Thursday, September 7, 2017

Assault

Recently, someone dear to me had an experience that caused them much hurt. They invited all their co-workers over to their home. Having stocked her table with food and drink she sat and waited. No one showed up. No one. As she told it, one person had said they wouldn't make it, but no one else expressed their regrets.

Any of us would have been deeply hurt. This experience for some would have dredged up all the old childhood hurts and fears that were imprinted during those crucial years. As adults we'd like to think we would be above such hurt and disappointment, but if we are honest with ourselves, we too would be deeply hurt.

This hit all the old hurts and they declared loudly to all who might see it on Facebook that she was a loser. Haven't we all had those experiences? Haven't we all struggled at some point in our life with that voice that screams we are a loser?

After a couple of weeks of prayer and thought I felt led to write. This is what I wrote (with some edits) :

"I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened with your girl’s night party. I need to say at the outset that what you did was brave, it is not an easy thing to offer hospitality. It is okay that you feel hurt deeply by what happened. Please see that you were brave and your actions were not something a loser would do.  What we do when we offer hospitality is offer love. A loser can’t really do that.

We have an enemy whose main tactic is to assault our true identity in Jesus. This assault always starts in our family of origin and this is very true of me. I was never given good tools to face this assault, mostly because neither mom nor dad understood this truth. Dad would have considered this “religion” and he had that locked up in a strong box to keep it away from real life. Mom was so damaged from the assault on her she had little to offer to her children. I was left to find my own tools, a search that led into the enemy’s hands. He offered tools that seemed to fit my damage hands and heart. I turned on myself and learned to listen to his false narrative for me.

His whispered words may grow so comfortable to us that he’s now hidden behind the illusion that we are hearing our own thoughts. They are not. It is his assault on us that is designed to sound like us but really isn’t. Your declaration that you are a loser is not your voice, not your heart, not you.

What truly is there in you, your deepest place? I’m not sure I should define that. It’s a path of discovery for you and God to journey on. However, I will say He does not see you as a loser. How do I know? That message is a destructive message and destruction is not part of His voice for us. His voice is one of peace and delight, even in the midst of pain and the hurt that comes in this journey. It may be a gentle voice of reproof but never the destruction that “loser” offers.

This distinction gives us a firm clue about the voice that assaults us. What is the outcome of the voice, is it turmoil or peace? Is it what you really want to think or do you feel pushed and compelled to destruction by the thought? The enemy hides and pushes at the same time so when you sense turmoil, destruction and compulsion, chances are the thought is not of God nor your truest self; there is someone else in the room.  Understanding this distinction of voice gives us insight into the first piece in the Armor of God, the belt of truth; truth of who God is and His voice, who you are in Him and who and what our enemy is up to.

What do I see in regards to the truth of who you are?  I see a woman who was brave to do what she did, a woman who offered love and friendship, a woman who got deeply hurt at the rejection of this offering, a woman who needs to rest in the grace offered by our Father, a woman who can learn to treat herself with that same grace, a woman who can learn to hear better the kind and gloriously transformative voice of the Spirit that resides in her. I also see a woman who isn’t sure she believes all this.

So, learn to rest in Him. Let Him have the confusion you might feel now. Tell Him about how hurt you are. Allow Him entrance into this wound. As transformation begins, and it will, let Him have the wounds one by one as He reveals them. This may take some time but remember, we have an eternity with Him so this isn’t a sprint but a marathon.

He’s madly in love with you even if you don’t feel it. He’s never walking away from you because you’re not sure you will ever “get it”. He sees you, every single line and stroke of every single letter in every single word in every single sentence in every single paragraph of every single page of the story of your life. None of it, the good and the bad, will alter how crazy mad in love He is with you. He’s got this and will whisper into you what your heart yearns to hear. Stop and let some stillness seep into the cracks of your life, you will find Him there.

No, you are not a loser. This I know and I suspect much more is there in you but that is up to you and God to find. He’s got much better timing than I do but He wanted me to tell you all this and tell you, you are not a loser. You are brave. Bravery does not flow from losers."

As I wrote this and have reflected on this I know, not too long ago, I too felt I was a loser. It wasn't until I understood that through the full work of Christ I have a new heart that I could trust to hear a different narrative for me, a narrative spoken by the Spirit that indwells me. Until then, I didn't understand well the assault I had been under for the previous 51 years.

