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A Conversation about love

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Me: You tell us to love one another and I was wondering if this is an all-around, across-the-board type of love. ‘Cause I have to tell you, I’ve run across some folks that are just plain unlovable. I hate to say that, but it’s the truth.

love 1

God: A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34)

Me: Yes, I’ve heard you say that, but I’ve been having some trouble. You see, there’s some people out there who just drive me crazy. I don’t agree with them but they keep on talking to me. I try to talk and they don’t listen to me. And some of them, well, they’re just plain mean. So, I was hoping that maybe you had some exceptions to the rule that would help me out.

loveGod: (I think I heard Him let out a mournful, soft sigh) Love one another deeply (1 Peter 1:22b).

Me: You’re not gonna make this easy, are you? Look, I’ve been trying but, lately, it’s been so hard.

God: (He leans down close to me, His voice is gentle, not condemning) But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” lend to “sinners” expecting to be paid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36)

Me: (in a very small voice) You mean like to way You have been kind to me, even when I love3don’t appreciate it, even though I can’t possibly pay you back? (even smaller voice) I don’t think I can.

God: Remember the words that I gave to my servant Paul: “Now about brotherly love, we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other” (1 Thessalonians 4:9). I have already shown you how to love. As I explained it to John, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us….since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11).

Me: (my voice barely above a whisper) Could you go over it again?

love 5God: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1b). Do everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:14).

Me: (I can’t look up, I slump down at His feet) That’s a tall order, God.

God: My child, you are already rooted and established in love (Ephesians 3:17), so live a life of love (Ephesians 5:2) by serving one another in love (Galatians 5:13).

Me: (I dare to glance upwards) I love you, Lord. I will try.

God: My love is already within you, along with joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6).

Me: Will you help me?

Matthew verse

God: And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age

Me: Amen

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Shark’s Teeth Among Broken Shells

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After a cold, snowy winter, we were in need of some sunshine. My husband and I planned a trip south to visit his cousins who live near a beach in North Carolina. We watched freezing rain hit the windshield as we started off and couldn’t wait to feel ocean breezes and salt spray on our faces.

The beach has always been very therapeutic for me. I grew up spending summers at the Jersey shore where my grandparents lived. One of my fondest memories is of my mom gesturing to my sister and me to grab our sand pails and follow her down the beach to collect shells. We would find everything from horseshoe crabs and beached jelly fish to sea tossed shells and stones. Eventually we would end up in a boardwalk store and beg our parents to buy the gaudy neon-colored shells in the store window. I don’t remember my mom being disappointed in my lack of appreciation for God’s handiwork, but I do remember carrying those store bought shells in my lap on the car ride home like some great treasure. The true treasures were tossed in the back, still in their sand pail with the wet towels and sandy beach chairs.

Fortunately, I developed better taste as I grew to adulthood. Unfortunately, I have P1040114become obsessed with picking up shells whenever I am on a beach. I can walk up and down the shore line all day scanning the sand and surf for shells, sea glass and whatever else washes up.

This past week was no different. There had been a storm the day we arrived, but as soon as the skies cleared, I was delighted to find a treasure trove of shells left behind by the waves. My husband’s cousin taught me something new. If you look among the piles of tiny broken shells, you can usually find fossilized shark’s teeth. I had always overlooked those piles P1040120hoping to find intact shells, but she showed us how shark teeth tend to shine and have a distinctive shape making them stand out from the pile. For the next few days, as I collected my obligatory shells, I kept an eye open for shark’s teeth among the broken shells. We ended up with quite a haul of both!

Sometimes the teeth tried to hide among the shell fragments. Other times they would be sitting right on top, almost waiting for me to stroll by. Though the shells had been broken by hungry predators and crashing waves, these teeth still held their shape, making them easily recognizable. Over the years, fossilization had turned them a deep ebony that reflected the sun, making them stand out against the paler shells.

Maybe it’s because Mother’s Day is coming up. Maybe it’s because I was visiting with family, but I found myself thinking of my mom a lot that week. She was a petite womanP1040122 with dark eyes and always up for an adventure even though she was severely weakened by a heart condition when I was eight years old. We lost her when I was only fifteen. My memories of her, more than forty years later, always center on her ready smile and kind heart. But she could be tough! She was a warrior long before the term feminism was ever coined. She was tough, hard-working and gutsy as a Jersey girl should be.

Back on the beach, the sun glinted and I bent down to pick up a shark’s tooth. It was small, but solid, shiny and still retained its sharp point. Think about that – after a millennia at sea, that tooth could still bite! That’s my mom- a beautiful, yet functional shark’s tooth among conditions that had caused the more fragile shells to succumb to the waves.

