Tag Archives: love

Heart it Races

I’m sitting writing this in midtown Manhattan before my Portuguese class and nearby there’s a couple fighting and another couple with their arms around each other and someone else eating dinner out if a styrofoam container. The buildings around me are many stories tall a few stars beyond them are already shining because we’re well into fall.

I’ve been thinking lately about being small.  Also about small decisions and how they add up. How you find yourself in New York City, taking a Portuguese class so you can communicate with your Brazilian in-laws in Times Square. All the things that led you here, and all the little decisions and moments that will lead you to wherever it is you end up next.

On my way home. I like the way the clouds in Brooklyn make the sky feel like a ceiling which makes me feel both larger and smaller. I like the number of people on the subway and the sidewalk. A man and a woman sit down on the train, the women pulls out lined yellow paper with two packing lists, one labeled “dogs” and the other “humans.” The guy across from me keeps looking around and shaking his head. There’s so much I’ll never know.

I like how Jesus rarely gave any straight answers. There were just questions answered with questions and stories. Understanding always eludes us. But he did say this “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which, in the end, doesn’t require enlightenment, because it isn’t so much about a dramatic life-change as a thousand small decisions, made daily, to love.

O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding,

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning…

–Walt Whitman

 

My heart is heavy today, as are many of yours, at least on this side of the world.  A great light has gone out.  A voice has been stilled.  Though we know that the moments we have with the people who elevate their art to a professional level–making so many of us laugh, or think, or escape our mundane little lives for and hour and a half while they give us a good show–it’s still a shock when they are gone.

Robin Williams made so many people laugh.  My best friend Ryan put it best, “It makes me so sad that he died from being so sad.”  It’s hard to fathom the depth of that sadness, for most of us.

Part of experiencing human life is feeling the emotion of depression.  For most of us, that’s how we experience it–an emotion. But for some of our brothers and sisters in this life, depression is a disease.

Depression is as serious as cancer, or heart disease, or a variety of metabolic dysfunctions.  And just like all those other illnesses, depression can be terminal, even with a great treatment plan, even with lots of support, even when things seem to be going in the right direction.  Just like massive heart attacks after years of clean eating and good exercise, or a relapse after extensive remission, or a devastating little infection that won’t clear up with any medicine known to exist.  And that sucks.  It’s brutal and scary and hard.  But it’s true.  And unless and until we stop pretending that depression is something someone can help having, something someone has control over, we will continue to have people we love, famous and ordinary and next door, die from it.

We have to stop talking about how people who die from depression are selfish.  You’d never say that about someone who died from a brain tumor.  We have to stop shaming people for taking appropriate pharmaceutical steps to treat depression, and from seeking professional counseling.  You would never say that about someone who needed to take insulin, or a blood thinner to stay alive.  We have to make mental healthcare check-ups as important as our yearly physicals–and they should be affordable for everyone, including and especially children.  Most importantly, we have to be willing to talk to the people in our lives we are concerned about–we must not wait until they start acting out.  Don’t put the burden on someone who’s hurting to come and talk to you.  Think of it like being aware at the airport–if you see something, say something.  And for the love of little green apples, be kind and loving.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, please know that you are not as alone as you feel.  You are not stuck.  You are amazing.  You are beloved.  Your place in the world–who you are and how you are–is holy, and important.  You give joy in ways you cannot imagine.  People are praying for you, right now.  People are loving you, right down to your toes, right now.  Good things are coming.  Hold on.  You can do it, and all the people who love you want to help, in good and kind ways.  Your friends at thedailycake.org are grateful that you read this, and if you want to email any of us to talk about your stories, or to reach out for more information on how you or someone you love can begin recovery, please contact us by following the links on our “About Us” page.

Robin Williams…you were a piece of my happy early childhood, with your lovable alien Mork, clips of stand up I was probably too young to really appreciate, star in some of my most favorite movies, and the best James Lipton interview I’ve ever seen…may you rest in peace, and rise in glory.

Watch this…

 

love,

rachie

 

 

Thoughts for Thursday

Hear the Word of God to all who truly turn to him:

Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and
I will refresh you. Matthew 11:28

God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,
to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but
have everlasting life. John 3:16

This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
1 Timothy 1:15

If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus
Christ the righteous; and he is the perfect offering for our
sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole
world. 1 John 2:1-2

(BCP pg 332)

****

Growing up in a Rite I church my priest would usually say all of those things after we had confessed our sins on Sunday morning, one after another. I think most people just pick one or two, but Father Marquis went through them all.

