1549) Two Kinds of Love

Today’s meditation is another gem from C. S. Lewis.  It is brief, but gives one enough to think about for the rest of the day.  Who do you love?

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There are two kinds of love:  we love wise and kind and beautiful people because we need them, but we love (or try to love) stupid and disagreeable people because they need us.  This second kind is the more divine because that is how God loves us:  not because we are lovable, but because He is love; not because He needs to receive, but because He delights to give.

–From The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume III

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I John 4:7a…11… 19  —  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God…  Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…  We love because he first loved us.

Romans 5:6-8  —  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

John 3:16  —  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

I Corinthians 13:4-7  —  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

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Almighty and most merciful God, who hast given us a new commandment that we should love one another, give us also grace that we may fulfill it.  Make us gentle, courteous, and patient.  Direct our lives so that we may each look to the good of others in word and deed; for the sake of him who loved us and gave himself for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. 

–B. F. Westcott, Bishop and Bible scholar, (1825-1901)

1336) No Mutts

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“NO SUCH THING AS A MUTT” by Roy Borges

     The first time I laid eyes on my brother’s dog, I didn’t like him.  He was a mangy old mutt.  As far as I was concerned, he was utterly worthless.  He didn’t know any tricks.  He picked the most inconvenient times to have to go out.  And he wasn’t a very good watchdog.  In fact, if anybody ever tried to break into our house, I’m sure this dog would have helped him.

     My brother’s dog knew how much I disliked him.  That’s why he made it his mission in life to torment me.  For example, he never chewed up anything that belonged to my brother.  But that lousy dog chewed up everything I owned.  One day he chewed up the title to my car.

     I despised this mutt.  But I loved my brother very much.  So, one afternoon, I agreed to help him out by babysitting his dog.  But as I worked around the house that day, I soon forgot about the dog.  And when someone – maybe me – left the front door open, that sneaky mutt ran right out into the street.  Suddenly I heard the screeching of tires and a sad, mournful yelp.  I ran to the door.  There in the middle of the road lay my brother’s dog.  I knew he was dead.  I’ll never forget the pain on my brother’s face when he came home and found the dog he loved lying dead on the living room floor.  I’d never seen my brother cry, not even when I smashed up his brand new car.  But he cried that day.  I cried inside as I watched my brother suffer.

     Suddenly I realized that just because I didn’t see anything good about this mutt didn’t mean there wasn’t anything good about him.  My brother saw this dog with a different set of eyes than I did.  He loved him a lot.

     Sometimes it’s like that with people.  We meet others who look like mutts to us.  They have irritating personalities.  They do things we don’t like.  They cause us problems.  All in all, they seem pretty worthless.  We just don’t like them.  Maybe we even hate them.

     So it’s hard to understand what God could possibly see in them.  But God looks at each of us with a different set of eyes.  He loves every one of us very much.  In fact, He loves every one of us so much that He sent His only Son to die on the cross for us so that we could know salvation and spend eternity with Him.  There are no mutts in God’s eyes.

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     Roy Borges, the author of this little story, has a reason for wanting to write about mutts.  He says, “I’ve been a mutt for much of my life, someone looked down upon as a worthless person, someone nobody wanted; and for good reason.”  Roy is 68 years old, and in his 32nd year of a 45 year sentence at the Florida State Prison after being found guilty of committing several burglaries.  He was 36 years old when he was sent up for that long sentence on the three strike law.  He had been in and out of prison several times before that, and the judge decided that the Florida court system had had enough of him.

     In between his previous times in prison, Roy had gotten married and fathered a child.  But he lost both his wife and daughter after a pattern of abuse and abandonment.  When he wasn’t robbing homes, he was using drugs.  He learned both habits as a child from his heroin addicted ex-con father.  Roy Borges admits he was worse than his brother’s worthless mutt.  After all, the dog just laid around all day, and at worst chewed up shoes or other items.  But Borges left behind a path of pain and misery wherever he went.

     In December of 1989 Roy’s life was changed dramatically.  He went to the prison chapel service on Christmas Eve.  He heard a fellow inmate talk about his conversion to faith in Jesus Christ and the tremendous impact that had on his life, even though he was still in prison.  Roy decided to give his life to Christ, and he has not been the same since.

     Roy began to spend all his free time reading to learn more about his new faith.  Then, he began to write about it.  He said this was a great surprise to him, because English was his worst subject in school, and now, he wanted to read and write all the time.  God has blessed his efforts.  Several of his articles have been published, first in the prison newspaper, and then in national magazines.  He has won several writing awards and has written two books.

     Roy Borges remains in prison.  The article I read did not say when he was eligible for parole, but he is sentenced to be in prison until he is over eighty years old. So his time is divided between writing and working at his job in the prison kitchen. He says, “My greatest desire is to write for other prisoners.  So many of them are lost, like I was for so long, and I know how to speak to them. This writing has given my life meaning and purpose even here.  God has given me this gift and this work so that I can serve him.”

