Photography is my passion. I captured this image at the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company Homes. A portion of these homes are abandoned and I had an opportunity this past winter to photograph the discarded spaces.

As I stood in the empty kitchen of a once vibrant home, I stared out of this window. I gazed at the snow on the roof of the abandoned complex across the street. I watched my friends struggling to walk up the icy path following my footsteps to this home. I began to notice how the light coming through the broken pane twisted and bent to reach my cold face and hands. The light rays danced as the wind ever so slightly moved the shattered bits of glass. A delicate dance performed at the perfect moment to an audience of one.

I lifted my camera, click, click, click. My mind and body shifted to the task at hand, capturing the moment, freezing time for an instant. It wasn’t until my drive home that my thoughts returned to the broken window and that beautiful dance of light and motion. Broken but the light still permeated the window pane, the kitchen and my thoughts. I was thinking about the heat from the sun, the motion of the wind and the power of God.

Today, as I once again look at this photograph, I remember that cold winter day. The memories of that moment in the abandoned kitchen flood my thinking and I’m brought to my own brokenness. The ways in which life has cracked and in some cases fractured my tough exterior. I think we are all broken in some way but we are afraid to show those cracks or expose our brokenness. We are conditioned to show the world our perfect self. We really aren’t perfect, are we?

The cracks exist but I think God uses them. God knows that we are not perfect. He sees us as we are. He knows our brokenness. Maybe it is through those cracks in our tough exterior, that hidden brokenness that God brings light. God permeates our souls through the very cracks that we are ashamed to show the world. I wonder if I am ready to show my brokenness? Am I brave enough to allow God in to heal the cracks?

Standing in Our Belovedness

Last week I presided over a lovely outdoor wedding. The families were wonderful and supportive, the couple was a delight. Everything was beautiful, thoughtful and (important to me) well organized. At the reception that evening, I was asked to start the meal with a prayer. Happy to do it. And on the way back to my seat, a woman pulled me aside and said how happy she was to be at a “Christian wedding.” Me too, I said, and wondered exactly what she meant.

I was thinking later that whether I had prayed before the meal or not, whether I had presided or a judge or someone’s best friend, whether we had a Eucharist or the whole thing took 15 minutes, God would have still been present.

We can work pretty hard at pretending we are riding solo. We can convince ourselves that we do not believe, or that God is only around when we are paying attention. We can pick and choose times that include God and times that we think we exclude God. And the truth remains. God is always, always, always there. God is always with us, always calling to us and inviting us, and always loving us.

And that is the hard part, isn’t it—standing in our belovedness. I think it is easier to imagine a vengeful, punishing, judgmental God than it is to realize that God is always loving us. We know we rarely live up to our own expectation of what that means. So in defense, we just look the other way, pretend not to pay attention. And yet, God is always loving us. Absolutely, delightedly, abundantly.

Prayer is spending intentional time welcoming and trying to live into God’s love. Prayer is standing before God as we are and allowing God to love us into our best selves. When we let go of all of the negative baloney we carry and just let God love us, we are changed. And we want to share it. But prayer is a discipline, a practice. So spend time practicing being loved, practicing being delighted in, practicing accepting that love. And see where that moves you. How will you become that love in a world that sorely needs it? Who will you tell about it, invite to pay attention?

God is loving you this minute! Open the door of your heart and let God in!

What does love say when we do not agree?

I love poetry. Every Lenten season I buy a book of poems from someone new and read a few a day as part of my prayer. I love the funny, the historic, the ordinary. I love words. And there are also poems or authors that aren’t my favorites. I was at a poetry reading recently, and some of the poets were fabulous, and some were… not my taste.

This is to be expected, and I want to be exposed to new things, to things I might not enjoy but should be open to hearing anyway. However, on my way home, I was thinking it might be hard to be married to a poet (or any artist really). What if they poured their heart and soul into a poem, and after the first line or two, you knew you were going to really hate it? And yet, there is your beloved, looking for affirmation. It could be so awkward.

What does love say in that moment? And isn’t it also true for religion or politics or anything potentially divisive. What does love say when we do not agree, when it is painful to listen, when your very heart says no? Isn’t it also true with friends and co-workers and the people at the gym. What does love say when the person you are sweating on the treadmill next to turns on Fox News or MSNBC?

This is the question for our time. And I would say it is a discipline that we continue to refine, a discipline of generosity and patience, of humility and investment. We model for others how we want to be listened to, how we want to be received, by the way we listen and receive. Sometimes, the most loving thing is to tell the truth boldly and sometimes it is to breathe deeply and believe in the good in each person.

What I know for sure is that the way is not violent or mean. I know that being right isn’t as important as being kind. I know that there are plenty of opinions which are not facts. I know that relationships are precious and ultimately our only hope. I invest in relationships, even when it is hard, or I have to bite my tongue. We have to build up community, and that requires love, and love always includes sacrifice.