Saturday, April 30, 2016

Moment of Zen: Morning...



Morning coffee, morning kiss, and morning wood. I not a morning person but these three things in combination could make me one.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Ideally...



John Archibald is a columnist for The Birmingham News/al.com. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the paper, and all the time at al.com. If you are not familiar with al.com, it is the best source for news about Alabama. Unlike the television stations and newspapers who all have a particular political bent (mostly religious, conservative, and Republican), you can always count on al.com to tell the truth. They don't print a story unless they can back it up with evidence, not something that can be said for most television news people. John Archibald is one of my favorites and I want to share two of his latest columns. The first is a fantasy that never was nor ever will be, but it's a nice fantasy, one that would make the south a true paradise that it should be (minus the heat, although sweet iced tea does slightly compensate for that). The second is Archibald doing what he does best, telling it like it is. He's good with calling out hypocrisy, some thing that too often the news media forgets to do. Though he is talking about Alabama politics, he might as well be talking about politics anywhere. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

 I want my South back

I want my South back.

You know the place. It recognized the past, but didn't wallow around in it. My South could laugh at itself, because it knew deep down it had it made. It had food to make you drool and music to make you feel, and it had the prettiest of people. It blushed at compliments and shook off insult, because the quirks other folks ridiculed were the wrinkles that gave it character.

And characters.

It was proud, but it was not afraid. It was welcoming, and it was – I swear it's true – gentle.

I miss that place. But then, maybe it never really existed at all, outside my head and my hopes. Maybe it was just an aspiration and an ideal, passed along by Southerners who knew this place and its people were nothing more or less than the sum of their scars. Where they came from shaped who they were, but did not dictate where they'd go.

That South was real to me. And I want it back.

I'm talking about my South, the way Morgan Freeman would say it or Harper Lee would write it, with pain up front and promise on the back end. I'm talking about the South the way we wanted it to be, the way some of us believe it can still be.

Not the Confederacy, or George Wallace. Not even Lynyrd Skynyrd, though the band will play on my soundtrack. I want the Southern Pride, but also that Southern Promise.

My South is not a place that blames everyone and everything for the unfairness of it all. It's not one that pines for a day that probably never was and never should have been.  My South could not watch unaffected as old people suffer, or stand by as children go without.

It was never a place so insecure that it barred its doors, never so offended by the ways of others that it wished them suffering. It saw needs and filled them. It saw hurt and eased it.

Oh, there was always hate and pain and righteous wrong in the real South, in a land built on man's inhumanity to man. But centuries of sins brought together a magical blend of cultures that made us something better than our parts. Our Eden was already perfumed with clover and honeysuckle, and together we added barbecue and collard greens. You can smell it today.

It's a place where you can laugh long and joke about anything. Except mama. It's a place where being a gentleman has nothing to do with a seersucker suit, where it's OK to disagree about politics or policy or even football, but it's never an excuse to be rude.

Maybe it's true that my South only existed in my head. Perhaps it was just a romantic notion, as misguided as those who look back at the good old days and see only good. But my South is not just the past. It is the hope for a better future.

In my South we are one people in one amazing place. Proud of who we are and proud of where we have been. And in my South we are proud of the changes we have made. We look at each other and see ... each other. We know pain, but we believe in promise.

Because we know we can be more, and better, and kinder, and fairer. We can be more giving and more forgiving than the world would ever imagine. And we can do all that better together.

In my South.

Alabama double standard: Politicians judge you, but not themselves

For a bunch so holier-than-thou, the Montgomery gang sure has become forgiving.

Of each other, I mean.

Oh, they'll judge you and me on our politics and national origin, our race and gender and religion and values. They'll poke around in your bedroom to see who's there – and who's not. They'll throw you in jail just to look tough on crime. And – oh yeah – they'll disqualify you as their brother or sister if you don't interpret your Bible the same as them.

But let a few fall off their high horses and the pillars of piety start to crumble.

Personal responsibility gives way to tolerance, of all things. Alabama values become fluid. All of a sudden – quick as a lawmaker can say OH MY GOD, WHAT IF THAT WAS ME – mercy and compassion debut in the Capital City.

