Peace Be With You

Romans 15:13a May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.

A few days ago Carynne (3) was involved in an "incident" at school. She was one of a number of children who were misbehaving in her class. When confronted by their teacher, none would confess to what had happened. That is until Rynne uttered the words, "I will tell the truth." She knew that a consequence would likely follow her admission but her heart was at peace. However, her peace-filled heart found grace in the arms of her teacher.

Today I start the book of 2 Thessalonians by reading the first chapter. As I read the opening lines, I noted that Paul wishes grace and peace to his readers. Paul begins thirteen other letters with this same sentiment. Clearly these are important elements in the life of a Christian.
  • Grace - Grace draws us to God and sustains our faith. Grace infuses our faith with love and forgiveness towards others. Grace is the author of salvation and our hope as we draw our final breath.
  • Peace - Peace guards our hearts and enriches our testimony. Peace beckons the wanderer's heart. Peace calms the tormented soul. Peace smooths the rockiest of roads and relationships.

Jesus, thank you for Your grace - it truly is amazing. Your peace follows in the footsteps that led to the cross. Your pain granted me peace. Today I will offer my loved ones grace that flows from a peace-filled heart.

In Case I Nod Off...

Ephesians 5:14b Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

I have a talent for sleeping. I sleep through storms, babies crying and traffic. I sleep well when I travel and when I'm at home. The drawback to my aptitude is that I often exercise this capability at the most inopportune moments. I've been known to fall asleep in the choir loft, while someone's telling me a story but particularly when I'm praying.

Clara (5) is the earliest riser amongst our children. Some mornings she finds me peacefully "praying" and inquires, "Mommy, are you sleeping or praying?" Her sweet little voice is better than a double espresso to bolt me back awake.

This morning I am reading 1 Thessalonians 5. As Paul concludes his first letter to the Thessalonians, he recaps his instructions. It is also home to this verse: "So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled." (Verse 6) I laughed when I read this. A vivid picture of myself slumped over with drool trickling down my chin popped into my head. There stood Jesus smiling and whispering into Clara's ear, "Ask her if she's praying or sleeping." He chuckles as I sheepishly reveal the truth.

I'm afraid Paul may have had me in mind when he wrote this truth. My knack for sleeping can spill over into many areas of my life. The effective Christian is not one who sleep walks through life but rather one who faces every day with excitement knowing that walking with Christ is nothing short of a grand adventure.

So how do I wake up and become alert? Paul gives me three caffeines for the soul:
  1. Be Joyful Always (Verse 16)
  2. Pray Continually (Verse 17)
  3. Give Thanks in All Circumstances (Verse 18)

The combination of joy, prayer and thanksgiving can energize my sleepiest moment.

Jesus, with all my heart I want to begin my every day with you. My spirit is willing but my flesh is weak. It is joy, prayer and thanksgiving that aligns my desire and actions. Wake me up, Jesus!

Opposite Day

I have read before that the English language is one of the most difficult Western languages to master. A conglomeration of rules and vocabulary from dozens of ancient languages, English can be confusing even to someone who's inhabited an English-speaking country all their life. The upside is the boundless entertainment our confounding language has in the attempts of my sweet preschoolers to master it. They report me details such as:
  • Mommy, I readed that book
  • Mommy, Hannah learned me how to ride my bike
  • Mommy, I wented up stairs

I am probably less diligent in my corrections than I should be. Having two older children, though, I know they won't go to kindergarten...okay leave kindergarten saying readed. My basic advice to them or anyone on learning English is, "The rule is probably the opposite of what you think it is."

Today I am reading 1 Thessalonians 4. Paul spends this chapter instructing the Thessalonians in how to live a life that looks increasingly like Christ while waiting with great anticipation for the fulfillment of all God promises His children. In this section, he describes what the ambition should be of every Christian. Get ready because it's opposite day.

Make it your ambition to:

  1. Lead a quiet life (Verse 11) - A quiet life of gentle satisfaction is what our grandparents led. My generation has been instructed to get the most out of life, to leave no prisoners and to climb the highest possible mountain. This is a far cry from the contentment found in a quiet life.
  2. Mind your own business (Verse 11) - Nosy neighbors have gone the way of the black and white television. Many times today we don't even know our neighbors anymore so minding my own business is a slam dunk. The question is am I ignoring real needs or meddling? It is meddling that is to be avoided according to Peter (1 Peter 4:15). Jesus himself taught us that we are to see neighbors who are in need and rush to their aid (Luke 10:25-37).
  3. Work with your hands (Verse 11) - College, appliances and assembly lines were all created so we could avoid working with our hands. Let me be clear. I am not opposed to modern convenience nor am I discouraging my children from attending college but there is real validity that our country has moved from a nation founded on hard work to one floundering with a work force proudly displaying their "I'd rather be _______" bumper stickers. All hard work leads to profit, but mere talk leads to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23) God's economy is one is which each person works hard and provides for his own family.

Paul goes on in verse 12 to tell us our reward for living this kind of life. "...Your daily life may win the respect of outsiders." In other words, the best evangelism plan is one in which a church is filled with members that kindly and respectfully demonstrate a life of hard work and dedication. The gospel is best read on the pages of each of our lives.

Jesus, I want my life to be an open book where a lost and dying world can read of Your love and grace. I want my life's ambition to be Your ambition for me - a quiet, non-meddling life earmarked by hard work. Today may the pages of my life honor Your way of doing things.

Exercising My Faith

James 5:15 The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.

She was in a place of distress from which she was not certain she could recover. She called her pastor but he didn't return her call. She told her small group but they didn't know what to say. She felt completely alone until one day a friend took the time to just stop and acknowledge her pain and cover it in a faith-filled prayer of encouragement and strength. The road to recovery was long and marked with many setbacks but knowing that even one would walk alongside her and believed she would be whole again was enough to keep her walking.

This morning's reading is 1 Thessalonians 3. The Thessalonican church has apparently expressed concern over the magnitude and frequency of trials which Paul is facing. Paul spends this chapter reassuring them that his faith is standing firm, in no small part because of the joy their faith in Christ gives him.

Coming alongside another during a time of pain can be emotionally draining and faith challenging. I personally find it far easier to deliver a casserole and my well wishes than to allow myself to become emotionally invested in the difficult season of another. Like me, you may greatly desire to aid your friends and loved ones during seasons of suffering but aren't exactly sure what to you load your car up with chocolate chip cookies and hope for the best. In today's passage, Paul outlines what someone actually needs when problems are mounting: to be encouraged and strengthened in their faith (Verse 2).

