Category Archives: a Jesus kind of love

To the Woman Who……You Are Loved Beyond Measure. That’s Jesus’ Kind of Love.

Melissa Mayberry

Just because I feel like no one has said it….

To the woman who is pro-life, you are loved beyond measure

To the woman who is pro-choice, you are loved beyond measure.

To the woman who is on the fence, you are loved beyond measure.

To the woman who is heart broken from being told she is unable to have children, you are loved and created for a purpose.

To the woman who is excitingly pregnant with her fifth child even though her family says it’s “irresponsible” you are loved and created for a purpose.

To the woman who found out the child inside of her would cost her her life and chose to abort, you are loved and created for a purpose.

To the woman whose world has been turned upside down when her child’s heart stopped beating inside her womb, there is endless unconditioned love for you.

To the woman who is on the bathroom floor looking at two pink lines after running from their abusive partner. There is endless unconditional love for you.

To the woman who has to make an impossible decision when she was told her child was not forming properly and was in extreme pain. There is endless unconditional love for you.

To the woman whose abortion haunts her every day, there is grace and incredible love for you.

To the woman who was raped and found out she was pregnant and decided to not carry the child, there is grace and incredible love for you.

To all of the women who had to make a choice to bring life into the world or to end it and to the ones who were not given a choice. I hope you know that His grace and love is endless for you.

Whether people say your choice was “right” or “wrong” and with all the hatefulness on both sides. I hope you know that you are loved by the savior of the world. He understands your pain/grief/worry/doubt/ and every other thing you had to go through. And you are priceless and endlessly loved in his eyes. And mine. (I apologize for those who told you different)

You are loved beyond measure.

I join my Amen! to this. Eileen Norman

Loving the Other

Kinder Days?

Upper and middle-class whites remember kinder days. But they were not kinder to many who were disenfranchised. Many judges in the South simply refused to accept black vs black cases and left them to fight it out. There were many ways the white power structure forced others to resort to violence. Our white upper and middle-class view of how kind it was “back then” didn’t apply to either minorities or the very poor whites. Some of our problems are the results of the blindness of those days. It’s going to take more than going back to undo the damage. Particularly with so much of Christianity being hijacked by those whose God is about control, more than love.  Much of our violence comes from fear of anything or anyone different from us. Fear blinds us and turns us to seeking power whether by laws or guns. Most of us haven’t recognized that many poor whites’ only power for a long time has been their guns. It’s more complicated than we can see with privileged eyes.

“Judge Not, Lest You Be Judged.”

Probably no more than 25% of people of each generation can see beyond the culture they were born into. The majority simply aren’t born with minds that question. That’s why it takes so many generations to change cultural blindness. And many of the blind are extremely kind to individual people different than themselves that through circumstances they get to know first-hand in youth. But they don’t generalize beyond those people, because of what they were taught by family, friends, and the culture. If they do manage to grow beyond their limited world view, usually by the love of someone who sees differently, they can be the ones that take the greatest risks to change the status quo. Those people deserve our admiration. We, who either were not taught prejudice or whose minds naturally question everything, were blessed and can’t really take credit or judge those born with different minds any more than judging those with different color skin. We work for change, but we have no right to judge. That becomes a prejudice itself and draws lines in the sand. It turns everything into “them” vs “us.”  Jesus “got” this!!!

Love of God is Love of People

As long as religions teach that God doesn’t let unbaptized babies into heaven (a technicality it seems to me), then many moms, not taking-into-account the number of miscarriages that God allows early on, will oppose abortion.  I understand that on a feeling level. But my logic questions what kind of God would do that. Not the God of the Jesus I know. Some religions have taught that birth control will send you to hell.  And a woman can’t refuse her husband sex even if another pregnancy endangers her life and their other children will be motherless.  You can bet your sweet bippy that religion’s rules were written by men who had never truly loved a woman.   

Hope Is the Seed of Change

A Forty-three year old woman:

What a dark, dark season for our country.

I don’t feel like using my voice. Everything I would say is already being SCREAMED — online, in articles, in the halls of government — and with better phrasing than I could ever put together.

Nobody is listening.

They:

* Expanded gun rights.

* Removed Miranda rights enforcement.

