Posts Tagged ‘love’

Cenla Meditation Group has been participating in the 28 days of meditation challenge and book study of Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. This is a guided lovingkindness meditation and talk by Lyndon Marcotte on “Week 4: Lovingkindness” Recorded 02/26/2013.

Metta is my favorite type of meditation and the one I find least distracting. I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much because intercessory prayer was always a challenge to me.

It wasn’t hard to know how to pray or to genuinely want people to get better when I prayed, but I was never quite sure of who was on the receiving end of those prayers, if they would answer, or even cared at times.

For whatever reason metta comes natural to me. It feels right; actually it feels good. Metta is compassion. It is meditating on a mantra rather than your breath or footsteps.

The most awkward part of metta for me initially was wishing myself well. You begin by saying:

May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.

Then you repeat that for someone close to you that you love:

May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you live with ease.

Next you repeat that mantra for someone you encounter but may not know, like a waitress, a guy who jogs on your street every morning, or someone who works in the same building as you do.

Finally and most difficult you repeat that mantra for someone you have problems with, someone you may not get along with at the moment.

What happens with metta is that you learn to be gentle with yourself and others. You learn to treat people like fellow human beings, even those you may have problems with. You develop empathy for others.

I like to say each phrase on the exhaled breath. It’s important to put your full attention and intention behind each mantra. Mean what you say, or “fake it till you make it.” Eventually, you’ll find that you do mean it, and it will show up the next time you speak to a stranger on the street.

~ Namaste

Sermon
Easter 7A, June 5, 2011
John 17:1-11


This is a prayer of last requests. While not a death bed prayer, it might as well be. Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane knowing that He will soon be arrested and be put be death.

“He’s in the middle of an eleventh hour crash course on “everything you need to know before everything goes berserk between Good Friday and Easter.” It’s crunch time, and in this moment Jesus offers up a prayer for his followers, mindful of what they will have to endure (and with an eye toward all of us who will come long after them).” Danielle Shroyer

It’s a very hard text to dissect into pieces and force into a sermon. We should hear it and feel the heart of the one who prayed these words. It’s deeply personal. You can hear the anguish in the prayer of Jesus knowing everything that awaits Him. You can hear of His deep love for His Father, for His disciples, and for those who were yet to come to know Him.

Last words carry a special weight to them that lingers in the air when we hear them. This prayer reveals the heart of Jesus and the burdens that weighed on Him most in His final hours. There are three themes that run all the way through the prayer that we must pay attention to. May we listen carefully for God’s good word to us.


God May Be Glorified

First and foremost, Jesus prays that God will be glorified in His life and through what will soon took place. Even as He prays for God to glorify Him, He asks only so that He may in turn glorify His Father. God the Father and God the Son are mirror reflections of each other.

Specifically, Jesus prays that God may glorify Him the way He was before the world began. As much as He is divine, Jesus is every bit human. This was going to be almost too much to bear. Because of His love for His Father and His love for us He endured the cross that He would have to bear. He prayed that God would be glorified even in His death.

Jesus’ signs and miracles reveal God’s glory by displaying divine power, the crucifixion reveals God’s glory by conveying divine love. The crucifixion completes Jesus’ work of glorifying God on earth, for by laying down his life he gives himself so completely that the world may know of Jesus’ love for God and God’s love for the world.

Everything that God gives to us, our talents, our time, and our treasures should be used to bring glory to God. Even Jesus looked at His power, His time on Earth, and His disciples as gifts from God, (vs.6-10). He was faithful with all that God had given Him up until the end. He prays for all of us that we may also be faithful and that God would protect us (vs.11,15) so that others would come to know Christ through our message (vs.20).

Jesus glorified God on earth by finishing the work God gave him to do (v.4) and by revealing God’s power. We can glorify God by finishing the work He has given us to do, to use our lives as instruments of His grace, to share His love with others. As we love others the way Christ loved us, we make the invisible God visible in the flesh through our lives.


We May Have Eternal Life

“Christ does not pray that they might be rich and great in the world, but that they might be kept from sin, strengthened for their duty, and brought safe to heaven.” Matthew Henry

It’s interesting to realize all the things that Jesus didn’t pray for in this moment. No, He didn’t pray for us to all be rich, powerful, and have everything we want, but He did pray for us to have the one thing we needed above all else… He prayed that we would know God, specifically to know God the way He knows God.

