Blessing in an “Annus Horribilis”


An author friend of mine from California writes great blog posts about hope. I swapped with her this week since we both share our findings of hope in our world from opposite places in the nation. I pray you’re blessed by her wonderful post this week. You can read more of her posts, and see mine this week on her site at www.carolshope.com.

Blessing in an “Annus Horribilis”

By Carol Nicolet Loewen

In a speech marking the 40th anniversary of her succession, Queen Elizabeth II referred to 1992 as an “annus horribilis,” a horrible year. Many of us would say the same of 2020.

Our country is in the midst of an ever-expanding pandemic as we wait and pray for an effective vaccine. We have isolated, masked, attended church, family, and business meetings on Zoom. We are hitting new highs for COVID-19 hospitalizations and are cautioned against being together with family members for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa holidays. Fires and floods have taken lives, homes, animals, property. And our election results are still in question, with the media quick to step in with their interpretation before waiting for the final electoral vote in December.

We need hope. And out of that hope we need love that goes beyond our differences.

I heard a statistic recently that more than 80% of Americans–whether Democrat or Republican, Christian or non-Christian, church-goer or non-church goer–say they have no friends who see the world differently than they see it, politically and theologically. We prefer to stay in our own comfort zones rather than deliberately choosing to know and learn to love someone who is “unlike” us. And nothing divides us like fear. Fear of loss … of control, safety, rights, freedom, health, power, economic stability, and on and on.

We look for affirmation, security, and love in a variety of ways, many of which are not only unproductive, but potentially dangerous.

  • The sexually abused daughter who grows up to become promiscuous, believing physical intimacy is the way to gain security through the approval of men.
  • The son who has never been able to please his father, continues to push himself, trying ever harder to get an “atta boy”. He becomes a workaholic who is almost an absentee parent.
  • The tycoon who thinks his business success will buy him security. 
  • The perfectionist who continually beats herself up because she could have “done it better,” never satisfied despite awards and recognition.
  • The rioters and looters who attack and destroy businesses of those they claim to defend.

What we’re looking for is a blessing. “Blessing” is defined as God’s favor and protection; a special favor, mercy or benefit. Three thousand years ago, God gave Moses a blessing for the people of Israel, which my lovely mother sang at my wedding. It still carries deep meaning. 

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Numbers 6:24-26

Only in the blessing of God do we find unconditional love which remains constant, not because of who we are or what we do, but because of who HE is.

“Thy love is uncaused and undeserved. Thou art Thyself the reason for the love wherewith we are loved.” (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 97)

God has chosen to delight in me. What an amazing, life-altering fact! I don’t have to earn His love. I can’t. I simply need to receive it, bask in it, find my security in it. And when I am secure in His love, I am able to love others and fear begins to evaporate.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. I John 4:18

So then how can I GIVE a blessing to others? In a video, an impatient man is given a pair of “all-seeing” glasses. People who before were irritants or interruptions are seen through a new lens—recognizing one needs a hug, a woman just lost a dear friend, a man lost his job. Seeing their pain, the man responds very differently than before.

I pray for eyes to see and ears to hear, so I can bless those around me … with a warm smile, a listening heart, a “thank you” to store clerks, health care professionals, and others. I want to intentionally affirm those I love and those who need encouragement.

I have needed a blessing these past weeks. Have you?

What choices will you make this week to receive and give the blessing? I’d love to interact with you at carolshope.com.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17b-19

Carol Nicolet Loewen writes of hope from the depths of her own loss. She resides in San Jose, California with her lovely second husband and their dog, Paige. Marrying a wonderful man at age 36 and losing him twenty years later taught her to value every moment, that we can survive loss, move ahead and even love again. It also allowed Carol to experience God’s faithfulness during the hardest time of her life. She is working on her first book, a historical novel of hope set in Bolshevik Russia, and loves to connect with her readers at carolshope.com.

What do Mr. Bill and the Bible have in common?


