John 10:14-15: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Jesus portrays Himself in various ways.  In one of His “I am” statements He refers to Himself as the good shepherd.

One of the things that piqued my interest is the fact that Jesus does not refer to Himself as a sheep herder but as a shepherd.  There is a significant difference between the two:  Sheep herders drive their herds much like cowboys drive their cattle by pushing them from behind, while shepherds guide their flocks by leading them from the front. Also herds and flocks carry very different notions.  While herding associates with feeding and running together, a flock is meant to congregate in places or alternatively head towards a location. To put it bluntly: Jesus is no cowboy and God’s children are not mindless sheep driven by one. 

In Psalm 23 we put ourselves in sheep’s shoes (that is to say if sheep wore shoes) because King David wrote the lyrics of Psalm 23 entirely from a sheep’s perspective (Psalm 23:1-4):

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23 could not showcase the relationship between sheep and shepherd more beautifully. I believe this is what Jesus is referring to when He says about His sheep (John 10:15):

“Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

There is intimate knowledge, not just mere acquaintance, of all the parties involved. How special it is to know Jesus and to be known by Him!

John 10:7, 9-10: “Therefore Jesus said again, ‘Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’”

A fence-less society is God’s for dream us, and this is definitely not a pipe dream. We will live to see a society built solely on love and mutual respect; a world where even animals will stop killing each other; a world void of crime and abuse; a world where we can devote our energies to build, create, invent, explore, interact, and inspire. – Welcome to God’s kingdom!

God has rolled up His sleeves and paved a way to fulfill His dream by sending us the Prince of Peace. Jesus is the door opener to God’s peace on Earth.

Whether we like it or not, we have an enemy to our soul. This enemy has many names and may look like the nightmare figure of a fairy tale, but his hate for us is very real. Satan has affected all of us one way or the other. Despite his vicious activities though, he will not bring us down if we trust in the Lord.

As part of His salvation plan, God chose to become powerless and relinquish Himself. This goes against everything we believe. We believe in warfare and conquering by force. How in the world could God save us by letting go of His power and submitting to human limitations? As puzzling as it may be, God’s method of salvation is clearly not ours to choose.

The devil mistakenly believed that by having Jesus killed on the cross he would emerge as the winner. Ironically, Jesus won the war by letting Himself get killed. Jesus upholds the principle of peace to His dying breath.

In a world full of fences and ongoing violence we are offered a different way of thinking and a new code to live by. Jesus introduces all mankind to this new world, the kingdom of God, starting in the here and now. Among all the gifts Jesus has given, friendship with God is His greatest gift of all.

John 8:12: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

Bill and I have lived in Arizona for almost two decades now, and we have fallen in love with the local desert. Exploring the outdoors, nature trails are usually very uneven. Hikers keep their eyes glued to the ground to avoid tripping and falling. We have both done our fair share of hiking; I particularly like the early morning hikes.

In Arizona it gets light outside long before the Sun actually shows up on the horizon. The early light paints the awakening desert in pastel colors. Sunsets and Sunrises are quite a show around here.

Hiking before the Sun is up is magical, but can be a bit hazardous. On one occasion I forgot to bring my flashlight, BIG mistake! As a result, I stumbled more than I walked. Thankfully, the Sun rose in time before I got seriously hurt. Wilderness walks are unforgiving if we are not properly equipped.

We don’t need to be hikers to be able to relate to the wilderness experience. Life can resemble a wilderness walk, metaphorically speaking. Randy Newman’s song “It’s a jungle out there!” is a humorous way of putting it. God helps us through that jungle. The Light of the World has a way of seeing us through the most confusing times.

During the Christmas season it’s a custom in North America to decorate our homes, yards and streets with a myriad of Christmas lights; I believe this is one way of depicting Jesus bringing God’s Light into the world.

Jesus will change our fears and tears into hope and radiant joy, much like the sun shining through the drizzling rain will create a beautiful rainbow. The Lord dips our life in color. I know it because that’s what He has done for me. Walking with Him, we have the Light that leads to life.

John 6:35: “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’”

Our soul, similar to our physical body, is in need of healing after a traumatic event. Our Western culture has a tendency to overlook such things – probably because souls do not show up with physical evidence.

Imagine we could see each other’s soul-bodies and recognize how malnourished or wounded some of us are. The Lord certainly can. Connected with God, His children will become sensitized to the demands and longings of their soul.

