Thursday, July 31, 2014

Say That Again

Bon Jour from Quebec, the largest French speaking part of North America.  After spending two days near Montreal, we drove east along the St. Lawrence Seaway, passing through small villages and larger towns until getting on the freeway to make better time in getting to our destination, the Isle of Orleans, just east of Quebec City.  Quebec City is the capital of Quebec and, along with Montreal, is largely inhabited by French speakers.  The Isle of Orleans is east of Quebec City, linked to the mainland by a high bridge.  Once you reach the bridge and cross onto the island, there is one two lane road that encircles the island.  Traffic moves very slowly by Texas standards, only about 35-40 mph, so you have plenty of time to look at the countryside, see the small farms here and there, and stop at the farm stands to buy fraises (strawberries), framboises (raspberries) or bluets (blueberries), all of which are in season right now.  There is also fromage (cheese) of every imaginable type produced and sold in this Province.  Lots of vegetables, also, including Quebec sweet corn which we bought yesterday and plan to cook this evening.

We are staying in a house that is 250 years old.  It is owned by a nice lady who actually lives here but moves out of her house to allow visitors to stay here.  She goes to stay with her mother who lives in Quebec City when visitors rent her house.  She gave us the house tour yesterday and told us that the house dates back to the late 1750s when the British were driving the French out of Canada and after they got through with the Acadians in Nova Scotia they came after the French speakers in what is now Quebec.  The British burned their houses and the house where we are staying was partially burned by the British but not destroyed.  The house is two stories with two bedrooms downstairs and enough sleeping space upstairs for 10 more people.  She said that 14 people can easily sleep here but she allowed us to stay here, just Doris and me and Bo, our dog.  She left us on our own after the tour and we enjoyed the backyard breathing in the 60 degree air and looking across the St. Lawrence at the villages on the north shore, one of which is St. Anne de Beaupre, a famous church where many believe miracles happen.

We slept very well in this historic house and rose to have coffee outdoors enjoying the 55 degree air and the bright sunshine.  Then, because we had no bread, we decided to drive the 5 kilometers or so to the next little village to a bakery that opened at 8 am.  We parked the car and I walked to the place where the sign said "magasine" which means a small store and as I entered a young woman said, "Bon Jour" to me, which is what they always say to you when you enter a store in the day time.  I said "Bon Jour" back to her (one of my 5 or so words in French that I know) and then said, "Hello.  I came to buy some bread."  She looked at me with a puzzled look and paused.  I repeated what I said and she held up one finger and then went away.  She returned with a young man.  I said "Bon Jour" to him and told him I wanted to buy some bread.  He too looked puzzled and I motioned to the bread in bags and said it again.  He held up one finger and went away too.  Finally, a nice woman returned with the other two and said "Hello" in English.  I told her I wanted to buy bread and she asked me what kind and I told her and she asked if I wanted anything else and I said maybe something sweet and she pointed and said they had turnovers with strawberries and I said I would take them.  I finished my purchase and said "Merci" (one of my other words I know) and the young man said, "Have a nice day."  I said to him, "You too" and departed.

This interaction at the boulangerie (bread store) made me think about how often we take communication with others for granted.  It is not until we are placed in a situation where we are in the minority and others cannot understand what we want that we think about what it must feel like to others who live among us and cannot speak our language, either because they are immigrants from another land or they are hearing challenged or they are slow to understand us.  We may get impatient with such people and even think that they need to try harder to listen to us and speak to us.  We may even lose our patience with such people and avoid them rather than strive to communicate with them.

It is not just talking to others who speak a different language than ours that is difficult but perhaps speaking to others who do not share our views on certain topics or issues.  We may think that talking to them is difficult and we need to avoid those touchy topics lest we find ourselves angry or frustrated.  Communication is key to growing closer to others and we do not have to agree all the time in order to be friends with others.  Having an open mind and accepting them for who they are is more important than simply being in agreement always.