I’m not sure when I realized they were verses from the Bible. Maybe I was browsing the BCP one day, maybe one of the verses I had memorized for Sunday school finally clicked as a verse during a service. But I love how they fit together, and I know they are kind of paraphrased, but they flow so beautifully. This part of the service just felt so holy and special. The way he said them all, the way he wanted us to hear those words, and to be people who truly turn to him.

It’s amazing to me how language can shape an experience; how someone’s tone of voice and pronunciation and word choice can influence a situation. If you can feel someone’s sincerity, someone’s earnestness that you hear what they are saying in their voice, you pay attention. I felt that on Sunday mornings when I heard these words. (Is there such a thing as a holy timbre?)

It’s true in daily life, too. I can tell a difference on the other end of the phone depending on how I answer it. When I make my voice calm and soothing, when I’m cheerful and pleasant, when I try to convey that I’m here to help you, the other person on the end of the line is much more likely to respond kindly. If I’m flustered or upset or annoyed, if I let the stresses of the day get into my voice, people can tell. And maybe they’re not so patient with me, and the conversation isn’t as, ah… pleasant as it could have been.

Try it sometime, if you can. See how changing your voice changes the interactions you have with the people around you. It’s one of the ways we can show people they are loved–to let that love come through our words. You never know–it might make someone’s day or change the course of yours!

Thoughts for Thursday

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ.
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.

O most merciful Redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.


(St. Richard of Chichester)

I love this simple prayer. It may not be the exact words St. Richard spoke on his deathbed but they are beautiful all the same.  (You might recognize this as Day by Day  from Godspell)

How can I know Jesus better? Love him more? Follow Christ?

Those are hard questions to ponder, at least for me. I guess that’s why St. Richard is praying for help from Jesus, because he knows that these are beyond his own human understanding. And, at least according to the song, you just have to take it day by day.

One day at a time, because that’s all we really have, y’know? Every day we wake up we can find new ways to love, know, and follow. And there’s not one right answer–I think we have to figure out what that looks like for ourselves.

What can you do, today, to know Jesus better? to Love him more? to follow him?

Thoughts for Thursday

Psalm 32
32:1 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

32:2 Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

32:3 While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

32:4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

32:6 Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.

32:7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah

32:8 I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

32:9 Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.

32:10 Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

32:11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

—–

Every Sunday during Lent my church says The Great Litany. At first it seemed kind of tedious, another thing taking up time on my Sunday morning. I didn’t really get it for a while. Why so somber? Do we really have to say this every Sunday?

Then I experienced what it’s like to be truly unburdened, to have it all laid out there. It is humbling. It is scary. It is strangely peaceful.

It happened when I finally admitted to myself that I was not okay. That I was hurting, that I had hurt other people, and that I deeply regretted my actions. The events and decisions that led up to the dissolution of my marriage were, as I’ve said before, crazy, and things happened I’m not exactly proud of. But it wasn’t until I confessed, I admitted, that the true healing could begin.

The Psalmist today gets it. There is joy in confession, in publicly (or not publicly) acknowledging that I am not perfect, I’ve done things that were wrong, I’ve let myself be led astray from the life I’m called to live. But I want to do better. And doing better starts with confessing. Holding back, holding in all that sin and guilt and shame is heavy. It will weigh you down and make you feel like you are sinking, grasping at anything that will help you bear that weight. You get so bogged down in it that you don’t realize you can let it go, because that weight is all you know and what else is there in life besides this weight?

When I finally let go of the weight of my sin, when I admitted to God what I had done (which seems silly, he already knew, but I think the power is in my acknowledgement and not in his awareness of my sins…), and that I was unhappy and that I needed help, I felt such a peace as I have not felt before or since.

So when we kneel together on Sunday and confess our sins together I imagine everyone around me letting go of a heavy weight. God is reaching down to wipe away our sins, our hurts, the pain we have caused ourselves and others. And maybe things won’t totally be resolved; we still have to deal with the consequences of our sins, but we do so a little lighter, a little humbler, and with a lot more love and compassion.

