Category: ‘Love’

Bands of Human Kindness and Cords of Love

15 November, 2015 Posted by liascholl

A sermon based on Hosea 11.

A friend asked in a coffee shop recently:

How do you reconcile the idea of a loving God with all that happens in the world?

It’s the oldest question in the world. And when we look at the stark horror of what has happened this week in Paris, in Beirut, in southern Japan, in the Bosso district of Niger, and in Baghdad It’s hard to start anyplace but disbelief and sorrow.

How can we reconcile the idea of a loving God with all that has happened in the world?

This is the question, I believe, that the book of Hosea seeks to answer. In fact, I think it’s the question the whole of the Bible seeks to answer. Why do bad things happen, if God really loves us?

Here’s a little background of our text from Hosea this morning. Hosea is one of the “minor” prophets. The major prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel. Their books are longer, and their content has broad, even global implications. The minor prophets are smaller (although Hosea and Zechariah are almost as long as Daniel) and the content is more narrowly focused.

Minor prophets are not less inspired than the majors. It’s probably just hard to think of them all as one body of prophets.

Hosea’s ministry happens about 100 years after Elijah, and this places it in the eighth century BCE. So perhaps 760 to 725. This is smack in the time of the Assyrian captivity of the Hebrew people. The Northern Kingdom was hauled off by Sennacherib, and the Southern Kingdom, including Jerusalem, was besieged, but not taken.

The book kind of goes like this:
God tells Hosea to take Gomer as his wife, an unfaithful wife (some translations even say “a wife of whoredom.”). Then they have children. They name them God scatters, No mercy, and Not my people. Uplifting, isn’t it? Then Hosea returns to her former lifestyle.

The overarching metaphor of the text is that Hosea is God and his wife is the people of Israel. It is, by the way, a metaphor that makes my poor feminist heart shudder. On the other hand, that metaphor serves a few points: first, to indicate the idea of covenant between God and the people, second, to underscore the inequality of that relationship between God and Israel (remembering that there was inequality in the marriage relationship during this time), and finally, to understand what happens when the covenant is broken—this book is like a lawsuit against Israel for breaking the marriage covenant between man and wife.

But our text this morning? Found in the 11th chapter, it’s a love song, and even a lament. It is also a promise. Think for a minute how you picture the God of the Hebrew Bible. Many say that vision of God is a graceless, mean, angry God. But this text stands in opposition to that. This imagery is so filled with love, longing, and hope.

And ultimately, answers the question, “How can we reconcile the idea of a loving God with the horrible things that happen in the world?”

So what is love? In our text this morning, the word for love is ahav, not hesed. Hesed is that abiding, covenantal love. But ahav is the word for romantic love and parental love, which means to nurture, or to devote completely to another.

I went to the internet to find some definitions of love.

James Thurber, who wrote The Secret Life of Walter Mitty said, “Love is what you’ve been through with somebody.”

Zora Neale Hurston, author of Their Eyes Were Watching God, says, “Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”

Victor Hugo, who wrote Les Miserables said, “The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved—loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”

But the best definition I found was from Neil Gaiman:

Have you ever been in love? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life. You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness,…It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.”

What if God’s love for us makes God that vulnerable? Because I think it does. I think you can hear it in this passage today. These are the ways this love poem goes:

God’s love looks like a mother.

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. “it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.”

God’s love doesn’t end.

“How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.”

and more

My heart recoils within me; compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.

God is saying:


Things I Wish I Had Learned at 24 (instead of 42)

9 April, 2010 Posted by liascholl

Loving what you do is really important. But so is a paycheck.

Real, abiding love takes commitment and compromise, and is much easier to find and do before you become a crotchety old woman.

Boundaries are important, and you should always take your time learning to trust people. Make sure they deserve it.

A life ruled by “shoulds” is no fun, but a life ruled by “because I want to” is not too rewarding. Balance.

Love and partnership is important.

Acceptance and gratitude are the greater part of love.


28 August, 2009 Posted by liascholl

I’m taking a break this weekend from Twitter. I’m hoping to find that it will make me more creative, more productive, and get me away from the computer.

And then, of course, it’s Friday night and I’m writing a blog post.

I thought I’d share this song from a book by Marshall Chapman, called Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller.

It doesn’t matter
Where you’re coming from
It doesn’t matter
What damage was done
We’re all on a journey
Our goal is the same
We’re gonna be happy
Like children again
So be your own parent
And treat yourself good
It’s never too late
To have a happy childhood

I used to think freedom
Meant running away
And love was a feeling
That never would stay
I searched this world over
But I never found
A big enough shoulder
To muffle the sound
So cry if you need to
It might do you good
It’s never too late
To have a happy childhood

Some never make it
Some never try
Some try to fake it
Some barely get by
Survival is easy
It’s living that’s hard
And it takes lots of courage
Just to be who you are
So do what you love
Not what they say you should
It’s never too late
To have a happy childhood

How Can I Keep from Singing?

3 August, 2009 Posted by liascholl

Yesterday at church, one of our artists, Renee King, had hung a fabulous new piece, so beautiful that I could not stop staring. It literally made my heart sing.

My Heart Sings

My Heart Sings


16 July, 2009 Posted by liascholl

A dear friend of mine tells me all the time that I have a youthfulness about me. Of course, I always think, “Oh, great! He thinks I’m childish!” He says that I’m youthful because I really like to do some things he thinks are goofy. I sew. I make collages (he says, “coll-awww-geeees”). I drive to the store for only a magazine. I like to cook.

