Don't Let Your Snow Yellow

Psalm 119:97 Oh how I love your law! I meditate on it day and night.

A few weeks ago Carynne's preschool teacher sent home a bar of Dove soap. My assignment was to shave this bar of soap into tiny pieces that Carynne would later mold back together into a snow man. Certain I was up to the challenge, I grabbed my efficient Pampered Chef grater out of the cabinet and set to work.

Around what must have been flake number 564,127 my hand began to ache. With just a few more turns of the crank my ache flared into a throb. Inwardly I laughed as I wondered to myself how my life had been reduced from pricing million dollar insurance policies to producing millions of little soap "snowflakes" that resulted in a hand ache so fierce I had to ponder if one of those fancy machines at the gym could be utilized to increase the muscularity of one's hand.

Today I am reading 2 John. 2 John is one of those unique books of the Bible that is a single chapter containing just thirteen verses. The themes of this letter are similar to those in 1 John so in some ways this letter is the "Cliff Notes" version of 1 John. He zeroes in on the importance of demonstrating love and remaining faithful to Jesus' teaching.

Following the precise instruction of Christ is so important to John that he says to "abide in the teaching of Christ" (Verse 9). To abide means to continue, remain or even to dwell. This implies both a frequency and duration of use. Part of the reason my hand cramped up when I was using my fancy grater is that it stays tucked away in my kitchen cabinet probably 364 days a year. As handy as it was to use for that project, its' lack of use leading up to that point produced pain in my life.

When I treat God's word with the casualness of use when convenient, my life can cramp up as well. And it takes far less than 364 days for me to feel the impact of lack of use. Often it takes only a single day of leaving my Bible tucked on the shelf before my words and attitudes look more like dirty snow than the newly fallen version.

Jesus, sometimes I forget just how very much I need you. Today I don't want to leave you forgotten on the floor beside my bed. I want to pick up Your word and let it dwell in my heart. That truth can melt away the dirtiest of my snow and replace it with the purity of Your freshly-fallen truth.

You Were There All Along

John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe so that you may know that you have eternal life.

The sensation of her touch was as gentle as the kiss of a breeze. Her voice matched her stroke and in a scarcely audible voice she whispered, "Mommy, I need you." In the midst of deepest sleep, I felt the brush of her hand and heard her delicate plea. I knew she was there. I fluttered my eyes only briefly to confirm that my sweet Carynne was beside me. In one sweeping motion I scooped her onto to my chest and invited her to join me in the delight of deep rest.

Today I am studying 1 John 5. In this final chapter, John reassures his readers that their salvation is real. He wants them to know with certainty that eternal life awaits them with their final breath. Those who believe in the Christ are saved.

Do you ever wonder if you're really saved? There was a time in my life when I battled this kind of doubt almost daily. I wanted to hear God. To know that I was His. I have since realized that His voice is no louder than a breath; His touch nearly imperceptible. How the can I know He is standing at my side?

When I first had kids, "mommy radar" did not come naturally to me. Both practice and familiarity were required for me to distinguish my instinct from my worry. After nearly 36 years of combined parenting, however, I have come to perceive the lightest brush of their hand across my skin. I now have great confidence in my intuition and that assurance empowers my parenting.

Far greater than the joy of emboldened parenting, is the peace of security in my relationship with Jesus. In this passage, John gives us two ways we can increase our level of confidence in our salvation.
  • Love for fellow believers (Verse 1) - If I earnestly love God, I will love His people. The two can not be separated. Throughout this letter, John has urged believers to demonstrate the sincerity of their love for God by loving others. Love is asking how someone is and actually caring about the answer. Love is taking the time to ask questions that extend beyond the surface. Love is sharing your talents and gifts with the church. Love is making time to gather with other believers both at church and away from church. Love is action (1 John 3:18) and those actions lead me closer to the heart of Christ.
  • Obedience (Verse 3) - Just as my children demonstrate their love for me by listening to what I advise and doing it, so do I show my love for God. I take to heart what He asks of me and then not perfectly but increasingly learn to do as God asks. As I learn to obey God, my relationship with Him is enriched thereby granting greater certainty of that relationship.

