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He Calls Me Friend

“For all the promises of God find their yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” 2 Corinthians 1:20

Perfect and majestic Father!  How is it that you open your heavens, reach down and invite us in to your perfect world each and every minute of every day?  I don’t want to miss a chance to say “yes!” back to you when you put out your glorious hand to me.  Holy Spirit, I RSVP today to you, “Yes and Amen!”

A few weeks ago, my church was studying Proverbs 27 and the theme of friendship which runs throughout it.  It hit me how God is always inviting us into relationships that mirror what He wants with us.  Jesus, himself, changed the status of His relationship with the disciples in John 15:15 when he said, “No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends.”

The role that Jesus plays in the work of the Trinity allows us to create a personal relationship with the most holy of all holies – God almighty.  In fact, a few of my friends who have spent years in Christian denominations where fearing God the Father is placed higher than other parts of the Trinity, recently discovered that it’s this close, personal friendship with the Lord that has brought them farther along in their sanctification.

God knows the value of friendships.  He has defined what a healthy, beautiful friendship is through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus provided gentle honesty, selfless attentiveness, stubborn loyalty, and intentional pursuit.  He didn’t overlook sin and He didn’t call out sin without love.   He doesn’t lie to us or betray us.

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

Jesus didn’t meet a couple of guys, sit around having a beer listening to their woes and their sins then sign off for the day with a “see ya!”  He invested.  He pursued.  He sharpened.  Isn’t it amazing that God wants this type of relationship with little ‘ole us?

The sermon that day about friendship featured a pin drop moment.  The pastor said, “Me and Jesus, it isn’t enough.”  The crowd was silent.  We’ve always heard that’s all we need, right?  But we were made to be loved and to love.  We were made to be in communion with other believers; to be friends, loyal, intentional and wise.  We know that because it’s what God wants with us and models for us.

Friend, today ask the Holy Spirit to put someone on your heart to reach out to.  Someone that you need to make an effort to get to know.  Let’s honor and glorify God by making a new friend to whom we can sharpen and they will sharpen us, in His name.

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His Abundance

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Colossians 1:27

Father God, your riches are boundless, your love endless, and your provisions unending!  While I go throughout my day today help me to take my thoughts off the world’s insufficiencies and turn my eyes to your plentiful ways.  Amen

It was only a short time ago that most of us worried about the scarcity of one product – toilet paper.  It was a man-made problem borne out fear and selfishness.  In fact, one day while at a home improvement store I witnessed a man and woman gleefully overloading their pickup truck with hundreds of rolls of toilet paper.  I’m sure their plan was to sell most of it and their excitement was over the thousands of dollars they would make.  A small part of me hopes they still have a garage full of toilet paper.  My husband’s solution to this dire 21stcentury problem was to install bidets in our bathrooms, therefore eliminating the need for toilet paper. Two points-of-view to the same problem. Scarcity vs. abundance.

We humans have a tendency to always worry about not having enough, whether it be food, water, fuel, trees, love, friends, money, work, or even toilet paper.  But God’s plan for us is so completely different.  He is always wanting us to model our lives, actions and thoughts to His kingdom—which He shows to be the opposite of scarcity thinking.

"Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
    your justice like the great deep.
    You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
    People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
    you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light we see light."  Psalm 36:5-9

You might be thinking, “that all sounds good but what about droughts and food shortages and waning oil reserves?”  To that I say, trust God first for He is always about abundance.  Throughout scripture, especially in the letters to the churches, we are reminded about the basic lesson of childhood – sharing.  (Something the folks in the pickup truck forgot)  You see, God provides.  He may provide more to you than you need so that you can give to another.  He also provides others with knowledge and skills to discover new ways for God to meet our needs.  Abundant thinking is always solution-based rather than fear-based.

