Philippians 2:3-4: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Ambition and competition is the engine of capitalism. However, the Kingdom of Heaven runs on humility.

Heaven is a society of humble citizens, which seems far removed from our world, almost alien. We are hooked on the Adrenalin of getting ahead and securing our place in this world, so much so that we can’t imagine life without it. We think if we take all of that out of the equation, what else is there left to do in Heaven? Well, taking a genuine interest in other beings (human beings included) would be a good start to wean ourselves off of this mindset.

Humility – What a concept! James wrote in one of his letters (James 3:13):

“If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. “

Humility stems from wisdom. The wiser we are the humbler we become. Life has a way of humbling us, and that’s a good thing. I believe that blunders, failures, frustrations and roadblocks are encouraging growth in wisdom. We learn empathy. How else could we relate to other people’s misfortunes if not through misfortunes of our own? The frustrations that we go through bring us closer together. We realize we’re “only” human. We recognize our limitations.

We will grow a crop of wisdom if we open our eyes wide and see other people around us fighting the same battle as we do. Instead of being entirely consumed by self-interest (which ignores the interests of others), we’ll become intrigued by other people’s stories. The minute we begin to feel empathy is the beginning of wisdom.

The bedrock of all charity work is both noticing and listening. We are not blind to a need, and we are not deaf to a good suggestion. This refreshing approach makes life on Earth much more enjoyable. Living this way, we are simply mirroring the lifestyle of Heaven. It’s beautiful. It’s simple. It’s inspiring.

Notice someone today. Pay attention to the undercurrent of a conversation. Follow one of these rabbit trails and you will end up learning something new. Taking interest in someone else’s story creates a better story. That’s the beauty of wisdom and humility.

1 John 4:16: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

There is no such thing as stagnant love. Love is always on the move. A person who is loved will naturally spread love. To him or her it’s as natural to love as it is to breathe. We will love generously in as much as we receive love abundantly.

There is abundant love to be had, the question is do we know that? And if we know it, do we receive it? God has always loved us; the problem is that we don’t always notice. God’s love is the big elephant in the room that some of us don’t care to acknowledge. Of course God is way ahead of us in the love-game. He has made up His mind about us a long time ago. He promises to love us forever and ever. As far as God is concerned, He knows what He is doing. As far as we are concerned, not so much!

The ball is in our court, which means, we have to make up our minds sooner or later (hopefully sooner rather than later) whether or not we want to open up to the Almighty, believe He exists and believe in His love for us.

Believing in His love is a big deal. His kind of love is unheard of. He simply loves like no other. We will experience His amazing love as we get to know Him. However, we won’t experience much of Him unless we believe in Him. So, in a way it’s a catch 22. But then, God is the One who knocks on our doors and who does all the public relations to get our attention. God is not known to be quiet. It’s actually pretty difficult not to notice Him. An Elephant in the room is pretty obvious.

We have our reasons for being reluctant with God. God is God, and we are not. How can we love God who is beyond anything we can imagine? The answer is simpler than we might think. In the book of Genesis we read (Genesis 1:27):

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

We were made in His image. We have more in common with God Almighty than we are aware of. The bond that exists between Creator and Created is very real. God sees Himself in us, and we can see ourselves in Him. This does not mean we are God, but it certainly means we are from God. And related to God as we are, we can certainly learn to love Him.

If love is missing in our lives, we feel as good as dead. Loveless, we’re aching to receive love and end up looking for love in all the wrong places. We may be estranged from the Godhead, but we are not too far gone. We can meet Him, we can fall in love with Him, and we can spend an eternity to get to know Him.

You know I love you, I always will
My mind’s made up by the way that I feel
There’s no beginning, there’ll be no end
‘Cause on my love you can depend

Psalm 121:1-2: “I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth!”

Looking up we can see the sky, but the sky isn’t the limit. Looking up we can see the Lord.

Seeing the Lord depends on our outlook. We can put our head in the sand and refuse to see anything. We can put our head in the clouds and keep on dreaming. Or we can be curious, open our eyes wide and discover the truth.

We can paint the world around us black and white and only notice our differences instead of seeing what brings us together. What is the magic bond connecting us? Here it is: We’re all human and we’re all created by one wonderful Creator.

Looking up comes natural. In our heart of hearts we know God is there. We want to connect with Him because He is the reason we’re here. Who can understand the intricately woven fabrics of our hearts? Who can get through the maze of neurons firing up in our brains? Our thought processes are many, our shifting emotions multi-layered. None of us is one-dimensional. The more we understand this, the better we fare.

Looking up is a change in perspective. I believe one reason why people climb mountains is to get a better view. And a better view is what we crave when we temporarily step away from an overwhelming reality. We want to see the big picture, the grand scheme of things.

Looking up is talking with God and listening to His input. Listening to God expands our world view and shapes us into strong and patient human beings. What the world needs now, more than ever, is patience. Impatience successfully eradicates life. Patience, on the other hand, builds up and heals. Here is an illustration of God’s patience by the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 42:3):

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

We know what often happens to bruised people: They get more bruises. A smoldering wick needs to be rekindled, not thrown out or trampled into the dust. Looking up we are able to see potential. Hope is reintroduced. How cool is that!

Looking up, we help make this world a better place.

Let’s keep looking!

Isaiah 46:4: “I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.

The “circle of life” is deeply embedded into the human psyche. If we have children we generally take great comfort in the fact that our gene pool lives on even though we pass away. When Jacob, alias Israel first embraced his son Joseph whom he had pictured dead for decades, he was ready to pass on that torch and die (Genesis 46:30):

“Israel said to Joseph, “Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.”

People with no children will try to leave a different kind of legacy. If we are honest, we just hate the notion that we will cease to exist at some point. It’s just something that rubs us the wrong way and feels unnatural to us, a good indicator that it didn’t used to be that way.

If we go back to the beginning, we find that creation was set up without corruption, without the aging process, and without death. So, originally, we’re not made to age. Aging set in when death entered creation, and death entered creation after the first couple decided to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, even though God advised Adam and Eve not to touch it (Genesis 2:17):

“But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

We are the first couple’s progeny and as such, death is in our gene pool, which means that we are programmed to age and pass away. Here is the good news though: God has been faithful. He has helped human beings throughout their lifespan offering a home for the human soul after their physical departure from this earth.

God has been graciously dealing with a problem that He did not create: death. God never wanted us to die. Not only did we get ourselves into deep trouble but we also dragged all of creation into it: Clothed in animal skins, the first to die in God’s new creation were animals. The first human being to experience death was Abel, murdered by his brother Cain, both events setting the stage of mankind’s violent tendencies.

What an amazing God we have coming through for us with an action plan to save us – if we let Him. Two things won’t change: God’s love for us, and the fact that we can make our own choices. We are free to take it or leave it. As far as God is concerned: He is for us. As far as we are concerned: we need to make up our minds. God wants to take care of us. Do we take His hand?

“You’re still young, that’s your fault
There’s so much you have to go through
Find a girl, settle down
If you want you can marry
Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy

All the times that I’ve cried
Keeping all the things I knew inside
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it
If they were right I’d agree
But it’s them they know, not me
Now there’s a way
And I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go”


Song lyrics “Father and Son” by Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens. Since 1998 he operates a small hotel in London oriented towards Islamic travelers.
Posted in Age

John 14:23: “Jesus replied, ‘All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.’”

Everybody has gone through the logistics of moving at some point: breaking up our old domicile, packing and unpacking, and making a new home at a different location. This comes with establishing new stomping ground – finding the new neighborhood café, the nearest gas station, the most reasonably priced dry cleaner. We have been hanging pictures on our walls and planting flowers around our front porch – and believe it or not: we’re not even close to the finish line! There are still many more projects to come!

I believe similar logistics happen on a soul level when the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make their appearance. God moving in is no minor event, and establishing His stomping ground is no one-day-affair. The reality of our hearts’ domicile is that just like any other fixer-upper that we’ve seen, it will take time and patience to transform our hearts into suitable living space for the Trinity. We are a work-in-progress, and on that note, I think God showed a good sense of humor when His Son Jesus was born into a Carpenter’s family. Ask anybody with woodworking abilities. If you have a Carpenter’s background, then you are in good shape working on any fixer upper projects coming your way. Following is an excerpt of a Construction Carpenter job description on America’s Job exchange, which happens to be of great metaphorical use:

“Job Summary:

Responsible for designing, building, installing, and repairing structures, fixtures, furniture, and other items using different types of materials including wood and steel.

Primary responsibilities

  • Remodel homes and businesses.
  • Work with materials such as wood, plastic, fiberglass, or drywall.
  • Utilize chisels, planes, saws, drills, and sanders to repair and erect structures.
  • Join materials with nails, screws, staples, or adhesives.
  • Install cabinets, partitions, doors, and windows.
  • Build stairs, mantles, and furniture.”

Just picture yourself to be a run-down house the Lord wants to renovate. God is known to renew His children from the inside out, as Paul wrote in one of his letters (2 Corinthians 4:16):

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

The more God is settled in within us, the more we will get to know Him personally. He is so much more than what people in general perceive as the God of the Ten Commandments. “You shall” and “you shall not” pretty much portrays God in black and white, while letting Him move in adds color and depth to His profile. Just as the light of the rising Sun immerses the world in color, so our life will become more and more colorful in the presence of God.

“This old house once rang with laughter
This old house heard many shouts
Now it trembles in the darkness
When the lightning walks about

Ain’t got time to oil the hinges
Nor to mend no window pane
Ain’t gonna need this house no longer
I’m gettin’ ready to meet the saints” 
(by Stuart Hamblen)

Psalm 95:6-7: “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.”

It all starts with a thought. Quoting Melanie Matthews:

“Do you think about reading? What about writing? How about speaking? Do you think about listening? Well, literacy is all four of these things.”

Melanie Matthews is a District Literacy Coach at Washington-Parks Academy and Lincoln-King Academy, and she makes a point. Gaining literacy starts with a thought. We want to be able to read. We want to be able to understand written messages. Just think about the impact of reading and writing! More than an additional way to communicate, it helps us connect with people of the past and present. We can read what they wrote down and be inspired. With literacy we learn to master an entire skill-set: reading, writing, listening and speaking. As a result, a whole new world opens up.

Literacy is based on more than just one factor. So is our walk with God.

Walking with God is a multilayered affair. It starts with expecting that God has something to say. He actually weighs in to anything that matters in our lives. And listening to God’s input, we find ourselves under His care. This may come as a surprise, but truth of the matter is, God cannot care for us if we don’t listen to Him. It’s a catch-22 situation, one of these mutually conflicting conditions: we want God to care, but then we don’t care about what He has to say – well, one doesn’t go without the other.

Listening to God is the key to discovering a brand-new world: the Kingdom of God.

Listening to God, we learn the art of lending an impartial and unbiased ear. God Himself listens this way. He has no preconceived notions. He has no prejudice. Listening the God-way is worth its weight in gold in today’s world. I venture to say that the world lacks listeners, which is why it becomes increasingly illiterate. Listening and reading well ultimately leads to speaking and writing well. That’s how we make a difference.

