disappointed resolution-ists.

New Year’s Resolutions. Who needs them? Who wants them? At least that is how I have always felt about making resolutions at the start of each year. I recently read that only 8% of new year’s resolutions are ever even achieved, so I must not be the only disappointed resolution-ist!

It seems that every year upon prompting, I set out to identify areas of needed improvement in my life, but instead, I find myself scrutinizing my body, my habits, and my entire being. A routine intended to be a healthy self-check can take a turn for the worst very quickly if we are not careful.

Our focus can easily shift from a godly view to a worldly view of ourselves, and that is a danger zone, my friends. When our focus changes, everything else of importance follows; our perspective shifts, our purpose loses definition, and our sense of self-worth diminishes. Moral compasses fail, and peace and joy are no longer within our reach.

Why are we so often swayed by the world and left disappointed with ourselves?

Perhaps you can relate to this: The resolutions that I can recall from years’ past were not always achievable.. or exactly practical.. or God-honoring. To be honest, my resolutions often centered around changes I thought I needed to make to meet social standards.

Have you ever resolved to change your physical appearance or alter your personality with an end goal being to “fit in with the popular crowd” rather than to make  improvements in your overall health or social skills?

Social media “likes” and thinner thighs may bring temporary joy, but the elated feelings will soon fleet when the next best thing or new social standard arrives.

Know that the glitz and glamour of the world will not last, nor will the joy that we find in material possessions and accomplishments. Turn your focus to God, the source of everlasting peace and joy. His love never fails, and you can never disappoint Him. Seek His will for your life, and He will guide you to paths of better ways.

In January, I was itching for a fresh start to the year but saw no value in setting the typical resolutions. Instead, I sought a new approach for 2018 and started by examining the word “resolution.”  I asked God for a new definition that held actual purpose and meaning in my life. Gradually, God revealed the freshest word to my heart! Here it is:

    Think of “resolution” in terms of a camera and the photographer adjusting the lens to capture a picture with the best clarity and the finest detail and the most brilliant colors. The photographer can see the whole scene, the full expanse of the setting, but the viewer can only see what is captured through the camera lens. Not every picture taken turns out well, but a blurry picture does not lessen the beauty of the setting in the eyes of the photographer.

 God is the photographer, and I am the viewer.

      I can only see moments of my life at a time. The pictures I see of my world are not always clear and beautiful; but sometimes they are. Those moments where I can view breathtaking beauty remind me who is really in charge of my life. God is the photographer; he chooses when to adjust the resolution and which photographs to display. He asks me, the viewer, to simply trust his judgement, because I know that he sees the whole picture!

Anytime I think I have received a message from God, I perform a check to ensure that God was the sender and that my interpretation was accurate.  Paul warns that “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14, ESV), so I trust that my request for a verification or a clarification will not offend heaven! Most often, this case included, I find confirmation when my message aligns with scripture. After all, it is God’s written word. Here is my confirmation: √

“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” – Proverbs 15:3, ESV

Now it is your turn. How will you make a God-honoring resolution this year? Remember that each day brings a new opportunity, and there is no better time to start than the present!

ESV = English Standard Version Bible


merry and bright.

We all have our favorite Christmas movies, songs and traditions… the ones that really make the season feel right! For some, it is not Christmas until cookies have been baked or wreaths have been hung. For others, the season has not yet arrived until cards have been mailed and wrapped gifts are under the tree. My holiday season officially starts when I light the fireplace and watch Irving Berlin’s White Christmas [for the first of several times during the month of December]!

I do not recall the first time I ever saw the movie, but every time I do, feelings of happiness and contentment wrap me in warmth like a blanket. I love the storyline, set in the post-WWII era, the character plot, and all the song and dance throughout the 1954 film.. especially when Bing Crosby sings ‘White Christmas!’

My favorite line from the tune, “may all your days be merry and bright,” sets the tone for the season.