Because self-preservation trumps accountability.

I swear Rep. Mac McCutcheon is like the lifeguard in this cesspool. Anywhere there's a politician drowning in a deep end of his own doing, there's McCutcheon to drag him to safety.

He was there for Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard. Soon as Hubbard was popped on 23 felonies for using his office for personal gain, McCutcheon came to assure us "Mike Hubbard is our Speaker and our friend."

Now he's there for Gov. Robert Bentley, with an amendment to a resolution that will derail attempts to impeach the governor. Because forgiveness and compassion are important.

This from a guy who once sponsored a bill making it illegal for ex-cons to homebrew beer.

And if McCutcheon's the lifeguard, Rep. Jack Williams is the pool boy. He rushes to anyone who fouls the water and apologizes for the mess.

He talks so much about forgiveness these days you forget he used to talk of "accountability" and "responsibility." When some Republicans questioned whether a guy facing 23 ethics charges really should be speaker, Williams lamented "the politics of personal destruction."

Not the personal destruction of crime. Or scandal. Or governing with a hand out and an expectation of special treatment. The "personal destruction" he criticized came from people demanding better.

This is where we are. With a group of so-called leaders who want to blow up the whole system because they can't keep their noses clean. That's why Williams last year sponsored a bill that would gut the ethics law and allow indicted politicians to beg for money to use in their own defense funds. It is why the Ethics Commission – which would rather give a politician a road map around the law than to hold him to it – now says it's OK for Rep. Randy Davis to take a job from a company with political interest.

Alabama politicians always find a way to take

If you can give a legislator a job with a wink and a nod, campaign finance and ethics reform means exactly squat. These wolves have huffed and puffed and blown our hope for honest government to hell.

The Speaker will go to trial. It looks like the governor has fouled his pool in legal and personal ways. The chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is again facing complaints from the Judicial Inquiry Commission.

And our government is as crippled as our trust.

If you don't think so, just look at what Hubbard has done to budgets of the state's district attorneys and the attorney general – whose office is prosecuting Hubbard. Look at what he does to routine bills prosecutors want to see passed.

This session he diverted several of those bills -- which had absolutely nothing to do with himself or the armed services  –  to the Military and Veterans' Affairs Committee. To die.

That committee, by the way, is chaired by Rep. Barry Moore. Who was charged with perjury – and acquitted – by the AG's office.

They don't want oversight. They don't want accountability for themselves. And they don't want the law to apply to them.

Just remember it, the next time they judge you.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Danish Girl


Last night, I watched The Danish Girl. What a truly remarkable film! I had not watched it before because I knew the ending would be sad. However, my boss had watched it and when I told her that the sad ending was why I had not seen it, she insisted that the ending really wasn’t sad. I trusted her on this and oddly she was right. It wasn't sad; it was just a beautiful movie. Now if you don’t know the story of Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe and you don’t want to know anything about the film before watching it, then stop reading right here.

Lili Elbe was one of the first recipients of sex reassignment surgery.  She had been born Einar Wegener and was married to fellow artist Gerda Gottlieb. Einar knew all of his life that he was a woman trapped in a man’s body, and the movie follows his transition from a man to a woman. Garda stayed with Lili until the end. You see, Lili died from complications from the four surgeries she had (in the movie it is only two).

There are two things that make this film extraordinary. The first is Eddie Redmayne. He is stunning in his portrayal of Einar/Lili in the film. Redmayne has been criticized by some in the transgender community because Redmayne is a heterosexual male. But Redmayne is a superb actor and any criticism is unfounded because he was superb in the role. The second is the way that Lili and Gerda’s relationship is handled. The movie is a true tribute to the transgender community. Lili Elbe was a great pioneer and many pioneers do not survive their pioneering endeavors. Lili was one of them.

The death is dealt with so sensitively and with such grace that you just see the beauty of the scene over the sadness. I had expected to cry at the end, but when the scene came, I did not cry. I guess I had prepared myself enough that I was ready for the scene, but also you know that Lili is at peace at the end.

