September 16, 2018

Pentecost: Ordinary Women: Clara Barton

Welcome back to our look at Ordinary Women, who were called by God to act bravely and make changes that impacted their world, and the lives of others for generations. We met Frances Perkins, who was instrumental in labor rights and Social Security. Last week, we visited the world of Esther, queen of Persia who stood up to racism and saved the Jewish people.

Today, we meet Clara Barton. From the very first time I learned about her, I have been fascinated by this woman who risked her life on the battlefield to help wounded men during the Civil War and who started the American Red Cross. I was probably in 4th or 5th grade when my grandmother sent me a biography of Barton. Her courage is inspiring. Early on, Barton realized, “we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) She followed the path God set before her, even through danger and opposition.

Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born on Christmas Day 1821 in Oxford, MA as the youngest of 5 children. Her first experience with nursing was as a girl when she tended her older brother who had a head injury. At 15 years old, Clara became a teacher and in 1948 founded a free public school in New Jersey.

After that school board replaced her with a man, she moved to Washington DC, where she became a clerk for the U.S. Patent Office. Surprisingly, she was paid the same as the men in the office. She noted, “I may sometimes be willing to teach for nothing, but if paid at all, I shall never do a man’s work for less than a man’s pay.

Then came the Civil War. Barton was appalled by the conditions for battlefield hospitals. Starting in 1862, she traveled with the Union Army bringing surgical supplies, cooking, and tending the wounded. The tale is told of Barton holding an injured soldier when a bullet ripped through her sleeve and into the man, killing him. She later pondered, “I have never mended that hole in my sleeve. I wonder if a soldier ever does mend a bullet hole in his coat?”

One essential service Clara performed was to record personal information of the soldiers. She wrote to family members of missing, wounded, or dead soldiers. Even after the War, she continued this task as Lincoln’s General Correspondent for the Friends of Paroled Prisoners. She could not do this alone and formed the Bureau of Records of Missing Men of the Armies of the United States. With her team of 12 clerks, she researched the status of tens of thousands of soldiers. In 1869, her final report to Congress noted that although 22,000 missing soldiers had been identified, she thought there were at least 40,000 more.

Barton then traveled to Switzerland for rest. It was there that she learned of the International Red Cross. She helped this group in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War. Upon returning to the United States, she lobbied for the formation of an American branch, which happed when President Chester Arthur signed the Geneva Treaty in 1882. Originally the organization focused on disaster relief during the Johnstown, PA flood and after hurricanes in South Carolina and Texas.

Clara Barton had her own vision of what the Red Cross should be, which put her in conflict with others in the growing organization. In 1904 she resigned. She died 8 years later in Glen Echo, Maryland at 91. 
She supported equal rights and was willing to help anyone regardless of race, gender, or station. She lived out the Galatians 3:28 reminder, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Her tireless work brought aid and comfort to men on the battlefield, to families in disasters, and helped provide supplies for first responders during her life and beyond.

Clara Barton inspired me when I first read about her as a child. She did not let being a woman in the mid 1800’s prevent her from following her path. She persevered, trusting that “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished…” (Philippians 1:6)

Have you read about someone whose work inspired you?

Is there someone who you would like to emulate?

Do you have a vision for helping in some way that you haven’t acted on?

Sources and further info:

September 9, 2018

Pentecost: Ordinary Women-Esther

As we delve into the lives of some Ordinary Women for the next few weeks, we’ll consider some Bible women and some saints, like Frances Perkins last week. This week, our focus is on one of the two Bible women who has a book in the Bible that bears her name.

Esther is an unusual book to be in the Bible because nowhere is God’s name specifically mentioned. Some commentators doubt that Esther was a real person. The same, of course, is said of other men and women in the Bible. There are some who categorize the Book of Esther as a comedy. Not a comedy that makes you laugh. Esther is a comedy of improbabilities, based on the characteristics of the Hebrew culture.

How could a young Jewish girl, who’s uncle is known to be Jewish have hidden her ethnicity? How did she gain the favor of the king to the extent that he raised her above all others in the harem? Why did the King ‘happen’ to look up and extend the royal scepter to give her entry to his presence? Why was Haman so obsessed with Mordecai that he hated all Jews?

Let’s think about all this for just a minute. If Esther wasn’t a real person, then perhaps this story is an elaborate parable or allegory about God and us? Maybe it’s about being " as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

Esther certainly was wise beyond her years. Rather than condemning Haman right from the start, she invites both the King and Haman to a banquet. Then she has a second party. Only then, after Haman is sufficiently prideful, does she throw herself on the King’s mercy.

So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, ‘What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.’ Then Queen Esther answered, ‘If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me—that is my petition—and the lives of my people—that is my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.’ Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, ‘Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?’ Esther said, ‘A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!’ Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen. The king rose from the feast in wrath and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that the king had determined to destroy him. When the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman had thrown himself on the couch where Esther was reclining; and the king said, ‘Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?’ As the words left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face.” (Esther 7:1-8)

Esther carefully choses her words. She states that if the Jews were only to be enslaved, she would not have spoken. It is only because their death was decreed by Haman’s racism that she asks for the King to intervene.

According to Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, “The idea of the serpent as symbolizing wisdom, seems to have entered into the early parables of most Eastern nations. We find it in Egyptian temples, in the twined serpents of the rod of Hermes…Here we learn that even the serpent's sinuous craft presents something which we may well learn to reproduce.” The priests of Pharaoh battled with Moses before the Exodus using snakes. Moses’ rod became a snake, devouring the Egyptian serpents.(Exodus 7:11-13) I would note that the serpent is also important in Meso-American cultures. Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent is prevalent as an embodiment of the sky and a helper presenting Maya kings with visions. Many other cultures as well have snake symbolism in their history.

