>Romance and Love — Words from the Wedding I Officiate Today

>Love Love LoveImage by Gregory Jordan via FlickrThese are from Donald Miller’s Book, Blue Like Jazz.  They were chosen by the bride to be read at the wedding.

I will give you this, my love, and I will not bargain or barter any longer. I will love you, as sure as He has loved me. I will discover what I can discover and though you remain a mystery, save God’s own knowledge, what I disclose of you I will keep in the warmest chamber of my heart, the very chamber where God has stowed Himself in me. And I will do this to my death and to death it may bring me.

I will love you like God, because of God, mighted by the power of God. I will stop expecting your love demanding your love, trading for your love, gaming for your love. I will simply love. I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again. I suppose the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this altar of dying and dying again.

God risked Himself on me. I will risk myself on you. And together, we will learn to love, and perhaps then, and only then, understand this gravity that drew Him, unto us.

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>More and More the Desire Grows

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HousingImage by james.thompson via Flickr

“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems.
“My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets.  It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress.
“But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own and to let them know with words, handshakes and hugs that you do not simply like them- but truly love them.” – Henri Nouwen, ¡Gracias!

I’m not sure if it’s “more and more,” but it’s clear to me that some of the holiest of times in ministry come too infrequently.  The most holiest of times are the most intimate, when I am entering into the life of those around me, when I’m breaking bread, not leading communion…when I’m listening, not teaching…when I’m participating in life, not planning for it…when I’m celebrating successes and mourning losses…when I’m connecting most deeply with those around me…when, I feel, my life is most “incarnational.”
I’m not sure if it’s “more and more,” but I know the list of things I have to accomplish in a day of ministry can seem to pull me away from things that matter most.  Yes, I know there are things which just must be done.  There are tasks that just have to be accomplished.  There are reports to file.  There are web pages to update.  There are meetings to be held.  And I do them.  But, at the end of the day, I ask myself where have I connected with those around me?  Where is it that I have truly loved?  Perhaps that’s why I really go to the coffee shops…
I’m not sure if it’s “more and more” but I am feeling a great need…a great pastoral need to love persons deeply and to share life with them.   I feel a need to give myself up in love and not hold back.  And I feel a need for our church to do that as well…our church which has increasing bills to pay, ministries to plan, work teams to house, worship services to conduct.  How do we love…more than “plan to love”?  How do we participate in a ministry of presence…knowing that the stuff of life and business and work still happens around us and in us?
More and more, deep inside of me, I feel a call to love those whom God has given me…those whom he has placed near me, or placed me near them.
And the ironic thing is that the meetings, the planning, the work of the church is the way in which I go about doing this.
This…is how I know to love.
 
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>Guide to Reading Rob Bell’s "Love Wins"

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While I have not read the book as of yet Rachel Held Evans has a good guide for how to approach it.  In fairness, Evans, is not offended by this book.  She, in fact, says “There’s nothing radical or unorthodox in this book, which is profoundly Christ-centered and packed with biblical references.  (It’s basically a remix of C.S. Lewis, NT Wright, and Richard Rohr.)”

Here’s what she says about reading it:

Love Wins serves as a good starting point for engaging in better conversations about heaven and hell, but a poor ending point. I would heartily recommend this book, but not without these seven suggestions:

1. If you loved the book, read through some negative reviews. If you hated the book, read through some positive reviews. It’s always good to get a second opinion from a reader who might have noticed some things that you didn’t.  Exposing yourself to a variety of opinions will help you develop your own with more clarity, integrity, and charity. 
2. Follow up on your questions. As I read, I like to mark up my books with underlines, notes, and question marks and then return to them later. For example, I scribbled a question mark next to this sentence on page 177 of Love Wins: “God has no desire to inflict pain or agony on anyone.”  As much as I long for this to be true, it seems incompatible with the God who instructed Joshua to kill every man, woman, and child in Jericho. Rather than ignoring this or using it to dismiss the rest of Bell’s points, I plan to explore it further, maybe finally get around to reading Is God a Moral Monster?
3. Read more.  Check out Bell’s “Further Reading” (page 201) as well as our list of resources on heaven and hell.  
4. Talk things through with friends. Consider starting a book club or hosting a dinner party in which you can discuss the ideas in Love Wins with a variety of people coming from a variety of different perspectives. 
5. Avoid slapping a “Love Wins” bumper sticker on your car or wearing a “Team John” T-shirt to church…(says the girl with an unrelated  “love wins” bumper sticker on her car—more on that later!) When we reduce this complex and important conversation to two “sides,” as though it were some kind of college football rivalry, we do such an injustice to the Bible, to Christian history, and to the millions upon millions of real people whose lives and whose futures we are discussing.  This is not about taking sides. It’s not about shouting each other down. It’s not about black vs. white, right vs. wrong, good vs. bad. There’s too much at stake to try and force Christianity’s cacophony of voices into two competing tones. We must embrace the complexity—within the Bible, within Christianity, and within one another—and avoid the temptation of turning this conversation into “my team” vs. “your team.” 
6. Let love win in you. I can’t imagine that anyone could read Love Wins and take issue with Bell’s conclusion that as Christians we should busy ourselves with providing clean water, championing human rights, participating in microfinance, pursuing peace, practicing forgiveness, and celebrating beauty and art.  There is common ground to be found here, and the best “apologetic” for a God of unconditional love is a person of unconditional love.