Thoughts for Thursday

“..in order for us to be holy, set apart, perfect, whole; in order to be a child of God and a disciple of Jesus, we must realize that the call to love others is not in response to being loved by others— we must realize that love does not find its source in its object.”

This past Sunday I gave the sermon at St. Paul’s here in Murfreesboro. Preaching is always a little nerve wracking for me–standing up there in front of lots of people trying to preach what I hear God saying to us through the readings. I can only hope I’ve gotten myself out of the way enough to get the message through. So here’s my sermon from Sunday, I hope you find it instructive, maybe a little entertaining, but most of all, I hope it moves you to show love to all of God’s children.

***

click here for sermon audio

7th Sunday After Epiphany

Feb 23, 2014

This morning we heard the Lord say in our Old Testament reading:

“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”

And Jesus commands us in the Gospel:

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but most of the time I feel pretty far from being holy OR perfect.

The Old Testament and Gospel readings today are two blueprints given to us by God to guide us in the ways of being God’s people. To the Israelites, who are establishing themselves as a new nation, he gives a very lengthy law. Leviticus is a kind of How To for the Israelites and the portion that we read this morning is part of the Holiness Code. It tells the Israelites what it means to be God’s People and how they are to be set apart, or holy, from the other nations of the time.

Jesus in our Gospel reading today gives his disciples similar guidelines. In his typical “You have heard it said… but I say…” style he takes the law a step further. Slapped on the cheek? Give the other. Made to walk a mile? Go another one. He outlines the ways his followers are to be different from the rest, how they are to be perfect. Not perfect in the Hellenistic sense of “without blemish”, but the word Jesus uses here is the Hebrew word “tamim”, which means “whole” or “complete.” The directions Jesus gives lead us to wholeness, to God’s completeness.

****

Many of you are familiar with the folktale of Stone Soup, but humor me for just a moment for those who are not. The story goes like this: a group of travelers come upon a village. All they carried with them was a big pot which they filled with water, and in it they deposited a large stone.  One of the villagers observed this activity and came out to investigate. The travelers explained that they were making a delicious dish called Stone Soup and they would be happy to share it with the villagers—they just needed a few more ingredients. The villager decides he has a few carrots to spare and tosses them in. Another villager contributes some potatoes. This contributing continues until there is a wonderful soup that everyone enjoys together.

This story is a great illustration of the concept of gleaning that is introduced in versus 9 and 10 of Leviticus 19. “9When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God.” When everyone contributes a little there is enough for all. While the villagers in our story are kind of tricked into giving, they still did so of their own accord, and the soup would not have been made if they had locked their doors and turned away from the travelers—from the poor and the alien among them.

Jesus’ blueprints are a little tougher, I think. In verses 43 through 46 of our Gospel today he tells us “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” It’s easy to give money or produce or share the wealth with others. It’s easy to love people who already love us. It’s much more difficult to let someone slap your other cheek when they’ve already slapped you once, or to give someone your coat when they’ve already taken your shirt. It’s even more difficult to love someone who just slapped you and took your coat. Jesus isn’t telling us to be martyrs, though, to resolutely stand there and take it because of some pride in bearing up against hurts. No; Jesus wants us to see God even in our enemies, to recognize and acknowledge that we are equally God’s children—the righteous and the unrighteous, the sinners and the saints.  As Jesus’ disciples we have been set apart.

This passage makes me think of my favorite scene in the musical Les Miserables. It’s one of my favorite musicals of all time, and if you haven’t seen it I hope you will the next time it’s on stage. My favorite scene is right at the very beginning, when the criminal Jean Valjean (who was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister’s family) has been released from prison and is wandering, hungry and alone. As a former prisoner he is an outcast in the society he dwells in—he is a stranger, he is unwelcome, and he is bitter about it. The world has not been kind to Valjean. A kindly Bishop, however, invites him into his home, feeds him, and puts him up for the night. In a moment of weakness Valjean steals the silver and runs off into the night, only to be caught and brought back to the Bishop in the morning. The Bishop confirms Valjean’s story that the silver was indeed a gift, and by the way you left so early, you forgot to take the candlesticks too. The police leave and the Bishop turns to Valjean and tells him that there is a higher plan in this, that he must use the silver to become an honest man, and that this silver has claimed his life for God. Through this experience Valjean has been set apart for God and he experiences a transformation as he leaves the church that day. But it wasn’t the gift of silver that changed Valjean’s heart—it was the Bishop treating him as if he had a soul, as if he were still a beloved child of God despite his sins. It was the Bishop loving him without expecting anything in return.