So, whether you say "Good Morning" or "Bon Jour" you can find something to share with others whom you meet.  And if someone does not speak your langauge, either literally or on topics close to your heart, we can all learn from one another and accept one another if we simply continue to try to listen more and talk less.  We can all share what is important to us if we just continue to strive to communicate well with others.

I love visiting foreign lands and hearing others speak their language, even if I cannot understand all they say.  I love to try to figure out what the signs say and to eat new foods I have never tried (such as "poutine"--french fries covered with gravy and then you add whatever else you want that the place offers; we have not had that but definitely think we will have some before we return home.)  It adds a lot to life to experience it from another point of view.  You may be puzzled or confused at times but eventually you find that it enriched your life just because you experienced it.

Until later, I bid you adieu and say Au revoir.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Now, Where's That Spare Tire?

Do you hate flat tires as much as I do?  I hate having a flat tire or even a tire that is losing air and requires constant monitoring.  I hate having a flat tire so much that I replace my tires when they have about as much mileage on them as they are said to provide.  Part of the reason that I hate having flat tires, besides the inconvenience of it, of course, is that I hate using the scissor jack that is provided in cars nowadays rather than the good ole fashioned pump jack that used to be in all cars.  The scissor jack requires you to find just the right place to put it in order to use it.  If you put it elsewhere you will damage something under the car that is needed to drive so you will have a bigger problem than a flat tire if you don't put it in just the right place.

I had a flat tire on my present car a few years ago.  I was driving along in the country trying to get home from going to the grocery store.  I noticed the low pressure light (which I hate almost as much as having a flat tire) and knew one of my tires was low but since I was in the country far from a source of air I had to keep driving.  Suddenly, I knew the tire was going flat and began to steer to the right and seeing a driveway to the left decided to go there instead.  The driveway belonged to one of my church members and I thought he may help me with the tire.  It turned out that no one was at home so there I was with a flat tire in his driveway.  So, I hauled out the scissor jack and the spare tire (which is one of those new "donut" tires designed to go a short distance) and began to try to find the place where the jack fit underneath the car.  I reached my hand around here and there trying to feel a pocket designed to hold the jack and could not find just the right place so I opted for one that I thought would hold the jack and not damage the car.  So far, so good---I turned the jack handle again and again trying to get it high enough for me to take off the flat tire when suddenly the jack fell and the tire and rim hit the ground.  Then I was stuck for sure.

I called a few church members and finally one came to my rescue with his old fashioned pump jack and we got the tire changed.  The only thing worse would have been if my spare had been flat but the little guy was all aired up and ready to go and carried me home.  The next day I went to the local car dealership where we get our tires and replaced that tire and soon replaced the others in the set.  I just got a new set of tires a couple weeks ago in preparation for an upcoming trip and I am counting on them taking me where I need to go with no problems.

Spare tires are like a lot of things in life.  We do not think about them until we need them.  They are a lot like some people in our lives.  We do not think much about them until we have a need for them.  The policeman, the fireman, the dentist, the doctor, the lawyer, the tax accountant, maybe the minister...all fit into that category.  We rock along in life and do not even think about calling on one of them until we need one of them.  When there is a break-in, a fire, a tooth that hurts, a letter from the IRS in the mail, a death in our family, then we call the person that we think knows a lot about what is bothering us.  We want an expert opinion about that area of concern in our life at the present moment and we know who to call to get the help.
Some people even see God as a spare time, not giving much thought about God or the importance of knowing a bit about God or even having a relationship with God until a problem appears in their lives and suddenly they wonder where God was when the issue popped up in life.  The doctor calls with the feared diagnosis or the funeral director calls and says to meet with him or the letter comes in the mail telling us to get ready for the audit...then some people decide they may need a source outside of themselves to deal with life's problems.