Jesus, I want to know that You are with me. I want to perceive You standing at my side so You can scoop me into Your arms and invite me into that place of quiet rest. Both practice (obedience) and familiarity (loving You by loving others) are required. As I grow in both love and obedience, I realize it's You that's been there all along caressing my soul and whispering tender words of Your great love for me.

An Imprint of Love

1 John 4:16b God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Before I had kids I was terrified at the prospect because I couldn't even manage to keep a plant alive. After I had children I was terrified because I realized early on that they mimic everything they see me do. This is especially true in my case since I have four girls - hence four little proteges.

Never is this more apparent to me than when I hear them play with their babies. Echoes of my voice resound in my ear - sometimes pleasant, other times harsh. This morning, however, I overheard Carynne as she comforted her baby, "Sweetie, I need you to be quiet now. Mommy is spending time with Jesus."

Today's passage is 1 John 4. Here we learn that it is through demonstrating our love for others that our love for God is confirmed. When I see the reflection of my life in the mirror my children hold, I am not always pleased. My words boomerang back to me laced with sarcasm or riddled with impatience. The words I heard Carynne speak today tell me that my love for Jesus is apparent to my kids because my tone when I speak of Him is saturated with love. There is no better way I could love my children than to teach them to love Jesus.

I strive for every word I speak to be kind, beneficial and true (Ephesians 4:29). Clearly, not every word meets that standard in speech or in tone. Despite that, I have managed to imprint on my girls a pattern of speech that communicates a sincere love for Jesus.

Jesus, some days I get so busy doing things for my kids that I forget that the most loving thing I can do for my children is spend time with You. Today I will let my love for You overflow and spill onto them all. May that passionate love for You cover over anything they learn from along the way that I really wish they hadn't. In the end, I only want to leave an imprint of love.

No Greater Love

1 John 3:1a See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.

It was a night I won't soon forget. As the warm ocean breeze tossed my hair, the salty scent of the ocean mixed with the savory fragrance of the beachfront restaurant to create an intoxicating atmosphere of contentment and anticipation. I was beginning to wonder if this man God had brought into my life might be His intended partner for me.

My thoughts were interrupted by the music of my loved one's voice. He murmured, "I have something I need to tell you." "I have fallen in love with your daughters but I don't want them to feel obligated to return the sentiment so I can't tell them until they tell me first." In a solitary instant my heart stopped and started. I knew in that precise moment the answer to my musings. Scott Milholland was indeed the love of my life.

This morning I am reading 1 John 3. This chapter scrutinizes what characterizes authentic Christian love. It far surpasses expectations (Verse 1) and proves its' sincerity with actions (Verses 16-18). Scott has substantiated his love for me and his daughters as genuine.
  • He Adopted Hannah and Hayleigh in Love (Verse 1) - While there is no official legal document certifying him as their daddy, Scott has chosen to love Hannah and Hayleigh without an ounce of restraint. In fact, anyone meeting our family for the first time just assumes that all four girls were born to Scott because of the tender yet impartial way he renders his love to our children. We know that God loves us because we are called children of God.
  • He Lays Down His Life for Them (Verse 16) - Almost no shadow remains of whom Scott was prior to giving his heart away to my girls. He has exchanged bravado for gentleness, golf for family time and his television programs for theirs. He willingly gave his life in order to maximize his life with us. We know that God loves us because He laid down his life for us.
  • He Meets Their Needs (Verse 17) - I have watched my dear husband eat peanuts and pretzels for lunch every day to pay for dreams of dance of cheer. I have witnessed Scott give up watching sports on the weekends to "date" his daughters. I have observed him wear clothes, both worn and tattered to buy a dress for a school dance. We know that God loves us because He always meets our needs.

No my husband isn't God but he is certainly a remarkable picture of the transforming power evident in a life surrendered to Jesus. I understand more clearly how vast God's love for me must be by seeing my husband's love in action.

Jesus, thank you for giving me and my oldest two daughters such an amazing man. Today help me love in the measure You've taught Scott to love. I want to love strangers like they are family. I want to love neighbors sacrificially. I want to love my community practically. I want to love like You, Jesus.

Turn the Light On!

