Tag Archives: love

Just Be. Just Do.

26 May

There were only four of us. We had heard the same verses read aloud several times. Now it was time to listen carefully to what God had to say through those two verses. Since I’m a retired cognitive therapist, the mind words grabbed my attention: listen, consider, think.

“Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance—all who seek the Lord! Consider the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were mined. Yes, think about Abraham, your ancestor, and Sarah, who gave birth to your nation. Abraham was only one man when I called him. But when I blessed him, he became a great nation” (Isaiah 51:1–2 NLT).

I found no new revelations about thinking and renewing my mind, although my mind overflowed with questions regarding ministry, writing, and speaking. Then I realized that’s not the focus. Once again, it’s not about me; it’s not about you. We must listen, consider, about think about our Source. Try inserting your name into the last sentence.

Nancy was only one woman when I called her. But when I blessed her, she became a great ___.

If/when God blesses us, we have potential to be/do great things in His name. Still a bit anxious about the impossibility of becoming “great,” I continued to listen to God’s still small voice within me, I understood Him say:

Just be—in My presence.

Just be—who you are.

Just do—the next thing.

It’s up to God—not the world, not me—to determine greatness. Jesus said if we offer a cup of water in His name we will be rewarded (Matthew 10:42). Our first priority is to love God with all our being (Mk 12:30) and seek His kingdom (Mt 6:33). Our second priority is to love people, including ourselves (Mk 12:31).

So here I am, daily reminding myself that God is always with me, just as He is with you. He cherishes us and has a plan that includes us. I can’t be anyone other than who God created me to be. I just try to go through the next door He opens, and occasionally have the courage to knock on a few doors in case they might also open. When I listen, consider, think about these truths, life seems simpler, more doable.

I need that right now. How about you?

Sharing Our Lives

24 Oct

I’ve recognized a common denominator between two retreats I’ve recently attended—WTAMU Wesley women Encounter and Women of Worship. I spoke at the first and attended the second. Both were highly successful because the women involved were able to share their lives with honesty and love. It reminds me of the letter Paul wrote to the Thessalonians.

“So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8 NKJV).

When we genuinely care about people, we’re willing to risk ourselves for their sake. The level of care and vulnerability in leadership made it possible for attendees to open themselves up for healing and spiritual transformation.

As Christians, we often put on masks. We think if people see our weaknesses, they will not only reject us, but will also reject the God whom we love. The opposite is actually true. When we pretend to have all the answers and to live perfect lives, God calls us liars (1 John 1:10) and others label us hypocrites.

“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:15–16 NLT).

I heard women of all ages and stations in life tell how God redeemed them from sin, suicide, self-righteousness, abuse, and much more. In turn, others were willing to admit their needs and seek help. More importantly, they recognized God as merciful, eager to love and redeem. God lifts us from the ruble of pain and rejection until we recognize ourselves as new creations in Christ—each one His masterpiece. (See Miraculous New Creations.) Some of the women had to move beyond the pain they caused their families and begin to live joyfully forgiven. (See Forgiving Myself.) God prepares us to encourage others by first helping us in our time of trouble.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4 NLT).

The entire Bible narrates a story of love and redemption. It doesn’t cover-up sin or portray God’s people as perfect—rather as forgiven and transformed. We can identify with the characters of the Bible because they’re real. We too need to be authentic and share the reality of God’s redemptive work in our lives. The resulting joy and power is overwhelming. I’m still praising God for the WT Wesley women and Women of Worship. Thank you for sharing your love, your lives, and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Saving Sunshine—Part 1

10 Aug

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26 NASB95).

When they found my brother Jim, we estimated he’d been lying on his floor for at least five days. Considering the sores on his hip, shoulder, and elbow, he hadn’t moved. He was barely breathing. Every chemical, blood, and body fluid measurement was off the charts. If he lived, what would be his mental and physical condition? Hundreds of prayers went up for Jim, even when we couldn’t find words (Romans 8:26).

The doctor later told us, “I thought I was treating a dead man.”

Jim’s two registered Jack Russell Terriers, Hoss and Daisy, had been confined to his back den during those five days. Overturned trash and partiality-eaten paper plates showed their desperation for food. Eventually, they chewed through a heavy paper bag of dry food; a small puddle of water from a leaking toilet seal kept them from dehydration. A month earlier, Daisy had given birth to one male and one female puppy.

