Archive for the ‘love’ Category

self love

A few days ago, I suggested that in the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself,” the “love yourself” part was as important as the “love your neighbor” part. I suggested that we often do not “love ourselves” in the pace of life that we choose, our refusal to observe God’s principles of rest and a healthy rhythm of life.

But a few days ago, a good friend had some challenging questions for me with regard to the origins of this commandment, specifically the part about “loving ourselves.” Yesterday on my run at lunchtime, I couldn’t stop thinking about these questions and their implications. They are such important (but often under-emphasized) questions, as Jesus said all the commandments are tied up in it, along with the commandment to “love God.”

So I open this up to the community, and I hope that many of you will give your two cents:

What does it mean to love ourselves? What are some ways that we have misunderstood what “self love” means? What are some scriptures that may shed light on the meaning of “loving ourselves” in the context of the Greatest Commands? How does loving ourselves tie into loving others? Are there any other implications?

For your convenience, here are the biblical references to the commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (all from Today’s New International Version):

LEVITICUS 19:18
‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

MATTHEW 19:16-21
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, ” ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

MATTHEW 22:34-39
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

MARK 12:28-34
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 3To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

LUKE 10:25-37
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

ROMANS 13:8-10
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

GALATIANS 5:13-15
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

JAMES 2:8
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

the most important ministry lesson I’ve ever learned:

hurried man.jpgSlow down.

Seriously.

Now, take a deep breath, count to 10, and let that sit for a few.

Was that hard? Oh, it’s hard for us too, but it’s getting easier.

I’ve blogged about Sabbath a few times before (here and here, for instance), but a weekly period of rest is not particularly the focus of this post.

I want to talk about what happens the rest of the week.

When I look around me, I see people bent on productivity, busyness, full day planners, and schedule-making. And that’s just the Christians. Many of us have bought the lie that the faster we go, the busier we are — the better. We have bought the old American lie of productivity.

Love your neighbor as yourself.

We’ve all heard it a jillion times. It’s half of “the Law boiled down,” according to Jesus. But how often do we remember to love ourselves? I mean “love” in the deepest sense of the term, in the same way that we are loving others? Do we believe that the second part (as yourself) of this commandment of Jesus is as important as the first (love your neighbor)?

Since we’ve been in Boston, Chrissy and I have covenented with each other and some of our friends that if we were going to be in the “loving others” business, we would make sure we loved ourselves first. This includes eating right, exercise, and all that, but it also includes avoiding the franetic pace of life known by so many American Christians. We purposefully limit the number of nights per week that we are out of the house. We don’t work “overtime” at work and school. We use the weekend to rest. We set aside an entire day (Sundays for us) where we do nothing.

Several reasons exist for why this is important to us:

First, it opens us up for more spontaneous movements of God in and through us. If every second of our week is planned out in advance, can we really expect random “God moments” to happen through and to us on a regular basis? For instance, we stayed in on Monday night. As a result, Chrissy spent more than an hour in our downstairs neighbor’s home encouraging her about the job she just got (and in essence, showing the love of Christ!). This wasn’t planned or programmed, but it happened because Chrissy was available for a spontaneous “God moment.”

Second, it conveys the kingdom principle that Christ’s “yoke is easy and his burden light.” Let me explain: We want to “pass along” a faith to our neighbors and co-workers that is not fast-paced, hurried, frenzied, stressed-out, programmed, scheduled… So many Christian families are so busy with “church stuff,” running from one Bible Study and pizza party to the next. What are we communicating to the pre-Christians with whom we come in contact? Would anyone want to sign on to such a gospel? We believe that the gospel makes claims on how we spend our time, and that these claims are refreshing to a go-go-go world.

Third, we need it. Jesus told some of his critics this one time that the Sabbath wasn’t created for God, but for man. Somewhere toward the beginning of the human race, God realized that humanity that works and plays hard needs adequate rest as well. We cannot run on fumes and be effective in the kingdom of God — not for long, at least. Rhythms of slowness and rest were built into the original plan of our Creator. That should count for something!

(there are certainly not just three reasons for a sane rhythm of life … I would welcome anyone’s additions to this partial list)

If you haven’t noticed, I’m talking about more than just observing a weekly Sabbath here. A prolonged period of rest each week is important (and has blessed Chrissy and me immensely), but I’m talking more about what my friend Adam Kirkland calls “Sabbathizing” your life. It’s more of a “rhythm of rest” that permeates the entire life of a Christ-follower. Sanity, if you will. This is in part a recognition that in God’s ideal world, we’re never anxious, out-of-control or stretched thin. Seeking a sane rhythm of life is sort of like grasping for another deposit of God’s in-breaking kingdom — the way of Jesus — in this world, starting with me.