If I see God as a spare tire, then I only need God when that flat tire of life happens, when things go flat for me.  If I see God as a part of my life, a part with whom I interact regularly, then God is part of a relationship that I have.  If God is important to me and to my daily living, then I will want to be with others who also are part of the family of God for they are part of my life and living also.

Church attendance is not a required activity in life.  It is a voluntary act, something that people want to do or be part of.  Going to church has to give a person some intrinsic satisfaction in order for it to continue.  Being with others who also see church attendance as satisfying builds relationships that provide sources of help during the times in life when things seem to go flat.  Don't wait until the tire goes flat to look for the spare...have one in reserve at all times, so that you have something to fall back on when times get rough.  God is always present, a very present help in times of trouble, the psalmist said.  God provides neighbors to help one another and to be God's hands in action when we need to find a human to call upon.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

In Your Dreams

I usually enjoy dreaming.  I have some really great dreams, interesting dreams.  I dream just about every night.  I know people who say they do not dream but I have dreams every time I go to sleep.  It may be the decongestant I take nightly before I go to sleep that helps me dream more since it helps me sleep more soundly but I rarely have "bad dreams".  Most of my dreams are really great ones and usually involve me solving a problem for myself or for others in my dreams.

Dr. Carl Jung studied dreams for many years.  He was a psychologist and was very interested in dreams and what they meant.  He wrote several books on dreams and dream interpretation.  I have tried to read some of his books and have referred to one in which he tries to interpret the meaning of objects in dreams we have.  I remember that he said that whatever you dream is about you and even people in your dreams say something about you, not about them.  Usually my dreams are very involved and full of many things and people and if all those things are about me then I would have a lot of interpreting to do if I were to try to figure out what they mean.

This Sunday we will read and reflect upon the ancient story from Genesis about Jacob having his dream in the wilderness.  I am sure you remember the story of how Jacob had to run away from his home because his brother Esau had threatened to kill him.  Jacob tricked their father Isaac into giving the blessing to him that was intended for the older brother (according to their tradition) so Jacob received the blessing of land and children and prosperity that was intended for Esau to receive.  When Esau asked their father for the blessing, Isaac realized what had happened and told Esau there was nothing left for him to receive.  Esau was enraged and said he would kill his brother if he saw him again so Rebekah told Jacob to run away to their relatives who lived about 500 miles away.  Jacob began his long, lonely walk, looking back over his shoulder constantly to check to see if Esau was following him.

When he was about 50 miles from home, and it was getting dark, Jacob stopped to rest for the night and lay down in a clearing, using a large stone for his pillow.  He went to sleep and had a fantastic dream about angels going up and down a ladder that stretched from earth to heaven.  God spoke to him in the dream and promised that he would bless him and all the nations of the earth through him and that the promise given to his grandfather, Abraham, would be fulfilled through him.  Jacob awoke and was very moved by the dream and promised God that if God would lead him and protect him and eventually bring him home safely in peace, then God would be Jacob's God and he would give 10 percent of all he had to God in thanks.  Jacob took a vial of oil and anointed the stone that was his pillow and said the place was called Beth-El, or the House of God because it was a holy place.  Then, he continued his journey.

Jacob's dream of a ladder reaching to heaven is part of our culture and nomenclature today.  We sing a children's song about climbing Jacob's ladder and we use the term in our speech now and then.  There is a art site in the northeast US called "Jacob's Pillow" where creative dance is taught and performed.  The dream Jacob had was not just about a ladder but it was about heavenly beings going up and down the ladder between heaven and earth.  The rabbis debated what the scripture meant and many felt like the meaning had to do with the lives humans live and how good deeds cause one to go up the ladder but bad deeds sent one down the ladder again.  So, our lives are constantly in motion, up and down the ladder of our deeds.  That is not a bad way of looking at it.