* Removed women’s reproductive rights.

* Funded religious schools, while also saying they’re untaxable.

* Reworded our history textbooks to hide bad deeds.

* Removed parents’ choice about their own children’s biological therapies.

* Are actively drafting now to revoke equal voting rights.

Minority rights and remedies are the next target, and then gay marriage, and then probably gay existence.

Like pre-war Germany. There were document-able steps to that, and we are currently more than halfway through that list. In the same order. We learned nothing. We didn’t remember the past, and we are doomed to repeat it.

We sit here and pretend our country cares about freedom. It doesn’t.

Meanwhile, other nations have actual travel warning alerts declared on the US because of abnormal violence levels. I’ve downloaded and read them; they sound like you’re going as a tourist to 1970s Vietnam. Those outside our borders can’t believe we don’t all have healthcare covered, or that we’re still even debating equality. They don’t look upon us as a goal; we are internationally mocked as being backwards, uneducated, and very limited in individual freedoms.

I don’t recognize this country.  This isn’t where I thought I lived, and what the military men in my ancestral line fought for.  Today, I don’t see any hope whatsoever.

An eighty-five year old: Eileen Norman

History repeats itself. Both the bad and the good. We are a relatively young country. We still have a lot to learn the hard way. Sad for our progeny. But if we have instilled values and concern for others in them, we’ve done the best we can for the future. They will have to be the revolutionaries for their era. My struggle is trying to open the young’s eyes to the difference between Jesus and his “so called” followers. Christianity has over and over been bought by the powerful and then corrupted. But people with values, who experience the love and wisdom and ability to change His world view of Jesus, rise up over and over and renew it. Nothing is perfect and never has been and never will be. It’s a fallible world of fallible people. As a country we have not suffered like the countries we fled. We don’t recognize the seeds of self-destruction. Your voice is important. Every voice is heard by some. Though mostly we are “preaching to the choir,” every now and then if we are not attacking people rather than movements and laws, a few more will question enough to at least not add to the hate. It’s humbling to feel so ineffective and makes it hard to persevere. You are not alone. Speak your truth just as you have in this post. Thank you for keeping on keeping on when there are no ego rewards in it. Love you.

My Pentecost

Happy Birthday Christianity!  Birthdays are for celebrating and receiving gifts.  Pentecost is when the first Christians received the Holy Spirit. So, today let’s pray, “Come, Holy Spirit.!”

In today’s Scripture from Acts, Peter calls it the last days. And these are the last days after Jesus ascended into heaven, whether it’s two days or 2,000 or 20,000 years. Jesus had told his disciples that he had to leave so they would receive the Holy Spirit and do even more miraculous things than he did.  And Peter affirms that the day has come when the young, the old, the men, the women, the slave and free would experience the Holy Spirit in many ways.

Last week, our pastor talked about the older members of our families telling their memories.  Well, I definitely qualify as older, so here’s a short trip down my memory lane.

In my twenties I became disillusioned with myreligion. And since I had pretty much made religion my God, I stopped believing in God and the Bible. Even without religious faith,  I was active in politics, andworking for Civil Rights, because I thought humanity was on its own and we had to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

When I was thirty, I experienced a joyful conversion to belief in God and Jesus through friends working for a non-denominational Christian ministry. I began reading the Scriptures with new eyes and went from believing nothing to believing everything in the New Testament. I joined a prayer group of women from the major Christian denominations along with one Jewish woman.  All, had experienced a new level of faith. We focused on how to become more loving rather than on doctrine. We prayed about our and others’ concerns and read the Scriptures for guidance. When we were praying for one of the women’s mother, I suddenly knew  she was being healed. I shared that and we praised God, but when I got home, I panicked!. What if it wasn’t true? My positive conviction had faded. But it did turn out to be true. So, I asked the Presbyterian woman who seemed to know more about the bible and prayer than the rest of us, how that had happened.  She said that I had experienced one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and there were more. Would I like her and another woman to come the next morning and pray over me to receive the rest of the gifts? That sounded good, so I said yes. But that night I began to worry that I might get off track again, so I prayed for a sign that the Pentecostal experience was for our times and right for me. By midnight I hadn’t received any sign, so I went to bed thinking this was not for me. At around