1 John 1:10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.

My master bedroom is your basic square. One wall is dominated by our king-size bed with an intricately hand-carved mahogany chest anchoring the foot of the bed. The adjoining wall is home to our dresser. As you move to the wall opposite from the bed, our exterior windows meet at the back corner of our house. From that corner juts our exercise bike positioned with a vantage point of both the door and the television opposite our bed.

A few nights ago, my husband preceded me in sleep. This is a rare occurrence in our household and I am less than an expert at navigating our bedroom in the dark. The night was moonless and overcast, so our room was utter darkness. As I stumbled around our room, I knocked my right shin into our exercise bike and my left knee into the trunk. The following morning I was greeted by two lovely bruises to remind me of my midnight escapade.

This morning my reading is the 2nd chapter of 1 John. John is calling Christians to a remembrance of the teaching which laid the foundation of the early church. Several topics are addressed here but today I am drawn to Verse 9. "Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness." My heart is pierced by this truth.
  • Choice - The other night I chose not to turn on a light because I didn't want to disturb my hard-working sweetheart. I could have easily used my cell phone or side lighting to avoid the impending disaster. When I hold resentment in my heart, I fumble in the dark by choice. Jesus is the ultimate flashlight source of light. He is light and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). I must decide to access the Light.
  • Contusion - Just as my legs showed the obvious signs of my blundering around in the dark, so too will my life display the scars of carrying bitterness. When I hold onto anger, I wrongly assume I am somehow punishing the other person. As my former pastor, Jack Graham has observed, "Bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." It is my soul that is distorted by the darkness of hatred.

Jesus, today I ask you to search my heart. If there is any person toward whom I am harboring an offense, I pray that I would allow Your light to infiltrate my darkness. Today I'm going to turn on the Light!

You Can Call on Me Sister When You Need a Hand

John 20:29b Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

My parents live next door to a woman who has five children with a sixth soon to be delivered. Last Saturday her thirty-eight year old husband died of a massive stroke. A week ago she was waking up to life as she knew it. Shuttling kids here and there, wiping noses, cleaning up messes and praying her husband returns from work on time. Today no husband will return home. She has been thrust into a new normal - one she likely never imagined or perhaps never believed she could survive.

Today I read 1 John 1. This reading was different, however, because it came out of the fresh, new Bible I received from Scott for Christmas. I should be excited but my enthusiasm is dampened with dread. Every sermon note and inspiration I have collected for the last twenty years is written on the pages of that crumbling book. Everything I've experienced with Christ is now tucked away on a shelf.

When John drafted this first letter, Jesus had not walked on the earth for as many as sixty years. Every other apostle had been "shelved" to heaven taking his eyewitness account of the resurrected Christ with him. John alone could certify the voracity of the gospel accounts.

John, my Mom's neighbor and I all share this in common today - it is just us and Jesus. As I look over the precipice of a fresh Bible, I identify with how every new believer must feel. It is as every bit as intimidating for them to look at the blank pages of their new faith as it for Mom's friend to look into a life of raising six children without a husband.

John opens his epistle with the words, "that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands..." (Verse 1) John was the last apostle to be able to proclaim these words. For the rest of us, it's just us and Jesus. Only we haven't actually seen Him with our eyes or touched Him with our hands. In every church there are dozens of people who've never dented the spine of their Bible. They might be intimated. They might not know where to start or what to read. They could just need a friend to wrap their hand over theirs and open the book of Emmanuel - God with us - with them.

Jesus, today I cannot comfort my mom's neighbor but I can pray. No doubt within a few hundred feet of where I sit this very moment are people to want to read Your story but just don't know how to begin. Today as I commence on this fresh journey with You in my new Bible, may I reach out my hand and help even one person to finally dent the spine of Your life-giving book.

If George Lucas Only Knew...

2 Peter 3:8b With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

I had only left Clara (then 2) and Carynne (then 1) unattended for a maximum of fifteen minutes. During the time it took me to trade out the laundry, the two of them had somehow discovered the long-missing ingredient to bending the space time continuum. How else could they have wreaked such havoc in such a short period of time?

When I emerged from the laundry room, I found the two of them "finger painting" our carpet, the stone surround of our fireplace and particularly each other with bottles of blue and green food dye. This was no marginal job either. Their tiny fingers must have worked at lightning speed to cover so much ground so quickly.

