Tag Archives: love

Abnormal Love

Been thinking about Love this week.  I’ve been thinking about all the shouting and screaming going on about hatred, discrimination and retaliation and that’s made me consider Love.

In the midst of all the cannon fodder, the people who are used as target practice by those shouting the battle commands from both sides, we may recognize Love as a casualty, lying there in the field and bleeding seriously. Right now the battle has moved beyond acceptance and rights and into the determination of normal.  And it is not about seeking normal even, really.  It is about accepting one point of view as normal.  It is about making one opinion mean normal.

Deciding what’s normal is different from loving.  When I come to the command of Jesus, “Do not judge,” then I stop and think, Christians were never commanded to decide what is normal.  They were never told to stop people from doing what wasn’t beneficial or from what might master them.  They might warn them or try to talk with them, but they were commanded to love.

There is a united force explaining what normal looks like. It all makes me worry that loving the one who is different doesn’t matter.  I think I was commanded to love the one in front of me, no matter what they brought, who they were or how they acted. suffering2 If they didn’t want love, or walked away from it, or beat me to a pulp and hung me on a cross for it… that was supposed to be okay, if love was expressed.  What was done to me was not going to change the strength, course or truth of love.  In fact the harm done to me might express that love even more.

It seems appropriate this week to look at Love as a new casualty once again, this beaten and brutalized person who never met a homosexual, never spoke with a prostitute, never touched a leper… who only knew human beings.  This one who knew that deciding what was “normal” wasn’t the point.


Seeing is Kneeling

“Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart…”  If we’re not talking about having a vision, then what a fascinating thought to think that God, the one who rules my heart would become my eyesight.  We sang this in church the other day and this is how the song was introduced, that we come praying for God to become our eyesight, that we would share that kind of intimacy.
What becomes true for people who follow Jesus is that seeing is kneeling.  What we see moves us to bow before God whether in seeing beauty and awed into wonder, or seeing destruction that makes us seek understanding of it or the power to oppose it.  We are moved to kneel by what we see because we do not deny what we see nor make excuses for it.seeing
I am a big movie fan.  I love good stories told well and I love exploring the world through stories.  I admit I’m a fan of science fiction and horror (not gore, but horror) for the same reason I enjoy roller coasters.  But there are movies that fit into genres I enjoy that I choose not to see.  This is because I know the indelible connection made by the imagery.  By indelible I mean that I know this imagery will never go away and that it will affect my soul.  It will cause a change within me.  So, even though I believe I’d have a good time I don’t go because I don’t want that change within me.
There is a story being told to our generation that calls us to be blind.  It suggests that brutality can be mixed into sexuality and achieve pleasure.  “50 Shades of Grey” suggests that if acts of pain are consensual or seemingly consensual that they are harmless.  Yet, the story of Christian Grey… (what a fabulous choice for a name… suggesting “Love… almost”) is one that includes a history of abuse and a deep need for control.  Abusive control reveals a lack of worth within the one who applies it and it creates a lack of worth within the one who receives it.  The idea that this is a joint decision doesn’t change the impact on the souls of those involved.
So, the story calls us to close our eyes, the eyes of our soul and to pretend that the imagery will not affect us this time.  It will not cause change.  It will not call us to delight in the thought of control over another, to getting what we want as we want it.  It will not cause us to consider deeply that the things we have heard from the voices of life that shelved our worth were true.  But the truth is that they will.  The imagery will change our souls.
So, seeing must be placed under the truth of God’s love for us, the one who taught us that we had worth we almost cannot believe.  There are women, men and children in the world for whom domination is not something that gets mixed with popcorn and soda.  They are severely taught that their worth lies in the hands and voice of the one who controls.seeing1
Seeing, recognizing the difference even in the dark, is something that comes from within us.  It is an aspect of our souls.  So, the things, the stories, the people who call us to close the eyes of our souls are asking us to bow to them and to allow them to change us.  Seeing remains kneeling.  With God, it also means eyes wide open.

