Saturday, May 13, 2017

Why I can't keep my mouth shut

I’m one of those people who has trouble thinking inside my brain. It’s like my thoughts need to breathe, and they can’t when they’re trapped within the confines of my skull. So, if I’m ruminating about something, I need to talk about it, or write it down, or do something to get it outside myself, where I can examine it and turn it over and tweak it until it looks like what I’m thinking (at the moment, at least).

As an external processor, I recognize that many people in the world around me are internal processors. For a long time, I tried to emulate them, assuming that was the normal way people share their ideas. But I’ve grown suspect of words like normal, and I’ve decided that I can only be who I am. Who I am is an external processor.

Internal processors formulate their ideas into thoughts before they reveal them to the world. I suspect most of them believe that’s the way everyone else thinks. When they spend time with someone like me, they may wonder why I feel compelled to say everything that pops into my head, why I don’t think things out before I speak. I want them to know that I AM thinking things out, but I need to do that WHILE I speak.

Back when I worked with Bishop Bob Kelley, he conducted all his correspondence with a Dictaphone. He’d record what he wanted to say, word-for-word, and then a secretary would later listen and type his words. I couldn’t imagine ever doing that. I would be going back and changing what I said so many times that it would be exhausting for both of us. I love word processing on a computer screen because I can read and re-write what I have written again and again before I'm satisfied with what I’ve said. If I tried to think like Bob Kelley, my head would explode!

For much of my life, I’ve envied internal processors. It’s a lot safer to share your thoughts when you can clearly own them than it is to share thoughts in process, thoughts that aren’t fully formed. We external processors open ourselves up to the possibility of being misunderstood. When we speak, we’re vulnerable.

Early in my ministry, I was figuring this out. Sometimes in meetings, I kicked myself for saying too much. Then the next time I would try hard to keep my mouth shut, and I kicked myself for not saying enough. I finally arrived at the conclusion that I’d rather kick myself for saying too much than for saying too little. And really, for someone like me, that makes sense. If I’m engaged, if I’m a part of the process, I can’t keep my thoughts to myself.

Being an external processor presents challenges for me as a pastor. I am not good off-the-cuff. If I don’t write down what I intend to say, I can go someplace I didn’t plan to go in a split second. On Sunday mornings, this happens regularly during announcements, or the children’s sermon, which are unscripted. I routinely jump down rabbit holes or say things I ought not to have said. Oy! It can be difficult for folks who expect their pastor to be diplomatic and in control of every word she speaks. With me, that just ain’t gonna happen, so unless they’re open to adjusting their expectations of a pastor, I’ll probably leave them bewildered and scratching their heads, asking, “What was THAT?” (This is just one reason why I really need to serve a congregation that's forgiving and has a sense of humor.)

It may not always be easy for people who work with me. As their pastor, they may expect me to give definitive declarations that they can accept or reject, and then we move on from there. Instead, what they often get are random thoughts that I’m still processing. I expect them to add their own thoughts to the mix, and then together we can figure out how we'll move forward. It’s called collaboration, and for me, it’s the only way to do ministry. It’s creative, and it involves everyone in the process. The results are always more fruitful than they would be if I sat in my study and came up with a final product all on my own and prescribed it to others.

I’m blessed to be serving in a setting where, for the most part, collaboration is expected. My external processing is truly a gift. I work with a staff team that listens to my ruminations on a daily basis. They help me sort through my thoughts and there is synergy when we put our minds together. The same is true for congregational leaders, although they aren’t as readily available to me when I’m thinking through a new idea. My way of external processing works well in a congregation where decisions are made collaboratively and all God’s people contribute to the ministry we share. I know the Spirit can work within the confines of our individual skulls, but she seems to thrive in an environment where she is free!

So, I’ll keep doing what I do. I won’t keep my thoughts to myself and I’ll invite others to join me. God will work with that. I’m counting on it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

13 Reasons Why: 13 topics to consider

I’m reading blogs from a number of people who are upset about the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. The criticism is harsh. Some are saying that it glorifies suicide, encouraging teens to consider it a viable option, or that it advocates suicide as an effective means of exacting revenge on those who have wronged you. They are advising parents not to let their teenagers view it.  