This story, though, says far more than just about a heavenly ladder being in place.  The story is also about redemption for a fugitive on the run.  Jacob was not a good man.  He was a trickster, a deceiver, a scam artist.  Jacob used his exceptionally wisdom and cunning to trick his brother and father into giving up something that was very valuable in their day, the blessing that only a father could give to an older son.  The younger son got nothing from the father and the mother knew that and she helped him to trick his father into giving him the blessing which could not be taken back once it was given.  That put Jacob at odds with his hot tempered brother and off he went to be a fugitive for the rest of his life.  What a price to pay for receiving something that was not his to enjoy.

Jacob was loved by God, though, and even his deception did not cause God to love him less.  God could use this man with the skills that got him his reward to bring about the promise that God had made to Abraham many years before.  God changed Jacob into Israel and Jacob became the father to the 12 sons who were the heads of the 12 Tribes of Israel.  Their names are the biblical names attached to the tribes and Israel is their father's name attached to the people whom God called to belong to God.

How often we think that God cannot use us or love us because we are less than perfect?  We may even be a bit like Jacob and deceive others or trick others into doing what we want them to do.  God loves and uses all of us who are willing to be used by God regardless of how flawed we think we may be.  God wants willing people to serve God, not perfect people.  If God needed perfect people, there would be an extreme shortage of workers because no one could apply for the job.

Join us this Sunday when we will reflect more on this story.  Have a great week.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mom Always Liked You Best

That is what Tommy Smothers used to tell his brother on their comedy show, The Smothers Brothers.  Tommy would respond to something his brother said and would get the laugh while his brother looked at the camera in a deadpan serious way.

There are many siblings who agree with Tommy, though.  They grew up thinking that a parent preferred one of their siblings over the others.  Perhaps it was the oldest who they thought was the most responsible.  Maybe it was the youngest whom the parents eased up on the restrictions with them because they felt they had said all they could and this one should have learned from the other children.  Occasionally, it could have even been the dreaded middle child (although that is not the case with me).

Psychologists have studied birth order for many years and there seems to be some evidence that what they say about the order or our birth does have something to do with our personalities.  It is not set in concrete, however, because parental interaction with their children or a lack of it may have even more to do with the kind of adults that they become.

This is true with the story from the Old Testament for this next Sunday.  Isaac married Rebekah and for 20 years they tried to have a child and it did not seem to happen.  Infertility is a major theme in the Bible.  It threatens the promise that God made to Abraham and plagues many women in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Isaac prayed and asked God for a child, however, and God answered his prayers so that Rebekah soon was expecting a child but perhaps God gave her too much of a good thing because she was expecting twins.  The two boys, even in their prenatal state, were in constant competition and Rebekah was in such pain that she wished she could die.  Finally, they were delivered and Esau was covered with red hair so his name became "Red" which is Esau in Hebrew.  Jacob was delivered holding onto Esau's foot so his name became "Grasper" or Jacob in Hebrew.  From the start, they were in competition and conflict with one another.

Esau became an outdoorsman, hunting wild game and Jacob learned to cook so when Esau came back from a hunting trip famished and Jacob was cooking some mighty tasty beans, Esau decided he needed food more than anything else in life, even more than the birthright that was rightfully his as the older twin.  So, Jacob made him swear that he would give him the birthright (which entitled him to security, prosperity, fertility, and land) and Jacob gave him a bowl of beans.  Esau ate greedily as if he had never eaten before in his life and Jacob just smiled with satisfaction at knowing that he had claim on all that belonged to Esau.

This was the first step of the process to give to Jacob what rightfully belonged to Esau.  Their mother, Rebekah, became involved in tricking their father, Isaac, into giving to Jacob what should have belonged to Esau, causing much heartache and trouble to come.

Mom always did like Jacob best.  At least Rebekah liked Jacob best.  The Scriptures do not say why this is so.  It just was the case.  Why do some parents prefer some children over their others?  Why do some show that preference in ways that become clear to their children as they grow up?  What happens between the children as they become adults and have children of their own?  Do the patterns repeat themselves or do people make conscious decisions not to do as their parents have done?  What happens in families where preferences emerge if it is not stopped?

