Saturday, September 8, 2007

Anyone Can Love Anyone

Addendum to True Statements About Love:
Anyone can love anyone.
(Don't ask me how I know. Just live with it a while and you will know.)

Monday, July 9, 2007

True Statements About Love

Some statements about love which I think are true:

(Not necessarily in order of importance)

  • Love is not a feeling, but love has feelings.
    • A person who loves often feels the feelings of the person he or she loves, although they might not be recognizable as such.
  • You cannot love if you reject the love of others.
    • You cannot love yourself or others if you reject the love of others or yourself.
  • You cannot love other people if you do not love God.
    • You cannot love God if you don’t think He loves you.
    • You cannot love others if God doesn’t love you.
  • Love says, it’s good that you exist.
    • Love says, it’s good that I exist.
  • Love comes from God.
  • God is love.
  • God loves you.
  • A person who loves should believe there is love in the heart of the loved one.
  • We cannot live without love.
    • We want and need to be loved.
    • We want to be loved, in particular, by the people we love.
  • We cannot make anyone (or everyone) love us.
  • Love is a commandment of God.
  • When someone loves us we tend to feel ashamed.
    • When we are ashamed we often do things that don’t look like love.
  • Love is often hidden under other things like self-righteousness and fear. When we clear away those things the love remains and appears.
  • Love moves toward people. [Paul Miller]
    • Love doesn’t leave people alone. [Miller]

Here is something else I have been thinking about that is worth exploring:

Love is like light. As per theories of relativity and quantum mechanics, it has properties of a wave and a particle.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Love Follows Knowledge

Dallas Willard quotes Thomas Aquinas in The Divine Conspiracy.
"Love is born of an earnest consideration of the object loved." And: "Love follows knowledge." Love is an emotional response aroused in the will by visions of the good.
Now Willard goes on to relate the principle to the process of our learning to love God. We learn about the Person of God. And with that knowledge we get a vision of all the good He is, and so we love Him. But in my view it also applies to knowing and loving people.
I remember when I used to go to Theotherapy Seminars, after a person in need had worked through some knotty personal problem expressing all the good and the bad in themselves, everyone present always felt love for them. You might think people would be turned off by the expression of all kinds of personal and relational dirty laundry but no. And the reason is that after the revelations we knew the person a little better and could empathize and feel love and compassion.
I often say to people who are worried about the possibility of their being rejected by another person, "When they know you better they will love you more."
If we hide behind facades others will not know to love us and if we do not seek out others, allowing them to share their lives with us, we will not have any real grounds for really loving them as they are.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Unspeakably Magnificent Personal Beings

For the last couple weeks I've been walking around grieving, afflicted - afraid of losing the little bit that I think I have. Thrashing around, losing grip and sliding down the rope that I think I have to hang on to. Fighting for every inch of my ground of faith - seemingly gaining and losing the same patch of ground over and over again every day. I'm tired and weary, worn to a frazzle. Giving up and not giving up all at the same time again and again.
Tonight I was reading my daily bit from Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy:
...The advantage of believing in the Trinity is that we then live as if the Trinity is real: as if the cosmos environing us actually is, beyond all else, a self-sufficing community of unspeakably magnificent personal beings of boundless love, knowledge, and power. And thus believing, our lives naturally integrate themselves, through our actions, into the reality of such a universe, just as with two plus two equals four. In faith we rest ourselves upon the reality of the Trinity in action—and it graciously meets us. For it is there. And our lives are then enmeshed in the true world of God.

And it jumped out at me and said, here it is. God is all around me, filling my world with love. His love is streaming both ways in every relationship I am involved in. Giants of responsibility and respect greet me at every turn.
I say to myself, You already believe it, now bank on it.
I've been preaching it myself. Saying to everyone around me, "believe you are loved," and yet it keeps flying away from me, like it were the last thing on my mind. So why do we keep doubting the very voice that saves us? Doesn't make sense.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Thomas Traherne's True Love

True Love as it intendeth the greatest gifts intendeth also the greatest benefits. It contenteth not itself in showing great things unless it can make them greatly useful. For Love greatly delighteth in seeing its object continually seated in the highest happiness. Unless therefore I could advance you higher by the uses of what I give, my Love could not be satisfied in giving you the whole world. But because when you enjoy it you are advanced to the Throne of God and may see His Love; I rest well pleased in bestowing it. It will make you to see your own greatness, the truth of the Scriptures, the amiableness of Virtue, and the beauty of Religion. It will enable you to contemn the world, and to overflow with praises.
Thomas Traherne, Centuries of Meditations, Book I, Number 6.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

New Site:

I'm cutting loose with a new site, It's going to be eclectic, about love, faith, hope, the arts, media, culture, therapy, maybe health and wellbeing.
I'm not one to wait till I've got a big bang to open a web site. This one has two pieces of content so far. One a little piece of mine about George Bailey, hero of "It's a Wonderful Life", "The Richest Man in Town".
The other is from Steve Morley, a friend who does music reviews and other sundry relevant works for the modern mind. His piece is "Unearthing the Rock of Ages: An Unofficial History of the Jesus-Rock Era". This is a kind of historical op-ed writing and if you know anything about contemporary Christian music you will be interested in what Steve has to say.
As always I aim for Love to be uppermost in the scheme of this new site, as I aim to be in general about everything that touches me or that I touch. Of course I don't always succeed—if you want to audit the thing and maybe add to the love-fray you are welcome.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Spirit of Love Presupposes Love in the Heart of the Other

[This is a republish of a piece I wrote a couple years ago on another web site.]