  • Encouraged - Most frequently when someone is facing difficulty, they are encouraged with platitudes such as "You can do it," or "You'll make it through." These phrases are well-meaning and delivered from the purest of hearts but unfortunately they fail to meet someone's real need. Their need is not to know how strong they are but how faithful God is. It is God alone that will deliver them. Do they have a responsibility to follow the sound advice of their doctor, financial counselor or perhaps marriage counselor? Absolutely. However, it is God alone that heals. The best investment we can make in our health, finances or marriage is to spend time with the Deliverer and those who truly encourage us to know Him.
  • Strengthened - I am often taken aback how quickly a surgical patient will be up and walking. In recent years, the medical community has come to realize that the path to rapid healing is one marked by movement not immobility. In the same way, faith if not exercised become weak and flaccid. Our prayer life becomes earmarked with "I think" or "It's possible" rather than "I know" statements. Will I be a friend who believes the unbelievable? Can I be a confidant who prays the impossible? The best gift I can give a struggling friend or family member is rock solid faith.

Jesus, thank you for this precious lesson. This morning I have encouraged and strengthened my own faith by sitting in these quiet moments with the Deliverer. Now I leave this place ready to encourage and strengthen the faith of another. I may still bring over a casserole but for dessert I'm serving up rock solid faith.

My Thankful List

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Perhaps it is because Thanksgiving is a little over a month away or maybe it is that I am facing a day amazingly absent from the stress usually accompanying modern American life but today I just want to hit the pause button. I am taking a pause from my usual format and making a list. It is a simple list of ordinary things for which I am extraordinarily thankful.

Things I am Thankful For Today
  • Rain that comes after nearly two months. God always knows what I need.
  • A husband who works hard and appreciates the fact that I'm at home waiting for him.
  • A church that opens its' doors to the the unwelcome and imperfect regular people of this world.
  • Four amazing daughters who play together and love each other more than I ever dreamed possible.
  • A husband who has taught me what real love looks like and feels like.
  • A house that's so incredibly large that its' many rooms need constant attention. I live in a home far beyond what I could ask or imagine.
  • The fun-filled days of last week's Fall Break. We never left the city but my heart could not have been happier if I'd woken up each morning in an exotic locale. God blessed me with a simple week of enjoying the greatest blessings in my life.
  • My siblings who know me and love me any way. They've seen me at my best and worst and have chosen to love me on every one of those days.
  • Nieces and nephews who though they aren't technically my own have captured my heart and enhanced my life with love, laughter and wonder beyond the borders of my home.
  • My parents who gave me a start in life and modeled hard work and dedication.
  • A safe community where I don't have to worry about my children's safety at church, play or school.
  • Fingers that can type. A mind that can think. Thank you God that you've blessed me with a body to experience Your world.
  • My in-laws who welcomed me and my daughters into their world even though we arrived a bit later than they might have imagined.
  • The hum of my washer and dryer. I don't have to wash clothes by hand.
  • The asphalt roads here that make running much more enjoyable than it was in Dallas.
  • The easy rhythm of my life. I love being a stay-at-home mom.
  • Good friends who make me smile, who pray for me and who notice me.

Jesus, every good thing I have is from Your hand. I don't have to wait for heaven to experience a life that is rich and full. I can enjoy the abundance of your blessings right now. All I have to do is open my eyes.


Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

My left shoulder is currently "frozen". A nagging injury cycle began several years ago and finally culminated in the complete incapacitation of my left shoulder. Despite the associated pain, I have continued with my usual activities. I even forget at times that I'm hurt. However, at least once per night, a surge of pain overtakes me and I am awakened from my sleep. A sharp reminder of my injury pierces my veil of rest, causing my body to snap to attention.

This morning I am reading 1 Thessalonians 2. Paul, Silas and Timothy had come to Thessalonica from Philippi where they had "suffered and been insulted." (Verse 2) Come they did despite strong opposition. This morning I allowed my heart to linger over an insult I bore more than a year ago. I have offered this insult to God and covered it over with love and forgiveness. Why then does my heart still hurt when I think of it?

The wound itself long since ceased to matter. My heart hurts at the reminder because of the risk it represents. What if another friend hurts me and this time she wields a larger sword? Each time we offer our hearts and find them trampled by someone, it gets a bit harder to offer once again. My shoulder seized up because my body was trying to defend itself from further injury. Our natural tendency is to shield any wounded body part from further harm.

It is true that Paul and his companions were insulted. It is true they faced strong opposition in continuing their journey. In between those two truths lies the key to conquering fear in friendship. "But with the help of God." (Verse 2) I can either choose to have a crippled, "frozen" heart or choose God's help which yields a brave heart. God is the healer of the broken human heart. His dream for my relationships is that I would boldly go forward and not shrink back when I've been hurt trusting in Him to guard my heart.

Jesus, thank you for this sweet reminder that You are the forger of all my friendships. Though hard, You designed Your people to live in relationship. Today I will offer my heart. Has it been wounded? Yes. Are You able to guard my heart at the precise moment I offer it? An even bigger yes! Thank you, Jesus, Guarder of my Heart. By Your wounds, I am healed (Isaiah 53:5).

She Works Hard for the Money

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

My very first "real" job was at the Catfish Inn outside Athens, Alabama. I was a "drink girl" and a "hush puppy girl". Providing these vital functions meant I kept my tables well-supplied in hush puppies and sweet tea. One simply can not consume fried catfish without an ample dose of these yummy accompaniments. However, the hush puppy girl received no share of the tips. Hundreds of hush puppy baskets and gallons of iced tea yielded a reward of about ten dollars for my nightly shift.