Jesus prayed that we may have eternal life, (v.3). He prayed that God would bring us to be with Him where He is going, (v.24). He wanted us to have that assurance of reunion with God and His Son, but He also said something else about what eternal life really is, (v.3).

He said that eternal life is “knowing you, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent,” (vs.3). “According to John’s gospel, eternal life comes from a relationship with the eternal God,” Craig Koester. Eternal life is now. This is part of eternity right now. The kind of life that God wants for us doesn’t start when we die. It begins now as we follow Christ and come to know the eternal God. Jesus didn’t pray for God to take us out of this world but that He would protect us and use us for His glory in this world, (v.15).

We can experience the full measure of God’s love and His grace here and now in this life. We don’t wait till we die to know God.


We May Be One

The blessing Jesus prays for is: That we may be one as Jesus and God are one. That’s a very important distinction in the kind of unity that Jesus wants for us. He doesn’t just want us to get along and not kill each other. He actually wants us to love one another selflessly the way He loves His Father and the Father loves Him.

We don’t have to get to Martin Luther, or even to the East/West schism of 1054, to know that Christian unity hasn’t lived up to Jesus’ prayer for us. Peter bailed on Jesus and his friends just a chapter later. Paul and Barnabas parted ways halfway through the Book of Acts. And us? If you checked the blogosphere right now, you’d find thousands of examples of Christians arguing over the fine print of our faith. We aren’t one as Jesus and the Father are one. We spend most of our time competing with one another, finding scapegoat enemies on whom to blame the world’s problems, and yelling.  We’re running a repetitive grinder of anxiety in our collective stomachs.

If Jesus is praying on our behalf for us to attain a higher, more lofty sense of togetherness, we sure haven’t listened. So what does that say about us?

What does that say about Jesus’ prayer? For all those who were taught that their heartfelt prayers would be heard and answered, it is quite problematic to see the Son of God’s unanswered prayer staring us in the face.  What does it mean when even Jesus’ prayer isn’t answered?

– Danielle Shroyer

We believe that there is nothing that God cannot do, but why hasn’t Jesus’ prayer been answered? We know that God doesn’t force us to do anything. He leads us, prompts us, convicts us, challenges us, but if we don’t listen, if we don’t follow Him, a part of God’s good plan for us remains unfulfilled. I believe that “God gets what God wants.” He will accomplish His purposes, but the frightening thing is that we may miss out on what He is doing. We may miss the blessing that could have been ours when we fight and argue rather than love and serve. Worse yet than missing out is that we may be a stumbling block for others. Rather than being a conduit for God’s love to be shown to a hurting world, we may actually drive people away from God and His Son by the way we claim to represent Him.

Jesus isn’t just asking God for something. He’s asking us for something. He’s praying to us, pleading with us also… “be one with each other, as We are one.” Unity and love in the body of Christ is far more important than being right. It seems for the last century the major thrust of Christendom is about who’s right and has the answers. We’ve lost something when we fail to love one another and love others who may be difficult to love. Can we really call ourselves Christians just because we believe certain things and go to special places, if we don’t truly love people. As the old hymn reminds us, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

I read somewhere that “people may not always remember what you say, but they will always remember how it made them feel.” I pray that we make people feel loved, wanted, believed in, and hoped for. May we bring out the best in one another rather than the worst in each other.

As we come to the close of Jesus’ prayer, we must turn our focus to our own prayers. How shall we pray? “What if we spent less time praying about being right and more time praying about being one?” Danielle Shroyer. What if we spent more time praying for the grace to love those who may be difficult to love? What if we spent more time praying for opportunities to show God’s love to others, whether or not we have the chance to explain it.

May God be glorified in us. May we experience life eternal and the love of an eternal God. May we be one as the Father and the Son are one. May Christ’s prayer be answered in our own. Amen.

I received one of the highest compliments I’ve ever been given this afternoon. While leaving a courthouse in a north Louisana parish (county), I was stopped by a guy in the hall who knew me. He said he remembered me coming to the state prison where he was incarcerated over five years ago. He apologized for not remembering my name but said he remembered my face.

I’m glad that was all he remembered. Not a sermon. Not a personality. Just my face. It’s not about what we say, what we profess, but what we do that makes a difference. Being there may be the most significant thing we can do for the hurting, the lonely, and the dying. Case in point.

I don’t share this to brag. I share it with the upmost humility and will cherish the compliment more than any Amen, any applause, or any paycheck I received in the ministry. I’ve had a lot of regrets from things I said and did while pastoring. There are a lot of sermons I’d like to have back, plenty of deacon’s meetings I wish I would’ve missed, a few services I’d rather have skipped, but there is not one minute spent with inmates in the state prison that I regret.

