Category Archives: Sacred Love

A Harder Kind of Love: Forgiveness

Rwandan women learning to forgive

If loving others can be really hard sometimes, forgiving those who hurt us deeply can seem almost impossible at times.  Yet, forgiving others is not optional for Christians, and is perhaps the greatest expression of agape love we can show.

If you are struggling with your feelings toward a hard-to-forgive person, here are 10 points to consider that may help.

1. Forgiving others doesn’t mean that you are saying that what happened to you wasn’t terrible or wrong, or that you will enable their abusive behavior by not calling them to account. Rather, forgiveness means that you no longer want to stay stuck in your anger. You want to stop being fueled by harsh, resentful, or vengeful feelings. Holding on to your anger isn’t going to make things right; it’s only going to make you sick.

2. Forgiveness means that you stop hoping something bad will happen to “pay them back” or “to make them suffer” for what they did. Instead, you begin praying that God will work in their hearts and minds for good, remembering that “God’s kindness leads to repentance” (Romans 2:4) and that Jesus said, “love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).

3. When you forgive others, you stop holding the offense against them. You decide that you are not going to demand that they “give” you something (an apology, repayment, suffering, or some other kind of “payment”) before you will treat them with agape love, as described in 1 Corinthians 13. Instead, you choose to be patient, kind, and unselfish; and you refuse to punish them by treating them rudely or vindictively, because you want to be a person of love, regardless of what they have done or have not done.

4. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean that you will put yourself in a position to be hurt by them again. You need to know whom you are dealing with and what to expect from this person, so that you can set boundaries for your own well-being and that of others who may depend on you for safety. Limit their power to hurt you by not expecting kindness, goodness, or fair treatment from those who cannot or don’t want to love you in return.

5. Forgiving others will set you free from being a prisoner to the past, if you begin to discipline your thinking:

• Stop ruminating over what has happened. It’s not helping you.

• Stop trying to make sense of senseless behavior. It’s not possible.

• Learn whatever you can from what happened, and then stop going over and over the failed or dysfunctional relational dynamic. Such internal churning will wear you down, and give you nothing in return.

• Maintain at least a neutral attitude toward the person who refuses to apologize, or is unwilling to seek healing in your relationship.

6. Remember, the future lies before you. Grieve what was lost or taken from you and accept that you do not have the power to change what has happened in the past. Then start looking forward.

7. Forgiveness, then, means moving on:

• Use your energy to focus on what brings you life and joy.

• Cultivate and enjoy your relationships with those who truly love you, enjoy your company, appreciate you, nourish and sustain you, and treat you well.

• Focus your attention on your calling and purpose in life to serve Christ with your unique set of gifts, abilities, resources, and opportunities.

8. Ask the Holy Spirit to release you from your attachment to your hurts and disappointments. Ask God to release the poison from your heart and mind. Seek freedom and healing so that you will not be so controlled by the actions of others, and so that you can focus your energy on developing truly loving relationships.

9. Pray for the ability to be compassionate and gracious toward them; and to genuinely desire good for their life. For those who offer a heartfelt apology, set them free by accepting their gesture.

10. Accept that no matter how hard or impossible it may be to “feel” forgiving toward someone, forgiveness is ultimately a matter of obedience to the Holy Spirit, who tells us to forgive others as we have been forgiven.

After the genocide, “Nehemiah” wanted to kill as many people as possible. After his parents were killed by workers on their farm, he sought to slake his thirst for revenge by joining the army.

One day the man who killed his father came to him asking for forgiveness.  A revolver was holstered at his waist. This was his opportunity.

But he couldn’t do it. By this time, Nehemiah had become a Christian and left the army. He was teaching children and working as an evangelist.

When his elder brother heard that he passed up the chance to get revenge, he was livid. “Why didn’t you kill him?” he screamed. Jill and I asked him the same question.

His answer was simple, but sincere: “God has forgiven me for so much, how could I not forgive him?”

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2, NIV)

The Point: Forgive those who have wronged you, rejected you, or let you down, for your sake as well as theirs. Imitate God’s love by forgiving others as you have been forgiven. Choose to act toward them in ways that fit with your faith and values, in obedience to the Spirit, regardless of how they may act toward you.