If you have not seen this movie, I think you should. If you have seen it, I hope you will tell me in the comments what you thought of it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Snow


Just when we thought that winter was over, it snowed all day yesterday. Now, I personally would rather have snow over rain, but that's just me. However, this was a slushy snow so it might as well have been rain. My hair got just as wet. I know I looked like a drowned rat, lol. I had to walk across campus yesterday and I needed a hat or an umbrella, but both were in my car and not where I needed them to be.

Maybe that is the last of the snow. We got a lot more snow than was predicted, but it's supposed to be sunny and beautiful the rest of the week. I've been told that summer in Vermont makes it all worth it, but I've been told the same thing about autumn and spring. I'll make my assessment on the best season in October when I've been here a full year.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sonnet 104


To me, fair friend, you never can be old (Sonnet 104)
by William Shakespeare
To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
For as you were when first your eye I ey’d,
Such seems your beauty still. Three winters cold,
Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride,
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn’d,
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burn’d,
Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green.
Ah! yet doth beauty like a dial-hand,
Steal from his figure, and no pace perceiv’d;
So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand,
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceiv’d:
For fear of which, hear this thou age unbred:
Ere you were born was beauty’s summer dead.

In this poem, Shakespeare uses his first memories of meeting his lover as inspiration for this poem. This sonnet makes it clear that the passion he feels for his male lover (possibly the Earl of Southhampton) is one of the most intense experiences of his life. His "fair friend" is the most important thing in his life. Their love is eternal, and his lover is eternal, both in beauty and spirit. It's also about his lover's eternal beauty that will never fade.
The three Aprils and three Junes suggest that the two were together for just three years. There was also a three years age difference between the 18 year old Shakespeare and the 21 year old Southampton at the time of Shakespeare's marriage to Anne Hathaway. Some critics of this method of interpreting the three years argue that the poet's use of 'three' years specifically may be simply a poetic convention (based on the significance of the number three in the Bible) and not a literal reference to the time he has spent with his lover. 
Whatever the case may be, Saturday, April 23, 2016 marked the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. Today, actually marks the 452 year of his baptism which is the closest evidence we have to knowing Shakespeare's date of birth.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday, Monday



It's back to work today. I don't think it will be a very busy week, but then each time I think that, it becomes a very busy week. I have a few projects to take care of, but they will get done in due time.

If I think of what I need to do, it might actually sound like more than it is. I have some editing to do. I have some press releases to get out. I'm sure I will also be working on some exhibit stuff. Come to think of it, it should be a pretty typical work week. Hopefully there will also be phone calls and emails to answer. Maybe I can schedule a few interviews during the coming week.

On another subject, did anyone watch Game of Thrones last night? I can't wait to see what's in store next week. I'm so used to binging on the episodes when I get the DVDs that I'm not sure I'll be able to handle waiting from week to week. I guess it will teach me patience.

Back to the old grind (work that is). I will worry about Game of Thrones next week and concentrate on what I have to do at work. I know one thing, I'm going to need some coffee.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Prayer for Strength and Love


For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.—Ephesians 3:14-21

In this prayer, Paul tells the Ephesians to ask God to strengthen them by His Spirit. This is not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength. This strength is so Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. He asks for spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings. Strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man; strength in the soul; the strength of faith, to serve God, and to do our duty. If the law of Christ is written in our hearts, and the love of Christ is shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Where his Spirit dwells, there he dwells. 

Paul further asks God that with both feet planted firmly on love will be able to take in with all Christians the many glorious dimensions of Christ's love. Paul tells the Ephesians to reach out and experience the breadth of God’s love, to test the length God’s love. He tells them to measure the depths and to rise to the heights of God’s love. We should desire that good affections may be fixed in us. And how desirable to have a fixed sense of the love of God in Christ to our souls! How powerfully the apostle speaks of the love of Christ! The breadth shows its extent to all nations and ranks; the length, that it continues from everlasting to everlasting; the depth, its saving those who are sunk into the depths of sin and misery; the height, its raising them up to heavenly happiness and glory.