I learned a valuable “point of view” lesson once from Dr. Laura Schlessinger about marriage.  If you always have the perspective that divorce is not an option then you will always find new solutions to marital problems (barring issues with violence and other abuses).  It’s the same with God.  If we always have the perspective that God is a god of abundance – overflowing with unending love and grace and mercy for us – then we will seek ways to see Him at work.  We will see our own abundance as His tools to serve others. 

Friend, God’s kingdom is overflowing with milk and honey.  When we see the world in a panic over the latest scarcity-based fear we need to turn our eyes to God.  His kingdom of abundance is open to all who call Him Savior and for that we should give Him all glory and honor!

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Tears

But while he was still a long way off his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  Luke 15:20

I know the text doesn’t say it but I can only imagine the tears flowing from the father and mother in the story of the prodigal son.  In fact, the King James version says “he fell on his son’s neck” in a dramatic display of joy and love.  Awhile ago, my family brought me to tears of joy with a surprise visit from my daughter, whom I hadn’t seen in months.  I heard the front door open and thinking it was my older daughter I made my way toward the front of the house to tell her hello.  When I realized it was my younger daughter I was overcome with tears and unable to speak.  I stood there sobbing in her arms.

It may seem strange to be thankful to God for tears but without them our world would be so vanilla.  I’ve laughed until I have cried with friends and family.  I’ve cried out to God, thankful for His grace and salvation.  I’ve wept at the birth of my daughters.  And yes, I’ve cried those tears of sorrow, of loss, of anger, of desperation.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5

So often we must weep, live in hard times before we can experience the full glory and blessing of God.  It’s why James tells us we should consider it joy to experience trials.  Because those trials produce good fruit in us.  And that fruit becomes something for us to share.

I have a friend whose 90 year old mother confesses to not remembering the last time, if ever, that she has cried.  What that means is she hasn’t participated fully in the gifts of life.  With each winter season in our lives we are so often rewarded with the spring, a time to bring  us great joys.  I want to go from this life knowing I have cried many tears from laughter, thankfulness, joyous surprise, beautiful surroundings and more.  I heard a Christian teacher say, “If you want the joy of Sunday’s resurrection you must first have the tears of Friday’s crucifixion.”

I’m so very grateful to God for giving us the outward ability to show our emotions.  To show those we love how much we love them, even after they are gone.  I’m looking forward to the day I can cry tears of joy when I see Jesus’ face watching for me from a long way off.  I know that when I get close enough, I will fall into His arms weeping, filled with joy.

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Love

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

The word “love” is found over 300 times in the King James Bible.  And if we were to study each mention, we’d probably find quite a lot of different uses of that word.  In our lives we use “love” in reference to friends, food, hobbies, God, spouses and more.  Each having a different meaning.  

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7

The current great lie about love is the statement “love is love.”  It’s use in this phrase is to convince us that all worldly love is good.  But as anyone who has taken a hard look at the idols we place in our lives we know that isn’t true.  We, as Christians, also know that deep, interpersonal love like the love between spouses, is reserved for specific relationships.  Love, as God has gifted us, is not just a feeling or a yearning.  It’s to be a mirror of the love God shows us.

God asks us to show love for our neighbors through kindness.  He asks us to show love to sinners with forgiveness and compassion.  He gives us families to express deep connections.  And He reserves a special love between a man and a woman.

Love is one of the many gifts from God that cannot be fully explained.  It’s not just our brain firing off electrical impulses when we see an attractive person.  If that were the case it wouldn’t explain loving people who hate us.  I thank God for this big, mysterious gift of love.  And I thank Him for how much He loves us.  His love is so unexplainable yet simple.  We don’t deserve it and He will never take it away.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
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The Great I Am

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”  Exodus 3:14

This week I’ve been reading a lot about going ahead of God.  Thinking I know the right way, the right answer, and moving forward on that path without first seeking God.  I was reminded of when I was asked to be our elementary school’s PTA president.  At the time, the elementary school was the largest in the district with over 1,000 students.  And it was about to undergo a major construction program to build more classrooms.  That meant a lot of turmoil with the way kids were dropped off at school, where classes would be held and how many of our PTA programs would take place.  I told the committee I could do the job but I didn’t think they would want my style of leadership.  I wasn’t an “insider” and didn’t have any qualms about squashing old ways of doing things.  Yet they returned to me multiple times asking me to take the job.  And I did.  