Prayer: “Loving God, thank you for the immensity of your patience, kindness, and generosity to me, in spite of my reluctance to repent at times and resistance to your call to love others as myself. Please set free from my anger, hurt, and desires for revenge. May your will truly be done in me and through me that I may rise above my own limitations to increasingly become a person of love, without exceptions.”

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“When Loving Gets Tough”

Tim Geoffrion

Loving people can be really hard sometimes.

When conflicts arise or we have been hurt, or when others really irritate or offend us, it can be really tough to love them. Even when we are committed to being people of love, we can be tripped up by our own weaknesses, fatigue, or selfish instincts. For any number of reasons, our intention or attempts to love others can fall short.

There’s simply no formula that “works” in every situation. In spite of our best intentions, sometimes, we don’t know what to do differently. Or, if we do know, we may feel that it’s just too hard or exhausting to keep trying.

If this is how you’re feeling, it may be time to step back and take a fresh look at what’s going on. In my experience, greater self-reflection, changing my attitude or approach, and tapping more fully into the source of love have all helped me to become a more loving person.

Specifically, here are several things you can do that might make a real difference:

1. Don’t undo your efforts to love someone by letting yourself explode or say something nasty in a moment of weakness. Force yourself to take at least five deep breaths when you feel agitated or angry in order to calm down before saying or doing anything.

2. Ask yourself when you are trying to show love to others, “Whose agenda am I serving?” When others sense that your “love” is mostly about serving you or making yourself feel good, and not about them, don’t expect them to cooperate. You may get hurt or upset with them for ignoring or rejecting your overtures, but the problem in the relationship could very well be in you, not them.

3. Recognize and accept your powerlessness to change people. Even if you could change a loved one, it’s not your job. Your role is to love them, to encourage them, and to offer input when appropriate. Ask God for the courage and strength to speak the truth in the midst of conflict, and for compassion to do so in love. (Ephesians 4:15)

4. Remember that you always have power to choose how you are going to act toward others, regardless of their actions toward you. You may not have power to feel love or even to control your reactions as well as you would like. But you can keep returning to a place of resolve to show agape love in your actions—by being patient, kind, courteous, humble, selfless, forgiving, and encouraging (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

5. Accept their limited ability to love you in return, or discuss with them how to make the relationship more reciprocal. If your love is contingent upon their loving you in return, or you would simply like more from the relationship, talk with them about your needs and desires. If you would like to be able to love them unconditionally with God’s agape love, then let go of your expectations of any particular kind of response from them.

6. Attend adequately to your own needs in healthy ways. Instead of just trying to change your behavior, seek wisdom into what is going on inside of you that keeps prompting you to act in unloving ways. What needs do you have that are going unmet? How could you get your needs for love, for affection, for friendship met in healthy ways?

7. Tap more fully into the source of love. We simply cannot love unconditionally on our own, and we cannot give what we have not received. What could you do to connect better with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis so that you may experience the love and grace of God in deeper and deeper ways? How could you cultivate your relationship with God so that you will have more fresh, living water in your inner “well” to draw from?

Loving others can be really hard or tricky sometimes, but it is your calling, regardless of the response of others. By letting God’s love meet your deepest needs, and by following the Holy Spirit’s leading in the ways of love, you will increasingly become part of the solution to a world riddled with unresolved conflict, alienation, and pain. It’s also the only way to truly experience the full life that Christ intends for you.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)

Point: Don’t expect loving others to be easy, and don’t reserve your love for those who love you back. We are called to get past our own self-centeredness and selfish instincts in order to love others as God loves us. Jesus showed us the way, and we have the Holy Spirit to help us to do what we cannot do on our own.

Prayer: “Loving and gracious God, thank you for your unconditional love and mercy. Please help me to fully trust in your love for me, to accept your forgiveness, and to be renewed in the deepest part of my being. And lead me in the way of love, especially when it is really hard for me, so that all those around me may sense your love flowing through me.”

This article is part of the “What Will Make a Difference?” series for your spiritual nurture and growth.

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“Simply, Love Them”

Bald Eagle Lake Mtka

Are you getting all twisted into knots about something coming up or about seeing someone? Maybe you’re worrying about how things are going to go with the family over the holidays. Perhaps you’re in a leadership or ministry role, and you’re uptight about how your program is going to come off.

Over the past couple of months, I keep finding myself in the same sort of anxious place. On one hand, I’m excited about whatever is coming up. On the other, some worry or frustration starts to choke off my joy. I start gasping for emotional air.