In the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary we read, “Alone, the wisdom of the serpent is mere cunning, and the harmlessness of the dove little better than weakness: but in combination, the wisdom of the serpent would save them from unnecessary exposure to danger; the harmlessness of the dove, from sinful expedients to escape it. In the apostolic age of Christianity…there was a manly (sic) combination of unflinching zeal and calm discretion, before which nothing was able to stand.”

St. Paul, notes that he was shrewd, yet guileless, to win converts to Christ. “To those without the Law I became like one without the Law (though I am not outside the law of God but am under the law of Christ), to win those without the Law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men, so that by all possible means I might save some of them. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.” (I Corinthians 9:22)

In learning to be ‘shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves’, we might do well to consider our battles before we act. Our actions are always to point toward God, yet sometimes we need to be circumspect about how we do that. Sometimes we need to ‘become weak, to win the weak’. Esther was not weak. Indeed, she showed great courage in being a whistle-blower about the great evil Haman planned. Esther had to confront her fears, and face the possibility of death at the worst, or just disbelief. She prepared for her test by prayer and fasting for three days, in concert with all the Jews in the city. (Esther 4:16)

Esther, the Jewish exile in a foreign court, pretended to offer a simple invitation to a feast. However, she was using wisdom from God to save her people. We may think we have to act immediately to confront an injustice. Perhaps, like Esther, we would be well served to pause and pray first. Then we can act wisely, yet with sincerity.

In the early church, the Philippians are urged to “become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.” (Philippians 2:15)

As we seek wisdom to deal with situations, we must look to God first. The first part of the Matthew 10:16 verse says, “I am sending you out [as sheep among wolves].” It is God who sets the course. It may seem to be dangerous, but we can trust that God is with us in and through it all, just as God worked through Esther’s courage to save the Jews in Persia.

Is there a current situation where you need to be both wise and circumspect?

How can you be a child “of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation”?

September 2, 2018

Pentecost: Ordinary Women-Frances Perkins

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at some women who are our faith fore-mothers. Some are famous, some are in the Bible, some are almost forgotten. Jerome Blanco, writing for Life for Leaders notes, “From beginning to end, the Bible suggests a straightforward and happy truth, that the seemingly ordinary world we spend our days in is not marginal to God’s story, but central to it…And this means everything to me, as I live out my everyday life, most elements of which I can only consider ordinary. Because the collection of our ordinary lives, lived out as creatures in the created world, are somehow what God deemed worth making, worth taking part in, worth redeeming, and ultimately, worth dwelling with.” 

This week, in honor of Labor Day, we’re meeting Frances Perkins. I recently heard about her and wanted to know more. In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her as his Secretary of Labor. She was the first woman to hold a cabinet position in the United States and remained the Secretary of Labor for 12 years (longer than any other appointee). In that position she helped with the creation of the New Deal and especially with Social Security.

She worked for laws setting minimum wage, pensions, unemployment insurance and child labor laws. We are all beneficiaries of that work. She was born Fannie Coralie Perkins in Boston on April 10, 1880 and died in 1965. Her life is evidence that an ordinary woman, doing ordinary things can have broad ramifications.

While at college at Mount Holyoke in South Hadley, Massachusetts, Perkins majored in physics, and minored in chemistry and biology even though they were not the typical ‘feminine’ subjects of the time. Her focus changed during her senior year when she took a course in American economic history from Annah May Soule. All students were required to visit the mills in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

Perkins was appalled at what she saw, and later said, “From the time I was in college I was horrified at the work that many women and children had to do in factories. There were absolutely no effective laws that regulated the number of hours they were permitted to work. There were no provisions which guarded their health nor adequately looked after their compensation in case of injury. Those things seemed very wrong. I was young and was inspired with the idea of reforming, or at least doing what I could, to help change those abuses.”

In 1910, as Executive Secretary of the New York City Consumers League she focused on the need for sanitary regulations for bakeries, fire protection for factories, and legislation to limit the working hours for women and children in factories to 54 hours per week.

Perkins foresaw the Depression while working with, then Governor, Franklin D. Roosevelt as NY State Industrial Commissioner. Rising unemployment concerned her, “We have awakened with a shock to the frightful injustice of economic conditions which will allow men and women who are willing to work to suffer the distress of hunger and cold and humiliating dependence. We have determined to find out what makes involuntary employment.”

When FDR was elected president, he appointed Perkins Secretary of Labor. She noted, “I came to Washington to work for God, FDR, and the millions of forgotten, plain common workingmen.” After leaving the Department of Labor in 1945, Perkins wrote The Roosevelt I Knew, a best-selling biography of FDR published in 1946. President Truman appointed her to the United States Civil Service Commission. This was followed by a career of teaching, writing and speaking until she suffered a stroke.
Perkins is our faith fore-mother not just because of the important things she did, and also because she recognized “the door might not be opened to a woman again for a long, long time, and I had a kind of duty to other women to walk in and sit on the chair that was offered, and so establish the right of others long hence and far distant in geography to sit I the high seats.”

Frances Perkins is recognized by the Episcopal Church in Holy Women, Holy Men as a ‘saint’. Her feast day in Mother’s Day. Perkins was simply an ordinary woman who used her God-given gifts to improve life. She listened to her heart and to God and made a difference. 

Perkins reminds us, “There is always a large horizon…. There is much to be done …. I am not going to be doing it! It is up to you to contribute some small part to a program of human betterment for all time.”

What is God and your heart calling you to do?

Is there a small or large change you can make to brighten the lives of others? 

You can read more about Frances Perkins 

August 26, 2018

Pentecost: Women in MInistry

Last week I introduced a poem by Frances Croake Franke. It was written to confront the non-ordination of women in Roman Catholic church. Franke herself was a nun, yet she spoke out for women in ministry-be they ordained or lay who say to the Lord ‘this is my body, this is my blood’.