His point is that I do creative things, things he wouldn’t be able to do because of all of his grown-up responsibilities. He has a “real” job. He has familial obligations. He just doesn’t have time to do creative stuff. But even when I’m busy, I try to make time for creative activities.

I made this owl for the brand-new-baby, Lucy, the first child of my friend Caroline. It’s a goofy owl, but I do like it and had a great time doing it. A little shout out to my friend Jenny who helped!


28 June, 2009 Posted by liascholl

Okay, I haven’t mentioned the name Pam Houston in ages. Haven’t seen her books. Haven’t read any articles about her or by her, probably in 5 years! Then I wrote that blog post. The very next day, listening to a public radio hybrid in Richmond, I heard a series of short stories read aloud, and hers was the very first one.

It’s a strange amount of serendipity.

Does that ever happen to you?

I Love a Man in Uniform

25 June, 2009 Posted by liascholl

I love books. I have two favorite female writers from this century. Pam Houston and Lily Burana. My favorite Pam Houston quote, from the short story collection, Cowboys Are My Weakness, is “I was addicted to him like cough syrup, and I didn’t respect his mind.” I read that book in the early 1990’s, and I still think of that quote at least once a week.

Lily Burana wrote my all-time favorite book, Strip City. Obviously, if you know me, you understand why. Burana combines all the things I love: strippers, memoir, psychological understanding, and just a little bit of religion. I’ve recommended Strip City to every Star Light volunteer, to all the women I’ve talked to about starting their own stripper ministry, and to every dancer I’ve ever met. I loved that book so much, at one point, I had 30 copies about my house, to give out to folks I loved. Now I have only my original two copies around, both of which are marked up with underlining, folded pages, and exclamation points. I’ve given all the others away.

So it was with great joy and anticipation that I started Burana’s new book, I Love a Man in Uniform. There was some trepidation, too. Strip City is a pair of big stilettos to fill. (That really didn’t work, did it? But you know what I mean).

And before I get too much into I Love a Man in Uniform, you should know a bit of my own bias: I am a pacifist, I have protested our current wars, and yet, some of my dear friends are service people. My father served in Vietnam, I served a church in Metro DC with several service people (and got in trouble for a sermon about Abu Ghraib), and I’ve worked with sex workers and former sex workers for 8 years.

On with the review:

I loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Burana has a way of saying things that makes me lean back, smile, and say, “Yep. That’s it.” I literally cried when I read this passage:

The stripping. The arrest. None of it fazed Mike. In fact, he had reservations about whether he was good for me. He worried that I’d see him as helplessly boring and square, illustrating his point by making an “L7” with his hands. But if I needed something, he was there, and by the end of September, I found myself wanting to see him more and more. It became impossible to get him off my mind.

When Mike came up to visit me in New York in October, he walked around my little cottage in the woods, checking out the furniture and the books. “Wow, you’re pretty squared away.” At the time, I didn’t fully realize what a compliment that was. “Squared away” is high praise from a soldier. From there, it’s a short trip to “I love you.” Squared away means You have your shit together; I think I can rely on you—and to a soldier, that is everything. At first, I had my doubts that we’d make it past the superficial stunt-dating stage, but by now, I was feeling quite different.

I left Mike at my house during a quick trip to Chicago for a writing assignment, and when I came home, I found him outside in the sunshine, carefully cleaning out brushes and rollers. While I was gone, he’d painted my chipped and peeling front porch. My heart soared. I love the traditional niceties of romance—dinners, cards, a pretty bouquet—but nothing compares to the gift of sweat equity, which I view as the he-man’s true statement of intent. Far better than spending money on me, he’d spent some of his precious free time. Bring me flowers and I’m charmed; swing a hammer and I’m yours.

I’ve never experienced exactly what Burana is talking about, but DAMN! I want to!

The story of their romance gets real later in the book. Burana deals honestly and, sometimes brutally, with her own depression, her own demonette, who seeks perfection from her at every turn, and both her and Mike’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She writes:

It occurred to me that stripping, for me, and the whole adventure of those years may have been the ultimate game of Survivor: Trauma Edition. Already dissociated and cynical about humanity, I undertook stripping as the female equivalent of a kind of Special Forces training—the physical discipline, the focus on en pointe performance, the thrill-seeking, the playing with fire and going into dark or taboo places most “civilians” don’t go. The exaggerated gender typing, the special outfits or uniforms that mark, again, a defined break from civilian life, the pervasive sense of danger or limit crossing.

The book was surprising to me, because, having been a fan girl of Burana’s, I really expected a “happily-ever-after” memoir. I wanted that for Burana. She is an amazingly fierce woman and a wonderful writer and I’d like for her to be happy. I wanted a happy book. I Love a Man in Uniform is not a happy book. Near the end of the book, Burana expresses her gratitude for Mike, “Thank you for your commitment to serving our country. Thank you for picking me to be your wife. Thank you for being man enough to get help when you needed it. Thank you for fighting for our marriage as valiantly as you fought any war. Thank you for being both my husband and my hero.”

But the book reminded me. Life isn’t always happy. But it can be good.

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    Lia practices radical acceptance for those who the church has vilified and shamed. It's not just something she preaches, but something that she really tries to reflect in her life.

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