Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Why is Lying Bad?

Why is lying bad for you?

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that lying is good, and I'm not asking why it is bad to lie. I know - and you know - that lying creates mistrust, it is unloving, and it breaks the relationships between people.

But, if I lie to help myself out of a bad situation, or to make something easier (for me or someone else), or whatever other reason we might use to justify lying - why is it bad for me?

Buechner says that nothing marks us as human as much as speech. Think how hard it is to learn to speak a language fluently. We take it for granted, but speech is incredibly complicated and is a gift that we have to enable us to communicate with each other. With speech we can build people up, we can express our love for them, we can teach, entertain, and connect through language - and so much more than I'm listing. Our speech helps to make us human - it is an incredible gift.

Think about the post I used yesterday. When we sin, we dehumanize ourselves. When we lie, we are using this incredible gift in a way that eats away at our humanity. You've seen it, and so have I. Tell one lie, and it is easier to tell another. Each lie degrades the integrity of our speech - and makes us less than we were before. Buechner says, "What makes lying an evil is less that the world is mischievously deceived by it than that we are sorely dehumanized by it."

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Monday, February 27, 2017


I'm listening to a series of lectures by Louis Markos (University of Michigan) about C.S. Lewis. Very interesting stuff!  The lecture about The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce started me thinking about what I'm writing about in this post.

Have you ever heard (or ever said), when confronted with sin, "He's only human"? Or "I'm only human"? Dr. Markos put a spin on that for me in this lecture.  

In heaven, we reach the culmination of our humanity.  In heaven, our humanity - our identity - our personality - are not lost. They are transformed into what they were intended to be when we were created. 

When we choose to sin, each time, we lose a little piece of our humanity. We move farther and farther away from what we were intended to be - what we were created to be.

So blaming our sin on our humanity is the opposite of what God intended. Our humanity is what we were meant to become, and our sin decreases it.

I like the metaphor that Markos describes from Lewis' writing.  Heaven is huge - full of potential and fulfillment. Hell is tiny, shriveled and small. He said, "If a bird in heaven were to eat hell, he would hardly even notice it."

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Logos: Matthew 17:1-9

Today's Logos post is a "re-run" of a post from the blog. This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday, and when I looked back in the blog, I found this. I'm sharing it again today. I so enjoy thinking about Peter and what he must have thought as he followed Christ.

Life with Jesus was a little bit like fishing.
Some days the net drug the bottom, scraping sand.
Other days it was flung high into the air, almost flying
Until it settled on the deck of the ship.

One day Jesus called Peter, “The Rock”
The rock upon which his church would be built.
Soon after that he called him Satan,
Berating Peter for presenting temptation.
Peter never knew what to expect,
But he was absolutely certain,
Certain to the marrow of his bones,
That he would not choose to be anywhere else.

Today Jesus called three of them,
The brothers James and John, and Peter
To go with him up a mountain.
He went willingly; honored to be included.

The climb was rough, rocky
The hot son beat upon them
But Peter would never dare to complain.
He would walk through fire for this man.

The four of them stood on the mountain-top,
Surrounded by beauty,
But their attention was for Jesus, and nothing else.

He stood before them,
And all three stared
As his garments became white.
Whiter than anything they had ever seen before.
He glowed with the radiance of a full moon,
With the heat of a white star.

Then, as if that were not spectacular in itself,
Two other men appeared.
Peter could not really see their faces,
But he knew, with a certainty that he would never question,
That the two men were Moses and Elijah.

All three men sank to their knees in amazement.
In wonder.
In fear.
How could this be?

In his wildest dreams,
Peter would never be able to understand this.
Never fathom or explain it.
All he knew, even in his fear,
Was that he wanted to stay on this mountain.
The presence of God had never been closer.
Faith had become doubt-less.

He looked at Jesus, and said,
“Lord, tell me we can stay here.
I will build shelters for all three of you.
Just allow me to stay in this place.”

While he was speaking,
A bright white cloud enveloped them,
Surrounding them.
Filling them with the knowledge
That they were standing in the presence of God.
They hid their faces in fear, and heard,
“This is my son, in whom I am well pleased.
Listen to him”

Peter couldn’t move.
He could barely breath.
Only the voice of Jesus,
His touch, his breath,
Could penetrate the fear.
“Get up. Do not be afraid.”

He looked up, and found that Jesus
Stood on the mountain alone,
His company no longer the prophets
Or God himself,
But only his three disciples.