There are countless references to the human soul in the Bible; one of the most prominent is to love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul (Deuteronomy 6:5). In the book of Psalms our soul is encouraged to cry out to the Lord, to praise the Lord, to sing to the Lord. As the body gets hungry, so does the soul. The body craves physical food while the soul craves spiritual food; God has plenty of spiritual food in store for the longing soul. In Peter’s first letter we read (1 Peter 2:2):

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” 

It is the Lord’s kindness the soul is after. No amount of fame or fortune can satisfy the extravagant cravings of the soul, not even the love we experience from other people. That is why Jesus says (Matthew 4:4):

“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

On that note, when we pray the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us today our daily bread”, we request the physical and the spiritual bread, since we are in dire need of both.

Let us follow the urges of our soul and pursue God’s wonderful Bread of Life.

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
 Give us today our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.”
 (Matthew 6:9-13)

Hebrews 1:1-2: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”

Most of us are familiar with upgrades. Technology is constantly improving, and it has affected the way we communicate. The invention of the telephone (not to mention the wireless phone) has connected us globally and revolutionized human communication. Remember how long it took to get a letter from one continent to another? Letters had to be shipped, and if your letter happened to be on a ship that never made it to shore you would have to send another one. With the invention of the telephone and especially the computer we effortlessly bridge long distances today.

If cellphones and computers represent a major breakthrough in long distance communication, certainly our perception of God has been revolutionized when the Word became flesh and lived among us. It is so much easier for us to grasp God’s message of love by just looking at Jesus. Jesus walked the talk. In Him God’s Word comes alive.

We have a God who communicates. He has shared the truth with us for as long as there have been people. What God has proclaimed through His prophets in preceding centuries is now plain to see in His Son.

Good things are going to happen when we explore the life of Jesus. I know that my life has never been the same.

John 1:1-2, 14: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

A couple of millennia ago, God became a human baby. God Almighty, who has everything and does not need anything, turns into this bundle of joy, helpless without His parents.

Why did God become human and needy? Why would He put Himself in such a position?

I think we need to stop expecting anything conventional from the creative Godhead, the One who thought up the entire universe. It is in His nature to be extraordinary and solve problems with out-of-the-box thinking; our estrangement from God was developing a great divide between Him and His creation on planet Earth. This represented a major problem that needed to be addressed.

The problem was created a long time ago, when seeds of distrust were sown. A snake asked one simple question: “Did God really say?” This question threw us permanently off. We started assuming things about God that aren’t true. Ever since, there has been fear, misinformation, and a lot of superstition.

Death puts the stamp of futility on everything we hold dear. That’s quite a painful experience for us. Our eternal God, on the other hand, is untouched by death and decay – and this is why we commonly think He is out of touch with our reality. Well, quite the opposite is true. God empathizes with us, so much so, that He decided to walk in our shoes.

Actions sometimes speak louder than words. Here is one very loud action: the Word became human; the Immortal became mortal; God became one of us. God came to our home turf and lived in the neighborhood. We could literally touch Him. We could put a face to His name. Looking into His face, we could see the One whose name is ‘Yahweh saves’, also known as Jesus, the Messiah. He came to bridge the great divide.

“There He was to everyone’s delight in the middle of the night. What a beautiful wondrous sight!” – Basically Two

2 Peter 3:10-11: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives.”

Planet Earth has always been subject to change, as other planets have. Planet Mars is thought to have been once habitable. Owing to change in Earth’s orbit, geological factors and fluctuations in solar output, Earth has seen a variety of ice ages. Periods of ice age are characterized by the growth and expansion of ice sheets across the Earth’s surface, which in turn has manipulated propagation or elimination of certain species. Catastrophic events further impacted Earth’s history. The most recent and arguably best-known mass extinction of animal and plant species occurred approximately 66 million years ago when 75% of all species became extinct, including dinosaurs. Most widely supported explanations of mass extinctions are major flood events, sea level falls and asteroid impacts. A large meteorite impact is associated with the mass extinction event of 66 million years ago.

The day of the Lord is a cataclysmic event predicted in several books of the Bible, also known as doomsday. Since the Earth has seen major catastrophic events before, there is no reason to believe it couldn’t happen again. However, false predictions (trying to figure out the date of doomsday for instance) brought about public criticism and a whole lot of sarcasm. The abuse of doomsday lies in the abuse of the scriptures endorsed by false teachers. Brimstone and hell preaching represents preachers who manipulate the crowds by pushing the fear button. Their preaching has produced either a blind following or angry rebels. Godless preaching has damaged God’s reputation probably more than godless living does. If preachers pretend to know God, then they obviously spread lies about Him, and this kind of damage is difficult to undo. The apostle Peter once mentioned how Paul’s letters were misinterpreted by certain individuals (2 Peter 3::16):

“His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

Godless living brings about destruction; so does distorting scriptures.