Do you know the feeling?

Well, there’s hope. Apart from all the things you already know to do, let me suggest one very different approach in such situations. When you’re feeling uptight about working or being with others, try this: simply love them.

Here are two examples from my own experience.

Loving Those You Serve

It was Wednesday morning, in the middle of the Pastors Leadership Training Conference in Rwanda, a few weeks ago. When I asked God for a word for the day, I was surprised and pleased to hear, “Love the pastors.”

Rwandan Pastors at Leadership Conference

Rwandan Pastors at Leadership Conference

How refreshing. How freeing, I thought. I had already done all my preparation work. This was the missing piece!

However, I soon realized that my preoccupation with what I wanted from the week was turning the event into something for me—and my ability to love was vanishing.

When we were walking the labyrinth as part of the day’s activities, I began to pray for God to put love in my heart once again. I realized that asking for help was the only hope I had.

Musanze

Nothing happened at first, but as the day went on, I began to notice that I was thinking and acting differently toward the pastors. At one point, in the middle of a question and answer session, I suddenly realized that I was being more patient, kind, and understanding. I heard a voice in my head say, “Hey, you’re loving them!”

I almost laughed aloud. I couldn’t believe it happened again. I was chuckling with delight, because God had created in me what I could not do for myself. The Holy Spirit had delivered me from myself and answered my prayer.

Loving Your Family

A month later I got a similar message from God. This time, I was heading out to visit some family members for the weekend. Now, I love my family very much, and enjoy being with them. Yet, there are many pitfalls and ways I can go wrong in my attempts to relate well to them.

In the morning, before I caught my flight, I prayed my normal daily prayer, “Lord, please help me to live fully, to love deeply, and to give freely so that others may know and experience you through me.” As soon as the words left my lips, I sensed that God was telling me to relax and stop worrying. The most important thing for me to remember as I went into this family time was to “simply love them.”

I didn’t love them perfectly over the course of the weekend, yet the more I remembered to love them from my heart and in my actions, the smoother everything went. I wasn’t afraid to disagree or offer alternative points of view, but I reined in my reactions and kept trying to choose what I thought was good for everyone, not just me. The voice in my head kept reminding me: “love them.”

Tim and nephews

Tim and nephews

Surprising Results

I never make a point of telling others that I am trying to “simply love them”. I don’t think that would go over very well. I expect that my efforts are going to be my little secret with God, and I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will bring something good out of whatever love I am able to offer.

So, I was quite surprised at the end of the Rwandan conference, when the pastors’ spokesperson stood up to offer the customary words of appreciation. Instead of just commenting on the course material, he turned to look directly at me and said, “Because you have loved us, we have come to love you.”

And when I was about to board the plane to return home from visiting my family, I was surprised when my brother called and asked me if I would be willing to talk on the phone to my ten year old nephew. They had just dropped me off, but apparently he wanted to say goodbye again. Between words, I heard him sobbing. He didn’t want me to leave.

Funny, in both cases, I don’t remember doing much of anything to bring about these kinds of reactions. All I did was try to love them.

When you think about the people in your life and ministry this Christmas, what would happen if you simply loved them?

Above all, love each other deeply…. (1 Peter 4:8, NIV)

The Point: Relax. Stop worrying so much about what’s in it for you or how others are going to respond to you. Instead, think about them first, and pray for the grace to simply love them. No matter what your hopes and fears may be, the Holy Spirit wants to lead you deeper and deeper into experiences of God’s love—both God’s love for you, and God’s love working through you.

Prayer:  “Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me long before I ever thought of loving you. Please help me to experience more of your love, and to be more and more free to see others as you see them, and to simply love them as they are.”

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Crowning Christ, Loving the Least

This posting was inspired by a discussion during lectio divina this past week ahead of The Reign of Christ (traditionally, Christ the King) Sunday.

 

A Burmese boy orphaned after the murder of his parents.

A Burmese boy orphaned after the murder of his parents.

 

After an hour of reading, re-reading and meditating on this week’s Gospel text in our lectio divina group, we were getting ready to go. We had been focusing on Jesus’ well-known parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. There the Son of Man sits on the heavenly throne, reigning as the King of the universe, judging humanity based on their response to the needy. He uses the same criterion for both those who are welcomed into eternal life and those who are sent to eternal punishment: “Whatever you have done (or not done) to one of the least of these, you have done (or not done) to me.”