Something about White Christmas simply elicits a sense of anticipation not only of the holiday season, but also of a new season of life, as new romances bloom and old friends reunite. Two former Army soldiers team up in a song-and-dance act following the war and following two lovely sisters, end up at a small ski lodge in Vermont for the holiday. The men’s former General owns the lodge and is struggling to make a profit in a ski resort with NO SNOW! The men not only bring their entire cast to Vermont to rehearse a special holiday music show, but they also invite every soldier and his family living in the region to join them for the Christmas Eve production to surprise the General.

I tear up every time as I watch the gleaming-eyed General tell his men that their PRESENCE is the best Christmas PRESENT he has ever received! 

What a gift! These men packed up their families and traveled on Christmas Eve to surprise and support a man they loved. Can you imagine? Talk about putting others’ needs before your own…

Their selfless act of kindness reminds me of Jesus’ words to his disciples:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:12-13, ESV

With a careful eye, we can see the love of Christ weaved into the storyline of this secular movie. Everyday life is no different. Holiday times tend to be busy with lengthy to-do lists and endless activities. We so easily lose focus of the true meaning of the season in the hustle and bustle.

Peace and joy are ever-present, but I do not always feel the peace and joy of the season until the holiday is nearly over. Is it even possible to make our days merry and bright, or are those just words that we sing?

Surely you can relate to my dilemma!? I believe the answer is quite simple and requires that we DO LESS rather than do more. Yes, I am suggesting that we actually reduce our to-do lists and our engagements and spend the time enjoying the present moment. That is when we will experience merry hearts and bright days. It is far easier to see a bright light when we are not looking directly into a mirror. Slow down and look around you. Take it all in, and search your surroundings for glimpses of Jesus. His light is shining everywhere; we just must stop and see it. Find that light and let it be your guide into this new year, this new season of life.

I leave you with the words of the prophet Isaiah, as he offers encouragement to the Israelites as they prepare to move into a new season of life and anticipate the coming Messiah (Jesus Christ the Lord). I encourage you to take a moment and let these words pour over you. Let them sink deep into your soul. Then your light will shine as you beam the radiating love of Christ to others around you!

“Arise, shine, for your LIGHT has come, and the glory of the Lord SHINES over you. For look, darkness will cover the earth, and total darkness the peoples; but the Lord will SHINE over you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to your shining brightness. Raise your eyes and look around.. Then you will see and be RADIANT, and your heart will tremble and REJOICE.” -Isaiah 60:1-5, CSB

May your days truly be merry and bright! Happy New Year!

ESV = English Standard Version Bible; CSB = Christian Standard Bible

snow day.

I woke up to picture-perfect snow falling outside my window this morning! Huge fluffy snowflakes captured my fascination as they slowly drifted down to join the thick blanket already covering everything in sight. Like a child, I dressed in layers and ran outside to play, with both my cocker spaniels leading the way! Worn out, I have since enjoyed the gorgeous view by the fire inside, with dry clothes, warm coffee, and two sleeping dogs.

You see, snow falling is a rarity in central Mississippi, and snow that sticks long enough to accumulate is even more rare.. a Christmas Miracle, if you will! Truly, these several inches of white fluff are a special blessing to a [deep] Southern girl like me!

There is just something about seeing the world covered in white! It is so quiet and peaceful and still. The normal hurried sounds of the day are absent as though the world has slowed its pace. The contrast of browns, greens, and yellows against the pure and simple white create a beautiful tapestry unlike any other in nature.

I love the feeling of freedom that envelops me when snow falls. It is a freedom to just be, to stop and rest in the amazement and joy, and to slow down and savor the beauty surrounding me. As nature tends to do, as I stop to appreciate my surroundings, my thoughts turn to God. I see His hand in each snowflake that falls and stare in wonder as they gather and rest on tree branches without overwhelming or breaking them. The harmony of it all is simply breathtaking. I cannot stop staring at the world around me!


