Love Will Keep Us Together

Do any of you remember the song by the Captain and Tennille, written by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, “Love Will Keep Us Together?”

Yeah.

I was so sad when I heard recently that they were divorcing.  Not that I know them personally.  It’s just a hard thing to go through, no matter what the situation, and well, yeah, sad.

So I’ve been thinking about that song and that sentiment this evening.  I’m sorry.  This has been a hard week.  With issues nationally and personally begging for love and falling short, it’s been emotionally exhausting.

Weekend, anyone?

Yes, please.

Unfortunately, the need for love doesn’t take holidays or vacations.  Our world, our communities, our people–need love all day, every day.

And it’s up to us to share it.

I’ve seen a lot of things this past week that have pained me and caused me to grieve for us as a people.  People patting themselves on the backs for “convincing” World Vision to reverse its hiring policy change by threatening to cancel their sponsorships of a child in need.  Good-NESS.  Pastors of mega-churches suggesting their friends and congregants should make the call and cancel sponsorships, and then later celebrating a “victory for the church.”  Friends posting pictures of people in restaurants or stores dressed differently, poking fun at how they look.  Oh my, how many times have I left home to get something for a sick young’un, looking like a hot mess?  There are probably pictures of me floating around somewhere too.  *sigh*

I have been honored, however, to read a few thoughts others have shared about the World Vision hiring policy change and reversal that are encouraging and empowering.  I appreciate that they are willing to step up and speak out, not necessarily on either side of the issues, but instead, for love.  Love will keep us together, right?  And we’re made for community, for togetherness, for loving each other.  No matter how hard that is.  (And I know of which I speak, my friends.)

Darian Burns wrote a great post (link here) about the stance that World Vision took.  And about how love didn’t happen in any of this.  But some of my favorite words he wrote were in his replies to the comments.  He referred to the sinful responses following the announcement of the policy change.  Many of the responses to World Vision’s announcement were nowhere near loving, so yes, sinful is a good word for them.

He also wrote this:

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I cling to these words.  I do not believe it’s up to me.  At all.  I do not presume to think I know all the right answers, and I do not believe I’m going to “change someone” by arguing my points over and over and over.  To love and love and love some more.  That is what I feel called to do.

Again, not easy.  But there it is.  There’s no compromising on that one.  I’ve had Mama and Jesus telling me that, to be kind and loving, all my life.  How can I think it’s okay to do otherwise?

Heather at the Extraordinary Ordinary wrote a heart-tugging post about what love looks like in response to the hard things going on this week.  In sharing her story, she mentioned that she had Jehovah’s Witnesses come by her home.  Rather than slamming the door shut, she received them with love, wondering about their stories and lives.  Beautiful.

It reminded me of a similar experience I had.  A few years ago we had two Jehovah’s Witness ladies who came by our house once a month.  I didn’t have much if any previous experience with the whole knocking at your door and talking about Jesus thing, so I was mostly fascinated.  That might have read as enthusiasm and receptiveness on my face.  And that’s okay.  Because what I found was they were lovely people.  We stood and visited on my front porch, sometimes for just a few minutes and sometimes longer.  One time after they’d been by a couple of times, they knocked and I went to the door wiping away the tears I’d been crying over the death of my Daddy just two weeks before.  They kindly asked, I shared, and their compassion was a thing of beauty.  An art.  I am thankful to this day for their kindness.

Because, you see, we had more in common than not.  Never mind the difference in religion, beliefs, race, family and geographical backgrounds–we all three knew what it was like to be a woman, and we all knew what sadness felt like.  And in that moment, we were all together.  Loving each other.  Them with compassion and me with appreciation.

Lord have mercy.

In her discussion on what love looks like, Heather writes:

I don’t care if you are gay, straight, overly hairy or purple. I don’t care if you’ve had an abortion or if you’ve slept with 398 people. This is not my concern. I will not regret not being concerned about this. I will not regret loving you. Concerning myself with all of those things is unloving because we cannot possibly over-think such things without judgment. It’s just impossible.

These might possibly be some of my favorite words ever.  Man, I wish I’d written them.  Thank you Heather.

Because that is truth.

I will not regret not letting our differences keep me from hearing your story.  I will not regret not letting the fact that you are sleeping in the woods in your homemade campsite keep me from loving you like a brother.  I will not regret not letting that you shared with me that you were molested by your uncle as a child and are now a lesbian keep me from being friends with you.  We both know what broken relationships look like; it doesn’t matter that we have different kind of relationships.  I will not regret getting to know you beyond the first impression that might have been more about me than you.  But what I will regret is if I let any of these things keep me from stepping out of my comfort zone.  And loving you.  And all of your stories.

And you know what else?

I hope that someone will do these same things for me.  I hope they won’t regret not letting my messy house keep them from pursuing a friendship with me anyway.  I hope they’ll work around my quirky ways and oddities and want to hear my stories too.  (And I hope they won’t take incriminating photos of me on my last-minute grocery runs for Ginger Ale and saltines.)

I hope I’ll be loved.

We can all use more of that in this world.  And if we share it, as Heather pointed out, I don’t think we’ll regret it.

Love will keep us together.  And we need each other, y’all.  Really.

 

 

 

“When they see the love you have for each other…..”

 

My Mama had rules for living–she *ahem* shared them with us on a regular basis.  I think maybe her number one rule was this–

“Don’t leave anyone out.” 

