Reflections on “Love Does,” by Bob Goff (Part Three)

If you didn’t start at the beginning, I suggest starting at Reflections on “Love Does” by Bob Goff (Part One), although it’s not super important.

Wedding Cake

I used to think being a believer was enough, but now I know Jesus wants us to participate, no matter what condition we are in.

A wedding on a shoestring budget. It might not sound amazing to some people, but it sounds beautiful to me. A family friend cutting them a deal on the cake, the caterer making the best of pasta salad, and his boss hooking them up with a free venue. This is the blessing of community, isn’t it? When he arrived at the reception, Bob saw his high school-aged friend assembling the cake in the parking lot. Four tiers tall, it’s fate was written as soon as he began pushing it across the parking lot on a wobbly AV cart. Responding swiftly, a plan was made, the fallen cake was gathered, and in 30 minutes it was being reassembled with the help of a fresh bucket of frosting. They served it up, tiny bits of gravel and asphalt included.

“Like that cake, my life is full of small rocks, pieces of asphalt, broken and unrepaired relationships, unwanted debris. But somehow God allows us each to be served up anyway. Jesus talked to social outcasts, loose women, lawyers like me, and religious people and said they would not just be so many decorations or window treatments, but He would serve them up as well… The only thing that Jesus said He couldn’t serve up were people who were full of themselves or believed the lie that they were who they used to be before they met Him.” (56-57)

There it is. Conviction.

The lie that they were who they used to be before they met Him. This is a lie that whispers to me in the night, in the times before I speak in front of people, in the moments where I wonder who my friends are and if they care for me. The TRUTH that I am transformed, that I am made new, is one I fight for actively. And I am finally feeling the light of dawn on my face, that I am emerging from a battlefield victorious over this lie. “Yet Jesus continues to select broken and splattered people not just as followers but as participants. He called people like me who can’t even figure out which end of a plastic bag is open His hands, He called people who trip every day His feet, and He called people who can’t figure out which way to turn a screw to tighten it or even stack a cake correctly the ones who would build a kingdom.” (58)

Just Say Yes

I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.

A story of pranks. Bob pranks a buddy and so, when he gets a call from an ambassador of Uganda, he thinks that this is payback. So he tells the guy yes. I’ll meet you in New York. Hello, adventure. Until the entourage from Uganda pulled up and Ambassador Kamuninwire greeted him and he realized it was real. And the Ambassador introduced Bob as the consul instead of counsel. He had all the paperwork ready to make Bob a diplomat. License plates, clearance, diplomatic immunity. Handed to him after being cleared by Ugandan Parliament and the FBI. “I think God sometimes uses the completely inexplicable events in our lives to point us toward Him. We get to decide each time whether we will lean in toward what is unfolding and say yes or back away.” (64) I want to be someone who answers yes to the adventure God calls me into, without needing all the reassurances and explanations. I want to trust fall into God’s story and be swept away. But there is a doubt in me that wonders how such a God as this could have any use for a person like me.

“I don’t think it was because Moses needed Aaron but because Moses mistakenly thought he had to be somebody important in order to be part of what God was going to do.” (65) And this is the mistake I make; God doesn’t use important people. God makes people important. All the time. Because they all matter to God. “We were all meant to save many lives. God is always trying to save lives, and it seems like He usually uses the least likely people to do it.” (66)

The Interviews

I used to think I had to be somebody important to accomplish things, but now I know Jesus uses ordinary people.

In the wake of September 11th, Bob asked his kids, “If you had five minutes in front of a group of world leaders, what would you ask them to help make sense of life, faith, hope and the events that are unfolding around them?” (68) His seven year old said he’d invite them over. His other son said he would ask them what they hope for. His daughter, the eldest, said she’d go to their homes and ask what they hope for; maybe even do a video interview so they could share it. These ideas were eventually put in a letter that they sent to leaders all over the world. Over the coming weeks the kids received the kindest rejection letters, but they also received 29 invitations to visit various leaders they had written. They hit the road. More often then not, it started with the kids having an official meeting with the leader in an official reception room. Once the leaders realized the kids came with only an agenda to be friends, they’d invite them into the private offices. They’d talk about family and hopes. Bob wrote of one Russian leader, “And with that preamble, he shared his thoughts drenched in sincerity about how a friend knows what you need before you ask. He ended his talk with these words that still ring true for our family. ‘You know what it is about someone that makes them a friend? A friend doesn’t just say things; a friend does.‘” (73) And in the end, the kids got exactly that from this adventure: friends that do. This is the kind of friend I am, and I am blessed to have many friends around me who operate similarly. I have no idea where I would be without them.