He wants us to live full lives, full in the fullness of God.  Paul tells us that God can do anything. He can do far more than we could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams. He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Those who receive grace for grace from Christ's fulness, may be said to be filled with the fulness of God.

In this prayer, Paul gives us the path to happiness. He wants us to realize how much God is there for us. we can turn to him when we are weak, and he will give us strength. He gives us the strength to do all things in his name. He wants us to understand how much God loves us. The truth is there is no way to measure God’s love. It is infinite and everlasting. If we live our lives in the fullness of God, then we will be able to accomplish anything. God is with us, and if we let Him, He will fill us with his love and strength.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Art of the Interview



Today, I'm attending a workshop I am pretty sure I could teach myself, but it is always good to get another perspective. The workshop is called "The Art of the Interview" and is an oral history workshop. As an oral historian, I interview people for a living. The thing about the type of interviewing I do is first and foremost you have to know how to listen. You have to be an active listener, which means you have to pick up on clues and be able to ask follow-up questions. Sometimes a person is so good at telling their own story that there isn't a need for follow-up questions, but most people need to be prompted to get their whole story.

Also, as an active listener (and because the interview is recorded and will be transcribed), the less I talk the better. I have to be able to give encouraging but nonverbal clues that I am listening. This is where some people have a problem. They inject too much of themselves into the interview. My job as an oral historian is to listen and get the interviewees story, not to give my own story. It's an interesting job and I love it. I look forward to learning more today.

I know I have not really talked much about my job before, just that I work at a museum. There are many other things I do besides interview people. I'm constantly searching for people to interview. I also have to process the audio and get it ready for transcription as well as editing the transcripts and getting them approved. Once that is done then it's all about archiving them. Also, I work on making the interviews a part of the exhibits. It makes for an interesting job. On top of all that, (and my own novel I am writing), these oral histories will make up a book that tells the story of the men and women of the university where I work.

Have I said before that I love my job? Yes, there are stresses, but all in all, I love going to work. I love the opportunities that come with my job as well.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Early to Bed


wasn't feeling well, so I went to bed early last night. Depression does that to you. While I'm on antidepressants, there are still depressive days. Days when the headaches and depression catch up with me and all I want to do is sleep. Yesterday was one of those days when it all caught up with me, so I can gave in and went to bed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Loneliness


Loneliness is one of the hardest things. I have friends I talk to everyday, but it’s not like someone being here with you. I knew when I moved to Vermont I would be lonely this far from home, but I thought I could handle it. I know I will deal with it, but it still brings on a major sadness.

When I first moved to Mississippi in 2000 for graduate school, I was lonely then too, but that loneliness lasted only from the time I moved until classes started. I quickly found friends and had people to hang out with on a regular basis.  Yes, there were still lonely times, but I handled it because I knew my friends were close by.

Here, it is different. I have friends at work. But beyond work, they have families and I understand that. They have their own lives and their own things to do. While l enjoy living close to the museum, I’ve considered moving to a more active town. I could live in Burlington and have an hour drive to work, or I could live in Montpelier which is only 15 minutes away. 

I don’t think those moves would actually relieve my loneliness though. Plus, it would mean driving more each day, something I don’t want to do. You see, when I first moved to Mississippi, driving alleviated some of my loneliness. It took my mind off of being lonely. Driving doesn't have the same relief it used to have. 

When my friend died in a car wreck, driving long distances especially in Vermont where nearly all roads are through mountainous terrain, my anxiety rises considerably. I’ve tried driving around on Saturdays or Sundays, but at some point the anxiety usually strikes. Its severity is lessening over time, though, as I try to face my fears.

I know people are going to suggest I join some organization or another and meet new people. That however, is easier said than done. I am a shy person. It takes me time to warm up to people. That makes people think I am standoffish. I get nervous and I try, but I’m just not very good with people I don't know.

When you are single, I guess loneliness is part of life. It will get better as I get used to being alone again. Honestly, I just wish I could go home more than once a year. It might also help if I had my cats with me. At least my cats would provide me with some companionship.

