21 October 2010

The "Jesus Loves You" Project - again

The other day I realized that I needed to restart the "Jesus Loves You" project. Honestly (and disappointingly), I can't remember when I stopped the project.

However, the other day as I walked around Biddeford it dawned on me that I had not pursued this project much at all lately.

What is the Project? Well, to begin I have re-posted(and revised a bit)thoughts from a blog entitled "The 'Jesus Loves You' Experiment" (24.March.2009) followed by some other thoughts.
The "Jesus Loves You" Experiment
"Jesus Loves You." Frederick Buechner tells a story in one of his sermons in which he hears this phrase directed at him as he walks through Central Park in New York one Spring day. He says that it catches him by surprise and it takes him a few seconds to realize what just happened, yet as he stops he finds that she has mingled into anonymity in the mass of pedestrians.

I read this sermon about five months ago, and this story confronted me, challenged me, and would not leave me alone. I have re-read it few times. I decided to try an experiment, and it has made a difference in my life. I don't feel nearly as bold as the woman in Central Park to speak these words aloud to those I pass on the street. However, as I walk down the street - or wait in line at the store - or people watch at the bus station, I look at each person and in my head say, "Jesus loves you!" This completely changes the way I see people. I say it in Latvian, and I need to learn the Russian - it helps me "contextualize" the situation. (When we were in Rome I tried to say it in Italian.) It challenges my inclination to judge or take offense or gawk or avert my gaze. It reminds me that God truly loves each and every person - the crippled beggar; the arrogant mafioso; the girl too young to have lost her innocence; "Jesus loves you!" - the important business person; the despondent store clerk; the toddler amazed by falling snow and his mother who needed a few drinks to cope with single-parenthood; "Jesus loves you!" - the bitter man too beat down to be amazed by anything at all; the young couple laughing as they walk arm and arm; the other couple whose yelling leads to blows; "Jesus loves you!"- the men from other countries here on "woman trips"; the young women who go after those men; the driver who cut me off in traffic; "Jesus love you!" - the ...

Sometimes this phrase leads to giving a loaf of bread or placing a coin in a palm or praying for a person throughout the day. Hopefully this can lead to the courage of the Central Park woman, for it is not enough for me to see people as loved by God, because they need to know it, too.

This experiment has me thinking of another experiment along similar lines to carry out simultaneously - the "I forgive you" experiment...

As you go through the rest of your day today, May you know in a tangible way that God loves you and that God's love is for everyone around you.

Biddeford and Riga may seem worlds apart, yet many things are still the same. People deal with hopelessness, exhaustion, domestic violence, crime, addictions, broken dreams, disappointment, failing health, aging parents, 'bad' things happening to 'good' people...

Although these manifest themselves in different ways in different communities, they happen all over the world. The same world in which we CAN make a difference by taking small steps everyday to be peace, to give hope, and to love those around us.

During the last few minutes of writing I have become distracted and struggle to string words together to make coherent sentences, so that is all for now.

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