Posts Tagged ‘love’

We all love things that glow — comet NEOWISE now visible in our northern skies, the moon, glitter paths on the water, bright baby eyes, the sun on a yellow flower.

This morning we looked out the back patio door and there were three very slender, usually small mockingbirds running along the top of our backyard fence.

They were babies!

Against the bright blue sky, in the sun, they jumped up on the fence’s stucco support pillars, wings all aflutter. They bopped and bounced with the motions of newbies and neophytes. One saw a bug circling its head, started to make a jump at it, and then thought better of it. Not fast enough yet.

Then wings flashing they followed their mother to a tree nearby.

Bright things.

Later in the morning my wife and I did a special study online on lemurs. Fascinating! The mouse lemurs, so tiny and fluffy and big eyed and big eared. Some of the lemurs exhibit a phenomenon called eye shine.

More bright things.

What is eye shine? Glowing eyes! In eye shine the tapetum lucidum, a layer of tissue in the eyes, reflects light and creates night glow in the eyes. Lying immediately behind the retina, the tapetum lucidum is called a retroreflector. It reflects visible light back through the retina, increasing the light available to the photoreceptors. You may have seen this in cats at night, those two bright yellow glows in the dark.

Gleam, glow, glint, glimmer, sparkle, twinkle, flicker, glitter, glisten, shimmer, flash, dazzle, beam, flare — exciting!

God made a bright world.

Radiance, illumination, luminescence, luminosity, incandescence, phosphorescence, fluorescence — beautiful!

Bright things.

What did you see that was bright today?

Celebrate it!

Jenny Odell in her book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy makes a case for re-examine our lives and considering seeing the “usefulness of uselessness. “

That rings a bell these days as we reflect on the last few months of social isolation. What have we learned? Perhaps we have learned how to do a nothing that is a something. Perhaps we have simply learned to tolerate being quiet. Perhaps we have been taught how to do less but love ourselves the same or more. Perhaps we have learned we have value even when we don’t appear in public.

Did we just lose two months? No, we lived those. And we connected with family. And we connected with others by texting and video chatting and sending pictures and anyway we could. Maybe we learned how to reach out with sincere concern for others more. Perhaps we learned not to wait for others to make contact.

What kind of life might we return to as society opens back up?

We might jump back into rushing around from place to place. Hopefully we don’t just renter the ratty-rat-a-tat-tat race. Let’s not fail to have learned that aloneness, repose, quiet, even fear have something to teach us. What have you learned in this time?

Perhaps we have learned that we are stronger than we thought. I learned I was both weaker and stronger. Perhaps we could see that society and work and school and even church and particularly social media drives us to keep trying to project public worth or success. But we have value because we exist. Gods love for us and our love for us isn’t based on starring. When we haven’t much to brag about on Facebook, we still have value.

Odell writes, “It is the invasive logic of commercial social media and its financial incentive to keep us in a profitable state of anxiety, envy, and distraction. It is furthermore the cult of individuality and personal branding that grow out of such platforms and affect the way we think about our offline selves and the places where we actually live.”

Do we have to appear on social media to feel alive, valuable, present? Nope. Do we have to post pictures that make us look happy to be happy? No, research shows us that online “likes” — the social validation and feedback loop — actually just makes us more anxious and insecure.

What if, as we re-enter being social or working again, we carry a new sense of a resilient self forward, a new appreciation for the family we live with, a fresh value for silence, a treasuring of the value of being alone, and the sweetness of a self-affirming interiority? What if we don’t go back to trying to prove we have value. We just do.

We are not first a brand or an image to keep up by showing up. We are not a personage appearing but a person always, not an it but a thou, not alone no matter how alone we were or are.

What have we learned by sometimes doing nothing that was something these last few months?

Perhaps, producing or not, being public or not, we have learned to hold ourselves dear, and to hold others dearest.

My wife recently visited our daughter who is pregnant with her and her husband’s first baby. It’s a girl! Yea! During this time, my wife and our daughter bonded. There was an amazing baby shower, but just being together was so good, walking, eating together, talking.

When she got home my wife wrote our daughter the following email. I love it!

