Refocus

Posted in Uncategorized on March 29, 2015 by yhcreligiouslife

Welcome back to another week of work, study, and transformation at Young Harris College.  This week, as we begin a week crowded with opportunities, projects, and examinations, I turn to an Irish-born writer, Katharine Tynan, to supply a poetic beginning to our timfocus 1e together. Her work helps direct our attention, if for a moment, beyond the busyness of this week, towards the weekend and its celebrations.

Enjoy her lyrical rhythms and have a wonderful week.

See you along the way.

“Easter”

Bring flowers to strew His way,

Yea, sing, make holiday;

Bid young lambs leap,

And earth laugh after sleep.

For now He cometh forth

Winter flies to the north,

Folds wings and cries

Amid the bergs and ice.

Yea, Death, great Death is dead,

And Life reigns in his stead;

Cometh the Athlete

New from dead Death’s defeat.

Cometh the Wrestler,

But Death he makes no stir,

Utterly spent and done,

And all his kingdom gone.

Place

Posted in Uncategorized on March 23, 2015 by yhcreligiouslife

Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.

–Deuteronomy 6:3

Place is important.  This notion is imbedded in our very language.  It is no accident that our words “culture” and “cultivate” sprout from the same Latin word, a wordMark Kroos meaning “to till.”  In other words, culture grows not just in a place but also out of a place.  Scripture echoes this claim.  Repeatedly, the land defines the people of God and what they believe. 

Working in a community inextricable from its enchanted valley, the significance of land and place to shaping identify and thought needs little justification.  Yet, drawing this significance of place to the forefront of our conceptual imaginations seems only appropriate, as our college initiates in a few weeks it first-ever Georgia Mountain Storytelling Festival.  That festival is a celebration of this land and its import for our college, our people, and our beliefs.  As a prelude to this storytelling celebration, we will hold our fifth annual Appalachian Chapel Service on April 7.  That Chapel Service is its own festival, a festival of song experienced through the performance of traditional sacred and secular Appalachian music by guitarist Mark Kroos.  While still a few weeks out, I wanted to turn our attention to his coming to our campus to share his talent, faith, and love for Appalachian music.  So, over the new few weeks as we move toward these celebrations, I encourage us all to spend some time ruminating—as my maternal Appalachian grandmother might have said—on this place’s powerfully nourishing conditions that have contributed to make us who we are as a college community. 

To start, first, enjoy this poem, below, from George Ella Lyon as an ode to Appalachian.  

Have a great week and see you along the way.

“Where I’m From”

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I’m from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded —
leaf-fall from the family tree.

Waves of Mercy, Waves of Grace by Emily Halstead

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2015 by yhcreligiouslife

waves of mercy

Last week, Instagram was flooded with pictures of YHC students at the beach.  Many students appeared to have a great time at various ocean fronts, watching beautiful blue waves, soaking up the sun, and recharging in the presence of good company while lounging in the sand.

When I start thinking about the beach, my mind immediately takes me to one of my favorite church sing-alongs from the youth group days, called “Every Move I Make.” This song comes with a fun little dance while you sing the lines:

Waaaaves of mercy, waves of graaaace

Everrrywhere I look, I see Your face!

If you aren’t familiar with the song or the hand motions, I highly recommend checking out this video of some adorable kids performing it flawlessly.

As distracting as that fun little dance may be, the song does provide imagery which is worth stopping to consider: waves of God’s mercy, and of beautiful grace pouring over us. We don’t need a physical ocean or a Spring Break vacation in order to experience these waves. Rather, these waves are ones which are freely available to all of us at any time and in any place.

Where do you feel God’s waves of mercy? Where do you experience God’s waves of grace? And where is it that you are able—when you put down the Instagram feed and look around—to see God’s face shining at you?

As we get back to the grind of the semester to finish out the last quarter of the academic year, let’s look for these pieces of the ocean in the places where we can find them anytime we so choose.

Preparation

Posted in Uncategorized on March 2, 2015 by yhcreligiouslife

rest-areaPressed by the inexorable turning of the calendar, this weekend marked the exchange of one month with the next, inching us closer to the poorly named “spring break” that is to begin at the end of this academic week.  In anticipation of this coming break and the possibilities a time of renewal, rest, retreat, reunion, and responsibility brings, I offer these reflective thoughts from poet Billy Cattey.  Particularly, I think of how these reflections and a week of shared work and intellectual exposure provides those who are attending one of the college’s several service, cultural, and conferencing trips next week.  Such trips present an opportunity to change the world and to be changed.