Perhaps this state of harmony is how God intended the world to be? Perhaps He longs for us to see the beauty He creates in nature more often and to rest in His peaceful calm?

This snow-covered day gives a deeper and fresh meaning to a favorite verse of mine:

“BE STILL, and know that I AM God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” – Psalm 46:10, ESV

Psalm 46 celebrates Zion (the coming city of the LORD) and God’s plans to bless all the earth with His majestic presence. All wars will cease, and peace will rule the nations.

Be still, people of the earth, and welcome the coming LORD! Let God’s peace fall down upon you like snow. Let the blanket of white cover you and the quiet calm envelop you until you can truly rest in the real presence of the LORD.

Take time this Advent season to JUST BE STILL! Take in the beauty of the snow (if you have any), and allow it to calm and soothe you. Remember that God created time. He will not let you “get behind” because you have chosen to pause and be still in His presence; rather, He will bless you with snow flurries of joy and peace as you go about your day!

[NOTE: More to come on the season of Advent in upcoming posts! Stay tuned!]

ESV = English Standard Version Bible

happy fall y’all!

I love fall! It is my favorite season. The crisp weather, pumpkins, football and scarves just get me excited! I long to plant mums and cabbage, hang a “Happy Fall Y’all” sign on my door, and start a pot of chili on the stove to celebrate the new season!

Now the autumn season officially began on September 22nd, but as my fellow Southerners can relate, the temperature and humidity have stubbornly rebelled against the change. As a Southern lady, I have spent the last month “glistening” [Southern lingo for perspiring] due to the rebellious nature of our weather.

I look around me and see the leaves changing and the fall plants growing, yet the weather refuses to joyfully embrace the new season. The plants, the animals, even the people have welcomed fall, and I wonder why the weather insists on holding on to the past. Do we not do the same thing sometimes? Do we not go through the motions of moving into another season of life while gripping tightly and focusing our eyes on the previous season?

God created seasons to allow time for rest and growth and renewal. He made all of nature to thrive in ONE SEASON at a time. He made humans no different. We were created to live and thrive within seasons as well! We cannot go through seasons without change.

Notice the opening line from the poem in Ecclesiastes below.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, ESV

What about you? What season of life does God have you in right now?

Perhaps you are in a season of growth and wonder how much further you can be stretched because your body aches from the growing pains.

Or maybe you are in a season of rest and renewal and are plagued with FOMO (fear of missing out) or boredom due to your less active lifestyle.

Perhaps your season is far more challenging than your neighbor’s, and you struggle with envy because your disappointments are racking up in comparison to her successes.

Or maybe you are in a season of loss and struggle to hold onto your faith because all you can feel is numbness from the pain.

Perhaps you are in a season of newness and positive growth, and you long for someone to genuinely share in your excitement.

Or maybe you are on your way out of one season and into another one and not sure how you will weather the storm of change or how you will start over if you lose everything you own.

Each season is different, but one thing remains the same: GOD. He is constant. He is steady. His love for us never changes. His eyes never leave us. His hand is never out of reach.

Storms in life will come, and change is inevitable.

How can we remain joyful, even in the toughest of seasons? How can we hold tight to our faith when everything else is slipping away? By looking up to God instead of all around us. Know and trust that He is faithful and good.

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” -Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” -Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV

ESV = English Standard Version Bible










bad driving.

Bad drivers. We all have seen them, honked at them, and yelled things at them that we are ashamed to repeat outside of our cars! Even worse, some of us have been those bad drivers. Oh no!

I attended an event the other day located deep inside a large neighborhood, more like a maze. When I went to leave, I could not find the exit and realized that I must have missed my turn. You see, I had not paid good attention to all the turns when I followed my friend through the maze to the event.

Now, I found myself on a street that dead-ended in a cul-de-sac of houses. No sight of the neighborhood exit, and I was frustrated!  I made a three-point turn, retraced my path, and said some unsightly words! I was so busy being annoyed from driving in circles that I failed to look both ways before crossing the street.

