Category: Love, Mercy, Grace, and Forgiveness

How to Pray for a Loved One Who is Dying

In my mother’s final days, I sat at her bedside and read aloud through the Psalms of Ascent. Originally written for ancient pilgrims travelling to the temple, Psalms 120-134 may also be read as psalms addressing our journey through life. They speak of family and community, work and rest, suffering and rejoicing, sin and God’s … Continue reading How to Pray for a Loved One Who is Dying
Syndicated from April Yamasaki


Cruciform Communion Meal

First Course: Taken
Article by Brianna Millett
You are perfectly loved by God.
You are joyously Taken.
You are immeasurably Blessed.
You are sacrificially Broken.
You are generously Given.
I have become convinced that these four words are the answer to our deepest longings. They are the healing balm to our wounds of rejection, fear, hopelessness and unworthiness. This 4-Course Cruciform Communion meal is the holistic life that expands shalom, unity, healing, hope and love. And we begin with the first course – Taken.
What does it mean to be Taken? Henri Nouwen suggests exchanging the word take –“which is a somewhat cold and brittle word and, instead, use a warmer, softer word with the same meaning: the word choose.” So whether you employ the term Taken or Chosen is simply a matter of personal preference, the implications remain the same. Because of this we can ask, what does it mean to be Chosen?
“To be chosen does not mean that others are rejected. To be chosen is something radically different. Instead of excluding others, it includes others. Instead of rejecting others as less valuable, it accepts others in their own uniqueness.” This, my friends, is the feast of our chosenness – of the chosenness of every human being; the adulteress, the tax collector, the thief, the terrorist, the Calvinist, the Open Theist, the gay, the straight, the mamas and the papas, the widow and the virgin, the enemy and the friend! Come and indulge—You Are Chosen!
Just like the already-not yet paradox of the coming Kingdom, so too it is with this first course of the Cruciform Communion meal. You see, we are already chosen by God, and we are becoming the chosen of God. You are children of God by nature (Acts 17:25ff; Gen. 1:27) and as you enter into relationship with Christ you are becoming sons and daughters of Christ (Eph. 1:5; Gal. 4:5).
The full measure of our chosenness is manifested only as we respond to Christ and enter into a loving, transforming, altogether beautiful relationship with Jesus. Only when we turn to the Lord are we transformed into the same image “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).
To carry the conversation even further we may include the word ‘Called’ alongside ‘Chosen’ and ‘Taken,’ for I submit to you the implications still remain quite similar. “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me” (John 6:44). And we, then freely choose to respond to the call. “God calls the world into being, and so the being of all that exists is a response to that call.” The Spirit will never coerce us into coming to the Father, for what kind of love is a coerced kind of love? In order for love to be sincere it must be freely chosen.
The God who is Love calls, and to that call we freely respond.  
Theological aesthetics intimates this idea of call and response quite well. In seeing the character of God through the lens of beauty, this first course of the Communion meal can be universalized. I’m willing to bet that most of us, if not all of us, have had encounters with beauty. We run to the wildness of the mountains and delight in colorful bouquets of nature’s blossoms; we behold the wonder of the night sky and catch our breath at the candy-colored sunset horizon. Beauty touches us deep within; it calls to us. French philosopher Jean-Louis Chretien articulates, “What is beautiful is what calls out by manifesting itself and manifests itself by calling out. To draw us to itself as such, to put us in motion toward it, to move us, to come and find us where we are so that we will seek it – such is beauty’s call and such is our vocation.”
What is important here is the ordering of the call and the beautiful. Beautiful, kalon, is what comes from a call, kalein. God’s call precedes the pronouncement of beauty. Just as we respond the call of beauty with our “oo’s and ahh’s,” so too we respond to the call of God’s love with our “Here I am!”
We are already named God’s chosen, but we must courageously and boldly respond by claiming it as our own. Maybe you think it’s too good to be true. Maybe you think you are not worthy to respond to God’s unbridled call of love. More often than not we reject the feast and, instead, gorge on the crumbs of insecurities that scream at us, “Your sin is too great. You’re nothing special. You’re not enough. God would never choose you.”
Oh, dear reader, come back. Come back to the Communion Table. Dare to claim and reclaim your chosenness! Silence the commotion and listen to your heavenly Father calling to you: “You are altogether beautiful, you have ravished my heart (Song of Songs 4). I love you with an everlasting love (Jer. 31). You are a new creation (2 Cor. 5).” Allow these songs of celebration to heal your wounds of rejection, calm your fears and fill you with all the hope that is Christ!
Taste and see, feast upon the goodness of this first course of the Cruciform Communion meal.
Take, and eat. You are forgiven. You are wonderfully made. Take, and eat. You are image-bearers of Christ. You are precious in God’s sight. Take, and eat. You are called. You are chosen. Take, and eat. You are loved.
The post Cruciform Communion Meal appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Podcast: Where Does Forgiveness Fit in a Cruciform Theology?