Enjoy the poem, anticipate the break, and have a wonderful week.

See you along the way.

“What Is Happening to Me?”

Just beyond my reach

Is something I should know.

The quiet whispering of new senses

Murmur in the back of my head.

 

There is something important out there.

Comprehended only in fragments,

It speaks of profound mystery,

And suggests resolutions.

 

Like a blind man learning to see,

I am presented with random patterns

That convey new knowledge

When put together properly.

 

Stumbling about in the dark,

I should be able to find my way.

The information is all there,

But I do not yet know how to use it.

 

Across an abyss of unknown,

I feel a new bridge under construction.

When will it be finished?

How soon may I cross?

 

When that time comes

I will plainly understand

Things that existed outside of me,

Things that I could only guess about before.

Keep Moving Forward

Posted in Uncategorized on February 23, 2015 by yhcreligiouslife

Moving ForwardIn those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

—Mark 1:9-15

Jesus has a job to do.  According to Stanley Hauerwas’ interpretation of Jesus’ journey into the wilderness immediately following Jesus’ baptism by John, we get a glimpse as to the unique nature of the job Jesus is about to undertake.  As prompted by the above Lenten reading from Mark’s gospel, we might remember the threefold temptation Jesus endures, there, in the wilderness on his 40-day job interview.  Jesus is asked to turn rocks into bread to satisfy his hunger, to throw himself from the temple to be rescued by God, and to worship Satan in exchange for ruling the world.  And, following each temptation, Jesus successfully resists.

A Christian theologian and ethicist, Hauerwas reads this text as not just a way of demonstrating Jesus’ fidelity to and clarity for his mission and work.  Hauerwas sees in Jesus’ resistance a sophisticated literary presentation by the gospel writer, outlining the vocational character of Jesus’ work.

In resisting the temptation to speak rocks into bread, Jesus demonstrates that the nourishing power imbedding in speaking the word of God is not to be self-serving but to feed the powerful the truth of their abuses and to feed the oppressed with the hope of liberation.  In resisting the temptation to throw himself from the temple, Jesus acknowledges that his mediation of the Divine to the human is not to link himself to God but to serve as a conduit that connects God and humanity to each other.  In resisting the temptation to worship Satan in exchange for ruling the world, Jesus recognizes that the kingdom he is to rule is not an inheritance of power.  Rather, his ruling is but part of an entirely new kingdom yet to be made visible, a kingdom characterized not by present standards but by radically different conceptualizations of power.  In other words, Jesus’ job is uniquely defined by the characteristics of prophecy, priesthood, and kingship.  He is well suited for his soon-to-be-assumed profession.

Our word “profession” originates with a Latin word professus, meaning “to declare publicly.” Thus, someone’s profession is what one claims she is committed to doing.  And, the degree to which one is successful in her profession may be measured against the degree to which she adheres to the virtues and attributes associated with that profession. For instance, a successful teacher is someone who carries out well the tasks associated with teaching, including the virtues she might require to enable learning to occur.  If a teacher is to be judged faithful to the task of teaching, she needs to be knowledgeable in her field, understand techniques of communicating information, and create a trusting relationship with students that enable challenging instruction and exacting but affirming evaluation.  As an example, if a teacher makes her students feel disliked or disrespected, then those students will not trust their teacher, preventing those students from opening themselves up for the necessary vulnerability required for new instruction, expression of personal thoughts, critical evaluation, and radical change.

For Jesus, his job requires prophecy, priestliness, and kingship.  He is professionally successful in his work to the degree to which he serves those roles and (in some respects) the degree to which he helps redefine them to accomplish his chosen tasks.

As prophet, Jesus routinely speaks truth to power, the task associated with prophets.  Recall his encounter with Nicodemus, a leader in the Sanhedrin.  Nicodemus, a leader meant to guide the Jews in the light of God, meets Jesus in the dark.  In that meeting, the light of the world found in Jesus enlightens this leader with a declaration that leading is done more through self-sacrificial service than anything else.

As a priest, Jesus regularly mediates humanity with Divinity, the role of the priest.  In his ministry, Jesus explains and bodily demonstrates that the link between God and humanity is found in their intersecting love.  Consider his many conversation with the Pharisees, love serves as the origin and nexus of life, a life defined by a love that gives more than receives, lets in more than keeps out, and expands more than contracts.

As a king, Jesus rules with power.  Yet, his rule is defined by a power that seeks not to dominate but to empower the powerless.  Jesus encourages Mary’s position as a disciple; he lifts up Zacchaeus who was thought low; and, in the end, he authorizes his followers to embody the creative—not restrictive—power exuding from a life found through rebirth in him.