Not knowing if Jim would live or die, we had to find homes for the four dogs. I decided to take the little female home with me. I certainly didn’t need another dog, but she might be my last connection to Jim.

For years Jim’s greeting to me had always been, “Hello, Sunshine.” Jim’s future looked dark, so Sunshine seemed a perfect name for this tiny black and white ball of fur. When I told Robin and Regina her name, each had the same response. “Oh, that’s what Uncle Jim called me every time I saw him.” Until that moment, each of us thought we held exclusive rights to that happy name.

Toward the end of two weeks in intensive care, Jim squeezed a hand. His first words were, “Love you.” The sun began to shine again.

Jim spent six more weeks in the hospital. Next came months in a nursing home, assisted living, and finally home. Added to encephalopathy and other diagnosis, tests revealed he had dementia with Lewy bodies, which has symptoms of both Parkinson and Alzheimer’s. He spent his final days in an Alzheimer’s unit, but he never forgot anyone’s name. Although Jim couldn’t discuss his last meal or the TV show he just watched, Sunshine‘s antics provided a source of conversation and reliable memories for him. I’m extremely grateful for the five additional years God gave us with Jim.

Sunshine eventually transitioned from a housedog to a companion for Jax, our oldest birddog. Last spring I began making plans to bring eight-year-old Sunshine back into the house because of Jax’s failing health and age. That wasn’t to be. She darted under the back wheels of George’s pick-up and was killed instantly. We were both devastated.

I’m never sure if I rescued Sunshine or if Sunshine rescued me. She’ll forever be an inseparable part of Jim’s memory. I am sure she brightened many lives with her playfulness and love of people. She left a hole in my heart and about a month after her death, I began asking God if I should get another dog. Next week, I’ll share God’s answer.

Has there ever been a time you just couldn’t find words to pray? Has God ever answered your prayers through a pet? Please share your thoughts.

Twilight Love

20 Jul

photoO God, you have taught me ever since I was young, and I still talk about the miracles you have done. . .Let me live to tell the people of this age what your strength has accomplished, to tell about your power to all who will come (Psalm 71:17–18b GW).

This verse reminds me of Janie. She’s radiant when she speaks of her latest miracle and what God’s power accomplished. Janie turned 75 and married Robert the next day.

Janie and Robert share a history. Robert and Darrell were university buddies, both majored in math and physics. Janie and Darrell married in 1957; Robert and Shirley married in 1958.

The foursome remained friends after college and both men became teachers. After Robert moved to Amarillo, he persuaded Darrell to do the same. When Robert left teaching, he and Shirley lived in many different places including Puerto Rico and Geneva. Darrell and Janie visited in every new location. Sadly, Shirley developed Lupus.

Though the years, the two couples continued to share special times—weddings, cookouts, camping, and more. Robert visited Darrell and Janie after Shirley’s passing in 2004 and called often. When Alzheimer’s ended Darrell’s long goodbye, Robert was a pallbearer.

Shared joy; shared grief.

Janie and Robert had very little contact until 2011 when the extended phone conversations began. During one of these frequent calls, Janie mentioned she’d never flown by herself but was going to fly to Oregon for her second great-grandson’s baptism. Robert immediately said, “I’ll escort you to Oregon.” This was characteristic of Robert who regularly helped friends and strangers alike. Surprised and grateful, Janie accepted his generous offer.

They enjoyed the time together as good friends, never running out of conversational material. Robert made himself useful as they helped prepare for a birthday party. He played with and spoiled both precious little boys. No grandfather could have been more loving and attentive or fitted into the family any better.

They returned home as good friends, but imperceptibly Janie’s feelings for Robert altered during that trip. The long conversations continued and Robert came to visit in January 2013. Three enormous obstacles marred their realization that they cared deeply for each other. Almost five hundred miles separated them. They both had homes, family, friends, and a comfortable lifestyle. Then there was the age thing.

After the phone calls began, Janie’s son told her Robert would “come knocking at her door.” Janie assured him Robert wouldn’t knock and neither would ever move. It was impossible.

However, Janie began saying, “I have a fella.”

The long calls continued. Inevitably, they discussed marriage and found limited pros and abundant cons. Robert persuaded Janie that significance mattered more than quantity; she was delighted to see it his way.

