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Posts Tagged ‘love’

Original photo by Eddie Adams

Original photo by Eddie Adams

I love dictionaries. They are wonderful tools for discovery and now that they are online, I have a place to hang out any time of day or night. Where else could I discover that “compassion” was, at one time (1580-90), a verb: “compassionate.” I’m still trying to figure out how to use this archaic word in a sentence. And although the word as a verb never caught on, the meaning lingers.

Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. [Luke 6:36, CEB]

The definition says, “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” This has been a deep error on my part for I have always thought of compassion as a feeling, a kind of empathy, sorrow and commiseration. But I have not allowed myself to take on the second part, the doing, the actual work that should be coming out of the feeling.

Rev. Everett Swanson, who started Compassion, Intl. back in the 1950’s, understood both sides of this word from the very beginning and his organization has grown into a multi-million dollar operation offering people all over the world the opportunity to play out a type of doing by financially supporting a child in a developing country. But, are we giving out of a strong desire to alleviate suffering or a kind of guilt and peer pressure?

And so it sometimes goes with giving to the church or tithing or donating to another “good cause.” Our motives are sketchy. I know mine have been to say the least. But I also know that the need is greater than any of us manage alone, for the Lord himself said, “The poor will always be with you . . . ” [Mark 14:7, NIV]. And for this reason, we must choose where we give our monies, our time, and our energy and work together.

I think it’s time to look into my heart for true compassion, for those whom am I honestly feel sorrow and possibly, even distress on their behalf. Have I been playing at this important ingredient of my faith? In some ways, I have followed along with the compassion others feel, slipping along the edges, but I am not convinced that I am “all in.”

For instance, the DNA of our church is much driven by our pastor’s authentic compassion for people who are “far away from God” (for whatever reason, be it bad choices, addictions, or malaise). And the church is becoming the hands and feet on his mission for humanity, loving them, helping them, engaging them for good: we are compassionating them.

It is so much easier to generate a feeling of compassion for people and animals we see in desperate circumstances, in news reports or commercials (how many of us change the channel when the ASPCA ads come on?). It’s simply too painful to watch.

painBut really, aren’t their people whose hearts are equally damaged but hidden within the norms of society? They are in pain too. In some cases, it takes not only a compassionate heart but a discerning one to recognize the lost or wandering soul.

Lord, guide me and sensitize me to the needs of others, not just their daily bread, but their need for the Bread of Life.

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prayer bwPray continually. Are you kidding? Who can do that?

Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. [I Thessalonians 5:16-21, CEB]

I mean it! Outside of Brother Lawrence, a 17th century Carmelite “lay brother” (not even a monk because he did not have the necessary education), who does that? It was Brother’s Lawrence’s words, maxims, and prayers that were compiled after his death into the Christian classic, The Practice of the Presence of God. And what does Brother Lawrence “do” most of any day? He was the cook and bottle washer in the monastery, and all the while, he practiced awareness of God and ultimately, prayer. He prayed continually. Yay Larry.

But what about you and me? I can barely manage to remember to pray the hours, that’s one prayer every 4 hours during the day.

So, just to get a little break from this guilt-producing mandate, I googled it. And there might be a reprieve of sorts. One writer suggested that this passage could have more to do with consistency than non-stop talking (although, I have been known to do the latter under certain circumstances). Another writer advanced that the passage could mean a “ready response” to circumstances, so that the first comeback is a prayer instead of a smart remark. And yet another writer proposed that the verse could refer to an awareness of the beauty around us, thereby giving thanks or when tragedy strikes, ask for mercy, etc. Or, perhaps all of these together make for continually?

Or, perhaps, it’s the goal. Is this verse any more difficult (or easier) than this one, “ Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” [Matthew 5:48, NIV]

And for this reason, I pray this prayer willingly. Join me. Daily.

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

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Under His Wings

Sometimes I just need to know that I am safe.

