Rise Up in Love

In my tradition Lent begins today. A six week season leading up to Easter.  A time to slow down and listen for the ways in which that great mystery we call ‘Spirit’ is speaking into our lives.  Sometimes the Spirit guides with a nudge, sometimes a slap upside the head.  Even so, we often miss the cues.

Many of us are over stimulated and over scheduled.  Certain politicians foster anxiety and division by telling us whom to fear.  In the wake of such busyness and noise…how do we tune in to the ways in which God speaks?  Is there a way to get in sync with God’s eternal rhythm?

Last week I went on a spiritual pilgrimage to Nicaragua.  Our team of ten spent ten days living in Apontillo, a rural, isolated village in the District of Matagalpa.  Our team worked alongside local leaders installing 40 water filters and staffing a health fair where we screened for anemia in children.   We fell in love with the people.

We were hosted by AMOS: Health and Hope  http://www.amoshealth.org/ a faith-based mission that empowers communities to develop best practices to ensure basic health care for all.  Ada Luz serves as AMOS’ Health Promoter for her community. She is the only accessible health provider for her community of 1300.

On Mondays and Fridays she sees up to 40 patients who may walk three hours to see her.  The other days she walks the mountainous terrain to visit those pregnant, newborns or those in poor health.  She’s always on call for an emergency.

It was humbling and inspiring to see how Ada Luz with the support of her community take care of each other.  A sense that ‘we are in this together’.

Such a witness is reminiscent of Jesus’ words in Matthew 22: 34 – 40, in response to a question: “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus responds: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’.  This is the first and greatest commandment, And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In Apontillo we had fewer distractions…no cell reception, no WiFi, no politicians and  cable news chumming the waters of fear.  Rather, we had time to listen, pray, reflect on Scripture and be inspired by the humble service of people like Ada Luz.

Now back in the ‘real world’,  I want to hold onto what I learned and the neighborly rhythm we experienced in Nicaragua.  I want to spend less time being fearful and more time being generous.  Less time excluding and more time including. To hold onto the eternal truth that what  truly matters is ‘love’.

photo-nica-team-2017
Nicaragua Mission Team with village friends and Ada Luz (in center wearing white).

Maybe like me, you are a follower of Christ.  Maybe not.  But we all need time to slow down.  To look around and know that we’re not really all that different.

For me the Season of Lent reminds us to be mindful, to focus on what truly matters.  To put into practice that which Jesus says is foundational for how to live and be.

Happy Agape Day

Heart in snow

Love in the Greek language has many manifestations. Eros speaks of the erotic attraction of two people. Eros refers to those moments of combustion when two people are physically attracted. It is a wonderful type of love full of passion. It is summed up in the phrase: ‘Va va va voom!’ Movies and images as diverse as Hallmark cards to the raciest films make a lot of money fanning the flames that come with erotic love.

Philia is another type of love. Our word fraternal is related. It speaks to those who are bonded by a deep sense of identity. People who share the bond of family or tribe have a fraternal love. At its best this type of love is beautiful as in the love of a parent for a child. At its worst philia can lead people, tribes and nations to war protecting themselves from those perceived to be a threat.

The ancient Greeks knew that love is complicated. They knew that eros and philia can bring out the best and the worst in the human condition.

2000 years ago an itinerant healer and mystic named Jesus was guided by a third type of love. The Greek word is

agape.

Agape is a selfless love that isn’t dependent on physical attraction,the bond of blood or tribe. Agape comes from a deep place both within and beyond a person. Such a love enables us to relate to people in a universal and expansive way. Paradoxically such a love is both detached and profoundly intimate.

Agape empowers us to serve without thought of what is in it for me. It transcends fear and leads to freedom. Freedom from bitterness. Freedom to forgive. Freedom from self-centeredness. Freedom from hate. Freedom to accept. Freedom to be.

coffee for homeless

How do we know when love is of God? When it is expansive, life-giving and self-less.

Anne Lamott writes: “If god hates the same people you do, rest assured you’ve created god in your own image.”

Agape is about becoming aligned with the wisdom of God. Jesus understood that we are a fragile species but with the Spirit’s help we are capable of loving more fully and freely than we every thought possible. Happy Valentine’s Day.