841) Love Your Enemy

From a column by Andree Seu, World magazine, November 1, 2008, page 87, referring to a conversation she was told about.

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     “Is your husband an enemy?” Elisabeth Elliot said to me.  “Does your husband feel like your enemy?”

     “Yes.”

     “What does the Bible say about how to treat your enemies? . . .  Love them.  Do good for them.  Pray for them.”

     “Do good,” I thought.  Could it really be that simple?

     I set my mind to do one good thing for George every day.  In the name of the Lord.  I couldn’t do it for George, but I could do it in obedience to God.  George is my husband and my enemy, and this is the Lord’s command to me.

     I started with a spice cake, George’s favorite dessert.  Simple enough.  But as I did these things, I just became so broken.  Had I really been so, so selfish, and thoughtless all these years, that these little things could mean so much?  Gradually, I saw my true heart as George had seen it all these years– so cold and bitter and awful.  Was I really as bad as this?  Yes.  Yes.

     Finally I was broken.  Over time, compassion for George replaced bitterness.  And dare I say it, even love begins to grow.  Glimpses of delight?  Yes, even that.  God began to show me how He loves George too, and just how foolish I have been.  I feel like Isaiah 61 is coming to pass:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: beauty for ashes; gladness for mourning; a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

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Matthew 5:43-45a  —  (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Luke 6:32-33  —  (Jesus said), “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do that.”

Luke 6:27-28  —  (Jesus said), “But to you who are listening I say:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

Romans 12:21  —  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

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My Lord Jesus, look at how my neighbor has injured me, slandered my honor with his talk, and interfered with my rights.  I cannot tolerate this, and so I wish he were out of my way.  O God, hear my complaint.  I cannot feel kindly toward him, even though I know I should.  See how cold and insensible I am.  O Lord, I can’t help it, and so I stand forsaken.  If you change me, I will be devout and have better thoughts.  Otherwise, I must remain as I am.  O dear God, change me by your grace.  Amen.

–Martin Luther  (1483-1546)

Image result for do good to enemies images

817) Who Do You 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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732) “Do You Want Me?”

By Park York, June 1989, Christian Herald; quoted in Night Light: A Devotional for Couples, pages 42-44, by James and Shirley Dobson, Multnomah Press, 2000.

     I rise early on this Friday, as I do ever day, to prepare coffee and mix a protein shake.  The television news plays quietly in the corner.  Flossie, my wife, is still asleep.

     Sometime after eight, she begins floating out of slumber.  I bring the shake to her bedside, put the straw in her mouth, and give her cheek a little pat as she begins to drink.  Slowly the liquid recedes.

     I sit there holding the glass, thinking about the past eight years.  At first, she asked only an occasional incoherent or irrelevant question; otherwise she was normal.  I tried for two years to find out what was wrong.  She grew agitated, restless, defensive; she was constantly tired and unable to hold a conversation.

     At last, a neurologist diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease.  He said he wasn’t sure– a firm diagnosis could come only from examining brain tissue after death.  There is no known cause for this malady.  And no known cure.

     I enrolled Flossie in a day care center for adults.  But she kept wandering off the property.  We medicated her to keep her calm.  Perhaps from receiving too much of one drug, she suffered a violent seizure that left her immeasurably worse: lethargic, incontinent, and unable to speak clearly or care for herself.  My anguish gradually became resignation.  I gave up all plans of retirement travel, recreation, visits to see grandchildren– the golden era older people dream about.

     The years have passed, and my days have become routine, demanding, lonely, and seemingly without accomplishment to measure.  Flossie has gradually dropped in strength and weight, from 125 pounds to 86.  I take some time to work with a support group and to attend church, but the daily needs keep me feeding, bathing, diapering, changing beds, cleaning house, fixing meals, dressing and undressing her, and doing whatever else a nurse and homemaker does, morning to night.

     Occasionally, a word bubbles up from the muddled processes of Flossie’s diseased brain.  Sometimes relevant, sometimes the name of a family member, or the name of an object.  Just a single word.

