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Joe Jencks at The Warehouse, originally uploaded by carlmc.

One way that I’m constantly stretched at Journey is the musical talent brought in from across the globe. I’d never heard of Joe Jencks before today, but what an introduction. He had the house in tears on this song below. He’s playing a concert there tonight, if you get a chance check him out, or at least visit his site and buy some of his music.

Love is the Reason

There was a time when all I ever needed
Was your smile to drive away my rain
But now it seems that hopeful light is hiding
Behind a cloud of anger and pain

I thought everything I was looking for
Was right here within my reach

I think it’s time we finally take our chances
And let our hearts speak louder than our fears
Because love is all I ever wanted
Love is the reason I’m still here

Well the sage said to the fisherman on the boat
Cast your nets on the other side
And with nothing short of astonishment on their faces
They said, don’t you think we’ve tried

And he said, what if everything you’re looking for
Is right there within your reach

I think it’s time we finally take our chances
And let our hearts speak louder than our fears
Because love is all I ever wanted
Love is the reason I’m still here

I don’t know where our story goes from here
Too many pages left unread
Or how to carve a pathway through this labyrinth we’ve built
With all that’s left unsaid
What if everything we’re looking for
Is right there within our reach

I think it’s time we finally take our chances
And let our hearts speak louder than our fears
Because love is all I ever wanted
Love is all you ever wanted
Love is all we ever wanted
Love is the reason
Love is the only reason
Love is the reason we’re still here

© 2008 Joe Jencks, Turtle Bear Music, ASCAP

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My friend Dean Smith started Urban Connection Austin which is focused on enabling communities to rebuild themselves, not to rely on charity, not to rely on government, but instead to learn how to empower the members of that community. Education is key to making people stronger, learning how to use government services, opening communication channels with businesses, working alongside faith communities, schools, and neighborhood associations to build a sense of ‘we’.

Here is an article in Community Impact Newspaper about Urban Connection Austin that mentions what I think is a key to success for these types of ministries. That is the ability for faith communities to be humble enough to say to themselves, to their people, “We are not the solution to the problems of this neighborhood.” We do not need to own the solution, we simply need to agree that love is needed in this area. When we decide to love, we will decide to ask of each other, to those in the community, and to God, “How can we help?”. And, then we will be quiet and listen…

Today the faith community we call home, made a bold political statement. We agreed to center our existence in this politically and economically charged culture of America upon the love that is God. And, we put it in writing, signed it, and will deliver to the President (whoever that may be), and to some of the other powers that be.

Each week we profess some version or variation of Mark 12:28-31

“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. ‘The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Today, we finished our journey through the 10 commandments of the pledge that student protesters agreed to abide in Birmingham, AL in 1963, and we decided to not only proclaim our statement for love, we decided to sign it and deliver it.

We have decided as a community of faith to resist the temptations of fear and greed.
“The hallmark of political nihilism is the public appeal to fear and greed, and too much of American politics today as been reduced to such vulgar appeals.” —Cornel West

Instead we have chosen to make a political statement that does not succumb to fear, greed, nor power.

Instead we have chose to make a political statement that does profess God’s love is at the center of who we proclaim to be and the goal we will continue to seek.

Just as MLK and the movement for racial justice did in the sixties, we seek to learn what is our truest expression of God’s love in this time and place. And, for this we rely on those who came before us just as MLK did. For a little background on what I’m referring, read the following from http://www.nathanielturner.com/

While others viewed nonviolence as only one of the alternatives, for Martin Luther King, Jr., it was “only road to freedom.” In September 1948 while a student at Crozer Theological: Seminary, he heard Dr. A.J. Muste and Dr. Mordecai W. Johnson preach of the life and teaching of Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of Indian independence. Since his entrance at Crozer, Martin had begun a serious quest for a way to eliminate economic and social evil.

He began a prolonged study of the writings of Gandhi and became a convert to the Gandhian concept of satyagraha (truth-force or love-force) and atmbal (soul-force). King described his conversion thusly:

“As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time that the Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence, is one of the most potent weapons available to an oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. At that time, however, I acquired only an intellectual understanding and appreciation of the position, and I had no firm determination to organize it in a socially effective situation.” [Strength To Love, p. 151]

One year later, Dr. King became involved in a crisis in which the philosophy of nonviolent resistance could be applied. On December 1, 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old seamstress was arrested because she refused to give her bus seat to a white man.