Godlessness by definition is forgetting where we came from. This sort of amnesia has some serious consequences (2 Peter 3:5-7):

But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

Forgetting that all the elements came from God will eventually turn the elements against us – because the elements don’t forget its maker. Jesus warned the godless who were trying to hush the jubilant crowds on the day of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:40):

“‘I tell you’, he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’”

Nature will always bear the testimony of its Maker. Stones will cry out in our stead if we forget where we came from.

On a much brighter side, keeping with God’s promise, we will succeed. Here is the Lord’s promise, coupled with His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20):

“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.”

We have the Lord’s promise that He is always with us. That’s the best promise He could have given us, especially when things are not looking so good. It is a good idea to mention that the Lord doesn’t just end things. He paves the way for a new beginning (2 Peter 3:13):

“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”

The Lord is famous for His patience, His belief in us and His undeterred hope. Thanks to Him an exciting future is coming our way. Even though the beautiful dawn of the kingdom of God happens sometime in the future, it is rooted in today. Look around you. You can already see the kingdom of God in places where Jesus left His footprints in people’s hearts.

Psalm 136:1+26: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.”

Sometimes, the holiday season can be hard on us. The holidays are designed to be celebrated with family and friends. If both friends and family members are missing, the most wonderful time of the year will quickly turn into the least desirable time of the year. We feel disjointed and alone while everybody else seems happy.

Even if this goes against everything we currently feel, God encourages us to look up and thank Him for His goodness. In the end, it’s the Lord’s goodness that sees us through. When everything else is falling apart, He is still the Rock. When life gets dark, He is still the Light.

Nothing is as dark as walking through the valley of the shadow of death. My husband and I sat beside loved ones on their deathbed on several occasions. Grieving, we have to let go of the person passing, and the person passing has to let go of the physical body. God knows, letting go is not easy. What a relief that the Lord is with us, especially when we need Him the most.

God is faithful. His love for us is independent of our love for Him. God loves us, even if we don’t love Him back. However, if we do love Him back we get to experience His love here on Earth and beyond, when we pass on to the other side. As far as the Lord is concerned, He can’t wait to welcome us into His arms.

Jesus is the Light of the world. We’ve seen the light when we’ve seen the Lord. However, we should not base our lives on a one-time-experience. In fact, we need to continually reach out for His light to find our way. If we feel lost in the dark, we need to ask for His vision. If we feel confused, we need to ask for His wisdom. God will not hold back, and He will generously provide. The Light of the world is with us every step of the way; that is how we can walk in the dark; that is how we can successfully navigate through life.

The Lord is good. His love endures forever; God loves us always, throughout eternity, and nothing – absolutely nothing – can change that. That’s why we thank Him.

“Light of the world, You stepped down into darkness; open my eyes, let me see.” Tim Hughes

1 Chronicles 16:8: “Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.”

I’m getting misty-eyed this morning – The first book of Chronicles contains the first Bible verse I have ever blogged about. It was in 2016, and this is what I wrote:

“Bragging about the Lord!  Here is a Bible verse that talks about broadcasting worldwide what the Lord has accomplished.  In today’s day and age with Internet access readily available this could be easily done, and we have been posting on Social Media on a regular basis; but now Bill and I would like to create a blog where we can post a Bible verse, elaborate on its meaning, and share with anybody who also likes to think about the Bible. This would be our very first blog. Let’s see where this takes us!”

Years later after this entry I’ll say this: Sitting down and thinking about a Bible verse is an experience that I don’t want to miss. The Lord knows His own Word, and He also knows what He wants to say to you and me. Unless we sit down and give Him the time of day it won’t happen.  Studying the Bible records, going through Paul’s letters, the gospels, David’s psalms, Isaiah’s prophecies, the five books of Moses, is special.

Some of us may think: why is it so special? – Generations of believers have read the Bible; there is nothing special about it. – Exactly! The fact that generations of believers have read the Bible and it still gives us new insight as we dig into it, is very special. The Bible is no old hat. It’s as alive as the Lord.

Proclaiming the Lord’s greatness – I initially thought the Internet could do that; however, the Internet is a very impersonal medium. Nothing beats personal delivery! What I came to realize though is that habitual blogging about the Lord has blessed me in many ways. I strongly believe the world changes one person at a time. Inasmuch blogging about the Lord has blessed me the world around me will be blessed too, starting a domino effect of good things happening. That’s the power of the Internet in my case.