This morning I begin the book of 1 Thessalonians by reading the 1st chapter. As Paul greets the church at Thessalonica, he recalls three remarkable qualities of this church (Verse 3):
  1. Work Produced by Faith - As I busily shuttled hush puppies from kitchen to table, I had one goal in mind: to earn money. My work was produced by need and desire, not faith. Faith should be the fuel of every work for a Christian. It is faith that turns every occupation into a ministry. Whether you're preparing your company's annual budget or waiting on tables, faith propels the mundane into ministry. Saving your company money and therefore your coworkers jobs is a ministry. Serving your customers with joy and kindness is a ministry. My work needs to be produced by faith.
  2. Labor Prompted by Love - I have always sought to be excellent in my work. If I were really honest though, I would have to admit I did so because I took pride in my labor and enjoyed achievement. My work was prompted by self-gratification not love. It is love that transforms tasks from steps up the ladder of success to moments of sacrifice and service to others. When my work is motivated by love, organizing a meeting becomes an opportunity to put others needs before my own and performing my function on the assembly line is packaged as a possibility to meet someone else's needs.
  3. Endurance Inspired by Hope - I can think of very few days in my life when I've called in sick or left my work early. I endured to the final work hour. When I earned wages hourly, this was because I didn't want to short change my pay check. When I earned wages from a salary, this is because I wanted to be well thought of and respected by my peers and supervisors. I endured but not because of hope. The hope of Jesus Christ means that my life has purpose. The hope of Jesus Christ means my days can have meaning.

Jesus, You add purpose and meaning to every aspect of my life. Today I make even less then I did when I filled glasses. My salary is measured at zero but that doesn't mean my work can't be produced by faith, prompted by love and inspired by hope. Today You will be my unseen coworker filling my moments with faith, hope and love.

Prayer: Attitude Surmounts Platitude

James 5:16b The prayer of a righteous (woman) is powerful and effective.

My husband, Scott, became a Christian when he was forty years old. He was full grown yet becoming new in every aspect of his life and character. I'll never forget when he first began to pray out loud in front of myself and the children. His prayers were simple, heartfelt and totally sincere. He had never been "trained" in the proper format or Christian vernacular. He simply prayed from his heart overflowing with gratitude for all God had done to transform his life.

Within months of our marriage, we faced our first big trial. As Hayleigh (then 6) and I discussed the situation, she said, "Mommy, what we need to do is get Daddy to pray. When he prays, God listens." Scott's devotion in prayer was evident even to a small child. His prayers were powerful and effective.

Today I am reading the final chapter of Colossians. Here Paul updates the church on the happenings and whereabouts of many Christians as well as offering greetings to and from essential members of church. The word that most stands out in this passage is prayer. Paul uses four words to describe prayer that can take the most ineffective prayer life and super-charge it into one that is both powerful and effective.
  • Devoted (Verse 2) - Paul advises the Colossians to be devoted to prayer. Far more than the passing utterance over a meal or the sentence plea over traveling safety is a prayer life that could be classified as devoted. To be devoted to something requires prioritization and concentration of both time and energy.
  • Watchful (Verse 2) - I don't know about you but for me sleep is often the close kinsman to prayer. One moment I'm pouring my heart out to God and the next I'm paying homage to the Sandman. A watchful prayer life is one that is alert and aware. Like the soldier guarding our safety through the long hours of the night is the Christian who takes time to cover their church, community, home and family in prayer. The alert saint is one whose prayer list grows daily as even the smallest matter is brought before the Lord.
  • Thankful (Verse 2) - Prayer provides us with the greatest outlet to praise God for who He is and His work in our lives. I recently heard a sweet young woman in my church tell how God transformed her heart as a teenager from grumpy to gracious as she built the daily habit in her life of recording God's activity and thanking Him for it. It is far easier to pray with passion and purpose when I'm acknowledging all the ways God has shown up in my life. From the front row parking spot during a rain storm to the smile of a passing stranger, God's grace is showered on each of us every day.

Jesus, thank you for the privilege of prayer. Today I will be devoted, watchful and thankful as I bathe my little corner of the world in prayer. Wherever I go and whatever I do today may I look for You and talk to You about everything I see and experience.

Wardrobe: Jesus Style

Genesis 3:21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

There are some mornings I wish I were Superman. I don't covet all his powers - just the one where he goes into a phone booth and instantaneously changes his entire outfit in a matter of seconds. My process of getting clad is a bit more arduous.

The initial steps include selecting my outfit and laying it out on my bed. I've been known to lay my complete ensemble, including jewelry down for viewing prior to dressing. Once satisfied, I move on to the actual adorning. Undergarments are followed by tanks, camis, shirts, sweaters, skirts and jeans. Then the great debate arises. Should I put on both socks and then both shoes? Or should I streamline with one sock and one shoe followed by the other sock and shoe? I am momentarily stalled but press through to the "frosting".

Frosting is my favorite stage. I grab my scarf, earrings, rings, bracelets, watch and necklace and plan to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. These final details make my outfit complete and I'm ready to take my day by storm.

This morning I am reading the third chapter of Colossians. In this passage, Paul outlines the practical ways I can "dress" as a Christian in my every day life. He describes the undergarments of godly character. These are qualities that resemble Jesus best developed by spending time with Him. There is also outergarments. The way I relate to others - my husband, children, friends and family - is the observable outcome of the time I spend with God.

After Adam and Eve sinned, they became painfully aware that they were naked. They attempted to cover themselves with leaves but their concealment was inadequate. God Himself had to fashion the first true garments (Genesis 3:21). I have a lot in common with Adam and Eve. They are after all my original kin. I often attempt to cloak myself. I dress myself in perfectionism, meeting expectations and people pleasing. My attempts fail. I instead need to allow Jesus to be my daily dressing.

"As God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which bind them all together in perfect unity." (Verses 12-14) I may not actually be Superman, who keeps Metropolis safe by warding off all manner of villains. I am, however, God's warrior princess, fighting for my home, family and community. My superhero cape isn't stamped with an diamond "S". It is emblazoned with a cross-shaped "J".

Jesus, thank you for dressing me this morning. Help me remember that just as I put on one garment at a time, You work on me one quality at a time. Today I will remember that You are far more considered with my undergarments - love, compassion, forgiveness and humility than the frosting. When I allow you to change my undergarments, my outergarments will follow. Thank you for helping me realize that the most important part of my daily outfit is adorned long before I dress for the day. That wardrobe awaits next to a tall glass of orange juice.

Discipline is a Four Letter Word

Psalm 100:5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

My husband, Scott, is the most disciplined person I know. He daily plans his meals around the exact number of portions he wants to consume and then executes his caloric plan. He conducts every area of his life in a similar fashion. He doesn't overspend. He rarely misses a strategic goal at work. It is the exception that he ever arrives late.

Unfortunately for him, he married a more ordinary member of the population for whom discipline is more like a four letter word. It is not the first day of a diet, financial plan or project that gets me. It is the second and subsequent days where I find it difficult to stay on target with my stated objectives. Both my mind and heart begin to stray as I splurge in an occasional unplanned meal, purchase or activity usually with increasing frequency as time goes on.