While unorthodox, in Jesus we find a model for work that conforms to our standards as to what we might expect and the realization that fidelity to our work does not demand mindless inflexibility but assumes some innovation to execute our work.  Underneath Jesus’ entire ministry, a singularly important virtue seems required, a virtue we might call flexible constancy.  Flexible constancy is that capacity to remain committed to one’s task while nimble enough to adjust as needed to different circumstances.

Recognizing the importance for flexible constancy as a cardinal virtue is important as we all move toward the embodiment of our own work and, possibly more importantly, in our own faith.  To be faithful does not mean we cannot innovate, as long as our innovations keep our proper end or goal in mind.  Such fidelity to the vision of who we are called, destined, or hoping to be will ensure that we arrive at our goal and do so virtuously, faithfully.

Like Paul might have suggested to the Corinthians, the faithful life requires our ability to bob and weave, as long as we keep pressing forward toward our final goal.

Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

—1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Keep moving forward.  Have a great week and see you along the way.

A Different Kind of Holy Washing

Posted in Uncategorized on February 16, 2015 by yhcreligiouslife

Ash WednesdayAs he walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man’s eyes, saying to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see.

John 9:1-7

Often, one of the assigned scripture readings for this season in the Christian calendar is this story of healing from John’s gospel.  In this story, we read John’s recounting an occasion when Jesus met a blind man, engaged in a rather esoteric conversation with his disciples around the connection between sin and physical capacities, and, then, healed the blind man.  This story continues with additional debates amongst others regarding sin and various impairments and a realization that Jesus is the anticipated Son of Man.  This story captures many themes that define John’s text: (1) Jesus’ famous “I am” sayings, (2) the light and darkness contrasts, and (3) Jesus’ very public ministry, a ministry that offers repeated signs indicating who Jesus is.  This very public healing and the surrounding debate concerning the nature and propriety of Jesus’ actions amongst those within and outside Jesus’ inner circle stands in stark contrast to a similar healing story that takes place in Mark’s gospel.

In the middle of Mark’s gospel, Jesus encounters another blind man.  In that story from Mark’s gospel, Jesus, also, heals a man who is blind by rubbing saliva on his eyes.  Yet, there, in Mark’s gospel, the story has a rather different tone:

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, ‘Can you see anything?’ And the man looked up and said, ‘I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.’ Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’

 Mark 8:22-26

Instead of performing a public healing, Mark has Jesus doing two very different tasks, directly contrasting John’s story.  First, Jesus takes the blind man away from everyone else so that Jesus’ healing might not be witnessed by others.  Second, after the healing, Jesus asks the blind man to go directly to his home, avoiding the village (and, therefore, public recognition of what Jesus just did.)

Curious!

Why would John’s story and Mark’s story differ so significantly?  Why would John assume that Jesus’ healing was meant to give evidence as to who Jesus is while Mark wants Jesus to remain obscure?  The answer seems to reveal the agenda motivating and permeating both writers’ gospels.

On the one hand, Mark is writing for a community uncertain about Jesus’ ultimate character and their perseverance with a faith in the midst of suffering and an uncertain future.  Mark wants his community to understand that knowing precisely who Jesus is will always remain somewhat mysterious, blurry.  And, that such uncertainty about Jesus and their futures and faith is a natural and expected condition for a follower of Jesus.  In other words, they are in good company, and they are experiencing faith as it is expected to be experienced.

On the other hand, John is writing from a completely different perspective, penning his text much later in the life of the early church and writing from a position evidencing more confidence and certainty as to who and what Jesus is—I mean, just look at his prologue to the gospel!  In John’s text, Jesus never obscures who he is but boldly offers sign after sign and repeatedly declares “I am this” and “I am that,” intentionally echoing the encounter with Moses and God at the burning bush and Moses asking God’s name—a name recorded as “I am who I am.”  In other words, Mark’s gospel is about a faith that requires extra work to see well, while John’s gospel is about a faith that supplies a light, i.e., Jesus, by which to see the world better: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:5)

As interesting a point as it is that both these distinct healing stories sit within the same New Testament, it is equally compelling that both these healing stories are part of the assigned texts suggested be read during the season of Lent.  What are we to do with these two texts, and why are they both offered to us during this season of the Christian year?  While there may be several answers to these questions, here, I propose a few I find useful.

As already mentioned, these gospel writers seem to want to accomplish different tasks with their stories.  Mark wants us to be comforted in our struggles, while John wants us to turn our gaze upon the world, looking at it with the eyes/light of Jesus.  This last point leads to my second thought.