Of all the things I have ever been involved with, nothing has been more personally, spirtually, or humanly gratifying than time spent with those guys. I always believed “there for the grace of God, go I.” Only one mistake separated them from me, only one. I cannot tell you the number of times I drove an hour one way after an 8 hour day to spend time with those guys. So many times I was tired and didn’t ‘feel’ like going but was always so glad I did on the way home late at night.

On this very ordinary, aggravating, stress-filled work day it did wonders for my soul to be remembered.

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:37-40

 


Please remember Steve. He’s out of the state prison and recently completed his diesel mechanic training. He’s serving as an inmate trustee cleaning the courthouse and doing maintenance on the Sheriff’s department vehicles until his sentence is served in 2012. He’s up for parole next year and asked for all the prayers he could get.

At this moment Iran is erupting in waves of violence from protestors who support and oppose the declared victory of Ahmadinejad in this week’s Presidential election. Students at Tehran University are pleading with U.S. President Obama not to accept the election results and to stand with them.

Students rescue injured riot police officer

Students rescue injured riot police officer

I thought this photo was compelling. Students are rescuing an injured riot police officer who was attacked by protestors. This is the kind of action that will start a real revolution. Violence won’t. From Ghandi to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Jesus non-violent resistance and courageous acts of selfless love have turned the tides of history.

While Iran and the larger Middle East does not want to be Western nor should they, they do want to be free. There have long been stories about the changes among younger Iranians and the break with the powers that be. I’ve long thought that within my lifetime a revolution would ensue. Whether or not that revolution is crushed or turns the hearts and minds of all Iranians will depend on whether more students choose to emulate this act of selflessness or swing bats and burn buildings. Choose peace. Choose love. Start a fire that consumes hatred and oppression, and it will never burn out.

The Obamas between inaugural balls

The Obamas between inaugural balls

Someone observed that either these two are actually crazy about each other or some of best damn actors in politics. I don’t think you can fake this stuff. How different these next four years will be.

As I walked up to a nursing home this afternoon, I noticed a frail old man sitting on a bench outside. He was tall and thin and appeared to be at least 80. He was leaning over a bit, holding something to the tip of his nose. I thought it was sad that he couldn’t see any better and had to read like that. As I got closer, I saw that he was holding a worn 3 x 5 photo of him and his wife from at least 10 years earlier.

He didn’t just glance at the photo and tuck it back into his pocket. He looked long, hard and lovingly at the face that he saw every morning for most of his life. As I opened the door, he slid the picture slowly into his left shirt pocket and stared out into the distance. I felt like I witnessed something so intimate but so powerful. I felt intrusive just to be there but so grateful that I was.

From spacetelescope.org
Colliding galaxies (photo from Hubble telescope)

Breathtaking! A few years ago my first thought would have been that this is the fingerprint of God. Maybe it is; maybe it’s not. I’m not able to answer that anymore. My first impression on seeing this image today is that we are looking into a mirror at a reflection of ourselves.

I’m in complete awe of the beauty and grandeur of the universe. It is inadequate and inconceivable to even say that it is big. I highly recommend you read this article just to get some perspective on our place in it: Window of Possibility: Why the Hubble Ultra Deep Field is the most incredible photograph ever taken.

When we see images like this, we cannot even begin to appreciate the significance of them. This image captures the birth pangs of our mother. This is where we all came from. We are the children of stardust, whirling and colliding in massive and spectacular beauty. All life as we know it has this common ancestry.

My 3 year old son was looking at family pictures yesterday. Some of them were taken before he was born with only his mommy, daddy, and older brother. He got very sad and asked where he was and why he wasn’t in the picture. It was a temporary dilemma of sorts for him to imagine that there was a time when he was not, just as it is sometimes difficult for us to imagine a time when we will not be any longer.

Perspective is what is lacking in our culture today… macro perspective. We have none beyond our own narrow selfish interests. Life is rare, precious, and beautiful. Every day, every moment, and every person in ours should be cherished and celebrated. The world and all those in it are not ours to exploit or to ruin. They are ours to love.