I ALMOST had a wreck because I was being a bad driver!

At the disturbing sound of many long honks, I hit my brakes and looked up just in time to see a very nasty glare that lasted far longer than necessary.

I sat at that stop sign and thought about how close I was to not only being in an accident, but almost being the cause of one. As I surveyed my surroundings, I realized that I had turned prematurely. I had been on the right street in the beginning but had taken a wrong turn BEFORE I could SEE the exit gate.

So similar to our Christian walks…

We often are on the right path with God, and although we are walking with Him, we still want to turn off the path BEFORE we arrive at the gate. We lose patience with the journey and think that we have missed our turn. On the contrary, most times we have not even arrived to the place where God wants us to turn. We feel lost and frustrated and worry that God has either led us astray or misled us, or (my favorite), that we have gone too far and completely missed our turn altogether. LIES!

Now, the glares and the honks hurt my feelings, but I was grateful for their warning that kept us both out of danger.

Have you ever had warning signs that made you realize that you had veered off the road? What about in your spiritual life, in your journey with God? Have you ever felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit that caused you to stop and turn around? Or perhaps that undeniable gut feeling, or conviction, that lets you know that you need to turn around to avoid danger?

GOD KNOWS that we are human. He designed us “in His image” and empowered us with the ability to make our own decisions (Genesis 1:27). However, this free will can lead us astray when we are not paying attention to our surroundings or decide that our paths are better than the ones God chose for us.

We are not the only “bad drivers” throughout history. King David certainly did not have a perfect driving record! He made many mistakes in life, yet God never gave up on him. In the following passage, he advises his son to OBEY GOD and to STAY ON COURSE!

Hear these words of wisdom from King David of Isreal:

“When David’s time to die approached, he charged his son Solomon, saying, “I’m about to go the way of all the earth, but you—be strong; show what you’re made of! Do what God tells you. Walk in the paths he shows you: Follow the life-map absolutely, keep an eye out for the signposts, his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; then you’ll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go. Then God will confirm what he promised me when he said, ‘If your sons watch their step, staying true to me heart and soul, you’ll always have a successor on Israel’s throne.” – I Kings 2:1-4, The Message

We must note that David did not detour enough times to “mess up” or “miss out on” God’s plan for his future. The world may tell us that we have gone too far off course for God to save us, but that is simply not true! We are NEVER TOO FAR GONE for God to save us! God re-routed David [every time!] until arriving at his final destination of establishing the lineage for the kingdom of God through his dynasty!

Twenty-eight generations later, Jesus Christ is born from the house of David:

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” -Luke 2:12, ESV

This Messiah, this Savior, was Jesus Christ, the eternal successor of Isreal’s throne.

Remember, God will guide us, but we have to pay attention to look and listen for our directions. It is so easy to miss our turn when we are not paying attention. Turn off the distractions, and focus solely on God’s navigational directions!

ESV = English Standard Version


nap time.

I have never been “good” at sitting still. I like to be doing something. I was the child in school who detested nap time and preferred to be coloring or playing instead.

Little has changed in adulthood for me. With the exceptions of an illness or a beach chair, I seldom nap. I still would rather be doing something more fun, more exciting than taking a boring nap!

Although I have outgrown (and graduated!) from grade school, I have not outgrown spiritual school. God teaches me new things every day, and sometimes we spend more days that I would like to admit reviewing the same lesson. Oh yes, the school of God is no joke! He asks me to recall important information I have already received in order to learn from my mistakes. Some of his lessons make no more sense to me than organic chemistry, and his examination style puts my pharmacy professors to shame!

As if all this were not enough, God also insists that I take nap time. I try to explain that I am “too busy” to stop and nap, but it is no use! I try to argue that I am not even tired, but He disagrees!

Hear the words of our Lord Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28, ESV

I sometimes do not even realize that I am tired and worn out until I finally stop. I also do not realize how heavy my burden is until I set it down.