Today I completed the book of 2 Peter by reading the third and final chapter. Peter is encouraging his readers to be patient as they wait for Jesus to return once again to earth. It has been nearly two thousand years since Peter penned those words. Jesus has not yet returned. Truly a thousand years is like a day to God (Verse 8). Do you ever wonder what it is that God is waiting for? Do you ever question why His time passes so slowly when you yearn for Him to act now?

I have observed that the longer I wait on hold to speak to a customer service representative, the less likely I am to actually distinguish their voice from the "elevator music" and advertising. I have actually waited on the phone as long as forty-five minutes and had the representative hang up before I could "come to" and acknowledge their greeting. My relationship with God is like that. When I get tired of waiting on Him, I begin to tune out His voice and when He finally does speak or act, I tend to miss it.

Peter gives me two insights of what I can do when God places me on "hold" to ensure that I hear His voice when He finally speaks.
  1. Grow in Grace (Verse 18) - I don't exactly have to look for opportunities to grow in grace. There has either been an overpopulation of bone heads in every city in which I've resided or we're all boneheads. Since I am a certified bonehead, I'm fairly certain it's the latter. Occasions to grow in grace, present themselves in my life every day. The question is am I growing in these moments or tuning them out as if they are little more than elevator music?
  2. Grow in Knowledge (Verse 18) - The more I learn about God, the more readily I hear His voice when He speaks. Today there is more ways to learn about and connect with God's Word than ever before. Am I passionately pursuing God or simply muddling through life and treating God's Word as if it is wait time advertising?
Eventually, the physical evidence of Clara and Carynne's handiwork dwindled. A combination of soap and time erased their imprint on our home and each other. God, however, doesn't tarry so that His imprint will fade. Instead, as He lingers, it is His heart that His impression on my life would enlarge rather than abate.

Jesus, I may never fully understand why You wait but now I know what I can do while I wait. When I find myself on hold today, may I bend Your space-time continuum and multiply the time and opportunities You give me to grow in grace and knowledge.

Why Struggle When I Can Stand?

Psalm 20:7-8 Some trust in chariots but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.

We were on family vacation 1970s style. With our legs suctioned-cupped by sweat to the "luxurious" vinyl seats of our 1960s VW van, we kids couldn't wait to make it to our nighttime destination. We had scarcely rolled to a stop at the roadside motel before all four of us tore from the vehicle to a chorus of whoops. We then changed into our bathing suits at a speed that would evoke admiration from Clark Kent.

Before our parents had unloaded the first suitcase, we raced to the motel pool. It was typical of the time period: a concrete rectangle roughly divided one-third/two-thirds into a "shallow" end and a "deep" end. My three older siblings plunged immediately into the water but I stood tenuously at the water's edge suddenly wondering if I wasn't wiser to stand on the other side of the chain link fence until my mom brought my "swimmies" to the pool.

I couldn't yet swim and my older sisters always eager to help decided I needed a crash course in the fine art of swimming. They threw me right into the deep end and cackled as I thrashed and wailed for help. I wasn't drowning but I wasn't exactly certain how long I could flop around like a fish out of water and survive. In the end, my brother had mercy on me. With one arm wrapped tightly around my waist, he swam me to the safety of the pool's edge. He had rescued me.

Today's reading is 2 Peter 2. Peter is warning his readers that many teachers will come full of greed and looking to exploit the followers of Christ (Verse 3). In every generation there have been pretenders who have used the name of Jesus for their own gain or to feed their selfish ambition rather than to truly worship Christ. Truly there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Peter is not discouraged nor dissuaded by those who seek to destroy the faith. He is confident that God is able to contend with all manner of misguided, self-seeking individuals (Verses 4-8). The same God is certainly able to rescue me (Verse 9).

At times I thrash about in my life wondering how long I can stay afloat through my own strength and determination. All the while, God remains nearby wondering if I'll call out for His rescue. But not every trial I encounter takes me straight to the deep end. Some do but many are just the every day frustrations of living. Others I bring on myself through shallow and selfish thinking. In the shallow end, I simply need to refocus on my faith, find my footing and stand up.