Each of us was squirming a bit in our seats at times, and a tad troubled with the strong language of judgment. As we shared our thoughts and questions with one another, one woman wondered aloud why this text was chosen for Christ the King Sunday. Apparently, the choir was planning to sing about crowning Jesus with many crowns as part of the congregation’s worship. Yet, she questioned, what does crowning Christ as king have to do with ministering to widows, orphans, and other suffering people throughout the world? In one case, we rejoice in the risen, exalted Savior and Lord who reigns in triumph in heaven. In the other, we grapple with the grief of those ruled by poverty, oppressive regimes, and cruel exploitation in the here and now.

That’s when it hit me.

Jesus told stories to make a point and often to evoke an emotional reaction. (So far, this one was working.) He did not speak as a systematic theologian, and he never wrote down a single word of theology—or anything else as far as we know. Rather, he was a preacher and teacher, who used parables to powerfully touch the hearts and minds of whoever had “ears to hear”.

So, what are we supposed to hear, see, and feel from this parable? That living compassionately is a way of life for true followers of Christ—caring for those in need is not an option, but an expectation of all disciples. “Righteousness” is not simply about believing the right things about God, completing prescribed rituals, or following rules. Righteousness is a condition of our hearts that shows itself in concrete action toward those who most need our support, help, or encouragement.

Acknowledging Christ as King, then, is not just done by bending our knees and swearing allegiance to Jesus, or by lifting our hands and singing songs of praise in a worship service. Yes, discipleship involves a submission of our wills and trust in Christ for salvation. Yes, following Jesus calls for confession of faith and worship. Yet, what the parable of the sheep and goats shouts loudly is that those who truly crown Christ from their hearts also do so by how they treat their fellow human beings.

This parable is not teaching works-righteousness, it’s insisting that the righteous will do good works.   

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ … ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:31-36, 40, NRSV)

We crown Christ king every time we respect and care for others as we would him. We crown Christ king every time we let his love flow through us to others as if we were loving him. We crown Christ king every time we see someone in distress, and instead of judging them, dismissing their pleas, or ignoring their needs, we say, “There’s Jesus! How can I best show my love to him now?”

Now that I’m thinking this way, I suspect I have a lot of coronations coming up.

I’m actually excited about the prospects.

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“What can anyone do?”

This posting is the third in a series stemming from our recent trip to Rwanda and Congo.

Coaching session with Chaplain Bolingo

Coaching session with Chaplain Bolingo

To say the situation is bleak in Congo understates the horror and impending catastrophe there. Since leaving Goma (the capital of Northern Kivu, on the border of Congo and Rwanda) a few weeks ago, the situation has deteriorated rapidly, with a sharp spike in displacement, hunger, rape, and deaths. The rebels have routed the government troops and sent tens of thousands of people running for their lives without adequate food or medicine.

As many know, somewhere between 800,000 and 1.1 million people died in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. What much of the world does not seem to realize is that the death toll has continued to mount just over the border in Congo, in an extension of the hostilities stemming from the genocide.  Since 1997, a staggering 5.4 million people have died from fighting, starvation, dehydration, and disease. Currently, up to 1500 people are dying per day in the region of North Kivu.  

17,000 United Nations troops are in the country, but it’s not enough. The U.N. is once again undermanned and over their head in the face of the greatest humanitarian disaster since the Second World War. Stretched to the limit, and unable to stop the Tutsi general, Laurent Nkunda, and his advancing rebel troops, the U.N. has dug in. They are hoping for reinforcements and waiting to see what will happen as a fragile ceasefire has given everyone a few days of respite, before the inevitable onslaught continues.

What can anyone do? You and I simply do not have sufficient wisdom, political clout, material resources, human resources or anything else of substance to make a difference in eastern Congo in any significant way. (Though, for those willing to contribute money, organizations such as HEAL Africa [healafrica.org] are on the ground and able to put donations to work to help victims immediately.)

And what about in all the other troubled spots around the world, where human suffering abounds and obstacles truly seem insurmountable? What can any of us ever do in the face of such intractable problems—whether in developing countries or simply in our own personal lives and families?

We can do whatever we can do.