We who follow Jesus are hated and this enemy will do anything to keep us from the truth of who we are in Christ. We are redeemed and adopted into the family of God and by this adoption we have the authority of Jesus to stand against this enemy when he seeks to destroy by dredging up the old narrative he designed for us.

Think and ponder this wonderful truth, we belong to the Almighty God who has defeated the enemy.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bench

Last Saturday I drove up to the Middle Fork of the Yuba river by myself. It is the place where our family and extended families with aunts and uncles and cousins would go and camp together. It was only about 35 miles from the home I grew up in but it always felt like a world away. The road was twisty and turny the last 15 miles but as the years went on the state highway department straightened out the road in places it was possible. There still is a steep and twisty climb into and out of the canyon that holds the South Fork of the Yuba. Every time I drive that road I think of my cousin David.

David and I were close from the very beginning with me being about 5 weeks older than he. He grew up in Napa but our families would get together often for holidays and other times.  When we were both finishing up the 8th grade we hatched a plan, an adventure. We decided that summer we would buy 10 speed bikes and ride from my parents home to the Yuba river and camp by ourselves for a few days. Neither of us knew if our parents would agree but we gave it a shot. Surprisingly they agreed. To this day I have the letter David sent me, special delivery, with the envelope back flap saying, "She said yes!!!!!!" meaning David's mother.

It was a long ride up and we had a real adventure with a few days camping on the river we both loved.

As it happens, we both grew up and we grew apart. We rarely see each other. A few years ago David called me and wanted to get together. He drove to my house, we had lunch together and ended up on a park bench on the state capitol grounds. We talked for a couple hours. It was good.

I'm currently sitting on our front porch. We have a small round table and two inviting chairs. I've had more than one significant conversation with people in these chairs. It is one of my favorite places.

We use to have a bench out front. It was a good bench but only fit two people rather snugly. I didn't spend as much time out front as I do now but I liked the bench, I like benches in general. They seem to be a visual invitation by some unseen person to sit for a moment, alone or with someone.

I've noticed something lately about how we tend to speak of our relationship with God. It is more often than not centered around us learning something. I often hear, "I think God is wanting to teach me something in this situation." As I've noticed how often I hear similar phrases from many people I wonder if this is how He wants us to primarily think of Him? Is this the main way we've taught people to relate to God as the cosmic school teacher whose only goal is to get our lessons learned?

I've also noticed how often people mention that God is working on them over some issue in their life. It seems like we see Him as the cosmic trainer trying to make us better. I suspect we are complicit in this because we believe if we are better He will love us more. It only stands to reason that He will always be about working on us about something.

Then there are those who are just a mess, broken and they know it, shattered and laying in a heap. I hear from those folks the expectation that God primarily needs to put the pieces back together so they can get on with life. They expect He's mainly about scooping up the pieces and putting things back together, impatiently waiting for the next mess He will have to clean up. I think many in this camp think God is mostly put out with them as He waits for us to stop making the messes we often make.

I'm not saying He isn't this type of God, that He isn't interested in us learning, or our transformation or the broken messes we get ourselves into. These are important issues He is interested in. Rather I'm suggesting He might want to have a different relationship with us.

Picture a bench. Its a wide wooden bench with a curved back all painted white. Its situated on a slight rise giving anyone who sits a view of green grass rolling off into the distance. Large oak trees are dotted in the green field and in the distance is a soccer field. Behind it are several evergreens that give a gentle enclosure for the spot of invitation.

You've driven past this spot many times on your way to work and running errands but today you stop. You've had one of those days where your own stubborn broken places have reigned. Your mouth accurately reflected an attitude you are now ashamed of. It's old territory for you and you are weary of the cycle you find yourself in. You need to give yourself a little time before finishing the drive home. You take a deep breath and on the exhale you pray, "God, I can't do this anymore".  It is then you notice the bench for the first time. "Had it always been there?", you ask yourself.

Unthinking you leave the car behind and make the short walk up the slope. You stand there at the bench and wonder if you dare take the time to sit, dare to expect God might be in this moment. Its then you notice the little desire creep into your mind and a voice, "Sit here with me". "Is it possible that He really wants to sit with me after the day I've had?" It seems almost scandalous but you sit and pour it all out to God.

Is it at all possible that God is saying, "Yes, I see all this, I know this pattern in you well and we will work on this but first things first. Just sit with me and know that you are loved, even the broken places that trip you up time and again. Just sit with me and let me love you, know you are loved. Now look up and see, take in this park. Notice the children playing soccer. Let me love you first before all other things that seem so pressing to you."