Dearest Friend

          One of things that captures my attention is the nature of lonely people, like how they talk.  Have you ever been with someone who can’t stop talking and do you experience that as a sign of loneliness?  People who have no one with whom to talk, to grab a cup of coffee, to walk with to the bus, to make dinner for or with, can also be the ones who fill up meetings with reading reports that were sent earlier or asking questions which should be answered by one person separately and not be part of the full meeting.  They give reports and think of something that goes with that and should also add because it pertains to this and just remember this other thing that they meant to bring up or get on the agenda and they might as well just bring it up here…  Lonely.

      Image    Lonely in that they are in need of creatively listening ears and so can’t stop their mouths.  None of the stuff really means a whole lot to everyone, but being attended to means a whole lot to this one speaking.  It’s the closest they get to conversation that really makes a difference.  This isn’t just conversation.  It is that conversation that is part of friendship.  It’s conversation that is a give and take between people who are paying attention to learn more and to participate more.

          Makes me think about the way we talk with God.  Some people are shy in talking with God and others are just talking forever.  Both of these suggest loneliness to me now.  They make me think that this person is not in a relationship where they expect this one they’re talking with actually knows and cares.  In other words, they want someone who talks back because of their interest. They are poor in their sense of worth.  This is the essence of poverty, right?  Having no relationships becomes poverty because there are no resources, no participation, no good word on “where you can get one of those… cheap.”  Poverty at its basis is loneliness.

          So, here’s Advent, the approach of God… where people, particularly poor people who were living in the midst of the community that was supposed to understand that God was close and interested, and suddenly they were told God wanted a conversation.  He announced he was going to live right in town, just down the street, that he’ll be able to answer questions, tell stories and listen.  He was going to play by all the rules… with us.  He was going to be God… with us… so we can discover that we have someone who is a friend, and, in fact, our dearest friend.Image

          Try starting your prayers with those words… “Dearest Friend…” and see where it leads you.  See if you can trust someone like that more, whether you can share what is actually going on more, share what’s true more… learn how much we’re enjoyed and paid attention to…


Best Sensitivities

I was stopped by a waitress the other day and asked how it was going. She doesn’t come to First Presbyterian, I just frequent her place and she serves me on a regular basis, so she knows me. “How’s it going at the church? Are people throwing things yet?” She was asking if people were taking aim at me as a pastor and getting in my face. I just told her the truth. “Oh, sure,” I said. “Really?! Already?! Are they throwing the heavy stuff, rocks and bricks?” “It’s a group of human beings,” I told her. “We all do the same things…”
She has an interesting perspective on church people and how life in a church works, don’t you think?
How we take care of each other will always be the tell-tale mark of believers. ” By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) It’s never going to change. The first mark observed is not whether we’re good or know the Bible verse or sing in the choir or at church every time the doors are open. It will be how we care for each other.
On any given day I’ll get emails or notes or phone calls or visits where someone tells me what a bum I am or what a lousy job I’m doing as a pastor or they’ll tell me how glad they are that I’m here or how they have grown, changed, been relieved by a sermon or a comment or a visit or a prayer. It’s not that different from anyone else’s life, I think. Someone will come into your face and tell you what they think of you. It might make your day or make you feel bad. So, I should say that almost all of what I am told makes me feel great.Firstpres
I think one reason that the weight is on that side is because so many, many people aren’t focused on me. They’re focused on what they’re building or studying and they’re feeling like God’s involved with them. They have a sense that at this church we are creating something that will bless and honor God and will call us into loving each other deeply. We are creating a community of faith where people
• are able to easily explore actually getting in touch with God’s Spirit
• know themselves better and know how they work best with others
• know the kinds of gifts or abilities God’s given them to work in the world
• find that children are learning how to pray for each other, how to sing together and how to care what’s going on in each other’s lives
• know that they can trust the Bible and that its telling them how God loves us
Whether it is the business end of budgets and calendars and processes or it’s the internally challenging aspects of insights or learning or trying new things, people are at work and seeking to serve God. All of it is spiritual and sometimes it’s just great to be around and sometimes it’s plain wondrous.
There are pastors in this world who hate their job. I just read about a pastor who took his life and I sat with another who got dumped by his church and I ate with another who is always looking for a place to go where he won’t see “anyone from the church.” I can appreciate the ache but I’m just not there myself.
I love every square inch of this place and what’s going on here. That’s why I was able to tell the waitress, “We all do the same things… but we’re headed in a better direction.” It’s not that we’re not human. It’s that we’re learning, growing and changing to become, once again, truly and fully human… the way God made us to be.