Every muscle quaking in fear,
Peter stood up, and began to follow Jesus
Down the mountain.
Unwilling, but compelled.

The three disciples began to talk,
Sharing their awe, their wonder.
Jesus turned around and stopped them.

“Don’t tell anyone what you have seen.
Keep it to yourselves,
Until it is dwarfed by something even larger.
Keep it to yourselves,

Until I am raised from the dead.”

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Hope Gateway

This is a picture of a ministry in Portland, Maine called Hope Gateway.  

This ministry started as a large downtown church called Chestnut Street United Methodist. As time went on, the church became smaller and smaller, until there were only 12 people left. They made the tough decision to sell their building, and do something else as a church. From this beginning, Hope Gateway was born.

Those 12 people took the brave step of doing something different. They are now a church with two locations whose focus is on serving their community. They are outward focused ministry, operating out of two "campuses" with three worship services, including a dinner worship at this store front location.

What brave, new thing is God calling your church to do? 

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Perspectives: Quiet

Can you see the horns?

What would motivate a person to have all of these horns on his or her car? Why would you do that? I can't image that the owner of this car wants to move through life quietly.

Sometimes I hear myself talking and I wonder why I'm speaking at all. The situation calls for me to be quiet, and yet I keep speaking. Have you ever experienced that?

Sometimes what God is calling us to do is to serve quietly - so that no one notices us. At times our service should be all that another person sees. Sometimes our purpose is best served by saying nothing at all. Sometimes the best way we can love is to listen.

Where can you listen this week? Where can you serve quietly? 

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Closer to Each Other

Yesterday, I wrote about a worship experience at NAUMF. We all placed our candles on a table, indicating how close we felt to God - closer to the center, closer to God.

Months later, I was in worship, and Terry (I think) was preaching. She said - and I wish I could properly attribute this idea - that if we think of God at the center, then we can imagine that the closer we move to God - in concentric circles - the closer we move to each other. Closer to God. Closer to each other.

I wonder if that is why we sometimes resist moving closer to God. Doing so necessitates moving closer to each other. Love God; love your neighbor. It's impossible to love God and hate your neighbor.

That one I can attribute - it's biblical.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Close to God

During worship at our national United Methodist Foundation meeting in October, the worship leader asked us to go to a round table, light a candle, and place it on the table. We were asked to place the candle in a position that indicated how close we felt to God at that time - closer to the center of the table equaled closer to God.

It was an interesting exercise to watch. One would never be able to guess ahead of time how close a candle would be placed to the center. For one thing, it's a relative question. How close I feel to God is dependent upon how close I've felt to God in the past, and how close I think I should feel. But the point isn't to compete - my candle is closer to the center than yours - the point is to think about the question. Where would you place the candle? Is the candle placed where you want it to be? Where God wants it to be? What's the next step for you to take?

Also, we think we know people. We might look at a person and judge how close they are to God. Our judgments about that kind of thing aren't realistic at all. We might think someone is close to God, but that person doesn't experience it - or vice versa.

It was beautiful to see all of the candles on the table. The light filled the space, and reminds me, as I think about it, that God is close to all of us, whether we "feel" it or not. "Moving closer" to God is really just opening ourselves up to the grace that is already there.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Logos: Leviticus 19:1-2,9-10

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.  “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:1,2 and 9,10)

The Lord spoke to Moses and told him that because God is holy, so are we. 

How does that change our lives? I think these verses tell us that because we are created in the image of God, and because God is always re-creating us, to make us more holy, that we are called - demanded -to structure our lives to reflect God's holiness.

In these verse, the Israelites are told to not be so greedy as to harvest the edges of their fields - this was a way to care for those who were hungry, and who would come to glean from the fields. Remember in the story of Ruth - how she gleaned from the edges of the field? They are called to not strip their vineyards clean - to leave something for the poor and the alien.

I don't know about you, but I'm not harvesting fields or picking grapes, but I still think these verses apply to my life and to yours. How do we structure our lives to care for the poor and the alien?

We can gather from these verses a few things:

  1. Our care of the poor and the alien isn't accidental. It require intentional acts on our part.
  2. It requires that we let go of the fear of not enough - that we let go of our greed. Of what are you afraid? Let go of it and care for others.
  3. This intentional, brave, fearless work we are called to do is holy. It doesn't make us holy, but it reflects the holiness of God - and of ourselves.
So, think on these things. What do these verses say about our care for the hungry and homeless around us? For our care of our neighbor? For our care of the immigrant? What intentional, brave, holy thing do we need to do?

