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Archive for October 2014


For the first couple of weeks after our first child was born, Alan and I found ourselves hesitating whenever we had to make decisions about her care.  Do we take her temperature now?  How do we even do that?? Does she need to be bundled up – or bundled down?  Is she sleeping enough? (the answer to that was always “no.”)  Getting enough to eat?  Are we doing it right?  Finally one day Alan admitted:  “You know, I keep looking out of the corner of my eye for the real adults to step up and help us out and then I remember that we are the real adults and, well, I’m not sure we’re really up to this. Maybe your mom could come back for awhile?”

It is the paradox of love that it is at once the most natural and the most challenging act of our lives.  Parenting, partnering, committing to a community or a cause greater than ourselves – all are, at root, acts of courage, for every time we do so, we risk having our hearts broken. It seems that everywhere I look right now, families and friends are in crisis. Children are hurting and marriages are fraying.  People I know and love are suffering from illness and addiction.  And everywhere, people are just doing the best they can, holding the worry and working the problem, trying to find a way to maintain their equilibrium in the midst of chaos.

What sustains them is love.  Beneath and beyond the mess and the anxiety is the steady heartbeat of a love that will not go away.  It is a love for child or friend or spouse or neighbor or planet that keeps them coming back, even when it would be easier to back away.

How do we know how to do that?  Where do we get the reserves when we would most certainly run out if left on our own?  I believe we know how to love because we ourselves draw deeply from the one true Love that is God.  The poet Rumi speaks of God in one poem as “Eternal Love.”  What a wonderful name for God!  What a beautiful reminder that the very Source of our life is a Love that never runs out, that never lets us go or lets us down, that gives us the courage to risk and share with others because we know we have enough.


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C.S. Lewis wrote:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

We are vulnerable in this life.  We are vulnerable when we give our hearts away.  But we know we must do that because it is the way of Life:  loving God and others and even ourselves with all our hearts, and minds, and souls.  We can do that because Eternal Love surrounds us and sustains us when we need it most.

Love freely.  Love completely.

Love because you are loved, eternally.

Thanks be to God.


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My favorite comedy sketch on Saturday Night Live is about 30 years old.  It was a running gag written and performed by (not-yet-Senator) Al Franken, in which he proclaimed the coming decade (the 80’s) as “The Decade of Me, Al Franken.”  It was bitingly funny, as he created a character so narcissistic and un-self-aware that he actually thought he deserved a decade in which all eyes were on him.  He periodically gave service announcements on the show, offering “tips on what you can do for me, Al Franken” and just generally making a fool of himself.  It was funny because, especially in the 80’s, we were experiencing a societal shift away from thinking about “us” or “you” in our policy making, and toward a decade of planning mostly for “me.” It was a reaction, perhaps, to the 1960’s and 70’s, in which issues of poverty and civil rights dominated the national dialogue, and some people felt the individual was being ignored.  So we shifted to a decade of “me’s” and Al Franken, goofily enough, led the way.

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As Christians, we have always been suspicious of the lure toward “me and mine.”  When we read Cain’s question:  “Am I my brother’s keeper?”, we know we are being asked a question so obvious to God as to be rhetorical.  Yes.  Of course.  And yes, we are also to love our neighbor as ourselves.  And yes, to take seriously that “whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.”  Even these words are part of the Christian calling:  “Love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.”  We believe with all our hearts that Jesus calls us to focus on others, and to stop spending so much time navel  gazing.

When it comes to sin – our failings, our mistakes, our regrets – we are asked to look first at ourselves.  As tempting as it is to spend our time critiquing others, we are asked to use all that we know about the Gospel to shape our own lives, not to judge the lives of others. I think this is where the Christian church has run off the rails in the past.  We spent so much time making rules and laws about the behavior of others, we forgot to look at ourselves.



As Robin Fish says:

“The [Gospel] is a mirror designed to show you your own spiritual condition.  It is not meant for you to check others out, but to check yourself.”

The Gospel is a mirror, in which we see ourselves as the deeply flawed and deeply loved individuals that we are.  The Gospel is a window, in which we see the many needs waiting to be met.  And perhaps it is also a doorway, opening us up to the greater world outside.  Jesus shows us that there are indeed times for all of these.

But perhaps the hardest of these three is looking in the mirror.  Because maybe when it comes to judging what is right and what is wrong in the world, it really does start with me.



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