There’s More Room

I used to think I needed an invitation to get into most places, but now I know I’m already invited.

Sometimes, we get this strange idea that we have to jump through hoops and navigate crazy twisting mazes to get close to God. We have to have the right clearance, pass the right tests, know the right words and act the right way to “get in.” This is a lie that keeps us distracted and busy rather than focused on the relationship offered to us. “When you read the Bible, the people who loved Jesus and followed Him were there ones like me who didn’t get invited places. Yet Jesus told His friends they were invited anyway.” (81-82) This invitation we receive from Jesus isn’t about being a spectator; it’s a relationship that asks us to love God and our neighbor deeply enough to respond. To get in the game. To invite others to come play with us. “They don’t think about their pain or their weakness any longer. Instead, they think about how incredible a big life really is and how powerful the one who is throwing the banquet is too.” (83) I don’t often forget where I came from, but I do sometimes forget that Jesus invited me to the table when I was there. When so much of the world consumed me, Jesus offered me himself. I drank of living waters that quenched a life-long thirst. I ate a bread that nourished and filled me far greater than anything I’d ever found so far in this life. “The one who has invited you is way more powerful than any of the impediments we think we’re facing, and He has just one message for us. He leans forward and whispers quietly to each of us, ‘There’s more room.'” (83)

Wow, What a Hit!

I used to think the words spoken about us describe who we are, but now I know they shape who we are.

This is basically a reflection on words of affirmations, and how they impact and shape us. “…I do know one thing that works every time-it’s having somebody else say something good about you. I think that’s how we were created, you know, to get named by people this way. I think God speaks something meaningful into our lives and it fills us up and helps us change the world regardless of ourselves and our shortcomings.” (87)

I remember the first time that I had 4-5 people tell me they all believed I was gifted in faith. It made me cry. How could they all be so terribly mistaken? They knew my story, my struggle and yet they look at me and saw… a powerful, uncommon faith. Eventually, through their words, I began to realize that this was a gift that God had given me. I did, however, need others to reveal it to me.

When an ex wrote me this over a year after our relationship had ended, I remember being stunned: “There are so many way in which I know I hurt you over the years that at the time I didn’t even realize did to list and for all of those I am sorry.  I know your love and encouragement were always sincere…I know you’re intentions were always sincere and that most of the time (okay pretty much all) you put me head of everything, which is something that I rarely did for you but that you deserved of me.  If either of us needed to apologize and ask for forgiveness it would never have [been] you.”

Even he saw this in me. These are things my sister has said for so long, as well as close friends and family. But for some reason I couldn’t believe it. I thought that there must be something terribly wrong with me that made me so difficult to love. It never occurred to me that the men I dated didn’t know how to love and hadn’t yet developed the capacity to do so well; it was only through how well I loved them that they discovered it in themselves. I allowed the wrong words spoken over me in times of desperation and anger to shape me rather than hearing the truth that people who knew me well offered.

 

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Reflections on “Love Does” by Bob Goff (Part One)

I’m With You

I used to want to fix people, but now I just want to be with them.

This chapter is about a super cool dude that was in Bob’s life named Randy. Although he had awesome things like a motorcycle, the most amazing aspect of his character was that he was committed to being part of Bob’s life. So when Bob decided he was going to travel across the country to pursue his dream, Randy picked up his things and went. It was only when they returned that Bob glanced around and saw partially opened wedding presents. Being freshly married didn’t stop Randy from being the person Bob needed. My favorite thing about this chapter was the response of Randy’s wife. It wasn’t anger or resentment; it was the response of a woman who had a heart for the same things her husband did, and embraced the cost that sometimes comes with it. Presence over preaching. People will eventually ask about your “why.” But they need to know who you are first.

Sniper Fire

I used to think I had to act a certain way to follow God, but now I know God doesn’t want us to be typical.

