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.

God Moments – Sometimes There is a Hole in the Ceiling

IMG_6908Barry L. Johnson was a junior in college when his short story professor put a title on the black board and instructed the students to write a story to fit it. The title was “Sometimes, There’s a Hole in the Ceiling.” The story was a real challenge for Barry – it took numerous drafts and different ideas before he finally came up with a story that he was satisfied with. He wrote about a ghetto family who was surprised by help from an unexpected source. He closed his story with these words, “Sometimes, There’s a hole in the ceiling; it was made for the hand of God.” Every now and then the story would come back to him. As the words trickled into his mind, it made sense of some mystical moment, when the unexplainable happened. There would be an insight, light or wisdom that plopped into his mind. A series of unexpected events solved a problem he’d been agonizing over. Then, the words would come to him again “Sometimes there’s a hole in the ceiling – it was made for the hand of God.” (Sometimes there’s a hole in the ceiling – 1975 by Barry Lee Johnson)

When I first read that story, I thought of moments, more spiritual than physical. Moments of God’s presence where one is touched in such a way, that there is an assurance that God is near . . . when you just know, not only that God is close, but you are being loved in a special way. I think of ideas that have slipped into my mind when I have been perplexed – struggling to find a solution. Then suddenly, the answer simply is there. They are God moments, because there can be no other way to explain a series of coincidences and decisions made which are exactly right at a given moment in time.

But, I think a person has to be ready to recognize those God moments. One has to see outside the spectrum and vision one usually views the world through. How else does a person describe meeting a friend at a place neither of you could have expected to meet the other, but doing so on a day, you really needed a person to talk to? Or the set of coincidences that puts you where it was crucial for you to be? The thoughts that allow you to think differently of a person – so you see with compassion instead of frustration.

Sometimes, comes a moment clarity. There is a Hole in the ceiling, made for the hand of God. A hand that touches us and in that touch we know we are loved by God.

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”  II Corinthians 5:17

The Power to Push Back the Darkness

CandleFlameOn Sunday’s when I’m home sick, I like to check out the online worship service at Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City (www.cor.org). Adam Hamilton has been the lead pastor since the church began in 1990 around the idea that the church would be designed for “thinking people.” It was planned for people who are not shy about asking the questions of faith and willing to admit their doubts . . . People who sense that faith is more complex than the easy answers some would give us. A while back I was struck by Adam Hamilton’s comment, “You are God’s strategic plan to push back the darkness.” I have to admit, that I have never thought of myself in those terms. Yet, hearing the words and being reminded that we are the hands and feet of Jesus in this world, got me to thinking – Just what does a Christian do, to push back the darkness in our world?

The present political climate in the United States is cause for many of us to search for a way to push back the darkness. Our inner demons have been set loose. The past year of campaign rhetoric has fueled attitudes of arrogance, racism, and fear. All of which lack the compassion of a Jesus. I find it hard to comprehend the attitude of people who claim the name of Christian and then proceed to do hate speech on social media. Christians are seeped in foundational stories which ground us. We remember Jesus telling us that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters , it is as if we are doing it for him. (Matthew 25:31-46) I’m troubled by Christian friends who have missed this compelling message of Jesus.

We live in a world of deep challenges, in a nation so divided that we find it hard to even talk to each other about the issues that divide us, but matter to all of us. Likewise, we live in a time of immense possibilities in need of people who will direct those possibilities for good. It comes to me that each of us, does have the power to push back the darkness. Each of us has the power of words, where we live and work, in our families and in our homes. We have the power to influence through our own attitudes and actions. Especially, we can use our words on behalf of people who are targets of bigotry, injustice and callousness.

We have been born into this time and this era for a purpose. We are followers of Jesus who need to act in love and be God’s strategic plan to push back the darkness, We do that by being agents of God’s love and grace. Our part may seem very small. It may seem insignificant, but daily we have the power to use the influence we have to build bridges of understanding. We can influence through our generosity. We can give support and encouragement to people who need to know the gift of friendship and the power of God’s loving care through us. Today we can make another person’s life better, because of who we are and what we do and say. We really can be people who push against the darkness.

Jesus said it another way, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized (NRSVA)