In the face of loss of life, destroyed homes, broken relationships, and other crippling disasters, it’s easy to want to give up. It’s easy to think that there’s no point in trying to help. It’s easy to despair. But, the truth is there is almost always something that we can do, even in the midst of the worst tragedies and most overwhelming circumstances.

Meeting with genocide survivors, encouraging African leaders, and coaching pastors in Congo have inspired me in new ways to not give up hope. In just 10 days this fall, I met numerous people who are finding meaningful ways to make a difference. For example:

As I have been writing about over the past couple of weeks, Théo has been caring for his three younger sisters ever since he was orphaned in the Rwandan genocide when he was twelve. He is a survivor, and has showed me the power of focusing on what he can do, rather than on what he can’t. 

Cristina and Chelsea have given a year of their lives as Christ Presbyterian Church and Upper Room interns at HEAL Africa in Goma. One is helping women to develop products for sale in an arts center. The other is making plans to do development work with those who most need help learning how to provide for their own needs. Both are invested fully in doing whatever they can to help wherever they are needed.

Paul and Lyndee came with a team of volunteers from Australia to offer their services to HEAL Africa for two weeks. Paul upgraded the computer network, and Lyndee tutored numerous individuals in English. They don’t know if the buildings will be standing or how many of their students will be living after the war, yet they are doing what they can do now. They are helping in ways that fit their skills, hearts and opportunities.

The Rev. Jacob Lipandasi, one of the Congolese pastors I have been coaching, has been working tirelessly on behalf of widows and orphans in his hometown of Bukavu. His heart could not be larger. His vision keeps growing. He simply will not be deterred by ongoing, seemingly insurmountable challenges. Just last week, he was interviewed on Congo radio and television, and is busy trying to expand his ministry to the most vulnerable.

The Rev. Kambere Bolingo, lead chaplain at HEAL Africa (pictured above during one of our coaching sessions), splits his time between ministering to patients, supervising the other chaplains, and doing leadership training in the country villages. He carries around great weight of responsibility and concern, but every day he seeks to minister to needs and promote hope. Now, he has already started to coach some of the young men in his church with the same methods he has been learning first hand.

The Rev. Désiré Mukanirwa, Anglican priest in Goma, has a vision for the physical, mental, and spiritual vitality of his congregation. Many individuals in his church are illiterate, many families are overwhelmed due to the influx of refugees (relatives seeking safety in the city), and many widows are unskilled with little hope of providing for themselves. To help address these seemingly impossible challenges, Désiré went back to school to earn a degree in development and signed up for coaching. His plans for creating new ministries must wait while he attends to traumatized parishioners, a refugee pastor who has cholera, and daily threats of violence, but no matter what each day brings, he is doing whatever he can do.

We may never know what difference any of us truly make long term in a given situation—whether we are talking about helping suffering people in Africa, creating a better America, reaching out to needy people in our own communities, or simply trying to love our own families and friends better. We will always be surrounded by intractable problems, and can never guarantee what might happen tomorrow to the work we do today.

But today is the only day we have for sure. And what is within our power to do is all that we are responsible for. Each of us can do something for some situation that we care about. By writing emails, making phone calls, contributing time and money, offering a smile or gentle touch, or simply showing up with willingness to help, we can stand in solidarity with those who are suffering. We can link arms with those who are trying to do something to make a better world.

As the Apostle Paul taught, God has equipped each believer with an ability to contribute meaningfully in this world. Paul encourages us to believe in this message of hope, and to fulfill our calling by acting on the opportunities we are given. He writes:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a [person’s] gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:6-9)

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:9-10)

What can anyone do?  

Whatever we can.  

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“Facing Truth”

This is the first in a series of reflections on our recent trip to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo with Faith, Hope and Love Global Ministries.

 

Théoneste—Kigali, Rwanda

Théoneste—Kigali, Rwanda

Presumed dead, Théoneste was thrown into a latrine filled with piles of other mutilated bodies. Having just witnessed his parents being hacked to death by genocidaires, he was barely hanging on to his own life. As he lay dying from a machete blow to his head, he drifted in and out of consciousness. Théo was just twelve years old.

When night fell, his uncle who had been hiding in the forest nearby fished him out of the mass of bodies. He was still breathing and was starting to regain consciousness. Though the killers soon caught up with and murdered his uncle, Théo managed to escape. That was fourteen years ago, and only the beginning of his long journey of suffering.