This morning my reading is Colossians 2. Paul laid the foundation of our faith in Christ alone in the first chapter and now begins to build on that firm foundation. The building blocks Paul prescribes surprise me - organization and perseverance. Apparently it's more than just my diet plan that requires action on day 2.

1) Organization (Verse 5) - "I delight to see how orderly you are." If I didn't know better, I'd think that Scott put Paul up to writing this. Order is just simply not something that the average person takes delight in. Yet the God of order (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40) delights in just such a thing. Long before Scott was keeping his desk spotless, God knew that organization enhances every area of my life. Order lends itself to greater satisfaction, peace and results.
2) Perseverance (Verse 6) - "Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him." The day anyone surrenders their life to Christ is a day of great celebration. In fact, the angels in heaven throw a great party over every soul who chooses Jesus (Luke 15:7). Eventually the party balloons lose their air and the leftover cake pieces lose their allure and we have to learn to just live a daily life in a God-honoring way. Paul provides three essentials to continuing in the faith beyond day one. (Verse 7)
  • Roots - "Rooted and build up in him." We have to grow deep roots. I've never seen a tree grow its' roots but I've seen the impact. As the unseen roots grow deeper and larger, the observable part of the tree increases in proportion. Roots are grown one day at a time through the daily intake of water and nutrition. I too have to take in daily nutrition by feeding on God's Word and drinking in His Holy Spirit.
  • Strengthening - "Strengthened in the faith." I read recently that the best way to combat osteoporosis is to modify your diet by taking in the proper bone-healthy nutrients and then supplementing that with strength-enhancing workouts. Our Christian faith is the same. Daily nutrition is essential but is best absorbed by the body of Christ strengthening each other. In other words, I can not live the Christian life in isolation. The reason certain diet programs work is because they provide built-in accountability. The church as God intended it does that as well. We build each other up in the faith as we share our trials and triumphs with one another. Just as many diet regiments fail once the accountability wanes, so my faith flounders when I attempt to live my faith alone.
  • Overflowing - "Overflowing with thankfulness." Time with God is the foundation. Time with God's people is the accountability. Gratitude provides the power to carry us even on the most difficult days. When I feel like God has abandoned me. When I'm wounded by a friend at church. When things simply aren't going as I had anticipated. Being thankful recalibrates my heart towards God.

Jesus, today is certainly not the first day I've walked with You. This morning I awoke and felt You were so far away from me. You were not far. You were near waiting with great anticipation for me to meet with You and discover Your wonderful truth. Now that I have feasted on Your Word, I will find strength in Your people and power in a thankful heart. I once heard it said, "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels." Today I say, "Nothing feels as good as continuing to walk with You."


Psalm 31:2 Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.

"Is Daddy a rescue hero?" Clara (5) asked with imploring eyes. Clara came home from school sad. She now chose to reveal the source of her melancholy. They had been learning about rescue heroes at school. One little girl's daddy even came to visit the entire class because her dad was a fireman. Everyone thought he was a hero. He even had a "superhero" suit to prove it. In her heart of hearts, Clara believed her daddy too to be a hero. She just wanted her classmates to esteem him as highly as she did.

I gathered sweet little Clara into my arms and began to tell her the story of how her daddy became a rescue hero. It started one Sunday morning when the minister modeled the "sinner's prayer". Her daddy had prayed it too. As time passed, he became better and better friends with Jesus until they were so close that they were on a first name basis. It was then, that Jesus began to talk to her daddy's heart and asked him to leave his job and go work in the church. He said yes to Jesus and today is the most important of rescue heroes. He helps Jesus save mommies, daddies and kids alike from a life without God.

Today's reading is Colossians 1. Paul spends this first chapter restating the gospel and recounting its' transforming power. This life-changing truth is summed up in the thirteenth verse: "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves." God is the Chief Architect of every rescue mission:
  • God Sends the Search Party - God did not wait passively by; He sent a search party. Led by His Son and guided by the Holy Spirit, Jesus came to find me. I tried to find the path out on my own by being a good person or changing "my ways", but He had to come to me.
  • God Throws the Lifeline - Not only does Jesus come to find us but He provides all the needed equipment to be saved. I was like a wayward cat stuck in a tree. God had long ago leaned the ladder by my branch and waited patiently for me to notice that the way down had been there all along.

Jesus, thank you for being my Rescue Hero. You died naked on a tree with all the equipment I'd ever need to be rescued - Your life, Your love and Your willingness to take my place. Today I will remember that Your 9-1-1 lines are always open and available long before my life turns into a crisis.

What Comes After A

Caveat to my regular readers: I am taking a little trip off topic this morning. Today we will journey into the Psalms but never fear. We will return to the New Testament tomorrow to begin Colossians!


Ephesians 1:7-8a In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us.

I remember the day clearly. I was in 9th grade and had just opened my report card. A single "B" stood out like a thorn on a rose stem. It was in Home Economics though. I was certain those were skills I'd never need so really what was the harm in doing less than my best? My rationalization prevented me from absorbing all I could and no doubt later handicapped my abilities as a wife and mother. I was too immature to understand that settling for less than my best could have severe consequences.

This morning my heart has been drawn to Psalm 103. This psalm is twenty-two verses of sheer joy over what God has done for His people. It is the home to the description "as far as the east is from the west" to convey the distance God has cast our sin. Surely a God who loves like that has more in mind for my life than defeat or survival. He has offered me an abundant life. This psalm details the incredible blessings God offers each one of us:
  • Forgiveness (Verse 3) - He forgives my sins. This is easy to say perhaps even a bit trite. Do I really grasp the delight of being free and forgiven?
  • Healing (Verse 3) - He heals my diseases. All the places where I hurt and every avenue of my pain can be erased by His love and mercy.
  • Redemption (Verse 4) - He redeems my life from the pit. Even in my very worst places, God was with me. At the moment of my most intense pain, He longed to pull me out of my chasm.
  • Satisfaction (Verse 5) - He satisfies my desires for good things. God isn't holding out on me. Instead, He glories in granting my heart's desire.
  • Renewal (Verse 5) - He renews my youth. It is God's intention that more than just four year olds would experience a life of boundless energy. While my body may continue to slowly edge toward the grave, my soul can experience unimaginable joy and excitement.

Why do I settle for less than God's best? Doing this is like saying I know my alphabet but never learning a single letter past "A". I choose a path of forgiveness but forgo the boundless blessings that can and should follow.