He will cover you with his feathers,  and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. [Psalm 91:4, NIV]

under wingsI remember a story about a woman who loved this psalm in particular and memorized it but when the time came, when she was grabbed by a man who wanted to hurt her, all she could think of and imagine were the feathers of God as a great bird protecting her young. And so this woman cried out, “feathers, feathers, feathers.” But God knew and the man, inexplicably, let her go, almost as though a force field was drawn about her.

This is my cry today, my prayer.

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Stockphoto by Jessica at Deviant Art

Stockphoto by Jessica at Deviant Art

The essence of the Christian faith is very simple: love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. “On these two commandments hang the law and the prophets” (so written in Matthew 22:38). And yet, most of us are not very good at this kind of loving. Whether we have been faithful followers of Christ for many years or newly minted converts, these two commands trip us up every time. And for this reason, I look forward to intentional times of reflection and self-examination to refresh my focus, whether it’s a retreat or a study or season. Yes, for this reason, I observe Lent each year.

For 2015, I have compiled a devotional for Lent (see Links), with a series of readings and scriptures for meditation. And by meditation, I mean, to read through the selections slowly, to consider, not only their meaning, but their application to present circumstances and faith.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” [II Chronicles 7:14, NIV]

Within this scripture lives a promise for me (and any believer) which I have read often but I haven’t actively pursued. Why? Because a chase for humility has always been a fear-laden prospect for me. I have blanched at the thought of some inevitable loss or pain that might manifest as part of the humbling “package.” Humility comes with a cost, I think.

And now, here I am, in grief and recovery from the death of my husband. Intellectually, I know his passing had nothing in particular to do with my lack of humility but, at the same time, I see everything in the light of him gone. For, you see, I am humbled by the unexpected turn in our family’s resources and relationships (we lost a breadwinner, a husband, a father, a brother, and an uncle). Only his parents escaped this sorrow, for they preceded him into that place we call heaven.

praying22I am humbled by the outpouring of love from my friends, my church, my colleagues, my neighbors, and even, quite honestly, strangers too. I am humbled by the unexpected journey I face. I am humbled by the years that have passed and how I took them for granted. I am humbled by the steadfastness and nearness of God, the whispers of the indwelling Holy Spirit, as well as the memories and message of Christ Jesus. But more importantly, I am humbled by the call to pray. Really.
And for this reason, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” [Psalm 27:13, NIV]

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I wrote the obituary for Mike, it’s below. I thank you all for the prayers of family, friends and neighbors. I am in awe of the touch of love through eyes and arms and words through people, whether they were close to me (or Mike) or not, every touch matters. I see that now in a way I never saw it before.

Right now, I know this one thing. Mike was a healthy man with no history of heart disease. His death was both out of his control and mine. And for this reason, I understand, Mike’s passing is part of the journey set before me and my young adult kids;  we must all walk this road in faith and trust. We cannot know what lies ahead, but I rest in my God as best I can although this night of sorrow is long. I am so grateful for the presence of the Holy Spirit from whom I draw my hope.

The Obituary

Mike headshotMichael Leigh Brown died Saturday, Dec 13, 2014 of a massive heart attack at home; he was 64. Mike was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, the youngest son of Vernon Stockton Brown and Lina Snead Brown (both deceased). He attended the University of Georgia, served in the U.S. Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground, worked at Georgia Public Television, and in 1982 married his beloved wife, Irmgarde Berzins Brown. In 1987, he moved to Havre de Grace, Maryland and began his 27-year career at Aberdeen Proving Ground as a television director and videographer. In 1997, he and his wife adopted two children, Arturs “Kip” Brown and Vernon Sergei Brown from Riga, Latvia at ages four and five; seven years later, they adopted Liliana Victoria Brown from St. Petersburg, Russia at fifteen. In addition to his creative work for the government, Mike donated his time and talents to both Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Bel Air and more recently, Restore Church in Havre de Grace. Mike participated in several para-church organizations: Kairos Prison Ministry, Walk to Emmaus, and Cursillo. Mike volunteered at two orphanages in Africa: Children of Zion Village in Katima, Namibia, and Village of Hope, Zambia. He and his wife were leading a team to Africa in the fall of 2015. Mike was a man of faith who walked out his beliefs by working for the good of his community, both near and far.