Sunday morning between the first and second services I met my friend Randy in the usual place in front of the church. After talking some about his troubles and and some about mine, I "blessed" him with one of my cryptic comments. I said, "Randy, I know you believe other people don't love you very much, when all the time they are thinking you don't love them very much."

Randy said, "That's very true Joe, except that it's not me you're talking about—it's you."

And he's right, it is me. I don't think they love me and they don't think I love them. We are all under the distinct impression, most of the time, that we are not very well loved—while the remainder of the time we believe we are not loved at all.

In his pseudo-medieval romance, The Well at the World's End, William Morris illustrates this dynamic well and memorably in the flowery words of Ralph and Ursula as they set out on their quest.

...Ralph noted of Ursula that she was silent and shy with him, and it irked him so much, that at last he said to her: "My friend, doth aught ail me with thee? Wilt thou not tell me, so that I may amend it? For thou are grown of few words with me and turnest thee from me, and seemest as if thou heedest me little. Thou art as a fair spring morning gone cold and overcast in the afternoon. What is it then? we are going a long journey together, and belike shall find little help or comfort save in each other; and ill will it be if we fall asunder in heart, though we be nigh in body."

She laughed and reddened therewithal; and then her countenance fell and she looked piteously on him and said: "If I seemed to thee as thou sayest, I am sorry; for I meant not to be thus with thee as thou deemest. But so it is that I was thinking of this long journey, and of thee and me together in it, and how we shall be with each other if we come back again alive..."

She stayed her speech awhile, and seemed to find it hard to give forth the word that was in her; but at last she said: "Friend, thou must pardon me; but that which thou sawest in me, I also seemed to see in thee, that thou wert grown shy and cold with me; but now I know it is not so, since thou hast seen me wrongly; but that I have seen thee wrongly, as thou hast me."

William Morris, The Well at the World's End
Book Three, Chapter 7

And so we see Ralph and Ursula confused, and both for the same reason. Each thinks the other is drawing back, withdrawing their open-heartedness from the other, and because of this perception each begins to draw back even more from the other. We can sense in Ralph's words the germ of anger, while Ursula's quiet spirit is less volatile. Nonetheless her demeanor has been affected by her perception, even though it was off the mark. And so we have to be thankful for Ralph's frankness; he expressed his feelings truthfully. But we have to notice that the nobility of these two characters is exemplary. They are more noble than we would probably be.

Most of us would go on and on day after day in passivity, growing confused and bitter. It happens all the time. Chuck Swindoll addressed this dynamic.

"In relationships that begin to break down... We notice first an alteration in routine ...there are strained feelings—awkwardness, lack of eye contact, a rush to leave. There is no longer the free-flowing give-and-take in conversation. The sense of humor is decidedly absent. Things are definitely different. "Something is wrong," we whisper to ourselves.

Chuck Swindoll, Dropping Your Guard
Word Books, Waco, 1987. P. 106.

And so we perceive, rightly or wrongly, that we have been abandoned, to one degree or another, by some significant other, by groups of others, or even by everyone around us. And because we perceive that people are rejecting us, and, because relationships with people correspond directly with relationship to God, we very logically suppose that God doesn't love us either. This experience is common to everyone in the Western world, probably to everyone in the Eastern world too, so I don't think I have to prove it to you; you already know it because you have experienced it and have known others who have also experienced it.

So I think it's safe to say we agree that this deep-seated belief—that we are not loved—haunts most of us much of the time. Moreover, even during the good times, when we are feeling pretty good about ourselves and our relationships, we are nonetheless bothered by a low-grade anxiety, a chronic fear, that sometime in the near future, we are sure to find ourselves alone and unloved, confused, off-balance and hurting.

But what shall we do about it? I will submit that depends on our goals, dreams and motivations. If it is your goal to take all you can get by whatever means necessary, then you will want to manipulate, control, cajol... beg, borrow or steal whatever "love" you can squeeze out of the significant people (or gods) in your life. Notice I put love in quotation marks in the previous sentence—because if you have to get love by illegal means then it's not love, wouldn't you agree? (I thought you would.) And if it is real love you want, then there is no way you can get it by subterfuge. Wouldn't you also agree to that? (Again, I was sure you would.)

A greedy, manipulative person might think he has conned another into loving him. He might even be truly loved by the other, leading him to believe he has achieved his goal by his machinations, but he is mistaken. Love never comes from subterfuge—it will always be independent of it. There is lots of love flowing around, much of it flowing toward the outlaws, the con-men and con-women, so it is not surprising that the outlaws will think they have procured real love. But the outlaws of love, and the rest of us law-of-love-abiding citizens—if there are any—should stop and take stock. We need a lesson about love-economy. But to do that we will have to hear from love's companion, that less highly-valued virtue, faith.