Is it at all possible that God first wants to be known by His love for us before all the other roles our needs thrust upon Him? Is it possible we can simply sit, side by side with Him on a bench letting our expectations of Him melt away?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Friend

I grew up in a rural part of Nevada County here in California. Friends were few and hard to come by. A family moved in fairly close to us, a family with 5 kids. Kevin was #3, a year younger than I and we really hit it off. We would hike and ride our bikes all over the countryside following the many deer trails that laced around our hills. They moved away and back in our area three times through those wonderful years. To this day I remember Kevin's birthday, May 19th.

I didn't have any other friends growing up. I don't recall being bullied in school, I was just ignored. Outside of my friendship with Kevin, I was lonely. I really didn't learn well the skills of making friends so having good friends has always been difficult for me.

I'm sitting on my front porch thinking about the friends I do have and I long for easy friendships. For a few years I had another Kevin who lived 3 doors down from me. He would often come and ask to go for a walk or just sit with me and we would talk. We shared much of our lives as we talked. I trusted Kevin. Things fell apart between us and eventually he moved up to Washington. To this day I miss this second Kevin.

My closest friends are scattered, Indiana, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida, West Virginia, Texas and Saudi Arabia. These men know me well and we maintain our connections through a private Facebook page. I do long for them and wish geography was kinder to our relationships.

I have friends here but finding time is always difficult. I have one friend who meets with me weekly on Tuesday nights for dinner. Its a good friendship but I wish time was easier for us. At times dinner feels forced, something we've done now for over 10 years. He is the Executive Pastor at the church we attend so often our conversations revolve around church issues.  I am no longer on the Elder Board so he often is careful about what is said. I understand but there is a bit of a barrier now that once was not there.

Years ago we had a couple we were close to. We spent a lot of time together and we could be spontaneous in getting together. I think I value friendships where we can be spontaneous and not have to work hard to carve out time together. That does something for my heart when someone will just want to be with me and it doesn't have to be something planned into a schedule.

This longing I feel tonight has caused me to remember something Jesus said to his guys that last night together in the Upper Room. He called them his friends. I wonder if telling them this meant as much to them as it would if I'd been there that night.

Friends. Its a word that has lost some meaning in our virtual culture. We have Facebook friends, my list of several spans most of my years with a few even from those years in elementary school and high school. But are they the kind of friends that Jesus was talking about that night? We almost dismiss Him saying this through the culture we find ourselves in. My friends from church are almost only seen through that context, either on Sunday morning or the weekly Bible study I lead. These are casual friends that have busy lives and are not able to offer to one another the kind of friendship I think Jesus was speaking of.

This kind of friendship cannot be casual. He offered an invitation to friendship with God. What He spoke of in those chapters in John (13-17) was an intimacy that can transcend all the barriers I sense in my earthly relationships. Geography and schedule offer no barrier to the friendship with God that we can have.

I have thought much about my own longing for friends. All those that have come and gone out of my life have given me a glimpse into the friendship offered by Jesus to me. As much as I desire friends who will simply come and be with me, warts and all, I realize Jesus, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is here with me as my friend.

As true as this is, I do think He desires for us to be good friends to one another. I realize my lack of skills in being a friend hinders some of my relationships. I am praying Jesus' friendship with me will help me to learn better how to be a good friend to those He has given me.

If you are reading this and know me personally, know that I love you and would love to have more time with you.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Ledger

Even after all these years I still enjoy watching Antiques Roadshow. If I ever could get tickets if it came back to Sacramento I have some pieces of furniture I would want appraised. One piece is an old armoire we purchased years ago when we lived in Minnesota. It stands a little over 6 feet, has a beautiful mirrored door with the original mirror. I put shelves in it and we use it for storage. I probably did some damage to its value by putting in the shelves but I still have the original shelf and hooks originally used for hanging clothes.

The other two pieces were formally owned by my wife's adoptive grandmother. A bureau with four drawers is thought to have been in her family for years and came over on a ship from Scotland. Its in pretty good shape, all original.

The other is a beautiful book case with three sliding glass doors with the original glass. It has "HFF 1904" carved in it. The story is that grandma's father, a prominent physician in Boston, was given it for payment of services rendered by a woman named Helen Francis French, thus the HFF. It has been passed down to several family members for several years. When my wife was a little girl the bottom shelves held her great grandfather's medical books from when he was in school.

Of course the value of anything is determined by market forces. Often on the show an appraiser has to tell someone the market has gone soft on something and the value has shifted downward. It is market forces at play that determine the value of anything.