two in the morning the phone rang. I rushed to answer it, worried that it was an emergency. But when I answered, a man’s voice asked, “Is this the Pentecost’s?” I sort of stammered, “I beg your pardon?” He responded, “Is this the Pentecost’s residence?” I hesitated, but told him “No,” so he hung up. But I decided that had to be a positive answer, so the women came and prayed for me and told me about a  Charismatic prayer group at the Sister’s of Mercy convent. I became active in the Catholic Charismatic movement and witnessed and experienced many miracles.  Not every heartbreaking illness or problem in my life was cured or solved. But after experiencing so many miracles, I knew God was with me and I’d seek God’s grace and guidance in the hard times. There is one experience that I do want to share now. I soon attended my first Charismatic Conference with twenty-thousand people of many denominations in the Notre Dame football stadium. During the worship service people spontaneously began to sing in different languages with  different melodies. Now I can’t sing on key unless I listen to the person standing next to me. So, as beautiful as it was, I didn’t see how I could join in. But suddenly, words with a melody just bubbled up and I was singing in a language I did not know to a melody I didn’t know or hear anyone else singing.  It’s hard to describe how all those languages and different melodies could come together so beautifully and then soften and stop simultaneously.  We CAN all sing together in perfect harmony.  As broken as our world is, the power of the Holy Spirit within everyone of us, is stronger. This memory is my sign of hope that I cling to when the violence and hate all around us, even in Christianity, threaten to overwhelm me.

Pray with me if you wish:

God our Father, we cannot become the people you created us to be or bring your Spirit of love into our broken world, without being filled to overflowing with both the Love of Jesus and the power of your Spirit within us. Spirit of the Living God fall afresh on us. Speak to us through the Scriptures. Stir our hearts and empower us to become like your first followers. Free us from whatever holds us back from being completely yours.

Only When the Peace of Love Begins in Our Own Hearts Can We Begin to Replace Violence with Kindness

Our society has reached a breaking point of hate. It infuses our lives through social media, the newspapers, the television, the computer games, brutality in sports, our literature, even our religions and our music. It’s time to go back to basics. Violence solves nothing. It only breeds more violence. Violence begins in the heart as an escape from pain, fear, frustration, rejection, loneliness, despair. It’s a spiritual sickness and it requires a personal spiritual cure, not a corporate religious one. Let it begin with YOU and with Me. NOW! Not tomorrow or next week. Begin by praying for peace within, take time to reflect on our own condition, ask and seek grace to grow free to love one another as Jesus did. Focus on this inner journey until it frees us in our lives. Both hate and love are contagious.

I found time this afternoon to sit on my porch listening to a gentle rain and soft sounds of windchimes, watching the trees dance and feeling the breath of a breeze kiss my face, delighting in the bright rich colors of gold and violet pansies and enjoying the sweet smell of the wild roses at the edge of my woods. Joy surprised me in a memory of Julian wrapped in his comforter of silence savoring the wind and rain. It was a time for thanking God for the grace of being loved by Julian and family and friends. And a chance to treasure the new stage of my journey with Jesus.

A half of a century ago I danced in joy as I experienced the overwhelming tender Love of God fleshed out for me and all humanity in Jesus. I treasure every moment of awareness of that Love that began to free me from my self-contempt over my many faults and failures. I have celebrated that love in the good and with grace eventually even in bad times. I have pretty much just “wallowed” in it like a happy little pig! To my surprise, I’ve realized that in the last year, I have become more focused on loving Jesus than on his loving me. I have begun to really recognize his humanity and how he grew as a human who was open to the Love/grace of God that nurtured him through so many human stages that challenge us all. Instead of just dancing in the delight of being loved, I am now often just thrilled in amazement and warm tenderness at how Jesus worked at keeping open to the Spirit of God. How he opened his heart to the Roman enemies of the Jews, to the Samaritan heretics, the unclean woman., And how listening to the Spirit gave him the grace to keep on Loving and persevering through all the challenges and trauma’s of his human life. It even carried him through to saying on the cross, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

He didn’t say, “Throw them in jail. Kill them. Don’t let them into the Kingdom of heaven.”

