Archive for the ‘love’ Category

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. 

Yeah. 

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?

Nope.

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.

How?

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.

What is the kindest thing you have ever seen?

One of the kindest act I ever experienced involved diapers. My wife and I used to take turns changing them. Then one day she did two poopy diapers in a row. So kind!

Another time, I backed our beautiful Lexus SUV into a telephone pole. She only said one thing: “That’s why we have insurance.” It was one of the best silent kindness I have ever experienced.

Last Friday, I was kind to her. We had a guest over for dinner. I came home from work late. That way I didn’t get in her way while she made dinner. I think of myself as growing in kindness.

In politics these days, in the Presidential race, there isn’t much kindness. Instead there is a lot of harshness, name calling, bullying, attacking and shaming.

This is quite unfortunate, because now ridiculing others is thought to be a sign of strength. It’s a bad model for all of us. True strength does not lie in the preschool behavior of name calling.

Authentic power reveals itself with a gentler demeanor.One of the most reliable indicators of healthy, mature leadership is the quiet but famous behavior, kindness.

Our God — the strongest being in the Universe — is fundamentally kind. Some folks mistakenly see God as harsh, judgmental, even cruel. But that is wrong. God is not mean. God is fundamentally and intrinsically kind.

Psalm 145:17-18

The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings. The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.

Kindness, in the Bible, is a word that is not well distinguished from similar words and this has perhaps led to its neglect. For instance, Psalm 63, pairs kindness with love, as in God’s “lovingkindness.”

In fact, the word kindness overlaps in meaning with many other words, like goodness, mercy, love, grace, favor, compassion and gentleness and so translators often use these words somewhat interchangeably.

But it would be helpful to us, to clarify the meaning of kindness, to distill its essence, to win back its place, because it is a concept — or rather a behavior — that mature, powerful people practice with great specificity.

In Aristotle’s “Rhetoric” kindness is defined as follows: It is “helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped”.

This ancient meaning is in alignment with the NT meaning of kindness which perhaps has one of its richest connotations in the NT word chrestotes, kindness that has a usefulness to it.

Once when my wife and I were vacationing in England, in the Cotswolds, we walked through cow pastures and past sheep and stone walls up to the tiny town of Clapton on the Hill. Our plan was to take the bus back to meet a friend in Burton on the Water.

But when we got to Clapton, a sign said the bus only came through town like once a week.

So we started walking back, when a nice BMW or Audi came by, and stopped and a elderly couple asked, “Do you want a ride?”

We did and so we hopped in with muddy feet saying, “Thank you, thank you but we are so sorry to muddy your beautiful car.”

They shot right back. “Oh, don’t worry. It’s a rental.” It was kind anyway. For all they knew, we were dope smoking serial killers from California.

Kindness is a specific altruistic action, a powerful usefulness, (a ride in the rain), not simply politeness, nice talk or warm, fuzzy sentiments.

Studies show that kind behaviors, helping others, brings better health, better relationships, longer life and even more success in workplaces.

Kindness is powerful. Kindness rescues people, it causes openness, improvement, growth because it gives safe space for change. Think of the power of kindness in everyday life.

A police officer in Florida buys groceries for a poor woman’s caught shoplifting.

A church in Dallas finds foster homes for stray dogs in winter.

People in Chicago raise money for a car for a man who is walking to work.

A restaurant in Chula Vista, Panera Bread, opens its doors to feed homeless people on Thanksgiving Day. The REFINERY Church provides the food.

Kindnesses!

And there are greater than these.

Through kindness thousands of Jews were saved from the Holocaust. Through kindness Mother Teresa set up homes for the dying. And through kindness Bill and Linda Gates are giving away billions of dollars to stop disease.

Kindness is powerful. It is a catalyst for change. It saves lives. The Bible tells us that God’s kindness is like that. Romans 2:4. God’s kindness is meant to lead [us] to repentance.

In his kindness, God holds back judgment, gives us time, to give us a chance to repent, to get right. God’s Kindness makes space for us to change.