P1040112On our last day, I found an incredibly fragile angel wing shell – pure white and perfectly intact. It reminded me of my mom too – another type of beauty that survived against all odds. As I marveled at the shell in my hand, I reminisced about the past against the backdrop of waves, salt air and sand.

I only found one perfect angel wing shell but there were lots of shark’s teeth if you knew where to look. Beautiful, strong, persevering relics of the sea. That’s how I remember Mom. She persevered against overwhelming odds, displaying a beautiful strength that I can only hope I have inherited.

I know that my mother often felt weak and in danger of sinking under those waves of life. But the strength she exhibited came not from herself but from her decision to stand firm in her Christian faith. She let Jesus be her “anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). And in that decision, she sparkled with the strength of a shark’s tooth among the broken shells of this world.

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“…that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured”

Colossians 4:12b

 


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I wanted to be with You

cross

I wanted to be with You

as You fell down to pray

but there were so many things

that kept me very far away.

Things like pride and anger,

things like plain old fear.

But I am so glad to know

that You were praying for me there.

I wanted to be with You

when your friend, he did betray,

But I saw the soldier standing there,

I just couldn’t be brave that day.

I was held back by pride and anger

and just plain old fear.

But when you faced Judas’ kiss

I saw compassion shine so clear.

(how did I miss this?)

I wanted to be with You

to defend You at that trial,

making waves and speaking out

but you know that’s not my style.

I cowered in pride and anger

and just plain old fear

I was no help to You

Had my own burden to bear.

I wanted to be with Youcross - Copy

as they led You up that road.

that cross that You carried

should have been my heavy load.

But I couldn’t bear the suffering

and tortured agony

yet, You walked the walk I couldn’t walk,

each step you took for me.

I wanted to be with You

but I’m not good enough, I guess.

Still You carried on alone

even when I had to rest.

You took all my failures

that had stopped me in my tracks

as you walked up to Golgotha,

my weight across your back.

You took all these things that held me down,

my pride and anger and fear

You took them with You on that cross

and I’m so sorry that You were there,

so sorry that I couldn’t share,

so sorry.

And yet, somehow glad that You were there

so glad that You truly care

for me.

I wanted to be with You

yet all the time

You’ve been here with me.

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Love has…

Love has a facecross

A face that all creation looks up to

A face I can cry out to for desperate help

Or opens into laughter for the joy He extends to me

All life stretches upwards to see the face of Him who is Life

 

Love has two eyes

Eyes that look down upon His creation

Beaten and bloodied eyes that saw past his own pain

Tearful eyes that soaked up the darkness that exists in mine

Eyes that ever long to catch a glimpse of who I am to Him

 

Love has two handsfather child hands

Hands that were stretched out and nailed to a crossbar

Hands that have reached out to catch me when I stumble

Hands that gently wiped away each tear I have shed

Or rise up in anger to defend me when I crumble into my own weakness

 

Love has two feetfather and child feet

Feet that have walked the Heavens from before time

Feet that trod the dust of Judea and splashed in the waves of Galilee

Feet that resolutely followed a path to Golgotha

Feet that willingly search for me when I have hidden myself in shame

 

Love has a name

Savior, Messiah

Annointed One

The Son of Man who is Jesus

love looks like...

 


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Grace all the More

Hatred divides andgrace and rocks

Fear closes doors,

As bigotry grows

There’s Grace all the more.

 

A harsh word spoken.

A bully has roared.

Victims cower in corners,

But there’s Grace all the more.

 

For the one who pulled a gun

And robbed the corner store,

For those who are guilty,

Just Grace all the more.

 

For those who are hungry,

Those desperately poor,

Those begging for help,

There’s Grace all the more

 

An old man forgotten,

His memory obscured,

his family has left him

yet, Grace all the more.

 

Street life can be harsh,

How do they endure?

Cold empty stomachs,

And Grace all the more

 

Just one more hit,

It’s the needle’s allure.

As life drifts away,

Still Grace all the more.

 

The disobedience of us Adams

Is met with the One so pure

Hs obedience to the Father

Has brought us Grace all the more.

Grace thru Jesus

Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was added so the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.

Romans 5:18-20

grace changes everything

 

 

 


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Santa Sighting

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As my husband and I were putting up Christmas decorations yesterday, I was humming songs to myself and remembering when my kids were young and I would take them to see Santa. They would be so excited. Then I remembered an unusual Santa sighting I had about five or six years ago. My kids were high school age so they were way too cool to believe anymore but this Santa gave me pause to think.

 

It was late September and the apple trees on my property had produced some beautifulP1010376 looking apples that fall. I still wouldn’t eat them, though. You see, the trees are about 60-70 years old and hadn’t been properly trimmed or pruned in at least 50 of those years. Apple trees only produce quality fruit for 20 years or so and as the tree ages, the fruit loses its taste and crispness. Our trees had never been cut back so they were full grown trees rising 30 feet in the air. Though they looked beautiful in the spring, they are a pain in the fall. Dropped apples have to be raked off the ground so we don’t attract bees. When we first moved here 20 years ago, I had baked some pies with the apples and though the fruit was tasteless for eating, you could make a decent pie with them if you added enough sugar and cinnamon.

