January 19, 2021

Another Look: Perfect Love

…No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

…If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus?

…In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

• From Matt. 5:38-48, MSG

• • •

if only this spiritual life
were about “spiritual things”
i might manage

if only i could cloister myself
to worship, watch, and pray
i might feel competent

if only there were a simple list
rules to guide and bind and lead
i might make the grade

but it’s not just jesus and me…

there are kooks in cars
who cut me off while on their phones
and cause my rage to rise

there are critics in corners
who trash my name behind my back
and rankle my resolve

there are crooks in commerce
who make false claims and double-deal
and rile my sense of rectitude

and i who am our father’s child
who breathes the air of kingdom new
yet still enfleshed and flawed and frail
must greet and speak and work beside
all manner of neighbor and friend and foe
and this is where new life must grow
in soil of human interchange
where we shake hands or by hands are struck

and heaven’s rain falls on us all


  1. Robert F says

    Japanese beetles
    decimate our red roses
    doing nature’s work

  2. Susan Dumbrell says

    Perfect Love, as experienced here on earth in my kitchen today.
    This afternoon my granddaughter and me hand in hand dancing to Bach on the radio.
    In perfect time with joy on our faces and love for each other and the music.
    Heaven here on earth.
    Perfect Love.

  3. Appropriate observations in verse.

  4. Right there with you Mike. Great stuff. Anything can derail us but for me it is particularly so with driving, which I do a fair bit of. All I need is 10 minutes in my van to get a correct view of myself and gain some humility. My Christianity suffers at the drop of a hat. So much for Mr. spiritual. Jesus died at a relatively young age having fulfilled his potential as a human. I think I will die of old age having barely scratched the surface. I would be so good if it weren’t for all these people.

  5. Very nice! This is a rather accurate reflection of some of my frustrations in church work.

  6. Christiane says

    maybe it’s those frustrations that help us in the end (?)

    I was thinking about this from Anne Lamott which struck me last week as particularly meaningful in the midst of medical worries and also the emotional trauma of a friend:

    ““it may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work,
    and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.
    The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
    The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

    (Anne Lamott, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace)

    I wouldn’t be the same person without all of the trials I endured, but I don’t think I would have been a BETTER person, no. It’s left me at the very least grateful for having survived troubles. And being grateful is so much better than the other . . . . .

  7. It’s not like the information isn’t available, some of it even linked here such as Richard Rohr. It’s not as if we are ignorant of the pioneers, the precursors, the Desert Fathers, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, Thomas Merton. We compete in our intellectual and academic knowledge of these people, people who wrote in terms of their own time and place, and we ignore the 21st century teachers who speak in terms of today.

    Not only ignore, but repudiate, heap scorn, ridicule their instruction for overcoming the wiles of the ego, meanwhile clinging to that ego as to life itself in the mistaken belief that this is indeed the case, that we are in fact this ego that dominates our life and causes untold pain and suffering. To suggest that we are not our ego is to be placed on the dunce stool with a tinfoil hat. Modern therapy mostly centers on bringing us into some kind of practical functionality as if we rescue a dog from the shelter and attempt to socialize it to the point where it is not biting people and peeing on the floor and barking for hours and humping legs. The mistake we make in our human nature is in thinking we are the dog. We are not our ego.

    It is becoming ever more obvious to a growing number of people that we seem to be at the end of an age, just as the birth of Jesus signalled the end of an age and the beginning of a new one. At least in the western world the past two millennia could be called the Church Age, and it has every appearance of crumbling, even as we speak, tho not disappearing. Most efforts within the Church at large are attempts to stay afloat even as the ship breaks apart. Very few are looking ahead to see what the coming age may bring and how best to meet these challenges in 21st century ways.

    This is somewhat understandable in terms of a congregation of mostly unthinking, conventional human beings. There is fairly common agreement amongst the cutting edge spiritual thinkers and writers that contemplative meditation as a practice is the key to overcoming the ego and to come to know God as Presence in Unity. Mention this to most Christians and you will get “Huh?” Mention it to most pastors and you will get the same. Meanwhile the Nones and the Dones increase and the Church flops around in its death throes, at least in the West.

    You could study mystical writings intently for the rest of your life and it would not budge you an inch in spiritual growth if you did not put it into practice. You don’t have to have a Doctorate in Divinity to meditate, a child can learn to do it. Yes, there are various definitions and instructions, some of them maybe contradictory, but there are good teachers available to help sort it out. My main question for any Christian, which I don’t ask, is “Are you meditating for at least twenty minutes a day? And if not, why not?” Well, I know all the answers to that, so save your breath for Jesus.

    Using will power to overcome the ego just doesn’t work, and people who attempt this are usually unpleasant jerks. Contemplative meditation teaches you how to approach God positively thru the process of surrendering all that stands in the way, including thoughts, feelings, images, memories, doctrine, all the monkey business of the ego that we hold so dear. The religious name for this is kenosis, the emptying of the self as shown by Jesus and symbolized in the cross. It’s the main point of the whole shebang. This can be learned by doing, letting things go over and over and over in meditation as they arise until we start to get the hang of it and can even do it in what we like to think of as real life. We not only can learn to approach God, we can get better at dealing in love with our neighbors from hell, both without and within the Church. We can even learn to deal with our self. Nevermind other people, practiced contemplative meditation can at least lessen the world of some of our own contributions to the turmoil and mess. Not as some kind of instant cure, but a gradual spiritual healing to the extent you pursue it with the help of Spirit. It works. We’ve tried it for two thousand years in the strength of our self with all our intellectual opinions, so I would ask, how’s that working out for you?

    • Christiane says

      Kathleen Norris is a contemporary ‘sort of’ contemplative.
      I have loved reading her books, but I admit I am basically a poetry-lover who likely belongs in the time of my great-grandmother’s day. I read a very old family letter, and then I recognized something in it that was ‘familiar’ (deja vu?) as if I knew those people or I had a connection with them. Some kind of genetic memory? But that’s silly. 🙂
      I have never understood this. (?)

      • >> Some kind of genetic memory?

        Perhaps, of sorts. Certainly not silly. There is a strong Christian bias against the notion of returning to earth to live another life as another person. I say tell that to John the Baptist if you should run across him. There are multiple accounts of people who interact repeatedly over generations as part of the same family or group of friends and associates. No way to prove this is so, but no way to disprove it either. I would trust the feeling were I you. Not necessary to understand it, but it may be made plain on the other side.

        • Christiane says

          Hi CHARLES,
          well, the letter evoked a ‘kindred’ feeling and I grew up hearing much about my mother’s whole family and their struggles during and after the Civil War, so as a child I may have taken some of these stories to heart. But still . . . . . it seems as though the author of the letter is someone I knew and cared about, though the person died long before I was born. It’s hard to explain.
          I don’t believe in ‘reincarnation’ but I do think that sometimes people inherit personality traits and ways of communicating that reflect their roots. (?) I am left with mystery and yes, I appreciate your kind comment, this: “I would trust the feeling were I you. Not necessary to understand it, but it may be made plain on the other side.”

          Thanks for responding. 🙂

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