Greg offers looks at forgiveness in a realm of natural consequences.   
Send Questions To:
Dan: @thatdankent
Twitter: @reKnewOrg
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Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

The Voice of Love

Prayer . . . is listening to the voice that calls us "My Beloved." - Henri NouwenMy husband wakes, alone, in the early morning dark.  While the rest of us sleep, he lets the dog out, rekindles a fire in the wood stove, and turns on the coffee pot.  By the time I stumble down, he's often sitting, cross-legged, in the arm chair closest to the stove, with his eyes closed.  With a timer set on his phone, he endeavors to start the day in silent prayer. But, he is no monk in a cell alone. I wander through, on the way to the bathroom, then back again with a full cup of coffee in hand.  Then, my daughter’s alarm clock goes off and she staggers blindly into the living room as well.  The dog, of course, leaves her seat and clatters around, needing a greeting from every new entrant into the room.  His morning prayer is rarely silent, often interrupted, even though his eyes remain closed.The other morning, before the lights were on, my husband sat in his quietening chair and I sat near the base of the stairs, scrolling on my phone.  Then, out of the darkness, six-year-old Levi yelled from the top of the stairs, “Dad? Dad?”Wanting to preserve my husband's silence, I answered for him, “What Levi?”“Where’s Dad?  Is he still home?  Is he going to work today?” Levi belted his questions, like a winter storm flinging hail.  “Yes,” I said, stealing a glance at my husband, whose eyes were now open. “It’s early.  Daddy’s still home, but he’s going to work in a little while.  What do you need?”“I want to say goodbye to him,” he called. I looked again at my husband, seated by the stove, and he nodded his head.  “What Levi?” he called.“Goodbye Dad, I love you!  I’ll see you tonight!” Levi said, “Thanks for helping with my Valentines.”“Goodbye, Levi.  I love you too.  I’ll see you tonight, sweetie,” my husband replied. Then, from the shadows, came Levi’s twin brother's voice, “Goodbye Dad, I love you!  I’ll see you tonight!”“Goodbye, Isaiah.  I love you too.  I’ll see you tonight, sweetie.” my husband replied.All semblance of prayer was lost as they scampered back to their beds.  As my husband turned off his timer and prepared to leave for work, it occurred to me that, despite numerous interruptions, his time of silence was also exactly how prayer should be.  Not the absence of sound, but a listening quietly in the dark for the presence, the voice of love.  How very lucky we are when that voice descends not once, but twice, clothed in the voice of a six-year-old child. May you find the voice of Love descending on you today in unexpected ways.  
Syndicated from This Contemplative Life

Waiting for the Messiah

On this feast day of the Presentation, here is an excerpt from a sermon I preached several years ago on Luke 2:22-38. Do you see that old man, sitting in the corner? He’s easy to miss. Shuffles into the temple most every day. Shrunken, bent with age. Wandering awkwardly among the crowds until the weariness…
Syndicated from Spacious Faith

Podcast: Is God Fickle?

