Thursday, January 31, 2013

Love One Another - A Practical Practice

Beloved, let us love one another; because love is of God, and every one that loves has been begotten of God, and knows God.  Anyone who loves not has not known God; for God is love. -- 1 John 4:7-8 (Darby)
Love gets a lot of attention in almost all Christian circles.  This verse and the "love chapter" in 1 Corinthians 13 are perhaps the two key informing verses to all this attention.   Recently, I picked up a book on Buddhist meditation and one of the meditation forms I came across was Tonglen.  Tonglen is a meditation of taking and giving.  Through Tonglen meditation suffering is taken in and love is given back.

The very first place love is needed in the world is inside ourselves.  The cartoons that have a little devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other are humorous to us because we all have this sense that there is a good person and a bad person inside ourselves.  The Apostle Paul said, the good that I would do I do not and that which i would not that I do.  We wrestle daily with our internal contradictions of what we preach and what we practice.  Rather than just hating the bad parts and our failings, we can use a Tonglen meditation form to transform it.  Using the Tonglen meditation form we can acknowledge the misery or suffering we experience within our negative self.  Confess our negativity and how it blocks God's love flowing through us. We can then take this Bible verse, recognizing that our negative self IS the other (which we would like to deny exists) and embrace that part of ourselves with love.  Let us love even the sinful and difficult side of ourselves first.  If we cannot love ourselves there is no love that can be transmuted anywhere else.  Know that because God first loved us we also can love ourselves.

Once the love has enveloped our good and bad sides we can then turn to praying our love/God's love to surround whatever other people and places we know exist.  Breathing in the awareness of the pain/difficulty and breathing outwardly the assurance of Christ's infinite love for all. God is love.  Love is the leavening that expands and grows pushing away all instances of misery, suffering, difficulty, and sorrow. I encourage you to take this "foreign" insight and shape it to fit your own Christian understandings to pray in a different way.  I pray as you do so that your own spiritual life and your effectiveness in growing God's love in the world will expand.

Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on us and bless our meditations, prayers, words, and thoughts that the world might know you more deeply and dearly.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Response to Uncertainty

As for me, I will look to the Lord, in confidence I will keep watch and in hope and expectancy wait for God my Savior, my God will hear me.  -- Micah 7:7 (verse from memory)
Micah supplies these words of personal resolve in response to his assessment of society expressed in the earlier verses of chapter 7.  He has just finished proclaiming that there is nobody anywhere who can be trusted, nobody that you can look to for help, and murder is common.

When listening or reading the news I frequently find myself starting to bemoan: "What is happening to society?  It is getting worse..."  But I usually pull myself up really quickly and remember some of these words tumbling out of my mom's mouth when I was younger.  For example, she would say things like, "I don't know what to make of the youth of today."  So, not wanting to be like my mom I stop myself, but I still find myself thinking it.  Then, I see that Micah and other prophets felt similarly clear back 3000 years ago.  In fact, is there an older generation anywhere who has not puzzled over the quirks and oddities of the younger generations, or the problems a society meets over time?

One constancy and hope is the eyes and hands of God never stray.  Difficulties come along, many of them extremely hard to bear.  The future is frequently murky and uncertain.  The response to have is to rest in the promise: "my God will hear me."  God WILL hear.  God will act and is on duty at all times steering eternity such that it will end up hopeful and be kindly toward us.  This is faith: to look, to keep watch, to wait.

God, in your mercy, hear my prayers.  Help me to rest patiently in you and wait expectantly to see the magnificent solutions you create.  In Christ and through Christ we pray.  Amen.