Archive for July, 2019

A Strong Aspiration

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

If you have a deep aspiration, a goal for your life, then your loving of others is part of this aspiration and not a distraction from it. If you and your partner both want to do things to relieve the suffering in this world, then your love for each other is connected to your love for others, and it expands exponentially to cover the whole world.

— Thich Nhat Hanh, How to Love, p. 74

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, July 31, 2019

Where Wonder Leads

Saturday, July 27th, 2019

Do we have time to notice the baby-fingernail moon, a thick cape of morning mist, the diamond dew? Do we play anymore, step away from tasks, duties, and habits with curiosity? Tread carefully: if you are not vigilant, this may lead to wonder, which is joy, which every fear in you knows will lead to job failure and lost revenue.

— Anne Lamott, Almost Everything, p. 167-168

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, July 26, 2019

The Fulfillment of the Law

Friday, July 26th, 2019

One interesting note about Jesus’ fulfillment of the law is that there is no recorded instruction from Jesus to His own disciples for them to obey and follow the Law of Moses. Why not? Because He was modelling love, which is God’s ultimate goal and purpose for our lives anyway. Where there is love, law becomes unnecessary. Loving God and loving others naturally leads to the fulfillment of the law (Matt 22:37; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27). If loving God and loving others is the fulfillment of the law, then the law is “followed” simply by loving God and loving others. If we are guided by love, then we do not need the law to guide us, because love guides us to do the things commanded by the law.

Jesus, through His life and ministry, revealed what it looks like to live according to love. In so doing, He not only fulfilled the spirit and purpose of the law, but also did away with it in the sense that He showed that where there is love, law is not needed. Of course, where there is no love, the law is still better than nothing as a way to guide people into proper behavior. This is why Jesus said He did not come to destroy or abolish the law. He knew that love takes time to grow and spread, and that not everyone will live in love toward everyone else. Therefore law, as defective as it is, still guides human behavior when there is no love. This was not only true of the Mosaic Law for the Israelite people, but it is also true for the laws of any country or community today. The reason nations, businesses, and families have laws today is because love is not fully formed among us.

So what is clear from the rest of Scripture, as well as from Jesus’ own words, is that love is the fulfillment of the law. Most Christians would agree that the law is accomplished and fulfilled when we love God and love others (Gal 5:14; Jas 2:8; Rom 13:8-10; 1 Tim 1:5; Deut 6:5; Matt 22:37; Luke 10:27; Mark 12:30-31). The way of love is the “more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31). When Jesus said that He had come to fulfill the law, this was best seen in the fact that love was the defining characteristic of Jesus. Since love is the fulfillment of the law, and since Jesus loved God and loved everyone perfectly, he therefore fulfilled the law. This is what Jesus meant in Matthew 5:17. The rest of the Sermon on the Mount provides numerous examples of how love fulfills the law.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 97-98

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, July 26, 2019

Capacity to Love

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

Recognizing that no one else can complete us actually enhances our capacity to love and receive the love of others.

— Sharon Salzberg, Real Love, p. 293

Photo:  Barefoot Park, Germany, July 2003

Joy at the Center

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

Often we get sidetracked and let insignificant matters eclipse what is most important. Forgetting that the kingdom of God is fundamentally about peace and joy, we act as if it’s really about work, doing our duty, making enough money, building the church, organizing prayer meetings, or keeping other Christians in line. Why do we find it so hard to believe that joy is at the center, not at the periphery, of the spiritual life? Joy is what gives the spark to everything else. With joy we can accomplish much work; without joy we can work and work and get nowhere.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 144

Photo: Rhododendron Park, Bremen, Germany, May 16, 2004

Kinship

Saturday, July 13th, 2019

In the end, though, the measure of our compassion with what Martin Luther King calls “the last, the least, and the lost” lies less in our service of those on the margins, and more in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them. It speaks of a kinship so mutually rich that even the dividing line of service provider/service recipient is erased. We are sent to the margins NOT to make a difference but so that the folks on the margins will make us different.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 165

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, July 13, 2013

Righteous Anger

Friday, July 12th, 2019

The real issue, though, is how to understand divine anger in the context of overwhelming graciousness and mercy. The danger is that within a patriarchal, punitive setting, speaking of a wrathful God has been used to justify holy wars and torture, hostility to outsiders, and debilitating guilt in sensitive consciences. But righteous anger is a different breed of cat. It is profoundly ethical. It waxes hot in moral outrage because something good is being violated. Arising from love, it awakens energy to act to change the situation. Editing a powerful book of photographs of African American women, Barbara Summers was struck by the creative power of anger of even the most accomplished of these women: “A truly beautifying discovery for me was to find so much love in anger. It was a fist-up, death-defying love that challenged the unfair conditions of life and muscled in on injustice as it nursed both sides of a nation.” This is not anger with the spirit of murder in it, but fury that is creative of life. Much feminist in-depth analysis, such as Beverly Harrison’s influential essay “The Power of Anger in the Work of Love,” makes clear that far from being the opposite of love, righteous anger is a vivid, moral form of caring that empowers transformation.

In the context of God’s graciousness and mercy, divine anger functions for justice. It bespeaks a mode of caring response in the face of what harms beloved human beings or the created world itself. “The exploitation of the poor is to us a misdemeanor; to God it is a disaster,” writes Abraham Heschel. Divine wrath is a worthy response. True, it lasts but a moment; true, it is instrumental, aimed at change and conversion. But it stands as an antidote to sentimentality.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 39-40

Photo: Sky Meadows State Park, Virginia, July 3, 2017

Grievance Stories Turned Positive

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

In any grievance story, someone does not get what he or she wants. Unacknowledged is that behind each painful situation is a positive intention. Once found and reclaimed, the positive intention alters the grievance story. The story is no longer just about the person and or situation that caused pain but about the goal that was not quite reached. Suddenly, instead of just recycling pain, the grievance story becomes a vehicle for learning how to change to attain that goal. The grievance story becomes a part of the positive intention story.

The person or event that hurt us is important insofar as we can learn from the situation. In no way, though do we allow our grievance to distract us from our goal. If we continue to pursue our goal, we exact the greatest revenge on someone who has hurt us. We move on. We find peace.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 143

Photo: Torrey Pines State Reserve, California, July 10, 2015

God’s Business

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

Are you, in the end, successful? Naturally, I find myself heartened by Mother Teresa’s take: “We are not called to be successful, but faithful.” This distinction is helpful for me as I barricade myself against the daily dread of setback. You need protection from the ebb and flow of three steps forward, five steps backward. You trip over disappointment and recalcitrance every day, and it all becomes a muddle. God intends it to be, I think. For once you choose to hang out with folks who carry more burden than they can bear, all bets seem to be off. Salivating for success keeps you from being faithful, keeps you from truly seeing whoever’s sitting in front of you. Embracing a strategy and an approach you can believe in is sometimes the best you can do on any given day. If you surrender your need for results and outcomes, success becomes God’s business. I find it hard enough to just be faithful.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 167-168

Photo: Schloss Dhaun, Germany, July 2002

Who Is In?

Saturday, July 6th, 2019

The apostles remembered what many modern Christians tend to forget — that what makes the gospel offensive isn’t who it keeps out but who it lets in.

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 186

Photo: Prague, July 16, 2004