“It just occurred to me,” Janie said, “we’re planning a wedding and we’ve never had a date.” Say no more. Robert drove to Amarillo, asked for a date, and Janie accepted.

I attended Janie’s lingerie shower; a bunch of twenty–year olds couldn’t have giggled more. No bride-to-be could have been more radiant. That glow accompanied Janie down the aisle June 29, 2013 as two families became one.

Robert had the wedding band engraved, “Twilight love is a blessing.” Janie and Robert have lived to tell this generation and the next that God removes all barriers, including distance, circumstances, and age.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT).

Relationship Repair

15 Jun

The question is not if a relationship will need repair, but when will a relationship need repair. Only superficial acquaintances avoid conflict. We can stick to subjects such as food or fashion, golf or fishing, and never have a cross word. However, if we want to go deeper than the weather, we’ll eventually find points of conflict.

We grow up with rules, spoken and spoken, in our family of origin. There are certain topics we don’t discuss, certain emotions we don’t express, and secrets we don’t acknowledge. We may think, “If you love me, you’ll never make me feel guilty. That was my father’s favorite weapon.” Then when a mate or friend has a legitimate complaint about the relationship, we feel betrayed, unloved, and angry.

The same is true of unspoken expectations. Many couples have told me, “If he/she loved me, he/she would know what I need. If I have to ask, it seems forced and artificial. What’s the point?” Asking for what we need is an important skill anyone can learn.

A healthy relationship is based on love, trust, and growth. It will offer honesty, compassion, forgiveness, respect, and mutual responsibility for maintaining the relationship. If one person walks on eggshells and the other feels free to explode in anger, the relationship may not survive.

How then can we quickly repair relationships? Repair depends on the level of offense or pain. The “secret” is our attitude. First, we can simply overlook some things, realizing fatigue, stress, or even low blood sugar can make us grouchy. Maybe it’s not that important. Love and let it go.

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8 quoting Prov. 10:12 NKJV).

Second, the issue or offense is irritating and important but not deeply meaningful. However, it could become a more serious problem if we don’t address it. It’s time for a simple to understand, but difficult to practice skill: The I Message. I’ve taught elementary students to use this simple, formula to express needs.

I FEEL (Use specific words to describe emotions: angry, confused, disappointed, attacked).
WHEN (Describe the upsetting behavior without character assassination or blame).
I NEED (a response from you, help with, a different tone of voice, eye contact. Be specific), please.

In a usually positive relationship, intimacy increases when we’re able to express our needs and feel heard and respected. Once again, attitude is key.
“Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15NIV).

A third category is serious, painful, and threatens the relationship if ignored. It may be a flaw in the other person or touch a deeply held belief or fear resulting from a previous relationship or family of origin. This response is best thought out and, if possible, prepared in advance. Examine the source of such a powerful response and be ready to explain it. Then without blame, express your feelings, what the issue represents, and ask for compassion and understanding. The greatest success comes when both parties accept responsibility for their part and value the relationship.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4 NASB95).

With God’s help, we can repair relationships quickly.

Please share comments, questions, and/or how these tips worked for you. You can encourage and bless others with your response.

New Mind, New Me

25 May

I’ve kept a journal for many years. I sometimes read a page and ask myself, “Did I write that? Wow. That’s good stuff. God was really speaking to me that day.” But more often than I care to admit, I found repeated confessions for the same mistakes, and the same longing to be like Christ. In earlier journals, such longing resulted in new resolve and determined effort to “live the Christian life.” Yet I predictably reverted to my previous behavior.

Two verses helped me understand why resolving to change usually ends in failure.
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. . .” (Matthew 15:19 NASB).
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 NASB).

Simply put, we can’t experience true transformation by just trying harder. In order to change our behavior, we must first ask God to change our heart. (See post It’s Time for Some Good News, May 18, 2013). I refer to the biblical view of heart—our spirit and our will. The heart is the center of our being, the part of us that’s under our control. God first loves us, forgives us, and gives us new life. Then we must do our part. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. God’s Spirit offers love, life, and power. We decide what to believe, think, and obey.

On the most basic level, that requires belief in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. When we trust Christ to forgive our sins and give us new life, we receive the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live like Christ. From that moment, we become collaborators with the Spirit, working together to mold us into Christ’s true disciple. In deciding what to believe, it’s our responsibility to learn God’s perspective on any situation.

Let’s take Ephesians 4:31–32 as an example. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV).