I had to find out what all the fuss is about. Last weekend, I was finishing up my post-Easter vacation week and I binge-watched 13 Reasons Why for two days. To be honest, I don’t know if I would have been able to watch it any other way because it was written in a way that always pulled me forward into next episode, and I couldn’t turn it off.

I do not agree that it glorifies suicide. The suicide scene was so terrifying that I had to look away. In the book, Hannah kills herself with pills. In the film, she slits her wrists. I don’t know how anyone could have watched this scene thinking it’s a cool thing to kill yourself. It was horrific!

I found it to be an engaging show that I really wished I could have watched with teenagers. If you’re the parent of a teen, I won’t say that you should let them watch it. But I will say that, depending upon the maturity of the teenager and your relationship, this film offers an opportunity to explore some important topics, and I can imagine that you might have many hours of good discussion while viewing it together.  

If you have teenagers in your home, and if you would like to take your relationship to a deeper level by watching and discussing 13 Reasons Why together, let me offer some possible fodder for discussion. It seems only right that I should offer 13 topics to consider.

1.       High school is depicted as a cruel, heartless place in this series. It’s a wonder anyone survives it. Is it really this bad? Is the social status of students (jocks, nerds, etc) a reflection of larger society or is high school a unique environment? Is the pressure to get into the right college an ever-present threat? Are friendships more important than doing the right thing? How are girls treated differently than boys? Are teachers as clueless as they appear in this series? From your experience, what seemed like a true depiction of high school and what was false?

2.       The bullying in this film seems over the top. Is this the way high school really is? Hannah isn’t the kind of person you would imagine being bullied; she is bright, smart, pretty. What does this say about people who are the targets of bullies?

3.       There are so many kinds of fear in the film: fear of being exposed for who you really are, fear of being rejected, fear of being perceived weak… As you think about each of the main characters, what they are afraid of and how does that fear drive their actions? (As a person of faith, I can’t help but think about how faith, which is the opposite of fear, might have made a difference. I noticed the absence of faith in the film.)

4.       I wonder if Hannah might represent more than one young woman in one high school. Is she like a composite character who experiences what so many other young women experience: harassment, objectification, slut-shaming, unwanted groping, rape? Are these common experiences among young women? Hannah seems hyper-sensitive to all of it. Nothing goes unnoticed. Is she more aware than most? Or is this just what it looks like when a young woman is paying attention?

5.       Consider the credibility of the narrator. Hannah doesn’t always tell the truth. For example, when Zach receives a note from her, she describes how he crumpled it up and threw it on the ground. In fact, he kept it. Does she see the world through a distorted lens where everyone is against her? Is her thinking twisted because she’s depressed?

6.       In her mind, Hannah knows how her narrative will end from the beginning of the first tape. Does she make the tapes, which she leaves as an extended suicide note, to get revenge, or to justify her choice? What is her motivation for making the tapes? (That may be at least as interesting to consider as her motivation for ending her life.)

7.       Does anyone in a healthy state of mind decide that it makes sense to solve a temporary problem with a permanent solution like suicide? Or is it the choice of someone who is depressed, someone who experiences so much pain in life that they would do anything to make it stop? How much do you know about depression? If a person is struggling with depression, how can we give them permission to talk about it?

8.       It’s important to talk about suicide. You don’t plant the idea in someone’s head by talking about it. The best thing you can do with someone who is contemplating suicide is talk with them about it. Often, simply hearing oneself say the words out loud is enough to make sense of the thoughts. Do you know what the warning signs are for someone who is contemplating suicide? (You can find this by doing an easy internet search. Every person, especially every teenager, should be aware of these signs to watch for in their friends.)

9.       Some people fear that teenagers will watch 13 Reasons Why and be persuaded to commit suicide. Is that giving teens enough credit? They see actions in movies all the time they know are wrong and they know better than to copy them. In fact, if people are worried about young people copying the actions they see in movies, aren’t there are much worse movies that you should ban from their viewing—movies that glorify violence, racism, misogyny, illegal drugs, casual sex…? And don’t the destructive behaviors in this film clearly come with consequences? (which is more than one can say for a lot of movies, TV shows, video games, posts on social media)

10.   The main character in the series, Clay, considers suicide himself, but he decides against it. How was he different from Hannah in the way he reaches a different conclusion than she does?