Jesus commands us to come to him with our heavy burdens and our worn down souls so that He can give us rest. I hear you Jesus! I sure do not intend to disobey, but I do have a tough time knowing when my burden has become heavy and when I am tired and need rest!

Perhaps you can relate? We live in a culture that never stops and is always looking for the next best thing. It is so easy to get caught up in the social pressure of doing more, being more, going more. However, trying to keep up with the pace of the world brings nothing but frustrations and disappointments. The world will tell us we are not doing enough, but Jesus tells us the opposite. See my previous post for more about living in God’s timing: Standing on an hourglass

Jesus tells us that we are doing enough.. perhaps we are doing too much! Our loads are sometimes far heavier than we are made to carry. The burdens are not intended to be solely ours. Burdens can be anything that we are carrying around: guilt, sin, frustrations, worries, jobs, to-do-lists.

Jesus continues: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:29-30, ESV

In Jesus’ day, a yoke was a wooden frame joining two animals for pulling heavy loads. It was also a common metaphor within the Jewish community for the religious laws that they were required to observe. There were so many laws to follow that practicing faith had become exhausting. [Remember, that Jesus was born into the Jewish community. Christianity began with His ministry on earth.]

One particular group of Jewish leaders, the Pharisees, were very judgmental and strict about the Jewish laws. Other groups of Jews felt guilty and “heavy burdened” from trying to obey all the laws they imposed to stay in God’s good graces. [See the book of Leviticus for all the many Jewish laws.] Under the Jewish law, the only way that people could receive forgiveness of their sins was by offering sacrifices at the temple, and the priest had to make the sacrifice on their behalf. How exhausting! I would be on a first-name basis with the temple priests for sure from going so often!

Jesus offers a lighter yoke, an easier way to do life. He tells the people to come to Him [instead of the temple priests] to lay their burdens down. Jesus not only will forgive us for our sins; He will also help us carry our heavy loads with no judgement for what we bring to Him.

Jesus, are you serious?! My loads are embarrassingly heavy, and I really do not want anyone to even see what I am carrying around! He says to bring it anyway!

Jesus wants us to come to Him, is willing to take our burdens, and wants to give us rest. He does so because He loves us, unconditionally and always. 

My hope is that you are able to recognize when you are weary and when your load is too heavy to bear, that you go to Jesus for rest, and that you allow Him to lighten your load. I assure you that He is more than willing to help and is waiting for your arrival!

ESV = English Standard Version Bible

propel women.

Several years ago, I had the privilege to attend a Women of Faith event in Houston, Texas. I was inspired and encouraged by all the speakers I heard throughout the weekend: Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Lisa Harper, Sheila Walsh and Christine Caine.

I began following each of the ladies’ ministry journeys and learning and growing from the materials they were producing. When Christine Caine created Propel Women, I immediately was drawn to her prophetic vision that had developed into a deep and genuine passion to encourage, empower and equip women to do the Lord’s work in everyday life. Yes! I could not wait to learn more!

Next thing I knew, I was co-leading a Propel Women Chapter at my local church and gathering a group for the conference that would be held in the fall of 2016 right here in Mississippi. [Y’all, NO ONE holds their events in Mississippi! This was HUGE!]

At the conference, I was afforded the opportunity to meet other chapter leaders from the region as well as meet the ladies of Propel Women! A few months later, Propel Women invited me to write an article about my amazing experience at their event.

It is my great privilege to present my first published article: My Story at Propel Women.

I hope you find encouragement in my story and can see that God indeed hears us and has a purpose for our lives. Opportunities exist around us daily to see His hand and to hear His call; our eyes and ears must be open to Him, and we must also be attentive and willing to respond in obedience.

This passage spoke to me often during the time period that I reference in the article. These words sustained me during a seemingly silent and lost time, a season of searching and waiting. In retrospect, I can see that God not only met me right where I was, in the middle of the thick, but He also guided me out to a better place and is still leading me today.