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Thursday, February 16, 2017


Last Sunday, I attended worship at a different church because we were doing a presentation at the church after worship. The sermon topic was "#Blessed."

I loved the thoughts expressed in the sermon - so much that I took notes and want to share them with you.

Blessings are not evidenced by what we consider to be success. Our new car, our home - these are not what God would consider to be blessings. In fact, Jesus has blessed everyone. Think about that. Jesus was crucified, died and buried. He rose again, and in this action, everyone was blessed.

Look around. Who do you consider to be blessed? It doesn't work the way we think. God's kingdom is a different place. God blesses everyone - not just the righteous or those who (whom?) we think have earned it.

All are blessed. In fact, there is nothing you can do to eliminate God's affirmation of you. Blessing is our identity - our condition. It is who we are.

You are blessed. Look around and find God's blessings in your life. Where do you find evidence of the presence of God?

(Hattip to Rev. Angela Gay Kinkead)


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Perspectives: You Never Know

Steve and I were out for dinner one night. At the end of the evening, the waiter returned to the table with the check for Steve to sign. This picture shows the pen he brought with the check for Steve to use.

Can you read the pen? It says, "United Methodist Foundation of West Virginia, Inc." I picked out that pen, worked out the design on my computer, placed the order with the company that made them, and then The Foundation staff sent them out to churches. And there it was. In the wild.

I've seen lots of these pens in churches, but I've never encountered one in "the wild." 

This is just a pen, but it reminds me of how the word of God spreads. This is the effect that our actions have in the world. Help a person, and you never know the change your love will have in that person's life. God knows, and sometimes you might get a glance - most of the time you won't.

So serve. Shine. Help. Love. It goes around the world.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Joy. What does joy mean to you?

Is it the happiness you experience when you see your favorite team win the Super Bowl? Is it the pleasure of a fine meal? This is all joy, but it's not the Christian joy. I don't mean that it's sinful to find pleasure in these and other experiences - just that it's not how God defines joy.

And, interestingly enough, it's not how C.S. Lewis describes joy. Joy is the yearning for ... the longing for ... something else.  
I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again... I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.”  (C.S. Lewis)
Joy is the longing for something that we experience for only a moment. We cannot hold onto it. It is not an end in itself. When we make it the goal, rather than the goal being what we yearn for, we cannot reach it (the joy or the goal). Complicated, isn't it?

Joy is never ours to achieve. It is a gift from God - a spiritual gift. Lewis, I think, if I understand correctly, would say that joy is the longing for God. It is what we experience for just a moment when we are in God's presence. It is not something we create - it is fleeting. Try to hold onto it and it slips away. Try to recreate it, and you'll fail. Open yourself up to sanctifying grace; find joy.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Time and Eternity

Have you ever said, "She is growing up so quickly! Just the other day, she was a baby?" Or marveled at the adult-ness of your sons? I have. Time seems to rocket by. We say in our office that we speed towards Annual Conference and then we rush towards Christmas.

According to Louis Markos, in the CS Lewis lectures I'm listening to, this is evidence that we are created for eternity. We live in a time-bound world. We are in time, we are part of time - we can't imagine a world without time. So why are we so started that time passes? 

He says that Lewis proposes that our inability to judge the actual speed of the passage of time is evidence that we are created for a world without time.

It's an interesting thought.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Logos Matthew 5:21-24

"You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.'   But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire.  So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.  (Matthew 5:21-24)
Yes, but God, I don't want to do that.

Have you ever been really angry with someone - so angry that you can't imagine forgiving that person? Have you ever considered what that anger does to your relationship with God? To the work you are called to do for God?

Have you ever considered that there might be something you are holding onto that you must release in order for God to bring you healing? To allow you to serve more fully? To experience the joy of God more completely?

Have you ever thought about just letting go of that?

Yes, but God, I don't want to do that.

We are not in this alone. We are not called to forgive alone. We have already been granted to power of God to lead us to do that which we could never do on our own. Forgive. Allow that power to work in your life. Allow yourself to be healed. God will do that for you; for me. For all of us.

Do that, and free yourself for joyful obedience.

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Thursday, February 09, 2017

Become the Happy Ending

As the Western District Lay Leader, I gave the devotional at a recent workshop.  Here it is:

As I thought about this devotional this morning, the word Hope kept moving through my mind - so much so that I became convinced that Hope was what I needed to talk about this morning.