This chapter is about a guy he knew who had a sweet pellet gun, way cooler than Bob’s BB gun. One thing led to another, they began shooting at each other, and Bob got shot. It was awesome. “I liked how Doug did life. He was full of adventure and always had some wonderful mischief in mind… Doug began telling me the story of another man of adventure named Jesus, who lived a long time ago.” (12) This really spoke to me, because I sometimes feel pressure to conform to what “looks” Christian rather than the person God made me to be. Not the sinful parts of me, but the parts of me that God designed into me that don’t match the cookie cutter picture of Christ follower. “He spent time with the kinds of people most of us spend our lives avoiding. It didn’t seem to matter to Jesus who these people were because he was all about engagement. That’s one of the things I saw in Doug. I liked that Doug could be friends with Jesus and still shoot pellet guns.” (12) And this is who I have a heart for; the people the church sometimes talks about but rarely engages with in community. I need to be less worried about what Christians think of me and embrace who God made me to be.

Ryan in Love

I used to think being loved was the greatest thing to think about, but now I know love is never satisfied just thinking about it.

Young and in love. It’s a magical time full of whimsy, hope and believing that it will all work out. Why wouldn’t it? Ryan is a young man walking by Bob’s house who eventually introduced himself and proudly announced he was, indeed, in love; and he wanted to use Bob’s house to propose. Bob writes, “I was taken aback by this love-glazed kid who would approach a complete stranger and ask to use his house to stage a great caper. But that’s the way it is when you are in love, isn’t it? All he knew was that he wanted the girl and was going to do whatever it took to get her.” (18) His ask grew to include a dinner on their deck, catered by 20 of his closest friends, dancing afterwards and ultimately, a ride on Bob’s boat. Bob, swept up in the excitement of Ryan’s love, said yes to everything he asked for and planned a surprise of his own. It went beautifully, and of course the girl said yes. “Ryan’s love was audacious. It was whimsical. It was strategic. Most of all, it was contagious. Watching Ryan lose himself in love reminded me that being ‘engaged’ isn’t just an event that happens when a guy gets on one knee…Being engaged is a way of doing life, a way of living and loving.” (24) It is loving with abandon. It is fully participatory. It is a perfect example of true humility and hope. This kind of love brings us all joy and reminds us to worry less about ourselves and more about how we are loving others well. This is how I felt at Mario and Lauren’s wedding. I had the opportunity to be part of something beautiful, and everyone did something to help add to the occasion. In the end, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a more beautiful or perfect wedding than theirs and it gives me hope that someday my story might include that same kind of love and joy.

The Reach

I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.

Bob got a job and put in a lot of time to become a waiter at a super fancy restaurant where you had to wear a tux to be a server. On his very first night he described an event that had me laughing to the point of tears. In short, he was fired on the spot, not even earning enough money to pay for the tux he had put a down payment on. Failing can suck. It can be hard. But it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. “The thing I love about God is He intentionally guides us into failure. He made us be born as little kids who can’t walk or talk or even use the bathroom correctly. We have to be taught everything. All that learning takes time, and He made us so we are dependent on Him, our parents and each other.” (29) This is an expression of God’s love and patience. It is a reminder that, as much as we might like to, we can’t do it our own. And really, we don’t want to. We weren’t designed for that. “God finds us in our failures and our successes, and He says that while we used to think one way about things, now He wants us to think another way about those same things.” (30) Fortunately, I’ve failed a lot. So much. And so I’ve learned to see every failure as an opportunity to learn something new, to laugh, and to maybe not make the same mistakes again. I also know that oftentimes my failures are a result of me NOT relying on God and my community enough, that my failure is the result not of ability but of stubbornness.  #PlacesToGrow

Continue reading at Reflections on Love Does by Bob Goff Part 2

My Surrender

Once a heart of stone now flesh

A gift bestowed on one You adore.

My emotions stir afresh

Into my heart Your love does pour.

 

For I know so well this darkness

That I give thanks for that which is Light.

Once trapped in a pit of hopelessness

I now soar to an unfathomed height.

 

It is here I kneel and surrender

where there is no pride or shame

my sin You bore on the cross

and my just punishment you claim.

