Love Makes the World Go Round

il_570xN.427153436_ix93It seems I just can’t get away from the “L” word for too long – it’s been said that love makes the world go round, and while I think they were talking about romantic love, when we talk about a deeper all-inclusive love, that statement has a lot of truth.

Love doesn’t just mean “you are special to me”.  I think it means something more like “you are totally accepted as a child of God, a brother or sister, and I desire your highest good”.  What we are accepting is the value of that person, our common humanity, the fact we can’t escape from that we are in the same family, connected.  What if this person has done horrible things?  What if they have hurt us?  How can we love them?  We can state the facts and how they have affected us, we can feel the pain, we can allow that person to face the consequences of their actions, and still see their inherent value and desire their highest good.

The sooner the world understands this, the better it will be for humanity and the sooner we can move forward.  It’s not just a silly idea some people promote because they want to avoid the tough issues and pretend everything is o.k.  It’s the starting point for a whole new way of relating and being in the world.  Until we “get it”, we are stuck.  If we are truly one family, all connected, what one person does affects everyone else.  If we could see with sight beyond our physical eyes, into the world of spirit, the world of energy in motion, I believe we would live much different lives.  We could never wish harm or ill will on anyone.  We would see the value of pulling our brother up because we’d be pulling ourselves and everyone else up at the same time.

I recently listened to a molecular biologist talk about the fact that our cells will always move toward a positive signal, and when they do this, they are in a state of growth.  Conversely, they will always move away from something negative and toxic and be in a state of protection.  They can’t do both at the same time.  The number one positive signal our cells can receive, even above nutrition, is the signal of love.  Yes, when we receive love (and when we think love and give love), our cells respond to that signal and health is produced in our bodies.  That is why babies in orphanages who are fed and changed but not held and nurtured fail to thrive and sometimes even die.

Humanity is really like one body, and we are the individual cells.  When we don’t love others and even ourselves, we live in fear, feel the need for protection, and shut off our growth mechanisms.  Even though there are many things going on in our world that could cause us to fear and live in a protective mode, we still have the choice of whether to live in love or fear.  The two can’t co-exist.  When I renew my mind to believe that I am totally, unconditionally loved by God (and if the word God bothers you because of words and actions by people in your past in the name of God, call it Divine Intelligence or Source – the word itself is not that important.  Some people use the term Heavenly Father but some people associate the word Father with fear and shame so that doesn’t work for them. The point in my opinion is to feel loved and cared for by a power greater than ourselves)  and when I choose to love others – desire their highest good and do what I can to bring that about – not only are the cells of my body in a positive state of growth and health, but the cells of the body of humanity (the body of Christ) are being helped in that direction.  And surely there must come a tipping point where the power of love exceeds the power of fear and we grow instead of simply trying to survive and protect ourselves by moving away from the toxic state of fear.

The choices we make every day, every minute, matter.  Once we have made a commitment to live a life of love, those choices become easier.  Ripping someone off or trying to get ahead at the expense of other people won’t be a choice we make because we understand that it’s not only hurting the other person, it is hurting us too.  Lying about someone to make ourselves look better doesn’t come naturally anymore.  Judging someone else by their background or race or previous actions all of a sudden doesn’t feel right.  Even when other people’s words and actions are obviously not coming from a place of love,  we don’t hold it against them even if we do have to confront them.  When we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are loved, and when we commit to being a person of love, we change. And I believe that is how the world will change.  “Love Never Fails”.

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Love is the Door

“About fifteen years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of Faith.  That was the day I first saw Tommy.  My eyes and my mind both blinked.  He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders.  It was the first time I had ever seen a boy with hair that long.  I guess it was just coming into fashion then.  I know in my mind that it isn’t what’s on your head but in it that counts, but on that day I was unprepared and my emotions flipped.  I immediately filed Tommy under “S” for strange. . very strange.