All goodness starts with a key-thought: wanting to know God. Wanting to know Him, we’ll find Him – and finding Him we have everything.

Been listening all the night long
Been listening all the day
Will I listen for the one you know?
Will I listen, will I pray? – Johnny Flynn

Ephesians 2:19: “So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.”

Inside of us lurks a deep desire, the wish to be distinguishable and special. We don’t want to be seen as a little pointless grain of sand on the seashore. We would like to stand out in some way, and actually, we do. Each of us stands out in God’s eyes because we matter to Him so much!

Human recognition on the other hand is fickle, a lot less gratifying, and certainly does not replace God’s favor; yet a lot of people crave accolades. They join exclusive clubs, a group of insiders separating themselves from what they perceive as outsiders. Falling prey to the illusion that the end justifies all means further cheapens the life of human beings while idolizing a selected few. However, that’s definitely not the way it goes in God’s kingdom.

Here is how God sees us, rich and poor alike: in God’s eyes we are all under-privileged, lack the full potential that eternal life can give us, are subject to mortality and caught in the net of our selfish point of view. Stuck in our own little world, we struggle to see a bigger picture as we venture out to make it in this world. Still, no fame or fortune prevents old age; no riches can buy us eternal life; and at the end of the day, we all lose out without God.

Since we all need a Savior, God worked it all out – and His salvation plan went viral with the Jews! Jesus was born a Jew, lived and ministered to people all over Israel, died and rose from a tomb outside Jerusalem, and went to Galilee, where He charged His followers with the Great Commission before returning to the Father (Matthew 28:18-20):

“Then Jesus came to them [His disciples] and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’

With the Great Commission Jesus officially went international. Salvation was always meant for the entire world to share. God’s salvation is no exclusive right to be claimed. There is no privileged group God is targeting. God wants to save everyone, not just a selected few.

God wants to save us because that’s His passion. He loves everyone, and not just in a superficial way. As our Creator, God naturally has insider knowledge about everything we see. Each one of us is a personal creation of God. Why would He cast anybody aside? Why would He prefer one person over another or one people group over another? It does not matter where we are from, what gender we have, which age group or ethnic group we belong to – we are all human, and we equally need a Savior. This is our common denominator, and this brings all humankind together – no rationale, no political efforts, or scientific progress does that. Instead, a member of the Trinity was sent to Earth to help people in every nation. His Hebrew name is יֵשׁוּעַ, which translates: “Yahweh saves”, aka Jesus. He is the greatest peace movement the world has ever seen.

“Name above all names worthy of our praise. My heart will sing how great is our God!” (Chris Tomlin)

Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus is written all over the universe. He was there when the Trinity came up with a plan to create living beings, planets, space, time, and dimensions. He fathered every life form, which is why He is intrinsically connected to everything that lives. He understands life from the inside out, which makes Him the prime candidate for reconciliation. He brings oneness to diversity.

Jesus is the heartbeat of creation, and He loves its variety. He is the God of crocodiles and ants, antelopes and snakes, frogs and dinosaurs, birds and snails, humans and angels, water creatures and land creatures, need I say more?

We have a very big God who encompasses our heritage, our past, present, and future. In His eyes there is no need to separate simply because we differ in opinions, physical appearance, cultural background and/or worldviews. For some reason it’s a human tendency to think that there is only one right way to do things, and I for one don’t think so – not after observing God’s ways, which are mysterious. God certainly has more than one way to do things right – and we won’t accuse Him of doing things the wrong way, won’t we? I deduct that we too have more than one way to do things right, and this is huge! It means we can relax on opinions for instance. There is no such thing as one correct political way to do things. I believe what counts is the motive. It’s important that we have the best interest of this planet at heart.

We live in a global community. No country is independent. We need each other, we cannot exist without one another. It’s similar to the outdoors. Tropical rainforests are called lungs of the Earth for a reason. The Sahara has global impact as well as the polar caps, not to mention the oceans. Disturb one particle of the globe, and the entire planet will sense its impact. The same is true with the animal kingdom. From top to bottom link of the food chain, each link is needed and contributes to the global community.

Notice that the global community is diverse.

So is the multilayered universe.

We are all not the same but we belong together. As we realize the profoundness of this truth we see the dawning of God’s Kingdom.

John 6:29: “Jesus told them, ‘This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.’”

If we’re part of Western society we are perhaps familiar with the term “rat race”. Wikipedia defines a rat race as:

“An endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit; it conjures up the image of lab rats racing through a maze to get the ‘cheese’ much like society racing to get ahead financially.”

All too often we get caught up in the material way of thinking – bills have to be paid, we need food on the table, and in order to pay our bills and get food on the table we need to work. It is very human to think that the kingdom of God is set up the same way, i.e. we have to earn our way to heaven. That’s what people think nowadays, and that’s what people thought in Jesus’ day, hence the question came up (John 6:28):

“Then they asked him [Jesus], ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’”

Now, that’s an understandable question. We assume we have to do something so that God can bless us. “There is no such thing as free lunch” is what we typically say. Well, actually, there is – When Jesus fed 5000 people He did not get paid.

Obviously, we don’t have to pay God to love us. There is such a thing as unconditional love. God loves us, period.

So, what is there left to do? Nothing! Absolutely nothing – and this is the rationale of Jesus’s reply when He basically says: ‘All work is done!’ Interestingly, He puts it this way (John 6:29):

“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Even the one condition that grants us salvation: believing in the One God has sent – is God’s work, not ours, and that makes perfect sense. Have you ever tried to love someone because you were told to? How did that work out for you?

In all reality, both faith and love are a gift from God. We love the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit not because we worked hard to believe but because it was given to us as a free gift.

That’s God’s amazing grace in action.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!” (John Newton)

Romans 8:32: “Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?”

The root cause of all worries is lack of trust.

Maybe we have a problem with trust because we got burnt. Whatever the cause of our disappointment, here is the bottom-line: We need to trust again. We have to trust someone or we are just like dust in the wind, blown up whenever a storm front approaches. Trust is as essential as oil to machinery. Well-oiled machinery runs smoothly, so does any relationship that is built on trust.

We have a God who entrusted Himself into our hands. Think about that for a minute.

The Son of God came as vulnerable as a tiny embryo placed into the womb of a teenage girl who at the time lived in a society that not only frowned upon babies born out of wedlock but who also acted upon it with a vengeance by carrying out the death sentence after such conviction. Despite the precariousness of the situation, Jesus trusted His Father in Heaven that He would see them through. He also trusted Mary and Joseph to keep Him safe, and they did. Jesus was barely born when the family had to leave for Egypt to escape the wrath of an insane monarch who slaughtered all newborn babies in His vicinity.

Three is a prime number, a whole number whose only factors are 1 and itself. The Trinity is such an indivisible unity. And yet, the Trinity separated because they were willing to let go of each other. When the Father let go of His cherished Son something wonderful happened: God became man. It seems that Jesus felt it was a badge of honor to become a human being. The gospel writers report that Jesus loved to refer to Himself as the Son of Man.

If the Trinity is as generous as that, we too should be generous and open our homes and hearts to the people knocking on our doors. There are reasons why things happen. We are here for a reason, but we have to stop distrusting to open up and see the opportunities coming our way.

May the Trinity be our inspiration today as we go about our business!

Psalm 94:18-19: “When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

Unrealistic expectations can put us under a lot of pressure. Anxious minds are often fed by such unrealistic expectations. It’s the kind of stuff that keeps us up at night and has us restless throughout the day.

The reality is, we can’t be strong all the time. Everybody has a weak moment. And as odd as it may seem – viewing ourselves in a more sobering light, we are more likely to experience peace of mind.

Unfortunately, lack of objectivity may get in the way of a sane self-assessment. As much as we need a mirror to comb our hair, we need other people to see ourselves clearly. I believe this is one of the reasons why God created Adam and Eve. In His wisdom He said (Genesis 2:18):

“It is not good for the man to be alone, so I will create a companion for him, a perfectly suited partner.”

More than once, the book of Psalms paints a picture of distress essentially caused by loneliness. Lonely, we are at our weakest point. Prolonged loneliness almost always leads to self-destructive activities. We slip and fall; we feel broken; we cry out.

God is famous for being Three in One. In other words, God is never lonely. He is the first to know that community is essential. Community in fact came from the Trinity. God created more than one human being so that we have one another. And yet, there are no guarantees that there’ll be always people around to help us along. Human bonding only goes so far!

Apparently, humanity was not created self-sufficient. The human community is designed to stay in touch with the Trinity. Bonding with the Godhead, we finally feel complete. It’s a circle that shouldn’t be broken. Nevertheless, ignoring our Creator will compromise this blessed circle, and failing human relationships make matters even worse. A circle twice broken represents the epitome of human isolation and misery.

The question is, can a badly bruised and broken circle be unbroken? Thankfully, the answer is yes. Jesus came to un-break our brokenness. Thanks to Him, we’re back in touch.

Our finest promoter is God whose unfailing love picks up our broken pieces and makes us whole again.

Psalm 42:8: “But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.”

The sound of the ocean is like a breathing mechanism. Breathing in and breathing out, the waves come and go. Rolling in, they regularly toss the coastline by rhythmically retreating to make way for yet more waves to come. Back and forth it goes, day and night.

And just like the ocean, there’s a rhythm to many things. There’s the drumbeat of rainfall on the roof, the pitter-patter of naked feet hitting the floor, the rhythm of rustling leaves caressed by a persistent breeze, or the forceful knock of howling winds shaking everything in its path.

I believe life is rhythmic because the Lord has rhythm. Wave after wave His mercies wash all over us and renew us from within. Walking with the Lord we learn to ride His waves. Breathing in His love and breathing out our song, we receive and give back and then receive some more. Blessed rhythm of Life!

As time goes by we learn to appreciate God’s timing and His seasons. Looking at life this way feels a bit like dancing. Rather than jumping through the hoops trying not to miss a beat all we need to do is look up. Fixing our eyes on the Lord we’ll find a sense of rhythm – and we’ll find an expert dance partner too. The Lord of the Dance asks every one of us: “May I have this dance with you?”

We all dance a bit differently to the drumbeat of life. We are all loved by God, but our dances are not the same. We learn our dance steps as we go. Life is full of surprises. The Lord will teach us how to take one step at a time and not to shy away from big leaps of faith. We learn how to navigate the sea of life as the love of God carries us along.

God and His children are indeed a dream team: He is the Lord of the Dance and we are the song He whistles.

Psalm 16:8: “I keep the Lord in mind always. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

It’s one of these no-good-really-bad days. Everyone has them – hopefully not too often, but we do experience days when something happens that pulls the rug from underneath our feet. We stumble and fall, naturally. We feel sore and heartbroken. Instead of the predicted rainfall we’ve got some tearfall going on. Once those tears start falling it’s hard to stop crying.

I’m speaking for myself of course. This morning was such a no-good morning. Our cat threw up. Everything she ate, everything she drank found its way out. We had vomit on the bed, vomit on the floor, and this little poor thing, a shadow of herself, crawled into our bedroom closet and rubbed her face into one of our shoes. Sick as she was, she just loves our stinky feet.