Jesus, today is a day worth celebrating. With Your help my life will move from mundane to miraculous from adequate to amazing. When I settle for less than You're offering me, I short change myself from the life of abundance and blessing You've promised. Today I will embrace all that You've offered.

Mean Girls..Stink

Philippians 4:5 Let your gentleness be evident to all.

I've seen a bumper stick that says, "Mean People..." I'll just fill in the blank with stink. I laugh pretty much every time I happen upon one of those bumper stickers. That statement is as true as can be. The waters our children navigate are considerably more murky than those which flowed through the 1900s. Hannah (14) and Hayleigh (11) have been subjected to mean girl bullying. They have been told they're fat. They have had their body parts picked apart by girls and boys alike. They have been left out because they choose not to participate in certain activities. Mean people stink. Enough said.

This morning I am reading Philippians 4. This chapter contains several often quoted verses:
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Verse 6-7)
  • I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Verse 13)
  • My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Verse 19)

In other words, this section of scripture is a home run of encouragement.

Nestled amongst this positive prose is the story of two girls (Verses 2-3). I can't pronounce their names so we'll just call them Sue and Mary. Sue and Mary couldn't get along. In fact, their feud was so significant that Paul felt the need to implore the entire church at Philippi to help these women heal their relationship. Two thousand years later, girls still have difficulty getting along with each other. Turns out the prescription for their restoration lies in the verses Paul would pen next.

  • Prayer (Verses 6-7) - Praying with a thankful heart for the "mean girl" in my path replaces anxiety with peace. Peaceful hearts have a much easier time returning kindness to cruelty.
  • Power (Verse 13) - There is absolutely nothing that is impossible for God. He can even give me the words to respond in love to a jerk...or the grace to ignore said jerk.
  • Provision (Verse 19) - There is no situation God can not deliver us from. No matter how inconsiderate someone is, God stands at the ready to supply our heart with grace, compassion and mercy. He doesn't give though, if I don't ask.

Jesus, I hurt when my kids hurt. Rather than sit passively by, help me to arm my children with the tools they need to combat cruelty head on. Today I will remember that Your love for "mean people" is complete and perfect. It is Your heart's desire that soon each one would be counted among Your very own. Help me respond to the "Marys and Sues" I encounter with kindness, grace and love.

Worth It

Luke 9:23 ...If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Clara (5) was born on her due date-September 20, 2005. This is a fact I don't easily forget. Probably because Scott and I had been scheduled to leave for Switzerland the very next day. Though we wanted more children, Clara happened along a bit ahead of the time frame we might have scheduled. I missed extravagant meals, exciting adventure and elegant chocolate but it was so worth it. Every day of her life, Clara has provided our entire family joy, delight and energy. She is better than the most decadent chocolate.

This morning I am reading Philippians 3. Paul opens this chapter with the rejection of the idea that anything a person does or is can in any way earn salvation. My greatest accomplishment completed on my most benevolent day is nothing compared to knowing Jesus. Paul writes, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." (Verse 10)
  • I want to know Christ - With certainty I can agree. I do want to know Christ more every day. I yearn to know Him more.
  • I want to know the power of his resurrection - This is another statement I find myself nodding my head to. Of course I desire the power of God in my life. It is His power that conquers sin, His power that transforms my character and His power that watches over and cares for my family.
  • I want the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings - Seriously, Paul? You want to share in the suffering of Jesus? I thought I was doing well by not complaining too much about the various trials and difficulties in my life.

To fellowship is to be united in purpose and passion. Jesus came to earth for one reason only - "to seek and save what was lost" (Luke 19:10). He suffered an unimaginably painful death to give each one of us a path to truly know God. He was tortured to bring every person the opportunity to live an abundant life. You only have to read His prayer in Gethsemane to know, He went to the cross with a level of reluctance, but you, my precious friend, were so worth it.

If I want to know Christ, I have to be united in His purpose and passion. I will never lay down my life for mankind. Only Jesus was sufficient for that task. I will, however, experience pain, trouble and difficulty throughout the days I live on earth. It is at those times, my heart is most in tune with God. We fellowship through suffering.

Jesus, You give passion and purpose to my life. I don't understand why You chose difficulty as the primary path to knowing You more. I do know that any trouble or trial You allow in my life is totally worth it if it means I will know You more intimately than I do today.

Attitude Adjustment

Ephesians 4:22a, 23b You were be made new in the attitude of your minds.

All four of my girls have had a passion for playing "mommy". In their carefree world of pretend, they cook, clean, take care of their babies and run errands all with a style earmarked "Shannon Milholland". Whether intentional or not, day by day they are learning to talk, behave and interact like me. Sometimes I like what I see in that reflection, others times it becomes apparent some adjustments in my behaviors or actions are necessary.

This morning I am reading the 2nd chapter of Philippians. In this passage, Paul describes both the attributes of Jesus and Timothy. Timothy was one of Paul's closest companions, whom Paul described as his true and dear son (1 Timothy 1:1, 2 Timothy 1:1). God himself had instructed Paul in the faith. Paul in turn taught Timothy.

Though separated from Paul by the span of twenty centuries and the massive Atlantic Ocean, I too can learn what it means to live like Jesus. "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." (Verse 5) My actions are my attitudes equipped with hands and feet. I need an attitude adjustment to bring mine closer in line with Jesus. Jesus possesses an attitude:
  • An Attitude Undergirded by Obedience (Verse 8) - Jesus is obedient to the Father in every step He takes, particularly those that led to the cross.
  • An Attitude Undeterred by Complaining or Grumbling - Jesus doesn't allow his attitude to be derailed with negativity promulgated by focus on self.
  • An Attitude Underwritten by Genuine Interest - Instead, Jesus expresses a sincere concern for those He encounters.

Jesus, I want an attitude like yours. Today I will allow You to adjust my attitude by giving me a willing heart, a joyful heart and a heart concerned for others. Thank you for teaching me how to be like You.

Worst to First

1 Samuel 16:7b Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

I spent the first few years of my academic career labeled with the academically "challenged" students. Not that I remember this. What I do recall is that when my family relocated from Seattle to Wichita at the beginning of 3rd grade, that I was placed with the "slow" group. These were the days when classrooms had become "open" and four groups of students would be shuttled from one teacher to the next according to our academic prowess. My prowess had been assessed as more of a crawl than a prowl. Therefore, I was plopped in the bottom tier.