Tommy turned out to be the “atheist in residence” in my Theology of Faith course.  He constantly objected to, smirked at, or whined about the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father God.  We lived with each other in relative peace for one semester, although I admit he was for me at times a serious pain in the back pew.  When he came up at the end of the course to turn in his final exam, he asked in a slightly cynical tone: “Do you think I’ll ever find God?”  I decided instantly on a little shock therapy.  “No!” I said very emphatically.  “Oh,” he responded, “I thought that was the product you were pushing”.  I let him get five steps from the classroom door and then called out: “Tommy, I don’t think you’ll ever find him, but I am absolutely certain that he will find you.”  He shrugged a little and left my class and my life (temporarily).  I felt slightly disappointed at the thought that he had missed my clever line.  “He will find you.”  At least I thought it was clever.

Later I learned that Tom graduated, and I was duly grateful.  Then a sad report.  I heard that Tom had terminal cancer.  Before I could search him out, he came to see me.  His body was badly wasted, and the long hair had all fallen out as a result of chemotherapy.  But his eyes were bright, and his voice was firm for the first time, I think.  “Tommy, I’ve thought about you so often.  I hear you are sick!” I blurted out.

“Oh, yes, very sick.  I have cancer in both lungs.  It’s a matter of weeks.”

“Can you talk about it, Tom?”

“Sure, what would you like to know?”

“What’s it like to be only twenty-four and dying?”

“Well, it could be worse.”

“Like what?”

“Well, like being fifty and having no values or ideals, like being fifty and thinking that booze, seducing women, and making money are the real ‘biggies’ in life.”

I began to look through my mental file cabinet under “S” where I had filed Tom as strange. (I swear that everybody I try to reject by classification God sends back into my life to educate me).

“But what I really came to see you about”, Tom said, “is something you said to me on the last day of class”. (He remembered!)

He continued, “I asked you if you thought I would ever find God and you said, ‘No!’ which surprised me.  Then you said  ‘But he will find you’.  I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time.”

“But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, then I got serious about locating God.  And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging bloody fists against the bronze doors of heaven.  But God did not come out.  In fact, nothing happened.  Did you every try anything for a long time with great effort and with no success?  You get psychologically glutted, fed up with trying.  And then you quit.  Well, one day I woke up, and instead of throwing a few more futile appeals over that high brick wall to a God who may be or may not be there, I just quit.  I decided that I didn’t really care. . . about God, about an afterlife, or anything like that.”

“I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more profitable.  I thought about you and your class, and I remembered something else you had said: ‘The essential sadness is to go through life without loving.  But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you had loved them.’

“So I began with the hardest one: my dad.  He was reading a newspaper when I approached him.”

“Dad. . . ”

“Yes, what?” he asked without lowering his newspaper.

“Dad, I would like to talk with you,”

“Well, talk.”

“I mean. . . It’s really important.”

The newspaper came down three slow inches.  “What is it?”

“Dad, I love you.  I just wanted you to know that.”

Tom smiled at me and said with obvious satisfaction, as though he felt a warm and secret joy flowing inside of him. “The newspaper fluttered to the floor.  Then my father did two things I could never remember him doing before.  He cried and he hugged me.  And we talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning.  It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me.”

“It was easier with my mother and my little brother.  They cried with me too, and we hugged each other and started saying real nice things to each other.  We shared the things we had been keeping secret for so many years.  I was only sorry for one thing: that I had waited so long.  Here I was, in the shadow of death, and I was just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to.”

“Then one day I turned around and God was there.  He didn’t come to me when I pleaded with him.  I guess I was like an animal trainer holding out a hoop, ‘C’mon, jump through.  C’mon I’ll give you three days. . . three weeks.’ Apparently God does things in his own way and at his own hour.

“But the important thing is that he was there.  He found me.  You were right.  He found me even after I stopped looking for him.”

“Tommy,” I practically gasped, “I think you are saying something very important and much more universal than you realize.  To me, at least, you are saying that the surest way to find God is not to make him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to Love.  You know, Saint John said that.  he said, ‘God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him.’