I cried all the way to the doctor. Our cat is in her senior years, so I’m half suspecting this will be our last trip to the vet. Well, it wasn’t, but perhaps her next to last trip. Who knows!

It’s in moments like these, crying like a baby, that a Bible verse like the one in Psalm 16 makes sense to me.

“He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

A salt shaker is created to be shaken. How else would one gain access to the salt? Life on Earth is set up to shake us up. How else would we gain access to the Rock of Ages? He is the reason we hold on. We’re shook by life-changing events, but we are not shaken to the core. Our core being knows that the last word hasn’t been spoken. This is not the end of a story, but maybe it’s a new beginning.

The Rock of Ages provides us with one precious commodity: Hope – that’s the one thing we all need. Take hope away from anyone, and we’re bound to die.

If up is up and down is down, then it doesn’t matter whether or not our world is turned upside down. We still look up. Life maybe hell, but there’s still heaven. There’s madness happening all around us, but there’s sanity of mind in a quick prayer. There’s bad things happening but there’s good things happening also. We might not see it at this very moment, but with God operating behind the scenes there’s good things happening every single hour.

Keeping the Lord in mind is keeping His goodness in mind, especially in times of adversity. Keeping Him in mind we will not be shaken.

1 John 5:12: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

Jesus will have us any day, any hour. His welcoming heart makes it real easy to love Him. Not to love us is no option for Jesus. He loves us no matter what. He is endeared to us. His passion for us brought Him to planet Earth, right in front of our doorsteps. With our self-destructive tendencies, He came to save us from ourselves.

Endowed with free will, we can have Him or we cannot have Him; it’s completely up to us. The problem is, we will miss out on Life if we won’t have Him. Life is connected to His name. Life comes forth from His fingertips. Healer of broken bodies and broken hearts, one touch of His hands makes a profound difference. We need His touch to be whole. But then, as we reach out to Him, we touch His heart in more ways we will know.

Jesus is touched by our love. Our love does not heal Him because He is whole. He does not need our love as much as we need His, but clearly, it means the world to Him. It’s a mystery to me how the Son of God, who has everything, seeks our friendship. Jesus proudly announced to the world (John 15:15)

“I shall not call you servants any longer, for a servant does not share his master’s confidence. No, I call you friends, now, because I have told you everything that I have heard from the Father.”

Being friends with the Almighty is the most thrilling experience I can think of. God does not run a staff of servants, but He surrounds Himself with friends. That is why Jesus had disciples whom He called His friends. And that is why His heart is open to welcome you and me today. His circle of friends widens with every person that will have Him.

Whoever has the Son has a Friend for life; whoever does not have the Son of God misses out on a Friend for life.

Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

There’s more to life than our physical reality. This becomes apparent as we age. Our souls inside of us somehow know that our bodies are a temporary haven. So when our bodies give out the question emerges: where do we go from here?

The secret lies with Jesus. Life is centered around Christ. He was there at the dawn of creation when the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Jesus knows the mechanics of life because He helped build it when the universe was created.

Jesus is special because He became man and walked in our shoes. He knows Heaven intimately, and He knows what it means to live on Earth.

Humanly speaking, our connection to Heaven is complicated. Lots of things get in our way. Heaven can be both close and a million miles away. It really depends on our hearts – are they open or clouded with fear, rage, and sadness. The whole spectrum of human emotions has the potency to drown out Heaven.

The physical reality of life on Earth can be both overwhelming and mind-numbing. Jesus knows it all too well. He lived here. His address was in Israel. He lived there during a time period of extreme political unrest. And he ended up being executed by the political system of His time.

Physical death, however, could not kill Jesus. The Author of Life demonstrated that life cannot be eliminated by physical death. Life is tied to love, and love is tied to God. Jesus lived a life of love. He could not be killed because the love of God cannot be killed.

Our bodily functions will terminate at some point, nevertheless, our love continues. If we have been close to Jesus during our lifetime, we will grow closer to Him in Heaven.

Living close to Jesus is Life with a capital “L”. Dying will be gain because after our physical departure we get to meet Him face to face.

1 Samuel 10:26: “When Saul returned to his home at Gibeah, a band of men whose hearts the Lord had touched became his constant companions.”

Saul became the very first king of Israel. God touched the hearts of a group of men to help promote the change. As God moves human hearts so He moves human history.

God still touches hearts today – that’s one of His finest attributes – and He stirs us on a deeper level than any other touch we could experience.

It is an interesting fact that on a subatomic level two objects don’t actually meet. Even in special cases like in a collision where electrons co-mingle, the nuclei are not actually touching. They are simply sharing, with infinitely small space left between the atomic parts. So, while we can sense the human touch, separation on a subatomic level still remains; not so with God, however. I believe His love defies the subatomic level. He sticks closer than a brother.

God’s love is ultimately responsible for anything good happening. His love is the heartbeat of the universe. His love is the change agent that softens our hearts; and His love is the reason why humanity is still here. Unfortunately for us, we happen to be our own worst enemy. One can say that humanity has self-destructive tendencies when we look at the way we treat our planet and how we continue with ongoing armed conflicts all around the world. Looking into God’s history with mankind, we can see how He has intervened numerous times to protect us from ourselves.

Whether or not God’s activities go unnoticed, we all have experienced His love one way or another. God’s love is authentic and beyond anything we can imagine. It’s the greatest love of all.

“He touched me – and oh the joy that floods my soul. He touched me and made me whole!” (Bill Gaither)

Psalm 138:8: “The Lord will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me!”

Broken pieces. A pile of rubble. Chaos. Nothing seems to make much sense!

Yeah, life can be a puzzle sometimes! Our lives are strangely unorthodox with curve-balls flying, flawed decisions backfiring, raw emotions taking its toll. We may not see it, but somehow life still works out with God working behind the scenes. All we need is faith.

Faith is a weird thing, kind of a balancing act between doing something and waiting things out. Faith creates optimism; we don’t know which kind of happy ending awaits us after the show is over, but we do know it’s going to be a happy ending. We might as well enjoy the ride!

From God’s perspective we are a piece of art. Broken, yet beautiful; Lost, yet restored; God is immensely proud of His creation. Human beings have been the Wildcard; however, God does not give up easily. If anything, He has learnt to fly with the punches. He fixes things. He is a Healer of broken hearts. And He is an Artist. He knows how to make things beautiful.

Trusting in God is having faith in Him who can turn things around. A peculiar habit of His is to work with us. God doesn’t just overrule a bad situation and – poof! Abracadabra – turns it into something completely different. He takes our broken pieces and builds something wonderful with it. He creates, protects and endorses life. God never throws life away. He hates waste and because of that He works with what we’ve got. His devotion and dedication ultimately conquers death. Resurrection from the dead is based on God believing in us and us believing in Him.

God is dedicated to making things better; He is life giver, but most importantly to me: He is Life restorer.

Matthew 4:4: “But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

We don’t live by bread alone. Carbs are not it. Our complex soul demands a different diet: God’s precious words. It’s essential to our soul’s well-being to hear them and to know them well. It’s detrimental to our health and well-being to trot through life without listening to a word God has to say.

While physical needs and cravings have a tendency to be on the forefront of our minds, the silence of not hearing from God is quite deafening, and our souls within us will eventually rebel against it. We are born with an innate need to communicate, and we want to be heard and understood. We search for profound connection.

Our souls wither in isolation while they thrive on adoration. Adoration goes both ways: We adore our Creator and our Creator adores us.

Directing our adoration towards another human being, however, will hurt us, simply because nobody is perfect. One is: God is perfect, and our souls crave perfection. Following these extravagant cravings of our souls ultimately is the sensible thing to do. God has a lot in store for you and me, and He has a myriad of ways to communicate.

In order to tune into God’s wavelengths the Holy Spirit is at work every single day. In technical terms the Holy Spirit works similar to a transmitter, which is used to generate and transmit electromagnetic waves carrying messages or signals, especially those of radio or television. Instead of transmitting radio signals, the Holy Spirit keeps the communication flow going between Heaven and Earth, which is truly remarkable.

The bottom-line is, God hasn’t stopped talking. He speaks. What a beautiful thing that is!

Leviticus 19:18b: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself. I am the Lord.”

Self-love has had a bad reputation. Still, there’s a good way to love ourselves, and there’s a bad way.

When we think of self-love we tend to think of narcissists who believe the world revolves around them. It goes without saying that narcissists do themselves no favors with that mindset. Narcissists are in a lonely world of one. We don’t love ourselves very well when we prefer ourselves over the rest of the world.

Apparently, self-love doesn’t necessarily mean self-preference. We don’t need to be better than our neighbors to be satisfied with ourselves. No need to compare and compete! This kind of self-endorsement causes division and is nothing but foolish pride.

Despite self-love’s bad rap, God strongly encourages us to love ourselves. Why? I believe if we love ourselves poorly we will love our neighbors poorly. One doesn’t go without the other. Loving ourselves and others belongs together. Sometimes easier said than done, ain’t that the truth? Seems to me, we tend to either overindulge or go into the opposite direction and despise ourselves.

On a personal note, it tremendously helped my self-esteem to try seeing myself through God’s eyes. God loves the true me, not an image I’ve created as a representation of myself. By the way, He absolutely hates it when we create an image of God and love that instead of Him. We can do better than that. We can get to know Him and love who He really is. God is no fairy tale. And we are no fairy tale either.

Self-love in God’s eyes is accepting our essence. Appreciating who we are is a “Thank you” to the Creator who skillfully made us.

Matthew 16:25: “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”

“Holding on to life you’ll lose it; letting go of life you’ll find it” struck me funny this morning. It’s like this: “Holding on to Mom I’ll lose her; Letting go of her I’ll find her.”

Mom’s dementia is progressing, and she is not the person she used to be, however, I’m at a point accepting it, and by doing so enjoying her company all the more. I can’t explain it, but this much I know: it’s very freeing. At various times she has addressed me as a friend of Evelyn’s. She asked me on one occasion, after telling her that I live in Arizona, if I knew Evelyn, because her daughter Evelyn lived in Arizona. I jumped on the bandwagon and answered, yes, I knew her well. And then we proceeded to talk about me in the third person.

Then, a few days later, she told me she had a strange dream the other night where she met a doppelganger Evelyn. All of a sudden it dawned on me. She had trouble recognizing me because in her mind I existed in my younger version. I have aged and consequently, I don’t look the same. So I said to her: “You dreamed of a doppelganger Evelyn because I have changed.” She looked at me then and said in her dry German way: “Yeah you’ve gained weight!”

It was hilarious.

The other day my mother and I were spending some time in the pool, in my brother’s backyard. We were like little kids. I acted like this White Shark from the blockbuster movie and imitated the music associated with the shark approaching for its next kill. We were screaming and laughing. My brother videotaped some of the pool fun.

I’m not young anymore. My looks have changed, and honestly, I still have a hard time accepting it, but strangely enough – letting go of my Mom’s earlier version has helped me letting go of my earlier version.

Letting go helps! We get unstuck. Turns out, “Letting go and letting God” is no empty byword at all. It represents a life style that leads to peace.