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argued that kindness is one of the “most curative herbs and agents in human intercourse”.

Betty Ford, wife of President Gerald Ford is a much-loved First Lady for her honesty, her kindness and her care for others. In 1974, Mrs. Ford discovered she had breast cancer. As a result, she had a radical mastectomy. She went public with this, (not common) and within days, 10,000 letters, 500 telephone calls, 200 telegrams and tons of floral arrangements poured into the White House and her suite at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

How kind!

Betty’s openness about her cancer showed care for others and that is what made others care for her.

In the months that followed Betty’s revelation about her cancer, tens of thousands of American women, inspired by her forthrightness and courage, crowded into doctors’ offices and clinics for breast-cancer examinations.

Kindness embraced difficulty … and changed what was acceptable in society.

Later in life, because of loneliness and stress Betty Ford ended up suffering from alcoholism and a pill addiction, but again she had the courage to face her problem, and recover, and in 1982, she helped found the Betty Ford Center, based on AA, and it became one of the best-known rehab programs in the nation.

Kindness is kind, even to it’s own mistakes, and in that way can lead to healing to ourselves and those around us.

What do we do with all this?

It’s simple. Be kind.

 

One of our church families is buying new flooring for one of our most used rooms. It’s $1800. How kind!

Another of our church members, a doctor, recently on his time off, came to the church and put new glazing in the windows of our classroom building. How humble — and kind.

One of our worship leaders, shows up at special surfer day in La Jolla each summer to help disabled adults try their hand as surfing.

How kind!

Micah 6:8. He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

 

“Three things in human life are important,” said novelist Henry James. “The first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

I want to solve all your problems — so read on.

I’d like to help you know who to marry, who to do business with, how to related to people you despise and who to elect the next President of the United States.

You will never have gotten so much from one blog post. Some of you will never come back.

Not really.

I want to focus here not on what to think, but how to think. I want to address Christians, and say that to be godly, we must learn to think and choose well, particularly in the emotional and divisive climate of this Presidential election.

So, what to do?

To be wise, first exercise self-control.

Practice a robust self-control.

Galatians 5:22 tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is “self-control.”

If your follow Christ, if the spirit of God really lives in you, then you have the power to control yourselves. Self-control is the tasty fruit on the green branches of the true Christian.

Someone told me recently, that they were having trouble thinking negative thoughts at work. Then someone else said to them, “You know you are choosing that.”

Really!” They thought. “I choose what I think.

Yes, you do, and you can choose to put negative thoughts out of your head.

When your thinking gets fearful, negative, anxious, you can gently turn your attention to something positive.

Someone, a Christian, recently began to gush in front of me who they were going to vote for for President, and then why. It was awkward, not very well-thought out.

People are quite emotional about this election, and not very rational.

I didn’t agree with this gushing person, there was a lot of hate in what they said, but they had been drinking too much and they were ranting  and so I controlled myself, said a little and then shut up

James 3:17 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

All this, being pure, peace-loving, considerate, impartial  — it requires self-control. We Christians can do that. When someone says what they think in front of us about their politics, we should have the self-control to listen, and to withhold speaking too soon, to give our elves time to weigh a good response.

Let the quiet voice inside, the Holy Spirit remind you to stay calm, and loving. If you speak your opinion, speak simply, truthfully, respectfully, stick to issues. Avoid personal attacks. When you adamantly disagree, I recommend that you still exercise self-control, gentleness and respect so that you walk away able to talk with that person again.

And alway remain open — to rethinking your position.

Look again at James 3:17

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is … “impartial.”

Christians, be impartial.

Wow! What does that mean, to be impartial? It means to weigh both sides, to avoid bias, to be fair, to be just, to not be prejudicial, to not be only for “your” people/

Take the current issue between the police and our black communities.

We Christians need to care and pray for both. And we need to try to understand. Why are blacks upset? Why are the police afraid?