When the Black people of Montgomery decided that it was “more honorable to walk the streets in dignity than to ride the buses in humiliation,” they called on Dr. King to be their spokesman and leader of the newly formed Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). The association began a nonviolent boycott of Montgomery’s transit system.

From the beginning a basic philosophy guided the movement. This guiding principle has since been referred to variously as nonviolent resistance, noncooperation, and passive resistance. But in the first days of the protest none of these expressions was mentioned; the phrase most often heard was “Christian love.” It was the Sermon on the Mount, rather than a doctrine of passive resistance, that initially inspired the Negroes of Montgomery to dignified social action. It was Jesus of Nazareth that stirred the Negroes to protest with the creative weapon of love.…

Nonviolent resistance … emerged as the technique of the movement, while love stood as the regulating ideal. In other words, Christ furnished the spirit and motivation, while Gandhi furnished the method. [Stride Toward Freedom, pp. 84–85]

By 1963 the following pledge was being signed by volunteers for sit-in demonstrations in the restaurants of Birmingham:

I hereby pledge myself—my person and body—to nonviolent movement. Therefore I will keep the following ten commandments:

1. MEDITATE daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.

2. REMEMBER always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation—not victory.

3. WALK AND TALK in the manner of love, for God is love.

4. PRAY daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.

5. SACRIFICE personal wishes in order that all men might be free.

6. OBSERVE with both friend and for the ordinary rules of courtesy.

7. SEEK to perform regular service for others and for the world.

8. REFRAIN from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.

9. STRIVE to be in good spiritual and bodily health.

10. FOLLOW the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.

I sign this pledge, having seriously considered what I do and with the determination and will to persevere.

Name

Address

Phone

Nearest Relative

Address

Besides demonstrations, I could also help the movement by:

(Circle the proper items)

Run errands, Drive my car, Fix food for volunteers, Clerical work, Make phone calls, Answer phones, Mimeograph, Type, Print signs, Distribute leaflets.

Alabama Christian Movement For Human Rights

Birmingham Affiliate of S.C.L.C.

505½ North 17th Street

F.L. Shuttesworth, President

Today, we seek to become part of this satyagraha, this “truth force” that proclaims at its core, our existence is due to love, and this creator of love is an unstoppable force.

In a previous post https://simplegestures.wordpress.com/2007/07/01/my-sock-puppet-has-a-hole-in-the-toe/ from July of 2007 I expressed my concerns and fears about where my family belonged. We were considering moving closer to downtown Austin, away from the ‘burbs where Lane & I grew up…

I am torn between the people and place I love and where I live and work. I feel called, I feel a reason for devoting my life, my family to downtown Austin and the university. But, I live 20+ miles away in Cedar Park and work out west of town near the lake. I’ve been reading “Breaking the Missional Code” and it’s a little formulaic for my tastes. For example, when it brings up the need to love the people to which you want to minister, it says you must learn to love the people first. I agree, but I’m asking the question, “Am I following God’s will if I’m forcing myself to learn to love a people?” I have nothing against the people of Cedar Park and think I could learn to love them and to love what they love, but as the Bass article points out I have a real struggle with this “hyper-individuality” and consumerism that seeps into the core of life here in the suburbs. It effects me just as much as it does my neighbors.

So, what do I do? Do I follow my heart and devote myself fully to the people of downtown and the university area? At what cost? I so long for the mess of life lived in tight community with the other and don’t know where to throw my hat.

The decision was made for us, we couldn’t sell our house and so we were “stuck” in the ‘burbs. Life is curious in the ways we’re forced through sometimes unwanted, or even unpleasant seasons to be recreated. That’s one of the things I love about my live, that I’ve been witness to my own rebirth in so many ways.

Tonight…
I’m sitting on my front porch watching the children run up and down the sidewalk in eager anticipation of tonight’s Halloween party.
I’m listening to the laughter of the moms as they prepare the haunted house.

Time marches on like the dutiful soldier, and I grow older and hopefully the edges are beginning to soften. It is in these moments of life settling into a beautiful rhythm that I feel most alive.