 

Such love is wonder beyond wonder

such truth I cannot grasp

Your grace I can but ponder

your every mercy makes me gasp.

 

There are no words or songs

Of thanks for the freedom I now know

from the sin and from the wrongs

under whose weight I once bowed.

 

I nearly knelt before my enemy

Who accused and declared blame

But now I choose my own King

Whose sovereignty I proclaim.

 

For my name is written on His hands

and His on the tablet of my heart

and from one another

ne’er shall we part.

Encountering Mystery

I had spent a very, very long time trapped in a space mentally and emotionally which felt like complete hopelessness and loneliness, clinging to a tiny shred of hope. It was like the glow of a single, twinkling Christmas light in what felt like an otherwise black abyss. I had started going to Crossroads about 10 months before, and a series of events had made me curious enough to begin asking, “Is there a God? And if there is, is God good? Who am I to God?” This ended up with me landing in India, going to some of the darkest places I could imagine, and challenging this God to show up.

I experienced a moment there that I will never forget. Crossroads partners with several homes in Mumbai and Kolkata, India, that rescue girls and women from sex trafficking. I was in the first group that went to Kolkata and we spent one of our days there putting on a day camp for the girls. We sang, we danced, we played, we taught each other songs and we also did some crafts. One of the crafts was to make a beaded bracelet or necklace. The different colored beads stood for things that were important to us or things we wanted. Examples would include hope, friendship, love, wisdom, etc. I was making a bracelet with one of the girls when she noticed the beads I had chosen to use. “No, no, no. More love.” I was confused, and asked her what she meant and she smiled and laughed at me. “You!” She pointed. “More love,” she said as she pointed at my bracelet, which barely included that color at all. She then proceeded to dismantle my entire bracelet and fill it with the color of love.

My heart broke in the most wonderful way possible in that moment, like walls around it were crumbling. It was as if all the darkness I felt like I was covered in turned into a liquid and puddled at the bottom of me and suddenly, the world seemed to be made of color. Of light. This child who had been through so much could see the very thing I felt I lacked but that I so desperately longed for and she piled it on, unabashedly. She taught me to worship as we sung, “Rejoice in the Lord, always, and again I say, Rejoice!” I was overwhelmed, I was baffled, I was in the process of becoming. If this young girl who had experienced the true darkness of mankind so fully could worship God, could call out for love with a hungry heart, than certainly there was something special happening here. Some kind of extraordinary goodness that could say, “Even in this place I will give you joy. Even in your suffering, you will know love. Loneliness is a lie because there is a God that loves you and is always with you.”

It wasn’t the first time or the last time that I encountered the Mystery of God, but it planted a seed of faith so deep inside of me that it successfully took root. I began a steadfast pursuit of this God that comes close, who moves in our lives today. While I’ll never fully know or understand God, I feel called into this Mystery that is. I get a sense that not only am I welcome to explore the character and nature of my God but that my desire to know God brings joy. When I begin feeling alone or discouraged, I look back on this moment and I remember how God used the ordinary to speak about the extraordinary and I rejoice.

Father Edwin Leahy (Catalyst Notes)

Father Edwin Leahy is impressive, although he doesn’t think so. There’s some videos below that explain a lot of what he has done and what his work is. Some of his insights as he spoke:

  1. Racism is America’s original sin.
    1. White people in power knew what they were doing, starting in the 1800’s, to neutralize black males who were now free, and that neutralization continues today.
    2. Most of the students he is responsible for at his all boy school are missing fathers. They need help discovering and amplifying their voice.
  2. Be quiet and listen. Folks in the community will eventually tell you what they need.
  3. Tell people, ‘God loves me to the cross. But also, love others.’
  4. Recognize attitudes versus the vastness and vagueness of “culture.”
    1. Whatever helps or hurt my brothers and sisters helps or hurts me.
    2. Tend to their hearts.
    3. Create community.
    4. Create leadership opportunities.
    5. Accepting the Other and where they are.
  5. Be okay with arguing; sometimes provoke fights. It’s not okay to stay comfortable.
  6. Remember: the orchestra tunes to the first violinist.
  7. Develop listening skills.
    1. People will teach you how you can best be of service to them.