Jesus, thank you for swimming with me through the trials of life. I don't need to wait on you to bring me some swimmies because I'm never alone in the pools of life. Today if I begin to thrash about help me remember You are near and simply stand up out of my shallowness and into the depth of Your love. You are my rescue.

A View From the Top

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him (Jesus) because he cares for you.

"Caaarrrrrry mmeeee, ppuuuleeeasssee," whined Hannah and Hayleigh. We had been at Disney World all day and although they had been super troupers, their tank of energy had fizzled to more of a drizzle. Scott and I capitulated to their pleas and up on our shoulders they went. As they settled into their new perches, they realized they now had an entirely different perspective of the park. Their energy was renewed as they surveyed rides, people and stores from a vantage point as if each sight was brand new.

This morning I am reading 2 Peter 1. In this chapter, Peter presents a list of qualities that lead to a productive Christian life: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness and love. He then uses both the evidence of his eye-witness testimony and that of the Old Testament prophets to encourage his readers to strengthen their faith in Christ. As this passage closes, he describes the prophets with these words, "they were carried along by the Holy Spirit". (Verse 21)

The prophets in the Old Testament were ridiculed, ostracized and criticized. Yet in each of these moments they were carried by the Holy Spirit. This reminded me of the old poem about a Christian's life being represented by footprints on the sand. Many times there are two sets of footprints but in life's most daunting moments only one appear, because through those seasons Jesus carried His beloved.

Falling into the arms of Christ is a far better option than the many other places I might otherwise fall when life gets tricky. Sitting squarely upon the shoulders of Christ, He is able to change my vantage point in three distinct areas of my being:
  1. Abundant Grace and Peace or Emotional Well-Being (Verse 2) - The more intimately we come to know Jesus, the more He pours out His grace and peace into our hearts. Resting on Jesus, I see my circumstances from His perspective and my anxiety and stress is exchanged for His grace and peace.
  2. Provision or Physical Well-Being (Verse 3) - Jesus gives us "everything we need for life". He takes care of each need-even things we may not fully recognize that we desire. When I put the full weight of my want on His shoulders, I see the insignificance of my demands in light of His vast ability to meet my needs.
  3. His Promises or Spiritual Well-Being (Verses 3-4) - Jesus also gives us "everything we need for godliness". He does that through the fulfillment of His "great and precious promises" - promises of forgiveness, redemption and hope both now and for eternity. Seated on the shoulders of my Savior, I have an unobstructed view of His great mercy that frees me from the weight of my spiritual depravity.

Jesus, thank you for carrying me through the power of the Holy Spirit. When I am nestled securely in your arms, I see my life from Your perfect perspective. When I choose to walk not on my own but in your tender care, You renew every part of me - emotional, physical and spiritual. I find I am no longer weary from my long journey through this amusement part called life. Instead, I see life as You intended...and the view is spectacular.

Misery...Needs Company

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one...If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

As each of my four girls transitioned from crawler to walker, I noticed a pattern emerge. Each one of them was perfectly content to toddle along holding my hand or finger but if I tried to pull my hand away, a look of sheer terror would pass my child's face. The idea of contentedly strolling along with mom in tow was delightful; the thought of stumbling out on their own was horrifying.

Today I am reading the final chapter in Peter's first epistle. Peter gives some advice to the leadership of the church and then turns his attention to Christians in general. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." (Verses 8-9)

Just weeks before my husband, Scott, was diagnosed with cancer, he woke up one morning in a cold sweat. Scott either doesn't dream or at least doesn't remember having them as a general rule but this morning he had awoken from a dream so vivid, it was difficult to distinguish it from real life. He had visioned Satan prowling around our home going from room to room seeking someone to devour. We will never know if this was a warning from God of the trial to come but the result was certain - Scott's spiritual radar stood at attention.

Over the next few weeks we both prepared for a spiritual battle not knowing what form that battle would take. When Scott was diagnosed with cancer we were able to stand side by side as an impenetrable force. We stood firm in our faith in part because we had each other to lean on.

While I am so thankful that each of my children eventually ventured out and took those first hesitant steps on their own, there is a lesson in their holding on. Perhaps they initially held on out of fear but today they hold my hand electively because they know it is just easier to walk through life when you're holding someone's hand. We walk together through life like an extended version of the childhood game, "Red Rover". As we do, Satan finds it much more difficult to break God's saints because we grip each other.