Dear Daughter,

This is something I thought about last night. Most of our life is spent planning for the next stage. Education is for employment. Employment is for making money and getting ahead so we can do the next thing (car, house, vacation, expensive purse, etc.) Sometimes worrying about what comes next takes up soooo much space in our heads–job problems, baby shower (:0)), how to juggle work and other aspects of life. And to another point, what we worry about is often insignificant because we are unaware of what tomorrow will really bring.

I never “got” the concept of mindfulness. It is  popular today. I guess I am ADD, but that’s Okay. Plus, to be honest, planning for something is really fun. Having something to look forward to, gets us out of bed in the morning.

This is laying the groundwork for my point. When you have that baby this goes into the background. She is THE THING. Holding her, feeding her, changing her diapers, this is the world. Smelling her head…..I am so glad you can take the summer months to enjoy your new baby without the pressure of work and school. I am so glad your husband works right next to your apartment so he can come home at lunchtime to enjoy the baby. You know I am glad there is no commute!

My main point is that with that baby it is Okay that your worries about the future, and thoughts about the next thing stops. Time spent holding her, kissing her, feeding her, kissing her head, this is the most important thing and it grounds you and forces you into the present, and it bonds you to this little person.

It is a privilege to be able to do that so eat it up. Let time stand still. Let the worry and anxiety go on without you.


Nice! We can all use such wisdom. Time with our precious ones, time that idles along, that lallygags along, time that drops worry and embraces another — this is the best life has to offer.

Recently, watching the news I saw disturbing images — children dug from earthquake rubble, reports of missing people, an arrested wife murderer, political infighting and name calling, failed governmental processes, corrupt, greedy leaders. I saw pictures of people with contagious diseases and images of terrible auto accidents.

I find that somewhere inside of me I want to reject there parts of our world, to get away from them, even deny them at times. Instead I want Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom. I want the wolf to lay down with the lamb. I want no more tears. I want no more harm.

Of course this is completely understandable, and of course there is the validity in longing for safety and reform and justice and newness, but rejection of our current world is not the answer. Rejection of people is not the answer; rejection of harm is not the answer. People will do wrong. There will be harm. The truth is that in this life we can’t get away from all of that.

This is a huge issue for us. we want aponia, the Greek ideal of the absence of pain. I love the absence of pain. But life has pain; it comes to us, and we don’t welcome it.

This tendency toward rejection of pain and difficulty isn’t just limited to our world. We also tend toward rejecting our own selves, our bodies, our own souls, our own emotions, our experience, our own behaviors, any parts of theses we don’t like.

We get sick, our teeth decay, we experience pain, our bodies change sizes, we need surgeries. In these hardships we don’t like how we feel. We don’t like how our bodies look or how they smell. Then there is the same response as to what we don’t like in our world. We reject the unseemly parts of our bodies and of ourselves.

We become separated from parts of ourselves, de-integrated, fragmented. We experience a mind-body division, perhaps our soul rejects our emotions. This can happen when we reject painful memories, when we reject our painful or damaged body parts, our sexuality, our physicality — our long nose, our thin hair, our bulging tummy, our aging face, our short legs, our scars, our wrinkles, our sadness, our depression, our seeming failures, our loneliness.

But this rejection will not work for us. We need integration and congruency with our world and with our bodies. We need to belong. We need integration. We need everybody who we have rejected and everything we have rejected to come home. We need a united kingdom, on earth and within ourselves.

How do we do this?

We do this by saying to our world and saying to our bodies, “I do not reject you. I am aware that you are part of me and I am a part of you.”

To those parts of our world of our body that we have rejected we say, “I welcome you back. I invite you home.”

We don’t invite evil, but we realize that we too are evil and not so different from the ones that we want to reject. We do not invite harm, but we recognize that we too harm and are harmed. Our souls and our bodies are harmed and we reach out to them and touch them and accept them, ragged, raddled and frayed as they are.

We take our direction from Jesus in doing this. In one of his most famous sayings, he said that he “did not come into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved.” Rescue came through him, in him, absorbed within him. And in his sacrifice Jesus engaged everything. Everyone.

Apply this. We are not in the world to condemn the world. Neither are we here to condemn our bodies. The dynamic, healing and therapeutic power for good comes not from rejection or condemnation. It comes from acceptance and from love.