We need to ask God to break our hearts over this issue, if we are not already grieving. What kind of thinking, training and behaviors would help change this horrible conflict? Let’s pray for protection, solutions, for understanding for both sides.

On political issues, most of us tend to get stuck in one mind-set, perhaps the same as what we grew up with. Some of us, who watch only our one, favorite news station may have become very bias. We are perhaps eating too much,  of our favorite political, one-sided ice cream.

Last week I brought home a bag of Brussels sprouts and also, a tub of vanilla bean ice cream. I ate both. Well, not together.

One of them made me gag.

I must admit, I have a bias. I prefer the ice cream. I really only love Brussel sprouts I if I put bacon on them.

So I told my wife, don’t bring home any more ice cream. What? Why?

Because my doctor told me to lower my cholesterol.

Just because I prefer something, doesn’t mean it is good for me.

I would suggest you read opinions the opposite of your own, Brussel sprout opinions, and weigh the issues as unbiasedly as possible. If your partiality is so strong that you find yourself ranting, and attacking others, and calling names, you have lost your Spirit-given self-control.

What we need right now are people who understand the differing sides of the issues, and who think of solutions that work for everyone, thus becoming the peacemakers of James 3:17.

Those of us who become overly one-sided and resort to emotional, personal attacks on others do not have the Spirit of Christ within.

Stay in control, be fair and then — very importantly — work at thinking Biblically. That takes work. Think like a Christian first — think like a Democrat, Republican or Independent second.

Do not let one other person or political party or pastor or spouse for that matter represent or control your mind.

How?

Now is the time to be reading your Bible at least as much as you are watching the news. The news might confuse you. Your Bible will clear your head.

So you might ask.

What is Biblical thinking?

That is a tough one. Many Christians limit it to thinking with Biblical morality.

That has truth to it, but I believe that true Biblical thinking is not so much about putting out a moral, legalistic formula that we then bash everyone else with. Biblical thinking is thinking like Jesus.

Jesus weighed every person and issue in front of him individually and fairly. The only group he much went after were those with a religiously legalistic platform. Jesus was always tuned into God, listening to what God was telling him rather than to the moralistic leaders on the national Jewish or Roman news.

And secondly, Jesus preached that the greatest Biblical, moral commandment is love. This election year, following Christ, we need to keep our love on.

If Jesus is your Lord, then remember that Jesus taught you that your political goal, your primary Biblical morality, is to love your neighbor as yourself. Listen, political Christians, no one adequately leads you except Jesus. Maintain a limited, parsed support for your preferred candidates and their worldly views. Put your main trust in Christ, and measure your candidates and their opinions with his yard stick of love.

Hebrews 12:1 Fix your eyes on Jesus. 

What else, what else is wise?

To be very wise in 2016, stay positive. There is a lot of fear and a lot of negative in our country today. This is causing lots of hateful, uncontrolled, fearful responses to others.

But Christians, “God did not give us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and love and self control.” Do not be driven by fear and by its sibling, negative thinking. Control your mind. You can!

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such thing.”

Think about what is good in others, even those you disagree with, and what is good in our country. There is a lot of good, and a lot of freedom and protected rights in our country.

So now we come to the part where I tell you who I am going to vote for President.

I am going to vote for … whoever is most like Joseph.

Joseph?

Joseph is my favorite political leader in the Bible.

His brothers sold him into slavery, but he learned through this difficulty to rely on God. I love to follow leaders who have been humbled by God, who have been trained by  brokenness, who have been pruined by difficulty in such a way that they have given up their selfish motives and live primarily to serve others.

Joseph learned how to forgive, and how to rescue others, and how to think outside the box of his Hebrew roots.

Joseph, once in he came into power, a Hebrew, stored away grain for all the Egyptians, and the Bible says, “all the world came to Egypt.”

Joseph was a servant, a lover, and he even gave food to the very brothers who had previously betrayed him. Joseph was a unifier. He brought people together.

