Loving Words

Those who love us do what is best for us, saying hard words and calling us out.
And yet, these loving words travel best when escorted by grace and kindness. 

Loving someone means I confront, call out, and name what I see in their life.  To stand by and let things go without a word is not love but something else.  So, if I am to love someone, I must speak the hard words.

And yet, these hard but loving words cannot be heard if said without grace and kindness.  Many are the words unreceived or misunderstood because of the harsh and graceless manner in which they are spoken.  Love misses its mark, is not received, simply because its words lack grace and kindness.

For words of instruction, correction, or truth spoken to our children, spouses, or friends in love and concern to actually land in their hearing, we must be aware that the route to their ear goes through their heart.  Grace and kindness are escorts that walk alongside our words to ensure that they are actually received as true gifts of love.

Awaiting Sunday

Saturday morning, all hope lies dead in a grave,
Tomorrow stands empty, hurt capturing us, enslaves.

Saturday noon, no faith can act, this life to save,
Tomorrow stands empty, fear mounting like waves.

Saturday evening, love alone points beyond the daze,
Tomorrow stands empty, awaiting the life he gave.

Daybreak comes, Jesus chases the sting of death away,
Sunday brims full, as faith, hope and love crown the day.

Imagio Dei

And all must love the human form,
In heathen, turk or jew.
Where Mercy, Love & Pity dwell
There God is dwelling too.
-William Blake

The human forms I encounter along the way are creatures formed by God, to reflect his image.  No matter the extent to which that image has been rejected or marred, traces of it remain in every person I chance upon.  My task is not to assess how neglected or perverted God’s image is but acknowledge its presence and embrace it in each person.

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The News

As big news stories grind endlessly on, common, small people perform unusual and courageous acts of love and grace.  The news cycle continually draws our attention to the big events, such as the vice president debate, the awarding of the Nobel prizes, the post-season baseball playoffs, and litigation between Apple and Samsung, while right before our eyes men and women offer grace, love in unusual and courageous ways, and live faithfully and sacrificially toward others.  Because we are taught to admire and even desire large, celebrated, noticed lives, we consume and vicariously live through the news of politicians, athletes and celebrities.  And yet, true significance and meaning are played out unnoticed in obscure corners of our cities, classrooms down the hall, at breakfast tables, and in quiet, courageous words.  Elections, technological developments, international disputes, and even baseball are important, but let us not miss what might be the most significant, immediate, and really real news close at hand.  Let us not miss the people who challenge us to live toward love, faithfulness, and grace.

Warning

Warning: character, integrity and love do not equal living large, being famous, or doing whatever – aspiring to these may harm your life.

We need to be warned and we must warn others that living a life that longs for character, settles only for integrity and truly loves is not always grand or pretty.  In fact, such aspirations are extremely hard and usually messy.  Often, in this age of twitter, facebook, and blogs, we can be fooled into thinking that if we tweet or post something, it actually is.  And thus, I am a person of character, have integrity and care for others just because I type such sentiments.  Not so.  Life is real and thus to be really lived – with real people, in the midst of their real problems, caring for their real junk, and speaking really hard stuff to them.  To really live may mean our online persona suffers serious harm, our status is not so grand, and our updates are not so frequent.  Be warned, Mike – aspiring to character, integrity and love may mean that you type less and live more, or even stop typing altogether and start really living.

An Amazing Journey

Recently I visited a number of friends who have moved to other countries within the last six months.  They have relocated themselves and now live with new foods, languages, ways of relating, means of transportation, mediums of exchange, roles, and neighbors.  These friends have done well, leaning into so many changes and adjustments.  And yet, the more significant journey they have made has not been to obvious cultural or external realities.  Rather, they are on an amazing journey within themselves. Continue reading

Love Rules

The aim for any of us, especially those of us who are religious professionals, should be love.  A paraphrase of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13 for the world in which I live and the life I am meant to live reads as follows …

If I preach with great style, technique and passion, but do not have love, I have become a rattling can or honking horn. If I have knowledge of all methods and have the skill to do them all with great effect, but do not have love, I have lost my way.  And if I am able to start hundreds of churches, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love does not rush by people; love does not become jealous of the success of a colleague. Love does not brag about deeds or speak in a superior tone, does not act haughty or seek its own way, is not easily offended, keep a record of offenses or failures, nor is it OK with evil stuff and lies but is thrilled with justice and truth.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are methods, and strategies, they will be done away with; if there are five and ten-year plans, they will one day come to an end; if there are teachers and missiologists, they will be unemployed.

For we really know only a fraction of what is going on around us, but when Jesus’ reign is established, our temporal methods and strategies will pale in comparison to what he is doing.  When I was a young religious professional, I spoke like a minister, thought like a missionary, reasoned like a theologian; when I started loving, I moved beyond such speaking, thinking and reasoning.

For now we see in part what God is doing, but one day we will see everything exactly as it is.  But for the time, all we have are faith, hope and love.  Of these, love rules.

If love is the aim, then preaching, strategizing, and teaching should move me closer to people, not increase my distance from them.  These activities should add dignity and humanity to the person in front of me, not objectify them.  And yet, the truth is – for love to rule these activities, I must be radically seized by the God who is love.