You’ll notice in this story, like we do in so many Biblical stories of failed leaders, that I haven’t mentioned consulting God.  Because I didn’t.  That is, until after I said, “yes.”  I believe it was the next day after I agreed to the job that I had my first of many conversations with the Almighty about this decision.  It went like this, “Lord, I’ve done this thing.  Please help it not be the wrong decision.”  In other words, I went ahead of Him and now wanted Him to fix my mess.

And God was with me throughout the two years of my term.  He was there when I cried myself to sleep.  He was there when I had parents screaming at me over the phone.  And He was there when people who I thought were friends turned their backs on me.  But He didn’t take away the consequences of my decision.  

Thank God that most of the time when I’ve failed to let God lead my life it hasn’t resulted in some horrible final outcome.  He has picked me up and dusted me off.  And after too many times of being on that same wheel I’ve decided to take a different path.  To trust that God is the Great I Am.  The One who has the best laid plans.  Who can make my path much more smooth if I just consult Him first.  If I release my need to be the most knowledgeable, not just about my life but other’s.   

I praise God today, on this final 30th day, for being I Am.  For being the Lord Almighty.  The God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,  and the God of Jacob.  

If you’ve ever seen the Jim Carrey movie Bruce Almighty you’ll see a man who takes this idea of control to the extreme.  He wants to be in charge of his life and no one knows better than him.  So God sort of turns over His powers to him.  And what a mess he makes of it.  At first he thinks answering prayers is so cool and then when he becomes inundated with millions of prayers he just gives everyone what they ask.  And as we know, God doesn’t give us all we ask.  He gives us what we need.  The movie is hilarious to be sure but it speaks to our innate need to be in control.  To take over the job of I Am.  

We can shake our heads at characters like Saul who stop seeking God’s direction and make every mistake possible.  But how many of us today will do the same?  How many of us yesterday forgot to place God at the top of our consultant list and instead called our friends or family for advice?  And then probably did what we originally wanted to do anyway?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8

Friends, God is God and we are not, thankfully.  His thoughts and ways are so much better than ours.  If we truly believe this and accept Him as our creator, as an active participant in our lives, then we need to seek His plans for us.  Let’s all start right now by thanking Him for being the Great I Am.


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His Grand Orchestra

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Isaiah 55:12

The other morning my husband and I were out for an early morning walk.  The clouds were building to the east and I commented that I hoped it would rain.  You see, living in Southern California we don’t see a lot of rain.  And I love the rain.  I love the sound of it hitting the pavement, especially when it wakes me in the middle of the night.  We get up just to watch it rain.  I even love the sound of the water hitting under my car as I drive down the road.  There are so few times when the rain becomes a long, monotonous affair where I live that I never get tired of it.  At my daughter’s house in Missouri, I could sit for hours watching and listening to the thunderous rain come down!  

The sound of rain is just one instrument in God’s beautiful orchestra.  The music of His creation is so glorious!  And that’s what I praise today.  

I’ve been praying the last few days for God’s direction for these last few days of praise.  And on my way to have lunch with my parents – which typically is a difficult visit – my playlist of Christian music came on.  A fun and almost silly song began playing which put me in just the right frame of mind for my impending encounter with my parents.  And I praised God for His music.  And then I praised God for putting this entire line of thought in my head!

When I think of all the beautiful instruments in God’s orchestra what also comes to mind are the voices of some of my closest friends.  Their laughter and warmth.  Their sarcasm and wit.  I told one of them, in preparation for her day at a school office, that no matter what is thrown her way I know the office will be blessed with hearing her joyous giggle.