I

realize

the

noise

surrounding

me

is

what

I

long

to

hear.

We are in this together, each family striving to love our kids and each other as best we know how. It is messy, it’s jilted and sometimes awkward…which means it must be real. Once again, I have been forced into another rebirth, and another new season of life. Once again, God has given me what I desire, but it’s done in His way, not mine. I am thankful and blessed…

I’ve been reading Sex God by Rob Bell, my good buddy Karl gave it to me. As usual, Bell has the capability to analyze our complicated existence as humans and communicate the beauty of life. In the latest chapter I’ve been reading about the existence of tension in life that is crucial to us being whole. I hope to embrace this difficult place in my life, whatever the circumstances may be.

So, the other day my friend Bob Carlton pointed me to this Focus on the Family letter. It is a “fictional” account of what life in 2012 would be like with Obama as President. Go ahead, take the time and read it…I’ll wait to tell you the rest of the story.

I read this and just had to reply, and here is what I said:

My heart aches that we’ve become a country of hate and fear, and that your organization that proclaims to love God and His creation and His people have become a joke, and an organization of derision. You do not speak for me as a follower of Christ! I pray for your soul…

Regrets,

Carl McLendon

Much to my surprise, this afternoon I received a response from Focus. Below is their response:

Thanks for your e-mail. It was good of you to offer your candid reaction to Focus on the Family Action’s “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America.”

We’ve heard from many people who found this resource helpful; some, like you, have disagreed with our approach. While critics of this document accuse us of engaging in “sensationalist fiction,” it’s vital to underscore that we are not claiming to make definitive predictions on what a Barack Obama presidency would produce.

However, as the “Letter from 2012” makes evident, every scenario outlined in this piece is plausible based on recent documented events, court rulings, the Democratic Party’s stated agenda, and Senator Obama’s voting record and campaign promises. We invite you to re-read the introduction of the letter [http://focusfamaction.edgeboss.net/download/focusfamaction/pdfs/10-22-08_2012letter.pdf] which clearly states that we are neither employing unfounded “fear tactics” nor speaking out with mean-spirited intent. On the contrary, we’ve posted a reasonable projection of what *could* occur with a Senator Obama presidency and a Democratic-controlled Congress. Of course, we hope and pray that none of the possible outcomes described in “Letter from 2012” come to pass.

It might be beneficial to provide some additional background on our mission to help you better understand our reasons for engaging in the public policy realm. We have no interest in partisan politics; rather, we care deeply about the sanctity of human life, the value of marriage, and the preservation of religious freedom. Dr. Dobson has espoused these crucial issues since he launched Focus on the Family in 1977 and has always encouraged people to consider them at the ballot box. Despite what the Matthew 25 Network and other pro-Obama action groups may say, we contend that Senator Obama’s record *significantly* differs from the pro-life and pro-family policies that many Christians hold dear. Some may label this “fearmongering” — we call it a sobering, rational assessment based on actual events documented in the letter.

It might be helpful for you to read a concise summary of four key points that motivate us in our actions:

1) Senator Barack Obama’s record is well outside the mainstream. For example, he was rated the most liberal United States senator by the _National Journal_ in 2007 [http://nj.nationaljournal.com/voteratings/].

2) A Democratic president, House and Senate has significant implications for pro-family policies. _The Wall Street Journal_ has stated that this election will usher in “one of the most profound political and ideological shifts in U.S. history” if the Democrats control the White House and possess congressional majorities, including a filibuster-proof Senate [http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122420205889842989.html]. This type of unchecked power, not seen since 1965, demands that voters critically examine the policies advocated by the Democratic Party.

3) Senator Obama’s commitment to causes championed by extreme liberal groups such as Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), both of which have endorsed him, are a source of great concern. Earlier this year, Senator Obama pledged that if elected president, he would advocate for and sign the “Freedom of Choice Act,” which would repeal virtually every federal and state law regulating or limiting abortion — including parental involvement laws for teenagers, late-term abortion bans, and limits on public funding of abortion. He has also indicated that he will make it a priority to repeal the “Defense of Marriage Act,” which allows states to restrict marriage to one man and one woman. In addition, he backs other HRC-supported initiatives including the passage of “hate crimes” legislation and the “Employment Non-Discrimination Act” [http://washingtonblade.com/thelatest/thelatest.cfm?blog_id=20935]. Similar legislation has penalized Christians who hold a biblical view of sexuality.

