Tag Archive | Jesus

Love Your Neighbor

love God love peopleA woman fell outside my house today. I was just arriving back from my morning bike ride, sweaty and dripping, when I saw a huddled group of 3 ladies on the sidewalk. One was sitting on the ground next to a motorized scooter while one of her friends fanned her.

I stopped and asked if they were OK and did they need help. They explained that the woman on the ground, Carolyn I think her name was, has MS and didn’t have use of her legs. They weren’t strong enough to lift her up. Thinking they would need at least 2 men to get her up, they had called 9-1-1.

Unfazed, I told them I had an 18-year-old son in the house and I would get him and I was willing to bet that, together, we could get her back onto that scooter. There was roadwork right outside our neighborhood that was holding up traffic in both directions. The first responders would be awhile.

So, I rode around my yard into my garage, ran into the house and woke my son and told him a lady had fallen and we needed his help getting her up.

Without hesitation, he jumped out of bed, threw on a shirt and ran with me out the door.

Together, and with the help of another friend who was driving by, we got Carolyn back onto her scooter, a little traumatized, but none the worse for wear.

The ladies were effusive with their thanks, grateful that there were still “good people in the world.” Watch-Tower-jehovah-witnesses-31065655-549-720

Here’s the thing: When I had moved aside a bag to get a better angle to help, I had seen copies of The Watchtower pamphlet. I knew these women were Jehovah’s Witnesses, coming through my neighborhood to spread a false gospel. So, though kind and well meaning, these women, some would say, are my enemy. Their false gospel leads many people away from the truth about Jesus. In all I do, I try to connect people with God through a relationship with Jesus.

We are at odds.

And yet, I didn’t even consider not helping. They were in need and I and my son had the means to help them. And so we did.

When we knew they were OK and Carolyn was situated again, we were getting ready to leave, the sound of an approaching siren in our ears, when one of the women offered us a pamphlet to read. I kindly declined and we walked back into our house.

What I didn’t say was that we do what we do because we love Jesus, not because we’re good people. It didn’t feel right in that circumstance to talk about faith. I just pray that our actions spoke for themselves.

In that moment, differences didn’t matter. Theology didn’t matter. What mattered was that we operated out of love.

gong“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, ESV).

 

images from: steadfastlutherans.org; fanpop.com; gambarbercata.com

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Guest Post: Demons

Sometimes my 18-year-old son, Nathan, surprises me. He balks at traditional education and procrastinates writing for his classes. Then he shows me poetic masterpieces that absolutely blow my mind. The first one that captured me was composed several years ago for a class project. It was about Yellowstone National Park. It’s still one of the best things I’ve read. I’m keeping it forever. Maybe someday I’ll share it here.

He handed me the following yesterday and gave me permission to share it with you. Enjoy.

shadowy figure

Midnight comes and midnight goes

He tries to go to sleep but his eyes won’t close

His mind is in turmoil as he tosses and he turns,

He longs for some release but the nightmare returns

No peace can he find in the comfort of his bed

For no comfort can drown out the war zone in his head

He tries to cry out but his mouth won’t open

Desperately he searches for something to put his hope in

He’s drowning in the tears that are streaming from his open eyes

Screaming as his demons escape and start to terrorize

He knows that alone he is too weak to defeat this

Too weak to beat the demons with nothing but his clenched fists

So with pulsating veins and eyes turned upwards

He tries to find the strength to formulate enough words

To call upon the only one who is strong enough to save him

The one whose power is enough to cause the mountains of fear to cave in

And in the suffocating darkness he gasps and he wheezes

His dry throat only able to choke out one word: Jesus!

Now it’s the demons who scream and run away to hide

And he’s filled with such warmth and peace inside

Cause the one who conquered death is there to guard his rest

And the weight of all his fear is no longer on his chest

Now midnight comes and midnight goes

But his mind is finally at peace… and his tired eyes close.

Version 2

Nathan Reeves is a senior at Colonial High School in Orlando, Fla., where he is a student in the Cambridge Program. In the fall he will be attending the University of Central Florida, Burnett Honors College. 

Drink Like A Deer

img_1701-1In my front yard I have a grapevine doe. She used to be a Christmas decoration, but eventually the light bulbs burned out. So I moved her over to my koi pond, which sits right in front of my dining-room window. And now I can watch her all year long.

Every once in awhile I see a lizard skittering inside her belly.

What struck me today, though, was that she’s ever so close to drinking that water, but never quite getting there. If she could just stretch a little further; if the water would just come a little closer, she could be fulfilled.

It reminded me of the verse, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1b).

Do I long for God? Do I literally feel as if I will die if I’m not with Him?

This winter has been rough—I know, I know, how can a Version 2Florida winter be rough?—but though the sun has been shining and the weather has been warm, the storms of life have almost undone me.