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Roy Borges, inmate #029381, Florida State Prison system

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Genesis 39:20-21a  —  Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.  But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him…

Luke 4:18-19  —  (Jesus said), “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Psalm 119:141  —  Though I am lowly and despised, I do not forget your precepts.

Psalm 22:23-24  —  You who fear the Lord, praise him!…  For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him, but has listened to his cry for help.

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Almighty and most merciful God, we call to mind before you all those whom it would be easy to forget:  the homeless, the destitute, the sick, the aged, those in prison, and all who have none to care for them.  Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy.  Grant this, Father, for the love of your Son, who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship, Augsburg, 1978, prayer #181, (adapted)

1025) The Suffering God

By Alvin Rogness, The Word for Every Day, page 303, Augsburg Publishing House, 1981.

     If God is perfect, does he suffer?  If he is all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere-present, holy and eternal, can we possibly cause him to suffer?  Would it not be beneath his dignity to let small people like us cause him pain?

     If, in addition to all these other sovereign qualities, he should be a God of love, then how can he escape suffering?  If we love someone, we give that person the power to hurt us.  To the degree that we love, to that degree we may have to suffer.  A loving wife who is betrayed by a faithless husband knows what suffering love is like.  A father and mother who lose a child know.  The only certain way to be spared suffering is never to love at all.

     God opened himself up for suffering when he created us to be his sons and daughters.  Had made us like all other creatures, beasts and birds and fish, he could have escaped the risk.  In the very first book of the Bible, we see him broken-hearted over the betrayal.  Adam and Eve chose the enemy of God instead of God.  And throughout the long chapters of the Old Testament, as he lavishes his love upon Israel, only to have them turn to other gods again and again, we watch him suffer.

     One would think his patience would run out.  It would have, had his love run out.  But he loves with an everlasting love.  Once committed to his children, he could not abandon them, though they grieved him a thousand times.  His anger would flare, but it was anger out of a broken heart.  Not only was it anger at his children, but more often high indignation over the evil that caused suffering for his children.  He wept for them and with them.

     Anyone who has lost a dear one in death, anyone who has watched a dear one in agony, anyone who has had his dreams shattered, anyone who has writhed in pain has known what great comfort there is in having a God who, in love, suffers with us.  If, when our son was killed, I would have had to think of God sitting detached as a spectator, I could not have prayed to him.  It is good to remember I had a Lord who wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus.  It is of great comfort to have a God who loves and suffers.

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Genesis 6:5-6  —  The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.  And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

John 11:35-36  —  Jesus wept.  Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

Hebrews 4:14-16  —   Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

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Do not be far from me, O Lord,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.

–Psalm 22:11

75) Who’s Your Daddy?

     Fred Craddock tells of meeting a man one day in a restaurant.

     “You a preacher?” the man asked.

     Somewhat embarrassed, Fred said, “Yes.”

     The man pulled a chair up to Fred’s table.  “Preacher, I’ll tell you a story.  There was once a little boy who grew up sad.  Life was tough because my mama had me but she had never been married.  Do you know how a small Tennessee town treats people like that?  Do you know the words they use to name kids that don’t have no father?

     “Well, we never went to church.  Nobody asked us.  But for some reason or other, we went to church one night when they was having a revival.  They had a big, tall preacher, visiting to do the revival and he was all dressed in black.  He had a thunderous voice that shook the little church.

     “We sat toward the back, Mama and me.  Well, that preacher got to preaching about what I don’t know, stalking up and down the aisle of that little church preaching. It was something.

     “After the service, we were slipping out the back door when I felt that big preacher’s hand on my shoulder.  I was scared.  He looked way down at me, looked me in the eye and says, ‘Boy, who’s your Daddy?’

     “I didn’t have no Daddy.  That’s what I told him in trembling voice, ‘I ain’t got no Daddy.’

     “’Oh yes you do,’ boomed that big preacher, ‘you’re a child of the Kingdom, you have been bought with a price, you are a child of the King!’

     “I was never the same after that…  Preacher, for God’s sake, preach that.”

    The man pulled his chair away from the table.  He extended his hand and introduced himself.  Craddock said the name rang a bell.  He was the legendary former governor of the state of Tennessee.     –Quoted by William Willimon in Pulpit Resource

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     To be a confident and secure person you need to know only two things– where you came from and where you are going.  The Bible tells us that we are from God, chosen in Christ before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), and we are going back to God, to the Father’s home, where Jesus is preparing a place for us (John 14:1-3).

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II Corinthians 5:15-19a — … (Jesus) died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.  So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.  Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.

Ephesians 1:3-6 — Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

I Peter 2:9-10 — …You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

John 14:1-3 — (Jesus said), “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

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O God, the Father of mercies, grant to us always to hold fast to the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry to you ‘Father,’ and we are ‘your children,’ through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  –Roman Breviary