4) Senator Obama’s stated appreciation of United States Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter — along with his votes against the nominations of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito — indicate he would appoint judges with a judicial philosophy detrimental to pro-family causes.

On a final note, organizational endorsements of political candidates wed groups to their candidate in a way that may not lend itself to an honest critique of that individual’s weaknesses. As you’re likely aware, the group behind the Matthew 25 Web site endorsed Senator Obama for president.

Again, thanks for writing. We hope this response has helped clarify our perspective and explained why we feel the Matthew 25 Network’s version of “choosing hope” without a sober look at the troubling elements of Senator Obama’s candidacy is misguided. Grace and peace to you.

Jonathan Bartha
Focus on the Family Action

I know that the Matthew 25 network and Focus on the Family both believe their actions are honest and sincere. But, once again I’m trying to find the truth that usually exists in the midst of the struggle that rages on the extremes of anything we humans find ourselves involved. I’m hoping to resist ideologies that force themselves upon us, and instead embrace the tensions we must negotiate. This is what makes us human, this ability when we find ourselves in difficult situations, to be capable of thinking, praying, and asking each other what would God have us do?

You’ll have those days, when nothing seems to be right, and that you can do nothing right…

But, those days will pass and if you need to talk, call me or come by and see me…

 

Dan Uggla makes another error in 2008 All Star Game at Yankee Stadium.

Dan Uggla makes another error in 2008 All Star Game at Yankee Stadium.

This guy in the picture (Dan Uggla) had a really bad night on the biggest stage (2008 All Star Game) in the “House that Ruth Built”. He made 3 errors (2 on consecutive plays), grounded into a double play to kill a rally, and struck out 3 times.

 

He had a really bad night, but if you ask him 20 years from now about playing at Yankee stadium, he’ll only remember the dreams of his childhood growing up in New York to play on that field.

You will have days like that, but just know that they will pass, and that as you look back on those times they are often days that help form you into the person you have become. So, be careful and use your failures to learn and remember you are loved by me, your mom, and God.

If you learn to trust that you are beloved, regardless of what you do, you can return from even the worst of decisions. Soon I’ll share with you the story of Josh Hamilton, who has learned to love himself, his family, and his God. He had a great night in Yankee stadium the night before Uggla had his nightmare.

I really want to stress the importance of the “third way” of Jesus, and for you to understand it’s not about ideas (yours or anybody else). You belong to this new millennial generation that is making the older generations rethink many things, but you don’t have a monopoly on correct thinking. It’s about knowing in your heart that the right thing to do, is not always the easy thing to do and that the ideas of others are most often not those of people who choose to follow Christ, even if they proclaim Him.

Soccer moms, NASCAR dads, and now holy hipsters have been touted by political pundits and the mainstream media as the group du jour that political candidates must court in order to win the coveted presidential prize. Using select books and blogs, they conclude that these missional millennials have abandoned the political party of their parents and will be casting their ballots for Obama come November. However, as Jim Wallis wrote earlier this year, “This doesn’t mean young evangelicals are automatically becoming Democrats (and I don’t think they should). It does mean that their agenda is broader and deeper, no longer beholden to a single partisan ideology.” —Becky Garrison “Jesus For President: Declaring Independence from Partisan Politics”.

 

If you intend to live what you proclaim when you follow Christ, you do not have any agenda other than to love. Politics is important, the needs of your family are important…but nothing is more important than your love for each other, for God, and for all others. That’s easy to say, but hard to live. I want you to understand the difficulty of this life I hope you will choose to engage, but I want you to know it is the best way to live.

When you fight and bicker, and compete for who gets to sit in that favorite spot on the couch…It’s hard for me to help you see, but I know that you love each other. When I was a kid, we had twin brothers who seemed to constantly fight, physical, brutal fistfights. But, if anybody ever had an issue with one, the other had his back. Sibling relationships are tough, I know that you know that, but I want you to know that you should remember to be thankful for each other. As time goes by, I think you’ll learn to believe that regardless of circumstances. 