I heard her say this so many times to us growing up.  When we driving up the dirt road that led to Granny’s house.  Sometimes we didn’t know if any of our cousins would be there, but she’d just about always turn around from the front seat and say, “Don’t y’all leave anyone out.  Play with everyone.  Y’all make space for everybody.”

Yes ma’am.  She’d say it when we had friends over.  Or when it was just the four of us.  With the dynamics of three girls and a baby boy, with nine years span between oldest and youngest, she probably said it way more than she cared to.  “Don’t leave anyone out.  Y’all play nice.”

I knew she was serious.

I was more afraid to be caught leaving someone out than to be caught in “telling a story (fib)” or not doing my chores.  I’m not kidding.  She didn’t play about this.

So much so that it was impressed upon me and became my rule too.  I’ve said the same thing to my own children many, many times.

Tonight I told them this again.  I looked my two littles–our Princess and Cooter–in the eyes and I told them I wanted them to remember something very important.

“Y’all, I want you always to remember not to leave other folks out.”

“Why, Mama?” our Princess asked.  “Did we do something?”

“No, baby,” I touched her hand.  “Y’all are fine.  Just please remember this is important to me.  It hurts other people if you don’t include them.  Now if they aren’t playing right, you can walk away and find me or Daddy or Baba, but don’t ever leave someone out on purpose.  It’s hurtful.”

“But Mama, we didn’t do that.  Why are you telling us this?”

Aub sat on the couch and listened.  She knew where I was coming from and where I was going.  And why.

“Well, some big people are leaving some folks out and that makes me very sad.  I don’t think that’s what we’re supposed to do, is it?  I don’t think that that’s right.”

Out of nowhere Cooter said, with his booming voice and exaggerated waving arms, “Well, I’m just listening to God on this.”

Well, okay then buddy.  Sounds like a plan.

Because you know what?  I don’t get it.  I read the same Good Book that others do, and what seems to be pretty much the number one rule after loving the Artist who created us, is to love.  Love one another.  Our neighbors.  There’s no other specifications beyond those words.  No one listed not to love.  Love one another.  All.

Sounds kind of similar to my Mama’s rule–not leaving anyone out of the love and playing nice.

Umm, yeah.

My Mama used to quote that one about loving folks to us a lot too.  She loved the words in that Book. Dearly loved them.  And lived them too.

This afternoon Aub and I found out through a Facebook post that World Vision reversed their decision that was announced yesterday.  Because of the folks who threatened or did withdraw their support and sponsorships, they rethought their position and declared today that they were reversing their decision that allowed the hiring of Christians who are in same-sex marriages.

To be honest, call me naïve-gullible even, but I was shocked.  We’ve been a bit mournful around here.  Sad.  Yes, sad.  And feeling a bit betrayed.

However–

what I wrote last night still stands.  This organization is doing great things for children in need in the world.  For that I am thankful.  And for those who decided in the past 24 hours to sponsor a child as a way to support World Vision’s decision to be more accepting, my fingers are crossed and I’m hoping that they will continue to sponsor these children in need.  Even though the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak, another thing I said last night still stands–these children did nothing to deserve this.  Don’t make them suffer for any decisions that are being made.  We are called to love, and that’s what we should continue to do.

And yet, my heart aches for those who felt like they were finally being included, being invited to join in “Red Rover” or “Colored Ribbons” or freeze tag.  Or kickball.  Only to find themselves once again pushed off to the side, last ones picked for the team…..or never chosen at all.  Just kidding, y’all, we didn’t really mean to include you.

Tears.

I hear my Mama telling us in “that” tone of voice to behave, mind our p’s and q’s, and be kind to each other.  I see Aub huddled on the couch, taking time from her studies to read the hurtful things people said in response to yesterday’s announcement and the comments from today of people proclaiming victory in the name of the Very One who embraced and loved and hung out with the broken and the lost and the cast aside.  Just no.  Please.  And I see, through tears that I am holding back, the faces of my littles wondering what other reasons there could be for leaving someone out besides them not sharing their bicycle or for going inside to eat supper early.  This is one of those hard things to talk to them about–like the death of good people we love or why folks went to Africa and took people away from their homes and made them work for nothing.

There’s just some things I can’t explain to them enough for it to make sense.

Because it. MAKES. NO. SENSE.

And that hurts.  And makes me mad.

That small train engine that stopped traffic yesterday as though it were a train engine pulling 100 cars gives me hope.  That’s why I had to find my voice.  I almost didn’t speak up.  I was worried about alienating or hurting my friends who believe differently.  The thing is I respect that folks can believe differently than I do.  I can still be friends and show respect, but I can no longer respect myself if I don’t say when I think something is wrong.  Which is why I couldn’t leave it to my eighteen year old to be the only one crying out “Not fair.”  I have to be able to look in all three of my children’s eyes and know I tried my best to change things for the better, that I didn’t just leave it for them to do.

We have a long way to go, and the past two days have proven that.  We have people–real people with names and faces and families and broken stories living on the streets and in the woods, in bus terminals and empty parking garages.  We have people who are turning their backs on their neighbors, the very ones they are called to love, because they are different.  And we are using words–words from the very same Book that tells us to love–to point fingers and draw lines of division and pain and hurt.

And it’s time to stop.

Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other. –John 13:34-35 MSG 

This is how everyone will recognize you…..oh my.

Old, old words.

Calling us to a new way of living.

Even today.

Especially today.

This loving folks and living large is hard.

And yet, it’s all there is…..

Love.  To.  All.