     On this Friday morning, after she finishes her shake, I give her some apple juice, then massage her arms and caress her forehead and cheeks.  Most of the time her eyes are closed, but today she looks up at me, and suddenly her mouth forms four words in a row. 

     “Do you want me?”

     Perfect enunciation, softly spoken.  I want to jump for joy.

     “Of course I want you, Flossie!” I say, hugging and kissing her.

     And so, after months of total silence, she has put together the most sincere question a human being can ask.  She speaks, in a way, for people everywhere:  those shackled by sin, addiction, hunger, thirst, mental illness, physical pain– frightened, enervated people afraid of the answer, but desperate enough to frame the question anyway.

     And, Flossie, I can answer you even more specifically.  It may be difficult for you to understand what’s happening.  That’s why I’m here, to minister God’s love to you, to bring you wholeness, comfort, and release.  Mine are the hands God uses to do His work, just as He uses others’ hands in other places.  In spite of our shortcomings, we strive to make people free, well, and happy, blessing them with hope for the future while bringing protein shakes every morning.

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Comments by James Dobson:

     Unlike so many people today, this gentleman who so gently cared for his wife clearly understood the meaning of commitment.  As her mind and body deteriorated with no hope for a cure, he willingly abandoned the hopes and dreams he had worked to achieve.  She needed him desperately, and he would be there for her, even though she could give nothing back– not even a rational “thank you.”  This, in all its magnificence– and sorrow– is the meaning of love.  

     No doubt you have dreams of your own for the rest of your married life.  Just remember that God may have other plans that depend on your unswerving commitment to each other– no matter what.

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In the last song Glenn Campbell (1936- ) will ever record, he sings about his descent into the oblivion of Alzheimer’s disease.  The name of the song is I’m Not Gonna Miss You (2014).  This is an amazing song, with a terrific video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8TsAh-zYFI

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I Corinthians 13:7  —  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Galatians 6:2  —  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Matthew 7:12-13  —  (Jesus said), “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.  Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

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Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

–St. Ignatius of Loyola

731) What Kind Of Love?

By Devin C. Foley, April 3, 2015 commentary at:  http://www.IntellectualTakeout.org  

Foley’s website has over a million Facebook fans.  In this essay, posted on Good Friday this year, he comments on some on the comments he has received from millennials  (those with birth years approximately early 1980s to early 2000s).

     When it comes to the millennials, we have noticed a worrisome outlook on love showing up frequently in the comments.  For many of our audience members, it would seem love and suffering are incompatible.  Those holding this position will often argue that loving another should not result in your suffering.  Rather, love is something that should serve you, providing you with perpetual happiness.  And, according to this commonly held view, happiness is not possible if we are suffering.

     Such a sentiment stands in stark contrast to Good Friday, which is being celebrated around the world today by most Christians. In the Christian tradition, out of his love for the world and in order to offer it eternal life, Christ willingly suffered through abandonment, humiliation, scourging, a crown of thorns, the piercing of his hands and feet with nails, and finally death on the cross.  This series of events is often referred to as the Passion of Christ.

     Passion is a word nearly all Americans would probably equate with love.  The irony though is that the Latin root of the word passion is pati, which means “to suffer.”
     Now, it’s certainly not safe to say that those who may not see love and suffering going hand-in-hand are against suffering itself.  We are, after all, a society that celebrates controlled suffering.  Consider the widespread popularity of 5ks, 10ks, fun runs, zombie runs, color runs, Tough Mudders, etc.  They are examples of a willingness to suffer so long as the suffering can be controlled by the sufferer.  The benefits of chosen suffering in the form of physical exertion as well as the pride in the accomplishment are obvious to most Americans.  Suffering of this kind can even be pleasurable for some.
 
     But uncontrolled suffering is an entirely different matter.  While Christ chose to love and opened himself to suffering, he could not control that suffering.  And that’s what makes love a tricky and even scary thing.
 