Yesterday I went outdoors and admired the colors of fall. I often look at something beautiful outside and then jokingly say to the Lord: “Stop bragging!” Well, He won’t! He can’t help Himself, everything He created is so good! God is brilliant. He does not need to say anything, He could just let His work speak for itself. And yet, He does not stop talking. His Word is like gentle rain that softens hardened callouses in our hearts.

There is a lot to be said about the Lord, and the apostle John once wrote about Jesus that no amount of books could cover all He has done and is doing.  Still, this won’t keep us from trying, right? I, for one, will do just that: keep on writing.

Colossians 3:16: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

Wo man singt, da lass dich nieder. Böse Menschen haben keine Lieder” – a German saying, which loosely translated means: “Wherever people get together to sing, join them. You won’t run into bad company there; evil people don’t have songs.”

My grandmother’s Dad was Walter Seelheim who knew how to play the accordion. At night, he played in dance halls, which were popular in Germany in the 1920s. Well-paid jobs were scarce after the Germans had lost World War I; playing music at night probably helped my great grandfather to feed his nine children.

My grandmother had seven sisters and one brother. Times were hard, but they knew how to have fun. At night, the girls who shared a bedroom fell into harmony singing old folk songs to pass the time.

I find it interesting that the apostle Paul encouraged the readers of his letter to spread the message of Christ in song. Singing together is such a bonding activity. About choral singing Julia Layton wrote in her article: “The Physical Effects of Singing”:

“A study published in Australia in 2008 revealed that on average, choral singers rated their satisfaction with life higher than the public — even when the actual problems faced by those singers were more substantial than those faced by the general public. A 1998 study found that after nursing-home residents took part in a singing program for a month, there were significant decreases in both anxiety and depression levels. Another study surveying more than 600 British choral singers found that singing plays a central role in their psychological health.”

It’s no secret that not everybody can sing in tune, which would be a major deal-breaker for joining a choir. Singing in the shower, it won’t matter whether or not we sing out of tune. Singing is simply good for the soul, which is why the Lord encourages us to keep it up (Psalm 33:3):

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.”

An added bonus of making music is that we typically don’t engage in violence as we sing. How do we change the world for the better? Obviously, not by violence; the message of Christ is a message of peace. The peace movement initiated by Jesus starts within the human heart. Making peace with God, we spread peace wherever we go. That’s the power of Christ’s message in a nutshell, and we can sing about it.

Mom and I singing together in 2015

Hebrews 12:28: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”

Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcano explosions, Meteorite impact – our planet has seen it all. The history of planet Earth is a history of evolution. As much as we like to take root and cling to life on Earth as we know it, we’re destined to grow wings and fly to a kingdom that is unshakable.

God is eternal; so are His children.

We live in a temporary setting in a temporary body housing an eternal soul. If you are comfortable with that, you are my champion. However, most people I know, myself included, don’t like to live on the brink of change.

Here is where faith comes in. Take marriage for instance: We believe we made the right choice when we married our spouse, so we promise to be faithful to this spouse we’ve selected. Our marriage vows say “for better or worse, in good times and bad”. Years go by, and our marriage develops from a young shoot into a matured tree. In a temporary setting within our temporary bodies we have grown old together. Faith connects and faithfulness produces roots and new young shoots. There are families out there that once grew into a village; the village became a tribe, and eventually the tribe turned into a nation.

Legacies aside, your very own soul is not destined to live on in your children and children’s children; your soul is destined to live on in a body of your own, a body that is equipped to live forever. The apostle Paul calls our current physical appearance a “tent” (2 Corinthians 5:1):

“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”

Paul is referring to the new body that awaits us as we pass on from this life into our next. God made you unique, which means you won’t be reproduced in your exact likeness. Once you die, there won’t be another one just like you. Every life matters.

Our soul comes from God. It is necessary to connect with the Eternal One, or our soul will remain rootless. Eternal rootlessness is hell, and hell is not what God has planned for you and me. God wants us to find our roots and live. Finding God is finding home; we are home for good, and nobody can take that away from us.

To be alive and knowing that the Lord is our home are two wonderful reasons to be grateful. Praise the Lord, we’ve seen the light!

Psalm 1:1-2: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.”

My husband and I went to San Francisco on our honeymoon, and there we had plenty of photo ops with the Golden Gate Bridge serving as backdrop.