We will think about these and other ideas this Sunday during worship at Weimar UCC at 9:30.  Join us as we read and discuss Genesis 25:19-34.

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Match Made in Heaven

Do you  believe in love at first sight?  Do you think that two people can be drawn together by something we may call "fate" or "providence"?  Do you think God cares who we marry?  If a marriage does not last, does that mean it was a mistake from the first?

Our culture is full of examples in movies and books of people who were drawn together by some irresistible force.  Some were attracted to each other from the very first moment they met and for others it took some time of warming up to each other and overcoming odds but soon they were a couple.  Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have been in at least two movies that we call Romantic Comedies.  First there was "Sleepless in Seattle" where Tom played a single dad needing a mom for his son and Meg Ryan got acquainted with him but there were all kinds of snags they had to overcome and soon they were meeting at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine's Day and hit it off immediately.  Then there was "You've Got Mail" which had the same basis premise as the first one except Meg's character owned a small bookstore that was being threatened with extinction by a huge chain bookstore moving into her neighborhood whose CEO was Tom Hanks.  Luckily, the anonymity of the internet allowed them to meet without revealing too much until they were drawn to one another and then love was in the air.

So, is that the way it works with love?  Do people meet and know that they have met "the one" or are there many to choose from and they just decide on the one that seems best to them?

The Old Testament lesson for next Sunday is one from Genesis 24 that I have never preached on.  It is the story of how Isaac met his wife Rebekah.  It is a love story but not one that is similar to the Hanks/Ryan experience.  It is more like Hanks sends his best friend or co-worker to meet Ryan and then the friend/co-worker checks Ryan out and brings her back for Hanks to have a look at her.  He sees what he likes and they move in together.  Romance is not really in the mix as the story is told.  It is more a marriage of convenience, as was true in marriages in the old country where Abraham had grown rich.  Abraham's servant went in search of a wife for Isaac, Abraham's son, and went to the town where Abraham's brother and his family lived.  There, he met Rebekah who was drawing water from the community well.  Rebekah was Isaac's cousin, but in those days that did not seem to matter to people.  Finding a wife for Isaac among Abraham's own family was superior to finding one among the riff-raff in the other nearby lands, especially among the Canaanites (who worshiped idols).   So, Rebekah agreed to marry her cousin, Isaac, and the two seemed like the match was made in heaven.  (It does say an angel led the servant to find Rebekah so maybe it was indeed made in heaven or at least by a heavenly messenger.)

So, do such love stories happen today (not including marrying your cousin which is outlawed in most states)?  Are there people who just know from the first that they are destined to be with another person?  Is it that crystal clear or do they have challenges or obstacles that must be overcome and persistence brings about the results they seek?

I know couples who have been married many years and some say that they never thought they would be with anyone except their spouse and it has been great for all those decades.  I know other couples who say they were not immediately attracted to the person who became their spouse but gradually they grew on them and then the light bulb lit up and it was clear they should marry them.  I know people who thought they should marry another person but they could not make up their mind or challenges were in the way (such as family members who objected) so they did not make that commitment and they regretted it throughout their lives.

Is divine providence involved in some way in our choice of a person to marry?  Do we sometimes ignore the guidance that God would give us in such decisions and that is why we make a mistake in whom we choose to marry?  Or does God give us free will in all things and we choose and sometimes we make a bad decision or a good decision and that is all there is to it?

Join us this Sunday at 9:30 at our church as we think about these questions and others as we examine Genesis 24 and "Isaac and Rebekah--A Love Story".      

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I'll Take Bible Questions for 500, Alex.