From emotional crises to a nagging health issue to an accident that’s causing me to take on a role that doesn’t come naturally to me, the blizzards hit one after another, just as if I’m New England in this winter of ’17.

Oh, how I long for the flowing streams of God’s grace. I don’t want to sip, I want to plunge in, head over heels, and feel Him surround me and take me under so that I’m no longer breathing air, I’m breathing Jesus. Every breath I take.

Sometimes the life-giving water seems far away. I just can’t reach that far. There is too
much fear, like lizards crawling around in my belly. Do I trust Him, even though He’s choosing to keep me in this season?
img_9130Do I believe He’s a good Father who is doing the best for me? Working all things together for good. Because I do love Him. I am called according to His purpose.

As the hymn writer Horatio Spafford said, “When peace like a river attendeth my way . . .”

So many water images in the Bible, Jesus Himself being the epitome of that. Living Water.

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Ps. 34:8.

The water is fine, I tell that doe. And myself. Dive right in.

I Met A Traveler From An Antique Land

ozymandiasMy class of 6th graders is in the throes of memorizing the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem “Ozymandias.” Amidst complaints about the length, I am trying to help them see the valuable lesson this classic poem teaches: Build yourself up and you will eventually fall.

“I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—’Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’”

 

This poem was said to be about Pharaoh Rameses II of Egypt, also known as Rameses the Great. He ruled Egypt for 66 years and lived to an unprecedented 90 or 91 years of age. The average age for someone who actually survived childhood was only the mid-50s. So he had reason to think he was all that. He led great military campaigns, he built cities and monuments. But in the end, his mummy lies in  a museum in Cairo. Immortality was not his to be found.sandcastles-and-mudpies

You  might recall a story with a similar lesson that Jesus told. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).

And this: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36).

We spend a lot of time trying to make a name for ourselves. Amass more riches, build a bigger building, create the next latest and greatest. In the end, none of that will remain.

So where should we invest our time and talents? People. Only people will remain forever. Love them well, teach them truth, show them kindness.

In other words, be like Jesus.

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says this about serving those in need and being kind to others: “‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Go and do likewise.

sandcastle photo by sandcastles and mudpies

What Will Wednesday Bring?

 

Unless you live in a deep, dark hole (and which of us doesn’t from time to time?), you know tamerican-flaghat today is Election Day in the United States. Usually, elections are a time of excitement and anticipation, of change and newness. This year, though, it seems that it’s a time of fear and anger and dread. So we hope and we pray.

And we vote.

For the first time ever, I participated in early voting this year. I wanted to avoid the long lines I hoped would be evident come Election Day. I’ve heard reports of both. My husband went early this morning and there was no line. Another friend in another state had to wait an hour.

Looming questions hang over us like Damocles’ sword. Will the election be fair? Will riots break out if one candidate — or the other — loses? What will life look like on Wednesday morning?

I don’t have the answer to most of these questions, but I do know one thing: God is still on His throne. And America, believe it or not, is not the center of the universe.

So Wednesday morning, I will wake up like I always do, to a praise song playing from myVersion 2

Before I leave my house I will take care of my dog and my birds and my cats and my fish. I will eat what I chose for breakfast. I will leave my mother-in-law to prepare for her day of homeschooling my nephew. I will keep my doors and windows open to the cool Florida November weather.

And I will go teach school.

I will say the Pledge of Allegiance in Latin with my students. I will grade papers. I will lead them in a devotion about the life of Joseph in Egypt. I will pray with them.

And we will probably pray for our nation.

Because Wednesday morning will be like any other morning in America, come what may, and God is still on His throne.

It’s our job to make Biblesure that while some things stay the same, the things that really matter will change. I will be kinder, more generous, more loving. I will listen more and speak less. I will be a catalyst for change in a world that will still be lost and broken after today. No election is going to change that.
Only Jesus.

And I will let my little light shine.

 

America, America, God shed His grace on thee.

When Terror Came To My Town

I live in Orlando and have for the past nearly 25 years. I can distinctly remember where I was when the attack on September 11, 2001 occurred in New York. I was shocked and appalled because this was the first terrorist attack on American soil and I watched it play out. I remember reading about the bombing at the Boston Marathon, but I live far from there. I used to live in San Bernardino, so I paidP1030009 a little closer attention to that attack.

Sunday was a whole different story.

I don’t frequent the downtown area. I live about a half hour away. I had heard of The Pulse nightclub, but had never seen it before. I don’t know anyone who was killed or injured in Sunday’s massacre. But I have friends who were directly affected. And every time I open any social media app, I’m bombarded with images or words. This time, terror came to MY town.