About 160 years ago, in Copenhagen, there lived a melancholy man who never seemed to learn to live very well. He was a lonely man who wrote books and paid for their publication with money he had inherited upon the death of his equally maladjusted father. His books sold pretty well in his home town, but were not translated into German (the language of scholarship in his day) till after his death, and were not translated into English till long after that, nearly a hundred years. Nevertheless he wrote what he learned (and he learned much), enough to rouse us to consciousness if we pay attention to him. His name of course was Søren Kierkegaard. In his classic deliberation, Works of Love Kierkegaard (hereinafter called "K") lays out the treasures of love for us to receive, if we are willing to pay attention. It is in his exposition of 1 Corinthians eighth chapter, first verse that he addresses this fundamental flaw in our system. "Knowledge puffs up; but love builds up." I wonder whether Paul was using some sort of wordplay here—maybe a Greek scholar could tell me.

Further on, K continues by saying that every building requires a foundation. (who wants to build something without a foundation?) He says there already is a foundation for the building up of love in people's lives, and that is the foundation of God's love. K had previously taught us that all human love flows out of God's love. If you would look at the opening passages of this work you would see one of the most beautifully poetic descriptions in all of K's works. He writes of God's love as a hidden spring, deep down under the dark waters of a fresh-water lake. The fresh water of the spring fills the lake to overflowing; we know it's there even though we can't see it.

Love’s hidden life is in the innermost being, unfathomable, and then in turn is in an unfathomable connectedness with all existence. Just as the quiet lake originates deep down in hidden springs no eye has seen, so also does a person’s love originate even more deeply in God’s love.... Just as the quiet lake originates darkly in the deep spring, so a human being’s love originates mysteriously in God’s love.

Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, pages 9, 10.

God's love is the same way; we know it's there but all we can see is the surface of the lake. I will add that in this fallen world the surface of the lake has many impurities and pollutions in it. The shoreline is covered with sludge and dead fish, but that doesn't change the fact that there is a clear-flowing, health-giving source of clean water underneath. The source is there; there would be no lake without it.

It's the same for love—without the source there would be no love of any kind, no pure love nor flawed love. Without God's love as source there would be no agape, no phileo, no storge or eros. They all have their source in the same hidden spring, the love of God. They are human loves and they can be impregnated with different additives, or poured out of different vessels, each with different blessings or cursings muttered over them. But I'm digressing I suppose (or getting ahead of myself), so let's get back to the building up of love.

K writes, "Love builds up by presupposing that love is present."

So if I take K's advice I should plan my actions on a presupposition, or faith—that the person in question has love in his or her heart. So, my behavior toward the person I love will be based on faith—the faith that they love also, even though it might be hidden. And, not only might their love be hidden, it is also most likely imperfect, weak, and infantile, as well as selfish and quite probably misdirected, or or at least not flowing toward me. But I have faith it is there and so I base my plans and actions on it. Mind you, the object is to build up or edify the loving character of the other person, not to capture the heart of the other for ourselves. That said, even if all evidence seems to be to the contrary, I must have faith there is love present in the other.

Now then, you might be thinking that K and I have got this idea out of thin air. So where is it written? In the love chapter—1 Corinthians 13, verse 7. "Love believes all things." So what good does that do?

Well, it might be easier to display it in the negative. We can be sure it does a world of harm to believe the opposite.We have all heard someone say they will not love someone who will not love them. "I'm only withholding my love from someone who is withholding love from me," we say. Back in the 1960's a black leader, Malcolm X, uttered a public statement to that effect. I remembered his statement for many years and was thankful that a large multitude of blacks and white did not follow that teaching.

Maybe we are not suprised when we are confronted with apparent evidence that we are not loved. Maybe we are actually looking for evidence to that effect. Maybe we feel we are not actually worthy of being loved so we easily accept the face of apparent rejection. "Just like I thought... might as well get used to it, they don't love me," we mutter in our bitter hearts. Or maybe we don't want to believe a particular person has the capability to love at all. He or she might have wounded us deeply and we are looking for an excuse not to love and forgive so we prefer to presuppose that they have no love in their hearts. We look for evidence that the other isn't even capable of love. We find it easy to believe We gather a cadre of friends and acquaintances to support our presupposition. Then, with all the presupposing they don't love us, we feel we are free not to love them. We feel justified resorting to hate, or even worse, to apathy toward them.

Most people who seem to reject our love, (after first accepting it), are most likely people who, for one reason or another, find themselves in the uncomfortable position of not being able to afford the expense of loving us back. By that I mean their love has been in some way hijacked by an enemy within—this is very understandable, considering all that we are subjected to as children (abuse/neglect, molestations), combined with the tendency to reject ourselves; self-hatred is the number-one enemy to loving others.

Still, we are commanded to love others whether we think they love us or not. Jesus taught us that we are obliged to find a way to love them—especially when they don't love us. And very especially when they are our enemies. [More about the love of an enemy later]

When faith cannot see any love in the response of the other person, still faith believes it is present in the foundation of the person's life, even though they don't know they are building on it. K goes on:

" believe all things means to presuppose that love, even though it is not seen—indeed, even though the opposite is seen—is still present in the ground, even in the misguided, even in the corrupted, even in the most hateful. Mistrust takes away the very foundation by presupposing that love is not present—therefore mistrust cannot build up."

pages 220, 221.