In the immortal words of Britney Spears:

My loneliness is killing me (and I)
I must confess, I still believe (still believe)
When I'm not with you I lose my mind
Give me a sign
Hit me, baby, one more time

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tattoo




You do know, right,
that between the no-

longer & the still-
to-come

you are being continually
tattooed, inked

with the skulls of
everyone

you’ve ever loved—the you
& the you

& the you & the you—you don’t
sit in a chair, thumb

through a binder, pick a
design, it simply

happens each time you
bring your fingers to your face

to inhale him back into you . . .
tiny skulls, some of us are

covered. You, love, could

simply tattoo an open
door, light

pouring in from somewhere
outside, you

could make your body a door
so it appears you

(let her fill you) are made
of light.

About This Poem

“A parenthetical appears in the last couplet of this poem, an aside I have no memory writing ‘(let her fill you),’ interrupting the hermetic seal of the poem, a wind blowing through an open door, just before we leave.”—Nick Flynn


Nick Flynn is the author of My Feelings (Graywolf Press, 2015). He teaches at the University of Houston and splits his time between Houston, Texas, and Brooklyn, New York.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Headache



I had a headache all day yesterday and fell asleep last night and forgot to write a blog piece. Sorry.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

23rd Psalm


The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: 
     he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: 
     he leadeth me in the paths of 
     righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the 
     valley of the shadow of death, 
     I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; 
     thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me 
     in the presence of mine enemies:
     thou anointest my head with oil; 
      my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me 
     all the days of my life: 
     and I will dwell in the 
     house of the Lord for ever.
Psalms 23

Sometimes we just need to be reminded.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Blue v. Gray



I mentioned to my coworkers that I was trying to decide between the blue or the gray suit. One of them said I should definitely wear the blue because with my accent I might get dirty looks wearing gray (though my suit is darker than Confederate gray, it was funny nonetheless).  So the blue suit it is, though I am going to wear the blue shirt with checkered tie instead of the white shirt and the striped tie. Hopefully, I will look nice enough to impress tonight. For the ceremony we are attending (it's actually work and not all play), I will be seated at the front with other special guests. I'm not sure who the special guests will be other than me, one of my colleagues, and the wife of the speaker, but there will be two tables for special guests and I assume my colleague and I will be at the same table, at least I hope we will be. At least we aren't being seated at the head table.

Because I will be working late into the night tonight, I won't be going in until 1pm, so I do get to sleep late and I will have more time to get ready. I'll take my suit with me and change once the museum closes for the day. We will have about an hour to get ready and then be at the parade grounds for the beginning of the ceremony. I'll have my equipment set up as soon as I go in today to record the interviews and then all should be set.  Wish me luck and let's hope that everything goes well.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

This and That



Well, my visit to the dentist went well. I had some pain once the numbness wore off but not too bad. Also, the tooth looks great. I was expecting an ugly amalgam (silver) filling but he did a composite filling to make it look like there was no filling at all. I wonder how my insurance will react to that. When I looked at my policy, they cover composite fillings only for anterior teeth and this was my far back tooth. He didn't ask and I didn't mention it because I've never had a dentist do a composite filling on a back tooth before. I trust this dentist knew what he was doing, since I'm sure he deals with my insurance company the most. I do work for the town's largest employer. I will worry about that when the bill comes.

Thanks everyone for your suggestions about Montreal. While this will be a one day trip, I plan to come up by myself and at least spend the weekend at another time. I've been waiting for winter to be over before I did too much traveling.

I've gotten better about driving. Since my friend died in an auto accident, I've had several panic attacks while driving, but that has slowly gotten better. When I drove to Massachusetts and Connecticut for work, I did just fine, so I'm hoping that's one side effect of that awful tragedy that is getting better. I think it also helps that I am on an anti-anxiety medication.

Friday night, I have a special dinner to attend. It is one in which I am required to wear a suit and I can't decide which one I should wear: the gray one or the blue one. I'm leaning more towards the gray, but I also like the blue. Which would you pick?