Oh my! How humanly vulnerable, how aware of human sin, how tender in forgiveness, how infinite in his love. He is the Love of God fleshed out for ALL of us, not just when we are being or even just thinking we’re the good guys. As I write this I rejoice and celebrate the Love of God fleshed out in Jesus. Thanks be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

To Believe in God We Have to be Able to Imagine Something Infinitely Bigger than Ourselves or Else We Cut God Down to Our Tiny Understanding.

Pleasure is very fleeting. Joy is a whole other ballgame. It leaves a permanent imprint. The greatest joy comes from love. To me, God is Love. The scriptures were written by humans evolving from tribal to universal. They were created by people with different kinds of minds, from literal to metaphorical. They are the footprints of the human journey. From the accounts in the New Testament, you can see Jesus evolving from tribal to universal. I see Jesus as a unique example of human evolution. Some get it, some don’t. Those that do, have a God that is universal and in everything and everyone. God doesn’t need praise. But I have found praising God brings joy and connection to something greater than us. It could be that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. If we ever recognize that love involves more than loving others as we love ourselves, that it involves loving others more than ourselves, then we’ll know what Jesus learned and did and calls us to do. I think Jesus was a leap in human development, a prototype for the spiritual journey. I think the God within us as humans, the God in every cell of the universe, the God in Jesus are all the same and greater than the bread boxes religions try to contain God in. I don’t think truth or God are limited to Jesus, but I think Jesus finally “got it” and his actions speak louder than any words. He’s my “guy” and to me he embodies both the feminine and masculine. I believe that the spirit of God that was in Jesus lives in all of us. But we evolve by inches like inch worms, seeing through the glass darkly, learning to love slowly and painfully. Prayer is a form of caring. Caring matters, particularly when there is nothing in our limited skill set to do to help. It’s not a substitute for doing what we can. It’s a focusing together. I’ve witnessed and even experienced the power of it. See the blog. Laughter: Carbonated Grace and scroll down for a series on experiences of God being in the timing.

I wrote this in response to reading Spinoza’s view of God, some of which I understand and believe. But I have personally experienced more. And I pray to continue growing both in understanding and ability to love until the day I die. Then hope to explode with mind blowing joy right after that.

Demonizing our Enemies

I am an admirer of Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s understanding of humanity and religion. What he wrote on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is appropriate for our political divisions here. He gathered signatures from rabbis and imams in the Nashville area on the following:

“We, the undersigned, do not share a common vision for the Middle East. We do not agree politically, religiously, theologically, or philosophically. We are on different sides of a many-sided conflict that threatens the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of all of us. What we do share, however, is a deep concern that our differences not alienate us from one another. When dealing with the complexities and competing narratives surrounding the conflict, it is all too easy for us to demonize “the other,” whether that “other” be a Muslim, Christian, or Jew. …………We are not writing to propose a solution to our differences, but to stand together against the demonization of those who propose solutions to which we are opposed. Passion for one view is no excuse for lack of compassion for those who hold very different views……………We can decry the rhetoric and actions of one side or the other without demonizing all Jews, Muslims, Christians, Arabs, Israelis or Palestinians. We may never find common ground, but we can stand together against the tendency within ourselves and our respective communities to deny the humanity of the other and in so doing lose our own humanity as well.”

Christians listen to these words. If Jewish and Muslim Americans can see the difference between disagreeing and demonizing and commit to avoiding the latter, can’t we who call Jesus, Lord, do the same. Pray for the grace to love those you consider your enemies as Jesus commanded all his followers to do. Jesus traded hate and power for Love. He calls us to do the same.

Nightmares and Miracles To Pray or Not to Pray: Chapter 10

Had an exhausting dream last night. I was a part time art teacher at a school. My class was fifth and sixth graders. I had all sorts of nature items to make a Christmas craft, maybe a wreath, but the kids were going crazy, trying to begin before I could organize it, knocking some items off the table, and mixing the others up. Some kept moving around the room instead of taking their seats and two even left the classroom. No matter what I said or threatened, the rest would just start causing chaos again.

When I woke up, I decided this aptly described my own current mental state. Lately, I seem unable to stay focused on anything productive.