Mike used his video skills to create personal projects (see his YouTube channel, vydeoynkhorne), record family and life events, as well as church activities. Mike was a history buff, a Robert E. Lee re-enactor, a regular blood donor to the Red Cross, an avid reader, a conspiracy theorist, an investigator into the cryptic, and a champion for ambidexterity and healthy living.

Mike is survived by his wife, three children, and brother, Vernon Stockton Brown, Jr. and several cousins, nieces, and nephews.

Visitation with the family will be Thursday, December 18th, 2 – 4 pm followed by a Memorial Service at 6:30 pm at St. Patrick’s Fellowship Hall at 650 Pennington Avenue, Havre de Grace, MD. There will be no viewing as Mike requested his body be donated to science. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the benevolence fund of Restore Church, Havre de Grace [https://restorechurch.cloverdonations.com/give-online/] or one of the orphanages he supported.

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Photo by Steve Fraser

Photo by Steve Fraser

Throughout history, the Word has had the power to “light the way:” scripture, inspired by God in both the Old Testament and the New. Words handed down to us through story, heroes and villains, miracles and inheritance. The Word, then, a written and verbal account of the presence of God among humankind, given to enlighten our own actions and choices, to give examples and a path toward righteousness; a template for living and a warning in the face of evil. We acknowledge: Your word [God] is a lamp before my feet and a light for my journey. I have sworn, and I fully mean it: I will keep your righteous rules. [Psalm 119:105, CEB]

God gives and we must respond, or at the very least, I am compelled to answer. This psalm, the longest single chapter in the Bible, whose author is officially unknown but most assume that either David, Ezra, or Daniel wrote it. The overall message? The Word of God is all-sufficient.

Can I swear to that and mean  it? Can I keep the laws of God? Not all, for sure; and maybe not even the ten. But if I could just fasten my heart on to the two most compelling “Words” from God, two key laws, two commandments that hold within them, the entire Law of God:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  [Matthew 22:37-39]

These two would light my journey indeed, each and every day, if I allowed them to do so, if I surrendered to their Truth and embraced them wholeheartedly, they would shine the brightest.

But I cannot. I don’t. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man [woman] of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips . . . ” [Isaiah 6:5a, NIV]

And for this reason, I cry out to my Jesus, that One who always knew and knows that I cannot follow that path on my own, no matter how much I want to do so today, tomorrow I will go astray. This I know, this I have seen in myself. Only One can cover me, can make the path wide enough for my weaving heart. Oh Jesu, my Savior, the propitiation for my weak resolve.

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blessingToday I have decided to memorize a blessing of words and love for anyone in need. I discovered this passage today in Colossians.

Because of this, since the day we [I] heard about you, we [I] haven’t stopped praying for you and asking for you to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding. We’re [I am] praying this so that you can live lives [a life] that are [is] worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way: by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God; by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience; and by giving thanks with joy to the Father. He made it so you could take part in the inheritance, in light granted to God’s holy people. He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. He set us [you and me] free through the Son and forgave our sins. [Colossians 1:9-14, CEB]

So often, people ask for prayer, at the conclusion of a meeting or on Facebook, or even in the hallway at work. Please pray for me and I, being the dutifully believer, say that I will. But how often do my good intentions slide by and I forget that name or that circumstance. This short prayer covers so much and if I am able to put it to memory, it can be in my mind and in that moment. It’s a complete blessing, full of the riches of promise and good will, grace and hope. And so, even right now, whoever may read this post, know, that I offer these same words to you.

All of these things I pray , in the name of Jesus, who is “the image of the invisible God” [Colossians 1:15].

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