A New Name for this Blog: Make Love. Build Community.

I started blogging in 2009, wanting to share with the church community I was serving as well as any others in the wider public who might be interested in the musings of a pastor, theologian, and social activist in Richmond, Virginia.

faithAt the time, I used my longtime signature closing, “In faith and hope,” as the name of the blog. Six years later, no longer pastoring but still theologizing and engaging in activism, and now claiming my vocation as a writer, I want to put a different label on these reflections.

hope sproutI have come to see the great problem in the United States, and throughout the world, as the failure of community. We are, the human race, a much-ravaged people in most every corner of the world. There are bright spots, of course, places and communities where people work and live together for the greater good, but I see a quickening, widening, and deepening trend of being torn apart.

don't shoot I want to grow up

The signs are everywhere: increasing violence in the Middle East as well as on our streets; wars in the name (often falsely labeled) of religion on the rise; the failure to overcome historic oppression to constructively engage and build the power of Africa as well as African Americans; the widening gap between rich and poor people as well as among first, second, and third world nations; the failure of the justice system to really deal with problems it probably cannot solve even as we keep tasking it with that work; the weakness of international structures to make any real difference; the continuing resurgence of totalitarianisms all over the globe; public officials in our nation self-righteously defying the law to deny rights to others and politicians vying to be the most insulting to groups of voters. This is by far only a partial list; one more, though: the failure of our national political system to address serious issues at home and abroad.

Palestinian boys dressed in uniforms of Palestinian security forces and holding plastic toy guns

The failure of community is directly traceable to our failure to grasp and use the power of love. I share the view of Teilhard deChardin that the physical structure of the universe is love, indeed it is the entire structure, meaning that there is an underlying desire for union among all beings. But with a terrifying perversity, we are laying waste to that promise. Just as we are despoiling the ecology we call nature, we are destroying the deeper ecology of love. These two movements are inextricably intertwined, both cause and effect.

IDF soldier and Palestinian woman and children

Ironically, it is love that will save us. The very thing we misuse, under use and abuse is the solution.

Thus, I have decided to rename this blog to more directly embrace the great task before us. We have to make more love in order to build more and better community.

Making love is usually a polite way of saying we are “having sex,” or being sexual, with another person. Sadly, this way of speaking limits love to the encounter between two (or occasionally more) people, usually in private behind closed doors involving intimate touch and genitals.

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But the love we desperately need more of is out in the open, in groups, in whole nations, between and among communities. We as individuals have to be committed to making love everywhere we can–sharing our deepest humanity and care and nurture and compassion and kindness not only with partners but with siblings and parents and children, neighbors, co-workers, strangers, opponents, even enemies, perhaps most with those with whom we disagree. And we have to include feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, caring for the sick in our definition of making love.

There already is more than enough love in the world. The problem is that we are not using it. We have locked most of it away, for safe-keeping I guess, or maybe because we are afraid to really let it loose in the world. Too much might change if love really guided us.

Make-Love-Give_Design_final_fullcolor_04We might have to share some of what we have so that everyone, including ourselves, could have more. That is really how love works. The more you share the more you have. But it confounds our limited human understanding; we think about love the way we think about money. If we give too much away, we won’t have enough.

I am choosing to challenge this stingy view of love. I want to make lots of love, and I want to do it with you, my readers. I am a witness for love. But more than that, I am a lover. I want to be your lover, and for you to be mine.

Make love to Uncle SamOh, I am not divorcing my wonderful husband of 18 years. And I am a monogamous kind of guy when it comes to sex. But I am an advocate for free love.

It is not that love is free exactly. It does come with a price. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that in order for love to grow we have to spend it, and trust that more comes.

But it is free in that it is available to all, for the asking, for the taking you might say. But that implies that you have to be aggressive and grab it. The reality is that it comes to you. But you have to be open, you have to want love. You have to, as the ancient mystic Julian of Norwich said of God, “allow” it into yourself.

How to build communityBut even this is not quite right–because our entire being, each one of us, all of us, has more than enough love inside. So in some ways, we have to allow it out, we have to open ourselves not only to receive the love “out there,” but also to share the love “in here.”

This is more introduction than I planned. So I had best stop. There are many blog posts ahead in which to say more.

For now, let me say this: I am here, writing regularly, to help us to Make Love. And to Build Community.

Make Love. Build Community. The life you save may be your own, and surely if we do it together we can save each other, and the whole world.

Make Love. Build Community. Say it a few times.

Then go do it. Wherever, and whenever, and with whomever, and however, you can.

It’s Okay if We Need Coffee, but the Real Deal Is Waking to the Love

[Note: this follows from a post on January 2, 2015, “God Is not the One Who Needs to Show Up”]

“I awaken to Your love, God.”

That is how I begin my morning meditation.

content young man sitting meditating in comfy chair

Well, actually, first I say “thank you” a few times, then “help me” a few times, then thank you a few more times. That is to remind me where the day comes from, where the blessings have already come from, who can be the most help, and then a few more thank yous for the blessings that are coming later.

But awaken is what I seek to do. I used to begin with “await,” according to the practice of Julian of Norwich, the 12th Century English mystic. But over time I became aware that I need not await. The love is already here. My job is to wake up to it–not just wake up from physical sleep but also to wake up from spiritual sleep and become aware that God’s love has never left, is still here, and remains with me always.

This has implications beyond 30 minutes of morning meditation. Awakening is a day-long enterprise. I can so easily fall asleep in God’s presence, forgetting the gift of love which is not only a spiritual gift, but also, as Teilhard deChardin wrote, “the physical structure of the universe.”

black-men-arguingThis morning, Jonathan and I had a disagreement and it became tense, even a little ugly. It need not have been so, at least on my part. I realized, later than I wish, that I had forgotten the reality of love right here in our home, between and among us, not just our love for each other but the fact–the fact–that we are enveloped in God’s love. How much better, more affirming and life-giving, our exchange could have been had I remembered and acted on that fact.

This love is practical and present, powerful and actually predictable (not in how it will manifest itself but in how we can count on it all the time).

As noted at the beginning, I have written about this before. But I find I keep learning to be more open. Just yesterday, while I was performing a daily task that requires very little of my attention other than a repetitive action I realized I could awaken to God’s love, that in fact, God was in the activity with me. Before this, I had sought all sorts of ways to distract myself.

Turning to God was not a distraction, but actually made the time go far faster and more importantly I felt very positive about the time spent. I actually gained more than the benefit of performing the task (some day I will write more about this).

black men older huggingBut there is more. I still honor Julian in my daily practice, but it is God’s love that I seek. I cherish Presence, but for me God is very specific. God is not only present, God is present in a particular way, loving, and hoping as only God can do that we allow the love in, that we accept it, and that we use it, too.

I will write more in days to come about love, about how it is the most powerful force in the universe, and how if we are truly open to it, everything can change. But of course, the change begins here, with me in my case, with you in yours.

Here’s to waking up! Here’s to the love we find when we do.

It’s okay if you need coffee, but the real deal is love.