Jesus, thank you for sweet saints You give me to walk through life with. Today I will look for one person who has no one with whom to hold hands. I will just slip my hand in hers with a smile, a kind word or an encouraging hug. Then I will just stand hand in hand with her so that when her trial comes she may bend but she will not break. Two are better than one.

Jesus: The Calm in my Storm

Psalm 5:2 Here my cry for help, my king and my God, for to you I pray.

In the summer of 1993, I travelled to Honduras to participate in a medical missions team. The villages we would visit were remotely located deep in the mountains surrounding the capital city of Tegucigalpa. As our bus lumbered up the rain-drenched road, it suddenly lurched and slid right to the edge of the mountain-side road we were travelling.

The bus was full of mature adults who were in such a panic, I feared their erratic actions would push us right over the edge of our already tenuous situation. A calm overtook me as I resolved myself to the task at hand. I set aside thoughts of my inferior youth, and began to organize a fashion to get everyone off the bus. A clear mind and self-control were required to ensure our safety.

Today's passage is 1 Peter 4. This chapter contains general instructions on a variety of topics from how to deal with suffering to the be way to use our gifts to serve others. These may seem like unrelated topics but are bridged by a verse that reveals the key to both enduring difficulties and being all God asks of us: prayer. "Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray." (Verse 7)

Have you ever felt so exhausted with emotion, so overcome by your situation, you felt like you couldn't even pray? I know I have. In life's most trying moments, it seems much simpler to give up than press forward. In those instances, I have to set aside my panic and distress and allow a clear mind and self-controlled will to allow God to navigate my life to safety. I need to stop and pray.

Jesus, you are with me through every minute of life. Today in the midst of whatever circumstance I find myself - calm or stormy waters - I will be clear minded and self-controlled so I can pray.

Beyond the Affordable

Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God.

This Christmas my family received a most surprising gift. On December 13th someone began celebrating the "12 Days of Christmas" by dropping a gift representative of each of the twelve items in the song on our doorstep. Each gift was unique and creative. In this case though, the best present truly was saved for last. The best gift wasn't a what; it was a whom.

When I heard the knock at my door on December 24th the bearer of these incredible gifts stood shyly holding the final item. When I realized who had been the purveyor of these nightly visits, I was touched in a place deep in my heart. The family who lovingly selected each item could be described at best of modest means. In fact, I would be surprised if they were able to scrape together money to buy their own children Christmas presents. They gave far beyond what they could afford to give. The wrapping of each gift had been sacrificial love.

Today I am reading the 3rd chapter of 1 Peter. Peter is an apostle characterized as impetuous and strong-willed. Based on this writing, I would add challenging to his description. Nearly every word penned in this chapter awakens my heart afresh to the need for me to entirely depend on Jesus each day. Among the gauntlets Peter throws down are these words: "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing." (Verse 9)

The idea of allowing God to repay our wrongs is frequented in both the Old and New Testament. Peter's admonition goes far beyond this. Here's what he doesn't say:
  • When someone wrongs you, you should able to muster enough self-control to not say something mean to them in return
  • When someone insults you, it's okay to throw darts at the secret dartboard featuring their face you keep tucked in your heart. Just don't throw any punches.
  • When someone hurts you, you should keep your distance from here on out to make certain it never happens again.

To me any of the above would be not only a mature response but an admirable one. Peter's assertion is that when someone tramples on me, I should bless them in return. He is asking me to give far beyond what I think I can afford to give. He is asking me to wrap my heart in sacrificial love. The verse just prior instructs me in how to do this (Verse 8):

  • Be sympathetic - When I identify with the pain of another person, it becomes difficult to not respond in love.
  • Love as brothers - When I elevate an enemy to the position of sibling, it becomes impossible not to shower him with love.
  • Be compassionate - When I allow my heart to linger on the hurts of someone else, it becomes problematic not to offer mercy.
  • Be humble - When I cast my pride and rights at the feet of my opposition, it becomes unimaginable not to take on the heart of a servant.