But you might say that the Apostle John taught us to reject the world. He did not. He taught us to reject sin, harming others — evil, greed, pride, selfishness. John’s main teaching was that “God is love” and that anyone who does not love his neighbor does not love God. Love is the ultimate form of acceptance.

Place your hands on the people of the world that you have a tendency to reject and tell them you love them. If you can’t touch them still tell them that you love them. Seek complementarity. Tell yourself every day that you care for the whole earth. Place your hands on the parts of your body that you tend to reject and tell those parts that you love them.

This is the way. The way is not in rejection. The way is found in acceptance, forgiveness and love.

We all have questions, doubts, about ourselves, others, politics, religion, God.

Doubts can make us feel alone, make us feel like outliers, add angst to our quest to figure out life.

But doubts are normal. If someone has no doubt perhaps that person isn’t thinking deeply, perhaps they are afraid of nuances, of grey areas, paradoxes and contradictions. Perhaps they aren’t free to explore life’s hard questions. Doubts are healthy and normal and good

Doubts, questions, theories, testing — theses are the door to discovery.

“Test everything,” says Paul in the Bible.

In Wendell Barry’s novel Jayber Crow a conversation between Jaber and a professor of religion illustrates this nicely.

“Well,” I said, [Jayber] “I’ve got a lot of questions.”

He [the professor] said, “Perhaps you would like to say what they are?”

“Well, for instance,” I said, “if Jesus said for us to love our enemies—and He did say that, didn’t He?—how can it ever be right to kill our enemies? And if He said not to pray in public, how come we’re all the time praying in public? And if Jesus’ own prayer in the garden wasn’t granted, what is there for us to pray, except ‘thy will be done,’ which there’s no use in praying because it will be done anyhow?”

I sort of ran down. He didn’t say anything. He was looking straight at me. And then I realized that he wasn’t looking at me the way he usually did. I seemed to see way back in his eyes a little gleam of light. It was a light of kindness and (as I now think) of amusement.

He said, “Have you any more?”

“Well, for instance,” I said, for it had just occurred to me, “suppose you prayed for something and you got it, how do you know how you got it? How do you know you didn’t get it because you were going to get it whether you prayed for it or not? So how do you know it does any good to pray? You would need proof, wouldn’t you?”

He nodded.

“But there’s no way to get any proof.”

He shook his head. We looked at each other.

He said, “Do you have any answers?”

“No,” I said.

Jaber asks good questions.

Interestingly if you look closely a few answers are present in his questions.

Killing people — Jesus was against it. Then let’s not do it. A better world would ensue.

Prayer — “your will be done” is simple, good enough, or perhaps we might be more just silence before God, waiting, listening.

Proofs, proof of divine intervention — those can be unclear. They are debatable. The older I am the less I understand so many things, including God’s ways in the world and including myself. I am currently suffering some health issues that the doctors can’t resolve. This is changing me.

God has not decided as yet to intervene. So I am developing a different relationship with God. I seek less selfish proofs. God and I now share more mutual silences. We sit without talking. I leave the next move on the game board to him. I want him closer than I feel him but I am learning to be brave and patient when I don’t get what I want.

I sit with my stuff, my own unsolved mysteries, and then I move toward grounding myself in the now, the beauty of the now, in the surrounding astonishing divine whatness, our amazing earth. I practice gratitude in small doses for where I do see God — in the care of my wife, in a song, in my food, in a doctors care in brief times of peace.

Wendell Barry’s Jayber is my man! I love his questions. I love how he eventually changes and learns to love his community.

Our questions, as we mature — they soften overtime. The answers come as discernments, specific insights, for each case, not platitudes, not formulas, not propositional truth, not universals we pound others with, and the answers — they eventually are not so black and white as we once thought and not so much required.

The answers come in their own time.

It isn’t all up to us.

Best not to hate and kill people.

Kindness with ourselves and others is paramount.

Prayer is mostly alignment, not asking, me aligning with God.

Be at peace with yourself and God.

Life is mysterious.

Like God.

As we end the holiday season, we could ask ourselves where did we see the face of Christ?