During the stresses of the last year and a half I started doing a sort of mediation technique to help me rest in God’s peace.  When I’m at our local park with my dog I sit down on the grass and do a centering countdown.   It goes like this:

  1. What 10 different things do I see?
  2. What 9 different things do I hear?
  3. What 8 different trees can I find?
  4. What 7 different smells can I smell?
  5. And so on..

It’s amazing just sitting and listening to the music of God’s creation.  The breeze rustling in the trees.   Birds chirping. Children laughing.  Moms talking on their phones.  Cars driving by.  Airplanes overhead.  Bees buzzing.  My dog panting.   So many sounds, some of which are exactly the same as at the time of creation others unique to this very time and place.

And of course, there’s what we traditionally call “music.”  I marvel that since the beginning of time we humans have been creating new types of music and songs.  When you look at a music book there seems to be a limit to what can be created.   There’s only a certain number of notes to use, right?  And yet day after day,  year after year someone creates a new song or even a new sound!  How else can this happen than by some glorious design by a being who loves music and who loves the sounds of the earth?

Praise God for music that speaks to us when we need it most.  Praise God for the sound of crashing waves.  Praise God for thunder and chickens squawking and the crunching of gravel under my feet.  Praise God for his magnificent orchestra of life!


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We Belong

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. Galatians 4:6-7

For a long time, I just didn’t feel like I “belonged.”  As a child, I didn’t have a group of friends to hang out with.  My one friend, a neighbor around the corner, frequently left me out of activities with her other friends.  And when I got into high school I felt more like I was on the edge of my friend group.  Fast forward to adulthood and I never quite fit in with the boozy softball coach crowd, the gossipy PTA crowd, or even the Girl Scout leader gang.  

And when I married I was an outsider to a large, wonderful family.  Yes, they welcomed me but I couldn’t share in all the stories from long past because I never lived in the town they were all from.  My own family consists of myself and my parents – who I see and speak with infrequently.  

I spent a lot of time in prayer over the years asking God to work His changes in me so that I could feel like I belonged, somewhere, anywhere.  As my faith has progressed I’ve come to realize that I first need to accept being a part of the most important family of all – God’s. I praise Him today that He sees us as His sons and daughters.  We are His beautiful children whom He loves unconditionally.  We belong to Him.

That’s been a hard message for me to soak in and accept.  When I stand in the mirror I’ve asked God to help me see what He sees.  To love myself as He loves me – no matter where else I may have felt rejected. 

And it’s funny how God’s ways work.  When I focus on God’s love, gifts and promises the more I feel that sense of belonging.  He places me with new people and new situations that He has prepared for me.  I slough off the old negative feelings and instead give all glory to Him who loves me and who draws me closer to Him.

I recently heard a lesson about belonging. As Christians we are admonished to “remember our last name.” Like children of our earthly parents we are to go about our lives remembering who we belong to and who we represent. That really hit home. When I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior I became a part of a special family. One where I’m expected to remember my last name and act like I belong to the Lord Most High.

It’s amazing how God gives us the next steps when He sees we are ready — when we start acting like He expects us to.  He brings in new people to our lives when He knows we can openly accept His new ways.  I find myself so incredibly blessed by, not only the women that have been populated in my sphere, but the men.  Strong Christians who love people.  Faithful Christians who serve others.  Young, old, every race and quirkiness. And I feel like I belong.


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Change Maker

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1

Like everyone else on this blue planet I’ve had my share of relationship problems.  From friends to family and love relationships to work ones I’ve had my share of angry words and uncomfortable silences.  In the past, I would rush in to trying to solve whatever problem had arisen.  I couldn’t allow a quiet, cooling down period.  I needed to work out the disagreement right now.  I tried using my own solutions –whether it meant apologizing, arguing my point, denigrating myself, or even pretending nothing happened.

When I finally started taking my most important relationship seriously all that changed.  When I placed God above everything in my life it helped to prioritize all my other relationships.  It also meant I turned to God in seeking solutions to interpersonal interactions. 