There is a lot of talk going around these days about affirmation. Maybe K would be at home with this popular concept. If we presuppose that our brother or sister has love in their hearts then we will want to find ways to affirm it. I'm not talking about affirming it to ourselves—we already believe it's there. It's the person who is being loved who really needs the affirmation. After all, he knows he is misguided, guilty, corrupted, even hateful, as K put forth in the quote above. The one who is being loved knows very well he is deficient in love; he knows he cannot love or be loved purely or righteously. He or she has been around the block a few times, tried all this before and, in his or her jadedness, quite naturally projects his bad motivations on the other, the one who loves, in order to find a reason to excuse himself from being loved and being obliged to return the love. He or she might also believe that being loved opens him to many kinds of temptations. And so it might, but that isn't love's fault, it's the fault of his sin-nature, combined with the impurities that have been mixed with love in his or her past experience. Still, all this does not negate the fact that love lives inside, hidden, covered, deep down under the surface of the dark-surfaced pool that is the human heart.

I have a few friends of whom I am absolutely sure of their love for me. A small number. Don't ask me how I know. Maybe it's chemistry. But then I have a much greater number of acquaintances and associates, brothers and sisters about whom I believe that they love me. I have to believe because I don't know of a surety, but believing should be good enough to go on. It is good enough to allow me, as a lover and a builder of love, to cultivate relationship in whatever form is appropriate. Often I have doubts about others love and I still will have doubts but faith is a substance and we can see and feel the results.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Intentional Love

My friend Rob Frazier preached Sunday morning about Biblical covenants. Among other things he spent some time talking about intentional friendships. These are not arbitrary friendships, like choosing a name out of a hat, but they are existing friendship where friends purpose to grow their friendship intentionally. They make covenant or commitment, sometimes formally stated, sometimes unspoken. Even when unstated, nevertheless they are agreed upon.
I see my friend Harry about once a year. We get together on purpose and spend a little time when he is in town. This last time he told me when we parted, "I love you—deeply." I like being loved, and especially by someone I think so highly of.
My friends Annie and Tom are dear to me. They are young enough to be my kids but I don't try to be a father to them exactly. They both have fathers. But I do mix play and acceptance. I tell Annie, 'if I had a daughter I would want her to be just like you.' She protests, 'yeah but without my faults.' I say no, 'I wouldn't change a thing.' After church Sunday, as they were gathering up the kids after the sermon I mentioned above, I told them I love them intentionally. They said it's mutual. Then I said, too bad some people can't stand intentionality. They sense an intention directed at them and don't know what it is; they are afraid they'll be called on to do something they can't do or be something they can't be. Love never intends anything like that, but not everyone knows. They might not be so steady on their feet when it comes to love.
But when it comes right down to it everyone is intentional—always. They are intentional about loving or about not loving. If they weren't they would be dead. Since we have to intend something it might as well be love. After all, love is always possible.

Monday, March 5, 2007

I Believe Because I Love

Over the past week there's been much discussion on the so-called Jesus family tomb. Evidence was presented and evidence was refuted. It's very interesting and I'm very interested in it.
But let's face it, I do not believe in Jesus because of empirical, scientific evidence. I believe in Him, in His death and resurrection, because I want to. If I didn't want to believe I simply wouldn't. Now, that's not to say I believe blindly—I do put creedence in the New Testament witnesses. I think they are telling the truth, not lies. The story as told touches not only my mind but also it touches my intuitional faculty, commonly known as my heart.
So now because my religion is a matter of the heart it's a love-relationship, and a very powerful one. It's not a financial matter, not an intellectual one, not even primarily a moral or ethical matter. It began with love and it grows by love.
When I was young I had teachers and role-models who showed me love and taught me the gospel. If there had been no love in the teacher then I would have perceived no love in the gospel. That's why, by the way, I think so many have come out of the churches without faith—because of the lack of love with which they were taught. It's an old story and sad.
Now I find myself in midlife and I still believe. I find my belief makes my love stronger and my love makes my belief stronger. Conversely when my love is weak, because I am depressed or angry or just contrary, then my faith is also weaker. I've learned that I shouldn't expect to get away with practicing faith without love, or love without faith. To attempt either would be powerless and frustrating.
Here's another way of saying this. I could say I really do like the Jesus I see in the New Testament and I really do like the Jesus I see in other believers. I really do love the idea of resurrection and all the benefits it brings to the hopeful person. I like it. I want more of it. I want it so much I orient myself toward it. I identify with it. I am biased toward it. Yes, I am. But why wouldn't I be biased toward what I love? Anybody would favor who or what they love. They'd be crazy not to.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Love and Law

Wayne Jacobsen wrote a little blurb about law and love and what he learned about them. About how love is supposed to be the code to live by but, if we don't love, then the written law will be the one we'll have to get by with. If you ask me, I'd rather have the love standard, both to act and to be acted upon me.
Wayne Jacobsen is also the co-author of an online book I liked called So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore.
You can read it online. I found not great literature but very helpful and refreshing.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Surprise! You are Loved