     If we are to love someone truly, we must be willing to give our self to that person.  In giving our self to another, for instance in marriage, we can no longer control how we might suffer.  Marriage and love make us vulnerable.  This is true even when loving our children.  The love of a parent for a child isn’t the same love as that between spouses, but it still involves giving and sacrifice for the well-being of the child and even a certain vulnerability.  When a child truly suffers, whether in serious illness or just due to a broken heart, the parents often feel that pain as well.  Of course, parents also suffer as the result of a child’s actions or behavior.
     Perhaps the problem is that a portion of our society has confused love as a virtue with love as pleasure.  The former requires discipline and giving, the latter merely takes.  Such a misunderstanding would be unfortunate, and leaves many incapable of experiencing true love.  But it also may not be merely a matter of confusion, but rather intentional, reflecting our society’s growing desire to avoid suffering and to pursue pleasure, to live selfishly.
 
     The implications of giving ourselves over to selfishness and an inability to accept uncontrolled suffering as a society are immense.  What is to restrain our personal pursuits of pleasure?  Furthermore, if we as individuals are unwilling to endure uncontrolled suffering and therefore unwilling to love, what bond can we have with our fellow man other than a mutual pursuit of pleasure?  And how far can that take us?  As the philosopher Edmund Burke wrote:
Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites…  Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within (our hearts), the more there must be outside ourselves (laws, rules, police, etc.).  It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free.  Their passions forge their fetters.
     While such a loss of freedom is disconcerting, worse is the loss of love in a society and what that means for individuals and families.  Pleasure, whether in work, money, sex, drugs, entertainment, power, etc., can only carry us for so long and it must be ever increased in order to make one feel “happy”.  But there are limits to how much we can increase our pleasure, and often when those limits are reached we are in grave peril.  How many of us are on such a course now?
     Alas, that may be our future as a society unless we change course.  To do so, though, requires a desire to change, a reason to love others despite sacrifice and suffering, and a reason to pursue virtue.  Virtuous living has been pursued in many societies and cultures, as has living in pursuit of pleasure.  History teaches us the results of each.  Which one is pursued comes down to the dominant eschatology of a society – to what end do we live?
(Eschatolgy:  any system of doctrines concerning last, or final, matters, as death,the Judgment, the future state, etc.)
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We are never so  defenseless against suffering as when we love.  –Sigmund Freud
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To love is to suffer.  To avoid suffering one must not love.  But then one suffers from not loving.  Therefore to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer…  To be happy is to love.  To be happy then is to suffer.  But suffering makes one unhappy…  I hope you’re getting this down.  
Love and Death, 1975 Woody Allen movie 
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 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.
Galatians 6:2  —  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
I John 4:10-11  —  This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
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O God, fountain of love, pour your love into our souls, that we may love those whom you love with the love you give us, and think and speak about them tenderly, meekly, lovingly; and so loving our brothers and sisters for your sake, may grow in your love and live for you; for Jesus Christ’s sake.  Amen.

–E. B. Pusey

543) What If I Had Been Loved?

          At the very center of the Christian faith is God’s love.  Jesus said, “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this, all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Later, the apostle John would write, “We should love one another…  This is how we know what love is– Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”  One of the first songs many of us learned was “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

     Growing up in a Christian culture, we have come to take this love of God for granted; but in other religions the love of God is not a central teaching.  In the Muslim faith the central theme is God’s will; Allah determines and decides everything, good and evil, and it is for us to merely accept it.  At the center of Hinduism is not love, but Karma, a belief in pure justice; so if you live like a rat, in your next life, you will be reincarnated as a rat, or worse.  The goal in Buddhism is not to love, but to withdraw from all human emotion and desire in an attempt to live perfectly content, living above all that would disturb you (See EmailMeditation #494); but as you well know, if you are going to love others in this world, you are going to suffer.  And, you won’t find much love in the primitive religions of the world; rather, you find in them fear, the fear of evil spirits in every tree and under every rock.  This does not mean that there is no love between the members of these other faiths.  But the focus of all these other religions is on something other than love.  So Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said, “I have a new command, I want you to love others as I have loved you.”