Is there anything at stake in our life? Greg balances God’s mercy and grace with the authenticity of free will.
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Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

A Prayer for Today

Let us pray for all God’s people:
For those who this day have woken up to adventure and love, and for those who trod through this day painfully hoping it will end soon.
For those who are struggling in their marriages, and for those who are struggling in their singleness.
For those who have problems with their children, and for those who yearn to have a family of their own.
For those enslaved by violence, oppression, and greed, and for the ones who enslave them.
For those who suffer from ill-health, mental disturbance, or increased disability, and for those who suffer in the state of their mind due to their own prejudices and character defects without even knowing how lost they are.
For those who travel to explore, and for those who travel to escape.
For those who are too trusting, and for those who do not trust enough.
For those addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, and gambling, and for those addicted to being liked, popularity, prestige, and fame.
For those who are homeless, and for rich Christians living in an age of hunger who refuse to do anything about it.
For those trying to find their worth in meaningless encounters, and for those who have found their worth but now are struggling once again with the possibility of losing it.
For those who are beaten down, and for those who beat down others.
For those who are puffed up and for those who do not consider themselves worthy enough.
For those who are bold enough to question, and for those who do not know which questions to ask.
For those afflicted, and for those too comfortable to notice the affliction of others.
For those who wander, and those who are bored of being at home.
For those who seek, and those who have found.
For those who hope for community but have not yet found it, and for those who tirelessly seek to build and restore community.
For those who care for the earth, and those who ravish it without conscience.
For those who are humble, and those who are haughty.
For saints and sinners, all.
For those who have found their home in the organized halls of religion – of church steeples, choirs, and pews, and for those searching but still on the fringes.
For those who find themselves on the fringes but would like to be included, and for those who choose to be on the fringes and find themselves excluded.
For those who doubt, and for those who believe.
For those who are just trying to recover for the first time today, and for those who have given up trying.
For those who mentor, and for those who need to be mentored.
For those who change too frequently and for those who do not change enough.
For the dreamers, the poets, the artists, and creators,
And for those who have had their creativity shut down.
For those for whom prayers are few and far between, and for those whose prayers effortlessly lift off their lips though never sincerely mean the words in their hearts.
For the broken, bruised, bandaged, and bemused.
And for the brave who are bothered by injustice.
Father of all Eternal Glory,
Draw ever near us today, be ever present
So that we, in turn, may be present to others.
Lord in Your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Syndicated from Zweibach and Peace – Thoughts on Pacifism and Contemporary Anabaptism

Some Days, We Nap Together (What Tragedy Demands of Us)

Some days, after working in my office all morning and eating a quick lunch at my desk, my body grows heavy and slow and my thoughts turn to molasses.  With just an hour left before the first child arrives back home, before I leave to work an evening shift at the library, I close my laptop, grab my phone and head for my office door.  My dog, Coco, half-sleeping in her corner chair, lifts her head, then jumps down and follows me outside across the blacktop soaked with sunlight, up the back steps, and into the big house. 