Psalm 46:1: [For the director of music. Of the Sons of Korah. According to alamoth. A song.] “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Finding out that we are handcrafted by God is a huge light-bulb moment. One way or another, every person on this planet is on a quest to discover this innate truth. We tend to approach life differently after our light-bulb went off.

We all need God. His absence promotes dysfunction while His presence completes us. God is our refuge and strength. He helps us through life’s darkest hours. Moments like this impact us perhaps more than happy times ever will. As a happy side-effect, our personal trials will eventually yield a precious crop: humility.

Humility is a crown best worn on a mountain top. We shouldn’t forget how we got there. All mountain tops will pass. Around the corner new experiences and unknown challenges are waiting for us; and armed with humility we will do better negotiating the rough territory of life’s crazy surprises.

People weathered by various storms on the road of experience will sense when someone else is down. They are “rainy day people” who can relate because they’ve seen a rain storm or two (I am using Gordon Lightfoot’s endearing terminology here). Personally, I don’t know of anything more gratifying and satisfying than connecting with other people on a deeper level.

God profoundly delights in us when we care, because He cares. That’s who He is – our ever-present help in trouble – and He loves it when we start to resemble Him.

“Rainy day lovers don’t lie when they tell you they’ve been down like you. Rainy day people don’t mind if you’re crying a tear or two.” – Gordon Lightfoot

Luke 12:6-7: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

The Lord has a knack for details, and He has a knack for remembering things we deem unimportant. We hire accountants to count our money. We certainly don’t hire anybody to keep track of the numbers of hair on our heads. Why would that be even remotely interesting?

Here’s the kicker: Our dead hair falling off our scalps is more alive than the dead coins representing our money. And God is more interested in life than in death.

Every being that breathes is a creation of God and as such of utmost interest to our Creator. If we share in His interest, then we are close to the Almighty, if not even dead center to the movements of His heart.

I’ve always felt that the Lord shows up through our compassion. A CNN reporter recently spoke of a man who for the past 23 years made it his habit to visit with mourners in the aftermath of a catastrophe. Here is an excerpt of his report about a man by the name of Zanis:

Since 1996, when he found his father-in-law murdered, Zanis has built 26,680 crosses, he said on the drive. He would add nine names to his orange notebook after Dayton, he said.

He estimates 21,000 are shooting victims. He’s also taken his white crosses to the aftermath of tornadoes and wildfires, bus and boat crashes, and to Martha’s Vineyard after JFK Jr. and his relatives died in a plane crash. He took five in February to the Henry Pratt Company after a shooting unfolded in his hometown.

Asked how he staves off sadness, he said he doesn’t.

“I break down. You’re going to see me cry. I don’t mind,” he said. “I hug victims all the time, and I try to be strong, but I’m really not. I’m OK with that. I feel so good afterwards because I’ve done something.”

We all feel small sometimes. If you happen to feel like an inconsequential little Sparrow at this very moment, know that you are not forgotten. God remembers you. And people moved by His Spirit remember you too. You are not alone!

We all matter. Nonetheless, our ability to share in each other’s sorrows is putting this thought into action. Helping each other out is both the most human and divine thing happening here on planet Earth.

Psalm 96:1: “Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!”

The Lord is the author of newness and freshness. He especially does not copy and paste when it comes to relationships. Neither should we – or our relationships will be merely ritual and void of any meaning. “Sing to the Lord a new song!” is challenging us to come up with a new tune for the Almighty, and I think abandoning rituals is part of it.

We all understand this is an all-inclusive invitation (i.e. let the whole earth sing a new song to the Lord), which is not meant to turn us all into music composers and songwriters – although wouldn’t that be a fun experiment? We’d come up with some innovative compositions, for sure! Note that all the earth is included, animals, plants, humanity, everything that makes Earth our home planet, and that begs the question what exactly does singing a new song entail?

Everybody who knows me has to put up with my sunset and sunrise shots I publish on social media every time we run into a beautiful sky display. I’m a die-hard fan of sunrises and sunsets because they are never the same. The skies above literally sing a new song to the Lord every single day. Well, here is our challenge: Can we be just as varied in our response to God’s faithfulness?

We can thank God in so many ways. As much as the sky is the limit, our creativity can know no bounds. We can sing to the Lord a new song simply by being real and personal in how we interact with the Lord. God knows our heart’s language and understands exactly how we feel, even if we run out of words. Who knows? In the eyes of the Lord our prayers may very well look like the colors of dawn or the colors of a fiery sunset.

In the words of James Taylor:

“Well the sun is surely sinking down, but the moon is slowly rising.
So this old world must still be spinning round and I still love you.

So close your eyes, you can close your eyes, it’s all right.
I don’t know no love songs and I can’t sing the blues anymore.
But I can sing this song and you can sing this song when I’m gone.”

Jeremiah 33:2-3: “This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’”

New discoveries are exciting. Nonetheless, there are things no scientific effort will be able to reveal. God, who by the way invented science, has no intentions to take His mystery out of the equation. I think that’s beautiful. While the universe runs like well-crafted machinery, life is no machinery. Life is a mystery. So is love. It behooves us to stay curious!

All life comes from God. The closer we get to God, the more alive we become. Approaching Him is life. Separating from Him means death. Death is no mystery. There is nothing to explore in death. Death is absolute nothingness while life is absolute everythingness. And God is in everything, which is why He relates to everything and can reveal in depth and at a capacity foreign to us.

God can relate to you and me like no other. Our minds and hearts are like fingerprints – unique. We all think differently simply because we sense the world around us with our very own five senses. God chimes in from the inside. No one else can get into our head and see what moves us openly displayed. Similar to us watching a drama unfold on a big screen of a movie theater, our thoughts and feelings are openly accessible to Him. This just comes with the territory of being the Creator of the universe.

While this may be frightening to realize the potency of such proximity, we do not need to be afraid of God. God has no bad intentions. He has the potential to manipulate us, however, mind control is so very much opposed to what He stands for. What He loves to do though is using His connectivity to our benefit. Knowing what excites us, He’ll keep revealing things we are curious about. Personally, I think that a good portion of our discoveries actually stem from this innate relationship God has with each of His creatures. The driving force of our curiosity is like a river God leads into areas where we’ve never been.

Seeking God has many layers to it. The primal quest is reaching out for Love with a capital “L”, Love that embraces us completely as a person. Yet another layer of seeking God is exploring our fields of interest with Him. If you are a gifted scientist you’ll discover things you have never dreamed of. If you are a gifted musician you’ll bring a fresh new musical wind into the arena. Whatever talent God has put in you, He is excited to develop you further.

God is excited about life, and He is excited about you. Discovering God is the mother of all discoveries!

James 1:22: “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”

Listening to someone may change your perspective. You might learn something entirely new!

A brief encounter of the show “Big Bang Theory” comes to mind. “What’s the gist, physicist?” Jokingly responding to a forceful knocking, Penny opens her door to listen to the answer, only to slam the door shut in the face of said physicist a brief moment later. Somebody asks a question but doesn’t really care for the answer.

Have you ever encountered a person who asks the same question in ten different ways just to get the answer that he or she desires to hear? That’s not listening for an answer, that’s suggesting one.

Preconceived notions can get in our way. Depending on how big those preconceived notions are, we need a hearing aid of sorts. The audio from other people is slightly altered because we filter the information to our liking. It’s hard to be impartial that way.

When we’re born, the first thing we do is cry. Hearing that first cry, the mother is happy that her baby is alive and healthy. Crying out comes natural to us. We all want to be heard. Listening on the other hand, not so much! Listening takes skill and expertise. We have to get out of our own way to do so. If we don’t, we’re just big babies, so-to-speak. Part of growing up is to actually become curious in what other people have to say. The more we take in, the more intricately we’re shaped, and all the more well-rounded our world view becomes.

When God addresses us personally and we get quiet enough to listen (which we’ve practiced before by learning how to impartially listen to the people around us), this has a tremendous effect on our psyche. Why? I’ve always wondered. I believe in part it has to do with the fact that God Himself is a great listener. He listens to our heart all day long. So, when He addresses us in person, the Word He has for us is something we need to hear. It will help us grow and move on. It will help us work through issues. Not to mention solace! Brokenhearted, His Word soothes our soul.

Well-received, God’s input will initiate growth, healing, and will change our outlook on things. In other words, God’s input, while invisible, visibly shapes us. We act upon it. It’s fuel in our tanks. It builds our life, our relationships.

Listening requires breaks. The United States is internationally famous for her short vacation time – which I think is really detrimental to human productivity. Appropriate breaks help us stay grounded. It’s insane to fly blind, and it’s unhealthy to live on autopilot. If day to day stuff and stressful situations engulf us and we haven’t had much time to take a break, let’s take the time! To the benefit of our heart and soul, breathe! Let the noise filter out of our heads so we become blissfully aware what our best Friend has to say to us.

God is for you, not against you, and He is the best Friend you’ll ever have. Lend Him your ear – you’ll never regret it!

Matthew 5:14+16: “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

There’s no hiding the light at night! The only way a light source could possibly hide would be behind another light source. Standing under a street lamp for instance, my little flashlight could hide, even though on second thought, not really, since adding flashlight after flashlight under a street lamp would make the circle of light bigger, and it actually becomes more noticeable.

So, back to the notion that light cannot hide. Why bother? Why would Jesus, who is quoted here while preaching His famous Sermon on the Mount, even think about attempting to hide the light? He goes on to say (Matthew 5:15):

“No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”

So, apparently, having light can be scary at times because it draws attention. Sitting on the patio at night with a light source, we know what happens after a short while. All kinds of flying critters will come straight towards the light. Some insect traps use this fact to attract and kill flying insects. Maybe this gruesome example is what set off the hide and seek play with the light Jesus was referring to in His sermon. In His day and age, Romans determined who was God and routinely authorized the death sentence when someone was at odds with their world view. It’s understandable that in such circumstances one would seek to hide the light of a very different knowledge.

God is light. Whoever walks with God walks in the light. There is no hiding. Jesus makes that abundantly clear. But He also says this (Matthew 5:16):

“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

It may be an easier life not to be so noticeable. But our shyness is overruled by our Heavenly Father who is extremely proud of His children. He wants to show us around. He wants to encourage the world around us to come aboard and join the Light of the World, Jesus, who never went hiding. He went public and was very approachable wherever He went, which by the way is why “Sermon on the Mount” happened. The Sermon on the Mount was delivered spontaneously because people were just drawn to Jesus in the wilderness, and they followed Him right into the desert hill country, initiating Him to sit down on top of a hill and speak to them. To this day, the Light of the World continues to attract people from all walks of life, all over the world.

Once you’re with the Light, you’re part of it attracting other people. Just be aware how public you really are without being a politician or famous artist. People who are with Jesus are influential. Never underestimate the power of the Light of the World!

In closing, here is an excerpt of a poem my husband wrote, which pretty much summarizes what Jesus had in mind:

“Shine, shine like the Sun!
Your time to shine finally has come.” – William E. Snyder

Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

As entertainers, we love cheering crowds. My husband and I usually perform in small venues, so we certainly can’t speak of football stadium experience, but I’ve been told how exhilarating it must be for a performer to have that kind of charged up audience. Well, here’s an interesting aspect of the spiritual world surrounding us: Call it the favorite reality show of Heaven – we’ve been watched with fascination and genuine interest. Without us knowing it, we’ve been cheered on in our adventure called life.