I love to watch quiz programs on television that test the knowledge of the contestants.  Two of my favorites are "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and "Jeopardy".  I watch them often and try to guess the answers to the questions while the contestants are doing so.  "Millionaire" is a multiple choice game, giving the contestant four choices and all they have to do is choose the right one.  Yesterday, I was watching this middle aged woman playing "Millionaire".  She was neatly dressed and about my age, I would have guessed so I figured she should have known a lot about the world around her and a lot of subjects.  The poor woman did not last but half the first group of questions before she had to leave.  One of the questions that she had to jump over because she had no clue was about the Bible.  As soon as they put the answer choices on the screen, I knew the answer.  The woman on the program looked at the choices and she made terrible faces, groaned a bit, and finally told the host, "I will have to jump this question.  I have no idea what the answer is."

I groaned too because it was so simple, at least for me.  The question was "What phrase used does not come from the Bible but from the story of King Arthur?"  The choices included, "The Ten Commandments", "The Crown of Thorns", "The Holy Grail" and one other that was very biblical in sound.  Many people should have known that "The Holy Grail" is not mentioned in the Bible in any place but this poor soul had no clue.  I guess she thought that since The Holy Grail is mentioned in the movies by the character Indiana Jones as being the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper then it could be in the Bible somewhere.  She jumped the question and lost some money she could have banked because of her ignorance.

Now, I as a pastor, was watching the program and yelling at the television set---"O come on, surely you know the answer to that one.  Give me a break."  I do the same when Jeopardy has Biblical categories.  I am amazed at the lack of knowledge of people when it comes to the Bible.  I guess just because I grew up in a church where learning what was in the Bible was practiced regularly resulting in my being able to locate most books of the Bible without having to consult the table of contents and am familiar enough with it that if you ask me where something may be located I may have a reasonable guess, that I think everyone else should too.  The truth, however, is my experience with the Good Book is out of the normal realm of experience of most other people.  I am the proverbial odd duck when it comes to Biblical knowledge.  Many pastors are in this same situation.  We use the Bible in our occupation regularly so we are expected to know more than the average person on the pews.

Does that mean that if one knows little about the Bible, they should be considered "Bible-illiterate"?  Or, does it simply mean that their past experiences have not offered them the opportunities to read or study the Bible?  Does knowing a lot about the Bible mean that one would be a better person than others who know nothing about it?  Not necessarily....it would seem that what one does with one's knowledge is more important than simply having a great amount of knowledge about anything.  My congregants know that I know little about mathematics, something that I readily confess.  When Jeopardy or Millionaire features math questions, I am the one who quietly thumbs through a magazine until they change to something more relevant to me.  I really do not care about higher level mathematics or physics or chemistry because I studied little of those subjects in the past and my knowledge in those areas is very limited.

Some people with great Biblical knowledge use it for the wrong purposes, such as to persecute or mistreat others based upon their interpretations of the Bible.  Some in religious circles in past eras used the Bible to keep minorities in their control.  One can defend the mistreatment of women or slaves based upon certain biblical passages.  One can tell others how they must dress or what they can eat or who their friends or partners in marriage could be based upon certain biblical texts.  Many religious leaders in the world have done these things and continue to do them based solely on their interpretation of verses found in the Bible.

Jesus said he came to give people life and life that was abundant.  He said he came to bring freedom from captivity.  When the Bible is used to oppress or control others, biblical knowledge is used wrongly.  When people are allowed to read and decide what they think scripture means for themselves, light can shine to reveal what God would say to them.  God's Spirit can guide us all into new truth that can liberate and bring about positive change in the world.

The Scriptures are meant to be a light and a lamp to illuminate our paths.  That is the most important answer to why one would even want to read the Bible and use what is said in its pages to direct one's life.  Knowing answers to questions for television programs is just a bonus.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Being on the A-List

There is a word used in the entertainment industry that defines persons who are approved to entertain or to attend events in the entertainment world.  It is called "The A-List."  I do not know if the A in A-List stands for approved or if it is just because A is the first letter in the alphabet so being on the A list is better than being on the B list, if such a list exists.  If one's name is on the A-List then doors open for them, both professionally and in reality.  Such persons can go to events that are reserved only for special people.  They can enter places that most of us will never see.