It has not been that long since women were first allowed to take part in many ministries in the church and to, in fact, be ordained (in the Episcopal church at least). The journey for women to be accepted in ministry, especially into ordination (in the Episcopal Church) was a long journey detailed in this article and highlighted below.* Why does that history matter to the ordinary, everyday woman who wants to serve God, but doesn’t want to be ordained as a priest?

On the retreat last weekend, we came to understand that the 5 women we studied were, in fact, ordinary women, going about their daily lives when God stepped in. Then they acted with courage to be God-bearers to the world. That is what the Philadelphia Eleven and the other women (and men) who worked for generations to make all ministry open to women were doing.
By The Philadelphia Inquirer - © The Philadelphia Inquirer (acquired from The Philadelphia Ordinations), Fair use,
A resolution passed at General Convention in 1976 (the same Convention that opened the door to women’s ordination) stated that no one could be barred from participating in the life and governance (italics mine) of the church…because of their gender. Prior to this few, if any, women were allowed on governing bodies (vestries) of local parishes.

By opening more avenues of ministry, the ordinary women in church found ways to use their God-given gifts and talents more broadly than on the altar guild and in sewing circles. Now, in most parishes, you will find women serving in all sorts of ways. Women are even acknowledged as leaders in historically male roles such as president of Standing Committee or other diocesan boards.

As ‘ordinary’ women, we are following in the footsteps of the ordinary women of the past who acted for and with God lead on and show us the way.

·       Ruth, the foreigner whose dedication to her mother-in-law gave her stature as the great-grandmother of King David.

·       Esther, an unlikely queen who saved her people by risking her life and being a whistle-blower.

·       Judith whose bold action of cutting off General Holofernes head routed the Persian army.

·       Mary (Mother of Jesus) who said ‘yes’ to God’s request to bear a child out of wedlock.

·       Mary Magdelene, remaining constant to the end was graced with bearing news of the Resurrection to the male disciples.

·       Lydia, Prisca, Chloe and the other New Testament female leaders who opened their homes and taught their neighbors.

·       Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen and other mystics across the ages, who stood up to popes and kings while speaking for God’s way.

·       Frances Perkins, Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale and others who went where ‘women weren’t supposed to go’ and did what others wouldn’t so that the ill and downtrodden had a voice.

·       The Philadelphia Eleven and those who followed who bravely stood for their rights before God.

·       Female priests and bishops in the church now who prove that there is no ‘male’ or ‘female’ in the call to ministry.

We are the heirs of those women and many others. Our faith fore-mothers give us the courage to say ‘yes’ to God ourselves. There is still ground to be plowed. Women may be active in multiple roles, but they are not necessarily accorded the same respect as a man. Women typically work harder to be seen as equal in talent. A lot may have changed over the past decades and centuries, in how women in ministry are perceived, and there is a lot still to do.

“Our daughters’ daughters will adore us and they’ll sing in grateful chorus ‘well done, sister suffragette’,” sings Winifred Banks in the Disney movie Mary Poppins. We can look back at our faithful fore-mothers and applaud ‘well done, sister in Christ’. And we can lay the ground work for our own grand-daughters.

Over the next few weeks, we'll look at some 'ordinary' women, whose lives were anything but ordinary. 
This week, I would encourage you to think about how your life and ministry are affected by the steps taken by women in the past

*Briefly, in 1855 the Bishop of Maryland ‘set apart’ two deaconesses. Not quite an ordination, but a first tiny step. Eighty years later, the Church of England found no reason for or against ordination of women; but stated they would continue to be excluded ‘for the church today’. Another 35 years passed before the lay deputies at the General Convention of the Episcopal church passed a resolution affirming female ordination, but it was defeated by the clergy.

Only 4 years later, on July 29, 1974, the “PhiladelphiaEleven” were ordained by three bishops (two retired and one who had resigned). These were eleven female deacons who had requested ordination. The action by the 3 bishops caused “great consternation among the church hierarchy” and the ordinations were declared invalid. This didn’t stop the women from serving in a few parishes, although priests who allowed this were charged with ‘violating the canons’.

At the 1976 General Convention, in Philadelphia, a resolution passed stating “no one shall be denied access” to ordination. To say that not every person or diocese supported this move is an understatement. Some bishops side-stepped the issue by referring women seeking ordination to other dioceses. Some parishioners left their churches. Even today, some people will change sides at the communion rail if a woman is doing the bread or wine. I remember feeling confused about the issue myself as someone who had just recently returned to the church.

Ten years later, a huge shift happened when the Rev. Barbara Harris was elected Suffragan Bishop of Massachusetts on September 24, 1988. Then in 2006, in an even bigger step, the Right Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of the Diocese of Nevada, was elected the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA. She served for 9 years, the maximum a Presiding Bishop can serve.

August 19, 2018

Pentecost: Women in the Bible

This weekend, I led a retreat that looked at the lives of 5 women of the Bible: Esther, Ruth, Mary Magdalene, Mary (Jesus’ mother), and Judith (from the Apocrypha). You can read a brief bio of each of these women.

These women are just a few of the many women in the Bible. Some have names, and many more are mentioned as the wife of…, or daughter of… Wikipedia has a list of women who are named in the. It’s a pretty impressive list, and doesn't even include the women without names. However, we rarely hear from or about these women in our Sunday morning lessons.

For many of these women, we don’t have anything more than a name. We don’t know much of their story or where they came from. For others, it takes some research through the Bible to learn about them. For instance, Miriam (Moses’ sister) is mentioned in Exodus and in Numbers. You have to tease out her story to learn that she was a dutiful daughter and later considered a prophet, and even later confronted Moses (and got leprosy as a result), and finally died.