     All those elements that are foremost in other religions are also in Christianity.  We, like Muslims talk about the will of God.  We even pray for it– “Thy will be done,” we pray in the Lord’s Prayer.  And Christians, like Hindus, believe that God is concerned about justice.  And, Christians agree with the Buddhists that we should live above our selfish desires.  And, just as in primitive religions, the Bible tells us to fear God.  But in the religion of Jesus, none of those things is the main theme.  The main message of the Bible is the love of God, revealed most perfectly in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. It is by God’s love that we are saved, and it is by love that we are to get along in this world– by loving others and treating them as we would want to be loved and treated.

     Earl Lee, an African-American pastor of an inner city congregation, tells a story of this love of God in action.  Pastor Lee had been the guest preacher at a congregation in Houston, and after church the host pastor said to him, “Come with me this afternoon over to the prison.  We have a ministry there and I’d like you to meet some folks.”  So Pastor Lee went along to one of the chapel services inside the prison.  He was surprised to see how many prisoners were there and how lively and meaningful the service was for them.  After the service, Pastor Lee saw one of the prisoners standing by himself, so he went and asked him why he came to the services.

     “Because it helps me,” the man said.

     “Tell me how,” said the pastor, “tell me your story.  Tell me how Jesus has made a difference in your life.”

     The prisoner said, “Well, to tell you the truth, I did not start coming to these services to hear about Jesus.  I came for the same reason a lot of guys come, because showing up for chapel might get us some extra privileges.  You know, it makes it look like we’re trying to be good, and the warden likes to see that.  That’s why I went the first time.”

     He went on, “That first time I came to chapel I did not know anything about religion.  There were lots of churches in my neighborhood, but I never went to any of them, so I didn’t know anything about Jesus.  All I knew was how to get into trouble, and I learned that from my daddy.  He is also in prison now, and so is my son.  And so my whole life stinks.  Get the picture?”

     “And then,” the man went on, “then I get to this chapel service, and the dude is talking about how Jesus loves us all and how we should all love others like Jesus loves us.  That made me mad.  Nobody ever loved me, and I didn’t feel like loving anybody else.  This preacher didn’t know anything about my life, so who was he to be telling me about loving others?  Why should I love other people?  Nobody ever did anything for me except beat me up, lie to me, sell me drugs, and teach me to steal; and then somebody else put me in here.  And now I’m supposed to love everybody?  It was the stupidest thing I ever heard of, so I left the service, vowing never to return.”

     “But that night,” said the man, “I could not sleep.  That preacher’s talk got me thinking about all the people who hurt me, and those bad memories were swirling around in my head.  I seldom saw my dad, and if he did come around, he was drunk and would beat us.  And my mother wasn’t much better.  She thought more about getting high than about feeding us kids.  So I was always out on the streets, and nobody loves anybody there.  Everyone out there did me wrong too, and I learned to do it back.  Love was just never a part of my life, so who was this preacher to be telling me to love everyone like Jesus did?  My anger was keeping me awake.”

     “But then,” said the prisoner, “a different kind of thought came into my mind.  It just popped in out of nowhere.  I now think God put it there.  It wasn’t a memory, it wasn’t more anger, it was just one little question that came in to my mind.  For some reason it occurred to me to ask, ‘What if?’  What if I had been loved?  What difference could love had made in my life?  What would have been the difference if my father would have loved my mother as he loved himself, like the preacher said.  I thought about that.  Then I wondered, how different it could have been if my mother would have loved me as she loved herself and her own good times.  And what if my father would have loved me?  And then I went a step further, wondering how different if could have been if I would have loved my son as Jesus loved me.  The preacher said that Jesus loves us all, Jesus loves even a bad man like me, and that we should love each other.  I thought about that for a long time.  What could have my life been like if the people around me would have done that; if I would have done that.  And then I realized that everything, everything would have been different.  And then I did something I had not done since I was 14 years old.  I broke down and cried.  I cried for how things could have been.  Love wasn’t in my life, but that doesn’t mean Jesus was wrong.  Rather, it proves he was right.  When there is no love, you end up like me and my daddy and my son.  Love could have made the difference.  And so I keep coming back to chapel to hear more about this Jesus and loving others, because when I get out of here that’s the only way I will make it.  I’ve been going at it all wrong for way too long.”