Something happened that year. I don't know what day it began but quarter by quarter I kept getting shifted from one category to the next until finally I had ascended from the bottom bracket to the top. I had managed to go from "worst to first". Some teacher had truly seen me and recognized that behind my shy smile and lack of confidence to speak up, I knew more than I communicated.

This morning I am reading Philippians 1. This chapter contains the encouraging words paraphrased by saying, "God's not finished with me yet." They actually read, "Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Verse 6) This verse makes me think of my little family. Since there are five girls and one man who reside here, it's definitive that someone is "carrying on" every day of the week. Up in heaven, Jesus is carrying on about me on those same days of the week. But He is all worked up about molding my heart and transforming my life into one that resembles His. That thought will smooth over quite a bit of household drama at least in this mama's heart.

However, it is love is that covers the worst of girl drama. A few verses later Paul is talking about love (Verse 9). I'm always looking to grow in love, so my heart snaps to attention. Paul is praying for the Philippian church that their love will abound more and more in _______. Before I read on, I try to guess what will fill the blank. Is it compassion, mercy, kindness or goodness? These are all cousins to love and attributes my house could use a healthy dose of. My guesses are way off. Paul fills in the blank with knowledge and depth of insight.
  • Knowledge - The more I know God, the better I can love His people.
  • Depth of Insight - The more I understand God and His Word, the more completely I can love His people.
I'm still sometimes tempted to shelter my mind from being noticed. After all, everyone knows that smart chicks have "good personalities". They are the kind of gal whose homework you may copy but certainly are not the brand you ask to the prom.

Yet God's ways are not our ways. He loves a mind that longs to know Him. He cherishes a heart that desires to understand Him more. He digs smart chicks...and dudes for that matter. Any soul who longs to know Him is indeed intelligent beyond measure. We attempt to classify our own: She's smart. He's athletic. She's shy. He's weird. This is one of the many ways we know we were made in His image but are certainly not God. He only has two categories: She loves me. She loves me not.

Jesus, You don't have to pull petals off of daisies to guess how much I love you. The smartest thing I have ever done is give my heart away to You with reckless abandon. As I use my mind to know You more, You reward my heart with greater love. Today I will remember that the way I can love my family and friends the best is by pursuing You the most.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Joshua 24:15b As for me....(I) will serve the Lord.

Monday is one of my two "heavy" cleaning days. Generally, this work is done during school hours but last week I ran a bit behind schedule and found myself cleaning in the afternoon. Seeing me hard at work scrubbing countertops and floors, Hayleigh (11) asked me if we were having company over for dinner. I laughed as I responded that I was just cleaning to bless my family and no one else.

It was only a few minutes later when Hannah (14) walked through the kitchen and said, "Mom, what are you doing? Are we having company over tonight?" This time my laugh was more of a polite chuckle. Ouch! How did I give my children the impression I only clean up for other people? There are no more important guests than the five that already live here. Tonight I think I'll get out my fine china because the most precious company of all will be dining at my home - my husband, my children and our sweet Jesus.

This morning the passage is Ephesians 6. This chapter concludes Paul's letter to the Ephesians. His final topics include the relationship between parents and children, the relationship between masters and servants and spiritual warfare. It is tempting when I read a passage about slaves and their owners to skip through that section. The typical modern day application is to employers and their employees. I am neither since my full-time employment is as a wife and mother.

Today I allow my heart to linger on this passage, while I listen for God to speak His truth about this scripture into my life's situation.
  • Obey With Respect and Fear (Verse 5) - I have been known to write God in the blank for employer on various documents. Later I will smile to myself as I imagine the data input clerk trying to decide if she should actually enter "God" into the database. I wonder if that is the only moment in her day when she thought of Him or if she is a faithful follower who serves God not just her employer in her work. Indeed God is the ultimate employer of every person. Whether we realize it or not whether we acknowledge Him or not, He is the one providing our income and occupation. He has given me the opportunity to serve Him in my home. Do I obey my Boss out of respect and fear?
  • Serve With Sincerity of Heart (Verse 5) - My family is the recipient of my hard work. It is entirely possible to serve them with excellence and still not out of sincerity of heart. Do I serve to hear them or others praise what a fine job I do? Do I serve to gain the self-satisfaction of a job well done? Or do I serve with sincerity of heart, hoping only to please the Lord?
  • Serve From the Heart (Verse 6) - While the cat is away, the mice will play...or the employees as the case may be. Paul admonishes the servant to obey not only when their master's eye is on them. If we serve God, our Master's eye is always on us. Do I work hardest when others are watching or when I am observed by an audience of one?

Jesus, help me remember that it is You who sits at our table each night for dinner. Yours are the feet that trod my kitchen floor. May not only what I do here but how I do it bring glory and honor to You and abundant blessings to my treasured dinner party who gathers around my table every evening.

Life: Exposed to the Light

Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

Back before the world went digital, we actually took pictures and went to have our photographs processed. When you picked up your pictures, you were given two products: the photos and the negatives from which future copies of your pictures could be printed. Have you ever looked closely at a negative? It is creepy. People and places are distorted in a fashion that sometimes makes the subject barely recognizable.

Today's reading is Ephesians 5. Chock full of practical application, this chapter addresses a variety of topics from Christian marriage to time management. I am awestruck this morning by how "powerful and effective" the word of God really is. For truly, if I just grasped and applied this one passage of scripture, it is a certainty that my life would be completely transformed.

Smack dab in the middle of this passage are seven verses that call Christians out of darkness and into the light. Jesus knows first hand the danger of dwelling in darkness. He physically bore the outcome of every deed shadowed by man's withdrawal from God. The most unmentionable acts are performed under the veil of secrecy - rape, murder, incest, molestation, sexual perversion. Then again so are more tolerable sins - overeating, gossip, bigotry, unforgiveness.

I have yet to encounter a Christian who has a sign posted in his front yard announcing those secret sins that he has yet to confess, repent from or seek someone's forgiveness for. Why? It is easier to rewrite history than to admit our wrongs with humility. Is is more convenient to ignore issues and pretend there will be no consequences than to deal with our actions with integrity before God. Hidden sin distorts, deceives and destroys.

I don't understand everything about classical photography. What I do know is this. Film cannot be developed without exposure to the light. If I truly desire to be like Jesus, I have to pull out my stuff and shine His light on my darkness. "Everything exposed by the light becomes visible." (Verse 13) It is only when my sin is visible that is can be dealt with.