My attention was drawn to one kind of seeing his face this Christmas season, although someone had to take me in hand and point this out to me because I’m so obtuse sometimes. I saw Christ in my wife’s face, my friend’s faces and my daughter’s faces. There was a divine complementarity going on where his qualities found space in them. .

Those smiles, warm cheeks, those bright eyes and those wet tears — there were some of these for each of us — in these was Christ. Christ was with us also to console each other. My wife sat with me and comforted me I was in pain, stroking my face — the very hand of Christ touched me. I held her when she cried one day. The arms of Christ. I comforted my daughter on another day when she was sick. The comfort of Christ.

One evening we ate looking into a table full of dear faces, faces of church friends. We shared talk, games, laughter. We were Christ to each other. I played cards with Christ. He let me win.

Did you serve someone this season? You were Christ to them. Did someone serve you? They were Christ to you.

This will be acknowledged at the end of time in a profound moment when the King will say to you and me, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:40

Life is full of simple choices — in two directions.

Today I drove to pick up my wife after her walk to Sprouts netted too many veggies for her to carry home. She needed that rescue. I was glad to do this.

But on the way out of the garage I backed over a piece of our stored gazebo that had fallen out of it’s box and under my tire. Really? Out of the box and under the back tire? Ruined it! But instead of beating myself up about this, upon arriving back home I immediately called the company that made the patio cover and ordered a new part ($5.99). I consider the whole thing a success. By taking care of this, by protecting my emotions, I didn’t have to regret ruining a $200 piece of equipment.

Helps, rescues — they run in two directions, towards others and towards ourselves. We are to be good Samaritans to others— and also to ourselves.

When we read the story of the good Samaritan we are tempted to come at it in a monolithic way. We interpret the narrative so that we are always the Good Samaritan.

And while of course this is valid, and we do well to let the text implicate us and convict us to care for others, this is not a complete reading of the text. In truth we are both the good Samaritan and the one robbed, beaten and naked along the road.

This is a more expanded but still accurate view of the text. It provides a way to view our wounded selves. Consider this.

“When the Samaritan found one who was robbed and beaten and naked along the road the text says,“He [the Samaritan] went to him [the wounded one] and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”

Magnanimous! Just! Above and beyond. We must not neglect the wounded among us.

And yet the truth is that sometime that naked one is us. Life robs us all! Life beats up on us all. We all make mistakes. Life leaves all along the road in need of help at some point.

Today that was true of me. I was in pain all day from several old injuries. So I lovingly medicating myself. I lay down. I distracted myself cleaning and gardening.

When we are the beaten up, we must, to follow the teaching of Jesus, help ourselves. We must carry ourselves to those who can help us. Discouraged perhaps we need to make a phone call to a friend. Hurting we may need to take our medicine. Hurting we may need to do some stretches.

We must at times carry ourselves to ourselves to experience the oil and wine of our own kindnesses. We must be the innkeeper we pay to care for our very selves. We must be willing to pay for help for ourselves, perhaps for counseling, perhaps medical treatment, perhaps a gym membership, perhaps good food, perhaps a new book to inspire us.

It is not enough to be the hero of the text, the excellent Samaritan. It is not accurate that we always will be. At times we are at the hurt one.

When this is the case, do this. Love your hurt self. See yourself and have compassion.

To do this well ultimately we must carry ourselves to God himself and present our wounds and our soul’s neediness to him. To do this is to see ourselves accurately, to not look away from our own nakedness and weakness.

Thus evening my wife talked me into going out to dinner. I needed this. I needed her to feed me with a time out with good food. I let myself be taken care of.

Interesting, the day began with me helping her, and that it ended with her helping me.

“Go and do likewise,” said Jesus.

Through the holiday season I have been thinking about Mary, the mother of Jesus. In reading through Luke’s account I was struck by Simeon’s comment, almost an aside, to Mary, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Hearing this we think of one sword, and of course the literate reader immediately recognizes the connection to Christ on the cross, pierced. The sword that pierces Jesus pierces Mary, his mother.

But as I thought over her story, I could see that there were many piercings in her life. The astonishing and yet confusing circumstances surrounding her pregnancy, the complications it must’ve created with her family, Joseph and her community, the birth away from home, the flight to Egypt, the son who disappeared for three days and then rebuked the parents, the loss of her husband Joseph, the disciples replacing the family, her certain awareness of the brutal and dangerous threats again Jesus when he began to teach and to contradict the religious establishment, the cross and then the painful and often bloody birth of the church.

