Tag Archives: Love

Making it Home

So this coming Sunday is Homecoming for ACU, and at the Highland Church that means a lot of friends and family that we haven’t seen in a while are back in town for worship. This video is a promo that we shot for this weekend back in July. It’s about the series we are going through this Fall, but for me it’s a lot more special than just some promotional video.

It’s the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, the place were Elvis was married, where Sinead O’ Conner was married, where Brittany Spears got married….twice. But for me it was Holy Ground, because I got to make this video in the very room my parents got married in 50 years ago.

They eloped to Las Vegas, and were married in the middle of the night by a Church of Christ “Reverend”. Their only witness was a woman in a Chanel House coat (who I actually got to meet back in July!) It was holy ground not because of the place, but because of the promises made there. My parents had promised to give their lives to each other, and for the past 33 years I’ve watched them do just that.

So Mom and Dad, thanks for making that promise. Because of that promise you didn’t just give me a house to grow up in, that promise was how you made it home.

And If you are in Abilene this weekend, we’d love to see you at Highland. I’ve never seen somebody do what we are going to try and do this weekend, and I’ve been dreaming about it for years. But you’ll have to come to see! Services are at 8:15 and 11:00 and our Instrumental service is at 5:00 P.M. at our Grace Campus (N. 9th and Cypress St.)

So if you happen to make it to Abilene this weekend, we hope you can make it home!

God at Work: Love Works

“Divine service conducted here three times a day.”-Inscription above Ruth Bell Graham’s Kitchen Sink

“Work is love made visible”- Kahlil Gibran

Jesus at the office

When I first got to Highland Church, one of the first people who came by my office to visit me was a senior saint named Mrs. Pauline.

Mrs. Pauline is still one of my favorite people to go to Church with. She’s petite and wears thick glasses, and talks softly and unassuming. And every weekday Mrs. Pauline gets up and goes to work at the local grocery store as a bagger.

She’s not very strong, but she works hard, and people all over Abilene will wait in a grocery line just to have Mrs. Pauline bag their groceries…including me.

Miracle Work

Remember the Manna story in the Old Testament? God sends bread raining down from Heaven? It’s a great story for a children’s bible, but it’s the exception not the rule. Because most of the time in Scripture, God tells people that He will provide for them, we don’t see bread falling from Heaven. Instead, we find God immediately tapping people on the shoulder who are able to work.

God’s daily miracles are to feed the world through farmers and grocery store workers.

I think it’s interesting that the number one selling book related to careers on Amazon, is the Four Hour Work WeekI think that gives us a bit of insight to the culture we live in. We now look at work at a necessary evil that we must deal with to be able to get to the fun stuff of life. The general assumption is that work is a horrible way to spend your time, and so try and get it down to as little time as possible.

We think of work as means to an end, which means we rarely reflect much on where we spend most of our life.

But that fails to see why God gave us work. God could’ve made the world the way the Greek’s dreamed up paradise. He could have made it in a way that it didn’t need tending. But he didn’t. He made the world incomplete, because he wasn’t just creating people, He was creating partners.

When I was in college, one of my Bible professors told me about how he had employed a homeless man earlier in the week. The homeless man was panhandling, and my teacher walked up to him and said that he needed his shed painted. So the homeless man asked him how much it paid, and when my teacher friend offered $40, the homeless man informed him he could make $60 just sitting up here holding a sign. And my professor friend said, “Yeah, but you will sleep better tonight.”

And the man painted the shed.

Because we intuitively know my teacher friend is right, there is something life-giving about the right kind of work…because it’s about contributing to the good of the world.

Now most of the time when I hear people start talking about the value of work, it’s denigrates certain socio-economic classes as lazy or irresponsible. But I’ve noticed that laziness is spread evenly across the economic spectrum. For example…

Working Love Ryan-Gosling in the Notebook

After Ryan Gosling had starred in the movie The Notebook he found himself depressed and very moody. And eventually he wound up taking a job making sandwiches. Which is not what you might expect a big name new movie star to do. But what I love about this story is the reason Gosling gave for doing it.He told GQ magazine this:

“The problem with Hollywood is that nobody works. They have meals. They go to Pilates. But it’s not enough. So they do drugs. If everybody had a pile of rocks in their backyard and spent everyday moving them from one side of the yard to the other, it would be a much happier place.”

This is what our culture of 4 hour work week doesn’t understand. One of the reasons work matters so much is because it’s part of what it means to be fully human. We are given gifts to use to serve our neighbors, and working is one of the chief ways that we show and receive love.

Which brings me back to Mrs. Pauline. The reason people stand in her line is not because she does a particularly amazing job at bagging groceries (although she is very good), but because she sees each person that comes through her line as a chance for ministry. She asks everyone about their day, takes their bags to the car for them, and then she asks each person if she can give them a hug?

