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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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A Mustard Seed

Do not repay evil with evil 
or insult with insult. On the 
contrary, repay evil with blessing, 
because to this you were called 
so that you may inherit a 
blessing. 
1 Peter 3:9 

A prayer to be a blessing to those around me and my community

Holy Spirit I get so wrapped up in my everyday problems and to-do lists I forget to pause and look at the world around me.  I rush out in my car and don’t stop to say “hi” to my elderly neighbor.  I see the trash someone has left behind at the nearby lunch table and I assume someone else will pick it up.  I watch the mother with two kids struggling to get her groceries in the car and I think, “thank goodness that isn’t me.”  Oh, how I know you keep whispering to me to stop and do your work.  But I prioritize my list and sometimes you aren’t on it.  LORD, I say I want to be a blessing to others and yet I let so many opportunities pass me by.  Today, I will be that blessing.  Today I will recognize the need to slow down, reach out, and do your work.  I will be your mustard seed and help build your Kingdom into all it’s glory.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.


One of my neighbors is a quiet, older gentlemen.  He lives by himself in the largest house in our development.  He and his old dog, Scooter, are fixtures in our community.  And yet, most people probably don’t know that he supplies all the doggie poop bags for a dispenser in our neighborhood.  For Christmas, he always gives me and my dog, Tucker, a box of our own doggie bags.  You could say he’s in the dog poop ministry!  An unlikely blessing to so many of us.

In the same way, let your 
light shine before others, 
that they may see your good 
deeds and glorify your Father 
in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

No matter how many Bible study groups I’ve been a part of or how many churches I have attended, the one thing about “ministry” people seem to fear is being called to give up all their possessions and move to the outback of Africa.  And yet, Christ calls us to be a blessing starting in our own homes and neighborhoods.  If all of us would just start there, imagine the transformation that would take place!

If you really keep the royal 
law found in Scripture, 
“Love your neighbor as yourself,”
you are doing right.
James 2:8

At the beginning of the Covid pandemic I was called to start what became The Joy Challenge.  I invited my friends, family, Bible study groups, and neighbors to take part in a variation of Max Lucado’s effort to raise the joy level of 100 people over 40 days.  About 20 people said, “yes!”  It was fascinating to hear people struggle with the idea of being that tiny mustard seed who could affect others.  Some said, “How can I do anything if I’m locked away in my house?”   Others said, “But I don’t really know anyone.”  While even others said, “I can’t afford to buy things.”  

But the ideas began rolling in.  Some started writing little notes to friends and neighbors.  One lady painted smiley faces of all sorts on rocks and placed them in her yard.  My walking buddy just started waving and yelling “hello” and “have a great day” to an endless supply of UPS, FedEx and Amazon drivers.  Some had their kids write chalk notes out in front of people’s houses.

And me? I thought I had a great “in” on some toilet paper from China.  When it arrived, the rolls were tiny travel rolls about 3” in diameter.  After a good laugh I decided God wanted me to give these little rolls way so, I tied a note to all of them with a funny quote and randomly dropped them off at people’s doors along my walking route.

Months later one of those neighbors stopped me and said, “Aren’t you the lady that gave us that toilet paper roll?  We saw you on our security camera!  Thank you so much – we thought it was hilarious!”

It shouldn’t take a world-wide pandemic for us Christians to seek out ways to spread joy and be a blessing to our neighbors and our community.  I’m re-committing myself, no matter the busyness of the day, to be on the lookout for ways to be someone’s blessing.  It might mean I take an extra minute to roll my neighbor’s trash can in or I stop and pick up that plastic bag that’s rolling down the sidewalk.  It’s a mustard seed.  And I know each one I plant will help build His Kingdom.

If you want this too, add the prayer to your daily prayer list and watch and see how God works in your life!

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Slow To Anger


My friend Andrea and I walk our dogs every week together.  I typically have my dog on an “e-leash” so I’m very careful to make sure people around me know I have complete control over my dog when it appears he is off leash.  We decided to take a new neighborhood route one day.  As we passed one house my dog stopped to sniff a small sign at the edge of the grass.  It said, “Keep Dogs Off Grass.”  I gave my dog the command to heel and he quickly took up the short distance between us.  The homeowner bolted from the far side of his car and commenced yelling at us.  “Get your dog off my grass!”  We were both taken aback at his aggressiveness.  My first response was to get my hackles up and yell back, “He wasn’t on your grass.” Andrea, in a nicer tone, confirmed this to the owner.  But he wouldn’t let up.  He yelled at us as we walked by.  And I yelled back.  The war had commenced.  Salvos were lobbed.  In the midst, Andrea became the peacemaker.  She had the peace of mind to realize this was not the hill to die on today.  She started saying, “Ok sir, have a nice day.”   He continued to yell at us while we were about 4 houses away.  My anger was apparent.  And I realized I had failed gloriously that morning’s first test.  

James’ admonishment sounds so simple.   And yet I would guess amongst millions of Christians our failure rate in accomplishing this is fairly high. 

“Everybody should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

James 1:19-20.