What would surprise and delight you more than anything? For me it would be to learn I am loved. For to be loved gives me a solid place to stand. It affirms from the outside what my self-love affirms from the inside. It lets me feel life is worth living. But more often than not I do not feel loved.
Most of the time we travel in an environment that seems without love. The lack of love we perceive becomes, to one degree or another, the very foundation of our lives.
Here's how it starts. From early childhood many of our experiences suggest to us there is no love, at least not for us. Then because we are human souls, not machines, we internalize this information and store it in our memory with all the meta data (physical, emotional and psychic pain and shame) that accompanies it. Then we proceed to confirm it experimentally. Because we assume a biased posture for the no-love issue our experiments and their results become skewed toward the no-love result. When it comes to the issue of Love or No-love, we are not good scientists. Neither are we good historians. We are fraudulent and the results are wrong. Not only that but we rarely stop to re-examine them. Instead, something unconscious and automatic takes place.
The wrong information from our fraudulent life-experiments go directly into our actions without evaluation. The no-love belief system publishes itself in our spiritual, moral and ethical lives.
Now, mind you, I am not talking about me not-loving others. I'm sure I will write about that another time, but now I am talking about me not believing I am loved by others.
If you can't relate I'm not going to try to convince you. If you feel a tug you may examine your own heart. I hope you do.
But if you can relate, then surely you are thinking about re-evaluating this belief system. If we were biased historians or fraudulent bio-chemical researchers we would have to go public with our dishonesty and take our lumps. If our offenses were serious enough our professional careers might not even survive this attempted turn-around. We might have to find a new line of work.
But not so with the Love or No-love problem. We open our eyes, turn and see what we refused to see in the past—that there was love in the past, and there might be love around us now trying to touch us. We go back in our memories and look with unjaundiced eyes. I'm not speaking of a small change. It would be a big change. A new world-view. A re-birth actually.
In the professional, ethical, legal world we have to take our lumps when we want to turn over a new leaf. Not so with love. Love does not stab us in the back or kick us in the stomach. Love doesn't levy fines or probationary periods. It does not assign penance or punishment. Love opens its arms and welcomes.
Surprise! You are loved. Can you believe it?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Faith, the Proper Response to Love

Here's a little story about love and faith:
Eleven year old Jerry has arrived at summer camp. After lunch he looks across the compound and sees Soleil. Their eyes meet and he comes over to speak. He feels accepted as Soleil expresses an interest in him. After a few minutes the girls are called away and Jerry is left standing there with the boys. Jerry experiences a brand new feeling; it's the feeling that it is good that girls exist, and that it is really great that this particular girl, named Soleil exists. Soleil experiences the same feelings about boys and about Jerry in particular.
Now, each one likes the other but if that were all, they wouldn't become friends. In order to become friends each one must believe he or she is liked by the other. Now my story is about pre-teen children and puppy love, but it's true for the larger world as well.
Being loved alone isn't enough for a relationship—one must respond to that love with faith. I believe you love me and so faith completes love. You see that I believe and your love grows stronger.
You believe I love you and you show your faith by asking, expecting and encouraging. We both grow in love.
Love affirms the being of another while faith believes and accepts that love.

Monday, February 19, 2007

When Does Love Stop Loving?

Does love stop loving? No. But lovers stop loving because they stop believing.
Sometimes I see snatches of the daytime court programs on the television and half the cases are former friends or lovers trying to get paid for what amounts to lost love. Typically they get down and display all the dirty laundry in front of the camera and the tv judge and it's obvious.
It's either like this:
"You kicked me out of your wedding and I want my money back for the bridesmaid dress I already bought."

Or this:
"I paid for his cell phone and he ran up a big bill talking to his new girl friend who he ended up moving in with."

And really it's like this:
"I loved him and he shafted me. He promised me love and he owed me. Now I'll take whatever pound of flesh I can get."

Of course the money won't bring back love and respect. And the notoriety won't bring satisfaction. The abyss of broken love will still be there, unbridged. But does it have to be this way?
The flow of love stops when one or both turn from the belief that the other loves him. The other feels it; nothing need be said. She thinks, he doesn't believe I love him anymore. And she turns away. On and on, each in turn, just as natural as can be—soon each believes the other has no love. And if they believe it they very naturally cause their beliefs to come to fruition.
"Now I see she never loved me," he says. And she says, "He was only using me all along." But if one had only reminded himself that he must believe in the other—the the other has a heart of love and that love has been turned toward him in a special way.
Kierkegaard said in order to build up love the one who loves should presuppose the other loves. Even though that love might be temporarily covered or masked by hurt or shame, it is there. It is always there, but it must not be manipulated or demanded; it must be believed in.
Love is the greatest thing but it doesn't stand alone. It must have faith to go with it.
If I remember my faith and believe you love me I will be at rest and it will be much easier for you to show me you care for me. If I believe you don't love me—for whatever reason—I will "count the ways" and dwell on them and it will be impossible for love to flow either way.
Let's keep the faith and keep love alive.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Agape and Eros: Mortal Enemies — or not?