Its all in the ledger, isn't it? We live in an era where value means everything and everything is for buying and selling.

Unfortunately this way of thinking has influenced how we think of our relationship with God. We tend to keep an internal ledger and we add or subtract to it based upon how we think we are doing. This ledger keeping is a feeble way to live though.

I recently came across a familiar phrase in a familiar passage, I Corinthians 13, "Love does not keep an account of wrongs." Most of us are familiar with this chapter and its incisive description and value of love. What struck me was how well do I love myself? I know the context is about how we should treat and love one another but I turned it inside and found I keep a ledger I hold against myself. We tend to keep a ledger of our sin, don't we? Perhaps what Paul might have also been saying is that we don't love ourselves well if we turn this chapter around and let it read us.

I am also reminded about what Jesus had to say about sin, some very specific sins He addressed in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7. He really paints us into the corner doesn't He? If you call a brother an idiot, you've committed murder.  Yikes! That hits close to home most days on my commute, its a bloodbath out there on the roads most days.

I am not suggesting here we be soft on our propensity to sin but I am saying that if it is true about confessing our sin and He is faithful and just and will forgive, then why do we still keep the internal ledger that we use against ourselves? What I am suggesting is that we stop keeping the ledger. It really does no good and is a poor way to decide how we are doing with walking with Jesus.

He said it was finished on the cross. If this is so, then why do we continue to hold these things against ourselves? He said it was finished, we too must accept that we are forgiven. Holding the ledger sets us up for more sin. It does not cause us to sin less.

What will keep us is following the first and greatest commandment, loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind and strength. Falling in love with the author of love is what will keep us. The ledger does nothing.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Shirt

Suppose you have a favorite shirt. When you first received it as a gift you really liked it. The color for you was perfect and it had the greatest pattern to it. New shirts have such a great feel to them and you wore it often. Mostly, at first, to nicer events. It wasn't a super dressy shirt but wearing it made you feel good, not so much special but you did know you looked good and felt comfortable wearing it.

As material often does, over time it became less "new" feeling but you still wore the shirt often. Maybe you no longer wore it for semi-dressy events but you could still wear it when going out with friends for a casual meal together.  You just liked wearing it and it was hard not to reach for your favorite shirt hanging in your closet.

Other shirts came and went, cycled through your closet but you still would reach for this favorite one, even if just for wearing around the house. You knew it was looking worn and probably should be retired but you can't bring yourself to setting it aside permanently.

One day while cleaning out the garage you accidentally bump into something sharp and you feel your shirt catching and ripping a little hole in it.  In horror you realize you'd reached for your favorite shirt that morning without even realizing it and now this favorite garment has a hole. Even though it is probably ruined you can't yet part with it and it is hung in your closet one more time.

While shopping one day in Kohl's your eye spots a shirt very similar to your favorite shirt. It isn't exactly like it but the pattern is similar and the colors are very much like the one still hanging limply in your closet. You pick it up and feel it.  The material is high quality, probably better than the original shirt you can't part with. It's a bit on the expensive side but throwing caution to the wind you purchase it and rush home.

Hanging next to the old shirt, this new one really does closely resemble your favorite shirt.  You close the closet door and try to push the crazy thought out of your head. Call it crazy loyalty but you finally decide to do something almost unthinkable.

Taking both shirts out of the closet, you take a pair of scissors and cut out a small square of material out of the new shirt and sew it over the rip in the old shirt. The problem is, no matter how careful you were in sewing the patch onto the old shirt you realize too late; both shirts are now ruined.

Yes it is a crazy story and logic would keep one from actually doing such a thing, so why would Jesus offer such a similar story to his listeners? Of course it was never about the shirt or the material, something else was on His mind that day.

We would never do such a thing, would we?

He went on that day to tell about the futility of putting new wine in old wine skins. The old skins would eventually burst ruining the wine skin and wasting the wine. I love a good glass of wine and we live near hundreds of wonderful vintners so we often take an afternoon and do some wine tasting. Our modern production techniques no longer use wine skins for aging wine so the rest of Jesus' story might get lost if we don't stop to look past the burst wine skins and wasted wine of ancient wine making.

The kingdom He is illustrating in both these short stories is about newness. He didn't come to patch up the old nor would He pour the new life He offers into old wine skins. This is about redemption and transformation. We must become new creatures to contain the new life. His complete work offers not just new life but a transformation of who we are. Paul speaks of this when he tells us we are new creatures in Christ.