“Tom, could I ask you a favor?  You know, when I had you in class you were a real pain.  But (laughingly) you can make it all up to me now.  Would you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them what you have just told me?  If I told them the same thing, it wouldn’t be half as effective as if you were to tell them.”

“Oooh. . . I was ready for you, but I don’t know if I’m ready for your class.”

“Tom, think about it.  If and when you are ready, give me a call.”

In a few days Tommy called, said he was ready for the class.  So we scheduled a date.  However, he never made it.  He had another appointment, far more important than the one with me and my class.  Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed.  He made the great step from faith into vision.

Before he died, we talked one last time.  “I’m not going to make it to your class,”  he said.

“I know, Tom.”

“Will you tell them for me?  Will you. . . tell the whole world for me?”

“I will, Tom.  I’ll tell them.  I’ll do my best.”

So, to all of you who have been kind enough to hear this simple statement about love, thank you for listening.  And to you, Tom, somewhere in the sunlit, verdant hills of heaven:  “I told them, Tommy. . . as best I could.”

From the book Unconditional Love by John Powell

Journey Toward Non-Judgment

I can distinctly remember the time, probably about ten years ago, that I became aware of the inherent value of each human being.  I had always been a fairly “nice” person and not openly condescending toward anyone, although I know I often critiqued people in my own mind.

Suddenly I realized that everyone had worth, equal worth, and being unaware of that worth often made people do “bad”, unloving, or overly accommodating things to compensate for lack of self worth.  I understood this because I had always felt that any value I had was on the lower end of the scale.

I knew the emotions that came, unbidden, with the thoughts of not measuring up, of lacking something, and I knew that for some people those thoughts and emotions were so raw, so strong, so overwhelming, that they led to impulsive, crazy, even dangerous actions.

Thankfully, I still had a little seed inside to remind me that I had something to offer, that there was genius in there waiting to be nurtured so it could grow and develop and make its way out to this messy world bringing its own brand of healing.

This revelation I had about the value of each life did nurture the seed inside me, but it did more than that.  It started the journey of seeing people with new eyes; the eyes of non-judgment.

When I told people about this, no one became too excited; in part, I suppose because it wasn’t their revelation, but I think there was more to it than that.  I think in some people’s minds, thinking this way would lead me down the slippery slope of accepting everyone and letting them “off the hook”.

In reality, it has led me to be more honest with myself and with other people.  It has made me much more likely to confront someone if necessary, but much less likely to judge them.

When I am more comfortable with who God made me to be, when I feel like I am “enough” and I don’t need to prove anything, I can be more real and truthful, and hopefully I can help bring that out in others.  I can take full responsibility for my life and actions and model the kind of life that, because of self-acceptance and love, wants to be of service to this world with the gifts I have been given.

Now when I look back at the way I was constantly judging everything and everyone in my mind, I feel like I am a different person.  I feel so free not carrying that burden of judgment.  I know I can develop much more in this area and, just having had a taste of what unconditional love is like, that is definitely my desire.

All We Need Is Love

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.  It is not easily angered.  It keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. ”         I Corinthians 13:4-8

In an earlier post, I said that I think when you love people you: don’t write them off, include them in the circle, see their potential, and want their highest good.  A clumsy, unromantic definition, perhaps, but it includes four important elements that I would like to elaborate on.

I once heard someone I liked and respected say that another person was “worthless”.  Honestly, it really shocked me, maybe because I had recently had a personal revelation about the inherent value of each individual.  I didn’t say anything – we were in a crowded restaurant, and in this particular situation, I didn’t know how to respond without sounding self-righteous – but that remark really stuck with me.

Regardless of someone’s present behavior, I don’t think we can write them off as worthless or hopeless.  That is like making them less than human.  We never know how we ourselves would act if presented with the life circumstances of another person.  More of the same kind of circumstances, whether abuse, continual put-downs or discouraging words, disappointment, or trauma, will not bring that person out of their condition.  We don’t always know what preceded a life that now seems “worthless”, but we can be fairly certain that it wasn’t good.