“.. Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all… Always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good… He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:14b-21,24, ESV

ESV = English Standard Version

facebook friend.

The other morning I was sitting outside, drinking coffee and enjoying the beautiful weather. I had my Bible open and was reading the day’s lesson in my study group’s current series, A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit: 5 Habits From the Book of Ruth by Nicki Koziarz.

Someone walking by stopped and looked from my books to me and said, “Oh. You are doing your spiritual part of your life.” After I replied, “Yes, I’m doing my Bible study lesson,” and he walked on, I kept thinking about his words.. doing .. your .. part of your life..

This person has known me for many years and has been a regular church attendee for as long as I have known him. His comment was not one that I would expect from a fellow Christian. Something just did not feel right about his awkward words and behavior.

Two questions kept running through my mind:

(1) Does my faith in God encompass my entire life and being or just “a part” of it?

As Christians, we are commanded to live out each day in a Christ-like manner, displaying the love of God in every facet of our lives. As I strive to meet this commandment, am I exuding the love of God in all my daily activities? Do I walk each day on the path God has laid for me?

(2) How can I encourage fellow Christians to seek a [more active] relationship with God?

Going to church does not equal having a relationship with God. I have many Facebook friends; however, I do not have a personal relationship with each person, only the ones that I engage with in community and fellowship. God desires more than Facebook friend status; He desires for us to be actively engaged in a personal relationship with Him. Yes, He wants a personal relationship with you, with me.. not just a select few of us, but everyone!

The following passage is from the letter written to the church at Phillipi. In it, the apostle Paul reminds the community of new believers that the goal they are striving towards is Jesus Christ, trusting Him and knowing Him in a personal relationship. Faith is strengthened within a community of believers working towards a common goal and encouraging each other along the way. Paul suggests that practice makes perfect, as he urges the church to imitate him in his walk of humble dependence on Christ.

“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” -Philippians 3:12-21, HCSB

Let your faith infiltrate every part of your life. Let the perfect love of Christ absorb into every fiber of your being. Allow God to work through you and display His majesty in all that you do. Encourage one another to walk in faith at all times and to seek the leading of God. Set good examples for fellow Christians to follow, and mimic the Christ-like behaviors you see others displaying. We become what we practice.

HCSB = Holman Christian Standard Bible

tight quarters.

We all know that God commands us to love thy neighbor. For such a simple and straightforward command, it sure can be hard to do sometimes. At least, it is for me!

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a Propel Women workshop in Orange County, California! It was quite a long journey from Mississippi but worth the 5:55am flight and long travel.

On my flight out to California, I sat squeezed into a middle seat between two large men. As I struggled awkwardly with finding a comfortable position in my “tight quarters,” I was reminded of the commandment to love our neighbors. I settled in to four hours between the two snoring giants and let my mind wander. The thought struck me:

How often do we find it hard to show love to those that are closest to us? 

In the time of Jesus, the Jewish religion had divided into several parties, or sects. The most popular group, known as the Pharisees, prided themselves on their strict adherence to Mosaic law. A very self-righteous group, they placed higher value on appearance then morals. Jesus was often tested with questions regarding the law of Moses and the prophets throughout his ministry. The Pharisees saw Jesus as a threat, rather than a messiah, to the Jewish nation. They considered his radical display of love to ALL people (not just Jews) to be an abomination to the faith. His generosity to everyone was unprecedented, and it threatened the religious exclusivity that they cherished. At the time, the Pharisees observed all Jewish laws and customs, yet with misplaced motivations to do so. Jesus teaches that having a heart for God is more important than going through the motions of practicing faith, that giving one’s heart to God is more important than performing ritual sacrifices and offerings.

