Monday, July 11, 2016

On this Monday morning, love & peace

It's Monday morning, I'm home, and I'm not going to work today!  I have one more day off and I plan to enjoy, relax, maybe cut some grass, maybe not, and look forward with anticipation and joy to the many ministry opportunities coming up.

Wendy and I arrived home around 7 PM last night which to me is so amazing.  We began our day in the north/central part of North Carolina and in about 14 hours time we were home in south/east Louisiana.  The drive is hard, traversing about 150 miles thru North Carolina, 110 in South Carolina, about 200 thru Georgia, including downtown Atlanta, then another 200 thru Alabama before the final 130 miles across the Mississippi Gulf Coast and into St. Tammany Parish, LA!  We even managed to retrieve our dog from the newlyweds and stop for dinner in Pearl River before hitting the homestead.

Our previous 4 days were spent with our NC family.  Calvin, Katelyn and our son & Sara, a.k.a. mom & dad, were all there but so was a nasty virus that hit our little Katelyn hard.  Having just turned one on the 4th of July, our hope was to shower her with fun and presents and a nice birthday party before we left for home.  The party would not happen but the good news is by our departure we got some serious love time from our grandbaby girl as she rebounded Friday and Saturday!  Calvin was all Calvin although I believe he was fighting with every bit of his now almost 4 year old strength to ward off that pesky virus bug.  We did not get to go on our usual grand adventures but did have fun shopping and watching him at swimming lessons.  The bug seemed to catch mom and now today, home relaxing, I think it's caught Wendy.

Whenever we are on the road I try to keep up with ministry thru my blog and Facebook and staying in touch with the parish via email.  I also try and keep up with all that is going on in the world, sadly all so tragic.  I am deeply troubled by the hate, racism and violence that seems so prevalent in our world today.  Since so much of this is focused in Baton Rouge, LA, this is somewhat personal.  Both of my children spent many wonderful years living in Baton Rouge while getting a great education at LSU.  Then again I recall the night that, in great fear, Elizabeth called me and reported that she had been robbed and locked in a freezer at gunpoint while working at a yogurt shop.  My youngest sister has lived in Baton Rouge since the early eighties and raised her two children there.  Now, Baton Rouge is ground zero.  The shocking killings in Dallas are also top of mind.  As a nation, we are a mess.  We worry about possibly being killed by terrorists like ISIS but here we are, in a once great nation, killing one another.  Why? 

There has been lots of talk about love and peace lately on the talk shows, by celebrities and politicians alike, and everyone seems to have an opinion.  Love and peace must be of God.  If we could see one another, especially all those who don't look like us, sound like us, think like us, believe like us, as God sees us, we would be a lot further along on the road to peace.  Love and peace cannot be temporary things, they must be eternal things.  Love, if it is not love with heaven as it's goal, is not love at all.  Love that is only temporary and condones anything and everything in order to get along or not offend or not be worked at, is sure to disappoint and will end.  Love, unconditional, patient and kind, and eternal will never end, will not disappoint and will help us and our brother and sister toward heaven.

I talked about my grandchildren earlier.  I know plenty will relate to this: I love those kids powerfully.  It is easy to be able to love those who are special to you, close to you and a part of you.  In fact, we know that families love their own(most of the time) even if they are not intimately connected to and in love with God.  Jesus mentions this in the Gospels.  Loving our families, loving those who are "lovable" seems to be easy.  But what about loving the unlovable or those who often seemed opposed to us in some manner?  There is the key.  How can I love the unlovable or the different if I don't even have experiences or interactions with them?

This was driven home for me 10 years ago and remains a lesson everyday in my ministry at the prison.  Before that 2006 evening when I walked into Rayburn Correctional for the first time I had never anticipated loving an inmate, caring for a criminal, giving even a thought to the incarcerated.  For the most part, many of these men are deemed unlovable by society.  But they are children of God too, they love and are loved, they cry and hurt and smile and laugh.  And now that I have been ministering to/with them for all these years, I have truly come to love them!  And I hope they love me too!  But let's be clear, I love them too with love that leads to heaven.  I love them and listen to them and accept them but I do not condone those sins that they cling too.  And I say this with full knowledge that I am a sinner.  I love them enough to pray with and work with them on those things we know can prevent heaven, can separate us eternally from God.  In my awkward manner and ways, I hope I am making my point.

In one of my favorite Gospels, Jesus is about to witness the stoning of a sinful woman.  Jesus finds the right words, the right message and the woman is not stoned as one by one her accusers drop their stones.  Woman, Jesus asks, has anyone condemned you?  No one sir.  Jesus continues, neither do I condemn you.  Now here is where love leads all the way to heaven.  Sadly, many tellers of this Gospel story end here.  Do not let your love end here!  Jesus continued after he proclaimed with great love "neither do I condemn you", as he also said with greatest love, "now go and sin no more." 

We know those in our lives and maybe it is us, that persevere in their sin.  We believe it is "love" if we just ignore that sin and make no waves.  Please understand, love does not mean pointing fingers and saying you sin, you sin, you still sin.  Gracious, there should never be any mistaken notion that this is what I mean.  Loving someone all the way to heaven includes patiently and lovingly helping one turn from sin and grow closer to right relationship with God.  This can be done by prayer, by conversation, by fasting for someone, by offering your own struggles for them and it must be done by our life's examples of our own journey to God, to Heaven!

And in these powerful acts of real love, we should be enveloped by a feeling of true peace, powerful peace.  If that is missing, perhaps we adjust tactics but love and peace come from above and are directed back to that which is above.

I love those grandkids with all my heart, in a way that is particular to the love a "Pops" has for his g-kids!  And I love those men in prison.  And I love the sinner with a love offered freely from a sinner.  I try, with the help of God, to be a witness, to be an example of my own journey, from lost to hopefully found.  And all these that I love, I do so praying that loving them now, in this life, can help me love them in that glorious next life; the new life that awaits us in Heaven!

Love, all the way to Heaven!

Peace, that surpasses all understanding!

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