So, there’s a cloud of living beings around us. Yeah, please don’t think of the walking dead or something creepy like that. We know of angels, and angels are very much invested with their hearts and souls. They do more than watching and cheering us on. They fight for us. Angels are part of that cloud of witnesses.

The other portion of the cheering crowd are people of faith who have walked through life before us and know exactly where we are coming from as we sweat, weep and doubt and still keep on doing it: Venturing our steps of faith. And that’s all this cloud of witnesses is interested in. They love watching us as we go by faith and not by sight.

Think about that. This is not a gossip loving crowd who shames us behind our back, no! This is a crowd of living beings who loves to see us succeed in our battle to do the right thing. And a raging battle it is!

Our steps of faith, as little as they may seem, are hugely valued right when we make them. Forget about the upcoming reward, even though it’s great to eventually see things come to fruition. The moment we step out in faith is the most rewarding time window I can think of. How gratifying to look back later and relive that moment when we made the right decision even though it meant swimming upstream, even though it took every little bit of our endurance and strength to see it through. We may not actually hear the crowd cheering us on, but somehow our spirits are revived and we feel good about our life.

Life is a wild ride – so let’s keep moving! Remember, we are entertaining angels.

Psalm 119: 57-58: “You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words. I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.”

Psalm 119 is a remarkable piece of poetry! Divided into 22 subsections, each one begins with one of the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The Heth-section of the Hebrew alphabet starts out with a profound statement (Psalm 119:57):

“You are my portion, Lord;”

I find it interesting that the Lord is our portion and not the Earth that He gave us to inhabit. This is further expressed as we continue reading this particular paragraph (Psalm 119:64):

O Lord, your unfailing love fills the earth; teach me your decrees.”

The material world surrounding us is filled with God’s unfailing love, so when we seek His face we really do not have to go very far. We can see His love everywhere. Before Sunrise I love to go on a short bike ride to a local lake and watch the Sun rise as the ducks wake up and go about their business. Are you familiar with the saying: “Tomorrow is another day?” That pretty much summarizes how I feel at dawn. As long as the Sun rises, there is hope!

Have you ever noticed that no Sunrise equals another? Depending on the amount of cloud cover, the filtered light showcases a wide variety of ever changing color tones, an astounding light symphony in the skies! Colors arrange themselves from violet hues to pink, from orange to golden. Then, in brilliant white, the Sun finally shows up, rising like a queen.

To me, a glorious Sunrise – or Sunset for that matter – is God’s love letter written in the skies. While the daily show is over quickly, none of these are the same. Extremely creative as He is, our Creator loves to surprise us with a new design on any given day. My take-away from these simple observations is that in the midst of chaos beauty still shows its face. All we have to do is pick up on it.

With flowers unfolding in the dust, with every loving word spoken, and with each act of kindness as a token we’re witnessing God’s love all around us, a love that cannot be broken.

Matthew 19:14: “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'”

Children are relentlessly human and live entirely in the moment. When they are hungry, they are hungry. When they play, they play. They are affectionate, they can be quite blunt, they are impressionable, and they quickly adapt to changes. They effortlessly learn, they pick up their mother tongue within a few years, and they believe in fairy tales. They are curious, test boundaries, and get dirty – a noisy ball of energy, as active as the days are long. To their parents delight they eventually get tired and fall asleep only to wake up in the morning and do it all over again.

To study children is to study humanity. When God created us, He created us as children first and adults second. I venture to say that our adulthood suffers when we didn’t have much of a childhood. I also believe that we experience a more successful adulthood when we stay in touch with our inner child.

Growing up and dealing with our responsibilities, there’s one thing that doesn’t change: we will always be sons and daughters. Even with our parents long gone, we are who we are thanks to the roots that go back to our childhood.

Estranged from God as we may be, we are still His children. At the end of the day we’re all rooted in the Creator of the universe. God fathered us. We are the result of His genius. It was His idea to create not only humans but an amazing array of astounding species that fill today’s universe. What we see on Earth is just the tip of the iceberg.

The spontaneous show of affection children displayed as they checked out Jesus tells us something. This must have been the way humans interacted with God at the dawn of creation. Jesus knows that, and I believe that’s why He encourages us to look at children some more. He wants to help us remember who we are.

Matthew 16:15-16: “Then he asked them, ‘But who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’”

Who am I? It’s an important question to ask. We spend time getting to know the people in our lives, parents, relatives, classmates, work colleagues, and the list goes on and on. Besides getting to know a village of people throughout our lifetime, there’s also that person called “Me, Myself & I” whom we run into. We learn about ourselves as we interact with the people in our lives.

Jesus asks the “Who am I” question, discussing this topic not with the people on the street but with His circle of friends. His twelve followers have been around Him day in, day out for three consecutive years – three summers, three winters, three falls, and three springs. Twelve seasons for twelve followers to interact with Jesus and see Him interacting with strangers and family members! That’s a good amount of time to come to a few conclusions.

Who is Jesus? To find the answer to this question we need to spend time with Him. Only time will tell us who we are, who our friends are, and who God is. The powerful thing about spending time with the Lord is twofold: We get to know the Eternal One and we get to know ourselves.

Simon Peter blurted out the answer to Jesus’s question. Here is what He said: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” Jesus turned to Peter and looked Him in the eye as He said two things about him: “Peter you are the rock, and Peter you will betray me.”

It’s very hard to see ourselves realistically. We have the tendency to either overestimate or underestimate ourselves. God doesn’t. It’s a beautiful thing to get a glimpse of ourselves through God’s eyes. While it’s sobering to recognize our vulnerability, it is heartwarming to slowly realize how much we are loved by the Godhead.

Who is God? God is love. Who am I? I am loved by God. Only time can tell how true these words are.

Luke 11:13: “Look, all of you are flawed in so many ways, yet in spite of all your faults, you know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to all who ask!”

God knows how to give. Here is one of His finest gifts: His Spirit.

The Holy Spirit was given to the world so that every person on this planet could get connected to God. In a worldwide movement, the Spirit of God was poured out everywhere to introduce God to people estranged from Heaven. It’s the most far reaching and long lasting ad campaign in the history of humankind.

Our hearts have inbuilt sensors to notice God, albeit in bad need of repair. The human condition is such that we commonly won’t recognize God’s voice. This is where the Holy Spirit steps in – so that we can tune into God’s wavelength and receive what He is saying. He is an ear- and eye–opener, healer of broken hearts, and stimulator of the human spirit.

God is extremely familiar with the multi-layered, complex human heart. He patiently waits for the slightest signal, a green light, a “go ahead” from you and me. He won’t break into the door to our heart. Instead, He knocks. He waits. And if we open the door His Spirit enters in.

God is Trinity, which remains a mystery. The Holy Spirit is a distinct eternal being and Creator just as the Father and the Son. We can offend the Holy Spirit. He will withdraw if we so insist. Nevertheless, if we welcome Him, He will keep the communication lines open between us and God. The Holy Spirit is like the Rainbow in the clouds connecting Heaven and Earth. Thanks to His work, God’s kingdom has already arrived.

God is with us in our day-to-day affairs. If you believe that, then the Holy Spirit has opened the eyes of your heart.

Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. But, remember, this means that the husband must give his wife the same sort of love that Christ gave to the Church, when he sacrificed himself for her.”

Sacrificial love meets supportive love – the husband and wife team in a nutshell! Successful marriages are built that way. It’s interesting how the same words read by different people can evoke different interpretations where sacrificial love goes out the window and makes way for conditional love: “I only love you if you do what I say” and then on the other side of the spectrum comes the enabler saying: “Whatever you’re doing, whichever way you’re going, I’m going to support you.” That marriage would be a toxic cocktail and couldn’t be further from the intentions of the author of this letter to the Ephesians.

Relationships are challenged where self-interest gets in the way. A marriage partnership is unequally yoked if one partner keeps on giving and the other partner keeps on receiving, a classic example of marital dysfunction.

I believe there’s no better training ground teaching us how to love well than that of a marriage relationship. I got married late in life, so I missed out on the fun for the better part of my life. I learned more about love in 13 years of marriage than in the preceding single years of my adult life. Of course this is not to underestimate the effects of friendships or partnerships, however, according to my experience there is only so much commitment we have in friendships. At the end of the day I go home and do what I please. Not so in marriage relationships. When I come home from work and close the door my spouse is still there, which means marriage forces us to work things out. If we can’t work things out, we stop being married. That’s why marriage is a force to be reckoned with. If marriage works it rocks. If it doesn’t work it sucks.

When we learn the ABCs of sacrificing and supporting on a team we can bring that experience into our marriage, and the success rate of this marriage will go up. Bottom line is: we need to learn how to sacrifice ourselves and how to support one another since this goes against the grain of human nature. As with many other things in life, the lifestyle of love boils down to learning by doing. In Christ we see a Teacher who does what He says. We can learn from Him. Awareness is our first step. Our second step: do it – learn the lifestyle of love!

Psalm 103:13: The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.”

God invented fatherhood. He is the Father of fathers.

In my soul-searching teenage years He introduced Himself to me. Because of the absence of a father during my own upbringing I struggled with fatherhood in general. I had not the slightest idea what role a father would play in a family. So, what does it mean to have a Father in Heaven?

Getting to know God, I have been on a road to discovery. He taught me that wounds will heal, they only needed my attention. I used to be the kind of person that liked to ignore pain thinking: “If I ignore it long enough it will go away.” Well, that ain’t the case! A little scratch can develop into a sore. A festering wound ends up poisoning our life. One thing leading to another, we can get so caught up in our own hurt that we are unable to pay attention to anybody else but ourselves. It’s a chain reaction leading up to complete isolation. The way out of this mess is honesty. Say it as it is, don’t sweep issues under the carpet, and don’t act like nothing happened. God taught me to be honest to myself and to others.

To me, God is a relationship giant. He knows people. He knows me. Over the years we’ve developed a special father/daughter bond that makes me happy to think about. As I’m writing about it I become more and more aware what an excellent Father God is.

Every relationship starts somewhere. Mine started with God when I accepted His help. I let Him into my life, and the rest is history. I can highly recommend to any person on this planet to give God a shot. He has His way with people. He will have a way with you.

Exodus 39:2-3: “He [Bezalel, a craftsman] made gold thread by hammering out thin sheets of gold and cutting it into fine strands. With great skill and care, he worked it into the fine linen with the blue, purple, and scarlet thread.”

During Israel’s formation as a nation, the people gathered at Mount Sinai to receive the Law of Moses, which included instructions how to set up their first tabernacle. Craftsmen were working on beautiful garments of blue, purple, and scarlet cloth, interwoven with gold; these garments meant for the priesthood were touching on the entire color spectrum visible to the human eye: from purple (violet), blue, gold, all the way to red. Apparently, priesthood wore a coat of many colors!

We associate the color “red” most often with love; and red has the farthest reaching wavelength still visible to the human eye, about 650 nm. Incidentally, love always reaches out, so the color “red” suits the love-theme very well.