When I was a youth I was taught that the highest and purest form of love—the kind that came from God was called agape and was to be considered to be in opposition to the low, the crude, the needy form of love, which was known as eros. I was taught this doctrine by way of inference and implication. I was to internalize this concept and make it a life-style.
Now, mind you, this was not a monolithic force in my life. Not all my life-teachers went by this doctrine. But some very influential and timely ones did and I was certainly influenced by them. And I would have stuck by it probably if I hadn't learned, the hard way, that it just doesn't work.
I tried. I tried to love faithfully without regard to my own needs—reckoning my needs to be irrelevant at the very least, or wickedly malevolent at the worst.
To shore up this kind of thinking, we were taught the empty conduit theory of God's working. The individual Christian worker is to be nothing but a pipe through which the love of God flows. And any part of our own individual personality that we allow to stay in the pipe gets in the way of God's love, making it ineffective or blocking it altogether. So we had to get out of the way and "make ourselves scarce," if such a thing were possible.
Now, I will be the first to say there is a validity in the metaphor of the vessel, or instrument of God. The gospel was entrusted to the apostles, who referred to themselves as "earthen vessels." And St. Francis prayed, "Make me an instrument of thy peace." But these don't make us invisible; they don't negate our being itself. We exist as creatures—as persons created in God's image.
So what is eros and is it as evil as we have thought? The different ways the word has been used range from "self-interested desire" to "biological life-force" to "unbridled lust." The latter results from the popularization of the word-form erotic, referring to the sexual. But while eros might be often flavored by gender ("la difference"), sex is not eros and hardly relevant to our meaning here, except as a distraction.
In 1986, Josef Pieper, a German philosopher and theologian published, in English translation, a long-awaited book, Faith Hope Love. He draws on scripture, as well as Christian authorities from Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to C.S. Lewis. In discussing Eros and Agape he wrote:
But such need-love, whose goal is its own fulfillment, is also the nucleus and the beginning in all our loving. It is simply the elemental dynamics of our being itself, set in motion by the act that created us. Hence it is fundamentally impossible for us to control it, let alone to annul it. It is the "yes" that we ourselves are before we are consciously able to say "yes" (or even "no").
And so we are reconciled to the ever-present, never-to-be-denied need-love, the eros that makes us feel so uncomfortable. It remains an indestructible attribute of our eternal souls. and because we are made this way we are capable of two-way, multifaceted love. We are not empty pipes. We are living souls. We are full of needs—thirsty to the nth degree—crying out desperately in the wilderness, "Give us something to drink." But because we love ourselves, accepting our need-love humanity, we come to know how to love others. Because we see and accept our eros factor, the untamed life-force in us, we accept it in others and affirm their existence and hope, pray and act for their well-being. And others do the same for us and we live together and we love.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Love is Everything

About seven years ago, maybe eight, I went to a coffeehouse to hear some songwriters. Mark Gershmel was there and he sang a song that touched me deeply. I must have been primed and ready to receive this song because it still stands out in my memory.
"so bring everything that your heart can bear
live your life like a holy prayer
before your gaze comes to rest
on an empty chair...
Love is everything."
That's the last verse. Mark said he wrote it in response to his father's passing. It's a good song for grieving. I was in a grief process at the time I heard him sing it.
But the song is much more than that. It says love is everything and it says it very well. I already knew that was true, of course, and I was glad to see Mark knew it too and was saying so beautifully.
The song is on the Whiteheart album, Redemption. Mark was in the group for fifteen years and that's their last album.
Here are the words.
And here's a sample of the song. It not the whole thing but it's the best I could find.
So thanks Mark Gershmel and Whiteheart for the song. And God bless you.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Love is First

Love is first, last and everywhere in between. Love is our business, our pleasure, our arts and sciences, our dream and reality. If we do not have enough love we usually look for more. If we think we have less love now than we did before we go seeking where we think we lost it.
Sometimes we get bitter and disillusioned. But disillusionment is not really about love; it is about our illusions of love. The bitterness is always about the illusions. But love is not an illusion; love is the reality. Illusions are images which draw on parts and pieces of reality but are put together in a distorted way. Love without illusions is always there but we don’t always see it. And often we avoid it on purpose.
God is love but we don’t always see Him.
What does it mean to say that God is love? I don’t know exactly. Does it mean God is equal to love or love is equal to God? Does it mean God is full of love or love is full of God? I don’t know, I would guess both.
I do know that love is more than we think it is, as God is more than we think He is.
Love is more important than we think it is. I think love is all-important. I think it is infinitely important. Once I heard Mark Gershmel sing a song called “Love is Everything.” It touched me deeply. I don’t even remember any of the words but that one phrase—that’s enough.

*This is an edited encore of a piece I wrote on my other weblog a year ago. JWP

Monday, February 12, 2007

Cold Hard Love?

