Monday, February 24, 2014

Loving God for God's Sake

Why do you love God? Is it because God has blessed you, healed you, or answered your prayer in some other way? In short, is it because of something God has done for you?

I heard someone describe how blessed they were because when a tree fell in one of our recent winter storms, it did not hit their house. I’ve said similar things and heard similar proclamations for most of my life. We claim God’s blessing for ourselves in all sorts of situations where things have gone well for us. But what if we do not experience a favorable outcome?

The book of Job offers an insightful rejection of the simplistic explanation that bad things happen as a direct result of unfaithfulness. Yet even with biblical refutation, we are often guilty of tying blessing or lack thereof to God’s favor or disfavor. When we do that we lose sight of the truth that God’s love for us is unconditional and not tied to our behavior.

Do we love God for what God has done for us or simply because God is God? Habakkuk provides us with a beautiful example of what it means to love God simply for God’s sake:

Though the fig tree doesn’t bloom,
   and there’s no produce on the vine;
though the olive crop withers,
   and the fields don’t provide food;
though the sheep is cut off from the pen,
   and there is no cattle in the stalls;
I will rejoice in the Lord.
   I will rejoice in the God of my deliverance.         
                                                                                                Habakkuk 3:17-18

To love God for God’s sake, in whatever circumstance we are in, is recognition and acceptance of God’s unconditional love for us. As we accept that God loves us unconditionally, we then can turn our hearts to God, loving God for who God is, not what God does for us.

Monday, February 17, 2014


Home is where the heart is. I experienced that last week. I went home to a place I’ve never been before, but I knew for certain I was home a short time after my arrival.

I traveled to Woodworth, Louisiana to a Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation. I’ve never been to Woodworth, but at the opening Eucharist on Sunday afternoon, I knew that my heart was at home in this community of pilgrims, even though I did not know but a handful of them.

From 2009 until 2011, I was part of a Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation. Every quarter for two years, I spent a week with people from all over the country. While we were together we lived by a schedule, patterned after that of a monastic order. The daily rhythm of worship, study, silence and community time from my two-year experience was so ingrained in me that I immediately fell easily and naturally into the schedule last week.

In addition to the familiar schedule, liturgy connected the community as we gathered daily for Eucharist, and morning, midday and night prayer. As we shared familiar and new words of prayer and praise, I experienced the nearness of God’s kingdom. And I was at home.

Jesus said, in Matthew 6:21, Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. My return to the rhythms of Academy reminds me that my treasure is not found in a place or possessions. My treasure is found in the body of Christ, lived out in koinonia, a community of intimate spiritual communion and devotion to each other and to God. With such a treasure, home can be found in a multitude of settings.

Do you hunger for such a home? Does yearning for Christ propel you into koinonia with others?

I invite your comments in response to these questions. If some of us are searching for a community of accountability and devotion to each other and to God, we might be able to birth such communities either in person or via technology. I look forward to your responses!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Knowing We are Loved

I’ve been reflecting over the past weeks about holy longing. And while I believe that relationship with God is superficial without yearning and desire, the panting love described in Psalm 42:1, I haven’t really talked about how to get to the place where you are so caught up with desire for God that you long for God. Not for God’s actions, but for God alone. (There is a big difference in seeking God because you simply desire the presence of God and seeking God because you want God to do something).

What I have grown to realize for myself is that for me to desire God, I have to know in my heart of hearts how much God desires me, just the way I am. God’s unshakable love for us, when we can finally accept that, opens us up to return that love. We can talk all day long about how “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so” but there is a big difference between saying it and really, truly believing it, believing it to the point that we finally realize that we don’t have to DO anything for God to love us.

No matter how much we may say we believe we are saved by faith, not works, many of us live in a fear-based relationship with God. We fear that we don’t measure up, that we are not lovable by God unless we act a certain way. Maybe we don’t believe God loves us because we know what we have done or failed to do. I expect it is nigh on impossible to be passionately in love with a God whom you believe is ready to zap you for not “measuring up.”

When I was part of the 2-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation, I remember Dr. Roberta Bondi telling us that God does not love us in spite of ourselves. God loves us because of ourselves. Take some time this week and see if you really believe you are loved by God. Look at your actions for God. Are they motivated by love or by fear? If you are having a hard time truly believing that God is crazy in love with you, spend some time this week pondering Romans 5:8: But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Can you believe that God loves you so much that God would die so you would not have to live with the fear of condemnation?