So - and this isn't how one should write a devotional - but I went to Bible Gateway online, and searched for the word hope in scripture.  And I found 202 references to the word hope.  That didn't really amaze me, but what did amaze me was that 15 of those references were in the book of Job.  If you think about Job, I imagine he felt hopeless.  

If you think about it, many of the people around us feel hopeless.  Think about it for a moment. Who around you might feel without hope?
  • The person addicted to drugs - who feels hopeless to recover?
  • The parent who watches a child suffer - and feels hopeless to stop the pain?
  • The friend who watches someone slowly die from Alzheimers?
Have you felt hopeless?

Have you ever attended a church meeting and left feeling hopeless? 

But, you are here today, and you come with hope. You come here to learn more about the job you have been called to do - for the work you are about to set about doing is work that is in response to a call from God for you to use your talents and gifts for the work of God's kingdom.

In Acts, Chapter 2, verses 43-47, Luke writes, "Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved."

This is church.  This is what church is about.  The Guideline page that started me thinking about hope uses the word HOPE to describe the church. 
H - hospitality - We offering welcome and inclusion to those who do not know God.  We go into the world in outreach and mission, offering hope through our words and our deeds.
O - Offer Christ - we offer Christ by providing opportunities for people to commit their lives to God - think baptism and communion.
P - purpose - We nurture people in faith, demonstrating to them that they have a God-given purpose in the world - to live out their belief in acts of piety and mercy. - being living demonstrations of grace
E - engagement - We send out grace-filled believers who are putting their faith in action.

We as a church are a circle, offering hope to the world. You can hear echos of that in the passage from Acts.

I heard it said once that we as the church, through what we say and what we do, become the happy ending.  I hope when you leave here you feel more empowered, equipped and excited to be the hope for the world so that the church can become the happy ending.


Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Perspectives: Let your light shine

You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstands, and it give slight to all in the house.  In the same, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.  (Matthew 5:14-16)
I have two images to show you today. One is of a glass of water. I think it's amazing how the light shines through it. You don't really see the candle that is behind it, but you see the beauty of the candle, shining through the water. In some ways, I think this is how we should shine for God.

The candle is beautiful. Something about the water adds a different beauty to it. You don't really see the water, but the water is part of the beauty that you see.

We are made in the image of God. When we open ourselves to serve God, God's light shines through us, and the result is beautiful to behold.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2017

On Law

On Law:  There are basically two kinds: (1) law as the way things ought to be, and (2) law as the way things are. (Beuchner, Wishful Thinking)

Yes, I'm still reading Wishful Thinking.  Yes, it's taking me a long time. But, I read a few paragraphs a day as my daily devotional, and his writing is so full of ideas that need to be savored and examined, that I wouldn't want to read it fast. 

Anyway, his paragraphs about law struck me. Think about the quote.  There is law that describes (and tries to enforce) things as they should be. We have laws against theft, because we should not steal. We have laws against pollution, because we should try to protect the creation we share. These try to describe the world as it should be - a world where we respect each other and God.

Then there are laws that describe the way things are. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can change form but is neither created nor destroyed. It's a law that describes the way things are. The law of gravity - drop an apple and it falls to the ground. Newton put it into words, but his words didn't attempt to make things the way they should be - his words described the way things are. E=mc2 isn't guidance for the universe. 

So, when a prophet tells the people of Israel that if they continue acting the way they are, that something will happen to them, the prophet isn't forecasting what will happen if his words aren't obeyed. The prophet is explaining the way life is. When we learn that if we place money and possessions at the center of our life, our hearts will grow cold and we will be alone with our belongs, we aren't being told of what happens because we have disobeyed the commandment to have no other gods before God. We are being told of life as it is. Failure to love has consequences as certain as the law of gravity on an apple.

There is law that describe the way life is. The way things are. And sometimes the scripture is God's way of telling us the way life is, and through God's love, we are being instructed in the way to live life in this world. We are being given a heads up out of grace and love.

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Monday, February 06, 2017

Holding on and letting go

A couple of Sundays ago during the children's time during worship, a grandfather brought a little boy to the front to participate. The little boy approached with his trusted grandfather, and he would stay and listen, but he would not let go of his grandfather's finger.  He would be brave, but he needed that connection. It was trust and love, personified. Beautiful.

