Tag Archives: love

A Mother’s Love….

There is a common answer given by most people who have performed an heroic, life-threatening deed in order to save another human being.   In response to the inevitable question by a TV report asking “What did you feel when you were doing that?” the answer is usually “I really felt nothing.”

For example, a stranger who helped pull three children from a burning car answered the question about how he felt with the words:   “I didn’t even think about it.  It was happening so fast, and I knew I just had to get them out of there.”   Another example is the mother who lifted a tree that had pinned her son’s leg:   “I didn’t even feel how heavy it was—-until I put it down.”

You see, when love, care, and compassion for another take over completely, it is expressed in actions, not feelings.   Love is action!  Genuine love always leaps before it looks!    

That is exactly the love we celebrate on Mother’s Day this coming weekend—love in action.   Love is the force behind all the meals Mom prepares and prepared for us;  love is behind the chauffered trips to soccer, baseball, ballet, piano lesson, etc.   Love is behind all of those good-night books read to sleepy children by a tired mom at the end of a long day; love is behind all the walks and talks—-and all the other things that Mom’s do today and did in the past.    Our mothers may have not told us they loved us very often, but we knew from their actions as we look back on them how much they did love and care for us and still do if we are blessed enough to still have them with us.

So—on Mother’s Day try to do something that shows how much you love and appreciate your mother.   Don’t just tell her we love her, but DO SOMETHING TO SHOW YOUR LOVE.!

Shortly before Jesus’ death he gave his disciples a new commandment  (See John 13:31-35)     He told them to “show your love”.   He said “Love one another as I have loved you.”   He said, “By your love for each other they will know you are my disciples.”   And the love Jesus recommended was action oriented.   Jesus showed people his care for them by healing, teaching, and showing them his compassion—not just talking about it!  

How do we measure up to this commandment of love—-by our actions—not our words.   

Let me give you an example from my own life.   One Christmas, not too long after our daughter Lisa was married, my wife (now deceased) and I received a frame letter from her.   It says, in part…

“THANK YOU….

for staying together.   there are so few children today who have two parents.   Through your commitment to each other in good times and bad times you have taught me that love does not give up and it does not leave.   I saw modeled in you that love is a choice, not always a feeling.

thank you for lots of hugs and love.   You taught me that showing affection is a good thing and that I should never be embarrassed to say “I love you”.   Your affection shown to one another assured me that all was well in the world…

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for patiently persevering and loving me unconditionally even when I was the most stubborn and difficult to be around.   The love, sacrifice, and commitment you have shown me has not gone unnoticed.

You have laid a foundation in my life of security, confidence and love that has enabled me to love and be loved.   I am seeing the value of this foundation in my marriage and also in my most important relationship with God….”

This framed letter is one of my most important possessions.  It shows how love for each other influences those around us, including our children.

ARE WE DOING THIS?   Not always!   As this story indicates:

The story is told about a Los Angeles police officer who pulled a driver over to the side of the freeway and asked for his license and registration.

“What’s wrong officer?” the driver asked, “I didn’t go through any red lights, and I certainly wasn’t speeding.”

“No you weren’t speeding or breaking any laws, the officer said:   “but I saw you flashing the one-fingered salute as you swerved around the lady who was driving too slow in the center lane, and I further observed your flushed and angry face as you shouted unprintable things at the driver of the Hummer who cut you off, and I saw how you pounded your steering wheel when the freeway traffic ground to a halt.”

“Is that a crime, officer?”

“No, but when I saw the “JESUS LOVES YOU AND SO DO I” bumper sticker on your car, I figured, “This car has go to be stolen!”

LOVE IS LESS WHAT YOU SAY AND FEEL THAN IT IS WHAT YOU DO!   Amen.

What’s in Your Tear Bottle?

There is a verse in Psalm 56:8 that says:   “God, you have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.   Are they not in your record?”    This refers to the ancient practice, according to author James Fleming of “collecting one’s tears and preserving them in a tear bottle made of glass, many of which had a bulbous bottom and a long neck flared at the top to facilitate collecting of tears. Some scholars think that the woman who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears at the house of Simon the Pharisee may have actually been pouring out her bottle of tears on his feet.

The Lenten Season is the time when we are asked as Christians to examine ourselves and I would like to examine the question:   What’s in your tear bottle?   