I recently have been turning to God about a friendship that has had its ups and downs.  Instead of fretting over it and attacking it with my old gusto, I’ve given it over to the Almighty.  I’m asking Him to let me know when to speak and when to stay silent.  When to apologize and when to stand firm.  And I have found His solutions to be so different than ones I would’ve dreamed up. His solutions have love for others first and foremost.

Today I praise God for being a change maker.  For taking us broken, imperfect beings and turning our lives upside down.  When I started taking Him seriously, He started making some serious changes in me.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  James 4:7-10

Besides the amazing gift of salvation, the promise that we are changed is quite possibly one of the greatest “selling points” of believing in Jesus Christ.  My old way of doing things?  It caused me a lot of heartache, despair, worry, and loneliness.  And when we truly accept that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior we can’t help but be changed. We need to embrace it, ask for more of it, and look in anticipation for it!

Recently, after an interaction with a difficult person, I drove home praising God and giving Him all the glory.  I said, “Thank God you have changed me Lord!  Thank God I’m not the person I used to be!” Instead of angry, unattractive thoughts, I could only think of how good God is and how much He loves me.

I’m still working on my relationship with our amazing Triune God.  But I know that when I get that right I can look forward to getting a lot of other things right.  There’s so much that still needs to be changed in me and I know Jesus is the just the man for the job.


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Are You Ready?

 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:26-28

One of my friends has found herself in an unexpected teaching opportunity.  She and her husband were active participants in a Bible study held at my house for about 5 years.  My observation was that he wasn’t progressing in his faith journey.  He seemed a bit stuck.  He was definitely a man of faith and attended church regularly.  But he kept listening to the world’s half truths about Jesus.

A year passed after that study group disbanded and my friend came to me asking about doing another study group.  She was particularly concerned about her husband.  They were no longer attending the same church and with the study group having disbanded her husband was without the counsel of other Christians.  We decided to start a new group but it would be just women this time around and it left her concerns about her husband unanswered. 

Over the course of last year my friend has made amazing strides in her faith progression.  Just last week I listened to her as she was able to answer a difficult Bible study question with a great analogy – making it all clear to the rest of us!  Like the glee I had while watching one of my Girl Scouts successfully learn to build a fire I jumped for joy at my friend’s insight!  I loved it!

And God has answered her prayers about her husband.  It wasn’t the answer she was expecting.  You see, the teacher he needed was her.  Her husband has watched her transformation with awe.  She is living out the Word.  And he started asking her questions about Jesus.  After church (their new one) they go for breakfast and sit and discuss the sermon.  He relies on her for further insight and instruction.  

 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:15-16

My friend’s teaching opportunity was close at home.  And at the start of Jesus’ ministry, He too started close to home.  The first recorded teaching by Jesus was to His cousin, John the Baptist.  Jesus asks John to baptize him but John recognizes Him as the Messiah and tries to convince Jesus it should be the other way around. 

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Matthew 3:15

Jesus knew His audience.  As a devoted man of God, John was well practiced in what it meant to achieve holy righteousness.  And so he accepted Jesus’ reasoning.

When you follow along Jesus’ teaching path, you’ll find it to be not only slow and patient but tailored for each person or group of people He encounters.  And that’s the joy in teaching.  No matter what we teach it’s important to know the delivery method.  At first, Jesus reached out to His cousin, then His cousin’s followers and their friends.  And the tipping point, after performing quiet acts of healing and word of them spread, was the Sermon on the Mount.

But even after He preached to large crowds, He would encounter individuals and specifically set aside time to teach them.  To tell them about the glory of God and the forgiveness of sins. 

