Love One Another…

“To be a Christian is to live dangerously, honestly, freely – to step in the name of love as if you may land on nothing, yet to keep on stepping because the something that sustains you no empire can give you and no empire can take away.” ― Cornel West

“Christ instructs us to love our enemies, which does not mean a submission to their hostile agendas or domination, but does mean treating them as human beings also created in the image of God and respecting their human rights as adversaries and even as prisoners.” ― Jim Wallis, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It

As we rapidly approach election day, I find myself worn out by all of the vitriol and rhetoric that further divides an already divided population.

Last night, after making the mistake of watching the news, I found myself spending time in prayer. From time to time, I write down my prayers. Last night was one of those times.

“God, forgive us, for we are so easily tempted to place our hope and trust in the kingdoms of this world. Help us to remember as your followers that we are neither Republican nor Democrat, we are Christians. Our hope is not in a political leader. Our hope is not in a political party. Our hope is not in a political platform. Our hope is not in the Supreme Court. Our hope is in You and You alone. Help us to remember that You call us to be one as you are one. Help us to remember that unity is not about voting, it’s about love. Help us to remember that our allegiance is to You. Where there is evil, let Your light and love overwhelm and defeat it. Where there is disunity, disruption and injustice, bring Your peace, justice, mercy and love. Help us to remember, love, serve and care for the hurting and broken, the least and the lost, the overlooked, the outcast, the marginalized, those living on the fringes…may they experience and know your love. Help us to recognize the role we play in creating and sustaining division in our world. Help us to recognize that there are times when our political allegiances damage our witness. Help us to see that diversity, in all manners, is wonderful, beautiful and powerful. As we head to the polls, as the results of the election are shared, let love be our guide. In our interactions with those whom we agree and especially with those whom we disagree, let love be our guide. While we may not vote the same, let us “love alike”. Help us to love one another. God, heal our land. God, save us from ourselves. Amen.”

“Disagreement itself is not the problem, passionate disagreement is not the problem, rather the inability to put aside disagreement in nonessentials for the sake of Christian unity is the problem.”
― Charles E. Gutenson, Hijacked: Responding to the Partisan Church Divide

“Christianity is at its best when it is peculiar, marginalized, suffering, and it is at its worst when it is popular, credible, triumphal, and powerful.”
― Shane Claiborne, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals

“The kingdom of God is neither blue nor red, tea nor coffee! The church must stand in prophetic tension with Constantinian political systems and never underwrite or accommodate itself to a partisan political world order, including American democracy.”
― Mike Slaughter, Hijacked: Responding to the Partisan Church Divide

“Some folks may be really bummed to find that “God bless America” does not appear in the Bible. So often we do things that make sense to us and ask God to bless our actions and come alongside our plans, rather than looking at the things God promises to bless and acting alongside of them. For we know that God’s blessing will inevitably follow if we are with the poor, the merciful, the hungry, the persecuted, the peacemakers. But sometimes we’d rather have a God who conforms to our logic than conform our logic to the God whose wisdom is a stumbling block to the world of smart bombs and military intelligence.”
― Shane Claiborne, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals

“We have been seduced by sound bites. It is difficult to imagine how we are going to have an intelligent conversation around complex theopolitical issues as long as the average news consumer in America is willing to be sound-bite driven. We face a sorry state of affairs in our culture when few people seem willing to take the time for nuanced discussion on the complicated challenges we face. Politicians of all parties have been willing to foster this sound-bite mentality because it has worked for them. Most Americans work hard and are faced with too little time and too many distractions to study the issues well enough to make an informed judgment on them. As long as news consumers are willing to be manipulated by sound bites and are unwilling to commit the time to understand the complexities, we will continue to see artificial and simplistic distinctions drive too much of our conversation, resulting in divisions and disagreements that rarely get at the substantive issues.”
― Charles E. Gutenson, Hijacked: Responding to the Partisan Church Divide

Thankful for the Day and My New Friend “Tran”

I have started a new routine of taking a morning stroll after consuming an appropriate amount of coffee. While these walks are definitely beneficial for my physical health, they are essential to my spiritual and emotional wellbeing. The mornings are generally quite and I’m able to spend some time centering myself before entering “work mode”.

On this morning’s walk, the moon was still brightly lighting the western sky. It was truly a thing of beauty. As I made my way towards a slightly wooded trail, I noticed how I could see the reflection of the sunrise on Parkview Regional as the moon hovered over. I snapped a picture that fails to capture the wonder and awe of the moment.

As I continued to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings, I spent some time in prayer for those at Parkview. The hospital is a place of healing, hope and restoration. And yet, at the same time, it is a place where people encounter pain, trauma and grief. In this place, some will celebrate the joy of new life or the victory of restored health, while others will grieve the loss of a loved one.

While walking towards and around PRMC, Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” (courtesy of the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein) provided the soundtrack. Talk about beauty! One of my favorite moments in all of musical history comes at about the 20:04 mark. I get goosebumps every single time I hear this…

As I began to head home, the sun rising in the eastern sky began to paint a new picture of awe-filled beauty. Again, even with the advancements of iPhone cameras, one simply cannot adequately capture the moment.

As I continued walking, Bill Mallonee and the Vigilantes of Love provided the soundtrack. Bill is one of my favorite songwriters. I found myself singing out loud to “Farther Up the Road”. I especially love the second verse and chorus:

Now some will steal your garden
Some will sow their weeds
Yeah, some will rob you good and blind
Just to see you bleed
Honey, cover me with roses
This sack of bones and skin
Come and breathe upon this spirit
‘Fore winter settles in

Checking out of this cheap motel
With the wind all in our souls
God shows His face farther up the road

As wonderful as all of that happens to be, my absolute favorite part of my morning walk was running into my “neighbor”. Every morning, at about the same time and location, I pass an older gentleman who I refer to as “Tran” (fans of “New Girl” will understand).

Every morning, “Tran” smiles while pointing at me with one hand while giving me a thumbs up with the other. If “Tran” had a soundtrack, I believe it would feature Simon and Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song” played on repeat. I mean, every time I encounter “Tran” those familiar lyrics come to mind…

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobble stones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy

I believe “Tran’s” daily message to me is, “Slow down and take it all in.”

This morning, I passed “Tran” and then found myself walking behind him. All of a sudden, “Tran” just came to a full stop. I found myself thinking, “What is he doing? ”

Then, out of nowhere, 5 deer ran no more than 4 feet in front of “Tran”. In response, “Tran” started waving at the deer and loudly laughing. After they passed, he turned to face me, smiled, pointing at me with one hand and giving me a thumbs up with the other. He turned back around, continued laughing, started walking and gave me a wave as he made his way down the path towards his home.

Hopefully we can all take some time each day to slow down and appreciate the beauty that is all around us. I honestly think it’s the only way we can survive this mixed up, crazy world!