He said, “I wasn’t called to be successful, I was called to be faithful.” A great joy is seeing boys who graduated return as fathers with their kids.  They are designed to be a community that bears one another’s burdens. He told a story of an expelled student who was a Junior and he never left. He sat outside his office for two days and the Father told the other boys, “No, he’s out.” The next morning, the kids hid him. During attendance, they’d call his name as absent when he was there and then stopped. They spent the year avoiding each other and his Senior year the Father welcomed him back.

Why is there a fence around this school in downtown Newark? It marks off holy ground in the middle of a city in struggle. Like Moses, in the middle of the ordinary we encounter the extraordinary. Remember: Not all fires destroy; some fires ignite us.

Just a little bit about Father Edwin Leahy and what he does.

Remember…

What a Day

As I was working today, out of nowhere, the thought crossed my mind, “Ask for prayer from Colin _________.” So weird. I worked on the same team as him for a few months maybe 5 years ago and ran into him once at church. I’m not even friends with him on facebook or linkedin. But I felt pushed to act so after an internal debate, I sent him a message that said:

Hey Colin, I don’t know if you remember me but we worked together at ___________ and you gave me some pointers about God (thanks again, btw)? Well, I was just sitting here working and felt super prompted to ask you for prayer. I don’t know WHAT I’m supposed to ask you to pray for but… it’s a really strong push so I’m just going to put this out there. I hope all is going well for you. Thank you, Kara

He ended up replying to me, thanking me for being obedient. He asked for us to talk on the phone (because he felt God prompt him to pray for me over the phone). When I saw his message I sent him my availability and number. Then, as I was making brussel sprouts later (because yum) the thought passed through my mind, “Give them your tickets.” And I was like, NOPE. See, I had these two tickets to see Mumford & Sons and I was super excited because I couldn’t get tickets to see them when they came through a couple years ago. Unfortunately, my friend backed out of going to see them because she decided to go to Germany so I’d been trying to find someone to go with. On Sunday I had even prayed about finding someone to go to Mumford. But then this… I kind of tried to pitch the idea to God of selling them instead, if God didn’t want me to go,  but that didn’t sit well. The more I tried to find a way out of it, the more certain I was that I was supposed to offer them to him. Maybe he’d say no? Maybe it was about obedience, not sacrifice?

So he calls and I ask if he likes Mumford and he’s kind of indifferent but says he’ll check with his wife. We chat a little and he prays prophetically for me. During the prayer, he says that all kinds of doors are going to open for me, with business and (this word slipped my mind, but I sensed community or a growing togetherness). He said that I’d know what to do because God would shine a light on those things; that God would make my path clear to me. He thanked God for hope, and said that I was entering a new phase; a time of thankfulness and that there was great power when I give thanks to God. He said that God enjoys watching me (I sensed delight), that I’m like a little bird soaring into the sky, flapping my wings, soaring and tweeting. Then he saw freedom from my past, gave thanks to God for healing from the past and it’s redemption through God.

I thanked him. I told him I actually had a tattoo of a bird soaring into the sky, wings spread, which I got over a year ago when I kept seeing the image in my head. He suggested that God was affirming that vision. I also said that I was getting ready to speak on grace and I would be talking about ex’s and my past. I hadn’t realized until his prayer that I needed the encouragement and comfort of these words. Then we ended the conversation after I thanked him for what felt like a dozen times.

I heard from him a little later that his wife likes Mumford and if they could arrange a babysitter they’d love the tickets. Later tonight, he confirmed they were good and I sent him the tickets. As hard as it was, I am thankful that God would use me to bless a couple with a nice night out. I want to remember that it’s more about generosity and obedience than sacrifice. Anyways, that’s it. Just felt like I should record this somewhere.

A Reflection on “Love, Sex and Dating” by Andy Stanley (Part Six)

I’d strongly suggest starting at Part 1, it’s probably worth it. We’re diving into “The Talk,” in chapter 8. It’s maybe the talk we should have gotten, but most of us didn’t, and even if we did, most of us didn’t listen.