When I was in high school, Saturday Night Live often entertained us with crazy skits. It’s a show I haven’t watched for decades due to the change in content that seems less creative and more crude, but in those days we laughed our heads off at the ridiculous antics of the Coneheads, satiric sketches, and of course, the claymation characters of Mr. Slugo and Mr. Bill.

For you youngsters who may read my blog, a pair of real life hands would gesture according to a narrative in which Mr. Hands or Mr. Slugo would torment Mr. Bill and his dog with everyday situations, like showering or karate class that would destroy a clay figure. Mr. Bill would frantically cry out, “Ooohhh, nooo!” Believe me, it was only funny because it wasn’t real.

A number of years ago, a family member (Mom) sent me the little guy in the above picture as a joke. I wrote a post about it that you can read if you’d like.

But that’s not what this post is about.

Over the past year, Brendan and I have taken turns hiding Mr. Bill in various locations to get a laugh with each other. Here are some of Mr. Bill’s adventures:

We like to pretend the Mr. Bill got himself into these incredible predicaments, and keep a running joke of what Mr. Bill might be thinking. Lately, Mr. Bill has a thing for high places and spinning.

It’s a silly game, but it gives us a laugh. We’re a little crazy like that.

Here’s the thing…

While hiding a silly rubber man to play a game with my husband may be ridiculous, hiding something more important is not.

God says to hide his word in our hearts. And that is no joke!

Why should we hide God’s word in our heart?

  • So we won’t sin against God. (Psalm 119:11)
  • So we can learn and grow to be like Jesus, mature and ready for everything. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)
  • So we can give an apt word to someone who has a need for wisdom or encouragement, or wants to know about our source of hope. (Proverbs 15:23 & I Peter 3:15)
  • To allow the Holy Spirit to remind us of Jesus’ words and God’s great love for us. (John 14:26)
  • So we can wield it as a weapon against Satan. (Ephesians 6:17)
  • So if we are ever in a situation where we do not have a Bible, we will know what it says and be encouraged.

Hiding Mr. Bill may not make a lot of sense, but hiding God’s word in our heart is wise and advisable. Memorizing it is great, but even if we can’t remember the exact words or verse, the more we read, the more we understand the true character of God. And the more we can apply it and rely on what it says.

What’s a verse you have hidden in your heart? Mr. Bill wants to know.

Can you guess who conspired with Mr. Bill on the Aussie high dive?

Out of Control?


Photo by Sindre Stru00f8m on Pexels.com

A number of years ago, I lived in Nevada where snow fell for the better part of the year. Many days, the roads were still covered in ice and snow, even with plows clearing them on a regular basis.

On days like that, I rarely went out. But on this one particular day, I had no choice so I piled my four kids in our old Bronco, set my four-wheel drive, and ventured out despite my longing to avoid the trip into town.

We lived outside Reno, in a little valley at the foot of the Sierras so whenever it snowed, the storm would swirl around in our valley as if it were trapped by the surrounding mountains and hills.

Getting out was hard enough, but going down the slippery hill, onto the highway, and into town proved challenging at best. Especially when the snow blew in blizzard, white-out conditions.

As it did on this particular day. (Did I mention I would have rather been at home with a cup of tea and a good book?)

Whenever we made the twenty to thirty minute journey into town (depending on what part of Reno we needed to arrive at), it seemed like a longish drive. But on snowy days, the are-we-there-yet question played every few minutes in what felt like a never-ending trek of epic proportions.

We made it down the hill, onto the highway, and the road was remarkably clear of traffic. (Those smart other people!) But it was not clear of snow and ice.

I drove clutching the steering wheel while reassuring my youngsters that all was good. “You all have your seat belts on, right? Mommy’s just double-checking.”

That’s when I glimpsed a flash of red up ahead of me through the blinding snow. The brake lights of a slowing, or stopped(?) car. I tapped my brakes lightly, but in an instant, the car spun out of control.

Kind of in slow motion.

But within a few seconds we were headed the wrong way on the highway.

I’m thrilled to say that we didn’t crash. Simply landed with a bump and poof of snow in the center divider. While we were shaken up, I was able to carefully navigate us into the right direction and off the highway. Thank you, Jesus! (I say that a lot.) I decided to take the longer, street route the remainder of the way into town. Yeah.