Think of how much those millions of Christians could change the world if we accomplished just this one act. Proverbs 16:32 says, “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.”  Now, being of warrior spirit I struggle with this.  But I realized the ingredient that makes a difference – anger.  When God sent out Joshua to take cities he didn’t tell him to do so in anger.  In fact, many of the actions he directed him to take were strangely non-warrior like such as marching around cities in circles and blowing horns.  

Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin; Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”  God knows we get mad.  But he also tells us to be careful and not also take that anger and sin.  When Jesus cleansed the synagogues of “thieves” he was more sad than angry.  He wept to see what Israel had become.  Think of the destruction and affliction Jesus could have wrought on everyone!  But instead He cursed a tree.  If Jesus – the most powerful being to grace the earth — could restrain himself can’t we tamp down our anger at the grocery store clerk for taking a bit too long?  Or the person who doesn’t immediately bolt forward at the green light?  All the while our cross necklace dangles around our neck.

But let’s back up a bit.  James first tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak.  Proverbs 18:13 says, “To answer before listening – that is folly and shame.”  How many of us, while someone is talking to us, are working on our own story or rebuttal in our head as that person speaks?  What we miss are opportunities.

#1 Opportunity to Show Empathy

We can tell when someone is really listening to us.  It’s called active listening.  According to Mat Apodaca in his article, “How to Practice Active Listening,” active listening involves using many of our senses.  It means giving your full attention.  You need to show the other person with your body language that you are truly listening.  He says doing this builds mutual trust, it boosts self-confidence, we have less miscommunication, have fewer arguments, and are more productive.  Here’s his steps to active listening:

  1. Maintain eye contact
  2. Don’t fidget
  3. No interrupting
  4. Watch for non-verbal clues
  5. Restate and clarify
  6. Use some encouraging words such as, “and then?”
  7. Probe for more information
  8. But keep your talking minimal
  9. Validate

I had invited a friend out to lunch awhile back.  I wanted to try and recover our relationship.  We had grown apart in various ways and it had come to a head with some back and forth justifying of our hurts.  As we sat across from each other I looked for ways to bridge our gaps.  Topics we could both agree on.  But the entire time she kept looking down at her phone that rested in her lap.  She murmured responses.  I finally asked her if something important was going on that she needed to keep reading her phone.  Her two younger children, around ages 15 and 13 were at home.  They were bickering and sending her text messages.  No one was dying.  No one was hurt.  I realized she not only wasn’t interested in the conversation, she wasn’t interested in our relationship. 

How many times have you done this to others?

#2 Opportunity to Hear from God

When we find ourselves listening to people who are angry, hurt, sad, or fearful we so often want to help.  We might share our own past situations or try to convince that person to think or feel differently.  But we always end up coming from our own view of the situation.  Our wheels are whirling for solutions to their problems, or how to get them to stop being angry at us.  With all that jumbled up thinking going on it’s awfully difficult for the one true voice to be heard.  God can see all solutions.  He knows exactly what to say, and more importantly what not to say. Charles Spurgeon says about praying continuously: “We need to have such confidence about our prayer life that prayer becomes like breathing, effortless, that we do it every moment we are alive.”

How many times have you left a conversation and later thought, “Oh, if only I had thought of that then!”  When we are actively listening, we can be more like a super highway.  Sending your friend’s, spouse’s, child’s, co-worker’s, stranger’s, words straight up to God.   Acting as more of a conduit for God’s instruction, rather than the encyclopedia of all things of how to do (fill in the blank) right.  You might just hear God remind us of Jesus’ words:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

Luke 6:27

Had I been listening to the angry neighbor I would have heard a few things: 1) He has had issues with dogs on his grass.  2) He really loves his grass, a lot.  3) Love him 

Before we build fences let’s first listen to each other and God

#3 Opportunity to Find A New Solution

You really cannot have a relationship with someone you don’t listen to.  That includes God.  If we want to transform our relationships, we need to hear what people and God are saying.  Ecclesiastes 5: 1-2 says:

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.  Go near to listen rather than to offer sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.  Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.”

When we offer up our own solutions, based on our own limited thoughts, they are made within a small framework.  But God knows all and sees all solutions.  We so frequently want to hear our own plans and arguments because we still want to control everything – even God.  

In 2 Chronicles 20, the ruler Jehoshaphat was faced with destruction by the Moabites and Ammonites.  He gathered up various advisors to discuss solutions.  You can only imagine the various types around the tent.  The warrior, demanding they strike first.  The appeaser, begging for them to send out an ambassador to beg for mercy.  The fearful, worried they were all going to die.  But verse 3 says, “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord.”  He resolved.  He made a conscious decision, after listening to everyone to then listen to God.  And God came up with a solution that not one of those in attendance had even dreamed.  To not fight, but instead to take up their battle positions, standing firm and have faith in God.  The king then appointed men to sing.  Yes, sing.  And they watched God destroy the enemy.

It is our faith that God loves us — God wants the best for us that we must first rest upon.  With that as our anchor we can know when we actively listen we show the same love and empathy we receive from God.  When we are slow to speak it is because we are listening for God’s voice to channel through us.  And when we keep our anger in check we honor the God that thankfully does not condemn us each time we fail.


When was there a time that you either realized you had failed gloriously at this lesson or when you were successful?  How did you feel after?