As an author, that is what I do when I write a story about a Bible woman. I find all the bits of her story and then try to fill in the blanks. You can read how I told ‘the rest of the story’ of Miriam in my novel Miriam’s Healing. It is also what we do when we study a passage using lexio divino or other in depth method. We want to get into the story and learn who the woman is and what she can tell us.  

Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at the 5 women we discussed at the retreat this weekend; and see what we might learn about them. It may be that they are nothing like they are often portrayed in culture and even theology. We’ll see that they are brave and godly women, who acted for God. In some cases we might wonder if they made the best decisions. However, we have to also put them in the context of their time and place. We cannot impose 2018 values on a woman living a nomadic life in a patriarchal society 2000 years ago.

Come along and see what we might learn together on this adventure.

I’d like to share a thought-provoking, and moving poem I just recently heard. It is by Frances Croake Franke. I think the image by Jeremy Winborg catches the essence of the moments soon after Jesus birth (at least it was the best one I could find online that showed a human side of Mary). 

Did the Woman Say?

Did the woman say,
When she held him for the first time in the dark of a stable,
After the pain and the bleeding and the crying,
‘This is my body, this is my blood’?

Did the woman say,
When she held him for the last time in the dark rain on a hilltop,
After the pain and the bleeding and the dying,
‘This is my body, this is my blood’?

Well that she said it to him then,
For dry old men,
brocaded robes belying barrenness
Ordain that she not say it for him now.
(Son of Man, Son of God by Jeremy Winborg)

August 12, 2018

Pentecost: Not Alone

We’ve been looking at how God is working in and through us to make us diamonds and masterpieces. As we noted last week, it’s not necessarily the big and grand things that make the most difference. It can be the small things we do because we are women and men of faith.

At the Daughters of the King Assembly I spoke about last week; the keynote speaker was Deborah Smith Douglas. She is an author, speaker, spiritual advisor, and deeply faith-filled woman. Her topic was Deepening Prayer. Douglas reminded us all that in our faith journey, we are never alone.

She said, we are always in the company of the saints who have gone before. Some of these are well known women or men. Others are the everyday people who lived a life of faith and in doing so, changed their corner of the world. In fact, many of those considered saints, like Julian of Norwich or Mother Teresa had no aspirations for sainthood.

Mother Teresa, it has been learned from her letters, even doubted her own faith. She wrote, “Where is my faith? – even deep down, right in, there is nothing but emptiness & darkness. – My God – how painful is this unknown pain. It pains without ceasing. – I have no faith. – I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart - & make me suffer untold agony. So many unanswered questions live within me – I am afraid to uncover them – because of the blasphemy – If there be God, - please forgive me.” - Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light

A long list of others who doubted their faith could be compiled. The Psalms are full of David’s wavering faith and fears. Psalm 42 is just one of many.

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
   so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
   for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
   the face of God?
My tears have been my food
   day and night,
while people say to me continually,
   ‘Where is your God?’

These things I remember,
   as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,*    and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
   a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
   and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
   my help and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
   therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
   from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
   at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows
   have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
   and at night his song is with me,
   a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock,
   ‘Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully
   because the enemy oppresses me?’
As with a deadly wound in my body,
   my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
   ‘Where is your God?’

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
   and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
   my help and my God.

David feels like he has been abandoned by God. People are even asking, “Where is your God?” He says “My tears have been my food day and night” and “my soul is cast down within me”. Yet ultimately, he is able to say that he will, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”

Doubt doesn’t make our spiritual ancestors, or ourselves, any less suited to act on God’s call in our lives. Deborah Smith Douglas told the women at the recent retreat that we are part of the company of those who walk with and act for God now and in the past. She reminded the women that God rarely choses those with ‘clean hands’ or ‘pure blood’ to “come follow me”. Jesus chose fishermen and women to be his disciples. Over the centuries, God has used harlots, adulterers, murderers, cowards, and other widely assorted men and women. God uses you and me, too. 

This coming weekend, I will be leading a retreat that will look at 5 women of the Bible. Mary (Mother of Jesus), Mary Magdalene, Esther, Ruth, and Judith have been maligned, glorified, or ignored by history. We’ll see who they really were and what their lives can teach us about our lives of faith in the 21st Century.

If Mother Teresa, John of the Cross, 'Doubting' Thomas, and many others throughout the centuries can wonder about their faith and calling, we do not need to lose heart when we have our own questions. As Douglas noted last weekend, we are not alone. We can find community with our fore-bearers through gratitude, intercession, drawing near to God, and simply loving God and our neighbor.

Do you ever think you are unworthy because you have doubts?

What do you do when you feel alone and far from God?
Next week, we’ll start a series based on the women we will discuss at the Aug. 17-18 weekend. For those readers who might be at the meeting, this will be a chance for further learning. Others may find it interesting to discuss with friends in book or Bible study groups. 

August 5, 2018

Pentecost: Plans

For the past couple weeks, we've looked at how God works at making us masterpieces and diamonds, even though at this moment in time, we may look more like a mess of paint or just dust. God's work often involves changes to our plans. Being remade, even if we are willing isn't necessarily an easy process. 
Max Lucado notes, in his book And the Angels were Silent, that we all have gifts to ‘move the Kingdom down the road’. Focusing on the episode in Matthew 21 where Jesus sends 2 disciples to get a donkey right before his entry into Jerusalem, Lucado goes on to say, “All of us have a donkey. You and I each have something in our lives, which, if given back to God, could, like the donkey, move Jesus and his story further down the road. Maybe you can sing or hug or program a computer or speak Swahili or write a check. Whichever, that’s your donkey. Whichever, your donkey belongs to him. It really does belong to him. Your gifts are his and the donkey was his.