     Do you see what happened there?  That convict heard just a few words from Jesus, and his life was changed.  His whole way of looking at life and himself and other people was all changed by the love of Jesus, and by the command of Jesus to love one another as he has loved us.

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John 13:34-35  —  (Jesus said), “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

1 John 3:11…16a  —  For this is the message you heard from the beginning:  We should love one another.  This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life 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.

John 15:12  —  (Jesus said), “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

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Our hearts are cold; Lord, warm them with your selfless love.

–Augustine

494) Buddhism and Christianity

Buddhism says, “Those who love a hundred have a hundred woes.  Those who love ten have ten woes.  Those who love one have one woe.  Those who love none have no woe.”

Christianity says, “He who does not love remains in death.”

–Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, page 92.

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John 13:34-35  —  (Jesus said),  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

1 John 3:14b  —  Anyone who does not love remains in death.

1 John 3:16  —  This is how we know what love is:  Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.

1 John 7-12  —  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 John 4:19  —  We love because He first loved us.

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O God, fountain of love, pour your love into our souls, that we may love those whom you love with the love you give us, and think and speak about them tenderly, meekly, lovingly; and so loving our brothers and sisters for your sake, may grow in your love and live for you; for Jesus Christ’s sake.  Amen.

–E. B. Pusey

485) Being ‘In Love’ and Living ‘Happily Ever After’

 By C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

      What we call ‘being in love’ is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us.  It helps to make us generous and courageous, it opens our eyes not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty, and it subordinates (especially at first) our merely animal sexuality.  In that sense, love is the great conqueror of lust.  No one in his senses would deny that being in love is far better than either common sensuality or cold self-centeredness.  But, as I said before, ‘the most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of our own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.’  Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing.  There are many things below it, but there are also things above it.  You cannot make it the basis of a whole life.  It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling.  Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all.  Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go.  And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last.

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     The idea that ‘being in love’ is the only reason for remaining married really leaves no room for marriage as a contract or promise at all.  If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; and if it adds nothing, then it should not be made.  The curious thing is that lovers themselves, while they remain really in love, know this better than those who talk about love.  Those who are in love have a natural inclination to bind themselves by promises.  Love songs all over the world are full of vows of eternal constancy.  The Christian law is not forcing upon the passion of love something which is foreign to that passion’s own nature:  it is demanding that lovers should take seriously something which their passion of itself impels them to do.

     And, of course, the promise, made when I am in love and because I am in love, to be true to the beloved as long as I live, commits me to being true even if I cease to be in love.  A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions:  no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way.  He might as well promise never to have a headache or always to feel hungry.

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     If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married’, then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were.  Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years?  What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships?  But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love.  Love in this second sense—love as distinct from ‘being in love’—is not merely a feeling.  It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God.  They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself.  They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else.  ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity:  this quieter love enables them to keep the promise.  It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

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Genesis 2:18  —  The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Mark 10:6-9  —  (Jesus said),  “At the beginning of creation God made them male and female.  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Ephesians 4:2-3  —  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

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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 A MARRIAGE BLESSING:

May the Lord make you holy and bless you, and pour the riches of his grace upon you, that you may please Him, and live together in holy love until the end of your lives.  –John Knox

215) Homo Stuff

By Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You a Story, © 2000, pp. 44-46

     The love generated by the Holy Spirit extends not only to people we know, but even to people we don’t.  This was made very clear to me some years ago when I was the speaker for an evangelistic crusade held at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, California.  The first night of the evangelistic crusade was a brilliant success.  Thousands of people came to the meeting.  There was good music and the Spirit of God moved among people, leading many of them to make decisions for Christ.

