Some Thoughts on Love

IMG_2042At the Angelus Temple last fall, Pastor Matthew made a remark that lodged in my brain.

“Turn off your tv, it’s prophesying doom over your life,” he said.

It’s true. Facebook does it too and here’s how you can tell: As you watch or read news feeds, consider the imaginary arguments you’re having with someone over something they said. Feel the churning in your gut, the shaking of your head and the pejoratives you attach to that person. Doom!

Here’s how it’s supposed to be:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

That’s why I pray and read The Bible every day now. It is one thing to dump the cold, nasty stuff out of yesterday’s cup, it’s another to scrub it clean and refill it with fresh Dunkin’ Donuts dark roast with vanilla cream and sugar. Thank God Lent is nearly over.

Sailing

(Photo credit: possumgirl2)

Often, goosebumps rise on my arms as I praise God for the sunrise and pray for people I love. Joy swells in my chest and blows away negative thought loops, sending me on a different heading. This is the present-tense value of following Jesus Christ – you learn to quit seeing things like the world does and begin seeing them like God does. Go ahead and try it, your life and circumstances can’t resist.

“Well, what about all the __________ I am doing? What about all the _______I have done? What about the scriptures on __________I disagree with? What about all the __________Christians on tv?”

For a moment, please set it aside and listen to the gospel: God is holy and we’re not, so we’re separate. Jesus was tortured and died to bridge that separation. It’s a gift.

So it doesn’t really matter what you are doing right now or what you think, if you bring it to Jesus and hand it over, he will teach what love really is and then drown you in it. Out of that love you become a new creature, utilizing the purest, most creative parts of yourself – often in service of other people.

I’m hardly breaking theological ground here, people have been saying this for centuries. But when you strip away the acrimony that’s built up around the gospel, and try it for yourself, it proves to be awfully good news.

How?

As the sun comes up, grab a cup of coffee and read the Gospel of John. It was written by a man who understood, perhaps better than the rest, how much Jesus loved him.

Then let Jesus love you like that.

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There is No Magic Wand – Only Fire.

Galata Tower – Istanbul

The other night, while surveying my life and repeating my new favorite mantra “WTF am I doing,” my sister called. She was en route to JFK to catch the redeye back to her home in Istanbul. When she asked what I was doing, I said I was thinking of getting in the bathtub with my toaster.

When I started following Jesus like I meant it, I wasn’t banging my head and squirming under existential pressure all the time. In fact, several of my ducks fell into a quick and tidy row and I saw some inexplicably graceful things happen.

  • My cash + needy people = Demonstration of God’s provision.
  • My prayers + rival = A surprise easing of tensions.
  • My mouth + God’s word = Encouragement and joy.

Little victories like that were the C to my A+B. So naturally, I expected them to continue and grow in volume – especially as my obedience and faith grew. I’ll just keep working my righteousness and God will give me what I want. A+B=C.

Sorry baby doll, it doesn’t work like that. And BTW…your righteousness is like filthy rags, Isaiah says.

I think one of two things is happening:

a. I’m in a refining phase, growing up a little. God is burning off the old rags and rubbish that are cluttering up my yard, while increasing the difficulty of my math with equations like this, that are so far over my head I have no choice but to cling to him for solutions.

b. I’m just blowing a gasket.

Ugh, maybe I’ll cut and run. But where?

Just before Jesus was crucified some of his followers deserted him. Jesus remarked about it to Peter. Are you going to run too? He asked. Peter replied:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have learned to believe and trust and we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God, The Christ, the Son of the Living God. John 6:63

Later that weekend, Peter denied ever knowing Jesus.

So even Apostles are unequal to the task. There is no magic wand. Following Jesus requires equal parts grit and stamina, humility and surrender – an unusual combination in humans. I want my life to leak love and demonstrate the grace of Jesus to people who don’t believe in him, but at the moment, I’ve got a raging grease fire in my kitchen.

Ironically, the only place I can find to cool off, is deep in the book that started the fire in the first place. Peter, who was later crucified upside down, says I should be happy about that:

Be exceedingly glad, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1Peter 1:7

I know it won’t last forever, it just feels like it.

Did You Get What You Wanted for Christmas?

Present

Present (Photo credit: ejorpin)

All I wanted for Christmas this year was to stop doing nothing about the condition of the world, to be more like Jesus in the exact way he calls his followers to be – light.

After calling himself the light of the world, Jesus passed the mantle. WE are now the light of the world and WE are meant to shine like a city on a hill. It’s so simple, but I have sipped countless lattes with my smart, beautiful friends discussing hunger and poverty and slavery and AIDS, fixing our hopes on some opaque redemptive body and wringing our hands.

But Jesus Christ did not ruminate over why the Jewish mental health system failed the demon-possessed man. He just stopped what he was doing and healed him.

So a month ago, I began raising money for The Exodus Road, a coalition of covert investigators rescuing child sex slaves out of SE Asian brothels.

By Christmas day, 18 people, from my parents, to friends, to complete strangers had contributed $1000 of our $1400 goal. That means all of us are engaging the problem of sexual slavery, not just talking about it. We are advancing an army of light, which the darkness cannot suffer. We have done as Proverbs 31:8 says:

Open your mouth for the dumb, for the cause of all who are left desolate.

And yet many people still gaze at all the sticky, black tar fouling the earth and say, “It’s too big, too dark. God can’t possibly be here.”

But He is and here’s how I know:

Careful readers will note we fell short of our $1400 goal. I did the best I could by my deadline and handed the rest over to God.

Yesterday, a couple I don’t know in Minnesota donated the last $400 – our biggest single donation.

candles

candles (Photo credit: rogerglenn)

They gave on behalf of Urban Servant, a blog written by my childhood friend Dorothy, who has adopted nine of her eleven children, many of whom were damaged in utero by booze. If there were no Dorothy, there would be nine more needy, little people dropping through the system like metal balls in a game of mousetrap.

But there is a Dorothy and she is a beacon. This woman has 13 mouths to feed thrice daily, yet she made time to blog about us in such a compelling way, people I don’t know made a sizable gift in her name.

This is how God works. After we agree to serve Him, He uses us like melodies in other people’s songs.

When we get less selfish with our time, our money and our hands, when we accept that we don’t know what we’re doing and may mess things up, when we engage one another in sometimes slow and inefficient ways, that’s when the light shines through us and people can see it. Then the world is a little less dark.

I’m grateful for all of you. Happy New Year.