This past couple of days, I have been at the annual Assembly and Retreat of the Daughters of the King in the Diocese of the Rio Grande. Over the past 6 years, I was honored to use my gifts to move the Daughters of the King part of the Kingdom down the road a bit further as the diocesan president. Now it is someone else’s turn.

Of course, letting go of one ministry means I need to evaluate what to do with the time and talent I was using in that role. Proverbs 16:1-4 tells us, “The plans of the mind belong to mortals, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All one’s ways may be pure in one’s own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose…

As the citation notes, human minds make plans, but God weighs (tests) the spirit of the action. Only when we ‘commit our work to the Lord’ can we accomplish anything. I often ponder my gifts and contributions. Culture says that we can count our ‘success’ in numbers. Numbers of attendees, or purchases, or income. God doesn’t count that way. Back in 2016, Mark Roberts of Life for Leaders at the DuPree Institute remarked, “No matter the work you do, whether you’re a writer, a banker, a mother, a bricklayer, or you-name-it, your greatest success is the assurance that God values your work and that what you are doing makes a difference for God in the world.” 

We are often pointed to the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) as a way to measure our work for God. Are we producing or hiding our ‘talents’? Recently I heard a meditation pointing to the Parables of the Mustard Seed and Yeast as another way of measuring our ministry.

In those twin parables, Jesus tells the crowds, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches…[and] the kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” (Matthew 13:31-33)

It is not necessarily the big things that make the greatest difference or impact. It is the small, day-to-day actions, which point to God’s love, that can create the most change. It’s easy to think we must do more, give more, or get more involved in issues. Doing little things may not seem to make a difference. You may have heard of the woman who each year planted a few daffodil bulbs. Ultimately the entire hillside was covered. A little mustard seed in the ground, as Jesus notes, becomes a bush for birds. Something similar happens when you mix a little yeast with flour and water. The next thing you know you have a bubbly mixture that will become bread. The bread can feed a crowd. The teaspoon of yeast couldn’t feed anyone, but the bread it makes does. 
Whether you are planting a mustard seed of a ministry that someday turns into an international blessing, adding a few daffodils to a hillside, or yeast to water and flour, the end result is a blessing to those involved.  

What is your ‘donkey’, Max Lucado asks? What mustard seed, daffodil bulb, or yeast are you nurturing?How is God working in you to grow a great harvest? 

July 29, 2018

Pentecost: Diamonds in the Rough

Last week we considered the idea that ‘God is making a masterpiece’ as Mark Roberts notes. There are many layers to each of us and they are being changed and transformed day by day. Hawk Nelson, in his contemporary Christian song Diamonds agrees. He sings, “He's making diamonds, diamonds/Making diamonds out of dust/He is refining and in His timing/He's making diamonds out of us.”

I think it is reassuring to think that God is ‘making diamonds’ from the layers of ‘stuff’ that we accumulate in our lives and in our hearts and minds. Incidentally, diamonds do not start as coal (I know, I was surprised, too). They are made from the element carbon under extreme pressure. Coal is also formed under pressure, and includes organic components that diamonds don’t. Diamonds are formed, according to at “very high temperatures and pressures. These conditions occur in limited zones of Earth's mantle about 90 miles below the surface where temperatures are at least 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.” Diamonds can also form where one layer of the earth’s crust goes under another (subduction) and by (or sometimes in) meteors. 

It takes the correct combination of carbon, pressure, and temperature to make a diamond. It happens, tell us, when the “carbon atoms bond together in…a particular way that lets them share electrons--a regular, three-dimensional geometric pattern that, if left to grow without interference, produces large, pure diamond crystals.” Science can now make synthetic diamonds using similar pressure and temperature processes.  

Even after the diamond is in your hand, it’s not done. It takes time to make the chunk of rock formed by heat and pressure into a sparkling gem. Rough diamonds are nice stones, but not something you’ll want to show off in a ring, necessarily. It takes a master craftsman to turn that rock into a polished diamond fit for a piece of jewelry. 
It takes time, and work, to change us into the beautiful diamond masterpiece God plans. Mandisa, another contemporary Christian artist sings, “my God's not done/Making me a masterpiece/He's still working on me/He started something good and I'm gonna believe it/He started something good and He's gonna complete it.” (Unfinished)

On those days when I feel, as Nelson says, “I'm in the fire in above my head/Being held under the pressure don't know what'll be left.” It is then that “I'll surrender to the power of being crushed by love/Till the beauty that was hidden isn't covered up.”

The jeweler knows how to chip away at the stone until the beauty is revealed. We don’t like that chipping away process. It’s not easy to surrender, even to God’s love. We want too much to believe that WE can MAKE it OK. Our world tells us that we are 'in charge of our own destiny'. God's love says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest". (Matthew 11:28) 

We have to let the Master Jeweler work. Ultimately, we’ll be glorious diamond masterpieces. Even now, God sees us as that jewel, because God knows that is what we are. I have to remind myself that ‘I’m just unfinished.”

Diamonds are formed by pressure. Are you under pressure today? Can you believe that God is making a diamond with that pressure?

Does it comfort you to know that God already sees you as a completed masterpiece and flawless diamond? 

July 22, 2018

Masterpiece-in the making

In the Letter to the Ephesians, Paul says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Mark Roberts of the Fuller DePree Institute notes on June 18 that the “Greek word [translated handiwork] is poiema, related to the verb poieo (to make), had a broad range of meaning in Greek, referring to many things made by a creative agent, usually a human being.” Roberts states that in other translations the word is variously translated as “accomplishment” (CEB), “workmanship” (ESV, KJV), or “masterpiece” (NLT). I like the translation as ‘masterpiece’. To me that means that God is working on something extra special, not just an everyday piece of work.