This is the heart of the messages we hear today from Leviticus and our Gospel —in order for us to be holy, set apart, perfect, whole; in order to be a child of God and a disciple of Jesus, we must realize that the call to love others is not only in response to being loved by others— we must realize that love does not find its source in its object. This idea is quite different from what our culture tells us—most people are content to love only those who love them back. But we are different—we are set apart.

***

These ideas were pretty radical for the Jews in Jesus’ day. They are still pretty radical and it’s not any easier to live out this Gospel today than it was back then. But still we must try. Jesus calls us to a life of discipleship, and that means loving others, even those who wish us ill, or those who can do nothing for us in return. It means praying for our enemies and respecting the dignity of every human being, as we commit ourselves to doing in our Baptismal Covenant. Love is not, for us, a response, and our love does not find its source in its object. The source of love is God, and his love is abundant.

Loving those who can do nothing for us in return, like the poor or strangers, and loving people who actively seek to do us harm isn’t easy. Frederick Buechner, in his book, “Whistling in the Dark” gives us a starting place:

“Jesus says we are to love our enemies and pray for them, meaning love not in an emotional sense but in the sense of willing their good, which is the sense in which we love ourselves. … You see where they’re vulnerable. You see where they’re scared. Seeing what is hateful about them, you may catch a glimpse also of where the hatefulness comes from. Seeing the hurt they cause you, you may see also the hurt they cause themselves. You’re still light-years away from loving them, to be sure, but at least you see how they are human even as you are human, and that is at least a step in the right direction.”

***

For the past few weeks I have been privileged to be part of our campus ministry’s Listening Station on the MTSU Campus. For two hours in the student union building (12 to 2 on Fridays…) we give students a place where they are acknowledged as beloved children of God, whether we say that explicitly or not. We look them in the eye, greet them warmly, talk for a bit, maybe even share a piece of fruit. We provide a place of compassionate listening to whatever is happening in their lives. Most of you know how difficult the transition is from high school to college, from living at home to living in a dorm room, and how unbalancing it can be. Listening Station is a place where someone will look you in the eye, offer a smile and a snack, but most importantly—it is a place where you are welcomed, embraced, and loved. Witnessing the kindness and compassion of my fellow volunteers, watching them give their time, their smiles, and their love to these students has been such a blessing. The students, most of whom are on very limited incomes, can do nothing for us in return. But by showing them this love we set ourselves apart from other booths or tables in the foyer. You can tell something different is going on at the Listening Station, and it is something very special.

So this week I want to challenge you to take a look around you. Who are the “poor” in your life, the ones you can show love to who can’t do anything for you in return? Who are the enemies, the ones who have it out for you? Do an act of love for these people. Show them that your love is not a response but a discipline. Our model for this kind of love is, of course, Jesus Christ, who came to earth to show love to those who could offer no benefit in return; to show us how we are loved even when we hang him on a cross. Doing these acts of love for the poor, the enemy—loving not as a response but because that is what we have been called to do—this is how we show we are different. This is how we are set apart, how we become holy and perfect. Amen.

Thoughts for Thursday

I hope that made you chuckle.

I was thinking about this the other day and I wanted to share it with you guys:

I love the basic human interaction of talking to another receptionist.

See, I work at a doctor’s office. I spend A LOT of time on the phone talking to people. Talking to patients, talking to relatives of patients, talking to other doctor’s offices, drug reps, law firms, pharmacies. You name it. But by far my favorite people to talk to are other receptionists.

I think what is so comforting is that when the phone lines are ringing off the hook and I’m by myself they understand when every two seconds I’m like “Ack.. hold on a sec..” “Uhh hold on let me grab this line real quick” and I get back on the line, breathless from having to quickly say the name of the place I work, plus my name, plus ‘can you hold for just a moment? thanks..’ and they know. They get it. They understand.

It’s these simple little human interactions that make me smile, that make me feel like I can handle whatever this day is going to throw at me. This feeling that I’m not alone, there are other people out there trying to do the same thing, and yeah receptionisting may not solve the energy crisis or world hunger or anything like that, but it gives me hundreds of little chances every day to make someone’s day. To be pleasant. To smile and chat warmly. To offer my own condolences and understandings to other receptionists out there.