Historically speaking, connecting San Francisco with Sausalito was no easy feat. Due to the complex challenges presented by the strait; strong tides, wind, fog, and the San Andreas Fault located just 7 miles offshore, the Golden Gate Bridge was considered “The Bridge that couldn’t be built”. But one engineer came forward with a plan that he claimed could be built. His name was Joseph Baermann Strauss. His idea was to build a suspension bridge.

Suspension bridges suspend the roadway by cables, ropes or chains from two tall towers. The pressure applied to the ropes travels from there to the towers. The towers then dissipate the compression directly into the earth.

Strauss believed a suspension bridge would be a solution to their problem, and he was right. Finalized and opened to the public on May 27, 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge has meanwhile stood the test of time.

Comparing our lifetime to a suspension bridge, Lloyd George Elliott (1919-1970), a Canadian nuclear physicist wrote:

“The long span of the bridge of your life is supported by countless cables called habits, attitudes, and desires. What you do in life depends upon what you are and what you want. What you get from life depends upon how much you want it, how much you are willing to work and plan and cooperate and use your resources. The long span of the bridge of your life is supported by countless cables that you are spinning now, and that is why today is such an important day. Make the cables strong!”

Habits, attitudes, and desires – a lot of our daily actions are driven by them. To avoid decision overload, our brains establish neuron pathways each time we learn something new. Going forward, we will revert back to past experiences. Thus a new habit is formed. Our brains are very much like sponges. They soak up the good and the bad. Blessed are the people who develop good habits and avoid the corrosion of bad influences. The first psalm of the book of psalms says as much (Psalm 1:1-2)

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked (…) but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.”

A beacon to our thought life is the Word we receive from the Lord. Through the noise and distraction, it’s well worth our effort to set aside time to be alone with Him. Let God speak to your heart, my friend! His affirmations are the solid rock withstanding the test of time.

Psalm 95:1-2: “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”

Harvey Mackay once said:

“It’s only lonely at the top if you forget all the people you met along the way and fail to acknowledge their contributions to your success.”

Thankfulness obviously is not humanity’s natural ingredient. Humans aren’t exactly born grateful. We like to look at the things we lack and unwittingly diminish the value of everything we’ve already been given. Despite our natural tendencies, however, we need to sit back from time to time and count our blessings.

Put yourself in God’s shoes for a minute – strictly hypothetical of course since these are big shoes to fill – and imagine all the people talking to you only want your attention because they want something from you. How would that make you feel?

I’m sure God loves to be addressed when we are in need. Life is no joke. Bad things happen to good people. And yet, if prayer is used only in times of emergency, then we really don’t know God very well. The apostle Paul wrote in one of his letters (1 Thessalonians 5:17):

“Pray continually”

Praying continually means that God is a genuine part of our lives. Our prayers have extended beyond emergency situations, and we have an ongoing conversation with Him. As we go through the day we share our thoughts with Him, which is the good, the bad and the ugly. God is with us when we are at our worst, and He is with us when we at our best. He is the best Friend we will ever have, and for that it is easy to be thankful for.

As a happy side effect, thankfulness is a great way of combating negativity. It’s easy to get depressed in times of trouble. We tend to focus on the dark side when we have problems. Gratefulness snaps us out of this way of thinking and turns our eyes to the bright side.

We need some joie de vivre especially in tough times. For our own sake and most importantly for God’s sake let’s be thankful!

“Always look on the bright side of life” Eric Idle

John 17:17: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

Thanks to gravity we can walk the ground. Up is up and down is down, as simple as that. However, climbing into a rocket and pushing through Earth’s atmosphere, we experience things very differently. Where is up and down after loss of gravity? Our human experience is very much tied to our personal point of view. In fact, we can get so stuck in our opinions that it is hard to see the truth.

 “What is truth?” Pilate retorted after Jesus told him (John 18:37b):

 “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Finding the truth can be as elusive an experience as trying to catch the wind. Pilate certainly thought so. At the time when Pilate met Jesus he seemed to have given up on finding the truth. “What is truth?” he asked. Not expecting an answer, he turned around and left Jesus.

So, what is truth?  

It is very human that our point of view evolves. What we believe to be true today may no longer hold true tomorrow. Pilate’s sarcasm would then be justified. Truth, however, is not truth if it can change overnight. Truth does not change. Unimpressed by shifting times and unimagined by any human mind it stands forever. We don’t dream up truth; truth just is.

