Archive for August, 2019

Reckless Love

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Reckless love is different. It pushes us to cross all sorts of boundaries to help us love as God loves and commands us to love. Getting people to take a risk and do the unexpected is the kind of thing Jesus had in mind as he guided his followers to encounter surprising places and people. He has probably done something similar in your life if you have followed him for even a short length of time. Whenever we walk with Jesus, we have experiences that transform us. He takes us out of our comfort zones. Without apology or warning, he expands us, makes us afraid of what might happen, and then shows us how love is properly done. He is not content with sedentary faith.

— Tom Berlin, Reckless Love, p. 11

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 17, 2019

Away from Law, Into Love

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is providing a description of what life looks like for the person who will follow Him. Since the average Jewish person listening to Jesus attempted to allow their life to be guided by the Mosaic Law and Jewish tradition, Jesus frequently compares and contrasts His way of life with the way of life that comes from following the Law. When we approach the Sermon on the Mount with this in mind, we see that Jesus calls people away from actions of legalistic obedience to a set of laws and toward attitudes of love for all people.

The Sermon on the Mount is a call to love. It focuses on attitude, rather than activity. Following Jesus is not about going through the motions but about living in love that comes from the heart. Jesus is not adding to the law, but is showing that love is the fulfillment of the law. He shows, for example, that while the law says “Do not murder” and “Do not commit adultery,” such laws still allowed people to hate their brother or lust after women (Matt 5:21-30). In this way, it was possible to fulfill the letter of the law while completely ignoring its intent. But the person guided by love will neither hate nor lust, which fulfills both the letter and intent of the law. Jesus even goes so far as to call His followers to love their enemies (Matt 5:43-48), which is the ultimate representation of love and which no law could ever accomplish. The rest of the Sermon follows this same theme.

J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 98-99

Expectations

Monday, August 19th, 2019

Expectations are resentments under construction.

— Anne Lamott, Almost Everything, p. 168

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 17, 2019

Party Time!

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Joy, overlooking all the good reasons for pessimism, throws a big party over one lovely flower, one bird call, one child’s smile, one earth-shattering change in a human heart.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 150

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, July 26, 2019

Standing With

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

So we are encouraged to stand with the tax collector and the prostitute, the widow, orphan, and stranger, precisely because they are the judged, the scapegoated, the less-than, whose chances are taken away well before they are given. The principal cause of suffering for the leper is not an annoying, smelly, itchy skin disease but rather having to live outside the camp. So the call is to stand with them, so that the margins get erased and they are welcomed back inside. Jesus doesn’t think twice: he touches the lepers before he gets around to healing them.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 166

Redeeming Love

Friday, August 16th, 2019

The idea of a God who redeems Israel and who therefore can be called the Redeemer became firmly fixed in Israel’s religious imagination well before the disastrous exile in Babylon. In the dynamic way that language works, the technical meaning of redeem broadened out over time to include connotations of God’s helping, rescuing, liberating, restoring, forgiving, showing steadfast love, comforting, taking away fear, and especially caring for the poor and defenseless. The language of redeeming also became associated with the act of saving. While in the same general family of meaning, the latter carries a distinct sense of healing from sickness and restoring to health, the opposite of which is perishing.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 45

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 4, 2019

Sympathetic Joy

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

Sympathetic joy takes our attention away from our own preoccupations and allows us to see that joy is available in many more places than we have yet imagined.

— Sharon Salzberg, Real Love, p. 293

Photo:  South Riding, Virginia, August 14, 2019

Positive Intention

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

If you imagine each positive intention as a road, then the next step is to see yourself driving on that road toward your goals. When you are young you may be riding a bicycle on the road and then as you age you may drive progressively more expensive cars. Now, say you are forty-five and your teenage son leaves home under a cloud. Or, say you are forty-five and your wife leaves you for another man. Or, say you are forty-five and your business fails and you were cheated. Your positive intention of a loving family or business success has taken a hit. For the sake of this exercise picture your loss as a tire blowout on the road of intimacy. I know when this happens many of us would more readily picture this as a head-on collision, but remember we can recover from the loss of a spouse, business, or relationship with a child.

In this image you find yourself on the side of the highway trying to change a flat tire. Remember, it is common for obstacles to emerge. Maybe no one has ever taught you how to change a tire and you stand there confused and scared. Alternatively, you let your spare tire get flat and you are struggling to use an underinflated tire. You are then trying to figure out when the next highway patrol officer will come by. Throughout this experience you are likely muttering under your breath that you do not have time for this, that you are late for an important meeting….

As we connect to our positive intention we begin to find forgiveness. Forgiveness is the peace we feel as we cease resentment toward our car. Forgiveness is the peace that comes from understanding we are responsible for whether or not we feel okay. Forgiveness is the compassion we experience as we remind ourselves that by driving a car we run the risk of a breakdown. Forgiveness is the power we get as we assert that we have a deep well of resilience to draw upon. Forgiveness is the grace that helps us remember, while on the side of the road, we can look around and appreciate our beautiful surroundings.

Forgiveness is the positive feeling we have as we review the myriad of times our car ran perfectly. Forgiveness offers us peace as we remember the problem could have been worse. Forgiveness is the power we feel as we create a hero’s story where we overcome difficulties. In our hero’s story we talk about how well we coped and how little need we had to blame. In that story we remind others and ourselves that we are a survivor.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 144-145

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 14, 2019

Solidarity with Slaves

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

You actually abolish slavery by accompanying the slave. We don’t strategize our way out of slavery, we solidarize, if you will, our way toward its demise. We stand in solidarity with the slave, and by so doing, we diminish slavery’s ability to stand. By casting our lot with the gang member, we hasten the demise of demonizing. All Jesus asks is, “Where are you standing?” And after chilling defeat and soul-numbing failure, He asks again, “Are you still standing there?”

Can we stay faithful and persistent in our fidelity even when things seem not to succeed? I suppose Jesus could have chosen a strategy that worked better (evidence-based outcomes) — that didn’t end in the Cross — but he couldn’t find a strategy more soaked with fidelity than the one he embraced.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 173

Photo: Staffa Island, Scotland, July 13, 2003

Am I Acting Like I Believe?

Monday, August 12th, 2019

So perhaps a better question than “Do I believe in miracles?” is “Am I acting like I do?” Am I including the people who are typically excluded? Am I feeding the hungry and caring for the sick? Am I holding the hands of the homeless and offering help to addicts? Am I working to break down religious and political barriers that marginalize ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities and people with disabilities? Am I behaving as though life is more than a meaningless, chaotic mess, that there is some order in the storm?

— Rachel Held Evans, Inspired, p. 186

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 3, 2019