Radio waves are about 100 meters in length, extremely long, and completely invisible to the human eye; radio waves are able to reach around the world and far into space. So is God’s love – invisible but far-reaching. His innate being reaches out, day and night. His love is an ongoing flow overcoming short and long distances. God will always find a way to reach out to His creation. That’s just who He is.

Blue has the shortest wavelength visible to the human eye: The visible blue light has a wavelength of about 475 nm. Because the blue wavelengths are shorter in the visible spectrum, they are scattered more efficiently by the molecules in the atmosphere. This causes the sky to appear blue during the main part of the day, no matter which direction we look. Similarly, God is both near and everywhere; He is scattered throughout the entire universe – so much so that we have the opportunity to meet Him anywhere we go.

We have a God of many colors! God’s spectrum of His being is wide, from red, to blue, to invisible. He is able to tune into any wavelength and get in touch with all of His creation. That is why He understands our hearts so well. Even when we feel a million miles away from Heaven, God is still near. We might not feel Him, but He is closer to us than our best friend.

John 8:36: “A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.”

Freedom doesn’t fall in our laps. Unfortunately, freedom is a precarious gift. It can be taken from us if we’re not careful.

Here is my freedom story:

We were a family of five with no Dad around. Every child reacts differently to an absentee father. For some reason it tricked me into thinking that I was inconsequential. Well, to make matters worse I faced sexual abuse in my teenage years, unbeknownst to my mother. I became more and more withdrawn.

When God emerged on the horizon of my awareness, I felt this was my ticket away from a life that seemed mostly scary. I was the perfect candidate for a cult. Barely 20 years old, I joined the community who lived in an old castle in Rheinbreitbach, Germany. I stayed there until I was in my thirties.

The cult was toxic to say the least. Used as a rule book, the Bible was abused to infringe on every aspect of freedom, especially freedom of thought. Our brains were washed. I honestly believed I would go to hell if I ever thought of breaking up with them. However, after twelve years of being at a place I secretly hated, the stress began to wear on me. I got sick, lost weight and sunk into a deep depression.

My reaction was that of escape – into the world of music. Thanks to music I held on to this community as long as I did. Composing felt like a window in a cage. A melody emerges out of nowhere and evolves and you just roll with it. Music became my little freedom corner. However, a melody is wordless, and I had yet to learn to put my pain into words, rise out of the ashes and move on.

That day arrived when my brother came to see me. I had little to no contact to my family, so he had to jump through hoops to get through to me. I asked him one question: Would my mother be able to forgive my crudeness for pushing her away all this time I’ve been in the cult? The answer was yes. So I jumped ship. I broke away from a community that claimed to be my true family but had hurt me badly. It was ironic because I tried to escape hurt and pain and by doing so I got more hurt and pain.

I was set free from false religion, but to maintain my freedom I had to learn to find my voice. I had to start believing in me. Believing in God is a two-way street. If we believe in Him we need to start believing in us also, because God believes in us. And who are we to question Him on His beliefs?

Our identity is tied with Him. Essentially, we will begin to appreciate who we are as we walk with Him through highs and lows, day after day. We don’t go into hiding. We don’t try to escape. We learn how to live fully. God frees us for good, and He knows what He is doing!

Psalm 19:1-4: “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.”

While blogging might be a way to spread the word about God, I see in Psalm 19 another way of doing that, albeit without the use of words! This goes to show that communication is not always based on language, and that there are more languages to the universe than the language that comes out of our mouth. Nonverbal language can be just as articulate as verbal language.

Great examples of silent but powerful witnesses are the skies. The craftsmanship of the skies as seen with the naked eye or by telescope is a huge billboard advertising God’s glory. Looking into space, the first thing that comes to mind is “limitless”. We know that phrase: “The sky’s the limit”, which means that there is practically no limit. Neither does God’s power know any boundaries or limitations.

More silent witnesses are majestic mountain ranges. They are solid as rocks can be, yet God formed them, and if He wanted to, He could move them because nothing is impossible to Him.

The vegetation on this planet is yet another silent witness advocating God’s glory. Whispering trees, home for countless birds, and fragrance emitting flowers and herbs – they all wordlessly praise its Creator.

A not so silent witness is the animal world. Elephants trumpet, birds twitter, wolves howl – they all spread the word without using words.

God’s thumbprints are all over creation, and creation proclaims that God is great day and night, night and day. God’s praise literally never shuts up; actually, it gains momentum with each person realizing what is going on. Human beings can be a bit slow sometimes. When it comes to recognizing God I actually think that the rest of creation is ahead of us. Nevertheless, all of God’s creatures have a place in the choir – and believe it or not: you too belong!

“All of God’s creatures got a place in the choir
Some sing low and some sing higher
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
Some just clap their hands or paws or anything they got”
(Bill Staines)

Daniel 10:10-11: “Just then a hand touched me and lifted me, still trembling, to my hands and knees. And the man said to me, ‘Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you.’”

Around 600 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Daniel received a terrifying vision. It had to do with brutal bloodshed and what he called “a great war.” Overwhelming as it was, he began to fast and pray. In response to his prayers, God decided to show something very special to him. For a brief moment He lifted the curtain revealing that everywhere on this planet there are angels around us.

Daniel eventually wrote a book about this experience. The “man” Daniel refers to in his writings represents a certain angel who had a message for him. He said (Daniel 10:12-13):

“Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer. But for twenty-one days the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia blocked my way. Then Michael, one of the archangels, came to help me, and I left him there with the spirit prince of the kingdom of Persia.”

Peeking behind that curtain, we become acutely aware of what it means when we say that God is for us and not against us. Indeed, we have armies of angels fighting on our behalf. Just try to internalize this little tidbit of information to see how angels make a profound difference in our lives, often without us even noticing.

Going through hardship, I believe it’s important to detach our eyes from a conflict and take a moment to look up. There is a particular movie scene in “The Fisher King” that comes to mind. Jeff Bridges plays a former radio DJ who is severely depressed because of a terrible mistake he made. While swinging on a rope to break into one of the biggest mansions in New York City he says:

“Thank God nobody looks up in this town!”

Apparently, it’s a human tendency to not look up, but to focus on the things at hand. In fact, we can get so absorbed that we end up seeing nothing else but the one thing that is bothering us. However, as we do look up we have a chance to notice things we haven’t noticed before. Our horizons expand. Looking up, we get to be encouraged because God wants to lift our spirit. So – let’s look up more often, shall we?

Colossians 3:13: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

I came across an interesting statement by Morgan Freeman today:

“Toxic mothers are just as bad as absent fathers, but ya’ll not ready for that discussion yet.”

One of the prime reasons of toxic personalities is unresolved issues germinating below the surface – and lack of forgiveness is one of them.

What happens when we forgive a person? Here is what happens: we address an offense (one at a time) and then we are able to move on. Granted – addressing the offense is hard work and can be very painful. Depending on the gravity of the offense, it may feel very much like reopening an old war wound, which means we’re bleeding all over again. We want to get to the person(s) involved, we want justice. Understandably so! Well, sometimes those people that have offended us can’t be reached. They might be dead or unavailable. Forgiving a person does not depend on the person who offended us. The work of forgiveness is entirely our business. We have to get through this. We have to sort through our feelings. We have to do the house cleaning.

Who wants to live in a dirty house for decades? Nobody! “Well”, you might say, “What about the person responsible for all the mess in the house? That person left me and didn’t come back to pick up the pieces.” As awful as it is to be left behind with a messy situation, here is what I think: Yes, this person violated you and had no right to do so, but after all, this is your realm, your house. You pick up the pieces or pretty soon other offenses will happen to you, and you’ll find yourself in a situation similar to hoarders who can’t enter certain rooms in their house anymore because it’s full of clutter.

It’s not easy to pick up the pieces and let go. However, it’s much more difficult to live in clutter! We may need a third party to go through this situation with us. It’s important to acknowledge that we need help.

God recommends forgiveness because it’s a healthy lifestyle. God wants us to have an uncluttered mind and a heart that remains soft and generous versus hardened and unrelenting. The effects of forgiving a person and the ability to leave things behind is both freeing and healing. And let’s not forget that nobody is perfect. As much as we need to forgive others, others may need to forgive us too.

Matthew 7:13-14: “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”

If the gate to God’s kingdom is narrow, does this mean that God is narrow-minded? If the highway to hell is broad, does this mean that its inhabitants are broadminded? Is Lucifer tolerant and accepting of you and me because he lets us travel down a six-lane freeway uninhibited, while God seemingly hasn’t upgraded Heaven’s accessibility by holding on to an antiquated narrow little gate that people have to pass through? Not only do we have to deal with a narrow gate but also with a difficult road leading up to it … does this mean that God doesn’t want us in Heaven in the first place?

If something in the Bible rubs me the wrong way this usually piques my interest. It makes me curious, and I want to dig deeper. Nothing is what it seems – especially when it comes to God – and knowing that God has the biggest heart and the sharpest mind, there’s no way that He could be narrow-minded. So, what is up with this narrow gate and the bumpy road leading up to it? Does God just have a weird sense of humor? And is Lucifer being hospitable having a broad freeway leading to his hellish home? I believe we get the point when we not only look at the road but also consider its destination.

The comparison between the two roads is a comparison of lifestyles Jesus is pointing out in His Sermon on the Mount.  One of the eyewitnesses of the day when Jesus delivered this famous sermon is Matthew. Matthew and all the other disciples of Jesus sat down on a mountainside in Israel as an enormous crowd was gathering. According to Matthew’s eyewitness account Jesus opens up His sermon with The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3):

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

I believe this verse is the key to understanding the two roads. Knowing that we need God gives us an idea where to go. Not knowing that we need God makes us drifters because it doesn’t really matter where we go – and we may drift into all kinds of different directions – if we’re moving away from God, we’re on that broad highway. And I’m not saying that highway equals easy ride. It may very well be that we get stuck in traffic. We may bump into each other causing accidents. There’s road rage. It may not be such a pleasant road trip on highway to hell after all, to a point that some may eventually second-guess their initial decision, abandon their car wreck and look for that unassuming bumpy road leading to an unassuming little gate where we will receive a hearty welcome.

Being on this bumpy road for a number of years I can testify to the fact that God has never let me down. Here is an open secret I would like to share: walking with God is the most rewarding experience one can imagine. Forget about road conditions! God with us, Immanuel, makes everything worthwhile. And who knows – to let believers in, one person at a time, the narrow gate may accommodate for a personal welcome. Embraced by the Savior of the whole world and affectionately held in His embrace, we peek over His shoulder and see a huge crowd who preceded our homecoming, the crowd who also – one by one – proceeded to pass through that narrow gate right into the arms of Jesus. What a day that will be! Can you imagine?

“Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel, will I dance for You Jesus, or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing Hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine! I can only imagine!” (Bart Millard)

Habakkuk 3:19: “The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. (For the choir director: This prayer is to be accompanied by stringed instruments.)”