In one fateful day, in the midst of 100 days of genocide where over 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in Rwanda, Théoneste had to suddenly grow up—or perish. He instantly became responsible for his three sisters, who also miraculously escaped being slaughtered.

First they went to an orphanage of sorts, but soon it had to close due to lack of funds. A kind man took the four children in, but then he died. Since the deceased man’s widow simply was not able to take care of them along with her own children, they had to leave her home. On the street, they went from place to place looking for places to sleep wherever they could. When Théo was able to work, they were finally able to rent a small apartment. However, his limited income sometimes meant they had to go without food for two or three days at a stretch.

Théo also suffers from headaches, and sometimes his nose suddenly starts bleeding without warning. He showed us the scar stretching across the top of his head. No doubt the throbbing and bleeding are linked somehow to the old machete wound. However, his symptoms worsen whenever he worries about where he is going to find shelter and food for his sisters. The doctor’s only advice has been for him to stop thinking about his problems! Some solution.

As I listened to his story, I wasn’t sure I could handle what he was telling me. I wasn’t sure I could face the truth of the extent of his suffering and desperation. Meanwhile, there are 350,000 other orphans in Rwanda alone with their own stories. If it were not for the occasional kindness of strangers and others who are able to offer the minimum of assistance, many would die. Instead, most of them barely scrape by. All of them continue to suffer.

I felt overwhelmed, and scared. If I gave my heart to him and his sisters, and gave them some money, what would he else would want from me? Would I get trapped in a relationship that would demand more from me than I could give? I had already shocked myself when some of us helped him to buy a small, three room house (not three bedrooms, but simply three small rooms under a roof that leaks, with no kitchen, toilet, furnishings, or floors). Where would his need for our help end, I wondered? And maybe even more scary to me, what toll would caring for such a high-risk family take on my heart?

After listening to his story and making a plan for continuing to provide modest support for his sisters and him, we held hands and prayed together. He in Kirawandan, my wife, Jill, in French, and I in Franglais.

When we stood up to leave, Théo wrapped his arms around me. As we hugged to say goodbye, he clearly did not want to let go. Jill told me that he closed his eyes and put his head on my shoulder as he hung on for dear life for at least 60 seconds.

After I made a few tentative taps on his back, which usually signal that its time for the hugging to finish, I caught myself. That’s not the message I wanted to send at all. I didn’t want to let go either.

I stopped tapping.

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” (Mark 6:34-37, NIV)

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

I have no illusions that I can solve the problems of Rwanda or that I can ever rescue or provide all that this young man and his sisters need. I am no hero, and in fact, my experience in Africa is showing me how small and weak I actually am.

However, I am not completely powerless.

I’m still not sure how well I truly can handle the harsh realities I am starting to face in Africa, but I can try to face the truth of the suffering of others. I can choose not to avert my eyes. I can open my heart and mind. I can embrace at least this one relationship.

I can commit.

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The Sacred Love Flow

One day this winter, I had a waking dream of the sacred love flow. My experience has led me to a powerful vision of living life completely immersed in the love of God.

I was standing on two rocks, straddling a flowing stream of water. I sensed God’s love flowing under me and around me. I could feel the energy. I started to shake. The power was immense.

As I contemplated the prospect of God’s love expanding, I was suddenly catapulted into the air by the surging fountain. I almost fell over, the sensation was so powerful.

Then, I laughed. I pictured myself as a little comical figure on my back being held up in the air, helpless to do anything but flail my arms and legs. All I could see was water stretching out in every direction beneath me, and a pale blue sky. I knew God was all around me, but I felt alone and empty. I realized that there was only option for me to escape my present state. I had to dive beneath the surface.

I was afraid I would drown, but I intuitively grasped that my only hope was going forward. It was dive, and take my chances, or remain on the surface, surrounded by God, but completely unsatisfied.

I chose to trust. Instantly, I found myself underwater, swimming freely and looking at the beautiful fish and coral, lit up somehow by God’s light. I could breathe by some miraculous oxygen source. I am completely at peace, and full of joy.

I want to live in the ocean of God’s love, and be filled and overflowing with it. I want to others to experience this sacred love in their encounters with me. I want every thing I do to be an expression of this love.

The sacred love flow is a vision. It’s a calling. It’s a way of being in the world. It’s far from a reality in so many ways, but it has become my guiding light. It is Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)

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