thought it might be painful. It wasn’t. I thought it might remind me of her losses — the lifelong loss of normalcy, of ability and of opportunity that have fallen to her and our family because of her developmental disabilities. It didn’t.

The party conjured no sad feelings; it brought up no regrets. Instead it was a delightful affair with a delightful group of her long-time friends, all who have disabilities, all who are amazing, fun, loving people.

Eleven of Roz’s friends came, and when each new one entered the house they were greeted by the rest with warmth, enthusiasm and great affection. It was markedly different  than parties where everyone is “normal.” This party was more demonstrative; they were more excited to see each other and it was more fun. They pointed more, laughed more and definitely hugged each other more than you see at most such events.

They ate pizza, gobbled brownies, scooped ice cream and opened presents together — a circle of friends, around the table, then on the floor,  practically levitated by kindness up into the living room air. One of the girls read Roz’s cards to her. It was a touching moment, one friend caring for another without even a pause for judgment or for surprise or analysis. Not being able to read is no big deal to this group, most of them can’t, it doesn’t matter, they don’t judge.

What is a good life? Is it being smart? Does one have to be beautiful? Is wealth required? Must one rise above the others, control the room, star on the stage?


One must simply love and be loved.

“Love hurts.”

Pop music said so. Sometimes we say so.

The Bible never said that.

The Bible, while acknowledging the sacrifice that is often involved in love — for instance the death of Christ — sees more than pain in love.

The Bible mostly focuses on the good, not the hurt, that comes from love.

Colossians 3:14. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

The Bible tells us love helps, heals and harmonizes. We need that today and everyday.

We may be the Tylenol generation, looking for pain relief, but the Bible prescribes it’s own a effective pain killer medicine and it isn’t a drug. It’s love.

A construction contractor came by church on Thursday to look at putting new flooring in room 5. This is where we hold our art class, Bible studies, support groups, REFINERY 101.

Cool because a church member donated $2,000 to do this. Who does that? Just up and says, “I’ll pay for a new floor. Christian people do.

Thats love!

Giving binds us together in a safe, beautiful place, in perfect harmony.

Love hugs us together. At a time when their are some pretty significant divisions in our country, we need that.

The Bible doesn’t say, “put on love so you can be bond to each other in painful relationships.”

The Bible says, “put on love that you may make beautiful music together.

Think of all the people who have loved you and the difference it has made in your life. Parents, kids, aunts and uncles, grandma’s, grandpa’s, friends, brothers, sisters, teachers, doctors, nurses

Their love is easy, good, natural.

Thinking that love will be hard, can cause us to hold back, to stay away from others, to isolate, to limit our relationships to just a few people.

For example, if I see love as hurtful, I might avoid avoid anyone I dislike or disagree with, and while it is true that relating to such people can become uncomfortable, uncomfortable is a small price to pay for connected.

Isolating brings a temporary feeling of safety, but that is not worth the loss in being alone.

God doesn’t want us to live alone, holding back, isolating. What hurts us most is not loving others.

This is important.

Think about it. The two greatest commandments of the Bible both involve love — love God, love your neighbor.

Being close to each other is at the core of God’s purpose for us.

1 John 4:7-8 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

The most classic, basic truth in the world is that God is love.

Last week my wife Linda ran into a guy named Chuck Casto at her work at Point Loma University.

Chuck’s daughter, Sonja, died of cancer a few years back, she was 43, had kids.

So when Linda saw Chuck last week, she asked him, “How are you doing Chuck? It’s been a couple of years.” She went there.

And Chuck said, “Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my daughter. The only thing that helps me is to know she is with God, and that God loves her more than I do.”

“It helps me to know that,” he said. “God love her more than me. That is what helps.”

When love hurts, love helps.

God is love and his love is the power that overcomes different views, disagreements, hurts, even death.

What is Christianity about?

Some people make their Christianity all about rules, or politics, or about Bible reading, or about spiritual gifts, or about signs and wonders, or about doctrine or discipline.

All good, but the Bible makes Christianity all about love.

When all else fails, at times when we fell separated from others, love helps. Love heals. Love keeps us warm, close, safe, satisfied, hopeful.

Last week, I asked my wife, “When did you feel most loved by me?”

She said, “When you came to the hospital and sat with me, and when I needed water and you went out and bought me some, and you had nothing else that was more important than being with me.”

It reminds us. Love is simple. As simple as water. Love is basic, memorable, accepting the other person, just being there.

It comes down to small, daily decisions.

Last week a friend called and wanted to go to coffee. We had trouble scheduling a time. Nothing seem to work.

Then I just made a decision. Pick a time that works for her, and just make it work for you. I choose to love.

We had a great time talking at Starbucks. She texted me after, “I always feel refreshed after talking to you.”

Love refreshes.

Sometimes it is so simple, a little time, just a shift of focus, away from ourselves, toward the other.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.


Six simple ways.

1. Spend time together.

2. Be present.

3. Exude warmth.

4. Overlook differences.

5. Forgive the past.

6. Don’t quit

Loving hurts. I’ll give you that.

But not loving hurts more.