Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Perfect Love Casts out Fear

Perfect Love Casts out Fear

            So no one needs me to say that we humans are not perfect in our loving so I should not be surprised that fear is so prevalent in our culture but can’t we do better than this?  I have no need to throw stones at our present leadership in our country because there are already enough being thrown from “both sides.”  Suffice it to say that no matter who you want to blame, since the last election the fear genie seems released from whatever bottle in which it may have been somewhat contained.
            Or maybe a better analogy is that the bottle has been shaken and the contents are spewing out like so much champagne from some sports victory celebration, but the victor is not us; it is fear itself.  We are afraid immigrants will get what they do not deserve so we are going to wall ourselves in as if that will really help.
            We fear our long time enemies in places like Iran and Korea so we hurl words of intimidation forgetting that those who throw mud end up with dirty hands and then wonder where the dirt came from.  We fear that we might get behind in the economy so we throw out agreed upon limits to try to stop filling the air with the stains of our progress and go backwards thinking it is the way forward.
            We fear that our rights might be infringed upon so we will not even discuss limits on assault weapons or background checks all the while watching the ongoing narrative of innocent people, including children, being slaughtered.  We hear sayings like “guns don’t kill, people do.”  But as a people we seem to be reverting to a kind of fear-filled animal state.  “Don’t Tread on Me” flags start to again be flown.
            Why are we so afraid?  Of what are we afraid?  It is like we need a “security system” for our very souls.
            So let’s go the other direction because I do not know if I can answer why we are so afraid.  What about the direction of perfect love. 
            I am not sure what it might look like but I think it begins with listening to each other instead of throwing rocks from behind walls.  In the play Our Town, Emily is allowed to come back from death to relive one day of her life.  She picks her twelfth birthday but as she observes everyone without being able to say anything to them she suddenly says to the Stage Manager.
“EMILY: "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?"

STAGE MANAGER: "No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some.”
            We are like the good news/bad news joke when the airline pilot comes over the intercom and tells the passengers, “I have some good news and some bad news ladies and gentlemen.  The bad news it seems we are lost.  I have no idea where we are.  The good news is that we are making excellent time.”
            We sure are going fast but where are we going?  We seem lost in a sort of self-indulgent, fear based race for security.  We do not realize life because we are going too fast to notice.
            Our souls often dry up from lack of the water that truly quenches the deep places that we are ignoring.  “Don’t tread on me,” but what about us? Where is the “us” in our midst.  It is all about me and mine.  No wonder perfect love is hard to find.
            Perfect love has always been about the us.  Perfect love comes from that word for love in the New Testament, agape.  It is a kind of love that is concerned for the other.  It is other-directed love that does not seek first the good of the one who offers the love but rather asks about the well being of the one to whom love is given.
            In John Denver’s haunting song “The Box” he tells of a box that is chained with chains and locked with locks with a note attached proclaiming, “Kindly do not touch it’s war.”  But then of course because of fear someone breaks open into the box…

“Someone battered in the lid and spilled the insides out across the floor. A kind of bouncy, bumpy ball made up of guns and flags and all the tears, and horror, and death that comes with war. It bounced right out and went bashing all about, bumping into everything in store. And what was sad and most unfair was that it didn't really seem to care much who it bumped, or why, or what, or for.

It bumped the children mainly. And I'll tell you this quite plainly, it bumps them every day and more, and more, and leaves them dead, and burned, and dying, thousands of them sick and crying. Cause when it bumps, it's really very sore.

Now there's a way to stop the ball. It isn't difficult at all. All it takes is wisdom, and I'm absolutely sure that we can get it back into the box, and bind the chains, and lock the locks. But no one seems to want to save the children anymore.”

