Ahava / Love as reflected in Jewish prayer known as Shema

There is no remedy for love but to love more.
—Henry David Thoreau

The first two of these commandments —
love for God and love for our fellow humans —
are actualized through mitzvot, a system that shapes ideals
into behavior and is deepened through communal norms.
— Joanna Samuels

Love God. Love God with everything you are: heart, mind, soul, strength. Love God with your life. — Kathryn M. Schifferdecker,
SONGS about AHAVA/LOVE
Ahava by Yonina (ballad): https://youtu.be/XqDH6RH5jas
Love/Ahava by Daniel Jawahar (Indian pop Christian): https://youtu.be/x11r5-7ciQs
Ahavat Olam performed by Platt Brothers (Hebrew worship): https://youtu.be/1yhk_obX7CQ
Ahava by Liran Notik (pop): https://youtu.be/mVKAwm3uaqs
Love Ahava by Everything Worship (Christian): https://youtu.be/Xy50VuvdYqM
Ahava Ka’zo (A Love Like This) by Idan Raichel (pop ballad): https://youtu.be/zkyorHkaJUA
Shir Ahava Bedui (A Bedouin Love Song) by David Broza (folk rock): https://youtu.be/z5mCVtcc8Hg
Some Love / Kama Ahava by Kobi Peretz (pop): https://youtu.be/XkpdFicK5As
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) performed by The Voice of One Calling (Hebrew/Arabic Christian): https://youtu.be/ZHW0uTpzsCM
Shema by Misha Goetz & Shae Wilbur (Jewish contemporary): https://youtu.be/81HSXFtYMRs
Shir Ahava (Love Song) performed by David Seguin (Hebrew Christian worship): https://youtu.be/UEX83Irhag4

SONGS about LOVE
Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane (rock): https://youtu.be/5Jj3wZVc7nw
All You Need is Love by The Beatles (rock): https://youtu.be/_7xMfIp-irg
I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton (country): https://youtu.be/lKsQR72HY0s
Love Is All performed by Playing for Change children’s choir (pop anthem): https://youtu.be/q4T37EaW4eU
Lean on Me by Bill Withers (rock): https://youtu.be/qkaexjc-1os
What’s Love Got to Do with It? by Tina Turner (rock): https://youtu.be/oGpFcHTxjZs
Vision of Love by Mariah Carey (pop ballad): https://youtu.be/tov22NtCMC4
The Book of Love by the Magnetic Fields (rock ballad): https://youtu.be/jkjXr9SrzQE
That’s How Strong My Love Is by Otis Redding (rock ballad): https://youtu.be/l7T9HKmERv0
I Say a Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin: https://youtu.be/7Ifw8JhDBvs
Cheek to Cheek by Ella Fitzgerald (ballad): https://youtu.be/GeisCvjwBMo
It Had to be You by Harry Conick Jr (jazz): https://youtu.be/_UnQOfPwZfs

Love Is the Most Ancient Law: A Blessing  — Jan Richardson
Open to it and you will know
how love is its own blessing
and most ancient of laws.
Pursue it entirely
with everything in you—
your heart (all)
your soul (all)
your mind (all).
Spend it all—
this love so generous
this love that goes out
to each it finds
this love that gives itself
in lavish and unimagined measure
everywhere and to all—
yourself not least.
Resources:
* Ahava / Love by the Bible Project (animated video): https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/ahavah-love/
* Agape / Love by the Bible Project (animated video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slyevQ1LW7A
AHAVA REFLECTIONS

The greatest commandment is to love God and the best way I know to love God is to love what God loves—which is everything! Surely this is the way that Jesus loves. To love as Jesus loves, we too must be connected to the Source of love. … If you don’t live from within your own center of connection and communion with God, you’ll go spinning around many other things. The true goal of all religion is to lead you back to the place where everything is one, to the experience of radical unity with all of humanity and all of creation, and hence to the experience of unity with God, who is the Great Includer of all else…  — Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action & Contemplation, https://cac.org/radical-simplicity-2020-06-29/

Love God. Love God with everything you are: heart, soul, strength. Love God with your life (perhaps a better translation than “soul,” since Israel didn’t conceive of a disembodied soul). Many scholars would say that “love” here is not primarily an emotion. They point to examples of political treaties known from the ancient Near East. To “love” one’s sovereign in these ancient political covenants was to be loyal to him … Such ancient political treaties are undoubtedly in the background of this passage. To “love” God as one would “love” a human sovereign entails primarily action, not emotion. To love is to be faithful and loyal in fulfilling the obligations of the covenant … Still, there is another realm of life in which the language of love and covenant abounds. The metaphor of marriage, though not as explicit in Deuteronomy as in other biblical books, provides a central biblical paradigm for understanding the relationship of God and Israel. —   Kathryn M. Schifferdecker, https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-31-2/commentary-on-deuteronomy-61-9