It's been said that you don't have to feel anything to show love. A corollary to that is you don't have to like someone to behave in a loving way toward them. I think the influence of that kind of teaching has done a lot of harm.
Here's how it would play out at street level. The loving one would grit his teeth, steel his nerves and commit love upon his neighbor. He believes it is his duty to love the unlovable and so he prays for strength and does his duty. As if love were a one-way stream that flows from a higher person to a lower one.
In reality when we talk about loving the unlovable we are talking about comparing one person with another. Us and them. It's an old story. "You are less lovable than I am, but I'm going to prove to you I am big enough to love you anyway."
But how can a person created by God be unlovable? And even if they were how would I know I am the more lovable? The fact is a human being, made in God's image, can only be called unlovable if he is viewed through the eyes of judgment. How do I know this? Because I have done it. I have a lifetime of experience doing it. I habitually view people through half-closed eyes, not seeing. Then I try to calculate and map out a strategy of well-doing toward this one or that one—all the while negating, out of fear, any possibility of real relationship.
So what am I proposing? It's hard to put into words so here's a little story.
About a year ago I was having a conflict with a new friend that involved some misunderstandings and some hurt feelings. After I was forgiven and had some time to mull it over I realized there came a point in time when I saw her for the first time, as it were. Prior to that time I had seen her, if you will, as a kind of character in a docudrama I was writing in my head. Does that sound crazy? Well, it was crazy.
But I realized that's the way my head worked. (Do I hear any co-confessions?) I rarely stopped to see who the person really was but instead made up stories in my head, based on pre-conceived notions, to fill in the gaps. Maybe that's more interesting, but it's certainly not more loving.
So how shall I see the person who is standing there right in front of me? How shall I see him or her with a view that will foster warm, human God-filled two-way love? That's not a question easily answered but maybe this would do for a start.
Realize we are standing on the same ground.
And God is just as far—and just as close to each as to the other.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Dark Side

Sorry about the title—it's a little dramatic. There really isn't a dark side to love. Not in any way. Nor do I believe there is an opposite to love. More later on that.
But there are dark things that keep us from love. To my mind the biggest one is judgment. That is, the very practice which Jesus said we must not do. I remember the old version best. "Judge not, that ye be not judged." I remember reciting it in Sunday school. One after the other around the table we recited it from memory.
Then the next sentence: "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged" That's pretty plain. And the inference is that it is God Himself who will judge us with the same kind of judgment we meted out to others.
But do we even need divine intervention to prove the point of this principle? I think it stands up on natural grounds. When we are harsh to others, meting out our own brands of private justice, then that action in effect places us in the hell of our own choosing. We choose sides and draw lines in the sand; we become enemy to our enemy plus any of our friends who also happen to be friends of our enemy. And yet any action has its equal and opposite reaction, especially with judgment.
Kierkegaard said that any father who disowns his son actually places himself in a prison, because he can think of nothing else but perpetually exonerating himself while he condemns his son. Add to that the fact that the father alienates all his friends with his constant harping. Then the father's misery is greater than the son's.
And so it goes on and on, what with every possible way one person and judge and be judged by others (or by oneself), our communities are filled with an infinite number of separate little sects—secular or religious—makes no difference. There exist an unlimited number of possible permutations, departmentalized into different life-sized containers. You might be my church friend but you are my political enemy. I might be your smiling next-door neighbor delivering garden vegetables to your back door, all the while believing you will burn in eternally hell because we are in mutually exclusive religious systems.
We may speak civilly to each other but we share no real love because of various degrees and types of judgmentalism. Nice is sham without love.
So how to turn the tide? Drop the charges.

As Yourself

Love says love your neighbor as yourself. Or, do unto others as you would like them to do to you.
Because we are the same.
How do I know what my neighbor wants from me? He or she is like me. And so I know. My neighbor's inner person is known to me, in a very real sense, because his or her inner person is like mine and I know (to some degree) what is inside me. So I adjust my behavior accordingly.
But there are some glitches. One is that I might not know my innards as well as I think I do. If I am prone to self-hatred I will quite naturally neglect the inspection of my inner person and so I will not know myself as well as I might (or at all), with the result that I do not have a clear idea of the other's innards either.
Another glitch is that I might believe that my neighbor and I are different in some fundamental way. I might consider myself to be a part of a group which is better (or worse) than the group my neighbor is in. Or I might consider myself to be a "party of one," supposing everyone else to be different from me. In either case my neighbor and I are exluded from one another.
Another common divider: I might base my notion that we are fundamentally different on behaviors I feel are mutually exclusive, like crimes or anti-social behavior. You and I could be on opposite sides of the law, one of us a law-abiding citizen and the other a law-breaking denizen. Another word for this attitude is judgment. To judge is to exclude the other—to reckon that we are different or incompatible. We then think we have good reason to withhold our love and respect from those others.
This cuts us off from the very life of love we wanted to have.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Love the One You're With - Revisited

I was clueless in the seventies. I thought all that love stuff in pop culture was really about love. After all Joni Mitchell was on the radio singing, "Come on people now smile on our brother..." That was about real love. So why not Crosby, Stills and their crew? Remember their harmonious voices singing:
If you can't be with the one you love, then love the one you're with.
To me it was a little parable. It meant when you find yourself far away from the little neighborhood where you felt safe and comfortable, where you quite naturally love and feel loved, then you should look right in front of you and see that whoever is there is your neighbor and value them as such. It was a tonic for Dylan's depressing taunt: "How does it feel? To be all alone ... with no direction home." CSNY were to me a breath of fresh air. They reminded me I could carry my "heart's home" with me anywhere.
Does that make sense? Can you see how a bright-eyed youth could read that meaning into a lyric from a popular tune.
For me, at that point in my life I was uprooted. I went away to college and found a strange culture there. At home we were in a different place as well—in a new town with a new school and a new church. I had lived there only about five months before graduating high school. In my heart were memories of people and places that I couldn't get back to.
So, to me, the song expressed a wonderful truth. It was telling me to see the new people as neighbors and friends and start building relationships again. I think it helped me not to want to pine for the beloved past while avoiding the reality of present company. It was like a little reminder every time I heard it. And I got comfort from it because I knew it was right.
Then years later my friends told me the song was about free sex.
I'm glad I didn't know that then.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Love, the Kernel of Natural Law