If this is true then why would we want to patch the old shirt with just a scrap of the new shirt? We do tend to do this, don't we?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Wisteria

Several years ago we planted a couple of wisteria plants to grow up and over an arbor over the patio outside my mother-in-laws bedroom. I really didn't want the plants. Wisteria is very invasive and, in my opinion, shouldn't be planted near any structure or small, slow moving children. It will simply take over if you don't keep it in check. It is pretty though, and does a good job of shading the sliding glass door that leads out of mom's bedroom keeping her room cool in the summer.

Three weeks ago tomorrow we had a rain-free day so I got out my ladder and hacked away at the dormant wisteria. We got it hacked back to the point where I probably won't have to worry about it much during the growing season. I didn't think much about the pulling, hacking and stretching I was doing to get the wisteria in check until the next day at work. All of the sudden my lower back seized up and I soon realized I was in trouble as I was unable to stand straight up.

I worked cautiously through the rest of the week but my back was not getting better, it was getting worse so I ended up at my doctor's office on the Monday a week after the wisteria wrestling project. He gave me some muscle relaxers and put me on some restrictions for work.

I am not a patient patient.  I don't really like to be waited on when I don't feel well and I've found myself the last three weeks needing help. My wife has been wonderful through these weeks of semi invalid-ness.

I had a conversation this past week with my Spiritual Director about some of this and while we were talking I was reminded of something.  About 14 months ago my wife had her knee replaced. I became her main caregiver through her recuperation and I was reminded this week at how happy it made me to help her with so much she could not do. My recent bout of insufficiency due to my back and my reluctance to accept the help I've needed brought home some lessons.

My reluctance to ask for and accept help during these weeks has probably made it harder for my wife and others who've offered help to actually give me the assistance I need. My attitude probably robs others of some of the joy I experienced while helping my wife last year.

My Director pointed out that God has joy in helping us in our insufficiency. How often do we block enjoying His joy by our insistence in denying we are insufficient? I think at times we try to hide our insufficiency from Him when all along He accepts, no, He welcomes our insufficiency into the relationship with Him.

I think we also believe His goal in the relationship is to make us more sufficient, that times where we are face to face with our insufficiency are meant to teach us something. God is a great teacher but is that all He is up to when He encounters us? Yes, there are times He wants us to learn something new but I think we do a disservice to the heart of our relationship if that is what we primarily think He wants. He is not always a school teacher intent solely on teaching.

Perhaps I need to learn to simply be with Him, enjoy His beloved gaze when I can only bring my insufficiency to the table of feasting He invites me to. I want to hide the insufficiency but He is calling me to lay it all out there before Him and let me be loved by Him in my insufficiency.

We are giving serious thought to taking out the wisteria and replacing it with something a little less invasive but I don't want to forget this helpless feeling I've experienced and the idea that I am deeply loved in my helplessness.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Sauce

If I have a hobby, and I'm not sure I do, it would be cooking. Gail and I belong to a gourmet supper club with three other couples who all enjoy cooking, good wine and are also common in our love for Jesus. We've been meeting quarterly for about 20 years now. I get so excited when we've set a date and the days are ticking by getting us closer to our evening together. We are scheduled for next Saturday the 11th. We are taking appetizers and the evening is centered around France. Oh boy!

My favorite thing to do in the arena of cooking is making a sauce. There is something about putting together a complex sauce that really satisfies me. Mexican Mole is one of those sauces that is one I find especially satisfying but it doesn't come together without some pitfalls.  I am not one of those cooks who just "wings it" with a sauce, I prefer to have a recipe to go by and for Mole I use Rick Bayliss' recipe out of a book of his I own.  It involves about 17 different ingredients and several steps to cook it to perfection. It is about a half day endeavor for me.

One thing about my cooking is I tend to be a bit messy.  The first time I made Mole was for our supper club and it was particularly messy.  You have to cook it once with one mixture then add a second mixture for more cooking.  It tends to plop and splatter with a thickness slightly less thick than ketchup.  I was using a screen over the pot to keep the splats of dark brown sauce contained. When I tipped the bowl of the second mixture to add to the pot of cooking sauce, it slipped out of my hands and the bowl landed perfectly in the cooking pot. As if in slow motion, the lazy liquids came together forcefully and then continued upward into an impossibly large splat that now proceeded to decorate the stove, cabinet above the stove, counter, me and the floor with spicy, partially cooked Mole.  Just then I heard my wife came out of our upstairs bedroom after an afternoon nap and I said, "Do not come into the kitchen".