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Montreal



In July, my mom is bringing my eight year old niece up to visit me. One of the things we wanted to do was to drive up to Montreal for the day. None of us have ever been to Canada and I'd love to be able to take my niece somewhere and let her see something new. I know that I have several people who read this blog that live in Montreal, and I'd like their advice. We will only really be in Montreal for the afternoon and I'd love any suggestions on a place to eat lunch and things we should see.

In other news, finally my dental appointment is today. I don't think I've ever been so ready for a tooth to be fixed. I hate going to the dentist, but I'm tired of the pain and being careful what and how I eat. So, as much discomfort as I feel going to the dentist, I'm glad it will soon be taken care of. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Unusual Way


Unusual Way

In a very unusual way one time I needed you.
In a very unusual way you were my friend.
Maybe it lasted a day, maybe it lasted an hour.
But, somehow it will never end.

In a very unusual way I think I’m in love with you.
In a very unusual way I want to cry.
Something inside me goes weak,
Something inside me surrenders.
And you're the reason why,
You're the reason why

You don't know what you do to me,
You don't have a clue.
You can't tell what its like to be me looking at you.
It scares me so, that I can hardly speak.

In a very unusual way, I owe what I am to you.
Though at times it appears I won't stay, I never go.
Special to me in my life,
Since the first day that I met you.
How could I ever forget you,
Once you had touched my soul?
In a very unusual way,
You've made me whole.


I came across this song the other day when listening to John Barrowman songs. The music video below is scenes from the movie "From Beginning To End.” The song itself is from the musical “Nine” by Maury Yeston. 

I don’t often post songs for my poetry Tuesday posts, but this song really gripped my heart. It reminded me of the friend of mine that I lost.  The first thing I thought when I heard this song was to send it to him, but of course I couldn’t do that. We had an extremely close but somewhat unusual friendship. So much of this song described our friendship. As the song ends: 

How could I ever forget you,
Once you had touched my soul?
In a very unusual way,


You've made me whole.




Monday, April 11, 2016

Homesick


I can’t believe this but I am homesick. Well, I guess I can believe it because the main reason that I am homesick is for my kitties. When my old cat Victoria lived with my parents while I was in Mississippi, I got to see her every four months or so, but the way it is now, I won’t get to see my girls but once a year when I go home for Christmas.  They will barely know me when I go home. If they remember me at all.

Also, my tooth really has been hurting today. If I was in Alabama, it would already be taken care of. I don’t like having to wait on a dentist like a normal person.  I like getting my dental work done when I need it done and not having to wait. I have a close family member that works for a dentist, so I always got in quickly for emergencies, with very little time waiting, if any at all.


Every once in a while, I do get to be just plain old whiny. It's the kind of mood I am in. Work has been a little awkward lately with some things going on beyond my control but it still makes it awkward at work. When it's awkward at work, it makes me not even want to go in, and I really love my job. I hope things get back to normal soon. I also dread that one of my coworkers is going to be gone for two weeks.  She's the other southerner at work and the one I can relate the most to.

Anyway, things will get better. To prove it, I posted the picture above. I absolutely love this picture. It came from the blog Another Country, which is one of my favorite blogs for pictures.  I use his pictures quite often. If you speak French, and I know some of you do, you'll get even more out of many of the posts than I do.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A New, Old Commandment


Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.      I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.       I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.      I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.      I write to you, children, because you know the Father.       I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.      I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:7-14

In 1 John 2:3-6, the apostle gives a test by which you can know that you truly know Jesus Christ, namely, if you walk in obedience to His word. In 2:6, he states, “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” Then, in 2:7-11, John goes on to apply this test of obedience more specifically to the area of love. If Jesus’ life and especially His death epitomized love, then those who claim to follow Him are obligated to live in love.

In the Upper Room, on the night He was betrayed, Jesus demonstrated His great love for the disciples by taking a towel and a basin of water and washing the disciples’ feet. After that unforgettable object lesson, He drove the point home (John 13:14-15), “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” He was not instituting a ceremonial foot-washing service, where everyone comes with clean feet to be washed! He was saying something much more difficult to practice, that we who follow Jesus must set aside our rights and serve one another out of love.