All swords.

In all this Mary seems the passive figure, hunkered down under the many stabbings that she had little or no control over. And what is her response?

Priest Richard Rohr makes the point that, “Not a word is spoken by Mary in either place, at his [Jesus’s] birth or at his death. Did you ever think about that? Mary simply trusts and experiences deeply. She is simply and fully present. Faith is not, first of all, for overcoming obstacles; it is for experiencing them—all the way through!“

Our natural tendency is to resist and fight and try to control the piercings of life, the downturn’s, the ailments, the rejections, the failures. And some times we must not be passive. We must fight through to a new future. But if we get stuck with an inability to accept all of life, the ups and the downs, this can actually makes life harder.

Life is an up and down affair. It involves swords. There will be piercings. Simeon words to Mary have a universal application.

Richard Rohr addresses a way to deal with this writing, “Welcoming the pain [of life] and letting go of all your oppositional energy against suffering will actually free you from it! like reversing your engines. Who would have thought this? It is your resistance to things as they are that causes most of your unhappines …”

There’s a fine line here to observe here. To love ourselves and others we can and should do all we can to alleviate suffering, to gently care for ourselves, to compassionately care for others, to be good Samaritans. And sometimes resistance is necessary; resistance may at times carry us on to new accomplishments and adventures.

But what we can’t control, the swords that fly upon us when we have no shield up nor can put one up, those we do well to accept as they are, with all they bring. What we can’t control or stop we can still endure and even perhaps learn from. Perhaps we can learn to be more like Mary, fully alive, living the life that has come to us, in a quiet kind of way, hanging on to God through it all.

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.

The ranking is bronze, silver — gold.

And it is also faith, hope — love.

Not much beats gold, or love, as precious.

Love is the pure gold of God, and the summum bonum of life.

Many are the witnesses that love is supreme, and that without it we “gain nothing.” Love is everything — the core, the essence, the apex, the thing! All of our lives most of us have never wanted anything more than we have wanted to be loved. We ache for love, for falling in love, for being the loved one, for more delicious, life-giving, energy-making, life-curing love.

How do we get it?

Consider a young girl living in Missouri, who has never seen visited the ocean, any ocean, anywhere. She finds a picture of San Diego online. It is a beautiful shot, taken from the Coronado Bay bridge, showing the bay, the palm trees, the Silver Strand, the gorgeous Hotel Del Coronado and the great, sparkling Pacific beyond.

She holds her tablet, her 9.4 by 6.6 inch digital ocean in her hands and gushes, “I love the ocean!”

But there is so much of the ocean that she doesn’t know to love.

She doesn’t  know the knock-you-out, corner-of-eye to corner-of-eye,  panoramic expanse of the great Pacific, the lovely, blue watery arms of San Diego that shimmer like a dream land before you as you drive west up over the Coronado Bay bridge. And she doesn’t know the briny, salty, sea-in-the-air fragrance that greets you at the beach. And she doesn’t know the soft, clean, warm sand between the toes. She doesn’t know the cold, wet shock of the Pacific ocean as you enter it. She doesn’’t know the thrilling ride down the wave —  the rapid rush, the surfy slosh, the white water engulfing you.

To understand the ocean, and to understand love, we must live these realities not simply admire them from afar. To get love we must drive toward and into other people, and also God. We must experience the other, we must experience God, and we must sink our toes deep in to love, and then run to it’s shore, and dive in head first.

Reading about love in a book, even a sacred book, may be a gesture toward love, but it is no more love than looking at a picture of the ocean is experiencing the ocean.

To really know love, to experience love, to know the panoramic reality of love in all of life, to know the sweet fragrance of love found in difficult relationships, to know the warmth of love between your toes when you have been deeply valued, to know the cold shock of love being so much other than what you expected, to know the rapid rush of love as it washes you down the sloping, sliding, thrilling, scary waves of other people —  that is what it means to know love, and that is what it means to know God.

Love is good. Love is better. It is best. Love is best.

So, run at this. Smack this. Jump on this. Dive head-long into this.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13