11.    Clay makes the statement that any one of the people Hannah exposes on her tapes could have changed the outcome—if any one of them had helped her, she would still be alive. Is that fair? Is it true? When someone takes their own life, who is responsible?  

12.   Tony has a sense of loyalty to Hannah throughout the series that may be hard to understand. He's bound and determined to honor the wishes of a dead person, even when they don’t make sense. How important is it to keep a confidence when someone is in danger, or to protect someone you love at great cost to others? As a loyal friend, was Tony complicit in Hannah’s craziness?

13.    In 13 Reasons Why, the high school students live in their own world, which is completely closed off from the adults in their lives. The adults are not perfect; they make mistakes. But most of them care deeply about their children. Despite this, the teens do everything they can to hide information from their parents and teachers. The adults are expected to have superpowers and pick up on subtle clues, and the teens expect to navigate their struggles on their own. Does this ring true for you? How might 13 Reasons Why have played out differently if the adults and high school students had talked to each other about what mattered?  


Saturday, April 22, 2017

In the Big Cathedral

My understanding of God the Creator has been greatly enriched by studying about the spirituality of the Celts. In Celtic spirituality there is a love and amazement at creation. They refer to the world, the out-of-doors, as the Big Cathedral. An enclosed building like a church, they would call a Little Cathedral. If you travel to Celtic lands today, you will see high-standing outdoor crosses, which are a reminder of the worship they held outside where they could experience the beauty of nature. This earth that God has created is our Big Cathedral.

When you look at it like that, our lives aren’t about getting up in the morning and doing what we gotta do so we can come home and go to sleep and get up in the morning and do the whole thing all over again. We’re in the Big Cathedral here. In that context, living in the Big Cathedral, our lives are worship. But, what if you’re living in the Big Cathedral, yet fail to notice?

A reporter several years ago carried out an interesting survey on the street. People walking by were stopped and asked, without looking up, to describe the sky as it was on that day. Do you know that only a very small percentage of the people could do it with reasonable accuracy? God’s presence is all around us, but most people don’t take the time to notice or appreciate it.

I confess that I’m often among the unappreciative. Still, there are times when I can’t help myself. I have to take note of the wonder of creation in my presence. Like when I’m bowled over by:

 A gorgeous sunset.
 A big fat yellow moon.
 The misty ridges of the blue ridge mountains.
 The branches of a naked, gnarly tree against a clear blue sky.
 The first bright green buds of spring.
 The sound of seagulls and waves rolling onto the beach.
 The wagging tail of my dog when she greets me at the door.
 Rainbows that always seem to surprise me.

Perhaps the most amazing part of God’s creation is what I see looking back at me in the mirror every morning. This is a creature that has been set apart from all the others. In the Genesis creation poem we read, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…” I’m never quite sure what that means. It’s puzzling. The second part of the verse is clearer to me, “…and let them have dominion over…” all creation. God created humans to be in loving partnership with him for the ongoing care of creation. (Maybe that’s what it means to be created in God’s image.)

I wonder if we’re so often oblivious to the marvels of creation all around us because, if we really saw them, we wouldn’t be able to ignore our responsibility as partners with God in the care of creation. But what if we did? What if we saw our lives as worship in the Big Cathedral?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The resurrected Body of Christ


 Preached at Ascension Towson, Easter, 2017.

“He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” That’s the message the angel told the women to proclaim to the other disciples. And they hightailed it outa there. 

They were full of fear and wanted to make some distance between them and that empty tomb. But they also were about to explode with joy. This was amazing news and they couldn’t wait to share it. They had a mission.

Suddenly, they were stopped dead in their tracks. It was Jesus himself!

They threw themselves at his feet and grabbed hold of him. And then, Jesus gave them the same instructions they had heard from the angel, “Don’t be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” 

And they did see him. The resurrected Jesus. A lot of people saw him. Like the women at the tomb, they spoke with him, and they touched him. It wasn’t just a resurrection of the soul. It was a resurrection of the body. 