Here’s the thing.

For those few minutes, the scariest part was feeling like I was completely out of control. My car was turning and sliding and no amount of driving-in-snow protocol helped.

I was helpless, powerless, and sensed danger all around.

I think that’s how most of the world feels these days. Between the virus, job losses, the election, violence in our streets, and even friends and family turning against us on social media, we can spin out of control and land facing the wrong direction.

Isn’t that what we fear most? Being out of control?

Don’t we want to know what’s happening all the time and have a handle on it? Our family, our job, our finances, our spouse, kids, friends, and the outcome of this election?

But what if we don’t? What do we do then? How do we handle life when we feel like we’ve lost control?

It’s been a slow road, but I’m learning to trust the God that IS in control. He sees all, has already been where we’re going, and knows what’s up ahead. I may not know, but if he does and I trust him then no matter what happens, I can be at rest.

Even when I’m out of control.

What if God knows everything about this virus, the election, the violence, and what my spouse, kids or friends feel and think? What if he’s using every single good and bad thing to bring something good, or better for us or someone else? What if we trusted that what we can see is only part of the bigger picture and plan?

I could tell a multitude of stories of all the times I questioned what was happening from injury, sickness, death to job loss, financial struggles and misunderstandings with family or friends. I have plenty of material.

I know this from my sixty years of life. God is good. He is faithful. I can trust him with everything and when I do, my heart is at peace even in the midst of messy spin-outs. It took practice to learn, and I’m still in process, but I know my God, and he loves us.

Getting to know him is the first step. Getting to know him intimately (nothing weird, just up close and personal), is the next. First we try talking to him and trusting him with something, and then we can trust him with the next thing and the next. Anyone who would give their child so that we could be close to him must love us an awfully lot.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” I John 4:9

“We love because he first loved us.” I John 4:19

Hawaii

Today, when you feel out of control, maybe try talking to the God who loves you and is in control. You may find a new sense of peace to give up your control and leave everything in his very capable hands.

I have. I hope you can too.

Guard the Fortress


There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and storms have broken out all at once. Not to mention sudden, crazy weather patterns of intense heat followed by September snow.

We shouldn’t be surprised.

Jesus told us that all this would happen.

“Jesus answered, ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name claiming, ‘I am the Christ’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nations will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matthew 24:4-8

As the world becomes more desperate, I pray we will turn to Jesus. While the enemy attempts to destroy us and our belief in a good God who loves us, Jesus longs for us to run to him in our pain, fear, hopelessness. He will comfort and strengthen us and give us peace.

His word also gives instruction to help us in this time of crisis.

Recently, I read some encouraging instruction in the book of Nahum. In the second chapter, and the first two verses, this prophet warns the people to be alert when their enemy is advancing on them. While those words were meant for that time in a practical war sense, all of God’s word is relevant to us in some way even today. This is what I took from the passage that I believe can be helpful today.

  1. “Guard the fortress.” As believers in Jesus, our bodies are God’s “temple” where the Holy Spirit resides. I believe that God would have us guard our bodies and hearts against unhealthy living and the lies of the enemy. Fear is a spirit that is stirring up the world. Let’s guard ourselves against it, rather than letting it penetrate our bodies and minds.
  2. “Watch the road.” Our mind is what lets in thoughts and images like a road into our fortress. If we’re not careful about what we expose ourselves to, we may find that what we let in is infiltrating us in a destructive, poisonous way.
  3. “Brace yourself.” God’s word is the most powerful weapon we have. It is the “sword of the spirit” which is truth. The Bible is “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…” (Heb. 4:12) When we declare it, pray it, and speak it, we are bracing ourselves for battle.
  4. “Marshall all your strength.” Our only true strength comes from the Lord. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” In order to gain that strength, I must be in God’s presence. Worship, talking to him, and asking for his wisdom in every area will make me strong. It’s Jesus who strengthens us. (Phil. 4:13)

Battles aren’t without injuries or destruction, but the Lord will restore to us anything that is lost in battle. He makes us beautiful and splendid no matter what might be destroyed. Even in this era of the world going crazy, let us look to the Lord, God Almighty who is our only true refuge in times of trouble.