This is how we start with our children.  We hold their hands. I remember always holding the hands of my boys as we crossed the streets together. I remember not letting go of the buggy in the grocery store if they were in it - just to keep them safe. I remember walking on the beach, and making sure they were in front of us, so that we could see them. When they are young, we are their protection. As parents, we are what protects them from harm, if we can. We try.

As they grow, we let go. We have raised them to become adults, and being an adult means making mistakes, being brave, being independent. It is hard, but it is what we have raised them to do.

I'm so proud of our sons, and the men they have become and are becoming. I remember holding their hands, and I am (I pray) brave enough to trust in what we have taught them, and to let go.

I am blessed that God will never let go of them.


Friday, February 03, 2017

Logos: Psalm 32:1-5

Inspired by Psalm 32:1-5

I wondered
what it would be like,
to be forgiven.
To have this weight of sin
What would it be like?

I saw those who walked in joy,
free from guilt.
Their sins covered.
Not hidden,
but removed.
I saw them, 
and I wondered.
What would it be like?

Is it possible,
I wondered,
that God would 
offer such great mercy?
That sin,
even my sin,
could be forgiven?
It is possible,
I wondered.
I yearned.

Those who had found such joy
Surely their joy sprang
from honesty?
From a clean heart and spirit?
I kept my silence
Certain that this could not be 
granted to me.
And my spirit withered.
My heart shrank.
Guilt ate away at me.
I yearned, and I died inside.

One day, my sin
was so heavy,
so crushing,
that I knew I must seek God.
I knew I must speak to God.
I knew I must turn to God.
So, finally, in my yearning,
I told God of my sin.

God became my refuge.
My strength.
My sanctuary.
God indeed has more mercy
than I had sin.
God gave me the grace
of forgiveness.
And God lifted the guilt.

My heart is clean.
My spirit rises.
I am alive.
I am forgiven.

I rest in the grace of God.

(Note: I will be taking a short blog break for part of next week, and will return on March 9)

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Logos: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.  (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
This is Paul, speaking to the church at Corinth. The words remind me of a story told my our preacher today during worship. He told us about E. Stanley Jones, a man who would become a missionary and who change the face of evangelism in our Church. Jones had been a lawyer, and was called to become ordained. He went to seminary, and while he was a student, his pastor invited him to preach at his home church. He was determined to do a good job, and to be God's lawyer, arguing God's case with deeply theological and well constructed sermons. 

As he preached this sermon that he had so thoroughly prepared, he stumbled over a word, saw a college-aged girl laughing, got lost in his notes, and then quite. Gave up. Left the pulpit. As he did, he heard a voice say, "Stanley, have I ever done anything for you?" \

"Yes, God, everything."

"Tell them that."

I think Paul is saying much the same thing. Paul is saying that he comes with words to demonstrate a witness to what God - the spirit - has done and is doing. He is proclaiming the power of God, so that others might see it.

What has gone done for you? Anything? Tell that to others so that they may come to know Jesus better through you. They are waiting. They are hungry for the word of God, and you have the story to share. 

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Thursday, February 02, 2017

Best of Who we Are

West Virginia: We are seen as the worst of what we might be instead of the best of who we are. 

I don't remember where I heard that. I don't even know if it pertained to West Virginia when I heard it, but I wrote it down because I thought it was profound. And true.

We in West Virginia are often seen as the worst of what we might me. Think of news media covering our state, or how we are portrayed in fiction - books, television or movies. We are often portrayed as the stereotype. I think that is because that is what people who are not from here (some people) expect to see, so that is what they find - or that is what they portray. It's a shame, because West Virginia is full of kind, generous, smart people.

Do we do the same thing? Do we allow stereotypes to blind us to what is in front of us? Do we see people as we expect them to be instead of how they are? Do we see the worst of what might be instead of the best that is?

We should stop doing that. We of all people know how that feels.


Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Perspectives: To Serve

This is a picture of the little bag that holds the silverware at Chili's. I couldn't help but take a picture of it. "We were put here to serve."  True about silverware. 

True also about us.

We were put here to serve. Who do we serve? 

Put the question another way. Can we equate love with service? I think we can, if we remember Jesus washing the disciple's feet. Service is love.

Love God. Love each other. Serve God. Serve each other.

How can we be of service to each other? If this is our calling, perhaps it is a question we should ask ourselves each day. Who am I to serve today? May God show us all the way. And the one (or more) to serve today.

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