It was Jesus’s mission to come into the world and share the truth with us. He testified to the truth, which still rocks our world. Interceding for all people, Jesus prays (John 17:17):

“Sanctify them by the truth” 

Learning the truth will change us for the better, or to use Jesus’s terminology: learning the truth will sanctify us. On a different occasion He said (John 8:32):

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The only way to learn the truth is to believe Jesus. Truth cannot be proven, but the results of truth-finding are very tangible. Attached to the Lord’s bird-eyed view, believers develop a much broader perspective. They become vested in the greater good and contribute to healing the world.

Truth is alive and breathing and has the name of God written all over it. When Jesus walked this Earth, He left indelible footprints. He said about Himself (John 14:6):

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

When Jesus turns our lives around, we start going into a completely different direction. The truth will set us free, and we will never be the same.

Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

Life’s path is no eight-lane freeway. It’s more of a bumpy hiking trail. Plugging along, we always tread on unexplored ground. Nobody knows what to expect around the next corner.

Life’s pathway is a long journey. We better travel light or we’ll get stuck somewhere with our heavy load. Unburdened is the way to go.

Life is not a burden. Life is a precious gift. We realize that in moments when we hold a newborn baby. However, the thrill of being alive clearly wears off when we are in pain. In light of tragic circumstances we may even lose our desire to be alive. Especially when we feel lost in the dark, we are in desperate need of God’s light.

The light of God is different from any other light source we know. Regular light sources simply won’t hold up. Batteries go low; a camp fire won’t burn unless it’s fed; a candle will flicker and die once it has burnt through the candle wick. God’s eternal flame, however, burns independently without being fed. His light is always shining, which is why we fare a lot better in His presence. Close to the Lord, we are able to see through the dark. Leaning on Him, it is so much easier navigating through life’s highs and lows.

Times will change; God, however, is timeless. He is the Rock of Ages who quickly becomes our stronghold as we call out to Him. If we earnestly seek the Lord, we will find Him. Moses encouraged the Israelites with these words (Deuteronomy 4:29):

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

God is hidden from the naked eye, and yet, He is very hard to miss. In fact, we have to be determined to ignore Him to not notice the brilliant Light that outshines the stars, the Moon and the Sun. Eventually, somewhere along life’s bumpy road, we will run into Him.

Life is no hide-and-seek game. God wants to be found; He wants to enlighten us; Heaven’s door is easily opened. All we’ve got to do is start knocking.

Psalm 119:143: “Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight.”

King David loved the Lord, and He loved His law. In Psalm 119, he says (Psalm 119:62):

“At midnight I rise to give you thanks
    for your righteous laws.”

To be enthused with the law of God as much as King David professes it in his psalms strikes many of us as strange. Interestingly, the initial reaction at the time when the Ten Commandments were published was fear. Here is how people reacted as they witnessed God speaking from Heaven (Exodus 20:18):

“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance.”

I believe fear can be a good thing if it keeps us from harm. The fear of getting hurt prevents us from touching fire. Kids learn that really quickly. Beyond that, however, we expect kids to grow into adults who can use fire to their benefit.

God is an eternal flame. He appeared to Moses in the form of fire, the burning bush. It seems that Moses had quickly grown past the fear of fire. A friendship developed between Moses the prophet and God Almighty that the Bible depicts as exceptional, although I’m not sure God wants friendship with people as an exception.

Life is more than just two-dimensional. Unless we want to live like cartoon characters, at some point in our lives we need to outgrow the idea that the world around us only falls into two categories: right and wrong; good and evil.

Ultimately, the Lord’s commandments, written in stone, represent the stepping stones towards God’s world that knows no commands and is entirely built on love. If we get hung up by His commands, then God’s law turns from stepping stones into a murderous weapon. A rigid, rule-driven life simply leaves us no room to breathe. God’s commands were not written to stone us, but to guide us. King David understood that profoundly. He didn’t lead a flawless life, but he is known to be a big believer in God’s mercies.

The law of God was written down to lay out righteous living. Stepping onto the building stones of human decency, we will step into God’s presence. And approaching Him, we’ll make a Friend for a lifetime.

1 Peter 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”

God’s Spirit brings life. Jesus was brought back from the dead when He was resurrected. Thanks to the Spirit of God He was revived and walked out of the tomb, never to return.

If Jesus needed to be revived, how much more are we in need of revival? And I don’t think we should wait for that experience until we pass. Unlike Jesus, we carry a dead human spirit inside of us that needs to come back to life. The Holy Spirit has the uncanny ability to open our eyes and help us see God. It’s like we were in a dream state before, and now we’ve woken up to reality. Jesus calls this experience rebirth, and it’s one of the great mysteries of God. What exactly happens as we get reborn, who can tell? From personal experience I know, life as a believer is as different from my prior life experience as day is from night. It’s the Holy Spirit who makes all the difference.