I’ll leave you with a poem from Robert Bruce “Love Your Enemy”

 

To seek vindication
from the
accuser

To protect
property and
reputation

This is called common sense

To be surrounded
by the lovers
and the lovely

To present a
reasonable
list of offenses

To master
the art of
self-defense

This is called shrewdness

To build a high wall
and fire down upon
unknown comers

To wage violent war
against those
who seek your head

To plot
against those who
plot your downfall

This is called wisdom

Love them?

Do good to them?

Pray for them?

Foolishness

It is difficult enough
to love those who love

Even
family and friends
deliver
bone-crushing
heartache
that an enemy
could never
dream up

This is beyond
the visualization
of World Peace

This is beyond
tolerance

This is beyond
any help the self
could ever muster

And
this
is
why
the
true
enemy
is
always
much
much
closer
than
we’d
care
to
admit

As I read about the struggles of one friend, I am often saddened at what he went through, but I’m hopeful he is in the midst of finding his way to a people that will love him for who he is, because he is quite remarkable.

I, too have struggled with many of the same frustrations as my friend, but I’ve been fortunate to find a new tribe that is about honesty, even when, no especially when it gets messy and has no particular place to go except towards one another. I missed worship this past week, but my friend Bob wrote the post below on the day. And, as I read I was saddened because I wasn’t there, but excited that such a place and a people exist for no other reason than to celebrate who God is and what he has done for us. So, anyway enjoy Bob’s reflections on “midnight at Denny’s”…

midnight @ denny’s

yesterday was powerful for me in our faith community

thru a fluke of acute viral nasopharyngitis (usually known as the common cold), I taught Bible study.  we talked aboutDeuteronomy 2, when Moses muses thru mementos of the journey all around the desert.  I blasted thru 8x as many media references as Scriptural – as usual, I could have really used an editor.

it felt really meaningful to stand in that space, among people of a journey, and to just start.  it did not have a plan or an outline or even a point.  it was as close to jazz as a non-musician like me will ever know.

and it’s still there – even after the boom & staying far away, at all costs.  no clue what to do with that.

worship was ragged & fluid and just a smack between my soul.  stories shared, a preacher crying, communion shared in small groups.  it touched me so that tom kimmel, an artist I’ve come to know & adore thru journey, played softly & tenderly

dave madden shared about a new idea – a stuffuary, where you could check out what other folks in the community had & borrow it.  simple idea, but it really clicked.

after worship, a group of us grabbed lunch at  phil’s ice house.  we all came to a shared conclusion – our faith community s hard to describe to people who have never been to it.  the labels & short-hand just do not bound this community, so we struggled & stretched.

then it came – one of our friends said that Journey IFC is

midnight @ denny’s

that’s it – a setting that is messy & gorgeous, a time that is just between then & now & tomorrow, a grab bag of journeyers who gather to drink (bad) coffee and just breathe.  all kinds of folks, taking a break in their journeyers, sharing food & their troubles and an encouragement.  splitting the bill & sharing a ride to where they are off to next.

midnight @ denny’s – it was a powerful one for me.

http://thecorner.typepad.com/bc/2008/05/midnight-dennys.html

It’s a little after 6am on a Sunday morning…

As the thunder started rolling in about an hour ago, I knew I would be up for the duration. I just waited as the waves grew louder and brighter, knowing that any minute I’d here footsteps upstairs headed down to the safety of my bed. Sure enough, after the sky lights up like a sparkler and the loud clap of thunder that follows I hear the sleepy feet making their way down the stairs. They always pause at the door of our bedroom, to give us that, “Is it okay?” look. Knowing the answer to that question, they continue the approach into the warmth of mom and dad. However, we have a queen size bed and the kids keep growing (as does my midsection) so it’s a tight fit. Of course, I’ve been awake for sometime so now coffee sounds good, so I let them “spread out” as I go get the paper and make coffee. Another loud clap, and the dog retreats from her chair into my bedroom and now they all are again fast asleep, and I sit here drinking coffee, reading the paper, and thinking about how I love the little things a father does for his children, even when that means giving up my warm bed. I think God does the same thing for me and that’s a nice feeling.