The laws are made for us, not us for the laws… We do not serve a distant God, but one who actually cares about how you treat people and how you are treated. People matter. Relationships matter. The dignity of human beings matters. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

The ancient Hebrew word “ahava” that is often translated as “love” in the Bible has a unique meaning too.  Sadly, this amazing Hebrew word is hidden behind the nonchalant English term that everyone uses for everything. Love or “ahava” in the Hebraic mind is very different in today’s culture. In the Hebrew, love is connected directly with action and obedience. Strong’s Exhaustive Dictionary defines ahava as “to have affection, sexually or otherwise, love, like, to befriend, to be intimate.”  It brings to mind the idea of longing for or breathing for another. Hebraically ahava is a verb and a noun, it is an act of doing. Ahava is not just a feeling. To get a clear understanding of ahava, let’s examine the Hebrew word itself and learn how to love Hebraically. — Daniel Rendelman, https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Hebrew-Word-Study–Ahavah.html?soid=1101268607427&aid=aDzDQxelEmk

Ahava: This is Commitment Love. It is a ferocious love. We describe this as the, I’m-not-going anywhere kind of love. It is when you say, “I know that I’ll mess up, but you’ll still be there for me” kind of love.” It is not, “I will be with you for as long as you make me feel good, but once you are dull, mean, rude or old then see you later.” This is the primary kind of love that God has for his children. Ahava anchors you down to the one you love. — Charles Schuman, https://www.fortgordonnews.com/articles/true-definition-of-love-given-by-god/

Whereas other biblical nouns and verbs convey a particular type of love, such as ion (hesed) which often designates kindness and loyalty, or p^n (hesheq), which denotes desire or passion, nnx (ahv, verb) is employed in a wide variety of social, political, and spiritual contexts. Ahv and ahavah (noun) occur over 200 times in biblical narratives and poetry. They convey notions of attachment, passion, affection, preference, loyalty, and yearning. https://what-when-how.com/love-in-world-religions/ahavah/

Taken together the command to love God with all our heart, soul, and might seems clearly to encompass every aspect of our being as well as all of our exertions of energy. All of our lives, all of our identity. And all of our actions. All of who we are, our gifts, our capacities to act. And not just a portion, a slice. All. Every last capacity. No part of our lives is to be segmented apart from full devotion to God, to obey and follow His precepts. This is the path to the greatest blessing … God will not compel their love. True love requires choice. Coerced relationship is abuse. God is love. With the clear direction of what path is in their best interest, God provides freedom. Freedom is the ability to choose …
https://thebiblesays.com/commentary/deut/deut-6/deuteronomy-64-5/

One Today — Richard Blanco
One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.
One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.
The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.
Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello / shalom,
buon giorno / howdy / namaste / or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.
One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.
One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together

AHAVA: Meditations on Holy Love & Human Love

Ahava Love is the risky, vulnerable, uninsured act of donatng what I prize most. Me. — Steven Daugherty

Love is unselfishly choosing for another’s good. — CS Lewis

The only way I know how to teach anyone to love God, and how I myself can love God, is to love what God loves, which is everything and everyone, including you and including me! — Fr. Richard Rohr

… according to Ahava, the woman described in Proverbs 31 is not some ideal that exists out there; she is present in each one of us when we do even the smallest things with valor. ― Rachel Held Evans

What was new and remarkable in the Bible was the idea that love, not just fairness, is the driving principle of the moral life. – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

As we perform these acts of love, they form in us a new memory — not of our vulnerability or nostalgia, but of our capacity to act. These mitzvot of love will become, we hope, as familiar as our established mitzvot already are. They hold open the invitation, always, for depth, intention, and truth.— Joanna Samuels
le’ehov ze klum, lihiot ne’ehav ze mashehu, aval le’ehov velihiot ne’ehav ze hakol לאהוב זה כלום. להיות נאהב זה משהו. אבל לאהוב ולהיות נאהב זה הכל. To love is nothing. To be loved is something. But to love and be loved is everything. — Saying in Hebrew, unattributed

Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change. ― Fr  Richard Rohr
ahava hi kmo ruach, yi efshar lirot ota, akh nitan lehargish ota אהבה היא כמו רוח, אי אפשר לראות אותה, אך ניתן להרגיש אותה. Love is like the wind, you can’t see it, but you can feel it. — Saying in Hebrew, unattributed

We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family. ― Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The first element of true love is loving kindness. The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person. ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

Jesus has loved his followers so that they may love each other. Love calls for love in turn. Love makes love imperative. — Allen Dwight Callahan