I see Jesus as a man who felt deeply!   A man who cried tears of compassion, of grief, of love, and of anger.   Jesus loved deeply and those who love deeply express deep emotions.   We see in the Gospels that Jesus wept over many things:

  • After his final entry into Jerusalem he wept tears of compassion over Jerusalem as he saw they would reject him and the way of peace that he brought and choose instead the way of a military messiah that would result in their utter destruction by Rome.
  • He wept tears of grief as he saw the sorrow in  the lives of Lazarus’s family—Mary and Martha— at the death of their brother Lazarus.
  • He wept tears of anger at the sight of those who took advantage of the “little ones”—-the poor, the weak, the young, the old, the sick, the outcast.
  • He wept in the Garden of Gethesemane as he prayed that the “cup might pass”—but that God’s will be done.

When I was growing up I was still taught that “Men don’t cry!”   Somehow I never learned that lesson very well.  I am glad to see today that men are no longer embarrassed by crying.   But I’m talking to all followers of Jesus, both men and women when I ask you the question:   “WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?   What makes your eyes tear up?  

Are we, like Jesus, crying tears over injustice, tears of compassion, genuine heart-and-soul tears over the plight of our world and humanity?    Is our crying based on the kinds of attitudes and activities that brought the sting of salty tears to Jesus eyes?    What tears are in your tear bottles?  What tears are in mine?

I’ll go first and tell you some of my answers to this question.   Then I invite you to answer it for yourself.    

  • I cried tears of grief yesterday as I conducted funeral services for a man and watched his wife grieving the loss of a husband of 53 years.
  • I have cried tears of frustration as a pastor when I left the room of an elderly person in a nursing home whose family never visited her and whose life was being “warehoused” by the system .
  • Many years ago as I stood in front of the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C.—-I cried tears of grief for the loss of all of those young men and women whose names are recorded there and as I think what their lives might have meant to their families and to our society.   And I cry tears of grief for all who have died in Iraq and in Palestine and Afghanistan since then.
  • I cried tears of compassion many times as a hospice chaplain as I talked and prayed  with a patient that had been told their cancer was terminal.
  • I cry tears of anger when I read about the elderly being forced to choose between paying for medicine or food.   Something is terribly wrong with a system that allows that to happen.   And something is terribly wrong with professed Christians who keep quiet about it.
  • I cry tears of compassion and anger when I see pictures of children who have bloated bellies and sticks for limbs due to hunger while the adults of their society are spending the money that might have fed them to kill each other
  • I cry tears of compassion and anger as I see a homeless man or woman going through the trash, or trudging down the sidewalk with all they own on their backs in the cold and snow and rain.   Tears of compassion for the homeless—-tears of anger at a society that would allow that to happen.
  • I cry tears of grief as I see a mind wasted by Alzheimers disease.
  • I have cried tears of joy when as a pastor I united a loving couple in marriage and declared them husband and wife.

Those are a few of the things that bring tears to my eyes.    So—-WHAT DO YOU CRY ABOUT.   FELLOW CHRISTIANS–WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?

I have come to believe that there is a linkage between suffering and love.  They inhabit the same place deep in our souls.    If we did not love, there would be no crying.   We suffer and hurt and weep for our kids late into the night only because we love them.   Kids get home sick when they go away to school or camp—because they love their homes and families.   We shed tears over someone’s death because we love them.   TO NOT CRY IS TO NOT LOVE FULLY!   JESUS WEPT BECAUSE JESUS LOVED.    WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES YOU HIS FOLLOWERS WEEP?

Frederick Beuchner, in “Whistling in the Dark” says:   “Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.   They are not only telling you  something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not, God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where you should go next.”

WHAT’S IN YOUR TEAR BOTTLE?   WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?

Chasing After the Wind…

Honestly!   What is life’s work  all about anyway?    Why do we work so hard to create, build, achieve, write?   I feel sad when I think of this question as I see an estate sale.   I remember the estate sale  that our family had for my Aunt Ruth.   She had never married, and I and her sister (my mother) were her only close family.   She worked all her life as an auditor for Sears, living in an apartment in Lincoln, Nebraska.   She traveled a lot and had many souvenirs of her travel that she carefully placed in scrapbooks and looked at often.  She had a collection of ceramic birds she acquired over the years and loved to tell where each came from.  At her death, all that she had worked for and all that she loved and cherished as far as material goods was concerned went on the auction block, to be purchased by the curious and the bargain seeker for the lowest price possible, with the exception of a few things my mother and I kept.

Perhaps the writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes had been to an estate sale recently when he wrote these words about life—“all is vanity, a chasing after the wind.”

