Monthly Archives: July 2013

Love Is Being Present




Can there be anything better than camping with several dozen of your closest friends? The late nights around the campfire, the rainy weather, the early morning sounds of crows, the laughter, the dirt, the smell of campfire, the conversation… I could go on; but, I know many of you are not the camping type and the closest you get to camping is a continental breakfast. Others of you are such die hard campers that you would call what I do “glamping,” or glamour camping (I have a travel trailer with a kitchen and indoor plumbing!)

But back to my story!  There were about 70 of us, I think, all gathered at a Michigan state campground for anywhere from 5 to 2 nights together.  We ate together, played together, laughed and worshipped.  As a very high extrovert, this is my kind of camping and our campsite was in the center of it all.  I didn’t have to leave a 10 foot radius to find someone to talk to!  Silence and Solitude?  Not on the church campout!

However, I found myself wrestling with this – while I love all of them, I couldn’t lovingly engage everyone there.  There was no way!  How did Jesus do it?  How did Jesus actively love all the people he encountered – not to mention you and me how many years later!?!

Jesus showed up!

The birth narratives of Matthew and Luke, along with John 3:16, lead me to this. In the person of Jesus Christ, God becomes fully present with those he lovingly created for a full life. Go ahead, read that last  sentence again, I’m going to! I’ll wait. … There’s a lot there!  I don’t plan to unpack that whole thing don’t worry!

But think about it.  John quotes Jesus as saying that it was out of the Father’s extravagant love for us the Jesus came into the world.  The Son.  God.  Here. With. Close. 

Really close.  Close enough that the pharisees could smell him. Close enough to notice when there was stuff in his beard. Close enough that he could notice Peter’s runny nose.  Close enough to touch lepers, hold hands with prostitutes, eat with tax collectors and party with sinners.  Close enough to have compassion, make mud with spit and raise the dead. 

Jesus became fully present with those who are created for good works that were already in the works (Eph. 2:10).  Yes, there is a lot of verb-tense shifting in that sentence so you better read it again…  In the incarnation, Jesus becomes present with humanity.  That includes Adam, Noah, Rahab, David, Sarah, you and me.  

As you read the gospel accounts of Jesus life, there is no question that when one is with Jesus, they have all of Jesus.  Jesus is WITH them.  He is present. He is fully aware of their hurts, pain, hopes, anger and even trickery.  He is loving them by being fully present with them.  

With us.  Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus, our high priest, is able to fully connect to our lives and everything about them, because he is fully present with us and has experienced all that life can give – the good and the bad.

Jesus teaches us that part of loving others is just showing up and being present.

I couldn’t be fully present with everybody

While camping there were too many people for me to be able to do that.  But, I could practice being fully present with whoever was right there, in front of me.  I could practice being fully engaged with the circle around the campfire.  I could practice not being distracted by being attentive.  

Sometimes that looked like holding a toddler.  Sometimes it was a deep conversation at the beach with a few others. Sometimes it was one-on-one or cooking pudgy pies over the fire. Often it was with laughter or by winning at euchre!

I know I didn’t love everyone perfectly or fully – even in my own family.  But I am growing in being able to be fully present with whoever is right in front of me.

Who are you loving by being present with today?

Martin, Zimmerman & the Gospel

Racial-unitySo I am a little slow…

It has been over a week since the Zimmerman Verdict. Everyone  who has had something to say has mostly said it.  Some have said it really well.

There is no reason for me to rehash all that has, or hasn’t, been said.  However, I am really present to this question:  In our culture today, with elevated levels of anxiety and the resulting group-thinking that is leading to deeper and deeper division, how do we move forward in a way that is healthy, brings deep healing and honors one another?

I have a deep conviction that the way forward is paved by people who are learning to love in such a way that deep listening becomes a way of being. This way forward is led by people, not government, institutions or judicial systems; but by people who are being transformed (romans 12:2) and living differently.

It is clear that our nations continues to struggle with racial prejudice and injustice – that there are white people who have deeply felt negative feelings about anyone of color; and that there are people of color who have deeply felt negative feelings about anyone who is white. And, of course, there are any number of variations!

When we define love in a way that says, nobody wins unless everybody wins, and define a win as being able to clearly define oneself and be deeply understood, we then begin to step away from the win-lose way of listening and being with one another. When we begin to listen to understand rather than to fight, we begin to love.  It doesn’t mean we have to agree!  But love calls us to listen deeply when we don’t agree.

One of the best thinkers I know is the brilliant Bill Lamar ( I met him while doing some work around issues of leadership at Duke.  More than the wisdom regarding leadership, what I recieved most from Bill was the gift of his capacity to listen deeply to me around areas we didn’t see eye to eye on!

Somebody has to start!

And it might as well be me (and you?). In Romans 5:10 Paul says, “When we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him…”  In human history, God made the first move, and has continued to invite us into that move of redemption. The point, tho, is this – God made the move when there was still enmity and hostility.  God went first.  What would it look like for God’s people to join him in going first?

What would it look like for you to sit down and have conversation with some whose experience is different than yours because of their race, ask them what their experiences have been like, and listen to them deeply? I think this would be really hard to do.  I also deeply believe these are the kinds of conversations God is calling us to have.

The first totally loving thing Jesus did as a fully alive and fully human person, was ask Mary and Joseph to do something really really hard.

Right.  Not only was Mary asked to risk stoning and take on the pregnancy of a child that would not be her future husband’s, and not only was Joseph asked to move forward in the wedding plans and to be the earthly father of a child that would not be his; but they were both asked to love and parent a child who is fully “other” than they. He would be called the Son of God. He would be (and was and is) fully human, but he would not be the usual Jewish boy.  This call to do something hard is also a the most loving thing God could will and do for Joseph and Mary.  If we believe 1 John 4:8 to be true, then EVERYTHING God does is a loving act of his will – even this.

Even calling us to do the hard thing of loving those who are not quite like we are…

Where this all started

We were on the 6th floor of the library in Holland, MI digging deeply into the idea of mastery in areas of our own personal transformation.  In this community of learners I have blessed to be part of, we were challenging ourselves to take on the assignment of going after a skill set or a value with the intention of becoming “masters” in that area.

There were three or four areas that had surfaced in the space for me, but I also knew I only had the capacity to take on one or two.  It wasn’t long and I knew what they were going to be.

One of them is where I am beginning with this blog. It is in understanding and living out the value of “love.” Not as an emotion, but as a life value defined in two ways:  First, willing and acting for the good of others; and second, nobody wins unless everybody wins (not to be understood in a Charlie Sheen everybody get’s their way kind of thinking). Over the course of time I will flesh this out more, but for simplicity, let’s define “win” as being able to define onself in such a way as to be deeply understood.

As a part of my mastery of this value, I committed to re-reading each of the Gospels with the intention of seeing Jesus as perfectly loving in every situation and with every person. And, I made a commitment that I would be held accountable to writing about my interactions with Jesus in this adventure and the impact it is having on me.

So this is where we begin… Later 🙂