I want to create something to promote and foster love between and among people.
Why? Because I like love a lot and want others to enjoy it and its fruits as much as I do.
I have personal relationships which are loving and I am very thankful for them. Honest, I don't find anything else in life as meaningful. Not possessions or money, not personal power. If I had (or could receive) the power to cause others to bend to my will in order to gain some benefit, I wouldn't enjoy it near as much as I enjoy seeking to know a person, learning to trust and be trusted, believing I am loved as much as I love. I would rather have love, than any kind of non-loving benefit (assuming there were any such things).
I think everyone feels that way, or longs to feel it if they can't.
Now, I am writing this in a weblog on the world wide web, and the reason I'm writing it here is because I believe so strongly in the web as an effective means of communication. People are searching the web for clues to meaning in life. Case in point: Hundreds of people hit my dad's Faith Hope Love web site each month after entering the phrase "faith hope love" in a search engine. They are looking for meaning, for spiritual nourishment. And there are lots more out there searching.
I think people already know a lot about love and believe it is a necessary good for personal fulfillment.
Our friend Ken Rideout was a teacher of God's love in Southeast Asia for many years. He tells how the children in the villages always knew, when questioned, about right and wrong and about the duty of all people to love and respect their neighbor. Ken says he would then turn to the grownups and ask who taught them this. "Not us," they would answer. But they knew it; children always know it. That is, until later childhood when they are forced into the loss of their innocence by the traditional wounds of family and society—the tried and true (but nonetheless cruel and terrible) wounds that are designed to equip them to live in the "real world" —a pseudonym, by the way, for an establishment that should more correctly be called the unreal world (but more on that another time).
So here we find ourselves, whatever our childhood experience, searching for meaning, for spiritual food and drink, for relationship, for love. I am searching too, or else I wouldn't be writing this. I am searching for connections, whether I find out who you are who are reading this or not, I will look at my logs and see it was clicked on and maybe looked at a few minutes before clicking away from it and I will hope and believe some love was shared. Or, more importantly, some love that was already in your heart was awakened and revived by some few words I put down here from my heart.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

An Open Source Operating System for Humanity

Love: the original operating system for all of humanity.
  • Enables each and every person to interface effectively with every other person, regardless of race, color or creed.
  • Provides a framework for the highest quality of life in this world and in any and all possible worlds.
  • Always was, is now, and always will be infinitely adaptable to all cultures in every geographical and cosmological location.
  • Infinitely configurable and scalable - no individual is too small and no corporate group of individuals is too large.
  • Documentation included - basic code, or kernel, written indelibly on the heart, of every person.
  • More instructions and advice available everywhere in written, oral and visual form in every language by poets, prophets, artists and sages from every epoch of history.
  • Still more documentation in the lives of users' friends, family, neighbors, mentors, associates, even enemies.
This universal operating system includes all necessary software, skins and modules, and is free and freely available to any member of the human race. You already have this OS installed, although it might need to be rebooted, refreshed, updated or healed. Many times users have found their software has been corrupted by ill treatment or abuse, sometimes by others, sometimes by self. But fear not - a fix is available. All users beyond the age of early childhood should assume they need the cure, which is freely downloadable at any time.
Special note: This download is a spiritual one and comes directly from the heavens, from the Creator of the heavens and the earth, although there are many symbolic links everywhere which remind us of the real thing.
And here's another plus: Unlike other systems which require a third party validation, this software and its operating environment is self-validating in the human heart. In other words, you'll know it's the real thing when you see it.
[Note: the following symbols and links are not actual sources for this download, but are resources which may point, to one degree or another, to the real source - which is a spiritual resource and comes from the heavens.]
Symbols and Links:

Scripture: John 3:16
Painting: Rembrandt painting - Descent from the Cross
Song: Sins of Billions (mp3 file)
Web Page: Loving and Being Loved

  • All you need is love. Lennon/McCartney
  • Love your neighbor as yourself. Moses and Jesus
  • Love makes the world go 'round. Ollie Jones - sung by Perry Como
  • Only one thing is required—Love. Madame Guyon
  • God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. John the apostle
Look around. Search your memory. Read your holy book. Reach out. Let someone love you. Love is open sourced and in the public domain. Try it today.

One more important feature: With every copy of the OS (one to each person) is included a pre-paid membership in an personally-inclusive, infinitely powerful distributed network of all souls who love, the whole world over. Participation in this network, as you might imagine, makes possible, in the here and now, an infinite number of connections/relationships - peer-to-peer. As well as (and particularly) an unmetered collaborative-connection to our Father in heaven. We have unlimited access to His assets and energies. All we can imagine and more.
No batteries required, no telephone, cable or wi-fi receiver necessary.