Into Eternity

Everything has been done carefully… just full of care, because this is the human being from whom other humans came. This is the human being who held and nurtured and cared fully for us and our friends around us when we could not care fully for ourselves. This one knew how to create security, safety, home, interest, sensitivity, insight and passion for living, like she was magic. This was the human being who handed out the tools of identity every morning that let one know who one was, how to carry oneself and where one belonged so we could find our way back whenever the world’s feverishness or apathy carried us off.

Worth more than rubies, she tore up carpet and painted walls, refinished floors and guided the work of handymen on how it would be done. She designed roomfuls of beauty, never neglecting interiors, the exquisite nature of food, and the delight of the handmade and so she taught beauty into our souls. She collected drawings, stories, reports, written excuses, daily life souvenirs, and praises from teachers or friends or herself. She boxed them, preserved them long beyond others memories to be given into the hands of those she treasured so we could see how far we came. She gave us our history in tangible forms which only said, you matter, your worth cannot be forgotten and you have always been cherished. But what it actually told us was love and love and love and love.

The Lord had the chance to teach her soul how life works and so our wounds from the world, from choices, from almost inexplicable risks were each responded to but were never a higher priority than our selves. Our traumas were lived through and our embarrassments survived but falsity was faced with ferocity that outgrew her size. Friendship and loyalty were like her name in the voices of those who knew her.

Her frailties, limits and short-comings were all experienced, joked over, disregarded or endured. None of us pretended that what was there wasn’t actually what we were experiencing, but it was never a higher priority than her. And so today, these days, these years of gentle fading, these minutes of passing breath… have been handled carefully… full of care… for they provide us with a full flavor of faith, hope and love… and the fullest taste is love.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
From “Abide with Me” by Henry F. Lyte
Darlene Iola Flynn Kohler
October 10, 1925 – October 9, 2013



5:00 p.m. Wed
Mom only sleeping today – barely eating. No talking. Going back to sit with her shortly.
Meeting with Hospice at 10:00 tomorrow for them to evaluate her needs.
Home Instead to assist with anything needed that Hospice isn’t there for.
Friends on standby.
Plan to bring her home Friday morning.
Redoing the dining room since it seems the best and easiest room to set up.
Hospital bed to come tomorrow.
Lots of details to work through and lots of support here.

We are frail creatures aren’t we? If you met my mom today, you see how frail we truly are and can be.

Met with Hospice this morning.
Everything in place.
Will move her tomorrow morning late.
House set up. Bed coming this afternoon.
Spoke to Mom’s minister – she will probably be over tomorrow afternoon
Spoke to the funeral home we use – in case anything happens.
Comfort drugs on order – I will pick up this afternoon.
It will be good to get her settled at home.
She was highly agitated today at lunch time because the people at the place were fidgeting with her too much – trying to get her to sit up, etc. Both the Hospice nurse and I told them to stop. We are in the care and comfort now – no making her do things.
We go on.

She is a tiny thing and I’ve joked with her (that old joke) for years that she is shrinking and that one day she would just shrink away.

The last hours have been spent with many people in the house getting her here and settled and training us on what to do.
Everyone has been wonderful.
The nurse anticipates we are looking at 3-4 days…
It is good to have her home.

Well, Hospice has told my sisters and me that our mom will probably die within a few days. We are frail creatures.

I can tell that I’m brimming with emotions that make days seem like they are not large enough. I had that happen when my father died. I had it happen the day my father-in-law died. I had it happen the day my mother-in-law died. And I should admit… I had it happen the day my pal, Jack the dog, died as well.

Loss, the loss of two moms in one year (a friend said the other day, “That’s just not fair.”), is a bit overwhelming. I had a friend tell me one day that he was “whelmed… not over whelmed, but definitely whelmed,” and I recognize the difference. These days we’re walking into seem whelming, up to the lip, the brim and we’ll wait for a few days before they spill over… and call it what it is at that point.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
From “Abide with Me” by Henry Francis Lyte