Typically, Mark’s text is assigned earlier in the lectionary cycle for the season of Lent, reminding us that as we being our introspective Lenten journeys that ignorance, uncertainty, and confusion are appropriate companions.  The time spent in introspection will lead to some clarity, but clarity is rarely found on the first try.  John’s text, conversely, generally comes closer to the end of the Lenten season, as a prompt to draw our thoughts out from ourselves and toward the world, beginning a transition from looking at ourselves with greater clarity to looking at our world through the eyes/light gifted to us via our recent introspection.  As it turns out, there are many ways to look at the world, and the Lenten season is but a reminder regularly to view it through the sight of love and grace, justice and peace offered through a life of faith.

So, this week, we are challenged to view the world with a greater level of intensity through an enlightened lens of love as the Christian calendar turns another page. The Christian tradition, as it is with many religious traditions, follows a distinct calendar revealing the contours of the faith.  That calendar turns a page, moving from post-Epiphany wanderings to the intentional journey of Lent that ends at the foot of the cross on Good Friday.  That page’s turning is marked with the ashes of a Wednesday service of humble reflection.  This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the start of a 40-day journey of introspection and transformation.

In the early church, catechumens—those preparing for membership in the church—started a 40-day journey, preparing for initiation into the church through a change in habits, perspective, and faith. Echoing Jesus’ 40-days of wilderness preparation as he initiated his ministry, these soon-to-be members would prepare themselves during Lent by looking inward in personal transformation before gazing outward in world re-imagination.  If you are able, join us this week at our Ash Wednesday service, laboring to see the world through new eyes.  And, regardless, continue your own journey of faith, struggling to see the world through new eyes of love and grace each and every day.

Have a good week and see you along the way.

A True Love Story

Posted in Uncategorized on February 9, 2015 by yhcreligiouslife

love-shoesWhy do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” . . . Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Isaiah 58, selected verses

In this passage from Isaiah, the people of Judah are angry. They feel as though God is not upholding God’s part of the bargain, the covenant that God established with Moses. In Exodus 6:7, God speaks, saying, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” This covenant forms the basis for Israel’s acceptance of the Ten Commandments and its abandoning other gods. In exchange for this loyalty, Israel returns successfully to the Promised Land, becomes prosperous, and presumes divine protection.

With the dividing of the kingdom of God into northern and southern halves and the advancing oppression of the Assyrians, Judah feels their loyalty to God has not been adequately rewarded. To underscore this point, Judah reminds God in the above text, “Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?” These people of God complain that they have humbled themselves in submissive worship and embodied that faithfulness through ritual fasting, yet Assyria’s momentum and Judah’s inhalation seem inexorable.

However, God, through Isaiah, draws a different conclusion: God’s sees Judah’s fasting but glimpses it shallowness; God knows they worship but perceives their sinfulness.

While close, Judah’s efforts to worship and embody their faith have missed the mark.

In fact, the Hebrew word—chattah (and the later Greek translation—hamartia)—in this biblical text to describe the house of Judah’s failure by Isaiah is often translated as “sin.” Yet, the word literally means “to miss the mark.”

In Hebrew, three words are typically translated into English as “sin.” Each, however, means something significantly different.  Avon, translated as “sin,” means “iniquity,” “perversity,” or “depravity”. Pesha, translated as “sin,” means “transgression,” “rebellion,” or “revolt.” Chattah, the most common word appearing in the Hebrew scriptures that is translated as “sin” means “to miss the mark.” Each of these words covers a different kind of human failure, and it is this last one—chattah—that occurs, here, in our passage. So, Isaiah specifically accuses Judah of missing the mark in their effort to fulfill their part of the divine covenant.

So, how has Judah sinned or missed the mark?

To answer this, it might prove useful first to understand what it means to say that someone or some group sins by missing the mark.

Within scripture, there is no comprehensive, systematic presentation of what sin is. Rather, the theological doctrine of sin emerges from a constellation of images, stories, and statements, creating a general view of what it means to say “sin.”  Stated positively, our understanding of sin starts not with a human failure but with a divine gift. In the first creation story, humanity is fashioned in God’s image, i.e., the imago dei. Then, the classic story of the “fall” intervenes. There, humanity oversteps its authority by assuming God’s place as the arbiter of good and evil. Both of these formative stories, while not necessarily meant to recall historic events, nevertheless offer significant theological insight. In other words, they are not meant to tell us how things got the way they are but are a reflection on how things really are.  Theologians call these kinds of stories etiological.