This is counter-intuitive to us, so I know it’s not something that one perfects overnight. It’s really a spiritual discipline, and one that takes intentionality and a heckuva lot of work. I have seen so many Christians run out of gas because in an attempt to love as many people as they possibly can, they have ignored Jesus’ command to love themselves first. Slowing down is one crucial way that we can do this, and it has been our experience that divine things take place when God’s people obey.

Is there a more important ministry practice than this?

Be blessed today. (and slow down, for Pete’s sake!)

“Sweet Caroline”…sweet Kai Leigh.

Watch this video (just click play at the bottom of the screen…make sure your volume is turned up), then read.

Ahh yes…”Sweet Caroline,” as only rabid Red Sox fans can sing it. What a performance. My dad and I saw several inspiring performances today (6.26) at Fenway Park in a game that pitted the BoSox against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Wakefield gave us seven decent innings. David “Big Papí” Ortiz — aka Mr. Clutch — comes through again in the 12th inning with a two-out double to the gap to win the game for the Sox, 8-7. Third walk-off hit for Papí in the last eight games. You know, little performances.

But perhaps the biggest performance of the day (for me) was that of little Kai Leigh Harriott, a 5-year-old Boston girl, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch at today’s game. You see, Kai Leigh’s spine was shattered by a stray bullet when she was three, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down and wheelchair-bound. The amazing part of the story was what happened two years later when little Kai Leigh faced the man who shot her. Sitting just a few feet from the man who changed her life forever, the five-year-old said the following words as she broke down in tears: “I know you didn’t mean to do this to me. You are forgiven.”

When the public address announcer told the story at today’s game, Kai Leigh received a standing ovation from almost 35,000 fans in attendance. The announcer correctly stated that Kai Leigh had taught all of us a lesson on compassion and forgiveness.

It was truly a holy moment. I saw Christ in the face of a five-year-old, wheelchair-bound little girl from a broken home in a violent part of town. This little girl forgave — with great emotion — the man who had no care for her life two years ago when he pulled a trigger. Can you imagine how hearing Kai Leigh’s forgiveness impacted the shooter?

There are so many lessons one could draw out of this story, but here’s one thought to ponder today. Time and time again, Jesus points to the “weak” or “least” things as being most valuable in the kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus tells us that Christians must look to people like Kai Leigh:

Then he said, “I assure you, unless you turn from your sins and become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 18:3)

In a world that holds grudges, fights for “personal rights,” steps on anyone and everyone to get ahead, and generally looks out for number one, Jesus is telling us that his followers will look a whole lot more like a compassionate little girl in a wheelchair. How odd…

[Click here for a Globe story on Kai Leigh’s confrontation with her shooter.]

DMV, temping, evening walk

Our Neighborhood from the Today began kinda crappy. Chrissy and I were at the Mass. Dept. of Motor Vehicles as they were opening (8:30 a.m.) to get our new driver’s licenses. Chrissy had checked out what all we needed to bring, of course, and we were definitely on the ball. After getting a number, filling out our paperwork, and waiting for about 20 minutes, they called 218 and 219. Chrissy had brought our townhouse lease as our proof of address, which, apparently, was her only (and most crucial) mistake. They couldn’t accept the lease. They need a utility bill or updated check (as if someone couldn’t fabricate that…) or basically anything besides our housing lease to confirm our address. Geez. One more example to prove my theory that the seventh circle of Hell is, in fact, the DMV.

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It got better, however. We went to order checks from Bank of America and ended up getting them from a delightful Colombian man named Andres. He helped our day get better, for sure. Plus our checks were free.

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It got even better… I got a call from my contact at the staffing group I joined yesterday saying that there was a company needing a copywriter to work a.s.a.p. today only. I wasn’t doing anything, so I decided to take it (plus, the fact that the hourly pay was more than four times what I made at HR Frontline at ACU didn’t hurt…). The company was young, intimate, and so, so cool. I seriously did my dream job today. Basically, this company works for HUGE companies providing hook-ups, favors, and perks to company VIPs. You name it, they can do it. They even got an autographed Babe Ruth game ball for one of their members. I spent the day boiling down their biggest “finds” (Brad Pitt’s sunglasses, rare jewelry, discontinued Salvador Dalí perfume — things like that) into a paragraph each for an upcoming Merrill Lynch benefits brochure. It was loads of fun.

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But the highlight of the day, believe it or not, was yet to come. We walked Damon around the park down the street (the one that looks out over the harbor and skyline — click on the above photo), and EVERYBODY was out in the park playing some kind of sport or another or just enjoying the evening. There were latinos playing basketball, two groups playing soccer, an Arab woman eating a boxed dinner by the water, a group of old Asian women sitting under a tree… You get the picture. We live in a cornucopia of people. We met a little boy named Enmer, attracted to us at first by Damon (of course). He walked with us twice around the park, telling us that he plays soccer, will be in kindergarten next year, and lives in our neighborhood. He kept hugging Damon and talking to him, which was hilarious. When we told him that we needed to get Damon back to the house and he couldn’t come, he asked if we would be back. “I want to see you guys back here, OK?” he said. It was adorable. We are seeing that connecting to the community in real ways might be as simple as walking the dog in the park.