            Denver’s song is explicitly about war but it seems it can describe the kind of fear that has been let out of the bottle or the box.  Perfect love has always been about taking chances.  It may mean we do not get our way or get what we deserve.  Perfect love takes risks.  It does not begin with, “What’s in it for me.”
            Ancient words describe this kind of love but those words are often lost in the midst of the many wedding ceremonies when the words are most often used.  We forget that those words are not for the starry eyed couple only.  Those words are for us who get so easily captured by fear.
 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
            I have told many couples as I stand before them that while they may be in what I call “LUV” that they may not really know how to agape because agape is a gift from God.  It is given to those of us who so easily slip away from our spiritual souls into a kind of animal like need for security that so easily gives in to fear.
            Maybe I am simply being done in by a kind of naiveté.  So be it, but what I am observing of late is a country that seems to be almost cherishing fear and clinging to it by filling our minds and even our souls with sound bites from whatever polarizing stance we take.  But we are making excellent time.
            O God, grant us your gift of perfect love.  We need it more than ever.  Help us to realize life while we live it.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Moon Shadow A poem inspired the "the" eclipse

Moon Shadow
(a poem inspired by “the” eclipse)

So the small light is to
cover the large
Is it nature’s parable
longing to eclipse
the growing darkness
in our midst?

We scream across our
many divides
words of mistrust and fear
that we so believe
because of the right
of our causes

Would it be that from
the rim’s light
of a day that is night
Might come some
new dawning of 
a day when love’s burning
would reveal a new

So much we want to be right
that true listening
seems dimmed by
our blocked yet itching ears
So show us a way
O small light that covers-
In some mystical moment
of sun’s shadow
cast a vision
of new beginnings
for a people who
so often seem
in the dark

Then ancient words might
finally ring true-
“The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light…on
them has light shined.”

O great God, eclipse us
with wisdom from
on high
For you created the great
and small light

Jody Seymour

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Repeal and Replace

Repeal and Replace

            So we have heard the “repeal and replace” mantra for some time now.  After observing the turn of opinion in our land of late I think something much deeper is needed than a new health care system. What is needed is found in some very old advice given by a crusty old prophet: Ezekiel 36:26
26 A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
            Jane Goodall, who has observed the great apes for years was once asked if she thought apes had souls since 98% of their DNA matched that of humans.  Her response was worth noting; “O yes after observing their behavior they definitely have souls but after viewing human behavior I sometimes wonder if we do.”
            As a people we are acting like we are terribly afraid; afraid someone else is going to get what we deserve, afraid that those not like us are going to take over,  afraid that terror though it is what it is will rule, afraid….
            Fear it seems turns hearts to stone. It narrows thinking and constricts the flow of the spiritual part of us.  It turns hearts to stone and limits vision.
            I have been told that the recent election was in part because Christian evangelicals were willing to “put aside their faith” in order to elect someone who would give them many of the desires that they have been wanting for years and not getting.  What kind of faith was it that they put aside?
            Was it the faith of a man who said, “take the board out of your own eye before you talk of the speck in your brother or sisters eye…take care of the least of these…be willing to be last in order to be first…pray for those who are not like you, even your enemies…love enough to let go.”
            We need a repeal and replace program for the heart.  We need the one who first started our hearts beating in a moment of infinite mystery to give us a new heart and a new spirit.  We need spiritual surgery to remove our hearts of stone. 
            Repeal and replace, for sure.  So be it.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Poem of Reflection for Mother's Day

Through the Pain
(a poem of reflection on Mother’s Day)

It began with pain, that
beginning you gave
From you came that first
breath granting
new life to a
wonder filled bundle
of flesh

Tiny fingers soon reached
your way, seeking
Not knowing the pain
that sill surrounded
the moment of your
granting of life
to a child

Ahead would be days of teaching
and days of forgetting
For those of us who received
your gift
of creation
had life to live
and plans to make
and so we did

But on this day we pause
to remember your gift
You were our source made
from love and hope
and yes from pain
So thank you
as we whisper
the word,

Jody Seymour
for Mother’s Day 2017