Praying for you as you consider where your help comes from. My help comes from the Lord God, maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-3)

Confused?


DSC_0059With so many contradicting messages blasting through our world right now, it’s easy to be confused about what to think. Who’s sharing truth and who’s manipulating people’s emotions?

As someone who loves Jesus, the saddest aspect to me is when I see or hear about proclaimed followers of Jesus arguing about politics, doctrine, and their own opinions. Are we adding to the confusion or showing a hurting and broken world faith, hope, and most importantly, love?

Accusing various believers or specific organizations of not being righteous or godly because they worship differently, pray silently or openly, baptize in various ways, support a political party, or wear masks (or not) divides us and drives us into confusion rather than the unity that Jesus desires for us.

The first and most important issue is whether we acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. When we receive his gracious gift of laying his life down for our sinfulness, we are part of a family. That’s good news no matter how we receive it—whether in a church service, at a beach worship time, or in our bedroom, car, or shower. We might be homeless in an alley or looking at a sunset when we realize the love of God for us and choose to follow him.

After that, Jesus gave us some pretty clear and simple instructions for the rest of life.

  • Love him. He loved us first. He gave his life and longs for us to respond to his love.
  • Love ourselves. We are created and loved by God. He has a great plan for us. Treat ourselves kindly.
  • Love others. We’re all created and loved by God. When we realize we’re loved, we can extend that love.
  • Seek God first. Everything else falls into place when we do.
  • Live humbly. While we have our own thoughts and opinions, so do others. God is God. We’re not.
  • Speak the truth in love. Be honest with ourselves and others always.
  • Mercy over judgement. God forgave us. Forgive others, and let God be the only judge.
  • Grace, not deeds. God’s showed us grace when we were a mess not because we did something right. Be gracious to others in the same way.

I’ve been guilty of seeking my way, thinking my way is the only way, judging others, and not wanting to show grace or forgive.

We all have.

But when we get caught up in whether others are doing it our way, or sharing our opinions, or applying God’s word differently than we think it should be interpreted, we divide rather than unite.

God says a house divided can’t stand. So naturally that’s the enemy’s plan. If he can use us in the church to divide the church, then it’s a win, win for him.

And a loss for us and for those who don’t know Jesus yet and are turned off by our portrayal of him.

We have to let go of ourselves. Our agendas. The way we think things should be done.

Die to self is what Jesus calls it.

Not because he doesn’t want us to be the thinking, creating, unique individuals that he designed us to be, but because he wants us to be free to live fully in those ways. And his plans give us so much more than we can secure for ourselves.

When he increases in our lives, and our broken, self-focused, my-way-is-best decreases, we can walk in love. Loving him, loving us, loving others. Loving life.

And the world will know that Jesus is Lord, and he SO loves them.

A New Thing


For the past fifteen years, I’ve held a vision in my heart for a new kind of educational experience. Over the years, I’ve added notes, quotes, ideas, and cost analysis scribbles to the folder housing this dream. I’ve pushed it aside as life interrupted, picking it up again only to find the timing wasn’t right. But life is changing – has changed – now, right?

I believe God is doing a new thing.

For many of us, dormant dreams are awakening in us as God breathes on us with new life. The shaking of the world as we’ve known it has caused us to sit up and take notice. Are we going to keep living in the old ways, or will we shake off the dust and arise to something new?

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

For me, while I’m still writing books (When the Wind Blows is coming in September!), and my husband and I continue to help people plan their financial journey, God has also downloaded this exciting educational project called Discovery House.

You can learn about it at www.ourdiscoveryhouse.com and if the idea interests you, you can learn more and support us on our GoFundMe page.

But what about you?

What new thing is God doing in your life? Even if you’ve battled with health, loss of a loved one, or a job change, what new approach can you take? What new thing can you learn?