Satisfied
by Darden Smith / JD Martin

If I could love you like Elvis
Elvis back in ‘62
Hips on fire, full of desire
It wouldn’t be good enough for you
And if you could love me like Marilyn
In the Garden back in ‘63
Singing ‘Happy Birthday, Baby’
It wouldn’t be good enough for me

‘Cause that stuff ain’t really real
No matter how good it feels
It’s only skin deep and we
Are way beyond that now
Lying with you in the dark
Soul to soul and heart to heart
Baby you and I
Know how to be satisfied

A raindrop falls on the mountain
Slowly rolling to the sea
And it takes time to know what is love, what’s a dream
And the difference in between

That other stuff ain’t really real
No matter how good it feels
It’s only skin deep and we
Are way beyond that now
Lying with you in the dark
Soul to soul and heart to heart
Baby you and I
Know how to be satisfied

I have a weakness for acoustic/folk songwriters. Recently I stumbled upon Darden Smith, just such a character from Texas nonetheless. There’s something about west Texas that has such a magic about it, but it may be from reading too many Robert James Waller books. This guy is good. I like the grit in his voice and the heart in his songs.

There’s a certain awkwardness in writing about music. It’s sort of like trying to describe art. It’s something you just have to experience for yourself to appreciate, nonetheless I’m going to take a shot at it from time to time when I hear songs or artists that make an impression on me. This particular song, “Satisfied,” really grabbed my attention. At first reading the lyrics about Elvis and Marilyn threw me, until I heard the song. (You can hear and download it on Darden’s myspace page.) I’ve listened to it a number of times now and can’t get it out of my head.

Sometimes love songs can be over the top, you know, sensational and dramatic. Many people often feel disheartened for never having felt that way about someone or for not having someone feel that way in return. At other times that feeling is elusive and fleeting. We find moments in our relationships where those sentiments resonate with us, but in between there’s life with bills, kids, work, and stuff. This song strikes me about married love or at least the nature of love over time.

This song talks about the simplicity of love, “lying with you in the dark,” and the maturity of love, “it takes time to know what is love, what’s a dream and the difference in between.” Over time we come to know what love is by learning what it’s not, as much as what it is. It is a feeling, but much more than that it is a choice. Feelings are fickle and subject to circumstances. Real love transcends circumstances. I think this song captures that sentiment beautifully.

I think a lot of people aren’t “satisfied,” neither with love nor with life. Maybe it’s because we sit around waiting to feel satisfied, for all the stuff in our life to line up just right. That’s chasing after the wind. The apostle Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content,” Philippians 4:11. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that statement. Being content or satisfied is something that you learn, although you may never master. The first step is to choose to be satisfied, to embrace every circumstance, every person, and every moment in your life for what they are and not for what you want them to be. If we spend our lives wanting to be in another place in another time down the road, we may or may not ever get there but will have wasted years and precious moments in between.

Hope you enjoy the song.

Wow! Leann Rimes has really come into her own. Her latest song “What I Cannot Change” shows the depth and maturity of her voice with rich and delicate reflections on life. Her voice is as tender as the lyrics are profound.

It is a tremendous step forward in life to recognize the truth that “all the rest is out of my hands.” We cannot fix everything, nor do I believe everything is meant to be fixed. Some things just are. The sooner we stop trying to resist the “divine flow” (to borrow from Chopra) and learn to embrace complexity, mystery, and wonder, we will find an enormous source of peace.

When we come head to head with what we cannot change, we have a choice to let it go, to forgive, or to love. Perhaps the latter is the hardest for most to understand. I think it’s wise of the songwriter to say “I will learn [to let go, to forgive, to love] what I cannot change.” It is not easy. It is a process, and one that we may not fully understand until we’ve been there and come out on the other side. It is possible to love what you cannot change, to embrace it, and to find beauty and truth in even the smallest of joys and heartaches. Read on »

My 3 year old Andrew crawled up in my lap during the football game tonight and told me, “Daddy, I love you. You’re my boy.” We tell each other this all the time mostly as a whispered secret when he passes by.

“I love you too, Andrew.”

“I love you to the moon,” he said.

“Well, I love you to the stars, Andrew.”

He paused for a second then said, “I love you more than Dr. Pepper.”

Never a greater compliment has been given.

It never ceases to amaze me to hear what my kids come up with. My five-year old Timothy and I stopped by Sonic a few days ago to pick up a couple happy meals for he and his younger brother Andrew.  The attendant said the total was $6.08 and would be out shortly. I pulled out six $1 bills, dug in my console for loose change, and found a dime. I asked Timothy if he knew what a dime was, but he didn’t. I told him it was the same as 10 pennies. He laughed and said, “you’re so silly, Daddy.”