Roberts goes on to say, “When we respond to God’s grace through faith, not only do we receive assurance of our future salvation, but we are also remade by God’s creative power. We become new people, even though we continue to live in our old bodies. In this sense, we are God’s handiwork, accomplishment, workmanship, or masterpiece…God doesn’t make damaged goods or mediocre products. Whatever God makes could, in a real sense, be called a masterpiece.”

How does that idea make you feel? It humbles me. Too often I don’t feel like a ‘masterpiece’ at all. I am very good at identifying the traits I have that are ‘bad’ or at least not very ‘Christian’.

Roberts says we all ask ourselves, “How could I possibly be God’s masterpiece?” Then he responds, “your status as a masterpiece is true, not because of how healthy you are, how accomplished you are, or how moral you are. You are a masterpiece because of what God has done in your life by his grace. You have been newly and wonderfully created through Christ, so that you might live in relationship with God and for his glory. This is God’s work in you.”

It is God working in me and in you that makes us the masterpiece. It is not what we are doing or not doing. God's grace is what makes and remakes us again and again

When I first read this meditation, I thought of the work that art restorers do, and how they are now using technology like ‘multi-spectral imaging’ to see the various layers of art beneath what we see as the finished masterpiece.  They have discovered that, even under something as famous as Mona Lisa, there are other images. Da Vinci started out with one idea and then modified it as he went along. 
I ponder whether my actions and reactions to God at work in my life make God readjust how the finished masterpiece will look. The basic design is there. God’s call and love and grace are unchanging. I, however, might make a mistake or ‘spill paint’ resulting in a reworking of something in the final piece.

God’s Grace ultimately will triumph and I will be the masterpiece God already sees. That is a beautiful thought. Nothing I can do will really ruin the beautiful creation God is making. 

Does it change anything to think that God is making you a ‘masterpiece’?
Will you look at yourself differently?
Next week, we'll continue exploring this topic.

July 15, 2018


Last week I was with my husband’s family for our nephew’s wedding in Nebraska. It was lovely to be with his siblings, many of our grandchildren and others of the extended family. Seeing the joy and love of the bride and groom was a reminder of the love that our Lord has for us as the Bride of Christ.

As an only child it was, in one sense bittersweet, to see the relationship re-blossom between my husband and his siblings who hadn’t all been together for over a decade. On the other hand, because his family has been part of my life since I was in 9th grade, it was a also a reunion for me.

Psalm 64:5-6 notes that God is “A father of the fatherless, and a defender of the widows, is God in His holy habitation. God settles the lonely in families; He leads the prisoners out to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a sun-scorched land.” No matter how scattered, or lost, our birth families are, God’s family is huge.

We are all part of the Family of God, just as we are members of our own extended families. It is too easy to forget how much we have in common when we neglect to keep in contact. Watching my husband pick up the relationships with his brothers and sisters after not being together for over a decade brought tears to my eyes. Getting reacquainted with his sister, who was my maid of honor (so many years ago), was delightful and I was sorry we’d let so much time pass without sharing more than a Christmas card.

My husband and his siblings had drifted apart simply by not chatting regularly. Once together, they remembered how much they had in common and how much history they share. The same is often true in day-to-day relationships, too. We think we have nothing in common with someone until we start talking, and then discover that we grew up in the same town, or majored in the same subject, or even both just like cats.

Just as we need to maintain relationships in our biological families, we need to keep open the lines of communication between our neighbors, churches, and even with those we may not agree. I like the meme that shows up every so often on Facebook. There is a number laying on the ground. The person on one side sees it as a ‘6’ and the other sees it as a ‘9’. Both are right, from their perspective. From the outside perspective of the viewer-both are right. When we disagree, it can help to step outside the confrontation to try and see the other side, or even better, to see both sides. 

God uses us to welcome the lonely and to create a ‘family’ for the fatherless. As the song says “We are the family of God/Yes we are the family of God/And He's brought us together/To be one in Him/That we might bring light to the world.” 
Let's build relationships, instead of tearing each other apart. Let's find common ground and learn to be civil. Let's build bridges instead of walls. We are one family, after all. 

Is there someone you might be able to mend a relationship with?

Have you been meaning to contact an old friend, but haven’t because you think too much time has passed?
Can you think of someone you might have something in common with, even if you don’t know it?

July 1, 2018

Pentecost: You Can do it

As we come to the end of this series of reflections on living into a Spirit-filled life that acts on Jesus’ Commandment to “Love God, Love your Neighbor, Love yourself” we might feel overwhelmed. We have looked at the hard work and commitment it takes to stand up against society and even evil that threatens to destroy the people and creation of God.

It is not easy to live a life of love for others. Some days we don’t even love ourselves, much less our neighbor. Loving God can be difficult, too, when things seem to be falling apart and God feels far away.

Back in 2014, I pondered, “But how DO you love those irritating neighbors who play loud music at all hours? Or that co-worker who takes all the credit? Or the driver who cuts you off in traffic? Or the murderer or rapist or abuser on the news or (for some) closer to home? I don’t have the answer. It’s not easy to do as Jesus says and love as we are loved. Maybe it has to do with the lesson from last Sunday: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) When we let go of our various ways of trying to control the outcome and allow Jesus to take the bulk of the load we/I might just find that it is easier to see Jesus in everyone. It’s also found in I Corinthians 13. “faith, hope, and love/charity abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love/charity.””

We come back to the questions that Laurie Brock asked in her 50 Days meditation. “Will we make mistakes as we strive to live this love of Jesus? Yes, as did the disciples as we’ve read in Acts. Will we all agree on exactly how we live this love of Jesus? No, and neither did the disciples, as we’ve read in Acts. Will being blown forward by the Spirit into this love lead us to new and extraordinary places, especially places far outside our personal comfort zones? Yes, as it did to the disciples, as we’ve read in Acts.”