     The following morning there was a meeting of the planning committee.  I was surprised when I realized they were upset.  Not with me or anything I had done; they were upset with the media.  They complained about the fact that even though thousands of people had come to hear the Word of God the night before, the television stations and newspapers paid no attention to what was going on.  I listened for a while, then gave them my opinion.  I pointed out that Mick Jagger had been there the previous week, filled every seat in the place, and had gotten no media coverage.  It wasn’t any big deal to the media, I explained, to fill a stadium or arena with thousands of people.  Then I made a suggestion.  “This is World AIDS Week.  Let’s do something about that.  If you want news coverage, just put out a press release that the offering from tonight’s meeting will go to programs throughout the Sacramento area that minister to people suffering from AIDS.  If you want news coverage, you’ve got to make news!  I want to tell you it’s news when a bunch of evangelicals are willing to express love in a tangible way for people suffering from AIDS.  We say we love those people, but it’s usually a lot of words.  Lets put our money where our mouths are and see what happens.”

     This was several years back, when the fear of AIDS was at a fevered pitch and contempt for those who had this dreaded disease was omnipresent.  Radio preachers constantly told the Christian community that AIDS was sent by God to punish homosexuals.  The rhetoric about people with AIDS was absolutely horrible.  However, the people running this crusade were godly folks and thought that even apart from any news coverage we might get, such an offering would be a good thing.  After all, they reflected, the bills for running the arena had been paid, and most of the other expenses had already been covered.

     That night the media coverage was extensive.  All three major TV stations were there with camera crews, and the two newspapers were represented by reporters. 

     The mass choir sang, but the television cameras were not turned on.  I preached, and they paid no attention.  They were waiting for the offering at the end of the service.  As the buckets were passed to collect the contributions that would go for people with AIDS, television cameras were turned on and newspaper photographers were snapping pictures.  This was what they wanted to see.  Evangelicals sacrificially giving to meet the needs of people with AIDS, most of whom at that time were homosexuals.

     Later that night, I was in my hotel room watching the evening news to see how the whole thing was covered.  They not only showed the offering being taken, but they interviewed people as they were leaving the arena.  One old grandmother was moved to tears as she said, “My grandson has AIDS, and this is the first time that I’ve been able to talk about it, because up until now I was made to feel so ashamed of him.  I feel he was affirmed tonight.”  There were a few other comments that were made, but the best one of the evening was from a tough-looking guy who was grossly overweight.  His hair was a mess and it looked as though he needed a shave, but they stuck a microphone under his mouth and asked him, “Well, what did you think of the offering tonight?”  The guy answered in a gruff voice, “What about it?”  The interviewer said, “Well, people with AIDS are usually homosexuals, and you evangelical Christians haven’t been very kindly disposed to them, have you?  How do you feel about your money going to people who are probably gay?”

     The guy’s answer was splendid.  He said, “I don’t know anything about this homo stuff.  All I know is that when people are sick, we’re supposed to take care of them.  And that’s because Christians love everybody.”

     I stood up in the hotel room, shot my fists into the air, and yelled, “YES!”  In the end, they will know that we are Christians, not because we perform miracles, or demonstrate signs and wonders.  They will know we are Christians by our love.

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I John 3:11…18…23  —  This is the message you heard from the beginning:  We should love one another…  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth…  And this is his command:  to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 

I John 4:7-9…11  —  Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him…  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

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O God, we who are bound together in the tender ties of love, pray for a day of unclouded love.  May no passing irritation rob us of our joy in one another.  Forgive us if we have often been keen to see the human failings, and slow to feel the preciousness of those who are still the dearest comfort of our life.  May there be no sharp words that wound and scar, and no rift that may grow into estrangement.  Suffer us not to grieve those whom you have sent to us to love and be loved by.  May our eyes not be so blinded by selfishness that we come to appreciate our loved ones only when it is too late and they return to you…  Amen.  –Walter Rauschenbusch (1861-1918)

91) A Perfect Daughter; Loving a Special Needs Child

For BreakPoint Daily at http://www.breakpoint.org , July 9, 2013, by John Stonestreet

     Sometimes you hear a story that puts a warm glow in your heart and a tear in your eye.  I’m going to share with you one such story.