Inside, I pause while we each get a drink of water – her at her metal bowl and me at the vintage water fountain near our kitchen door.  Then, I grab a blanket or beach towel – whichever is warm enough and near at hand – and head into the winter room where the wood stove sits heavy in the corner, squat and round, a cast iron Buddha.  Coco follows at my heels and watches patiently as I hunt one room, then another, in search of our sole throw pillow. 
Pillow in hand, I lay down in the same position, always.  Pressing the pillow into one end of our old, leather love seat, I lay down on my right side, curling my long legs to fit on the too-short sofa.  Coco watches with patience and focus as I spread the blanket or towel over myself, then stick my legs out straight off of the couch, offering a pathway to the pocket of empty space at the far end. 
I pat the leather with my hand, twice.  Coco pauses, very still, and looks me in the eye, double-checking her permission.  “Come on, Coco,” I say and up she jumps, then turns and settles in the corner.  I bend my legs again and tuck in around her, careful to keep from bumping her muzzle with my feet.  The warmth of her soft, sweet body adds to my own and we sleep, tucked together, her head resting on my ankles. 
Her presence, as I rest, is pure gift.  The gift of quiet, undemanding companionship; the gift of with-ness that cannot be measured save for the way it softens and steadies the human heart. 
She wakes, when I wake and shift.  Or, sometimes, too warm and close for comfort, she hops down before the nap gets under way.  Some days, if I'm lucky, our handsome black cat notices our napping nest and jumps down from his solitary leather chair and comes purring along into my arms.  On those days, the cat settles opposite the dog, in the space in front of my chest.  Together, we form a sort of yin-yang arrangement of fur and flesh, the cat in front of me, the dog behind.  
I experience a profound goodness during these naps, which may seem a small thing amidst all the world’s evils and sorrows, not to mention my own small entanglements.  But I am wondering whether tragedy really demands the trivializing of such moments of beauty, wonder, and grace – moments when the human soul stretches and softens, relaxed and at ease?
Perhaps tragedy and sorrow, worry and fear, require instead, that we linger and luxuriate in these moments.  Maybe Love itself invites us to spread them out wide for the world to see or to tuck them in somewhere safe, like a golden leaf in fall noticed, gathered, and pressed between the pages of a book where it can be rediscovered time and again in the long winter months ahead. 
I love these moments with the dog, the cat; they are precious to me and I cannot pass them off as something less than mercy and grace.  Evil is never defeat by casting what is precious aside.  Evil is defeated when we gently welcome, gather and share what is good and holy and true.  In this way light and life and love are born and borne and multiplied in our midst. 
The world is a heavy and troubled place.  It is also riddled through with mercy, grace and love.  In these days of naming darkness, let us remember also to gather and spread the Light we're given, casting it high and wide, like a million stars lighting up the night.

 Coco and I sharing a little pre-nap love. 
Where are you finding Mercy, Grace and Love these days??

Syndicated from This Contemplative Life

Season after Pentecost (Proper 19 [24]): The Gospel Passage – Forgiveness for our fellow believers

“Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21 – 22)

As I came to write on this passage, I needed to remind myself that Jesus is speaking about forgiving fellow believers, and not the forgiveness that believers receive from the Lord God. Remembering has been a little more of a challenge lately; my life has been pretty hectic. And to my chagrin, I realized I had forgotten to save this post the first time I wrote it. So I am having to reconstruct what I think I wrote!

[ It is time for the beloved readers here to start the move to the site where these posts will have their new home. To read this post in its entirety please go to the blog site Pondering From the Pacific ]
Filed under: Revised Common Lectionary Year A 2017 Tagged: Pondering From the Pacific
Syndicated from a simple desire

Pope Francis Is NOT A Champion Of The Marginalized

Pope Francis has, by and large, been lauded by many progressive Christians since the earliest days of his papacy– I have been one of them. In fact, in 2015 I was interviewed by CNN as one of a variety of non-Catholic faith leaders who liked and respected him, even going so far as to say […]
Syndicated from The Official Blog of Benjamin L. Corey

What I Love About Portraits: The Beauty of Every Face

Almost everything I remember clearly about the past has to do with a person, often with a face.
These days, granddaughter Lydia is teaching me about the early origins of love for the human face. Below is 29 seconds of a typical interaction with her at ten weeks of age.
She is alert and curious, but something special happens when her eyes lock onto mine.

The impulse to record moments like the above and to try to capture something unique, yet universal, about another person unites those of us with a calling to teach, make art, and document life stories, such as this one.
As I sit here on a Wednesday morning, three levels above Penn Avenue, waiting for Lydia to arrive, I am musing about faces and why I love portraits so much. I’m influenced by our recent family vacation where we got to watch an expert photographer at work.

Note every face. Can you tell that black flies were biting us? The photographer took them away electronically, but we felt their bites all evening. Can you tell who was itching to get away from them? Photos by Kelly Sea Images.

T or F: The two looking at each other make this portrait of the whole more interesting.

Those eyes. They do much more than just see.

The way he holds her. His sensitivity.