Maybe you haven’t thought about this season being a time of good things, but what if beyond all the chaos there’s a new path that God has ready for you?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Peace Be With You


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This week I was reading in John 21, and God spoke to me about peace. He asked me to share what he said, but first let me set the scene.

The followers of Jesus are cowering together in a room together with the doors locked.

Why?

Because their leader, who they thought was going to bring about political freedom, has been murdered. Tortured, mocked, and nailed on a tree to die for “no reason” according to the man who released him to be crucified. And even though some of them have seen him alive after he’s risen from the dead, they are hiding because people are hunting them to kill anyone who has followed Jesus.

Chaos, riots, turmoil in the streets. Fear permeating through the locked doors. Sound familiar?

And then Jesus shows up in the midst of their fear and says “Peace be with you.”

Today I heard him speak through his word and the whispers in my spirit. This is what he said:

No matter what is happening in the world right now, when I am with you, you will have peace. Do not get caught up in the drama of the times. Sit with me. Abide with me, and I will bring peace. I will cover you with peace. Not the peace the world claims void of racism and pandemics and turmoil and killing and riots, but peace outside of that, beyond it, in spite of it. Peace is not the absence of turmoil, it is my presence that is perfectly right and transcends what you can see. If you seek me, you will find me. If you trust me, you will rest in me. If you align yourself with me, it doesn’t matter what is happening in the world, you will be in peace, surrounded with peace, covered with peace. I AM WITH YOU. Peace be with you. Let me breathe on you. Live in forgiveness. Stop doubting. Stop looking for something in the world to bring you peace, just believe the I AM, and I AM with you. Peace be with you.”

May you find peace in Jesus today.

What About Forgiveness?


During a discussion about the events of the recent murders, our love for our friends of all races, and how to navigate in a world where the violence of some escalated into ridiculous destruction, my husband asked a question.

“What about forgiveness? What would Jesus be thinking/doing in this situation?”

I thought he brought up a good point. One that has caused me to contemplate and consider my thoughts, opinions, and actions in regard to the racial injustice now and for hundreds of years previously.

So many thoughts and questions.

We talked about how we can’t fully understand what it feels like for someone of color to have to be careful where they go, what they do, and how they look. We haven’t been in a situation to have to instruct our children how to be careful when driving or being out with friends.

What little experience I have of that type of discrimination is when my younger brother, in our late teens/early twenties, was pulled over more than a couple of times because his long hair stereo-typed him as a drug user.

Or the numerous times I’ve been followed by men in cars trying to lure me, degrade me, or assault me because I’m a woman. Even as recently as a couple of weeks ago, a man in a doctor’s office elevator undressed me with his eyes. Not a pleasant experience.

But still, it only gives me a small taste of the concern and tension my dear black friends feel on a daily basis.

We talked about how people all over the world are discriminated against, persecuted, and maligned because of their skin, beliefs, or cultures. I asked Brendan, who’s from Australia, if he had any friends who were of Aboriginal descent, those who were native to Australia, and if they experienced the same kind of discrimination.

We talked about how we both felt uncomfortable now with people of color because previously we simply saw everyone we met or knew as people. Not white people or black people or Asian people or Latin people. Just as someone might use skin color as a description of us white folks, we might describe others the same way by their color or ethnicity or culture, but we didn’t think of it in a derogatory way. Is it?

But now, would people assume we did? Had we not been interested enough in the past to find out someone’s story because they were of a different color or background? Should we go out of our way to be kinder than usual to let people know we care about their color? Have I discriminated in some unknown way because the majority of the characters in my books have white skin?

I believe that black lives matter.

They absolutely do. I’ve been ignorant in my assumptions that black people aren’t treated badly “any more” as a whole. I’m grateful for the conversations that are opening my eyes, and breaking my heart.

And I also believe that every life matters.

Every single person whether they’re black, of another culture or race, white, young, old, male, female, unborn, or living with some kind of limitation or disability should never be thought of as “less than.” But haven’t we all at some point looked at someone else and thought they were not as good, right, talented, kind, handsome, fit, pretty, etc. as us?

Not to take away from this current crisis of racial injustice.