To the learned He spoke with confident knowledge of Moses and Isaiah.  To the poor and lame, He taught through love and compassion.  To the average man and woman, He used parables containing everyday elements like farming and relationships.  And to the disciples He opened their eyes to the mysteries of the Kingdom.  Each time He sought the “ah ha” moment for which every teacher longs.  The moment when the light comes on inside.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

I once was leading a small Bible study and the topic of “evangelizing” came up.  It usually makes people squirm.  One participant said she just didn’t feel ready to talk to people about God.  And yet she’s been a Christian for about 50 years. What if we erase the word “evangelize” and replace it with sharing or teaching?  What if instead of picturing ourselves standing before the Pharisees or Sanhedrin we picture ourselves sitting with our children or a friend?  And sharing how Jesus has brought us peace and joy in times of trouble.  That should at a minimum be expected of us.

My friend I mentioned at the beginning has come a long way.  About a year ago, her adult son started asking her questions about God and Jesus and she felt unprepared. She had prayed for many years that her son would turn to Jesus.  And now he was asking her questions.  So, what did she do?  She sought instruction, she prayed, and she was bold.  And at her next opportunity to teach a family member, her husband, she was ready.

“Our lives should reflect the love and goodness of Jesus but we should pray that the Lord would give us opportunities to share the gospel with people who come into our lives.”  

Pastor Adriel Sanchez, Core Christianity Podcast

Jesus didn’t want to keep His life offering amongst a small group of people.  So yes, He lived a good and faithful life but He didn’t stop there.  He reached out to people.  He shared through teaching the most important lessons we will ever learn.  He prepared for this task.  And when His time came, He was ready.

The question is, are you ready?  

Your role as teacher may be needed right now.  For your children, your spouse, your neighbor, a struggling believer or searching non-believer.

Have you worked on the other steps so you can teach, like Peter says, with gentleness and respect?  Have you put yourself in positions to be a humble servant and therefore interacting with non-believers in positive ways?  Are you studying His Word so when confronted with half-truths or outright lies about God you can stand firm like a warrior?  God has already tested you in all these areas.  He’s tested me.  What is your report card?  In what areas do you need to ask for God’s help today so you can be ready?


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She Loves Like Jesus

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

Jesus sees you. The first lesson of this miracle is a welcome one. You and I aren’t invisible. We aren’t overlooked. Jesus spots us on the side of the road, and he makes the first move.

Max Lucado

There are three women in my life that I count has having a significant influence on me.  Two of the three will probably never know me.  That’s the power of having an outlet to reach millions of people either through the radio, books, television, etc.  My long commutes as a young working woman were filled with life wisdom dished out with a borderline harshness by Dr. Laura.  She made sense to me and helped me to see different perspectives in relationships both personally and professionally.  Later, my faith life received a much needed injection of God’s truth from the formidable Joyce Meyer.  Her devotional, “Power Thoughts,” was Dr. Laura on faith steroids.  But again, these two women and I will probably never cross paths.

The third woman God placed in my path couldn’t be more opposite in personality than the other two.  She and Jesus share a beautiful character trait.  They love all.  They have compassion for all.  They know just what someone needs at their darkest hour.  When Jesus was asked how the masses would be fed, He stepped up to the plate.  And so does my mother-in-law, Bev Shetter.

When I first would visit Bev in her hometown of Longmont, Colorado about 30 years ago, I would find myself frequently annoyed.  You see, like people surrounding Jesus on His way to an official’s home, Bev couldn’t get through one aisle at the local grocer without multiple people approaching her.  A quick trip for a loaf of bread turned into an hour.  

This was so foreign to me.  How could one person, not only know so many people, but know so many people so well?   She wasn’t some famous tv personality.  She didn’t write a book.  She didn’t operate the local bakery, or any business for that manner.  She wasn’t even head of any organization.  She was a housewife who occasionally worked part time at a flower shop here or a dress shop there.  And, a faithful member of her church.

She knows everyone’s name, their children’s names, their parent’s names.  She knows who is sick and injured.  She can share a joke with old and young.  She lets people know she’s praying for them regularly.  And at the end of a “short” trip for a few groceries I felt a bit like Peter, annoyed that we might be late for our next engagement because Bev needed to say yet another kind “hello” to an elderly woman.

She makes you feel loved, special, remembered. 