A good photographer relaxes the subject of portraits, like Joyous Photographer managed to do with the first photo shoot after Lydia came home from the hospital.  In two weeks I am going to take my first digital photography with Mandy Kendall at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts class.
Guess what I hope to focus on? How to take high-quality portraits, both candid and posed.
I can’t end this post without the reminder of the thousands of faces in Houston, and now New Orleans, who are experiencing devastation from flooding from Hurricane Harvey. Here is a series of dramatic photos I ask you to look at prayerfully. Maybe you want to print one of these to put on your desk to remind you to keep praying.
Then get out your checkbook. I’ll be sending my dollars here.
We have so little power against nature when she is enraged.
But the power we do have can be seen in the place all babies learn to look: the human face.
I wish the comments section would allow us to upload photos from you that show your love of the human face. But since they don’t, I’d love to hear your portrait stories. Could be written description, image, or song.
Syndicated from Shirley Hershey Showalter

Can You Love the Enemy Who is Trying to Kill You?

In the wake of Charlottesville, the Internet can be divided into two (three) people: the people crying that we should all “love our enemy;” the people shouting “They are literally trying to kill me;” (and the neo-Nazi defenders, who promote killing the aforementioned people; don’t even go down that rabbit hole).

The crux of the argument between the first two groups: Can You Love the Enemy who is Trying to Kill You?
Can You Love the Enemy Who is Trying to Kill You?
Spoiler Alert: if you’re Christian, you have to find a way from here to there. Jesus himself says the problematic phrase “Love your enemies.” But there are some twists and turns before we get there.

The problem with the enemy-loving question, especially on the Internet, is that most people argue from a Kantian perspective. To be perfectly objective, Immanuel Kant is a German philosopher who tried to universalize his own privilege as a mechanism for ethical discernment. Those calling for enemy-loving are often trying to universalize a moral claim in order to apply it to someone else. More pointedly, they tend to be privileged people suggesting that because I am white and I have been your enemy, you must love me. People who have done wrong have a vested interest in convincing the wronged to love their enemies. This is why Kant is insufficient.

Taking Kant out of the equation, we have two other starting points.

John Stuart Mill at Kant’s Birthday (from Existential Comics).

First, all ethics is situational ethics. Ethics is shaped and defined by the situation in which it occurs. The Bible is full of ethics that only apply because of the unique situation (it is a highly specific situation when Jacob is applauded for wrestling an angel). Second, morality can be Role-Based. The moral response depends on the role you play in the situation. Different roles carry different amounts of power, and what’s morally conscionable shifts depending how much power you have. As Karen Lebascqz writes, “power that attaches to [one’s] role is morally relevant in determining an appropriate… ethic.” This is the Robin Hood premise–we defend Robin Hood’s morality because he steals from the wealthy to feed the starving.

Understanding situational ethics and role-based morality, we have a more nuanced answer to the question Can You Love the Enemy Who is Trying to Kill You? There are two definitions of kill and three definitions of love that allow us to say “yes.”
The two definitions of kill:
1) the actual violence of an individual or group that gives a person reasonable suspicion of harm
2) the figurative language of historical memory, recalling a time when violence up-to-and-including-death was routinely perpetrated by one group against another
(1) Many people of color and Jews have expressed this post-Charlottesville in their own fears and in their calls for better allyship. If you’re struggling with this one, check your own privilege and educate yourself.

(2) People in power often want to ignore this definition because it means that sometimes, when people are mad at you, their anger is justified. “Kill” does not always literally mean “kill,” but it is the certain knowledge that a person–even a professed ally–could kill you at any time without repercussions, and that is never not part of your relationship to the ally.

Too often in social discourse, the privileged try to set the terms of enemy-loving. But you lost the right do that when you (or your predecessors) persecuted an entire group.

How white people sound sometimes when they say “Love Your Enemy.”