Because, in her words, the world needs a few more people giving hugs.

And judging by her lines at H.E.B, she’s right.

Kahlil Gibran once said that:

“Work is love made Visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.”

Next week, I’ll write about finding joy in our work, but for now, How do you find your work as an outlet for love? Not that your work will always be rainbows and sunshine…But can we learn to see our work as a way to love, and sometimes hug, our neighbor?

May you find work you love, and may your love work.

Everyday Idolatry: Love is God

“You’re nobody till somebody loves you.” -Dean Martin

Temple in Chennai, India

She sits in my office as her eyes dart nervously around the room, and we continue to make small talk. Eventually, her eyes settle and she tells me what she’s been dying to get off her chest. Over the past few years, she’s developed an eating disorder. The body that she had wasn’t attracting the attention she had been taught to expect, so she started making changes. She dreams of being happily married with kids, and so she started making certain sacrifices.

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He stares at the picture of his old family, before placing it back in the drawer. He sincerely hopes they’re doing well, he loves his kids and misses being such a large part of their lives. He even misses his Ex. He misses the memories that they had and how they almost always knew what the other was thinking. But now that he’s met someone else, it’s hard to explain how powerful the desire he has for her. It was like nothing he had ever experienced before, she was worth certain sacrifices. And he had made them, and would continue to do so every time he placed his families picture in the drawer.

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For days she had been dreading having to tell her kids that she was getting married again…she knew how they would respond. After all, they’d been down this road several times before, and they had seen this coming.  For the last month they’d been seeing the same old patterns emerge Their mom was withdrawing from her friends and family to spend most of her time with a new man. And the kids knew they were going to lose their mother one more time to another infatuation. The mother loves her kids, but she dreams of a life where someone loves and appreciates her as a wife, and for that life she’s willing to make certain sacrifices.

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When I was a junior in college, I spent a semester in Greece touring the ancient temples and ruins. We walked around the famous museums and the same ground that Paul travelled and the first Christians bled on. And we saw lots and lots of idols. Looking back, it’s ironic to me that I thought that was the first time I had seen an idol.

The truth is it was just the first time I had known I was seeing them.

Ernest Becker, in his book, The Denial of Death talks about the new development of “apocalyptic romance” We look to sex and love from another to give us a sense of transcendence. We want to be a part of a story larger than ourselves, we want to worship, and so we will.

Here’s how Becker says it:

“We still needed to feel heroic, to know that life mattered in the scheme of things. Man still wants to merge himself with some higher, self-absorbing meaning, in trust and gratitude, and if he no longer has God how else is he to do this?..The love partner becomes the divine ideal within which to fulfill one’s life. In one word, the love object is God…Man reached for a “thou” when the world-view of the great religious communities overseen by God died…After all, what is it when we elevate the love partner to the position of God? We want to be justified, we want to know our existence has not been in vain. We want redemption-nothing less.”

If you are to ask someone from my generation to describe God in one word, we would say God is love. And I like that description…a lot. I think the apostle John did too, but I’ve come to learn that words only mean what we want them to. And when the Christian story talks about love it already has a definition for it.

But the larger problem is that I don’t think we actually mean what we say we do. I think we are saying God is love, but what we really are trying to say is that Love is God.

Back in the day that Jesus and Paul lived in, there was actually a god of Love. Her name was Aphrodite and she was a fun god to worship and a horrible god to please.

She still is.

In her day, Aphrodite was worshipped by temple prostitutes, they were known as “sacred slaves.” She was worshipped by sexual encounters with girls who were slaves. Today we would call them brothels and we would want to kick in the doors to free those girls.

We hear about temple prostitutes and we think how primitive, but we are still making sacrifices to the same god they served.

They are the certain sacrifices that to those around us seem ridiculous and self-destructive but to us seem divine.

I’ll write more about the idolatry of love next week, but for now.. if there is one thing I’ve learned in ministry, it’s this: idol worship is never what we think it is. And it can never deliver what we think it will. I can’t tell you how many families I’ve sat with in the aftermath of “certain sacrifices.” And as sad as that is, the worst part isn’t sitting with the victims. It’s sitting with the people who’ve created them. The husband who left his family, or the mother who neglected her kids, and watching the realization dawning on them that they are in love with love. And love isn’t worth what the sacrifices they thought it was.

God is Love, but Love isn’t God.

Love Never Fails

So there is this one time in the book of Acts, where Paul is in the middle of this kind of sham trial. He’s in front of the Sanhedrein, the Jewish religious leaders of his day, and he’s facing the death penalty. It’s got to be a stressful situation to say the least. And to make the situation even worst, at one point, Paul gets unfairly slapped in the face. Continue reading Love Never Fails