Jesus, I desire a clean heart before You. I do not want my relationships or reputation to be distorted by hidden sin. I want to look like You, not a warped "negative" of you that barely resembles the subject. I know this is only possible through honesty and humility. Today help me take my secrets out of the closet of my heart and expose them to the light of Your forgiveness and love.

I Go Walkin'

Psalm 103:1, 4 Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.

I have enjoyed 2,086 weekends in my lifetime. I calculated this. I know, I know. I'm such a geek. What is amazing about weekends is that oftentimes they're what we say we're living for, yet I can only truly recount a handful from my forty years on earth.

I do clearly remember one, though, from all the way back when I was about ten. My oldest sister had gone off to Kansas State University and pledged a sorority. One of their traditions was to hold a "little sisters" weekend when they would each ask their younger siblings to visit. I had received an invitation. I could not have been more excited if Prince Charming had asked me to his ball.

I was a squirrelly, pesky little sister who was in no way worthy of my sister's bidding. Yet she sent for me anyway. She looked beyond my flaws and immaturity to see a little girl who could grow into a woman who might actually be worthy of such a thoughtful invitation.

Today I reading Ephesians 4. The book of Ephesians has six chapters. The first three chapters cover who we are in Christ. The last three how this should impact the way we live. As Paul transitions, his first admonition is to "live a life worthy of the calling you have received." (Verse 1) A "worthy life" strikes me as lofty, idealistic and out of reach for a regular girl like me. After all, many days I'd get excited if I could just move from chaotic to ordinary.

Then I read the next verse. "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." If I thought living a worthy life was a stretch being entirely humble, gentle and patient is atmospherically out of range. Perhaps living a worthy life isn't as much about what I do as it is about who I am. This could be why Paul spent half his letter encouraging us to understand whose we really are. Whose I am is what changes who I am.
  • Humble (Philippians 2:8) - "He (Jesus) humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross."
  • Gentle (Matthew 11:29) - "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I (Jesus) am gentle and humble in heart."
  • Patient (1 Peter 3:9) - "He (Jesus) is patient with you."

Jesus, You are worthy. You are worthy to be praised. You are worthy of all worship. I have made my trip from the pit longer than it had to be. The more I recognize how much I need You, the more you transform my life. You have crowned me with love, compassion, humility, gentleness and patience. Today I will walk worthy only because I will walk with You.

I've Got the Power

Psalm 68:35 You are awesome, O God, in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.

When Scott and I married, we decided to honeymoon in Italy. We spent a number of days in both Rome and Venice. It was on the island community of Murano that we found the treasure we brought home to remind us of our trip. Murano is famous for its' production of hand-blown glass. Each piece is exquisite and the shapes we saw there matched almost anything our minds could have imagined.

It was when I saw something I hadn't conceived that my attention was drawn. A single shop contained hand-blown lamps with glass intricately woven among metal work. When we arrive home, I proudly showed my friends and family our "find". The only issue was our find wasn't wired for American outlets. A trip to the electrician would be required to transform my treasure into a useful house fixture.

This morning I am reading Ephesians 3. This chapter contains one my favorite prayers (Verses 14-21). I have studied this prayer many times but today the word power leaps from the page. That word is repeated three times in these verse. The idea of living a powerful, Spirit-filled life is exciting, enticing and engaging to my heart.
  • Power Source (Verse 16) - First, Paul prays that God would strengthen them with power in their inner beings. Deep within are my solar panels. It is through the Son, Jesus, growing faith in my heart that God's power is generated in my life.

  • Power Outlet (Verse 18) - Once generated, that power makes me capable to grasp the intensity of God's love for me. When I plug into His outlet, He fills me with Himself. No surge protector is needed. I can plug my heart directly into Him.

  • Power Plant (Verse 20) - Finally, Paul notes that God can do far more than we could ever even imagine using the power that lies within every Christian. God's power plant doesn't ever experience service interruption. There is no storm forceful enough to knock down His power lines. He's always bringing power to my house. Sometimes I just fail to turn on the lights.

Jesus, there is power in knowing you. Your power has been freely given to me. Today help me recognize the power source, plug into the power outlet and utilize the power plant. You are the Master Electrician always ready to wire me for Your use.

A Recipe for Joy

A few weeks ago, Hannah (14) was invited to a wedding. The preparations were nearly as delightful as the event itself. We pleasured in shopping for a dress, having her nails painted and selecting a present. I chose to give the bride my favorite present - a recipe. Wrapped up with the recipe were some of the tools needed to prepare the dish but the real treasure was a simple, hand-written card. On that card I wrote ingredients and measurements. Intertwined with those instructions and scrawled in invisible ink was all the love and joy of our family experienced while we ate that meal.

Recipes serve many purposes in my life. There is the obvious such as the provision of directions for preparing a dish. The more obscure impact is on my heart. As I cook a treasured recipe, it reminds me of the author. I think about her, pray for her and reminisce over shared memories. It is almost as if my mom, sister or friend comes and joins me in the kitchen. She may be hundreds of miles away but through our shared recipe, she feels as close as my very heart. It's no surprise a recipe is my wedding gift of choice.

Today I am reading Ephesians 2. In this chapter, Paul contrasts the hopeless life without Jesus to the abundant, blessed life with Him. This passage, rich with description contains one phrase that calms my heart: "In Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near." (Verse 13) God wants there to be no awkwardness in our relationship. No gawky pauses. No uncomfortable silences.

Jesus died to draw me from miles away to rest on His very chest. Just as a recipe can erase the distance of states, God's compelling love can vanquish years of loneliness. He wants me near. He desires me close. No space between us.

Thank you, Jesus, for bringing me close to Your heart. There is comfort and peace in placing myself within Your arms. As I walk through my day, help me remember You are holding me. You are near. Your love is my recipe for joy.

Permanent Ink

February 24, 2009 is a day indelibly marked in my mind. That was the day Scott was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Prior to his official diagnosis, we had spoken of our suspicions with only three friends. We now had a whole host of phone calls to make.

At that time we lived in a home with a securely gated driveway overlooked from my kitchen window. From my vantage point, I could wash dishes, make dinner or even chat on the phone while keeping an eye on my toddlers playing just beyond the window. I was waist-high in conversation with a friend breaking Scott's news when I realized I hadn't seen my babies for a few minutes. I quickly hung up the phone and ventured outside to investigate.

What I found was Clara (then 3) holding a red spray paint can. A truly stressful day had been punctuated by some extemporaneous artwork. Clara's chosen canvas was Carynne (then 2) who was now embellished head to toe. An immediate trip to the bath and a thorough scrubbing ended with Carynne looking only vaguely like the offspring of a Hot Tamale.