Eventually I got it all cleaned up and finished with a sauce that was proclaimed by my friend Syd as delicious that evening. As I recall, he said something about wanting to pick up his plate and lick it.

There isn't a chicken pot pie that I've met that I didn't enjoy, even those cheap Banquet ones you can find at the super market.  In fact, I had a wonderful one last Friday evening at my friend's home. Tom and Karen, thanks again for a wonderful meal and evening together.

I have a very good recipe I've used a couple of times for chicken pot pie. It starts with cooking a whole chicken in a large stock pot along with a whole onion, celery, carrots and various spices tied up in a cheesecloth bag.  Once the chicken is cooked, I remove the chicken, all the vegetables and the bag of spices and then simmer the broth in the pot until it cooks down to a mere 3 cups. The broth is used for the base for the gravy for the pie; all those flavors have been condensed down into a very rich tasting sauce. I made this pie for our supper club one night when we were having a "comfort food" themed evening.

When I think about that broth simmering down, leaving the essence of the chicken, vegetables and spices I think about Jesus and His ministry during His time physically on earth. What if you could reduce down all His words, actions, His death, resurrection and ascension into one singular idea, thought? What you would have is LOVE. You would still have all the rest of the themes He proclaimed but mainly I think you would come to LOVE. Take a minute and think about this and see if you come up with the same idea.

John records in detail Jesus' last evening with is disciples in chapters 13 - 17. It is such a rich passage.  I think you could put together Matthew chapters 5 - 7 with the five chapters in John and you can have a pretty clear idea of who Jesus is. Oh, but I digress a bit here.

John 13: 35 & 36 is where I am landing on: " A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another". (You English teachers could help me out here, I never know where to put the period, before or after the quotation mark? Oh but I digress again.)

Some time in 2013 I sensed God asking me to extricate myself out of the political conversations that were just beginning to swirl, especially in the arena of social medias.  I only participate occasionally on Facebook but I am aware of other arenas where conversations take place. Specifically I sensed Him asking me to step out of the coming 2016 fray that we found ourselves in by considering not voting. Frankly, it was a hard thing to even consider.  I sensed Him asking to guard my heart by stepping out of the conversations that had not even really begun in earnest.  After about a year and a half of praying over this I decided I would honor His request and I decided to sit out this election cycle we've "sort of" just finished. I know all of the arguments against this and I am not offering this here to engage in discussing this decision with any of those who may read this. It is simply just a backdrop for what I want to say here. The end result is this; while I do have thoughts and opinions about where we are as a nation politically, I've been able to keep my heart out of this present place many of us find ourselves in.

This is not easy.  I have friends on several sides of the present great divide we are in right now. Many feel it important to voice their thoughts through posts and re-posts of articles and pithy little comments.  That is all well and good for those that feel so led. It does concern me though that characterizations are made often with the broad brush of opinion that does little to convince those with opposing views. Often I read a harshness that only divides, and these comments often come from those that are Christ followers.

In light of the passage I quoted above, this grieves me. In Jesus' opening of what we call the Sermon on the Mount He notes nine "Blessed ares" with the seventh being, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God". It makes me wonder how we, who follow after our elder brother Jesus, are to be peacemakers in the present great divide we now find ourselves in.

Recently while meeting with a spiritual direction client, my client made a passing reference to the recent election. It was a statement that prompted me to think of reasons to refute the comment but I decided to opt out of the statement and let the conversation flow. Had I decided otherwise, all direction would have stopped. In retrospect, I see I will probably never continue that portion of the conversation. It would needlessly divide.

I think about what Jesus said about love as a new commandment given that night as recorded by John. How are we to love when we are, at times, so deeply divided? I think it means we lead with love, not our held opinions regarding our recent election.

I know this may sound like a rebuke, I don't intend it to be that. I simply am asking all of us who consider ourselves to be Christ followers to think about leading with love.

However, leading with love does come at a cost. It means remaining silent at times, choosing to love out of silence rather than engagement. It has meant that at times I have been dismissed. It has meant that relationships have become strained to the breaking point.

It also means learning to trust that God is in charge during these tumultuous times with opinions heated by events we may or may not agree with. Keeping my eyes on this fact, God is in charge, has become a deep exercise in faith.

I don't want to be known first by what I believe politically. I want to be known as a man who first loves God and loves others. My political views are totally unimportant if I am to lead first with love.