White people cannot demand that people of color love them because they are enemies (racism still exists). Men cannot demand that women love them because they are enemies (see Taylor Swift testimony). Heterosexuals cannot demand that gay people love them because they are enemies (the church can’t be sorry gay people are sad while it’s discriminating against gay people). To return to situational ethics: I sometimes behave what-would-otherwise-be rudely to men out of the historical memory and sense of risk I have being around men. But because I am white, people of color may also behave what-would-otherwise-be rudely to me. “Rudeness” shifts with power. I cannot call another person “rude” if they are concerned for their basic survival and preservation of humanity. Trust is earned and interpersonal, and part of earning trust is not policing the behavior of survivors. If you are on the Internet calling us to “all get along,” consider whether you are saying (or others are hearing you say) “love me because I have wronged you.”
The three definitions of love:
1) a commitment to the nurture, thriving, and growth [of an enemy]
2) from the complicated philosopher Taylor Swift, who declares “like any great love, it keeps you guessing/like any real love, it’s ever-changing/like any true love, it drives you crazy”
3) Karen Lebacqz’s practice of enemy-loving as the dance between “forgiveness and survival”
This allows us to rephrase the question:
(1) Can You Commit to the Nurture, Thriving, and Growth of an Enemy Who is Trying to (Literally) Kill You?
There are a number of social justice warriors who model this: Martin Luther King, Jr; Ghandi; Oscar Romero; Elizabeth Cady Stanton; Jesus. Jesus loves his enemies in a strategic, disruptive, threateningly nonviolent way that that supports the nurture, thriving, and growth of his enemies. He confronts enemies who have both more and less power than him: he welcomes Zacchaeus down from a lonely and uncomfortable tree; he befriends a Samaritan woman; he preaches justice. Sometimes, his body at risk. But he takes calculated risks to shift the conditions and social environment, impacting partial-allies who can influence enemies. Can you facilitate the nurture, thriving, and growth of neo-Nazis?
(2) Can You Respond to the Enemy Who is Trying to (Literally) Kill You and Keep Them Guessing, Ever-changing, and Drive them Crazy?
Since I first heard “Welcome to New York,” I’ve valued T. Swift’s description of real, true, and great love. It’s a divine description, a love that keeps you guessing, ever-changing, and driving you crazy. Jesus kept his enemies guessing: if he was not going to start a violent rebellion, what would he do? Through strategic dialogues in spaces where he had a probability of safety, Jesus provoked change. When people were unwilling to change, he forced them to confront and confess that they were not changing. In the underhanded way the institutions tried-and-failed to stop him, he drove them crazy. Can you keep neo-Nazis guessing, ever-changing, and drive them crazy?
(3) Can You Forgive and Survive the Enemy Who Has Historically Tried to Kill You?
This definition does not apply to the men (and women) rallying in Charlottesville as much as it does the so-called allies whose response has been lackluster. It applies to the practice of intimate enemy-love, people struggling to come to terms with the fact that because of historical memory or actual repeated microaggression they are your enemy.

Karen Lebacqz argues that feminists in heterosexual relationships are practicing love of enemy. She describes the two guiding principles in these relationships as Forgiveness and Survival. You can extend forgiveness if and only if the enemy recognizes that they need pardoning (which is why this form of love applies to allies, not neo-Nazis). Forgiveness is an enemy-loving practice. But forgiveness is never the culmination of the relationship–the culmination is survival. Thus, Eliza Hamilton can “take [her husband’s] hand” and declare that “it’s quiet uptown” while she simultaneously says “you forfeit all right to my bed/you’ll sleep in your office instead.” Her forgiveness is woven into survival.

There is a difference between survival and revenge. Survival is the first definition of love–the desire for your own nurture, thriving, and growth. Revenge is the desire to destroy the enemy’s nurture, thriving, and growth. People in privilege often perceive survival as revenge–an oppressed person defending their thriving is not an assault on your thriving. (And this is the fundamental message we must communicate to neo-Nazis). Can you extend forgiveness-with-survival to neo-Nazis? No, because they are not repentant. But with those who are repentant, you can extend forgiveness-with-survival?
So Can You Love the Enemy Who is Trying to Kill You?
There are no easy answers–that was clear from the moment we left Kant for situational ethics. Instead, the conclusion we come to is this: you cannot police how someone else loves their enemy. White people, people in privilege, do not get to dictate the terms of enemy-loving. What they can do is confess role-relational morality over and over, and over and over. People in privilege can confess loudly that all ethics is situational ethics, that loving your enemy is a slippery, ever-changing, guessing, crazy-making process–but a worthwhile, vital, deeply faithful one.

Another way to think about allyship.

And if do want to post something about Loving Your Enemy: specify which type of love you mean.

Syndicated from gathering the stones


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