Our dead human spirit is one thing, the burdens we have accumulated over a lifetime is quite another. If there is anybody out there who has compassion for our cause, it’s God. God is not asleep, nor is He dead. He is in a pristine unpolluted environment called Heaven; His ears are not distracted by noise pollution, and His eyes are ever turned towards His creation. We have His complete attention, and His heart breaks over the things we are going through. God is love. He wants to effectively help us, not just put a Band-Aid over the situation. He wants to save us. That’s why Jesus came.

Jesus says (Matthew 11:29):

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus was publicly killed. After He was raised from the dead He went back to heaven. How can we learn from Jesus when He is no longer here? – Well, that’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. The Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead is the same Spirit who teaches us about Him. In fact, we will become friends with Jesus long before we actually see His face. There is still so much left to discover even after we have crossed over to the next life. Life is a journey that definitely does not end with our physical departure.

The Holy Spirit has a lot to say about God. If you are searching for answers, why don’t you ask Him to introduce God to you? That’s what I did, a long time ago, and the Holy Spirit is still not done introducing.

“Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on”
– Bill Withers

1 John 2:15-16: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

If we love the world we’re part of a worldwide problem. If we love the people in the world then we’re part of the solution. When John wrote his letter he didn’t want to encourage its recipients to take an eternal leave of absence and become a recluse. He wanted us to engage in peacemaking.

What are peacemakers?

Let me begin to paint the picture by saying peacemakers are no doormats. Peacemaking has nothing to do with keeping our voice down and our eyes closed to avoid ruffling any feathers. Even though peacemakers love people, people may not love then. Some people do, some people don’t. It all depends on their attitude.

As peacemakers we will run into people who are devoted to money, success and power. If that happens, peacemakers will be considered a nuisance because in their presence those power-hungry people feel exposed for what they really are. It’s not going to be pretty, and it’s nothing new under the sun. I believe every generation has brought forth peacemakers who have dealt with this situation.

As peacemakers we invest ourselves. We are passionate about people and this planet. We fight to protect the weak and better the cause of those who cannot fight for themselves. We become advocates. We do the little things that few notice but make a huge difference.

It’s difficult to swim upstream. That’s exactly what peacemakers do, all the time. Don’t even think for a moment that peacemaking is something you can do on your own. Idealistic humanitarians usually get stranded. It’s a tragedy when something good is destroyed.

Here is something to think about: God’s goodness can’t be destroyed. God is good all the time, and we need His goodness to keep our hearts at peace. Jesus was the pioneer in peacemaking. He is called the Prince of Peace and rightly so. In Jesus we see all the classic symptoms of peacemaking. People were drawn to Him and at the same time people were highly offended by Him. Ironically, our number one peacemaker, Jesus of Nazareth, didn’t go peacefully. He was brutally murdered. A true peacemaker, He did not fight back to defend himself, and yet He did not back down or compromise when it came to standing up for what is right and good.

To become a peacemaker we embrace Jesus. That’s how we change the world.

Peacemakers write history. Peacemakers are ahead of their time. Thanks to peacemakers humanity has evolved and is still around. Thanks to peacemakers there is hope for the future.

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem – and join Jesus in the biggest peace movement the world has ever seen.

Job 37:5-6: “God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’”

Thunderbolt and lightning very, very frightening! – A quote from the song that wrote Rock History: The Bohemian Rhapsody.

I’m just sitting on the porch listening to the waves crushing on the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. I love that sound. Since the Almighty created everything around here and out there (looking at the night skies right now), I believe, that’s another sound representing God’s voice. These waves come steady, one after the other. So is the whisper of His voice when He speaks to my heart. It comes in waves. Sometimes I hear Him quite distinctively, sometimes I’m not listening. The sounds of God’s creation never stop, whether we listen or not. God’s creation is not silent, and neither is He!

God speaks. He has a voice. But sometimes, for various reasons, our heart is hard of hearing.

Take Jona for instance who had a job to do and ran away. In the belly of a fish he finally took note and prayed to the Almighty. If thunderbolt and lightning is frightening, how about being caught inside a fish somewhere in the deep sea?! Jonah later said that prior to this frightening experience he had only barely known God – a mere acquaintance, so-to-speak – but inside the fish Jonah had a close encounter with Him.