The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament.   We know the writer’s name only as “Qoheleth”, often translated “preacher” or “teacher”.    Ecclesiastes is about his experiement he conducted in honesty.   It is probable that Qoheleth was an old man looking back on his life and trying to determine the meaning of it.   He looked over every aspect of life—all human endeavor—and attempted to discern what endures, what lasts, and what it all means.   He summed   up  his conclusions in these words:   “I considered all that my hands had done, and toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun”  (Eccl 2:11)  and he asks “What gain have the workers from their toil?”   (Eccl. 3:9)    

Qoheleth recounts all his efforts in the first few chapters, saying:  “I built”, “I made great”, “I planted”,  “I made”, “I acquired,  “I gathered”, and yet all of this doing he found to be a mirage, an illusion.  It all goes down unto death and “there is nothing new under the sun.”   Is Qoheleth being too pessismistic, or just being a realist?   I think he raises an important question, which is:   What is the purpose, then, of work?”   Why bother?    And I think Qoheleth gives an answer that is often overlooked.

For an achievement-oriented society such as ours, I think that the question of the purpose of work is a one we need to attend to and to seek  for an answer.   Qoheleth speaks persuasively to those with great and ambitious plans for success, who are ripe for disillusionment, whether in the business world, a profession, politics, raising children, ministry, or academia.   He reminds us that in every vocation there is the personal struggle to make progress that can bring one to the brink of burnout and despair.    Qoheleth reminds us that:   It is all too easy to fall into the trap of pinning one’s hopes on our human capacity to fulfill our dreams and goals, no matter how lofty and worthy, only to have those hopes sacrificed upon the altar of meaninglessness and failure and loss.   When we do this we are “chasing the wind!”

Qoheleth is NOT saying that one should not have goals and objectives, but that THE DANGER LIES IN ATTACHING PERSONAL FULFILLMENT TO THE END RESULT OF THESE GOALS AND OBJECTIVES.

He is saying that not much endures, but endurance is not the true test of our work.   If that is the case, what is the test of our work?   Qoheleth says it is for the joy of just using our skills and abilities and living day by day.      He is NOT saying that work is pointless and therefore to be avoided.  He IS saying that work should be enthusiastically and vigorously engaged in.   Listen to him:   “Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might.”  (Eccl 9:10)

Qoheleth IS SAYING:  Our achievements through our work ought to be enjoyed for their own sake, for how they fill our days, and how they celebrate our God-given gifts for creativity and productivity.  IF YOUR WORK IS SOMETHING YOU DO IN ORDER TO GET SOMETHING ELSE, THIS WILL LEAD TO FRUSTRATION AND DESPAIR, Quoheleth says, ENJOY IT AS AN END INITSELF, AND THERE IS YOUR REWARD. THE REWARD IS NOT IN THE ENDURANCE OF YOUR ACTIVITY FOREVER, BUT IN THE ACTIVITY ITSELF.

Let’s face it, most of the trouble we have with our work is when we fail to keep our work in its place.   We become obsessive, presuming to secure ourselves and define ourselves through our work.   How much do we define ourselves by what we do?  What happens when we can no longer do it?   If we have defined ourselves personally by our work, then when we cease to be able to work  we become nothing.  We’ve been chasing the wind!!   PEOPLE ARE NOT WHAT THEY DO, THEY ARE WHO THEY ARE—living beings created in the image of God and blessed with his love and grace.

Qoheleth reminds us that since what we produce by our work is mere “chasing the wind” that comes to nothing, then we should just enjoy the simple pleasures of life, the day-to-day routine, the rhythm of it all, the good feeling of creating our little piece to add to  the whole picture of God’s plan for the world.    The Romans had a word for it—-carpe diem—-“seize the day”!!  Our achievements ought to be enjoyed for their own sake, for how they help fill our days, and for how they celebrate our God-given gifts and skills each day!

For example:   I like to do woodworking.   One of the things I have built is a grandfather clock.   I always wanted to do that when I retired!   I love my clock and I take great pleasure in looking at what I have created and listening to it chime.   I doubt that it will last forever.   It is not the greatest clock ever built, but I enjoyed building it!    Hopefully it will be kept in my family, but I have no guarantee of that.   It may wind up in an estate sale someday in the future.  It won’t last forever.   But I have taken a great deal of joy in its creation and in the using of my skills in woodworking to create it—and that is all that I can hope for, and that is enough!!  To do otherwise would only be “vanity” and “chasing after the wind!”.

They’re watching you!