But it also triggered a memory of a small delightful miracle I experienced when actually teaching first and second grade. I had spent a lot of time with my own children making nature crafts for fun or as gifts for their teachers. Four of my kids were older, but even my Tommy at six was actually a lot better than I was at making crafts. So I decided to gather treasures from our woods and field for my class to make Christmas presents for their parents. On Friday, before the Monday that was the last school day before their holidays, I brought lots of flat rocks, glue out the kazoo, weeds, nuts, pods, pinecones, lichen, and some small animal figures to make nature scenes for their parents.

It was total chaos. They all excitedly gathered way more than they needed to cover their flat rocks. And before I could give any instructions or personal help, they crammed everything they had on to the rocks and simply covered them with a mountain of white glue. Everything and everyone in the room was covered in glue and bits and pieces of nature. The bell rang before they could begin to clean even themselves off, never-the-less anything else. After everyone was gone, I walked around looking at the totally unrecognizable messes they had created and felt like an idiot for attempting this. I gingerly picked each up and put them on the wide windowsills hoping the sun would at least dry them so they could carry them home. I made a half hearted attempt to clean off desks, but gave up on the floor, deciding to give the janitor a much larger Christmas tip than I had planned.

That night I shed a few tears of frustration that my beautiful picture of happy children and delighted parents had disappeared into mountains of glue. I decided to pray even though I knew it was mostly selfish, since the kids were happy and I was sure their parents were already well practiced at oohing and aahing over unidentifiable art works. I asked God please could the creations somehow become more appealing and at least identifiable as nature crafts. Frankly, I didn’t have a whole lot of faith in it, even though by this point in my life I had experienced miracles that simply helped me in times of discouragement. I guess I thought that I had walked with the Lord long enough to be a stronger person.

On Monday when I arrived at school, I glumly went to view the remains of the project. I was astonished. The sun had not only dried the glue, but somehow excess glue and enough of the piles of bits and pieces of nature had fallen off to leave lovely small scenes. The children happily took credit and the parents were amazed. One mother of seven older children told me in astonishment that this was the first art work by any of her children that she could happily display in her living room!

The memory that my dream triggered reminded me that our God is an awesome God, a God who can use even our chaotic messes. So maybe I don’t need to try harder. Maybe, I need to just pray and trust.

Voting and Loving

Standing in the line to vote, I’d brought my rolling walker with a seat to use if standing long brought on pain. Three different poll workers kindly asked if I’d like to go to the front of the line. I said no, because I could sit down any time I needed to. They noticed the woman behind me with a bandaged foot and asked her the same. She also said no, there were chairs every six feet. She and I began to chat about the challenges of aging and life in general right now. She shared some difficulties, but then recounted with a light in her eyes how they had turned out to bring about some good changes in her life. I reacted with delight, recognizing grace and a faith we shared. We bonded there in a line, six feet apart, with masks. It was one of those blessed moments of connection. We parted reluctantly after voting and as I drove away I realized from other things that she had probably voted red, while I voted blue. But I also realized that she went back to her life reaching out in love to those familiar faces whom she understood and trusted, while I went back to reaching out to unfamiliar faces, with lives so different from mine. Both of us doing our best to help others and to share the faith that saw us through the hard times.

The problem with a political solution is that it doesn’t take into account that we are born with very different personalities. And though as we grow through stages of life, we can become stronger in undeveloped aspects of our personality, there’s a timing to the process that isn’t under our control.

I once wrote an article called Aliens in the Nest after recognizing how different I was from either of my parents and how different my five children were from one another and at least one of us, their parents.

It takes grace to love across these differences. It takes both time and grace to develop strengths in our weaknesses. What we can handle with the grace of faith now would not have been possible for us at an earlier stage of our personal spiritual development. God gives us grace for the moment.

We cannot force others to be where we are. I keep coming back to the importance of realizing with heart and mind that I and all others are loved completely at our worst, but are also still unfinished at our best. Legislating for others, no matter how strongly we feel and even if we ourselves would with grace be willing to sacrifice our own life for what we believe, doesn’t work. Our call is to help others find that love that frees us all to grow and risk and accept suffering and die knowing we were loved at each stage of our journey.