Jesus, a precious family chose to give to my family. They gave a gift far beyond what they could afford. You are asking me to do the same. Because of Your unfathomable love for me, it is possible for me to bless those who injure me. From the deep reservoir of You within me, love, sympathy, love, compassion and humility can allow me to give blessings I never otherwise would believe I could afford to give.

Stop: In the Name of Love!

Psalm 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.

I spent several hours last night in the emergency room with my dear husband who was having chest pains. A run followed by an intense workout led to low potassium which resulted in his heart seizing. His heart was issuing a warning signal that shouted, "Help. Stop. Slow Down."

Today's passage is 1 Peter 2. This chapter describes God's people as chosen, dear and belonging (Verses 9, 11). Our very lives are living stones in which God builds His chosen dwelling (Verse 5). Our hearts are home to the creator of the universe who holds the oceans in the palm of His hand and measures the nations as if they were mere dust (Isaiah 40:12-31). In Him there is incredible strength and power. Even the power to keep my mouth shut.

Later in this passage, Peter gives instruction as to how one should deal with the inevitable difficulties of life. He uses Christ as our example. For "when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." (Verse 23) There is a line in the movie, "You've Got Mail" that is so funny yet true. The main character, Kathleen Kelly, asks her online friend, "What should I say to the bottom-dweller who recently undermined my existence?" When someone insults myself or someone I love, my first reaction is to ask the very same question.

The anger and indignation I feel are warning signals similar to those Scott's heart gave him. I want to react to those warning signals by unleashing the full force of my fury. God wants me to speak not a word but entrust myself to His capable hands. When I feel those warning signs approach, I need to stop and let Him have control. This is possible because His vast love lives in me.

Thank you, Jesus, for warning signs. They signal the undetected condition of my heart. When I yield to them You are able to perform a heart transplant that seals my mouth with the power living in me. Today if someone causes me harm I choose to stop in the name of Love - Jesus.

Movin' On Up

1 Peter 1:15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.

Hayleigh (then 4), Hannah (then 7) and I had struck out for a day of shopping at the mall. After completing all the necessary stops on the first floor, it was time to move on to the second floor. As we approached the escalator, I looked down at Hayleigh and said, "Now hold Mommy's hand when we get on, okay?". With resolute eyes glazed over with determination she stalwartly shot back, "I can do it myself." I possessed a measure less confident in her escalator navigating abilities but nonetheless concluded to allow her to try.

Hannah and I entered the escalator first expecting Hayleigh to follow right in step. Instead she panicked and stood frozen at the bottom as Hannah and I diminished in size as we moved further away. As Hannah and I rode the sister escalator back down to retrieve her the thought struck me that she had been left behind not by incapability or even a lack of confidence but by a refusal to accept the help she needed.

This morning I am reading 1 Peter 1. Peter's first letter contains a verse that overwhelms me each time I read it. "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do." (Verse 15) This verse is a high calling for only God Himself is truly holy. To me that calling seems as distant from who I am as the top platform is from the bottom of the escalator. The idea of becoming more like Jesus seems possible but when I actually strike out to do it I find myself frozen and incapable of moving closer to Him.

Perhaps this is because I think I can do it myself. I stand at the bottom of the escalator full of determination but not knowing how to take that first step of faith off the platform. What I really need is the person on the step just above me to reach back, take my hand and guide me to where they've just been. I, in turn, then can turn around a find someone waiting to step onto the escalator. To me, this is what Christ meant when he said, "Therefore go and make disciples" (Matthew 28:19).

The person standing at the bottom thinks they can do it alone when in reality they simply need to take the hand of the person one step ahead. I am not perfect. And certainly no one would label me holy. Today instead of staying frozen where I am, I can reach out and take the hand of that person whose love for Jesus is a step ahead of mine and allow them to teach me how they got to that step. Perhaps you like Hayleigh are stuck at the bottom watching friends and family fade into the distance. You want to know God but just don't know how. Today I'm reaching my hand out to you. Take that first step onto God's escalator by confessing to Him how you have totally messed up your life without Him, how desperately you need His forgiveness and how with child-like faith you believe that Jesus died to right what you have wronged.

Jesus, thank you for never being content to leave me like I am. Today I acknowledge that I still need to change and become more like You. Thank you for friends who You have sent to help me take that next step of faith to become less like me and more like You. It is with joy that I reach out and take their hand.