But the bottom line is our sinful hearts. Wrong motives. Selfish attitudes. Pride. Fear. Lack of compassion.

And what about forgiveness?

I believe there is a place for righteous anger. God has displayed his in numerous occasions in the Bible. And I believe he calls us to speak out against sin; not people, but sin, calling out evil and injustice. He tells us to speak for those who don’t have a voice. To stand up for those who are in captivity.

But I also believe God calls us to forgive. To lay down anger, and not let it make us sin. Not let the sun go down on it. Not let it turn into roots of bitterness. He says our anger will not bring about his righteousness. Even if we’d like to believe it will.

What the officers, as well as so many others we don’t even know about, did in killing innocent people or turning their backs as it happened, was so wrong. Unjust. Evil. It’s righteous anger that calls it out for what it is.

And, as my husband pointed out, Jesus was beaten, tortured, and murdered in a horrific way too, but he chose to forgive those who did not know what they were doing.

Of course, they knew what they were doing. But they had no real concept of how wrong their actions were. They were ignorant of what it meant in a bigger than human understanding way. They were foolish and led by evil, self-centered hearts.

Doesn’t that describe all of us?

Should we forgive? Jesus forgave us. He forgives the officers that killed Mr. Floyd and the others. He forgives the rioters and looters. And he forgives us for any of our opinions and fears and questions because our understanding about all of it is not his understanding.

He tells us that we see through a glass dimly. We can’t grasp all of what this means. We can’t. Even if we think we can and try to. So the best we can do is to spend time with him asking him to give us his eyes to see. His heart to understand and love with true compassion. For everyone.

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photo by Agberto Guimaraes https://unsplash.com/@agb800m

And his grace to forgive.

 

 

It’s Who You Know


A few weeks ago I watched a YouTube post in which a man proposed the heartbreaking idea that many who believe they will spend eternity in heaven may be shocked to discover (in the end) that they have missed out. His words gripped my heart.

Think of it like this.

You go to a high class restaurant. The maitre d’ asks if you have a reservation since they’ve been booked out for a year. You don’t. You can’t bribe him. You can’t plead with him. There is nothing you can do to get in. No way are you getting a table.

Unless you know the owner.

You mention that you know the owner, and ask if you could say hello. The big boss guy comes out front, and when he sees you, he throws open his arms and greets you as if you’re the most important person in his world.

“I’m so glad you came. Let me seat you at our special, reserved-just-for-family table.”

He ushers you to a prime location (for me that would be overlooking the ocean), and brings you a boSunset at Pismo Beach Pier - Pismo Beach, CAttle of his best wine. And not only has he made a place for you, he’s let you know that you are to order whatever you want. On the house.

We can apply this to God and the passages in the Bible about the wedding feast (Luke 14:15-23) to which he’s invited all his people. When we’re on the guest list, part of the family, we are welcomed with open arms. If we don’t have a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus, we won’t get in the door.

Or pearly gates, as they’re called.

People often point to their good deeds as the invitation. But that’s a forgery. Like trying to crash a wedding party without knowing the bride, groom or anyone else in the family. We might think:

“I’m a good person. I try to do the right thing.”

But do you know Jesus?

“I give to the poor, rescue abused animals, donate clothes to the homeless.”

But do you know Jesus?

“I help my neighbor.”

But do you know Jesus?

“I go to church.”

But do you know Jesus?

“I’ve read the Bible.”

But do you know Jesus?

“I put money in the offering plate.”

But do you know Jesus?

“I sang in the church choir.”

But do you know Jesus?

“I told someone I’d pray for them.”

But do you know Jesus?

I grew up knowing Jesus. I mean personally like my dearest friend and brother. I can’t imagine life each day without him. I love him more than my closest earthly friend, my husband. That kind of relationship is developed by intimate conversations, reading his letters to me, pouring out my heart to him, honoring him with my praise and not letting a day go by without consulting him. It started by me giving my heart to him.

You can know him too. He knows you. His arms are open. He gave up his life for us. All we have to do is accept his gift of love and acknowledge that we need him and want him in our lives.

Someday, we will all be asked, “do you know Jesus?”