Sex isn’t just physical. Sex in more than just physical. Way more.” (132) Many of us might feel the truth in this statement, but often don’t act that way. Society doesn’t tell us this either: hook-up culture is rampant. If you’re being safe and it’s consensual, enjoy. Satisfy those physical urges, right? But sex is more because you are more. You are way more than a body. Think this isn’t true? “If sex is just physical, then once any physical damage was healed, that would be the end of it. Granted, there may be some residual trust issues to work through. But every pastor, counselor, and victim knows the flood of emotions associated with sexual abuse goes way beyond trust issues.” (133) Andy Stanley walks through several more examples, including rape, to help highlight the fact that sex goes way beyond the physical.

He then looks at the connection between sexual addiction and alienation from fathers. Having talked to dozens of men with these issues, something else was revealed: “The men I’ve talked to would be quick to tell you their sexuality and their sexual struggles are not just physical. Something other than their male appetite for sex was driving their self-destructive behavior. Many of these men had given up on actual sex.” (136) Consider this, if sex is “just sex,” why the sense of betrayal when someone in a marriage has sex with someone outside a marriage? Why is that one of the deepest cuts you can make to the trust in your relationship? Or why do people care about the sexual history of the person you date? It comes down to our desire for intimacy. “You may find this difficult to believe, but you have an appetite for intimacy… knowing fully and being fully known… There’s a significant and mysterious connection between one’s sexual experience and one’s capacity to experience relational intimacy.” (138)

What does this mean? It means the sexual choices you make now will influence your marriage later. It means that what we do now has an impact on what we can experience later. Pretending something isn’t true (like intimacy being important doesn’t help you, it sets you up for disappointment. “The heartbreaking consequence of our sexually liberated culture is that single men and women are undermining their own potential for sexual fulfillment later in life.” (141) The more partners you have, the more your experience of sexual intimacy decreases. This is the outcome of separating sex from the significance it has to us beyond the physical.

“What is touted as safe for the body is dangerous for the soul. While your body is designed with the capacity to successfully accommodate multiple sex partners with no apparent consequences, you are not.” (143) And this isn’t just your history; it’s the history that will impact and influence your future partner for life. While we can certainly alter our path now, it is worth noting the difference between forgiveness and consequences. The past doesn’t necessarily remain the past: you bring into your bedroom memories, guilt, comparison (or the fear of it), etc. This isn’t saying that you shouldn’t be with anyone who has a sexual past. It IS saying that you should understand what that was and what repercussions it may have.

“Over 30 percent of the couples that come to us for premarital counseling are already living together. Of the remaining 70 percent, most are already involved sexually. You might assume couples who are living and sleeping together have worked through the sexual challenges created by their sexual histories. Not so.” (144) Why? This goes back to the earlier chapters that mention that adding sex to a relationship stunts the ability to build healthy relationships. Andy Stanley requires those going through premarital counseling to cease sexual activity before marriage, and they have those living together make separate living arrangements as well. Why? Taking sex out of the equation makes talking about issues easier. “Those who comply thank us later. And only 7 percent call off the wedding.” (145) He gives other examples for why this no sex before marriage is a good idea, but I think that the gist of it is pretty clear. Working to preserve your purity now makes a path for deeper intimacy in the future.

You might think abstaining from sex outside of marriage is only for teens. It’s not meant for newly single adults, right? Or maybe you think that if the damage is done, is it really worth stopping at this point? Ask yourself this: “Has sex as a single… made your life better or more complicated? If God is a heavenly Father who loves you and wants the best for you… and he knows sex apart from marriage will complicate your life… what would you expect him to say about it?” (148) The thing is, each time we sexually engage with a person and then it ends, we end up hardening our heart a little more. Insulating ourselves a little more (the opposite of intimacy). We lie to ourselves, we say it was meaningless, that we’re over it. This is true of all of us, if we really look at ourselves. If we look at our choices and the effects it has. If we look at how we relate to people.

“All regret is difficult to live with. Sexual regret may be the most difficult. So we lie to ourselves. We tell ourselves we haven’t done anything wrong. It was his fault. Her fault. You were young. You were drunk. All of which may be true. But you’re still guilty. Nobody wants to feel guilty. So we create narratives we can live with and move on. Or attempt to.” (150) When we acknowledge this (some might call it sin), things shift. When we change our path from sexual encounters to preservation for marriage (let’s call this an act of repentance), things break free. You move towards a healthy understanding of sex and intimacy in relationships. It’s how you engage in that process we’ve been calling becoming.