So when you’re out there in the world this week, dear readers, smile and greet your receptionist. Make pithy comments about the weather to the cashier at the grocery store. Compliment them on their smile and how friendly they are. If they look like they’ve been there for nine hours straight with a thirty minute lunch break, do something that reminds them they are human, they are loved, and hey, maybe it’s not so bad.

And please, pretty pretty please, try not to get (too?) angry if you’ve been on hold for five minutes. I promise we’re not just sitting there twiddling our thumbs. We’re frantically handling five phone lines, maybe by ourselves, and we’re doing the best we can. Show us some grace, some compassion, and I promise whatever it is you’re calling about will get treated just like the other four calls that might have been in front of you. We all need a little kindness, and we’re only human.

Image

For the love… (Happy Valentine’s Day)

loveequalslove

For the love that bound my mother’s heart to mine on the day I was born;

For the love that a calming voice wove in my father’s strong arms;

For the love that meant my brother didn’t leave me behind Continue reading

Love is God’s Grace

photo (4)

Last week I interviewed two octogenarian priests who are both celebrating their 60th year in the priesthood.

One of them said to me, “Trust the love that you discern in your own life. That’s God’s presence within us,” which seems to me to be some of the best advice I’ve ever received.

As we get older and we find ourselves having to make decisions, whether about our relationships or our careers or simply how to manage our day to day lives, and it turns out it can get kind of complicated as we accrue responsibilities and the typical baggage that comes with being alive and human.

We are, in some sense, ultimately alone in our decisions. It’s just us and those voices that well up from deep within us, the many facets of ourselves. The part that is impulsive and free, the responsible voice, the thing in us that doubts, the critical eye that cuts through our bullshit. All these voices are necessary and true parts of ourselves, but how do we know which part to trust? How do we ever know what to do?

I don’t know, maybe some of you don’t feel this quite so acutely, but I do from time to time. But it’s also not quite right. We are not alone.

When he said, “Trust the love that you discern within your own life,” he was really talking about relationships, I think, about the people we find that we love and that love us.

I lean on Denise pretty heavily when I have to make a decision, and other people who I love and who love me, and even though they cannot make my decisions for me, their love is within me, and that is God, and that is how I know what is true.

“Love is God’s grace,” he said. That voice speaking love is the true one.

Ends, not a Means

“Greatness and goodness are not means, but ends!”

I love that line. This morning’s TFT is by one of my favorite poets, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I geeked out about the romantic poets in high school–Wordsworth and Longfellow and all those guys. I’m… probably one of four people in the world who geeked out about romantic poets, but I’m pretty much okay with that.

What particularly strikes me about this poem is the initial person’s ideas that it isn’t very often that “good, great” men get honor and wealth, and when it does happen it’s like some otherworldly tale. Still seems like this sometimes, doesn’t it? The good, wonderful people in life struggle to get by, never seeming to catch a break. The horrible, awful people never seem to get their comeuppance. We see it every day, all around us. Beloved friends who work hard to make ends meet have to borrow gas money to make it home while someone else shouts  in outrage at fast food workers because there was mayonnaise on their burger. These are the kinds of things that make me shake my head.

But Coleridge admonishes this friend, saying that goodness and greatness are not means to an end– wealth and success are not what good/great people strive for. (Although maybe a little wealth would be kinda nice…) No, goodness and greatness are what these men strive for. Truly good and great people already have love, light, and peace of mind. They also know that there are three things they can count on: themselves, God, and Death. Not a super comforting thought but no less true. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much wealth or power or status we have. I have yet to walk by an epitaph in a cemetery that has “Dr. So-and-So” stamped on it, or the sum of their bank account at the end of their life. (Although size and type of headstone might be an indicator…) No, what you see is “Beloved Father and Friend” or “Loved and Respected By All Who Knew Her”

Wouldn’t you rather be remembered like that? Are we not called to live humble, generous lives? When I read this poem I think about all those verses about being humble, giving away wealth, honoring each other before God. It’s easy to get caught up in the friend’s point of view–despairing over the unfairness of life. But that is not what we are called as Christians to do. No, we are called to be good, great men (and women!); to strive for love and light and peace of mind.