We take comfort in that because at Easter Jesus defeated the power of death, not just for himself, but for us, too. And we trust that, when we die, there is a resurrection in our future as well. But what if there’s more than one way to look at this resurrection of the body stuff. What if it’s not just about something that will happen to us one day, after we die?

There’s another way Jesus’ resurrected body is revealed to us. And to get at that, let me share with you a bit of Lutheran theology, that is really just something that you can read about in the Bible. 

In Lutheran theology, being a Christian is never just about Jesus-and-me. We don’t have a personal Lord and Savior whom we carry around in our pocket. We Lutherans are really big on what we call the Priesthood of All Believers. We don’t stand before God alone, but we stand with others who receive God’s Word of grace with us. In fact, that grace comes to us through our brothers and sisters. Like the women in the Easter story, other believers bring the gospel to us and we bring it to them. 

We stand together as a community. We support one another on our faith journeys. Together, we discern what God is calling us to do in the world. And together we do it. It’s not just about Jesus and me. It’s about Jesus and us. 

And here’s the really big thing about the Priesthood of All Believers. The Bible describes this unity we share with the metaphor of a body. We are the Body of Christ. As Teresa of Avila wrote so eloquently back in the 16th century:
“Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
No hands but yours, no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless people now.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

Sisters and brothers in Christ, we are the resurrected Body of Christ. 

Of course, the Body of Christ doesn’t just gather in this place as an end in itself. We gather to be strengthened through the love we share with one another, through the hearing of the Word, the Meal we receive, through the music that sends our spirits soaring, through the gratitude we express to God with our words and our hearts. During this time when we meet in this place, we are nourished as Christ’s Body so that we can be Christ for the world around us. 
  • When we’re welcoming the stranger at worship, or advocating for the stranger in our community, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
  • When we’re providing lunches for the homeless, or tutoring students in an underserved school, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
  • When we’re welcoming neighborhood children into our nursery school or supporting Lutheran Campus Ministry, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
  • When we’re sending quilts to provide a loving embrace for those who feel abandoned, or praying for brothers and sisters in Nicaragua, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
  • When we’re caring for aging parents, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
  • When we’re exercising justice and compassion in our place of business, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
  • When we’re speaking out on behalf of those who can’t speak for themselves, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
  • When we’re offering a word of compassion to the forgotten, the brokenhearted and the lonely, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
  • When we’re acting in love for the least among us, we are the resurrected Body of Christ.
Whenever we’re doing the work of Christ in the world, we are his hands and his feet, and his eyes, and his mouth. We are the resurrected Body of Christ.

“Don’t be afraid,” Jesus said. “Go and tell my brothers and sisters to go to Ascension Lutheran Church in Towson. There they will see me.”

Friday, April 14, 2017

Honoring the one who hung on a cross

Can there be any doubt that Jesus was all about love? We know that he took the humble form of a servant when he walked this earth. He got down on his knees and washed the feet of his disciples, including the one who would betray him. He taught us to pray, not just for our friends, but for our enemies as well. But the most telling act of love he gave us was his death on the cross. It was love that put him there, and even while he was dying, he remained true to who he was, offering a prayer of forgiveness for the very people who were crucifying him.

How different the story of salvation would be if Jesus had cursed those who nailed him to a cross where he would slowly bleed and die. But, of course, that’s not what he did. Knowing that those who had crucified him were, in a sense, damning themselves by their actions, he spoke on their behalf. He asked God not to hold their sin against them. He responded to their hatred with love.

One of the amazing things about Jesus’ prayer of forgiveness is that he offered it without anyone requesting it. So often we think that forgiveness is offered only after the person who has wronged us comes to us and asks to be forgiven. But no one asks Jesus for forgiveness in this scenario. Instead, he offers it with no self-acknowledgement of their guilt whatsoever. He forgives them when they might not even realize they have anything to be forgiven for.

Is there someone in your life you have had trouble forgiving? Have they done something that has hurt you so deeply you can’t find it in your heart to forgive them? Have you been waiting for them to come to you and apologize first?