On the one hand, the imago dei is the notion of humanity’s being created in God’s image that sets us up not for a “fall” but for a “high” destiny. We are positioned as children of God, not God but like God in love, freedom, and community. On the other hand, the story of the fall captures a propensity just to miss the mark when given the option between two similar “trees.” Sin, in this way, seems to be about both, positively, what we might become and, negatively, what we nearly get right.

The broadest concept of sin in the Hebrew scriptures—chattah—captures this dual notion by borrowing a term from archery. An archer may faithfully and earnestly attempt to aim at a target but still miss the mark. In so doing, the archer commits chattah.

In the text from Isaiah above, Judah worshiped and fasted but for the wrong reasons, embodying the wrong outcomes. Judah’s wrong reason is that they engage in faithful practices but forsake God’s righteous ordinances, i.e., they do not care for the poor or the oppressed.  That is, they do not connect faith to life: “Yet day after day [Judah] seek[s] me [i.e., God] and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God . . . .”

Judah sees no connect between the substance of their faith practices and the living of their lives. Specifically, this is seen in Judah’s practice of fasting, a fasting that does not but should lead to their feeding the hungry: “Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. . . . Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”

Explicitly seen in this concern for fasting, Isaiah is reminding Judah that observing God’s ordinances should directly lead to righteous behavior. If not, the behavior is shallow; it is only two-dimensional. While on the surface, it looks right. However, it lacks the depth of true faith. Ultimately, Judah’s fasting misses the mark because regulating your eating in faith should lead to feeding those who need to eat. This failure by Judah is the very essence of “original sin.”

Original sin is for some a theological doctrine designed to offer a genetic explanation for our tendency for failure. However, I do not find such ontological gymnastics helpful. Rather, as I see it, original sin is but a way to describe the two-fold character of our propensity to miss the mark.

Historically, Christian theology, according to theologian Delwin Brown, classified sin into two categories: pride and sensuality. Classically, the word “pride” was used in a way that we tend not to use it today. This classic notion of pride, as Brown describes it, “is excessive self-regard, not adhering to appropriate limits, taking for oneself more than that to which one is entitled.” Today, we might use the word “arrogance” instead. In other words and to return to the story of the fall, pride is trying to act more like the Creator than one of the creations.

Conversely, sensuality is not a disparaging of our physicality but a way of articulating an excessive focus on our physical needs and wants. In the classical sense, sensuality was associated with the lower self, our physical being. Notwithstanding some of the potential problems with such a dualistic division of the self, placing this notion in a classical context proves helpful because it explains how sensuality is but sin to another extreme. Therefore, if pride is our trying to be more than human, then sensuality describes our being less than human, failing to embrace our responsibilities and rise above our mere passions. In summary, Brown says “sin is disproportionate love, love that is out of balance—excessive or deficient love.” By saying that sin has a two-fold character, we are saying that the sin of pride is loving ourselves too much and the sin of sensuality is not loving ourselves enough.  Both miss the mark!

Such excessive or deficient love as a descriptor of sin helps explain a lot.

For Judah, in this passage from Isaiah, they sinned because they did not love their neighbors who were poor, hungry, and disadvantaged. Rather, they loved their proximity to God but not the added responsibility of that position. For some, love in the excess leads to a selfish existence, being wrapped up in oneself, oblivious of the needs of the world and the love of our God all around us. For others, love in deficit leads not just to a selfless life but to a self-obliterating existence, allowing the self to dissolve and become of no value to oneself or others.

I could go on and on, but I think the point is clear. Sin and the doctrine of sin is not so much about violating clearly delineated rules and ways of living. To the contrary, recognizing sin can be as difficult as knowing true love. Nevertheless, we are compelled to search ourselves, our friends, our families, and our communities and to identify places where love has been misdirected, misused, or is simply missing. By learning to love well, our tendency “to miss the mark” on a variety of “sins” will diminish. Moreover, in our efforts to avoid missing the mark, to avoid sin, our efforts should focus on how we might love well.  Stated positively, we should be less concerned with “targeting” what is wrong than “aiming” for what is right.

As it turns out, a conversation about sin—something seemingly unavoidably negative in nature—is really a conversation about love—something inherently positive in nature.  Love is the key. In this week that finds us racing towards Valentine’s Day and all of the saccharine sweetness that has come to define the day, may our attention not rest solely on the love surrounding candy hearts and red roses but upon a love that leads to a life more reflective of the holy and less troubled with being just wholesome, remembering that “. . . these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Love well and see you along the way.

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