Today I begin the book of Ephesians by reading the first chapter. If I've ever doubted God's incredible love for me, this passage should fade every question. The chapter calls His precious children:
  • blessed
  • chosen
  • holy
  • blameless
  • included

American Express first coined the phrase, "Membership has its privileges." That ad campaign could have been plucked straight from the pages of Ephesians. The truth is I have experienced times of doubt and uncertainty. Satan, the great accuser, loves to whisper in my ear that I have disqualified myself from salvation with this sin or that wrong attitude. The truth leaps from Ephesians 1 - I have been marked by the Holy Spirit with a seal (Verse 13). The BoHS (Bank of the Holy Spirit) guarantees this deposit and my future inheritance in heaven (Verse 14). Now that's what I call a secure transaction.

Clara attempted to paint Carynne and was quite successful, however, her marks were only temporary. God's seal over my heart was written in permanent ink. It does not fade. His seal can not be torn off. No amount of scrubbing or rubbing can remove His handiwork.

Sweet Holy Spirit, too often I forget how vital Your work is. You are the One who holds my heart. You handed the pen to the Father to imprint my name in the Lamb's Book. I am written on Your role forever. Today I will let no one persuade me that Your labor is incomplete.

Stick and Stones

Matthew 5:11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (Jesus speaking)

My left knee is scarred. I was running while pushing the dual jogging stroller containing Hannah and Hayleigh. They were seven and four at the time and perhaps a tad over the weight limit. We hit a bump and the stroller was thrown backwards. Rather than let my precious babies hit the ground, I threw myself down under the stroller to break their fall. My knee bears a scar. It is not a reminder of pain but rather love.

Today I am finishing up Galatians by reading the 6th Chapter. As Paul finalizes his remarks to the church at Galatia, he notes that his body bears the marks of Jesus (Verse 17). This was true for Paul both in a literal and figurative sense. He had been beaten, flogged and whipped multiple times (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). His physical body bore disfiguring reminders of these events. No doubt his heart had also experienced every blow.

Hurtful words. Invitations not extended. Unfair judgements. Misunderstood intentions. My physical body bears no marks from my faith but my soul does. My choice is whether I hold onto that wound or respond with forgiveness and grace. Forgiveness is a healing balm that turns injury into victory.

Recorded in Matthew 5:11 are Jesus' words that declare insults and evil words spoken against His Precious Ones are blessings. He knew first-hand how words sting the heart. He understood the pain of false accusation. He also recognized that His outstretched arms would pay the price for word and slight. His death makes me free - free to give compassion and forgiveness to those who attempt to mark my spirit.

Jesus, Your love makes it possible for me to be blessed by the hurts I've born from another. As I reflect on the marks that remain, may the serve as a reminder not of pain but of love. Truly I am blessed.

The Greatest of These is Love

1 Corinthians 13:13b The greatest of these is love.

When I was four, my family moved to Munich, Germany. There my mother enrolled me in an all-German speaking preschool. This was quite a bold move on her part. Her assumption that I would fare well in my new surroundings was not completely unfounded because we had all taken at least six months of lessons in German to prepare us for this transition. What she had no way of knowing is that I had found my instruction to be utterly useless. To my four year old mind, it was complete nonsense that I had to learn all new terms for items that I already knew perfectly good words for.

Once at my new school, I became the entertainment of choice for my classroom. I would tell long stories giving great detail to the delight of my classmates. They would laugh at my antics and creativity. If you recall my early desire to be a stand-up comedian, you can imagine this warmed my heart. Six months into my comedy routine, it suddenly occurred to me that the source of their laughter was my English. They had not understood one word that I'd spoken. Perhaps there was a good reason to learn this crazy new vocabulary after all.

This morning I am reading Galatians 5. This chapter contains a list made famous as the "Fruit of the Spirit". These qualities - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control - are all evidence of God's work in the life of a Christian (Verses 22-23). What may be a bit of a surprise is that earlier in this chapter, Paul makes it clear that if the fruit of love isn't in my bowl, the rest of my fruit won't be too tasty. Paul states it this way, "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Verse 6)

Just as my preschool friends couldn't understand me because I wasn't speaking their language, my love if not spoken in a voice that can be understood won't have any affect. My antics may be entertaining but they will not be life-changing. Gary Chapman in his book, The Five Love Languages, does an excellent job of outlining ways that different people feel loved. Some respond to encouraging words. Others crave the kindness of an act of service. Some just desire to be touched lovingly and still others want to spend time with you. Finally, there are those who feel loved through receiving gifts.

Many people, including myself, try to make themselves aware of identifying their family and friends "love language". Even when I do that though, I find my love can still be rebuffed or muted by something else. Paul hides three little nuggets in this chapter that just might unstop the clog in my love flow:
  • Silenced by Sin (Verses 19-21) - My husband's love language is without a doubt quality time. He enjoys just hanging out with me whether we're running, watching television or dining. There are days that I do all that and he still doesn't feel loved. In these verses, Paul lists fifteen ungodly behaviors. I find witchcraft saddled right up against envy. When I injure my husband with harsh words, a lack of respect or thoughtless behavior, my love flow to him gets stopped with my sin until I humble myself and ask for his forgiveness.
  • Concealed by Conceit (Verse 26) - I remember early after I began walking with God, I had such a strong desire to give away the gift of abundant life that I had been given that I actively sought out someone to pour my life into. While my desire was not wrong, my execution was a bit flawed. I thought that I could really help her. My heart was pure but all she could see was the pride and self-righteousness that wrapped around my heart. Conceit shrouded my love such that she couldn't see beyond it to receive my love. My love flow to her was plugged up with pride.
  • Layered Under Legalism (Verses 1, 4) - Too often love becomes a legal document with print too fine for even the sharpest of eye to read. The terms and conditions surrounding the giving of my love, may make it impossible for someone else to receive it. There is an individual who regularly interacts with members of my family in just this way. This person defines lengthy requirements that must be met, in order for his/her love to be doled out. This in fact is not a congested love flow but is a no flow. Love can not have stipulations attached to it. When this happens, it ceases to be love at all.

Jesus, help me talk love in a way that it can be heard by others. Help me cast off the notion that love is earned. Unblock my love flow through humility and my being quick to apologize. Today I offer my little world a fruit bowl accentuated with the captivating fragrance of Your love.