In that same chapter (John 13:34-35), Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Obviously, those words of Jesus were behind John’s words about the old, new commandment. It may be that the heretics against whom John was writing claimed to have some “new” truths. Using an obvious play on words, John counters them by saying that we don’t need new truth, but rather the old truth that his readers learned early in their Christian experience. On the other hand, if you want “new” truth, John says that the old commandment is the new commandment, which Jesus gave to us. In short,

Loving one another is an essential mark of a true Christian.

John never specifically identifies the old, new commandment in these verses, and he only mentions love once in this entire section (2:10). But his reference to the new commandment makes it obvious that he is referring to Jesus’ command to love one another.

This commandment was old in two senses. First, it was old in that Moses taught it in the Law, “… you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). Jesus identified this as the second greatest commandment, after the command to love God with all your being (Matt. 22:37-40). So in that sense, this command had been with God’s people for 1,400 years.

But the main sense in which this was an old commandment is that these believers had heard it from the very earliest days of their Christian experience (2:7): “… which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.” John uses the phrase, “from the beginning,” in the same way in 1 John 3:11, “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another."

The "New Commandment", the Wycliffe Bible Commentary states, "was new in that the love was to be exercised toward others not because they belonged to the same nation, but because they belonged to Christ...and the love of Christ which the disciples had seen...would be a testimony to the world".

One of the novelties introduced by this commandment – perhaps justifying its designation as New – is that Jesus "introduces himself as a standard for love". The usual criterion had been "as you love yourself". However, the New Commandmant goes beyond "as you love yourself" as found in the ethic of reciprocity and states "as I have loved you", using the Love of Christ for his disciples as the new model.

The First Epistle of John reflects the theme of love being an imitation of Christ, with 1 John 4:19 stating: "We love, because he first loved us."

John tells his readers that they have had this commandment “from the beginning,” and then identifies it as “the word which you have heard” (2:7). It was part and parcel with the gospel that they had believed at the outset of their Christian experience. When we hear and respond to the good news that Jesus Christ died for sinners, at that point the love of God is “poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). The first fruit of the Spirit is love (Gal. 5:22). As I mentioned, the entire Bible may be summed up by the two great commandments, to love God and to love one another. So learning how to establish and maintain loving relationships is not “graduate level” Christianity. It is basic, beginning Christianity.

It all begins with how you think about others. Instead of thinking first about yourself, your feelings, your rights, and your needs, you must learn to think first about others. How can I show this difficult person the love of Jesus Christ? How can I serve this person in love? Rather than thinking angry thoughts about how he wronged you and how you’ll get even, you begin to think about how Jesus wants you to think about the one who mistreated you. You begin to pray for this person, that he would come to know Jesus. You look for opportunities to return good instead of evil. I recommend that you write out Paul’s description of love (1 Cor. 13:4-7) on a card and read it over several times each morning, until you have in your mind how a loving person acts.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.1 Corinthians 13:4-7
I have often written about people who profess to know Christ, but their relationships are marked by anger, abusive speech, bitterness, and self-centeredness. Invariably, they don’t have a clue as to why they keep experiencing such hate. While I do not know their hearts (only God does), their lives do not give evidence that they have experienced the love of God in Jesus Christ. Rather, they seem to be in spiritual darkness, blindly colliding from one profession of hate to the next. They do not practice biblical love, which is an essential mark of every true Christian.

Again, none of us loves perfectly. When we fail, we need to repent and ask forgiveness of the one we wronged. It is a lifelong process of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. But those who have met Him at the cross will be growing in love for others.

Also, note that love for others is a commandment, not a warm, gushy feeling. That should give you hope, because God’s commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3) and God’s Spirit gives us the grace and power to obey His commands, which are for our good. Biblical love is a self-sacrificing, caring commitment that shows itself in seeking the highest good of the one loved. You can obey the commandment to love others!

So if you’re thinking, “But I don’t love my mate any more,” or, “I just don’t like that difficult person,” the Bible is clear: Get to work obeying God’s commandment to love him or her. It’s not optional for the follower of Christ. It’s essential!