We will make mistakes because we are human, we will disagree on what is important and how to live in a loving way. In fact, each of us is called to love in our own unique way. Some are called to activism and leadership. Some are called to bring joy to family and friends by ‘dreamingsmall’.  Some are called to create beauty in word and art and music as a way of showing love. Some will show love by simply smiling at everyone they meet even though they may not have (in the eyes of culture) any reason to smile.

At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Jesus didn’t say that to make us feel bad or inadequate. It is, as Brock notes, “Work Jesus is convinced we can do.”

We are not alone, either. Jesus promises, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. (Matthew 11:30) Jesus walks with us through each day, through each joy and challenge. Jesus is even there when we try to go our own way and do our own thing.

Another writer, Linda McMillan, notes, “We have to somehow shed the baggage of other people’s expectations of us and how we should live in the world, and choose the small round stones right in front of us. God seems to have a way of putting your job right in front of you. You will not have to look far. The only thing that really helps all of us, the only way to defeat the giant in our midst, is for each one of us to be our authentic selves, using the gifts that we already have, and doing the work that is right in front of us.” 

Like the disciples in the upper room on the first Pentecost, we have been given the Holy Spirit to empower us. Like Peter and John we can stand before councils and governors, and our neighbors, and be witnesses of God’s love. It takes a commitment to standing up and to loving even the unlovable.

You can do it. God is working in you and in me. Be yourself. Use the ‘stones’ right in front of you-the gifts you have been given. And then as Francesca Battistelli says, “Watch the giants fall.”

I’m taking this next week off for a family reunion trip. See you on July 15 with a new series for this ‘Ordinary Time’. 

June 24, 2018

Pentecost: Committment

Over the course of this Pentecost series, we’ve considered how living a life of discipleship characterized by the action of the Holy Spirit might change our expectations, our work focus, and even our interaction with the societal norms around us. It’s all about growth in the season of Pentecost and living into the Great Commandment to ‘love God, love neighbor, love self’ to 'turn the world upside down'.

We’ve been borrowing from Laurie Brock’s last 50 Day meditation as we go along. She notes, “Living Jesus' love requires commitment, courage, and work.” What sort of commitment and courage might she be referring to?

When we look at the lives of the disciples after that first Pentecost we see men (and women) who were avidly sharing the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. What do we, too often, see now among the followers of Christ? Divisions, hypocrisy, intolerance—all cited in a recent study by LifeWay research.

"A full 72 percent of the people interviewed said they think the church 'is full of hypocrites," said LifeWay Research director Ed Stetzer…But the problem is compounded by a widespread notion of religious tolerance that says religious and spiritual truth is a matter of personal opinion…A majority of unchurched Americans (79 percent) think that Christianity today is more about organized religion than about loving God and loving people; 86 percent believe they can have a good relationship with God without being involved in church…There will always be the stumbling block of the cross. Yet our study shows that many are tripping over the church before they hear the message of the cross."

However, “64 percent of the respondents think ‘the Christian religion is a relevant and viable religion for today,’…We think religion is a topic that is off-limits in polite conversation, but unchurched people say they would enjoy conversations about spiritual matters," Stetzer noted. 

How has the commitment of Peter and John, Mary and Priscilla turned into something that isn’t talked about in ‘polite company’? How did we get so concerned about the church furnishings that we forget to speak love, sometimes even to those within our doors, much less beyond them? Is there a way to reclaim the Spirit-driven fire that stands up to councils and governors to proclaim what we believe? 

Perhaps we first need to reconnect with the God who is in charge of the world. God who cares deeply about each one of us on the earth. When we can believe ourselves loved and cared for by such a God, we can say “Namaste” to each other. The word is a greeting often used in India that means “I bow to the God within you” or “the Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you”. This acknowledgement that we are each and every one part of one Body means we have to act differently.

In the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul notes, “Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?... For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (I Corinthians 3:16-17) A little earlier in the chapter he notes, we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.” (I Corinthians 3:9)

Each of us is responsible for each other creation on the planet. To live, and love, as if this is really true requires, as Brock says, commitment, courage, and work. We need to be courageous enough to stand up to the destruction of community. Whether that is within our churches, our communities, at the border, or internationally, we have to offer love not hate and division. We have to work to rebuild what is broken in relationships, and to be committed to living a life that shows God’s love. Maybe that means listening to someone you disagree with, or helping a stranger get a lunch, or standing with someone in need

Only in and with courageous love, by a commitment to doing God’s work of reconciliation can we fulfill Jesus commandment, “love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Then perhaps others will see that there is 'meat' to living a Christian life-a life that by definition is at odds with the world. 

The good news is God believes “you can do it” as we’ll see next week.  

June 17, 2018

Pentecost: Society

I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another,” says Jesus. It is not easy to live fully into this commandment. Yet, as Br. Luke Ditewig of the Society of St. John Evangelist, notes, “life is being restored, through love, as Jesus loves, no matter what.”

Laurie Brock states in her 50 Days post, “embodying this love will almost always cause us to run aground on the qualities the social culture values. Like Peter, Paul, and the early followers of Jesus, if we're loving right, we will find ourselves at odds with those who preach affluence at all cost, caring for the poor and needy only if they deserve it, and rhetoric that dehumanizes those people.”

Throughout these early weeks of Pentecost we have been considering the radical call of the Holy Spirit to a different kind of discipleship and to growth. We may have to change the way we live. We may find ourselves pushed to speak up for the disenfranchised. We may even find our comfortable and well-ordered lives turned upside down. It happened to the first disciples.