Ironic.

living in God’s story

This week I am in a challenging and Christ-centered class called “Living in God’s Story: Spiritual Formation in Missions.” We have talked about the spiritual disciplines, about church, about the nature of the Trinity, about our “missional God,” and many, many other things. Dr. Earl Lavender, director of missions at Lipscomb, is teaching the class and has shown a level of vulnerability and passion that I have rarely seen at the graduate level. It has been refreshing.

Here are some random quotes I wrote down from the class, in no particular order. Be blessed!

Scripture = paradigmatic stories about how God interacts in the world

We live in a world of competing stories. Everyone lives in a particular story, whether by default or intent. We need to re-introduce (for many people introduce) the story of God.

Salvation is living with Jesus.

If you’re God, why pray?

We need to believe that our life is to be fully absorbed in the kingdom story. It needs to consume us.

Mother Teresa: “I never pray for clarity. I only pray for faithfulness.”

Spiritual formation is learning to hear the voice of God in normal circumstances of life.

God created the universe as a symphony of praise, and spiritual disciplines help us to tune our hearts to that symphony.

Fantasize about God. Look for representations of God in everything we see.

What would church/our life/missions look like if everything we did was run through the understanding of God as relationship?

Every vocation is an opportunity to live out the kingdom life.

What we cannot now do through trying, the spiritual disciplines allow us to do through training.

The post-Resurrection life is not about doing the spectacular, it’s about helping people figure life out.

apart, but not separated

(from left) Cara and Travis Fry, Chad and Katie Allen, Houston and Kelly
Shearon, C & S

The human person is not an individual, not a self-contained being who at some stage in life chooses or elects to be in relationship with another and others. From the very first moment of existence, the infant is toward the other, ordinarily the mother or father, who is in turn toward and for the infant. From our origin we are related to others. We are from others, by others, toward others, for others, just as it is in God to exist in the relations of interpersonal love. — Michael Downey, Altogether Gift: A Trinitarian Spirituality

It began as a one-time thing. A prayer and discernment get-together for a graduate school couple we didn’t really know that well, Travis and Cara Fry. Five couples were there back in August 2005, worshipping, praying, and asking each other and God what to do next.

It went so well, we decided to do it the next week. Almost 10 months later, we’ve met every Wednesday night with three other couples to talk, pray, discern, and eat. Man, has the eating been good. We have celebrated communion together from time to time around the table. We have, at times, taken these gatherings very seriously, sharing tears or “firm discernment,” and have often allowed the Spirit to direct the gatherings as the Spirit willed.

But our group was not about gatherings, first and foremost. The initial gathering led to something so much deeper: Life together. It was about brake pad replacement on our Corrolla. It was about mountain biking every week down at “the trails.” It was about coffee together in the mornings. It was about “girls’ night” and “guys’ night.” It was about countless prayers that we lifted up for each other on a daily basis. It was about sharing together the frustrations, the joys, the anger, the sadness, the love of life.

Wednesday marked the last formal gathering our group will have (in its present state). On Saturday, Chad and Katie Allen will go to Atlanta to spend some time before they travel to Dubai, U.A.E., for a research trip in July. Chad is an accountant who wants to do bi-vocational missions in an Arab country. Travis and Cara Fry will leave next week for a backpacking trip in Colorado and New Mexico (including some much-needed spiritual “filling up” at a retreat center in N.M.) before they move to Tanzania in June to join God in his work there. Houston and Kelly Shearon will finish out a Vista internship with a local non-profit before pursuing further education in international development; they dream of creating sustainable development partnerships in some of the poorest nations in the world. The Holts, of course, will leave June 3 for Boston to join God’s “work already in progress” there.

We have seen God in this group over the last 10 months. We have drunk deeply from the well of Christian community, realizing for the first time the power of the Acts 2 account of the “fellowship of believers.” We have come to see one another as fellow travelers — pilgrims — on a Way that doesn’t promise safety or comfort, but does promise “life abundant.” Traveling with other pilgrims makes the uncomfortable times bearable — even sweet. While we may not gather as regularly from here on out, our little “fellowship of believers” will stay connected by the Cross. Across oceans, time zones, and cultures, we will be connected in our status as pilgrims on this narrow Way and in our passion for introducing others into this most perfect Way.

winds of heaven…stuff of earth

There’s more that rises in the morning
Than the sun
And more that shines in the night
Than just the moon
It’s more than just this fire here
That keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger
Than this room

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

There’s more that dances on the prairies
Than the wind
More that pulses in the ocean
Than the tide
There’s a love that is fiercer
Than the love between friends
More gentle than a mother’s
When her baby’s at her side

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegence
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

And if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You