“It’s funny how God leads us to just the right person to guide us through life. Bev has been that trusted loving spiritual friend to me for some 40 years. She has modeled the commandment of Jesus to love one another putting into action all the teachings of Jesus. We have shared laughter, faith, tears, fears, and all that life gives us and I am so grateful to her for walking beside me and revealing Jesus to me.”  

Longtime friend, Jane Nelson

Jesus did that.  You knew you were in the presence of someone special because He made you feel special.  The disciples knew that when Jesus said, “Follow me” they would be well-loved.  They would be remembered.  He wasn’t famous when He first called His disciples.  He was an unknown.  Not a rich businessman or even mildly successful tradesman.  Yet He made sure to make people feel known and loved.

 “I pray for them.  I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” John 17:9

Even in His last physical days on Earth He remembered His friends.  Not just the disciples.  You’ll notice in the verse above He is praying for everyone that the Father sent to Him – that’s you, me, Peter, John, the tax collectors, the adulterers, the gentile and the Jew.  Everyone who has turned their lives over to Him.

When I committed myself to my husband, I was given the gift of moving into Bev’s large friendship circle.  It wasn’t easy at first.  We are also opposite in personality.  I was angry, unsettled, untethered to God.  I welcomed outrage in my life, judged harshly and forgave reluctantly.  But the thing about Jesus is when He steps into a relationship with a Saul He transforms the Saul into a Paul.  And when someone like a Bev enters your life, you can’t help but come out changed.

And so I watched and listened.  I saw the peace she had in her life that I did not.  I watched her minister to the homeless, the shut in, the sick, the needy, the hurt, the lonely.  I listened to her words of compassion and quiet, unassuming advice to her friends.  She opens her home to visiting missionaries, childhood friends, family and anyone else that needs a pillow to rest their head.  And I said, “I want some of that.”

Isn’t that what we do when listen to Jesus talk to a hurting person?  “I want to be able to love like that.”  Isn’t that what we pray for when we watch Jesus stop and pay attention to one person on the street whom nobody sees?  “I should stop and help them.”  Isn’t that what we long for when Jesus tells us He will never leave us? “I want to be loved and be remembered.”

“My grandma doesn’t wait around for approval, compliments or appreciation.  She has a keen eye for what people need before they may even know it themselves.  She is one to show up with a warm meal before your stomach starts to growl or a blanket before you start to shiver. 

Granddaughter, Haley Shetter

Jesus and people like Bev show us how to love and be loved.  They show us how to be the faithful and loving friend.  They aren’t looking for 10,000 “likes” on Facebook.  They stop in the grocery aisle and say, “Hello, friend, how is your mom feeling today?”  They give their time and prayers one person at a time.  And from that, Jesus and Bev have gained a multitude of loving and faithful friends.

“My sister Bev cared for my blessed mother for many years.  Her dedication in honoring God through love and service is selfless and enduring.  Many times her faith has been tested but never paled.”

Sister, Kathy Pisano

The people like Bev, who live out this Jesus character trait so well, don’t work hard to make friends.  They don’t work hard at keeping friends.  They work hard at loving people.  They look for ways to show compassion.  They know that even doing their little part will mean something for somebody.  People like Bev are remembered wherever they go, because the people they touch feel something special.

“From her I have learned to watch and listen to her ways.  This is not something you develop overnight but attributes you gain over time.  She surrounds herself with people who also have these qualities so they can act as a tribe, a community, to build and share their love.”  

Granddaughter, Haley Shetter

Bev and her “tribe” are truly special followers of Jesus’ command to love one another and be faithful to others.  I’m a living example of someone who can learn to imitate Bev and Jesus.  I may never achieve the level of her success but God knows my efforts.  

It’s important for us that aren’t more naturally inclined to be like her to know that Jesus still expects us to work at it.  I won’t be Bev2.0 but with her example and the guidance of Jesus I can be transformed into someone new.  

Bev (front left) with a few members of her “Tribe”