We need more leaders like this in American today, leaders who will bring people together, black and white, rich and poor, Muslim and Christian, to feed us all the bread of forgiveness and the tasty, sweet dessert of togetherness.

Measure political candidates by Joseph.

Actually  I haven’t decided my vote for sure. I’m leaning one way, but I’m still hoping for a Joseph or an Esther to run onto the political stage. I would really like another option.

Lastly, to think like a Christian, let love rule you.

I want to repeat this, like a million times. Christians, let love rule! Measure every thought you have this election with the ruler of love. By their fruits you will know them said Jesus. The most delicious, tasty, godly Christian fruit is love.

Jesus taught us to love our neighbor. God is interested in the salvation of everyone. There is nothing xenophobic in Jesus. To vote like a Christian, is to vote for loving solutions for everyone.

Verily, verily I say unto you, you must even love those who vote the opposite as you. Perhaps they are balancing out your biases!

Last weekend I saw the musical Sense and Sensibility at the Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. It was outstanding. Funny! Witty! Entertaining.

At intermission I went to the bathroom. There were two old codgers talking there.

One said, “I couldn’t hear 10% of it.”

The other said, “Don’t worry it’s just a dumb chick flick.”

Why did they go? Their wives made them.

But it was more than a play for girls. One of the lines of the play stuck me as profoundly noble. Elinor, deeply hurt by a lover who betrayed her said, “I wish him (the betrayer). immeasurable happiness.”

That is so magnanimous. That is filled with such love.I took that line home with me and prayed for some folks who have deeply hurt me.

I prayed, “God, I ask you to give them, immeasurable happiness.”

As your think about your hurtful world, let love and forgiveness rule you.

1 John 4:7

“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.” 

Okay, let’s wrap it up, and put a red bow on it. Or is it a blue bow? Or another color?

I have tried to remind you of several simple wisdoms relevant to the times.

Christians, In 2016 please control yourselves. Be impartial. Think Biblically. Think like Jesus. Delight in what is positive.

And love, love love, love both the political Brussel sprouts you don’t like,  and your favorite political ice cream.

But not too much.

I love you.

Will you accept that, no ducking, no side stepping, no avoidance, no over thinking it, no cynicism —  and love me back?

You are one of my readers; this gives us a connection.

It’s not perfect, adequate, even exemplary, but it’s something, and it’s good.

The other day I hugged a friend, warmly, a little longer than usual. I said, “I love you.” I meant it. It was simple but good.  I greeted another with enthusiasm and asked him to go to coffee to discuss a book we have both read. Another sweet one I complimented and told this, “You are  precious cargo, of inestimable value.” That was my daughter.

What the heck? It is good, to warm up the planet, in healthy ways,  by offering endearments, loving family and friends, expressing our affection simply.

This is the thing — and we all have such a hard time of it — crossing over to each other, being warm, personable, gracious, expressing love, just saying it.

A friend called me today from the East Coast. He is a tough guy, military, big — but funny, and easy to relate to.  In an asside he said he thought there were piece of me all over the world, the people I have previously connected with.

Interesting. When he hung up he said, “I love you.”

I thought about it —  in Japan, South Africa, Nicargaua, England, Brazil, Maine, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, California — there are people who I have interacted with, with warmth, even if only briefly and so they are a small part of me, and me of them.

I wish there were more. I wish we all were open to more friends, more warmth, more connection, more talk, more love.

Hear is the deal: I need love, I want love, I crave love — we all do. And yet we all — including myself — suffer from some forms of isolationism, some vaious and sundry fears of each other, some relational cynicisms, some intrinsic shynesses and thus some cautiousness, some coldness, and therefore some lonliness.

What to do?

Love more. Simply choose to love more.

We can do this. We can reach out to each other. We can even get over our tendency to withdraw, to be cool, to be cold, in part, by making brave choices to love more people openly, freely, warmly,  affectionately.

While some old lovers cannot be regained, we can always seek out and find new friends — precious ones waiting in the wings — and we can tell them if we will, “I love you.”

This will warm up the place.