And only when we see ourselves and others as Jesus’ friends is it possible to love with the heart of God. … then all other competing claims about who we are simply melt away. You are no longer male or female, Jew or Greek, gay or straight, urban or suburban, republican or democrat, rich or poor you are simply the one whom Jesus loves. You are the beloved disciple. You are the one whom Jesus has called friend. And this unchangeable and unassailable identity you have as the one whom Jesus loves is the basis by which you too are afforded the honor of being loved by others as Jesus’ Friend. For you are who Christ chose and named as such. And nothing else gets to tell you who you are. — Nadia Bolz-Weber

Every morning, my father and I would get up early and say the prayers. Today, when I say these prayers, I wonder how I could have said that then? It was hypocrisy. It was a lie to say there that our God is a God of mercy. There is a sentence, Ahava rabbah Ahavtainu, with great love You have loved us; what great love You have given us and You loved us, and Your compassion was not only great but excessive. There? Yet we said it. — Eli Wiesel, Night, holocaust survivor

We continue to live in a fractured world filled with sinat hinam (baseless hatred), which each of us has an individual responsibility to counter with ahavat hinam (baseless love). The first step to repairing the world is for more of us to re-imagine it, particularly in relating to the other. Through acceptance, respect, and love, we invite the other in to share a safe space where we can become our best selves together. — Rabbi Yehoshua Looks

… abounding with ahava and shalom, love and peace, and a year made complete by the purpose to serve one another in joy. — Rabbi Max Miller

Sometimes the love of God is 12 inches from being real, the distance from the head to the heart. — David Ivey

… When I came to the Buddhist article in that issue of Parabola, I was struck by how similar to ‘agape’ is the word ‘metta’ from the ancient Pali language of India. The author, the Buddhist monk, Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, said the closest he could come to an English translation of ‘metta’ is ‘loving-kindness.’ … — Bob West

Christ’s message is one of pure love.  Loving for the sick, the poor, the oppressed that is what we are called to do … Christ has commanded us to show this love to every single human being on this planet.
… Our goal must be to, as Pope Francis has said, be a field hospital for those in a battle that rages all around us. The battle goes on in the form of war, famine, poverty, persecution, and it is our job to show the love of Christ to those afflicted. We are to walk alongside those who are walking down rough pathways in their lives…. Instead, we must have as a first goal to love and help each individual on earth …  — Devan, religion student, Emory and Henry College

I Did Think, Let’s Go About This Slowly
— Mary Oliver

I did think, let’s go about this slowly.

This is important. This should take

some really deep thought. We should take

small thoughtful steps.

But, bless us, we didn’t.

Advent Daily Devotional: Day 22 – Week of Love

Sunday, Dec 20 – DAY 22

Love glows bright as the focus of this week’s reflections. As we light our candles, we prepare to welcome holy love into our homes and lives.
            Can you imagine a love more determined than the one that chooses to show up in our messy and imperfect world? To be born human?
            It takes a stubborn love to move toward us, because we cannot ever quite reach that love itself. That is what our holy stories translate to us. Love chooses to be with us and among us in this season. And every day.
            The holy love narrated in our scriptures points toward agape. Agape is a love greater than ourselves. It is different than erotic or passionate love, larger and deeper than love for friends or family.
            Agape gives of itself. And part of that giving begins with movement. Holy love has turned to us and returned to us, chosen us over and over, meeting us where we are, coming to this world and time in which we live.
 — Rev Gail

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. — Psalm 69:13

Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re worthy. Agape makes them worthy by the strength and power of its love. Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re beautiful. Agape loves in such a way that it makes them beautiful. — Rob Bell

HOLY WEEK with JCC: April 8-12 (Easter)

Do you need support of any kind? We have volunteers ready to assist with errands, access to emergency supplies, and Rev Gail is available for emotional and spiritual companionship. Email the church:  jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org.

Wed, April 8

Thurs, April 9

  • MAUNDY THURSDAY GATHERING (via ZOOM)
    7pm • ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/467763000 (password required).
    Plan to celebrate an after-dinner ritual of washing hands (symbolic of foot-washing), stripping altar, and putting out candles as darkness falls and we enter the Triduum: three holy days of Easter weekend. Option: call in via touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID: 467763000 (password required – contact: jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)).

