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The Newsletter

A Refreshing Addition To Your Inbox

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The newsletter includes our weekly blog post, plus discussion questions and other useful resources and materials for personal consideration, small group study and Sunday school classes. Whether you’re Christian, other-religious or nonreligious, I think you’ll find the newsletter interesting, inspiring and valuable.

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A Reminder: You are Loved

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A couple months back I was thumbing through Instagram and came across a video posted by Jimmy Jean. The clip was a discussion between Maya Angelou and Oprah, during which Oprah asks, “What words do you turn to for comfort?” 

“Love,” replies Angelou. “I think love is that condition in the human spirit so profound that it allows us to forgive. It may be the energy that keeps the stars in the firmament. It may be the energy that keeps the blood running smoothly through our veins. I’m not sure. But it’s something beyond explanation.”

“Are there books you read?” Oprah asks, prying deeper. “When Maya Angelou needs comforting, what do you use?”

“There’s a book called Lessons In Truth, and in the book there’s a line which is God Loves Me. When I came to read it to my then mentor Fredrick Wilkerson, I read God Loves Me. And he said, read it again. And I said, God Loves Me. He said, read it again. Read it again! And finally I said, GOD. LOVES. ME.”  Angelou lets out all her breath and doubles over in her chair. 

Empowered, astonished, she continues, “It still humbles me —that this force which made leaves and fleas and stars and rivers and you, loves me. Me, Maya Angelou. It’s AMAZING! I can do anything and do it well. Any good thing I can do it. That’s why I am who I am. YES! Because God loves me. And I’m amazed at it! And grateful for it.” A tear streams down her cheek.

Jesus, the man, has never been difficult for me to get my head around. He is humble, merciful, and kind; a beautiful juxtaposition against a backdrop of religious self-righteousness and political greed. He was a martyr for good in the face of injustice. He is generous, minimal, mindful, devout, and above all else, loving. 

I’ve looked at research from Harvard to Oxford that supports Jesus’s way of being and teaching in the world. Studies show that practices like forgiveness, empathy, compassion, mercy —those emphasized by Christ— really do encourage health, peace, and lasting joy. His way makes sense. 

What I struggle to remember and believe in, when the world around me feels dark and especially when I fall short (which is often enough), is Jesus as a human incarnation of a God who is vast and all-knowing and who also loves me.

When I first met my mentor, Mary Jane Cole, she asked, “Natalie, how do you see God?” 

And after a long pause, I shared with her what I say about God to others:

There exists a good, gracious, merciful light beyond anything we can imagine. That light, God, is entwined in every stitch of fabric and in every beating heart. In every second, in the midst of your greatest successes and your most embarrassing failures; in every moment you fall short and every instance you stray from the path, that light still surrounds you, and by it you are loved. Unfailingly, unabashedly, unconditionally, you are loved.

A master listener, Mary Jane allowed a generous moment of silence. Then, in her usual  compassionate, gentle voice asked, “Natalie, do you think God loves you like that?”

I wish there were video footage of that moment. My eyes open wide and filling with tears, I imagine I looked like all the lights had just turned on and all the world was new to me.

When I write to and talk with others about how they are loved by God, my heart swells and my chest fills with a visceral warmth that is so full and light and bursting that I know beyond a shadow of doubt that they/you are wholly loved. And I want nothing more than to say it to you over and over until you feel it yourself.

But in my own time with God, instead of love, I often focus on the places I need improvement, the gaps that need filling and ways I can do better. I see the work that needs to be done. Logistically, I know that if God loves others right where they are, then God too by default must love me. But truthfully, up until that moment with Mary Jane Cole, I’d never really considered that love for myself. I’d never wrapped myself up in it.

Sometimes, we are so attached to and busy with the critical voices in our heads that there is no space left to accept and experience love, not only from the people around us but from God. So for me, as it was for Maya Angelou, God. Loves. Me. was a revelation. 

I truly believe that when we bravely trust and faithfully embrace the idea that we are unconditionally loved, we are more available to, as Hafiz said, be “the flute that Christ’s breath moves through.”  It is in love that we become the best versions of ourselves and in love that Angelou says “anything good [we] can do it.” 

There’s a children’s picture book by Nancy Tillman titled Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You. When my babies were small, the words rang so true to the breadth and depth of my love for them that every time I read it, I cried. 

Lately, like a gift, the words from the book keep floating into my consciousness. Still they remind me how entirely I love my children. But now, these words serve as a reminder that I too am loved —wholly, completely, unconditionally, by good and gracious God.

Below are the pieces of the book that I recall from memory. They may not be exact, but I  pray they remind you too.  

In love,
Natalie

I wanted you more 
than you will ever know, 
so I sent love to follow 
wherever you go. 

It’s high as you wish. 
It’s quick as an elf. 
You’ll never outgrow it. 
It stretches itself.

So climb any mountain, 
climb up to the sky. 
My love will find you. 
My love can fly.

Make a big splash. 
Go out on a limb. 
My love will find you. 
My love can swim

It never gets lost, 
never fades, never ends, 
if you’re working or playing 
or sitting with friends. 

You can dance ’til you’re dizzy, 
paint ’til you’re blue. 
There’s no place not one 
that my love can’t find you.

And if someday you’re lonely, 
or someday you’re sad, 
or you strike out at baseball 
or think you’ve been bad, 

just lift up your face, 
feel the wind in your hair. 
That’s me my sweet baby, 
my love is right there. 

In the green of the grass, 
in the smell of the sea, 
in the clouds floating by, 
at the top of the tree, 

in the sound crickets make 
at the end of the day, 
“You are loved. You are loved. 
You are loved,” they all say.

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The Newsletter

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