Forgiveness isn’t only for the one who is forgiven; it also benefits the one who does the forgiving. Why not honor the one who hung on a cross and offered forgiveness in an act of pure love by praying the same prayer for those who have wronged you? Carrying a grudge is a terrible burden to bear. It’s time to set yourself free.

Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.

In the night in which he was betrayed...


Maundy Thursday, 2017.

In the night in which he was betrayed…

Those are the words we use when we consecrate the bread and wine for the sacrament of Holy Communion. Have you ever thought about why the Words of Institution begin like this? 

In the night in which he was betrayed
The betrayal Jesus experienced in the context of his last supper cuts right to the heart of what this meal means for us whenever we receive it. If Jesus had instituted this sacrament at any other time, it wouldn’t mean what it does for us. It had to happen in the night in which he was betrayed.

Have you ever been betrayed by one of your closest friends? After opening yourself up and becoming vulnerable to another person, to have them abuse the trust you placed in them and stab you in the back can cause more pain than if that person had beaten you to a pulp. 

If a person claims to love you and turns around and hurts you deeply, you probably want to do what most of us want to do in that situation – you want to hurt them back. You wouldn’t choose to spend your last night alive with that person. Especially if you knew it was his betrayal that was going to lead to your death, a death you didn’t deserve.

You wouldn’t include him on your guest list as you gather your loved ones for one last meal together. You wouldn’t treat him with all the love and compassion that you show to all the other guests at your table. You wouldn’t get down on your hands and knees and wash his feet. You wouldn’t break bread with him and offer him the same blessing you give to all the others who have left everything to be with you. Certainly, you wouldn’t give yourself, your very body and blood, to this one who betrayed you. But that’s what Jesus does, isn’t it?

He offered the wine, his blood, to all of them, including the one who had already betrayed him to the chief priests. Judas had gone to them and asked, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” And they paid him off with thirty pieces of silver. From then on, he was looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus. 

No doubt, that’s what Judas was thinking about as he sat down to eat that night with Jesus and his friends. He felt the weight of the silver coins in one hand while he received the broken body and the spilled blood of Jesus in the other. Judas was wondering if this might be a good time to betray the one who was handing him his very life.

It’s hard to believe that Judas could have turned on Jesus like this and gone through the charade of participating in Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. What’s even more unbelievable is that Jesus himself knew exactly what was going on, and he still gave himself to the one who already had been paid to have him arrested and killed. 

As the story unfolds, we watch Jesus making a point of letting Judas know that he knows. “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me,” Jesus tells his disciples. When they want to know who it is, he says, “It’s the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” So he dips the bread in the dish and gives it to Judas.

Now, only one of the disciples understood what was really going on at that moment. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” So Judas got up from the table and left.

I’ve often wondered why Jesus didn’t dismiss Judas at the beginning of the meal. Why did he wait until after he had shared such an intimate time with his closest friends? I imagine it might be like having your family gathered around your deathbed and seeing your arch-enemy standing there in the midst of them. A deeply personal last time to be with the ones you love the most would be ruined. In the same way, Judas had defiled this holy moment. If Jesus knew what was going on, it would have made more sense for him to ask Judas to leave earlier, so he could have been excluded from this loving encounter with his followers. But Jesus intentionally chose to include Judas. 

As the story unfolds, we learn that Judas isn’t the only person present at the meal who will betray Jesus. One by one, they will all fall away. When Jesus is arrested, three times Peter denies even knowing him. After Jesus is crucified, they all hide out for fear of being recognized as his followers. Not only did Jesus share his last supper with the one who would betray him, he shared his last supper with all who would betray him. And yet, he loved every one of them enough to give them his very self, his body and blood. 

This same Jesus loves us enough to give us his body and blood, too. Just as he didn’t turn any away at the table on the night when he was betrayed, he doesn’t turn any away at his table ever. Even for the one who may be holding thirty pieces of silver in one hand, Jesus still gives his body and blood to be taken in the other.