Fri, April 10

  • BREAKFAST with REV GAIL (via ZOOM)
    8am •  ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/170985789 (password required)
    Social gathering. Option: Call in via touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID: 170985789 (password required – contact jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)
  • WAY of the CROSS
    Live-streaming via  Facebook.com/JacksonCommunityChurchJCC website
    Virtual contemplative journey through stations of the cross. Share where you would direct your prayers for each station of the cross, Rev Gail will post reflections at different Jackson and Bartlett locations to symbolize each station of the cross. This will take place throughout the week, but we especially welcome your comments during the hours of Christ’s crucifixion and death. We will use Marcia McFee / Design Worship Studio materials to focus. 
  • LAST SEVEN WORDS Holy Friday Event (via ZOOM)
    5pm • ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/531729008) (password required)
    Reflect on the events of Holy Friday through the last seven words of Christ. Option: Call in via touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID: 531729008 (password required – contact: jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)

EASTER SUNDAY, April 12

  • CHOIR PRACTICE (via ZOOM)
    9:15am • ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/142985761 (password required)
    Choir practice with choir director Billy Carleton and music director Alan Labrie. Option: Call on touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID# 142985761 (password required – contact: jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)
  • VIRTUAL EASTER SERVICE (via ZOOM)
    10:30am • ZOOM LINK: zoom.us/j/142985761 (password required)
    Join us for worship, special music including flute duet by Lauren Weeder & Jeanette Heidmann, choral performance by JCC’s choir & harp with Dominique Dodge, plus prayer, reflection and interactive transformation of the cross with butterflies on this special Easter Sunday! Service will also be live-streamed to website and Facebook, and afterward, recordings of service will be posted to FB, youtube, vimeo. Option: Call on touch-tone phone: 929.436.2866, meeting ID# 142985761. (password required – contact: jcchurch@jacksoncommunitychurch.org)
  • BUTTERFLY the CROSS
    All Day • Jackson Community Church (outside)
    All day on Easter Sunday, you may add a butterfly to the cross, which will stand outside the church (weather permitting), or take one home, if you need an Easter symbol. If you can’t be here, send us your prayers and we’ll add your butterfly for you.

Meditations on tangible love during Advent 4: holy, messy, stubborn love that moves among us here on earth.

I believe God loves the world through us—through you and me. — Mother Teresa

The three grand essentials of happiness are: Something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for.― George Washington Burnap

The great struggle of … life is to take God’s name for us, to believe we are beloved and to believe that is enough. ― Rachel Held Evans

The roots of a lasting relationship are mindfulness, deep listening and loving speech, and a strong community to support you. — Thich Nhat Hanh

You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.
― William W. Purkey

Prayer
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
— St. Teresa of Ávila
 

Questions to consider:

  • When did you have an experience of holy, stubborn love this week?
  • When has love insisted on showing up, despite whatever should have turned it away, in your life?
  • What or who has been transformed by love, in your life?
  • When have you served as tangible love in someone else’s life?
  • What is your ‘language’ of love? How do you express love to others? Read an article on this concept.
  • In what ways are you willing to receive or accept love? When and how is it hard to allow yourself to be loved?
  • What songs make your playlist as great love songs? Are they romantic or do they describe a different kind of love?

HOLY, STUBBORN LOVE: Incarnate, Embodied, Among-Us

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ― Rumi

Whenever you are confronted with an opponent. Conquer him with love. ― Mahatma Gandhi

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Every one of us is trying to find our true home. Some of us are still searching. Our true home is inside, but it’s also in our loved ones around us. When you’re in a loving relationship, you and the other person can be a true home for each other. ― Thich Nhat Hanh

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close. ― Pablo Neruda

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. ― Elie Wiesel

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always. ― Mahatma Gandhi

I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough … ― Nicholas Sparks

Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love. — Mother Teresa

You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not. ― Jodi Picoult

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. ― Louise Erdrich

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater. ― J.R.R. Tolkien

Spiritual Commentary on Love

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. ― Dalai Lama

I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us. ― Anne Lamott

Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change. ― Richard Rohr 

Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love. ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

What I love about the ministry of Jesus is that he identified the poor as blessed and the rich as needy…and then he went and ministered to them both. This, I think, is the difference between charity and justice. Justice means moving beyond the dichotomy between those who need and those who supply and confronting the frightening and beautiful reality that we desperately need one another. ― Rachel Held Evans

God’s grace is a gift that is freely given to us. We don’t earn a thing when it comes to God’s love, and we only try to live in response to the gift. No one is climbing the spiritual ladder. We don’t continually improve until we are so spiritual we no longer need God. We die and are made new, but that’s different from spiritual self-improvement. We are simultaneously sinner and saint, 100 percent of both, all the time. The Bible is not God. The Bible is simply the cradle that holds Christ. Anything in the Bible that does not hold up to the Gospel of Jesus Christ simply does not have the same authority. The movement in our relationship to God is always from God to us. Always. We can’t, through our piety or goodness, move closer to God. God is always coming near to us. Most especially in the Eucharist and in the stranger.
― Nadia Bolz-Weber

When love awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like the dawn breaking within you. Where before there was anonymity, now there is intimacy; where before there was fear, now there is courage; where before in your life there was awkwardness, now there is a rhythm of grace and gracefulness; where before you used to be jagged, now you are elegant and in rhythm with your self. When love awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning. ― John O’Donohue

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