In the following passage, a scribe is inquiry which of the commandments is the greatest. Keep in mind that Jesus is speaking radically about ideas never heard of before. Today, 2000 years later, his ideas still seem radical and difficult to ingest fully. Imagine how bewildered they must have been hearing the words of our Lord:

A scribe asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. – Mark 12:28-34, ESV

Did you catch that? Jesus told the scribe “Good job! A+” for his wise answer. All the scribe did was repeat Jesus’ words back to him.. big deal! Read it again. Jesus saw that the scribe answered wisely, and commended him on his faith. Jesus must have seen a heart full of faith as this scribe not only gave the right answer, but spoke it with genuine belief in the words he had said aloud.

This scribe was no dummy; he believed at first sight! Surely his heart must have been stirring in awe. Jesus spoke with such authority in his words that Mark tells us that no one else there even dared to ask any more questions. Wow! In a few mere sentences, Jesus shut down their game of 20 questions. His authoritative truth swept in and knocked them mute.

Hear the words of Jesus recorded by the apostle John:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. – John 5:25, ESV

Eternal life. The kingdom of heaven. Jesus tells us these everlasting rewards are available for any who listen to him and believe what he says.

He does not instruct us to love the neighbors of our choosing, but to love everyone. For me, sometimes, proximity can be an enemy. I wonder if the scribe wanted to kick any of his neighbors in the synagogue that day. I would have! Life presents so many opportunities to knock some sense into our neighbors. However, Jesus said to love them!

So there it is: the unavoidable commandment to love all, no matter their distance, or lack thereof. I find that the power to even attempt such an impossible feat comes only through God. We receive the ability and will to love others when He pours his perfect love into us. Only then can we pour out that unstoppable love on our neighbors.

Disclaimer: The closer your neighbor is to you, the more likely you are to get splashed with that awesome love! Tight quarters get hot; you will be amazed at how refreshing that little splash will be!

ESV = English Standard Version Bible

bye. grudges, part 2.

I wrote earlier this year about grudges (see Grudges make smudges. ) and the energy they can deplete from your being. A grudge will hold your joy hostage before you ever knew what happened. Now that I am (one year older. one year wiser.), I have learned even more about the long-term effects these grudging ailments will have on your health. They are not worth your time, only your goodbye!

The day will come, even after you have diligently “spring-cleaned” your heart of any known grudges, that an old grudge will bubble to the surface. It may be older than your grandma, but still feel as fresh as a new baby. DO NOT STRESS! This horrifying, and possibly embarrassing, moment of recollection is NOT a sign of early onset dementia or temporary insanity.

I struggle to identify the revealing source sometimes, but if it is the work of the enemy, I am certain that God can turn that evil to good. He can use the upsetting memory as a way to prune you, to cleanse your mind of hateful thoughts and shameful memories, and ultimately draw you closer to Him. These blasts-from-the-past may be brought to light because they are a barrier between you and God. Ouch! Let it go, sister!

There is a catch. He only heals what we reveal. Anywhere that our hearts have hardened, the LORD can renew and refurbish, but only if we are willing to acknowledge our wrongdoings and repent. God forgives all things. We must just ask Him.

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.” – Psalm: 103:8-11, ESV

Read these words of assurance again, and again. Know that God loves you and will forgive you. Know that his grace and his mercy extend further than your eye can see and your mind can comprehend. Know also that God only wants His best for His children. He corrects us in love, so that we can grow closer to Him and the perfection He planned for us.

Take heed of this spoiler alert: this is where the enemy enters the scene:

“Be sober-minded: be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8, ESV

What? Ole Pete just put “lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” to shame! Total stalker status.

YOUR ADVERSARY (as in someone against you) is prowling around just looking for someone to destroy. In the words of my mother, “Horrors!” He is just watching and waiting for a chance to prance on you, to catch you when you are down and not on your guard. What better opportunity for his attack than when you are pouting about getting scolded?

Although it may feel like God is defining your impurity, He is actually refining your purity.

Hang in there, and remember that trials will come. We will be tempted and tested, and we will stumble and fall. By the grace of God, stand back up and seek His forgiveness. Repent and let it go! His love covers all things, even the dreadful grudges we may hold.

 ESV = English Standard Version Bible