“You probably don’t remember me—I was one of the “roadies”—the “stoned canyon road” bunch —-referring  to a group who hung out on a road south of the high school to smoke cigarettes, and I suspect other things. 

Shortly before I retired from teaching I received an unexpected letter from a  woman who had been a student  in my southern California high school U.S. History class over 20 years earlier.      She wrote that she wanted me to know that she had married, raised a family, and then had gone back to college and was completing her degree to become a teacher.   And she wrote to  tell me that I was the teacher who had influenced her to go into teaching as a profession because she had never forgotten what I did and how I helped her and she wanted to do the same for others!   

We often never know who are actions and words have influenced for good or for evil.   In her case I am grateful for her letting me know but at a loss as to what I said or did that influenced her.

Human beings are imitators.   Despite all of our insistence on our uniqueness and individualism at the present time—-we are imitators.   That’s how we learn to talk–-we imitate our parents and others who take care of us and learn from them—-if they speak Spanish our language becomes Spanish, if Russian  then our language is Russian.   for most of us our language is English—that’s what our parents spoke and we imitated them!   That is how we learned to talk!   That is how we learned to walk––if for some strange reason our parents had walked around on both their hands and feet that’s the way we would walk!

We pattern our lives after those around us.   We reflect them, their values, their ideas, their personal characteristics, etc.   We are a reflection—an imitation—-of the significant people in our lives, unless we take intentional steps to be otherwise.  

As we pattern our lives after those around us, it is rather scary to realize that those around us pattern their lives after us.   Dad-–your children are watching and listening to you to find out what it means to be a Dad.   What are your actions and words teaching your children.   Mom–-your children are watching and listening to you to find out what it means to be a Mom.   They will pattern their lives after you.   What you say and do will be an indelible part of their life pattern.   What are you teaching them?

  • When we explode in anger at a motorist and give them the middle finger as you dangerous cut in front of them—-they are watching.  They are learning how to drive.
  • When we take time to take a homeless man and get him a meal at the local McDonalds—-they are watching.  They are learning how to care.
  • When we use “gutter language” your children are listening.  They will pattern their language after us.
  • When we tell our wife how much we love and care for her,  our children are listening.  They are learning about love and the language of love.
  • When we share your feelings of hurt and cry over an injustice to someone,  they are learning it is o.k. to cry if we or someone else is hurting.

There is a story that may or may not have happened, but it illustrates my point perfectly and I’m sure it could have happened:   A police officer made a traffic stop of lady in a nice new car.   He demanded to see her driver’s license and registration.    When he returned to her car and handed them back, the lady said indignantly:   “Why did you stop me?   I wasn’t speeding.   I didn’t go through any red lights!   The officer replied:   “No you didn’t do any of those things, but I saw you yelling obscenities at the man in the car in front of you at the traffic light because he didn’t move quickly enough when the light turned green.   I also saw you pass someone and honk your horn and give them the middle finger because they were going to slow for you and then rudely cut in on them..    Then I saw your bumper sticker that says:   ‘JESUS LOVES YOU’,  and I figured that the person driving this car  must be driving a  stolen car!”

Not only our children, but others are watching us all the time.   They may be looking for someone to pattern their life after.    What patterns are we showing them?

After whom are we patterning our lives?   Who are we imitating?  Are we trying to be imitators of Jesus the Christ?    What would happen if we really imitated Jesus?   Remember that the historical Jesus was a radical!    If we were to follow Jesus we would find ourselves in difficult places.

We would be:

  • Championing the underdogs of the world and what are considered lost causes.
  • Identifying with some of the “worst” people in society whose behavior raises the eyebrows of pious churchgoers and the communities we live in.
  • Following Jesus into prisons and halfway houses, into night clubs and dance halls, into AA meetings and AIDS hospices.
  • Trying to reclaim lives for God’s love and acceptance that have been rejected by the “nicer sort” of the populace.
  • Constantly praying and listening to the Spirit of God to know what is right and just in this world—even when it flies in the face of the usual standards and practices
  • Loving the unlovely and the unloving because they are God’s children.

A. Alves, the South American theologian, once said that “we could draw a map of any city that would show where Jesus would be if he were living in our time in that city.   There would be two areas of the city where we might find him.  ONE would be the parks and wooded areas where he would go to pray.  THE OTHER would be the sections of the city with the greatest pain and humiliation––the hospitals and bars and prisons and tenements and crack houses, and maybe some of the high schools .   Jesus would be in one of these two areas making the world more whole and more compassionate.    

Let us be imitators of Jesus!