“No, I’m serious. It’s just like giving somebody 10 pennies,” I told him. Thinking I might quiz him while we were waiting, I asked him, “They said it costs $6 and 8 cents. So if I give her six dollars and 10 cents, how much change will she give me back?”

Without hesitation he said, “two pennies.”

Wow! That’s pretty cool. I know they didn’t talk much about money in Pre-K last year. I thought it was amazing that he did basic math in his head without any visual aids to play with. I decided to try again, “If it costs $6 and I gave her a $10 bill, how much change would she give me back?”

“Four dollars,” he spit out laughing.

Well, I’ll be dang. “You’re just too smart, Timothy. You’re gonna be the smartest kindergartner ever.”

“Yeah, I know,” he grinned all over himself.

I asked him a couple other math questions because it took forever to get our order, but the game quickly broke down because he was tired of it. When the attendant finally brought our happy meals, I gave her my $6 and my dime. She fumbled around with her change dispenser and her money apron. I really wasn’t sure if she didn’t know how much change to give me or was fresh out of pennies. She said, “I’ll be right back.”

I kind of laughed, “No, really I don’t need it. Keep the change.”

Kids can be a lot of fun. They can also be a lot of work and quite a challenge at times, but overall they’re a blast. My boys are at such a fun age and fairly independent. Even Andrew who’s 3 has the whole potty training thing down, can get his own snacks, and dress himself too. He’s even mastering the remote like his brother and his daddy. The boys even play really well together most of the time. Often when it’s really good, I wish I could just freeze time and keep them at this age forever. Who needs acne, girls, and graduation? You can keep the change.

Because they’re my kids, they don’t have to do anything to make me love them and can’t do anything to make me stop, but some things they do just really get me. I thought a lot about what makes them such a joy. I think more than anything I can see myself in them and relive parts of my childhood through them, but the greatest joy is seeing them do new things, learning, and growing. Everyday there’s something new to be amazed by. I guess I can’t imagine keeping them the same. I don’t want china dolls on the shelf.

I think they’re growing up way too fast, and I know it will only get faster. As much as I love these moments, I don’t really want to freeze time. I want to make each moment count, even if it is only two cents. On second thought, I’ll take the change.

I’m in love with words and dusty books,
the taste of deep red wine and salty ocean air,
drunk on a lonely tune and a sunset sky.

You might say that I am a romantic, in the classical sense. I go weak in the knees for ideas. I love nuance, symbolism, and possibilities. This makes me especially vulnerable to the seductive language of scripture.

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “in love with the idea of being in love.” Dorothy Boyd’s description of her feelings for Jerry McGuire describe my affair with Christianity well, “I love him! I love him for the man he wants to be. And I love him for the man he almost is.” One of my favorite bloggers Real Live Preacher expressed this idea succinctly in a recent post:

Christianity has already shrunk in my lifetime from being the shining center of all truth and purpose to something less than that. Even looking at things from the inside, even willing to give the benefit of every doubt, Christianity seems like a bumbling, prosaic movement which is, as often as not, violent, anti-intellectual, and xenophobic.

But I love Christianity so much. Or at least I love what it could be. I want to hug it. I want to throw my arms around the beautiful language of salvation and redemption. I want to curl up in the warmth of my faith community, the people I love so deeply in this world. Truly they are like family to me. I feel I could get drunk on our ancient symbols, myths and stories, the ones that speak in luscious tones vibrating through a million voices across the centuries.

With time and disappointment love can change and devotion can wane, but for all that I have learned and all that I question about my faith I just cannot bring myself to walk away completely. In The Painted Veil Mother Superior said:

“I fell in love when I was 17… with God. A foolish girl with romantic notions about the life of a religious, but my love was passionate. Over the years my feelings have changed. He’s disappointed me. Ignored me. We’ve settled into a life of peaceful indifference. The old husband and wife who sit side by side on the sofa, but rarely speak. He knows I’ll never leave Him. This is my duty. But when love and duty are one, then grace is within you.”

I don’t stay from a sense of obligation or from fear of divine retribution. I think I stay because it’s familiar. These words I’ve heard so many times bring comfort when few others have. For all that I know there is more that I don’t know. I no longer look at the Bible as a rubik’s cube waiting to be solved. It has become more like a painting to me. One that requires long gazes from an open mind to appreciate. Every time I return I see something new in something old. Faith is not having all the right answers to spiritual questions. Faith is loving the idea of what could be, and the test of faith is in making small choices that bring those possibilities to life.