How do we start to live so that the world knows we are a follower of Jesus? In Acts 4:13, we read, “When [the Jewish leaders] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Remember Peter and John had been arrested for teaching and healing in Jesus’ name. They are questioned by “Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family…‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’” (Acts 4:6-7)

The same Peter who was cowering in the upper room not so many days previously and who had denied Jesus in the courtyard of Caiaphas a couple months earlier, finds his voice. His response had nothing cowardly or quavering about it. “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is ‘the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12)

Surely something has happened to turn Peter from the fear-filled, turn-tail who denied Jesus to someone who will tell that same man that he ‘rejected the cornerstone’. That same Someone is at work transforming our fear-filled lives so that we, too, can stand up to authorities and say ‘that is wrong’ and ‘there is no other name under heaven’.

Peter’s courageous response causes the leaders to decide they cannot punish Peter and John. Instead, “to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” (Acts 4:17) Rather than obeying, “Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.’ After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing had been performed was more than forty years old.” (Acts 4:19-22)

Jesus promises that when “they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:17-20)

Does that mean that we all should be participating in protests and trying to find a ‘cause’? Perhaps, perhaps not. If that is your call and where your heart says, ‘I must speak out about this injustice’, then yes, go and take a stand!. However, there is also need for small candles of love. A little light in the darkness can be just as important. Josh Wilson, in his new contemporary Christian song Dream Small points to all the little things we do that are part of the Kingdom.

He sings of “a momma singing songs about the Lord…a daddy spending family time the world said he cannot afford… It's visiting the widow down the street or dancing on a Friday with your friend with special needs. These simple moments change the world.” The chorus summarizes, “So dream small/Don't bother like you've gotta do it all/Just let Jesus use you where you are/One day at a time/Live well/Loving God and others as yourself/Find little ways where only you can help/With His great love/A tiny rock can make a giant fall/So dream small.”
We may be called before ‘councils and governors’, or we may just have to ‘dance with your friend with special needs’. Both are ways to stand up to the society that marginalizes and separates. God’s love calls to unity and to one Body and to love.

Through the ‘new commandment’ to love God, love neighbor, love self; we discover as Br Luke says, “life is being restored, through love.”

Where can you ‘Dream Small’ to make a difference?

In what ways and places are you called to, as Laurie Brock says, “embody this love [that] will almost always cause us to run aground on the qualities the social culture values”?

Next time, we’ll look at what kind of courage it takes to live into God’s call to love. 

June 10, 2018

Pentecost: Love is Work

Last time we noted that God is asking us to step out of the security of our safe ‘boats’, built of our expectations and plans. The Spirit that blew through the upper room at Pentecost still blows through our lives and asks us to respond by letting go.

At the beginning of this series we encountered Laurie Brock’s words about Loving the Violent Wind [of the Spirit]. She warns, “The love of Jesus rocks the ships of our own schemes, running them aground and forcing us to enter new communities, to open ourselves and souls to new insights, and to act boldly to serve all in the name of Jesus. Walking, preaching, living, this love is work.”

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like the idea that ‘Jesus rocks the ships of our schemes, running them aground’. I prefer to think that I have everything neatly figured out. I’m perfectly happy with the status quo (mostly). As noted last week, we can get trapped in our own expectations and plans. We may be willing to call on God when things really get out of control, but not before.

The country-Western song Jesus Take the Wheel epitomizes our attitude toward letting God take over. Carrie Underwood sings, “Before she knew it she was spinning on a thin black sheet of glass/She saw both their lives flash before her eyes/She didn't even have time to cry/She was so scared/She threw her hands up in the air/Jesus take the wheel/Take it from my hands/Cause I can't do this on my own/I'm letting go/So give me one more chance/Save me from this road I'm on/Jesus take the wheel.” Only when we are really stuck do we call out and say, ‘Jesus take the wheel’. 

When we realize we aren’t in control, we hear Jesus say, ‘I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another’ (John 13:34) This new commandment turns our plans and worlds upside down. We can no longer view anyone as ‘other’ or mark them ‘different’ for we are called to Love one another, as I have loved you.
The quote from Desmond Tutu, below, puts this kind of love in perspective, "God loves you! And God's love is so great, God loves your enemies too."
Br. Luke Ditewig of the Society of St. John Evangelist, notes we are called to have Agape Love for one another. “This is tough love, not a feeling of the heart but a resolve of the will. It’s the love God has for all of us, love no matter what. It’s the love Jesus had for his disciples and what Jesus speaks of [in John 13:34].”

Brother Luke agrees with Laurie Brock. “Love though it’s really hard work. Following Jesus is not easy.” Then he notes, “Yet Jesus always acts first. We give out of presence not absence. Having been blessed abundantly, we bless everyone. Having been loved abundantly, we love everyone.”

How can we possibly love everyone? Br. Luke asks readers to remember “how it all began, how Jesus invited you into relationship. Remember people who have been Jesus in the flesh for you…Remember how Jesus has loved you no matter what…Jesus doesn’t suggest or invite. He commands. Love one another. Love though you don’t like.”

Did you notice that last sentence? “Love though you don’t like.” We aren’t asked to LIKE everyone, or to tolerate differences. We are to LOVE one another! And that is indeed hard soul work. 

Love happens when we allow the Spirit to ‘take the wheel’. As Brock says God calls us to “new communities, to open ourselves and souls to new insights, and to act boldly.” I wonder what new insights we are closing our eyes to by not being open to God’s charge to LOVE. There are probably communities of new friends that we don’t know yet. And infinite ways to serve one another that we haven’t yet thought of. That is when, as Brock suggests, ‘love [can be] work’.

Br. Luke closes by stating, “The way is we love others no matter what.
The truth is Jesus loves us no matter what.
The life is being restored, through love, as Jesus loves, no matter what.”

Can you ‘let Jesus take the wheel’ and be open to new things in your life?

Will you allow the Spirit to act, and offer Agape love to others, no matter what?

How can we make loving, as we are commanded to do, a work of joy?

Next time, we’ll consider how loving in this way puts us at odds with society.