A number of hopping, moving specks on a brick wall is all you can see from afar: Alpine ibexes have taken to scaling the nearly vertical Cingino Dam in Italy. Ibex are very nimble. They can jump more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) straight up without a running start. This helps them roam mountainous terrains with ease. Goats have been using their God-given dexterity to climb high and out of reach for predators; humans have been using their God-given brain to develop strategies to survive in the wild.

The human brain has the same basic structure as other mammal brains but is larger in relation to body size than any other brains. God gave us a large brain so we can think. Our thought processes are intricate. Brilliant minds form think tanks. We think up building structures, complicated machinery, and fast processing computers. We develop technology to negotiate space, we entertain, we cook gourmet food, we create music, we believe in beauty and aesthetics, we create artwork, we can tell a tale, and make stunning discoveries in the micro- and macro cosmos around us.

Unfortunately, our human progress has also progressively affected Earth’s biosphere. A latest study has discovered that humans make up 0.01 percent of life on Earth, but they have caused the loss of 83 percent of wild animals.

Well, this big brain of ours seems to be a blessing and a curse. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe our brains are a blessing but they turn into a curse when we forget who gave us this brain. Animals may outsmart us in that department. Prophet Jeremiah remarked (Jeremiah 8:7):

“Even storks know when it’s time to return. Mourning doves, swallows, and cranes know when it’s time to migrate. But my people don’t know that I ,the Lord, am urging them to return.

Way up there on the mountain heights of human civilization we need to apply our achievements wisely. God knows mountain heights can be tricky! Surefooted goats rely on their Maker as they negotiate the cliffs. We can learn from the mountain goats. Let’s not forget where we are from!

Psalm 90:2,4: “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”

Mountains loom. They can get to us. Some go out of their way to conquer them – the rising death toll of people trying to conquer Mount Everest speaks for itself. Mountains seem to have been around forever. However, that’s actually not the case. Mountains do have an issue date. They were formed, and that takes time. There are three different methods when it comes to mountain forming, and all of these methods take millions of years:

  • Mountains grow under pressure as a result of Earth’s tectonic plates smashing together; 
  • Or they emerge based on volcanic activity;
  • Or they are carved through erosion; Case in point: The Grand Canyon.

The story of the Grand Canyon is pretty fascinating. The hot debate over the age of the Grand Canyon has raged for over 140 years. The most recent findings support the following theory: while the Colorado River has been carving the Grand Canyon for only 6 million years it is flowing through canyons that date back about 70 million years.

Talking about old mountains here: The Himalayas are generally thought to have arisen from the collision of India and Asia 55 million years ago – although experts are split over the age here as well! Some go as far as 450 million years. Well, whatever the issue dates, the age span of mountains puts our own issue date into perspective. Mankind has not been around long enough to watch and record the forming of the mountains. There are many things that have preceded us. Our own time table shrinks in comparison to the time table God operates with. God certainly took His sweet time to form mountains. And logically, He was there before the mountains were born.

When it comes to relying on the Rock of Ages we’re in good company. All of creation does! Mountains do. They were millions of years in the making. Maybe that helps us realize that some things may not materialize in our life time and be OK with it. Microwaved solutions smell of impatience, and impatience accomplishes little!

Impatience leaves destruction in its wake while patience builds mountains over millions of years. “Well” – you might say – “I don’t have a million years!” Personally, I think if we thought beyond our own generation, if we thought of generations to come, then we would go about our business in a slightly different fashion. It starts with preserving this planet for our grandchildren and great grandchildren and their great grandchildren.

The earliest fossils of anatomically modern humans are from the Middle Paleolithic, about 200,000 years ago. How long it takes our species to destroy a planet which took billions of years to evolve is yet to be seen. We certainly have built enough weaponry to blow up our planet many times over.

On a much smaller scale, let’s fill up our patience meter and be a peacemaker today. I believe that every small effort we make in this department forms a mountain in its own right: a mountain of peace, a monument of God’s love. Your lifetime maybe short compared to real mountains, but your impact will go way beyond your own lifetime.

Ephesians 3:17-19: “Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

Higher than our highest expectations, before the conception of the space time continuum, deeper than the deepest mystery, wider than this universe, that’s the measurement we apply to God’s love. In other words: it can’t be measured; and if God’s love cannot be measured, nothing can contain His love.

God gave Moses permission to gaze upon His beauty, albeit only from behind and without giving him even the smallest glimpse of His facial features; in the book of Exodus we read this compelling encounter between Moses and the Almighty (Exodus 33:18-23):

Moses responded, “Then show me your glorious presence.”

 The Lord replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.”  The Lord continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.”

God’s immeasurable love, condensed in the expression of His glorious face, is forever exuding from Him, permeating the entire universe.

This is why we encounter bits and pieces of God’s love everywhere we go. It is easy to see how God lavishes His love generously and passionately on His creation. A trip into the outdoors with the astounding variety of animal and plant life paints the picture. It’s similar to visiting a place with thoughtful design, tasteful decorations and brilliant architecture. Planet Earth is one astounding monument of God’s creative energies and love.

Ever looked into the eyes of a dog adoring the ground you walk on – or into the eyes of a person falling in love with you – or into the eyes of your sons and daughters as they touch your nose and smile that toothless smile when they are still very small? That’s God’s love in small dosage. That’s the stuff we’re made of because we were created out of love. I am writing this with caution, aware of how tainted love can be and how it has become almost unrecognizable in the dark corners of this world. While the darkness is devastating, it’s simply robbing us from the truth. The reason why we’re here is not an accident. We’re here because of love and we will always be attracted to love because that’s where we are from, that’s where we belong and that’s where we are meant to return – you guessed it: we are meant to return to God, Who Is Love.

Meanwhile we can witness how God’s love spreads like wildfire. His love creates and endorses life to the point that it conquers the destructive forces of death. That’s the potent power of God’s love! And while we may enjoy the measured love-approach here on Earth, my hope is that once we are immersed into Heaven’s surroundings we will not only see God’s frame and notice His footprints but we will also have the privilege of directly smiling at Him.  We are promised a new heart, hopefully a more suitable container of His love.

This is my hope: that you and I get to see God’s glorious face and that we are able to mirror His love into the world, endlessly into space, and ultimately back to God.

“Right back at ya, God!”

I say that, of course, with a twinkle in my eye. No disrespect intended!

”I love you, Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You
Oh, my soul rejoice!
Take joy my King
In what You hear
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear” (Laurie Klein)

Proverbs 11:2: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

I used to be one of those people who tried very hard to blend in. Not a lot of confidence and no desire to be in the spotlight whatsoever! At school I kept to myself, stayed away from cliques and when the time came to choose my profession I was mortified to just imagine myself teaching in front of a classroom full of students. My Art Teacher believed I was exceptionally talented. “I’m not going to be a starving artist” is all I said. “And teaching? No way am I going to teach!” We can be blinded by fear. I didn’t choose my profession based on my passion. I chose my profession based on fear.

We can also be blinded by pride. When I think about the times when I thought I knew something and didn’t pay attention to anybody else’s input, I wince today because it never bode well for me. When I’m convinced that I am right (and everybody else is wrong) then my ears are shut and I have a hard time taking in what others have to say. That’s how pride operates. Pride is exclusive, not inclusive. There is much to be said about seeking a second opinion. We always need to be curious enough to listen to both sides of a story.

With an open mind comes humility, and with humility comes wisdom.

Humans can produce false humility, even though humility can’t be faked. It is not humble to say: “Oh I’m no good!” False humility is supposed to make us look humble by exaggerating how bad we are. Let’s not forget that God created us – don’t you think He did an amazing job? God created us to be His children and to walk in power, love and self-discipline. This certainly does not resemble the little-worm-mentality suggested by fake humility.

There is no shortcut to genuine humility. It develops while walking with God. He is using our life experiences to humble us. And it takes time – a reason why the less experienced among us may have trouble relating to humility. However, the good news is, regardless who we are, where we are from, which culture we grow up in, walking with the Lord will gradually change us over time.

Like a landscape artist, God fertilizes and prunes us to the point that we are sprouting, branching out, and bearing fruit. When God looks at us, He sees potential. He gives each of us something special to do. We are meant to be a blessing.

Thanks to God we get to know who we really are. That’s so exciting! He also keeps us levelheaded as He helps us through the tougher times. He frees us to be humble, and humility is the best! Nothing is impossible to a humble person walking with God Almighty.

1 Chronicle 29:9: “The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly.”

The love of God is generous in nature. I’m sure the word “stingy” is not even included in Heaven’s vocabulary.

Depicted in the first book of Chronicles, King David had inspired his people as he went ahead and donated all his resources, even dedicating his personal treasures to the building of the temple. This was a happy day for King David. An outpouring of generosity marked this very special occasion. Everybody chipped in with gifts.

Common pitfall for humans is to hold back. I guess, we’re rather safe than sorry. There is such a thing as generosity abuse, but it only happens when the love circle is broken.

Circle of love, here it is: God loves us generously, and we love God generously. It would disturb the love circle if we loved any less. The love circle breaks as soon as one recipient of love holds back. When one party only gives and the other party only takes, the reciprocity of love is undermined, and that sucks the life out of any love relationship.

It’s like magic: the more we love, the more love we have to give. God knows this secret. He has lavished His love upon His creation since the beginning of time, and He is famous for His unfailing love. God’s love bucket is always full to overflowing, and He does not hold back. Under His wings life flourishes.

Generosity stirs up more generosity. This is what happened on King David’s happy day. He generously devoted all he had to the One he loved with all of his heart – and the crowd followed in his footsteps.

May the Lord of Life and Love stir you up and move you to respond with the love language you’ve got. Love translates into many diverse transactions – whether it’s giving of your time, your expertise, your talent – each giving experience is unique and special but has this one thing in common: all love transactions are coming straight from the heart.

Heart to heart – that’s how we are connected to the Lord Almighty, and that’s how we are all interconnected. The blood flow of interconnection is generosity.

Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Gentleness is a rare gem.

To put us at ease, Jesus says of Himself that He is gentle (Matthew 11:28):

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Prophet Isaiah wrote about Him (Isaiah 42:3):

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

Gentleness is paramount in dealing with the bruised, the broken, young and tender. Rudeness is able to kill those who are in this precarious position. However, we all could use a little gentleness. A kind word goes a long way!

After moving into our house, my husband Bill built a nice little home studio. We’ve started recording at the beginning of the year with the purpose to finish our Christmas album by October. The recording process can be arduous. Technology can be bitchy. Vocal cords don’t respond the same way on any given day. There are hang ups. There are road blocks. Working on this project together as a husband and wife team, it is important to be gentle. Yesterday, due to an oversight, previously recorded tracks disappeared and we had to rerecord. Bummer! It would have been impossible to do without patience. I guess patience and gentleness go hand in hand.

Speaking of gentleness in relationships – I don’t think it’s possible to be gentle with pent-up anger inside. Anger is usually a symptom that something is wrong. If the wrong of a situation remains the unaddressed elephant in the room it soon grows to be a monster. Like it or not, there is no true harmony without voicing our concerns. There is no true intimacy without addressing offense. We don’t need to bury simmering anger for long to see it reaching boiling temperatures. We know how misdirected anger blows up in our face with lots of collateral damage.

