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Help Me To Believe In Beginnings

“…and now another day begins.”

As we take our first steps out of the darkness that eclipsed with the Winter Solstice, we experience how nature continues to direct our rhythms and remind us of new life sprouting from the darkness.

I don’t know about you, but I have received my word for 2019 This word, or thought, will become my guide and constant reminder this year. It will help me stay on track, say yes to the right things, and no to the wrong things.

Mostly, it reminds me that no matter what may happen, I am co-creating my life with God which deserves my passionate attention.

My prayer to launch the year is from Ted Loder. It’s real, beautiful, painful and an invitation to journey outside the God-box so many live in. I feel like it describes where I have been and where I long to go. May it speak to your soul as it does mine.

Help Me To Believe In Beginnings

God of history and my heart,
so much has happened to me during these whirlwind days:
I’ve known death and birth;
I’ve been brave and scared;
I’ve hurt, I’ve helped;
I’ve been honest, I’ve lied;
I’ve destroyed, I’ve created;
I’ve been with people, I’ve been lonely;
I’ve been loyal, I’ve betrayed;
I’ve decided, I’ve waffled;
I’ve laughed, I’ve cried.
You know my frail heart and my frayed history–
and now another day begins.

O God, help me to believe in beginnings
and in my beginning again,
no matter how often I’ve failed before.

Help me to make beginnings:
to begin going out of my weary mind into fresh dreams,
daring to make my own bold tracks in the land of now;
to begin forgiving
that I may experience mercy;
to begin questioning the unquestionable
that I may know truth;
to begin disciplining
that I may create beauty;
to begin sacrificing
that I may accomplish justice;
to begin risking
that I may make peace;
to begin loving
that I may realize joy.

Help me to be a beginning for others,
to be a singer to the songless,
a storyteller to the aimless,
a befriender of the friendless;
to become a beginning of hope for the despairing,
of assurance for the doubting,
of reconciliation for the divided;
to become a beginning of freedom for the oppressed,
of comfort for the sorrowing,
of friendship for the forgotten;
to become a beginning of beauty for the forlorn,
of sweetness for the soured,
of gentleness for the angry,
of wholeness for the broken,
of peace for the frightened and violent of the earth.

Help me to believe in beginnings,
to make a beginning,
to be a beginning,
so that I may not just grow old,
but grow new
each day of this wild, amazing life
you call me to live
with the passion of Jesus Christ.

~Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace

Love: Finding Francis part three

I beseech Thee, O Lord, that the fiery and sweet strength of Thy love may absorb my soul from all things that are under heaven, that I may die for love of Thy love as Thou didst deign to die for love of my love.
– St. Francis of Assisi

We all know the word, but few understand it. Even fewer grasp the love that birthed a Divine longing which consumed Francis. The love for God that baptized Francis became a natural outflow of kindness and compassion to others.

No one was exempt from his wellspring of kindness and love. Eventually, Francis kissed lepers and wrapped his arms around them without hesitation. He saw what God sees in us; beauty, worth, humanity, person-hood. Just like Jesus, Francis was pulled magnetically towards those whom society labeled as “less than” “unlovable” “broken” and “untouchable.” 

Francis inhabited a time when a leper occupied the absolute bottom rung of society being forced to live far removed from the hum and connection of community. There would be no embrace, touch, or caress. People didn’t want to come near them out of fear of contagion. They were forced to live isolated lives wondering what they had done wrong to receive this punishment from God. Seen as expendable, many lepers were killed as sport to a compassion-less world.

Everything people leave after them in this world is lost, but for their charity and alms-giving they will receive a reward from God. – St. Francis of Assisi

It’s hard to love when my identity is tethered to the wrong things. If my identity is tethered more to my patriotism than it is to Christ, I will tend to withhold love from those who threaten my country. I might even feel justified to create painful outcomes from those who would oppose.

If my identity is tethered more to my achievements than to Christ, I will fail to love those who would stand in the way of my advancement.

If my identity is tethered more to my theological or doctrinal beliefs than to Christ, I will become a pharisee refusing to show compassion and grace to those who do not think, believe and behave just like me.

If my identity is tethered more to the things I am passionate about, I will not find the path of love for those whose passions lie in other things.

Francis simply loved the person who was in front of him at the moment. He didn’t need to force himself to be kind and love, his immersion into Jesus gave him a capacity to do more than choose to love…he became love.

When we become love, we lose our judgments allowing God’s compassion to finally flow through us as a natural overflow or like a river at flood stage. You just can’t stop it. ~mcw

Today, you can easily see those who have tethered their identity to something other than the Divine love and compassion of Jesus when they hold signs that say, “God hates fags” or “voting for _____ is against God’s will” or even “Send them back, Don’t let them in our country!”

Imagine how freeing you would feel if you could lose all of your judgments and throw away all of your labels. What might it be like if we could be present with someone who doesn’t fit our ideal or is the antithesis of it, yet, instead of our mind quietly placing them in their own category, or deciding how we fix her or get him to be like us, wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone could just lather the moment in compassion and grace.

So good right?

So what’s the problem then? The problem is we don’t know what love is because we have determined it is either the tingly feeling we get or a definition of some sort of selflessness or otherness. We think that we are loving when “I DO” this or that for someone. We think we can buy love the way we buy loyalty but none of this is love.

Love is free. Love is a force. Love cannot be contained. Love can’t be controlled. What you can do with Love is surrender to it. ~mcw

In his book Surrender to Love, David Benner writes:

“Love reconnects us to life. The truth of Christ’s life is that life is love and love is life. There is no genuine life without love. Self-interest suffocates life. Life implodes when self-interest is at the core. This is why the kingdom of self is based on death. Ultimately, taking care of Number One takes care of no one. For the only way to truly care for myself is to give myself in love of others. There I will find my truest and deepest fulfillment.”

Fascinating to me is that before Francis’ conversion to Love, he had a label and a box to put lepers in. He was disgusted by the smell, sights and sounds. He was appalled by the oozing sores, stumpy hands and odoriferous facial rags. His preference was to be no closer than 2 miles from any leper commune, much like everyone else.

But something happened, or better yet, someone happened. As Francis continued to surrender his whole self to Jesus he began experiencing a soulular transformation.

One day, as Francis was on the road near Assisi, he came upon a leper. At first he felt his body pull back in it’s normative way when confronted by the unwanted, but he also felt something was different in him and he chose love. As the two men came close, Francis got down off of his donkey, walked to the man and kissed him.

Francis listened to the Divine love inside and made a faith choice to love by showing compassion and humanness in a very earthy moment. He surrendered to love and he then began the journey of becoming love.

Frederick Buechner writes:

“Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it’s like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”

YES! I love that. That speaks of that heart that has become love.

How do we get there you ask? Like Francis, first we surrender daily to the love of Christ, asking God to give us a hunger and a longing for Him. Then we choose to love whoever whenever with whatever means available to us. The first time you choose to love someone that you had previously deemed not worthy, you will cross the same threshold that Francis did with the leper. As you continue, soon it will no longer be a hard choice, it will simply be who you are…

You will become an outflow, a torrent, a tsunami of God’s love that cannot be contained.