Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

God Longs to Bring Me Home

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life — pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures — and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.

Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.

— Henri Nouwen, You Are Beloved, p. 16, quoting from The Return of the Prodigal Son

Photo: Lake Geneva, Switzerland, November 2000

The Ultimate Nonviolent One

Sunday, February 21st, 2021

God is the ultimate nonviolent one, so we dare not accept any theory of salvation that is based on violence, exclusion, social pressure, or moral coercion. When we do, these are legitimated as a proper way of life. God saves by loving and including, not by excluding or punishing.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 154

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, 02/21/2021

Image-Bearers

Friday, February 19th, 2021

When we are living in a spiritual community where radical hospitality, total authenticity, true diversity, and agenda-free relationships are the spiritual operating system, every question is not only manageable but welcome, because our default condition becomes hope and not fear. We don’t come burdened with shame, we don’t come fearful of expulsion, and we don’t spend our time waiting for the judgmental shoe to drop. When people come to the bigger table, they don’t need to earn acceptance — this is a given. When we gather at the table Jesus sets, none of us are misfits. By our very presence we fit, because we are full image bearers of God and beloved as we are, without alteration. The traditional Church tends to favor a clearly defined, very narrow inside and outside, and this is where many people part ways because they find their messy, gritty reality doesn’t feel compatible with such clear delineation. But when everyone is openly bringing everything, there’s real connection — when each person realizes they are not outsiders around the table.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 163-164

Photo: Alsenborn, Germany, December 2001

Beloved

Sunday, February 14th, 2021

The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Everytime you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: “These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting embrace.”

— Henri Nouwen, You Are the Beloved, p. 15

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 2016

That Good

Monday, January 25th, 2021

We all need to know that God does not love us because we are that good; God loves us because God is good. Nothing humans can do will inhibit, direct, decrease, or increase God’s eagerness to love.

— Richard Rohr, Eager to Love, p. 188

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 29, 2016

Changing Our Minds, Not God’s

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

As John puts it, “He will show the world how wrong it was about sin, about who was really in the right, and about true judgment” (16:8). This is what Jesus is exposing and defeating on the cross. He did not come to change God’s mind about us. It did not need changing. Jesus came to change our minds about God — and about ourselves — and about where goodness and evil really lie.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 151

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, February 21, 2015

God Is Not Out to Squash You

Saturday, January 23rd, 2021

One of the great comforts in my travels to build a bigger table and to right-size God has been a simple reality that I’ve embraced, one that I hope seeps deep into your heart whatever your theological leanings are: God is not out to squash you. This is an incredibly difficult truth to claim if you’ve experienced religion through the lens of fear that told you otherwise.

I grew up believing that God loved me dearly. I also grew up believing God was very angry with me. I was taught that God personally created me and yet was immediately displeased by my sinfulness. So my very earliest identity was forged in the crucible of this unsettling duplicity: I was both adored and resented by my Creator. As a child I lived in the tension of being the object of both the wrath and the love of God simultaneously. As I grew, I was told I needed to find and do and believe what would tip the scales from punishment to reward, from damnation to salvation, from abandonment to blessing. I had to remove the massive barrier between myself and God, to bridge the wide expanse between the two of us — which somehow was me. For simply being, the problem was me. Apologize for my inborn transgressions and I earned the right to be God’s child. One wrong move, one doctrinal deviation, one errant belief, though, and I would be toast. Living always in paradox, I learned that I had a tender, caring Maker who knit me together in my mother’s womb, numbered every hair on my head — and was never far from destroying me for the birth defect I’d inherited somewhere in the process.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 161-162

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, 1/23/21

Not Cast Off Forever

Monday, January 18th, 2021

If Lamentations 3:31-33 is an accurate description of God’s nature, then God’s nature is best understood as unfailing love towards all — a love which does not cast off anyone forever. Though God might be compelled by love to cause grief, God derives no pleasure from it. God ultimately only causes grief as part of a long-range plan to bring God’s lost children back home. The arc of God’s judgment, while perhaps having to last ages upon ages, nevertheless ultimately bends back towards restoration.

— David Artman, Grace Saves All, p. 23

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 2, 2021

Being Gentle with Ourselves

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

Trying softer isn’t about knowing or doing the right thing; it’s about being gentle with ourselves in the face of pain that is keeping us stuck. Because no matter how hard we try, we can’t hate or shame ourselves into change. Only love can move us toward true growth. This is the love given to us by a gentle, kind, compassionate, good God — and the love we are invited to give ourselves too.

— Aundi Kolber, Try Softer, p. 193-194

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 13, 2020

Soul Stuff

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Real love is contagious. It is infectious. When something is purely of God, it can’t be contained within the walls we fashion for it. This kind of love always yields a fruit that can’t be managed or manufactured or scheduled. Jesus said this was the expectation-defying, unpredictable activity of the Spirit that would characterize his people (John 3:8). This was the movement of the early Church, a movement that grew exponentially in a way that modern churches all want to replicate but rarely can because we’re all trying to engineer man-made miracles. We craft baptism events, we schedule worship nights, we plan revivals. We so love to talk about following the Spirit’s leading, but in practice we really want to run the show and get God to work for us. One of the most freeing lessons I ever learned as a pastor is that I cannot do spiritual things; I can only do physical things. I can only respond in flesh and blood to what I believe God is saying, and then rest in the results. God is the only One who can do soul stuff. My most pressing job as a pastor is often to get out of the way — and it ain’t easy.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 153

Photo: Gundersweiler, Germany, December 1999