Thankfully, there’s constructive anger. When we see dog poop on the floor, we better eliminate it, or it will be carried all throughout the house and cause a lot of stink. I guess we all know what that means. Constructive anger does the house cleaning. We address the wrong and eliminate those emotional triggers that make it unsafe to be around. And removing those triggers ultimately paves the way to gentleness.

Let’s be honest – so we can be gentle.

Hebrews 9:28: “So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

Sin is a peculiar word; it carries the sting of judgement. I don’t know of anybody who likes to feel this sting – nobody likes to be judged. Nevertheless, we all like to be understood.

When we sit down in a movie theater and watch a documentary about somebody’s life, then we walk out of the movie theater feeling more connected to the person portrayed in that movie. More than just passively watching our lives unfold on Earth, God has always been deeply involved in our lives. However, it’s still quite another matter when He took on flesh and blood and sat with us through scorching heat and drizzling rain. That would be like us getting up from our seats in the movie theater and all of a sudden become an integral part of the action in the movie. Well, actually, in a manner of speaking, that’s exactly what happened 2000 years ago when the Son of God entered the scene. He partook in the human experience by becoming human.

Jesus appeared – not just out of thin air; He was assembled in a mother’s womb, born to his doting parents Joseph and Mary, grew up transitioning from boyhood to adulthood, ran a business and for the later part of His life ran a ministry. All that to come alongside the human race and deal with our predicament called “sin”. Jesus dealt with sin like a champion by taking the bull by its horns. An innocent man, He eradicated sin by taking all the blame and shame. He had himself judged and executed.

So, thanks to Jesus sin has been dealt with, once and for all. On to the new chapter of salvation! Jesus can definitely free us to live the quality life we were created for. To reap such benefits we need to believe. Faith in Him is key.

Life on earth can be very distracting, to say the least. It’s important to keep in mind the good future God has in store for us. Stop what you are doing from time to time. Take breaks and remember. This will help us deal with life’s inevitable curve-balls. Let’s not forget that God comes through for us every single time! He guides us through steep canyons and valleys, and all through our challenges we learn how to love. Love is a lifelong project. If we stop loving we die spiritually and physically.

We can’t take anything with us when we die, but love carries over to the next life. It’s also the only thing of value we leave behind: love always leaves a legacy.

We all start here – and we love forever!

Posted in Sin

Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

John’s jubilee towards the end of his book of Revelation is famous and source of comfort for the tormented. Heaven is a good place. God’s presence, His overwhelming joy and peace and the absence of human sorrow and pain is something to look forward to.

However, does this mean that there is absolutely no pain in heaven? What about God’s pain of losing His creatures due to their free will? Since we don’t have to choose Him (God being no dictator) we can choose not to love Him.

Not choosing God harvests a world of pain; both parties suffer for it – God and His estranged creatures. And most likely, God’s parental pain somehow factors in. I don’t think Heaven is oblivious to what is going on in His heart; in fact, don’t we share both His joy and pain, especially as we get closer to Him? I believe we do, and I’m also convinced Heaven would be one-dimensional if we had it any other way. There is more depth to our joy as we embrace the undesirable feeling of sadness.

My husband Bill and I cried more than one tear when we lost our cat Misty. We had her going on 15 years. She came to us when she was a kitten and left her paw prints permanently in our hearts.

Obviously not everybody has a pet. The worst part of being in pain is thinking to be alone in this. That, quite frankly, is a lie. Even if (hypothetically speaking) nobody should be able to empathize with what you are going through, God certainly can.

Nonetheless, the reality is: people can usually relate. We don’t have to go very far to find out that someone else has dealt with some kind of grief. When pain bears the fruit of empathy it will create community. If nothing makes sense in pain, this always will: Your pain will equip you to be the best friend you can be to the person next to you who is facing some major challenges.

We are made for one another. God has created us not only to beat loneliness but to make life a whole lot richer.

Here it is, plain and simple written in the skies: Money does not make us rich. Relationships do!

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

The end of earth time as we know it is described by Paul in his letter to the Greek city dwellers of Thessalonica. Thessaloniki, also known as Thessalonica, Saloniki or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece, with over 1 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area. Paul described to his Greek friends how the dead will rise first to meet the Lord before the living generation is caught up in the clouds to join the party.

Particularly, I notice that the ones who have gone before us get to lead the way, which is a great way of honoring the older generations. I love that about God – little details like that. But then also the consoling thought that our bereavement is only temporary! After our passing there is still a lot of life ahead of us – Eternal Life that is – Life in its fullness; Life in a kingdom where God is King.

The dead will rise to a new chapter in the history of mankind, actually, a new chapter in the history of the universe because the old order has passed making way for the new order of the world. What that means exactly, I don’t know. I’m assuming the stars and planets are still running their orbits. But one thing is for sure: The King of kings will be the leader of the universe, a King unlike any world leader that we know. As the Prince of Peace there won’t be war and violence. Jesus does not rule with an iron fist. He is not the King of bloodshed. If anything, He shed His lifeblood for peace to stop violence for good. The Lord knew that violence begets violence. This is what Jesus said as solders attacked Him in the Garden of Olives and Peter tried to help Him by drawing his sword (Matthew 26:52):

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

Even with the best of intentions, war does not bring everlasting peace – but Jesus does. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of peace.

Right now this piece of information feels a bit like utopia. For this reason it’s good to be reminded that this “utopia” will come true one day. The here and now is temporary. The future established by God is forever, and forever is a long time!

Matthew 19:25-26: “The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

The age-old question: “who can be saved” was answered with great confidence. Jesus made a statement to His followers that with God everything is possible. On the other hand, an anonymous writer of a letter addressed to the Hebrews uses quite the opposite language (Hebrew 6:4+6):

“For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened – those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit (…) and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance;”

How is convicting a person to turn around impossible to God? It must be impossible because God has decided a long time ago to refrain from interfering with human decision making. I believe God definitely has the power to coerce His creatures into submission, but it’s His ethical choice not to use manipulation; instead God humbly accepts whichever rejection comes His way, and He lets go of everyone insisting on having his or her own way.

If you are a parent dealing with a son or daughter going down the slippery road of self-destruction, then you know to an extent how God feels. He is the parent of creation. He feels very strongly about us. And yet He respects our decision and lets us be if we so insist, even if it destroys us. This is who God is.

In the end, all our wrong has been made right. It’s hard to take in this astonishing truth that has been preached about for centuries. Most of the time people tend to either beat themselves up over their failures or defiantly dig in their heels. Prophet Isaiah proclaims in the 44th chapter of his book (Isaiah 44:22):

“I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.”

God has done all His legwork. He has swept away our failures so we can start over with a clean slate. This actually puts the ball into our court. From God’s point of view we’re worth every penny He paid when He sacrificed His Son on Mount Calvary. The question, however, remains: Is God worth everything we’ve got? That’s for us to decide. And whenever we go for it, accept His gift and return to Him, nothing, absolutely nothing will be impossible to God. No despair will be too deep, no fall too steep, and no storm waves too high that He can’t rescue us. Generations have come and gone, and this still holds true: our God is faithful. Our God saves – if we let Him.

John 3:17: “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”

Isn’t it great to receive a raving performance review? It will make our day to hear how we have exceeded expectations. And yet, there’s always this element of fear before we walk into the room to listen to our supervisor’s take on our performance – because our achievements as well as our shortcomings will be assessed, that’s just how it goes.

Every day people pass judgment or are being judged. We may not like that, but we know that this is how our society works. In the drift sand of anarchy and lawlessness mankind would have had no chance of survival. That’s why ultimately the law was given to mankind. The criminal justice system keeps things at bay, but it does not bring salvation.

Judging a person, we will most likely miss the whole picture. Try as we may, our judgment calls are flawed. The only perfect judge of a situation or a human being is God. Still, being judged by God is not a good situation for us either. Although God is a fair judge and His judgement is 100 percent correct, our death is the direct result – thankfully, God is the first to lament the cruelty of judgment and the finality of it.

That is why God sent His Son into the world – particularly not to judge the world – since judgment obviously initiates no happy ending – God sent His Son into the world to restore and save humanity. That’s the best possible outcome for a bad situation we got ourselves into. He came up with an unusual salvation plan. God becoming human is very unusual to say the least. But then His love is quite unusual too, and it’s His love that motivates His sacrifice. No measuring of His love is possible. God’s love meter goes beyond all expectations. His passion for us is an undying flame.

Looking at the way God chose to save us is looking at a divine love declaration written all over the skies, a love letter written in stone. It’s love that never goes away. God is in permanent search mode looking for the lost and broken and reaching out daily. His call goes around the world. Given all the effort He has put in, can you imagine His joy once we answer His call and grab His hand? Like His love, His joy is immeasurable.

Saving us is no easy business. It requires blood, sweat and tears, but feeling guilty about that would be entirely counterproductive. If we asked Jesus how He feels about us after all that He had been through, He would probably say that the last thing He wants for us is feeling guilty all the time. He voluntarily sacrificed Himself to save us, and His gift comes with absolutely no strings attached. I believe we make Him happiest when we accept His gift and never look back.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)

Philippians 2:1-2: “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.”

We recognize an auto immune disease when a body’s immune system goes bonkers and starts attacking and damaging its own tissues. We also recognize a family is in deep trouble when family members won’t stop hurting each other. We all need unity and peace. Our bodies can’t function without it. Societies can’t function without it.

The source of all peace, Jesus, aka the Prince of Peace, will help us pursue unity and turn us into peacemakers. Speaking of making peace: what about ending war? Wouldn’t it behoove the Prince of Peace to eliminate global warfare? Curiously, ending military conflicts has never been first on His agenda – His peace movement will eventually lead to that, but first and foremost Jesus is interested in bringing peace to the human soul. Wherever we are, whoever we are, His peace offer stands – if He finds you knocking on Heaven’s door, He will open it wide and let you in.

In the 66 books of the Bible peace is mentioned 249 times. Today’s world is riddled with friction, and this is probably the reason why the Bible emphasizes our need for peace. A disciple whom Jesus nicknamed Peter wrote in one of his letters (1 Peter 3:8):

“Finally all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.”

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as a recipe for peace! According to Peter’s recommendations, here are its listed ingredients:

  • Be of one mind – to be on the same page with another person requires a lot of communication. Do not take anything for granted. Ask questions to clarify, and explain your own thought process.
  • Sympathize – walking in someone else’s shoes is generally an eye opener.
  • Love – treat every person with respect.
  • Be tenderhearted – empathy goes a long way and is a blessing for anybody facing life’s rough patches.
  • Be humble – humility brings people together; pride on the other hand represents a major stumbling block on our road to peace. Remain curious what others have to say, validate people’s input.

Agreement, consensus, and harmony by no means come easy; we need a lot of help! But even if we end up agreeing to disagree, at least we show some respect for the difference in point of view without ridiculing each other. That’s what peacemakers do. We’re golden in God’s eyes if we live by those standards. So, as the coming days unfold, above all: let’s all stay gold!

Life is but a twinkling of an eye
Yet filled with sorrow and compassion
Though not imagined, all things that happen
Will age to old, though gold!  
                                (Stevie Wonder)