     If one noun could characterize Heath White’s aspirations, it would be “perfection.”  All his life, he strove to be the best.  He graduated from college with a 4.0 grade point average, finished at the top of his class in his Air Force flight training program.  He married his high school sweetheart, and a few years later their first child was everything he expected: lovely and, by all indications, smart.

     It was only when his wife became pregnant a second time that Heath’s definition of perfection was challenged and eventually shattered.  The story was the subject of an extraordinary segment on ESPN’s investigative journalism program E:60.

     When prenatal testing revealed that the Heath’s second child had Down Syndrome, Heath was “heartbroken and dreaded her arrival.”  Having a developmentally-disabled child would reflect badly on him, he thought.  So he pressured his wife Jennifer to have an abortion.

     Had she caved to Heath’s pressure, she would have just been doing what approximately 90 percent of those who receive this same diagnosis do.  As Tucker Carlson put it nearly two decades ago, children with Down Syndrome have been “targeted for elimination.”

     But Jennifer couldn’t do it, even though she feared her refusal might destroy her marriage.  In fact, while Heath didn’t physically leave, he withdrew emotionally. When Jennifer gave birth to Paisley, she might as well have been a single mom.

     But all of this changed a few months after Paisley’s birth.  It was something so very simple, so “normal” and yet so beautiful, and it changed Heath in an instant:   Paisley smiled at her Dad.  Suddenly, Heath understood that she was just as precious as any other child.  And he wanted the world to know the same thing.

     So Heath chose an unusual way to show how precious kids like Paisley are:  He began competing in road races– ranging from 5 kilometers to marathons– while pushing Paisley in a stroller.

     His goal, he said, was to show “how proud I am of her and that she’s just like every other kid.”  His message to parents of children with special needs is to love them like every other child, one day at a time, and to realize that “you’re going to get so much back.”

     Recently, he and Paisley completed their 321st and last competitive mile together.  The number was intentional:  Down Syndrome is the result of three, instead of two, copies of chromosome 21.  Thus 321 miles.

     A colleague of mine, whose son is autistic, says the scariest thing about learning that your child has special needs is wondering what the future will hold.  So he gives a big “Amen!” to Heath’s advice about loving your child one day at a time.  Christ taught us to pray “give us this day our daily bread.”  As the saying goes, we don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.  Our task is to love those whom God has entrusted to us even as He loves us.

     Our friend Chuck Colson, who could match Heath White’s perfectionism and then some, used to talk about how much he had learned from his grandson, Max.  Max reminded him that what mattered in God’s eyes had little, if anything, to do with our ideas about perfection.  Chuck said, “When I first learned that Max was autistic, a great friend of mine wrote me a note that said, ‘You have found real favor with God because He has given you a person with special needs in your family so you will learn sacrificial love.’  At the time,” Chuck said, “I didn’t really get it.  Now, believe me, I get it.”  Chuck’s daughter, Emily Colson, has written a beautiful book about her life with her special-needs son called Dancing With Max.  I could not recommend it to you more highly.

Here is the link to the ESPN story of Heath White and his perfect daughter, Paisley:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8450488

Please watch it and ask, how can we better care for all the little ones among us?

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Matthew 18:14  —  (Jesus said)…  “In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

Matthew 25:40  —  (Jesus said)…  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Luke 18:15-17  —  People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

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Gracious Father, be pleased to touch our hearts in time with trouble, with sorrow, with sickness, with disappointment, with anything that may hinder them from being hard to the end and leading us to eternal ruin.  Amen.  

–Thomas Arnold (1795-1842), father of Matthew Arnold