Being on the A-List in the entertainment world means that you are special.  It may mean that you are loved by persons who decide who can and cannot be on the list.  Being on the list is reserved for only the elite who have been chosen.

It is a bit like being loved or giving loved.  Some people are on the list to receive unconditional love from others.  Some people are able to give unconditional love to others.  They just have that quality to be able to include and accept others just because they are alive.  People do not have to do or be something in order to receive love from such persons because they are just loving by nature.  Then, there are others who seem to not be able to give or express love, unless others are on their personal A-List.

I know a person who is unable to give unconditional love to anyone in her life.  She has always had strings attached to how much she would love others or if she could love others.  People have to be approved of by her according to the way they look, the color of their skin, their weight, the place they were born, and many other characteristics.  She makes a judgment of them based upon her many criteria and decides if they are worthy or not and then decides whether or not to love them.

Perhaps the greatest characteristic that she applies to evaluating the worthiness of others has to do with the religion a person embraces.  This person belongs to a very conservative, fundamentalist church that has a very literal interpretation of the Bible.  She had heard her preachers (they do not call them ministers) over the years talk about the worthiness or lack of it of many types of persons and she has embraced their teachings wholeheartedly.  She disapproves of all non-Christian persons so Jews, Muslim, Buddhists, and all others who do not call themselves "Christian" are automatically eliminated from her approved list.  She disapproves of all Christian persons who practice what she calls "dead, dry religion".  She probably is referring to those in mainline, liturgical churches but she does not have enough vocabulary in that area of knowledge to know how to express herself.  She merely repeats what she has heard her preachers say.  So, Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and many others are on her list of Christians who really do not practice the "true faith."  Then there are the cults to consider, of course.  She lumps together Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Unitarians, and many others into this camp.   None of these can be truly approved by her and, by extrapolation, loved by her.

Finally, there are the unchurched.  They are to be pitied by her.  She prays for them constantly.   She witnesses to them and gives them gospel tracts that she purchases by the hundreds for the purpose of trying to convert every server in a restaurant or maid in a hotel.  She leaves her gospel tracts everywhere she can so that some may read them and "find the Lord."

Her concept of love is narrow.  If you can fit into her approved list, then she may be able to love you in some way.  She may accept you but see you as one she can potentially convert or change to her way of thinking.  You may not be fully accepted by her presently, but she may see you as a possibility.

God has an A-List that all human beings are on.  Everyone who lives is loved by God unconditionally.  God told the people of Israel that they were on the A-List even though they constantly made mistakes and followed after foreign gods in a way that God told them not to do.  Despite all that, God spoke through the Prophet Isaiah (43) and said to them, "Do not fear; for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine." (v.1)  That ragtag bunch of reprobates that constantly messed up and went wandering off in areas to which they should never have gone were claimed by God.  They belonged to God and God claimed them and called them by name.  They did not have to earn God's love.  They already had it.  God simply wanted them to live as beloved of God.

"Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you..."  Chapter 43 of Isaiah is a love song to God's people.  It promises God's presence and God's fidelity toward them.  There is nothing that can be done to earn or deserve God's love because we all already have it.  God loves us all unconditionally and God wants all of us to love each other in the same way.

"Beloved, let us love one another, for Love is of God, and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love, does not know God, for God is love..." (I John 4:7-8, paraphrased)     So, loving others is not an option.  We are to love others as God loves us and in the same way that God loves us.  We are to love others who are not on our A-List (yes, we all have one).  We are to love in a way that surprises and challenges and affirms us all at the same time.  We are to love because God loves and the best part of it is God loves me and you, just the way we are.

You are on God's A-List.  Accept it and live as one who is loved and forgiven.