That fall, the trees looked incredible with large heavy apple hanging from them. One afternoon, I heard a knock at the door. When I opened the door, I saw an elderly gentleman with wavy white hair and a full white beard. He had those crinkly blue eyes that make him look like he is always smiling.

santa-4 “Good Afternoon, Madam” he began. I was staring at his t-shirt which had a picture of Santa in his sleigh with his reindeer swooshing across the sky. I looked at the t-shirt Santa and then looked up at the man’s face and thought, “No, couldn’t be”, but the resemblance was uncanny.

He laughed and pointed to the word “believe” written on his shirt, nodded his head and said, “I’m not in my usual work clothes today but you can believe what you are seeing!” I took a step back into the house while closing the door a bit for protection. “Can I help you?” I asked cautiously.

“Just saw those beautiful apples and wanted to ask your permission to come on your property and pick some. I can make some wonderful apple pies for some people who would appreciate them”, he said.

apple-pickingI kept shifting my eyes between the santa on the shirt and the Santa standing in front of me. Fearing retribution on December 24th, I didn’t want to take the chance of giving Santa old, tasteless apples to bake with. “They are not very tasty”, I warned him. “The trees are very old and the apples have no flavor anymore. They just look good but don’t taste very good, I’m afraid”.

He crinkled up those blue eyes and let out a Santa laugh. “Don’t worry about that. I can work some early Christmas magic.”

Now it gets really strange because the next thing I know, I’m getting out the long apple picker from our garage and offering to help him. He didn’t want to be a bother and just accepted the apple picker and went to work. He gathered about 2 baskets of apples, returned the picker and thanked me. I watched him drive off wondering what had just happened.

That was probably the last year that our aged trees produced any real apples although they bloom beautifully each spring. I never saw the man again and always wondered how those pies turned out and if the people he made them for truly enjoyed them. I don’t doubt that his “early Christmas magic” worked and he was able to make something tasty out of tasteless apples from old trees.

When I was very little, I used to think that Santa and God must be related somehow. They had so much in common. They both loved me and brought good things into my life. After the apple picking episode, I learned another similarity.

images-4God can take the junk in our lives and make the most beautiful art out of it.

God can take all the junk in my life, all my fear, doubt, anger and anxiety that hold me back and make a glorious painting that is the me He has always intended me to be. If Santa can make delicious pies out of inferior ingredients (and I have no doubt that he did), imagine what God can make out of us. If only we trust Him, If only we turn to Him in faith and stop trying to control God. Unlike Santa where we tell him what we want  and expect him to bring it, God tells us to come Him with all our cares and worries and then step back and watch Him work. It may not always be brought to our homes with sleigh rides, jingling bells and flying reindeer but God will deliver what we need. And not just on Christmas Eve, but all year round.

So that’s my story of apple picking with Santa and all the strange ramblings of thought that came with that visit.

May you Christmas season be magical.

May your apple pies be flavorful.

And may the peace of Christ reign in your heart.

merry Christmas 2

Merry Christmas!

 


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All About Love

 

The last Advent candle is all about Love

Advent Candles Christmas Eve-Prophecy, Love, Joy, Peace, Purity

 

It’s Christmas time and I wait all year,

I love the excitement that’s thick in the air.

It’s in a child’s laugh and a grandparent’s eyes,

Even strangers tend to smile and reindeer learn to fly.

 

I love decorating the house, unwrapping each treasure

That I pull out of boxes and remember with pleasure

The Christmases past, how the years have flown by,

When my children were younger and so was I!

Christmas presents

 

I set up the Nativity and hang each stocking,

A large wreath on the door for those friends who come knocking.

From the kitchen, the aroma of fresh gingerbread

And the other rooms are scented with fresh pine instead.

 

The children in costumes, shepherd’s staffs and angel wings,

Two play Mary and Joseph, there’s a star followed by three kings.

They tell us the story of a wondrous birth,

Of a time when God Himself reached down to the Earth.

Christmas decorations

 

The Son that He loved, His love for mankind

Are together at last and for a brief time,

We walked with Love and learned from His hand

As He showed us a Love we still struggle to understand.

 

And it all starts with a babe, so tiny and frail.

I love that it starts as an improbable tale.

A young mother, trembling, frightened and scared,

An untried father, woefully unprepared.

I love that wealthy kings travel dangerously far,

While shepherds can stroll downhill to follow that star.

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I love that when we couldn’t stretch our hands high enough,

God reached down to us with immeasurable love

merry Christmas 2