Love Like a Magic Penny

Hobson's Resort - Lake Jefferson, Cleveland Minnesota

Hobson’s Resort – Lake Jefferson, Cleveland Minnesota

My parents got a slide projector when I was around seven years old. The slide projector was a wonder. My parents loved the large screen pictures which would come out on winter nights, as we traced our lives through summers, birthdays, Christmases and two trips to Florida. But none of those slides were ever made into a picture that could be put into a photo album, given to a grandparent or hung on a wall. The last picture I have of myself is of my birthday party just before I started second grade.

With today’s technology, this would be an easy fix. That became impossible on Easter Sunday the year I graduated from high school. Our home burned. The only pictures which escaped were a few I had kept in an album in my room. Our slides were gone and most everything else in our home except our bedrooms. In the end, the only pictures I have of my early childhood came from the pictures which were given away. Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles realized how much those photos would mean to my parents. They gifted them back.

I discovered the year of the fire, how quickly possessions can disappear. Love remains. Like our lost pictures, only what was given away is something I possess today.

Malvina Reynolds wrote a song about giving love away. Her message was that people who love are the ones who receive love back. “Love,” she said, “is like a magic penny.” The lyrics go like this:

“Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

It’s just like a magic penny,
Hold it tight and you won’t have any.
Lend it, spend it, and you’ll have so many
They’ll roll all over the floor.

For love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.”

The less we give of ourselves to the world, the less we receive back. What we hang on tightly to, we are most likely to lose. The more love we give away, the more we are surprised by love coming back.

Some Quotes

Do not keep the alabaster box of your friendship sealed up until your friends are dead. Fill their lives with sweetness. Speak approving, cheering words while their ears can hear them, and while their hearts can be thrilled and made happier. The kind of things you mean to say when they are gone, say before they go.
by George W. Childs

Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people.

_Mother Teresa

Life’s most urgent question is: what are you doing for others?
by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Legitimization of Hate

It was inevitable, really. A mass killing, larger than the last biggest mass killing. It was probably inevitable too, that a minority group of some sort would be the target. With months of hearing debates over bathroom laws, it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise that a gay bar was the target. How much of the Orlando killing spree was a terrorist attack and how much a hate crime, remains to be sorted out.

I do know the legitimization of hate has risen to new heights in this election cycle. While it was a 2nd generation American with roots in Afghanistan, naming ISIS as his reason for mass murder, it was an immigrant preacher from Venezuela, who praised the deaths. Roger Jimenez (who claims to be a Christian) made a point of telling his congregation there was no reason to mourn the people shot in Orlando. Instead, he said he wished more had died. Both have been fed a barrage of anti-gay sentiment. Their purpose was hate. Their need was to attack a group of people who are deemed less worthy, by some in our society.

Whatever the tortured state of mind of Omar Mateen, he latched unto legitimized hate as justification for his decision to carry out an attack. Fueled by ISIS attacks on anyone who is different, he justified himself. Afterwards, Jimenez, latched onto legitimized hate to launch his diatribe against all gay and lesbian people, who he believes are destined for punishment. He says, that God has already put the “death penalty” on them, so why should anyone care.

A few days back, a close relative of an old friend was attacked by a person, who mistook his tanned skin, as that of a Muslim. Feeling righteous anger, the man knocked him to the floor and began to beat him up. He felt his hatred toward Muslim people, legitimized in today’s rhetoric, gave him the right to do injury and harm to a stranger.

It’s not to say I believe in reincarnation, but sometimes I think that in God’s great wisdom, justice would be served by sending Orlando’s shooter and Pastor Jimenez back to be re-schooled in compassion, reincarnated as young gay men in Saudi Arabia or some other intolerant society.

I hope that we come to a consensus on guns, mental illness and better strategies of tracking people who pose a threat to others, soon. More than that, I pray a new attitude of compassion will flow through this country. An attitude which loves, even people who we disagree with – whose life style, may be contrary to our own view of the world. An attitude which refuses to buy into the politics of hate. Jesus had it right, when he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Going in Circles – Searching for a Better Path

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“Dr George Buttrick used to tell of an early camping trip with his family, back when cars were still quite primitive, windows unknown and rain could easily drench the passengers. Roads as the time were either gravel or dirt. On a good day the travelers could usually cover about a hundred miles. On the last leg of their trip, they decided to finish up the drive pushing towards home. It was about midnight and raining. The going was difficult, their headlights dim, visibility poor. Fortunately the road improved, and the Buttrick’s commented to each other about it. Now the road was level and even, mostly straight, with only a few gentle curves. Having traveled some time they begin to notice that all the curves went the same way, all to the left. The terrain seemed strangely familiar.

No road signs gave any indication of where they might be. At last Dr. Buttrick stopped the car, got out, and began to look around. To his great embarrassment, Dr. Buttrick’s exploration revealed that in the darkness he had somehow gotten off the public road and onto a race track. For over two hours he had been driving in circles. Tired, eager to be home, with a couple of children who were weary, wet, cold and hungry the Buttrick’s were going round and round a race track.

Perhaps you too are going round and round. You keep circling the same territory, not making headway on your journey. Destructive patterns of yesterday haunt your today . . . trouble your tomorrow. God offers another path for you to follow. You can get onto a path that goes somewhere. God has a place and a purpose for your life, waiting for you to discover. There is a way off the race track. There is a way to life with significance. The way lies in opening your heart to the mystery which is God. The path starts when you unlock the door to your heart and let God in. Today is a good day to begin. . . a good day to trust God with your life. The way leads through prayer and surrender and putting yourself in God’s good hands. The way comes in accepting God’s great love for you.

Finding Unity – Can We Listen to our Neighbor’s Story?

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Every four years the United Methodist Church holds a General Conference with delegates from around the world. Because we are a global church, concerns which one part of the church sees as vital and needing immediate action, the other part resists. With viewpoints and ideologies entrenched, progress on resolving differences became impossible this year. A rule that would have set aside time for people to simply have table discussion around controversial issues was voted down. Eventually, a day or so later, our bishops called a halt to proceedings and set aside a two-hour period of prayer instead of doing battle over divisive legislation.

In many ways the arguments have mirrored the division in the US. One group is so certain they have the truth, they are unwilling to listen and even begin to understand the other. Neither is willing to view the issues from the other’s world view. We have been so convinced of our truth, we have no room to hear of another’s experience, even of God. We have stopped talking to each other, instead we talk about each other.

A wise woman once told of asking God to help her cope with a difficult person in her life. In a vision she was given to see that person’s soul as made of a beautiful crystal. When she began to look at the person, not as her great enemy, but through the lens God had given her to see him, the bitterness she had harbored fell away. Seeing the people we vehemently disagree with and have said harsh words about, through the eyes of God’s love can change a heart. I think that is why the writer of scripture told us “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. ” I John 4:20-21

The great issues of our day, both within Christianity and the world, will not be resolved by one group of people shouting at the other. We will not find common ground with others, until we allow ourselves to hear the stories of our neighbors. Only when we understand the painful realities of those we oppose, will we be able to look for solutions that meet the universal need for acceptance, love and compassion. I am by nature an optimist. I believe in the world of possibilities. I’m convinced that God is working in our world and in our lives, moving the mountains of resentment and perhaps greatest of all – distrust. I know this, because God continues to work in my life, urging me to listen and to hear the stories of my neighbors . . . Then to open my heart, just a little wider.