The Importance of Abiding

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Imagine you are driving down a dark, winding road, far from any city or town.
Van Gogh Dark Road
You have been driving all day and the sun set an hour ago. You are tired and stiff, there is a hollow feeling in your stomach, and a stale, recycled-air scent in your nostrils. As you make your last turn, you catch a faint glow ahead of you and suddenly the stiffness disappears, your shoulders straighten, and your foot presses just a bit more firmly on the accelerator.
As you pull up in front of the house, windows glowing with a light that makes the darkness flee, the front door flies open and people run out to greet you. Your people. Their arms grab you and hug you, they tug you towards the open door, the warmth and light draws you farther in, and the smell of your favorite meal is an almost tangible rope that pulls you the rest of the way.
It is the place where you live, dwell, abide. The place in which you are safe and joyful and comforted. The place where you live your mundane kind of life as well as the place to which you cling when trouble comes.
Jesus says that we must abide in Him in order to bear fruit, in order to be transformed into His likeness. That word, abide, is such a rich word, containing the ideas of peace, comfort, fulfilled needs, constancy, and close relationships, to name just a few.
John tells us in his gospel that Jesus used the word abide repeatedly during His last night with His disciples. Jesus spoke of abiding in Him, of abiding in His love, of allowing His words to abide in us. If we do this work of abiding, Jesus promises, then the Father will be glorified and we will bear much fruit. Fruit that, among other things, allows us to love one another in the same way that Jesus loves us.
We are, in other words, to make Jesus our home.
We are to make Him the place where we live out our ordinary, everyday lives and the place where we dwell in times of great storms. We are to make Him the place we remain every moment of every day.
This happens largely through the practice of the Spiritual Disciplines. Weaving these Holy Habits into our lives awakens us to the presence and workings of God all around us. Jesus promised that He would never leave us , but we are creatures who lean into our physicality more than our spirituality, and so the Spiritual Disciplines help us to be more aware of the ways in which Jesus fulfills His promise.
The more we practice these Habits, the more we move ourselves into a place where the Holy Spirit can work to transform us to look like Jesus. 
Then we will truly be Home.
I have been learning about the Spiritual Disciplines in a two-year course in Spiritual Formation that I have just begun. I will continue, in the next weeks, to write more about what I have learned so far. I pray that it will transform you as much as it has transformed me.

Art Credits: Country Road in Provence by Night by Van Gogh; first home photo from; second home photo by Maria Langer from; Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Johannes Vermeer; Welcome Home by Thomas Kinkade

Love Your Neighbor

Love God.
Love people.
“Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. ‘The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.
Could it really be that simple?  That to love God and love people is the greatest and most important of anything we can do? That if we focus on love, everything else will fall into place?
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Could it really be that easy?
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
Simple? Yes.
Rembrandt The Three Crosses
Easy? Most emphatically no.
To truly love everyone around you: To think of others more highly than yourself. To put the needs of others ahead of your own. To always act in the best interest of those around you. To neglect nothing that would care for the needs of others.
Loving Friendship
To love hoping for nothing in return. To love even those who do not deserve it and never will do anything to deserve it.
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Michelangelo's Pieta
To love, in short, as God loves us.
Love waits patiently while the person ahead of us in the checkout line drops all of the coupons on the floor and is kind to bend down and help pick them up.  It does not envy the possessions or well-behaved children of its neighbors or brag about the vacation it is about to take with its perfect family; it does not view itself as better than the church member without a college degree or speak rudely to the clerk or waiter trying to serve.  Love does not insist on going to its favorite restaurant; it does not snap at its spouse when something doesn’t get done quite right or harbor resentment when the neighbor’s cat digs up the roses and poops in the broccoli; it does not rejoice in the immorality on Downton Abbey, but rejoices in the C.S. Lewis book that speaks truth.  Love bears the inattention of a husband or friend, believes that a church member truly had the best intentions even though his actions spoke otherwise, hopes that God will bring a family member back to His way, endures all kinds of rudeness and selfishness.  Love never ends.
Simple, yet so very difficult.
How, then? How to love?
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world…We love because he first loved us.
Siemiradzki's Christ with Martha and Mary
Ah. To be able to love like God we must abide in God. Abide in God, allow Christ’s words to abide in us, as branches abide in the vine.
As He has done for us so we are to do for this world.
A heavy burden? Not if we are abiding. Not if we are surrounding ourselves with Him so that He can fill us up beyond measure with His love.
We love because He first loved us.
Abba, give me the desire for nothing more than to abide in You. Help me to burden myself with nothing else but to love You and to love those You place in my path.

Art credit: The Three Crosses by Rembrandt; The Palsied Man Let Down through the Roof by James Tissot; Pieta by Michelangelo; Christ with Martha and Mary by Siemiradzki