Lest any of us think ourselves unworthy of receiving the body and blood of Christ, we need to go back to the night when Jesus gave us this holy meal. From the very beginning, it was shared with people who were unworthy of the gift. And that’s what makes it a sacrament, because it is all about God’s grace poured out for the undeserving.

No matter how strong or weak your faith may be, no matter how much or how little you read your Bible or pray, no matter how well you’ve done at following Jesus or how miserably you’ve failed, no matter who you are or what you’ve done – Jesus offers you his body and blood. And the more unworthy you may feel about receiving it, the more it has been given for you because it is given for the forgiveness of sins.

The forgiveness of sins isn’t for perfect people. It’s for people like Judas, who betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver. It’s for people like Peter who promised he would never leave Jesus and then turned around and flatly denied even knowing him. It’s for people like the disciples who cowered in fear as soon as Jesus was taken from them.

It’s a meal given for the unworthy, and no one is excluded. It’s a meal where all are loved and forgiven. It’s a meal where all are offered the gift of Jesus himself. 

And lest there be any doubt about it, we’re reminded of this fact as we gather around the table to receive Christ’s body and blood and we hear again the words that recall for us how this meal came to us from the beginning. In the night in which he was betrayed…





Friday, March 24, 2017

...We also ought to love ourselves.

"God help me to accept the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is." When I saw that little printed poster in the bookstore at a women's retreat center, I knew I had to have it. It's framed and hanging in my office at the church. 

I know I'm too hard on myself. It's been a lifelong struggle. Some would call it a self-esteem issue. I've come to the conclusion that it's deeper than that. It's a spiritual issue that affects all the relationships in my life, including the relationship I have with God.

A few months after I was divorced, my brother asked me to officiate at his daughter’s wedding. I was happy to do it, but then on the day of the wedding I almost had a melt down. 

I looked out over the congregation that had assembled, and I saw both of my older brothers with their wives; each of them had married his childhood sweetheart. I remember going to their weddings when I was just a kid. After all these years, they were still married in solid relationships. I also saw my younger sister sitting beside her husband; the two of them had an extraordinary relationship that I had always envied. And there I was, standing before them, giving a wedding homily about how to have a happy marriage. I felt like they were looking at me naked, with everything exposed that I tried so hard to hide.  

From the wedding ceremony we went on to the reception, where all the couples were dancing and I wanted to disappear. I can’t recall ever feeling like such a failure in all my life. That moment seemed to reinforce every negative thing I had carried around about myself for as long as I could remember. Particularly, that I wasn't worthy of the love another.

The irony was that, as much as I was feeling judged in that moment, none of my siblings had judged me. They were kind and loving and did everything they could to help me through the day. My judgment had come from within.

If you’re anything like me, the most difficult person to forgive may be yourself. I have a hard time letting go of my past mistakes, particularly those times when I may have hurt someone I care about. In fact, I'm able to accept the forgiveness of God more easily than I can forgive myself. 

Do you know how arrogant it is to refuse to forgive yourself? It’s like saying, God doesn’t really know much, because I know best and I know who is and isn’t worth forgiving. So it’s my pride that keeps me from forgiving myself. And, come to think of it, it's my pride that keeps me from forgiving other people who have wronged me as well. If God forgives, who am I to think I know better than God? 

Over the past decade or so, I've tried to make it a daily practice to forgive myself. I know that it's traditional for Christians to confess their sins and seek God's forgiveness, and that's cool. But I never have a problem with that--the God forgiving me part. My difficulty is in forgiving myself.

When I'm all caught up in my crankiness...when I find fault with pretty much everyone around me...when I'm resentful or wallowing in self-pity, underneath it all is the problem I'm having with forgiving myself. That's why the practice of self-forgiveness has become so important for me.

I suspect I'm not alone. For many of us, the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. The good news is that although it may feel like this self-destructive viewpoint is holding us captive, by the grace of God, we are free. It's a matter of seeing ourselves through the eyes of the God who loves us. And here's the real kicker. In those times when it's all too much, and we fail miserably at loving ourselves, God forgives us even for that.

1 John 4:11 says, "Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another." For myself and other people like me, consider a bit of a twist on the text. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love ourselves.