Maybe we won’t be the one to befriend that person, and maybe it wouldn’t even be wise or safe, but we can open our hearts to them.  We can smile, make eye contact (although this isn’t always a good idea), and just not close our hearts and shut them out.  We can acknowledge them as a human being, a creation of God who needs love and understanding.

Including someone in the circle of life is similar to not writing them off.  I like to think of every person in the world as part of a connected circle.  Sure, there are many cultures, religions, ideologies, and personality types, but we are all people.  It isn’t up to us to decide that someone doesn’t belong in that circle. Some people have done horrible things and need to face the consequences, but that doesn’t put them outside the circle of humanity. Including everyone isn’t as much about something we do as it is about something we think in our hearts.

Sometimes love is something we do.  To show someone validation as a human being, we may need to physically care for them or teach them something about life and relationships.  Asking hard questions and holding people accountable may be an integral part of the process.

This is not my strong suit, and there was a time when I didn’t do such a good job at it.  Volunteering to help a young mother with five children (including twins) under the age of five several years ago, I jumped right in and quickly discovered that this woman did not know much about caring for children and keeping a home.

The huge demands of several small children would have been a challenge to the most experienced of mothers, and this inexperienced mother was exhausted and discouraged.  Once I came to her apartment at 10:00 a.m. to take her two oldest children to story time at the library, and although four of the children were up, two crying with soaked diapers, I could not wake the mother.  Every time I came one or two of the children would clamor to be held or hold onto my legs and not let go.

I held the children, changed diapers, and took the mother grocery shopping, among other things, but, because I didn’t teach her about the needs of children, how to get more help, and how to prioritize, I now feel like I let her down. She did have a social worker who came to the home, but these things either weren’t being addressed or this young woman was just too overwhelmed to learn.

One day I went to the apartment to discover that they didn’t live there anymore.  Apparently, they packed up a few things and left in the middle of the night with the apartment in shambles,  and moved to another state.  I did love this family, and I did do something, but if I could do it over again, I would perhaps “love” in a way that better met their needs even if it meant saying some hard things.

I do not believe it was all for naught though.  I gave what I could at the time, I learned something, and, hopefully, this young woman and her children felt love in our interactions.  As a page in a children’s book that I have says; “May I so live the life of love this day that all those with whom I have anything to do may be as sure of love in the world as they are of the sunlight”.

What about seeing the potential in others?  I have come to the conclusion that there is genius inside everyone – sometimes it is hidden under pain or insecurity, but it is there.  Other times it is very easy to see.

I remember when my mother had cataract surgery a few years ago.  The young female doctor came in to explain the surgery, and when she left the room I thought about how gifted she was and how fortunate my mom was to have her doing the surgery.  She spoke and moved as if “in the flow”, naturally and almost effortlessly.  Of course, a great deal of effort went into the years leading up to that moment, but she certainly seemed to be where she belonged.

I have had the same experience with restaurant workers who were so gifted at what they did that it elevated the dining experience and made it extraordinary.  This can really happen anywhere where people have tapped into their gifts and are using them to bless other people.

I heard someone say that when you are looking at another person, you are looking at a gift.  If we can appreciate that gift, even when we can’t see it, we are loving them, I think.  This could even have the effect of uncovering their potential so they can see it themselves.

It really resonated with me when I first heard it said that loving someone was wanting their highest good.  It also made it seem easier to love someone who has hurt me because their highest good doesn’t mean winning the lottery and having a problem-free life.  It would have to mean somehow becoming a person of integrity (a whole person), and this would mean facing up to things they had said or done to hurt other people, even if it did not mean they could make it up to me personally.

The best for them would also mean they would become a person who loves, and this would affect me by making the world a better place.  You simply cannot go wrong by wanting someone’s highest good, or by wanting your own, which is another way of saying loving yourself.