But something hit me last night as I watched “How to Train Your Dragon 2” with my husband and daughter. If you haven’t seen the movie, the following is a spoiler, so you may want to skip a few paragraphs. In the story, Toothless, a Night Fury dragon, is held captive to a “spell” by the alpha dragon of an evil tyrant bent on destroying pretty much everyone. Toothless’ best friend, Hiccup, tries to reach him, but the hold is strong. While under this “spell,” Toothless attacks and kills Hiccup’s father, Stoic.

Understandably, the attack devastates Hiccup and he lashes out at Toothless, angry and grieved. But Hiccup’s mother tells him that she knows Toothless didn’t mean to. He was just under the control of the alpha and couldn’t do anything about it. The draw was too strong.

In the end, with love, gentleness and patience, Hiccup reminds Toothless of their love for each other: “I’m right here, Buddy. You’re my best friend.” Toothless is released from his spell and is able to help vanquish the evil one.

What does this have to do with a terrorist attack? Or a lunatic killing an innocent singer, or anyone who hates and kills and destroys?

Because, believe it or not, those who do such things are not our enemies. Omar Mateen is not our enemy. Radical Islamists are not our enemy.

Satan is our enemy. Satan has taken control of some. And Satan is in our city.

Have you heard hatred and blame spewed on blogs and Twitter in the past 4 days? That’s not Jesus speaking. That’s Satan.

In the Bible, Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples writes, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8).

Omar Mateen was devoured by Satan. Like Toothless, he had no choice but to do what he did because he had allowed hate to fill his heart. Those who have hate filling their hearts can do nothing but evil. Make no mistake, I believe Mateen is responsible for his choices, and he has lost all hope of redemption because he is dead.

But for all who still have breath in their bodies, there is hope. Hope that good will overcome evil, but only if they put off all evil in their hearts. Do not, I beg you, give Satan a foothold by listening to his lies and perpetuating them.

Do Christians hate gays? No. But Satan does. Satan hates everyone.

The thief (Satan) comes to steal, kill and destroy. Sound familiar? But Jesus came that we might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Choose life. Tell Satan he can’t have your city. How do you do that? By living like Jesus. Serving, loving, valuing life.

Oh, and I’ve read the last chapter of the Book.

Satan loses. Jesus wins.

Five Near-Birthday Observations

Birthday-Cake-With-Candles-10I’m 2 days away from my 53rd birthday. And I’m OK with that.

I’m sitting on my back porch this late December morning, in 70+ degree weather, remembering the gathering of 50 friends I had around me for my 50th. It’s hard to believe it’s been 3 years. Wow. Time does fly; it’s not just an old adage.

My eldest turned 18 2 days ago, and I’m OK with that, too. It doesn’t make him a different person. It doesn’t make me less his mom. His journey to manhood keeps going.

And my journey continues as well. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way of my 53 years.

1. People come and go from our lives all the time.

It’s a smaller world now than it used to be. We have text messaging that puts us in touch with people instantly. We have Facebook, which gives us a glimpse into their lives. But sometimes, we just have to let people go and be thankful that we got to spend a little time with them anyway.

2. Age doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to friendships.

I have friends who are in their 80s, I have friends who are in their 20s. Since I had my kids a bit later in life, the majority of moms I hang out with are a lot younger than I. I may not be as hip as they, but they keep me feeling younger than I really am.

3. Faith is not a feeling.

I am going through a highly annoying health issue right now associated with menopause, and it has caused me a lot of stress and anxiety. But one thing I have said over and over is that I would rather have Jesus and this issue than no issue and no Jesus. No issue with Jesus would be ideal, but if that never happens, can I be content? If I don’t feel like God is even listening, does that mean He’s not? If God’s character was based on my perception, than He wouldn’t be much of a God. He’s a lot bigger than how I feel.

4. I really and truly am not in control.

There’s a saying: “Man makes his plans and God laughs.” I think God does a lot of chuckling when He’s listening to me. I like to have things planned out. We take a trip, I like to know where we’re stopping along the way. I want to know where my kids are and what they’re doing. I want to be in the know for anything that’s going on around me. But you know what? That’s not how God wants me to live my life. He is in control and if things don’t go the way I think they should, that’s because He’s got something better in mind. Boy, that’s good head knowledge; now if I could just put it into practice.

5. Last but not least, there is no hope for this world apart from Jesus.

A day does not go by that we don’t hear about some terrible tragedy or another. People dying, evil dictators torturing their detractors, planes mysteriously disappearing from thin air. Evil seems to be rampant and taking over the world. And there is no hope for it aside from Jesus. You can’t legislate morality and you can’t expect anything to get better if people’s hearts remain unregenerate. Protests, laws, micro-management are not going to help. Only Jesus.

So, 53 years are almost in the books. There are many more lessons to be learned.  What are some of the truisms you’ve learned on your journey?

 

Image from november2013calendar.org