Trying to get rid of anger by dogged determination results in short term success at best and failure at worst. Yet Scripture holds that out as the Christian way of life. What then is our strategy? First, we desire change and believe it’s possible. Next, we choose to renew our mind (Romans 12:2) and cooperate with God’s indwelling Spirit. That means finding ways to place ourselves in God’s presence and allow Him to change us. That involves prayer, asking God to reveal what’s inside us that produces anger. Must I be in control or be appreciated? Do I allow others to take advantage of me? Do I need help with an abusive situation? Am I simply exhausted and need sleep? Perhaps, I need more alone time with God or Bible study.

The Holy Spirit answers our questions through Scripture, wise Christian counsel, His still small voice within, and common sense. Then we choose to obey or disobey. Obedience leads to growth and intimacy with Christ; disobedience leads to distance and spiritual immaturity. We repeat this cycle repeatedly in many different situations. Over time, we’re transformed into the likeness of Christ. Our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions flow naturally from His Spirit. At that point, we become unaware of Christ speaking or behaving through us, because such attitudes and actions come from our identity in Him.

I love how 2 Corinthians 5:17 in the New King James Bible describes this radical change.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

A new mind, a new me—-His gracious gift offered to every believer.

It’s Time for Some Good News

18 May

There’s no shortage of bad news. The media thrives on our morbid curiosity, our tears, and our outrage. When an upbeat story finds its way to social media, people like it and share it multiple times. We long for good news.

I have good news that can bring smiles and change our outlook on life. For some, this is a reminder of what you already know. For others, the good news will be brand-new.

Here’s the Good News: You are loved.

This is not the “I love you for what I can get out of you” kind of love. That’s not love at all; that’s lust. You are loved affectionately, unselfishly, and wholeheartedly. You are valued just as you are. This isn’t a love you earn. It’s a gift. However, you do have to accept or receive the gift.

How do I know so much about love? If you read my post on April 13, you know I choose to believe the Bible. It’s a love story from beginning to end. It’s my joy to share a vital part of that love story.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that [God] loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10 NIV).

Sin means missing the mark as an archer might miss the bull’s-eye or straying from the path as in getting lost. God created us for perfect love and relationship with Himself and others. That’s the target, the ideal path in life. Admitting we miss the mark is the first step in recognizing our need of a Savior. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NASB95).

All—every one of us needs a Savior, My friend Mike says, “Some of us can jump further than others, but no one can jump the Grand Canyon.” That’s why Jesus came from heaven to earth.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16–17 NIV).

What should we believe about Jesus Christ? Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to [more than 500 people]” (1 Corinthians 15:3–5 NASB95).

If Christ remained in the grave, the story would be over. However, because He lives, we live also. Jesus said to [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26 NASB95).

How will you answer that question? Will you believe and receive Christ and His affectionate, unselfish, and wholehearted love? “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 NASB95).

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. “ If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. (John 15:9–11 NASB95).

Please share your response to this good news. I’d be honored to hear from you.

I’m No Spiritual Giant

29 Mar

Have you ever thought God meant some scriptures for spiritual giants, and you couldn’t possibly achieve such lofty standards? The following verses might fall into that category. (Italics mine.)

Philippians 2:14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing.

Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Philippians 4:6–7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Or perhaps some statements in the Bible such as 1 Corinthians 2:16 seem just too good to be true.

“For who has known the mind of the lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

First Corinthians 2:16 is one of three verses with which I wrestled and which eventually became the basis for this blog and a Bible study I’m writing. Because God’s thoughts and ways are far superior to mine, I had no problem accepting the first part of verse 16 where Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13. “Who dares to teach God anything?” However, Paul’s next statement amazed me. “But we have the mind of Christ.”

Wow! That appeared too good to be true. At least it wasn’t true in my own life. It seemed unbelievable that I had the mind of Christ—since I made wrong choices, had unwelcome thoughts, and experienced unreliable emotions. Additionally, it’s tough to ignore mistreatment by other Christians. No way had they behaved like Christ. Yet that verse refers to all Christians.

What did having the mind of Christ mean? Since it’s in the Bible, I know it must at least be a possibility for me. Could it be a promise?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’re interested in my conclusions based on Scripture and clinical knowledge as a professional counselor, I hope you’ll follow this blog. I invite you to join me in the journey of renewing our minds and becoming all God intended us to be.