What will you say?

Life Choices


dsc_0096Every day we each have hundreds of choices to make. Some minor decisions we make without much thought. What will I wear or eat? Where should I park my car? The blue plastic cup or glass?

Other choices affect us in bigger ways.

Should I spend the extra money for a new phone? Are we going out to eat—Chick-fil-A or Ruth Chris Steakhouse? Vacation this year? Put the kids in private school?

Then there are those choices that are life changing.

Go out with my married co-worker and not tell my spouse? File my taxes? Take another drink or those pills? Click on that site? Tithe? Lie? Cheat? Steal? Forgive? Give or take?

The choices we make determine the life we live.

One minor decision may not alter our entire life. Whether I wear jeans or shorts may make me more, or less comfortable depending on the weather, but otherwise will probably not lead to anything life altering.

However, for example, a small lie makes way for another and another until I begin to live in a pattern of exaggeration or avoidance or blaming which opens a door for more lies to cover my actions, get my own way, or secure something for myself. Eventually, lying can become a lifestyle of stealing, gossip, cheating, hiding secret addictions, or living a secret life.

I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Here’s the thing. I can easily say I’ve never killed anyone. But have I murdered someone with my thoughts of anger? And those murderous thoughts can lead to internal conversations that may erupt in speaking or yelling rudely to the guy who cut me off or the gal who didn’t get my order right. And eventually, harboring enough of them may come out in hitting that accompanies the yelling when my spouse says something I don’t agree with, or my child is annoying, or the dog pees on the carpet.

Let’s be real.

The truth is, God created us to live a blessed life in relationship with him. He gave us everything good and longs to lead us in prosperous ways. Despite man’s choice to defy him and usher sin into the world, God still had a plan to save us from ourselves and our destructive behavior.

We’re all prone to it.

Don’t pretend you wouldn’t rather have a Krispy Kreme donut than a kale tonic. (That may be an easy choice for some. I personally love kale tonic, but when I came downstairs at 3:30 a.m. and saw the box of Krispy Kreme donuts my youngest son left on the counter with a note saying Happy Mother’s Day on them, I could have easily eaten the entire half dozen. Not that a one-time splurge will alter the entire course of my blessed life, or maybe that IS part of my blessed life—but you get the idea. Enough. Said. Where is that box?)

See how easily we can digress?

Fill in the blank with your own diversion into less than positive behavior that leads to eventual destruction. Be honest. We all have those areas of wrong choices. Or, put another way, sin.

There. I said it.

The word we don’t want to acknowledge because there’s something about saying (or writing) SIN that makes us cringe and feel shame.

What if SIN means:

  • Sudden Impulsive Nature
  • Selfish Immaturity Naturally
  • Sometimes Indignant Narcissism
  • Slothful Ignorant Negativity
  • Self Interest Negotiations

God is perfect. He created us to be also. We are made in his image. Anything else is sin.

And we get to choose. Be like him or not.

If we choose to be like him—loving, kind, gentle, patient, humble, joyful, peace-loving, good, trusting, wanting the best for others, giving, hoping, persevering, faithful, and self-controlled—then we will live well.

If not, we’ll live in destructive patterns that will hurt us and others.

The bad news is that none of us can be perfect like God no matter how we try. (Thanks Adam and Eve.) Even if we do good things most of the time, none of us are righteous. And we can’t count on us doing something good enough to make us have a relationship with our perfect heavenly Father.

The good news? God planned for that.

He sent Jesus.

He says he doesn’t take pleasure in the death of anyone. He doesn’t want any of us to die as a result of our sin, so he sacrificed his son, Jesus, to take all our sin on him so we could have a new way of living and be covered even if we still made mistakes. Through Jesus we can have a new heart, a new spirit, a new life. That’s why we say, “born again.”

He wants us to live. Live well. Live abundantly. Live in freedom and peace. Live in love.

If we turn away from the choices we’ve made that bring destruction (repent), we can live.

God wants us to live.

Today, will we choose to live?

 Rid yourself of all the offenses you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!”  Ezekiel 18:32