It is possible to live a life of love.  It is possible to send out into the world what you want to receive back.  It takes a desire, it takes practice, it takes letting go of some mixed-up, preconceived ideas about love, and it takes a commitment.  Let go of old hurts, release yourself from the prison of unforgiveness, give up judging others to make yourself feel better, try to see underneath mean or hurtful behavior to see what is causing it.

I definitely do not succeed at this all the time.  I still find myself complaining about people at times or enjoying “funny” sarcastic comments about others, but I am in the process of learning to love myself and others.  It is one of the ways that we show that we love God, and the only way to achieve real change in the world.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

I named my little soap company Twig by Twig. The logo includes an image of a bird sitting on a little branch.   Now, almost a year later, I am seeing birds and branches everywhere.  This has happened to me many times; I start collecting something that appeals to me, then that particular item or theme is in every store and catalog.  Or I start thinking about a subject, and soon I am hearing and reading about it everywhere.

I would like to think that I am just ahead of the game or can predict the future!  In truth, I think this happens to most people.

Is this proof that we are all connected, really connected, in some way?  Not really proof, but I do believe we are.  This could seem kind of creepy or kind of wonderful depending on how you look at it.  I decided that I should start to look at it as kind of wonderful, since I do believe it is true.  Somewhere, we all share something.

In the book , The Genie in Your Genes, author Dawson Church Ph.D. quotes British mathematician and physicist Sir James Jean, who near the beginning of the twentieth century said: “When we view ourselves in space and time, our consciousnesses are obviously the separate individuals of a particle-picture, but when we pass beyond space and time, they may perhaps form ingredients of a single continuous stream of life.  As it is with light and electricity, so it may be with life:  the phenomena may be individuals carrying on separate existences in space and time, while in the deeper reality beyond space and time we may all be members of one body.”

Although I am fascinated by this, I have such a limited understanding of it at this time, that I can’t elaborate on it.  I can just apply it to my life in the best way I know how to do.

If I seek union, a connection, with God (as I do), this has to imply some kind of union with everyone else.  This isn’t just words.  There is some kind of reality underlying it.

On my best days, I can see God in everyone and my connection to everyone.  On my worst days, the conviction of this union at least keeps me from hating, or lashing out too hastily and harshly, or feeling extremely lonely and isolated.  Personally, I am much more inclined to hate myself than others, and knowing that God is in me and desires to live through me helps me to appreciate and love myself more.

Ernest Holmes wrote: “You can’t plunge into the waters of real life unless you take everyone else in with you.”  To me, this means that if I wish to have a meaningful, abundant, joyful life, I have to embrace my connection with everyone and love everyone.

Love doesn’t mean I like everyone or spend time with them or ignore dangerous, cruel behavior.  It means I include them in the circle, I see the potential in them, I don’t write them off, and I desire their highest good.

To put it another way, when I cut myself off, in my mind and heart, from another person or group of people, I am cutting myself off from God.  The intimacy, the guidance, and the power that could be mine are now out of reach because I have put up a wall.

If you are willing to have this wall come down, you have taken the first major step.  As I said,  we do not have to agree with everyone.  Unity does not mean uniformity.  We also don’t have to overlook critical issues that need to be addressed.  We just need to be willing to accept the idea that every person has intrinsic value.  If they saw, really saw, that value and lived from that place, they wouldn’t need to be cruel or hateful or controlling, etc. etc. etc.

Sometimes we can simply love a person back to wholeness by helping them to see reality a little more clearly.  Sometimes it is a much longer process, might involve serious consequences, and may not even happen in their lifetime.

We are only responsible for ourselves in regard to love.  We need only ask the question “What is love?”, wait patiently for the answer to appear in wonderful, sometimes unexpected ways, and be willing to live it out.  “Seeing” our invisible connection to God and to all people somehow makes that a little easier.