What about Job who hears the glory of God’s voice in Thunder? Job went down in history as the man who lost everything over a devil’s bet. The devil does not believe in goodness and he bet that Job would renounce His faith after losing everything. To make a long story short: the devil lost his bet. And Job is happy to announce to the world what a glorious encounter He had with God.

Silence can be deafening. Maybe after not hearing from God in a long while and listening to the stupidity coming from his own friends, God’s Thunderbolt was a welcome relief to Job.

God writes it in the skies with lightening, for everyone to see and with roaring Thunderbolts for everyone to notice: God is very much alive, and He cares. He is not deaf, nor dead, nor asleep, nor indifferent. The one who needs to wake up to reality is actually you and me. We need to wake up and face the music! Sometimes that takes a fish belly or sky-splitting lightening with crashing thunder.

What are we afraid of? What do we have to lose? We are all afraid of death. We are born afraid to lose our lives. God knows! And he does not want us dead. He wants us to be alive and well. And the good news is: He is the Only One who can save us. Jonah experienced it. So did Job and many other human beings.

We get closest to God when we see Him in action. Action speaks louder than words and louder than a Thunderbolt. Being saved from death, carried through disaster, seeing the light at the end of a tunnel, that’s when we see God in action, and that’s when we get to know Him in a very personal way. His love is no longer hidden but becomes as clear as day. It’s like Captain Obvious! “Wow! God does love me. I heard of His love, now I’ve experienced it”.
Thunderbolt and lightening very, very frightening? Not so much anymore! Armed with God’s love we can face the devil if we have to.

God is love. To know that is to know everything.

Proverbs 1:8-9: “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”

The breaking down of the family unit has been detrimental to human well-being. A complete set of parents who bring up their children and grow old together is all too often a beautiful dream that does not come true. Instead there is this nightmare of divorce. It’s probably more a nightmare for the children than it is for the parents. While the adults move on from their ex-spouse there is no such thing as an ex-dad or ex-mom for a kid. Technically speaking, kids would be at odds with themselves if they’d move on the same way as their parents just did. They carry both parents’ genes inside of them. It’s admirable how kids navigate through the change in relationship status. They have to somehow reconcile the fact that they love both parents who don’t love each other.

I’m speaking from experience of course – My brothers and I grew up in a single parent household. Our mother married twice and had children with both husbands whom she both divorced. Our mother brought up four beautiful children. That’s quite the task, and she tackled it with passion. So, here is to all single parents – they are war heroes in my book!

In a perfect world, kids benefit from a set of two parents to have the best learning experience growing up. Listening to a father’s advice and benefiting from a mother’s input is a bonus for a child. A father’s point of view will differ from a mother’s, and that difference will pull things into perspective.

For children to have both a father’s and mother’s wisdom at their disposal may not be taken for granted. It’s a blessing. But even if we don’t have both parents growing up, God can provide. Beyond that, we all could use a little wisdom. Even in old age with a lot of experience under our belt we are smart to listen for God’s input.

Never stop learning and we won’t stop growing until the day we die. So stay curious, my friend!

Genesis 27:32 : “His father Isaac asked him, ‘Who are you?’ ‘I am your son,’ he answered, ‘your firstborn, Esau.’

Who are you? Before we blurt out the answer, do we consider first who asked us this question? We are who we are. If we try to be somebody else we are in trouble.

The story of Jacob and Esau in the Old Testament is such a troubling story. Jacob and Esau were twins. Their parents were Rebekah and Isaac, and they each preferred one of the children over the other. Rebekah was fond of Jacob while Isaac was fond of Esau. Esau was born first, and it seems that didn’t sit well with either Esau or Jacob. Jacob wanted to be the firstborn. Esau on the other hand just wanted to be Isaac’s son. Why did it matter so much that Esau was born first? Everything seemed to hinge on that birthright. Esau was tired and sick of this. He despised his birthright while Jacob desired it. On his deathbed their father Isaac asked both of his boys a simple question: Who are you? Turns out, the question is not so simple after all. It took a lifetime for Esau and Jacob to come up with the right answer.

How children turn out has a lot to do with their parents. Through preferential treatment, Rebekah and Isaac unwittingly caused a serious rift in their family. Later in life, Esau and Jacob were able to come to terms and make peace with each other. In order to do that they both had some growing up to do by owning up to their mistakes.

This is no novel revelation; this is as old as mankind. I call it rite of passage the moment a kid owns up to a mistake. A boy becomes a man and a girl becomes a woman that way. We no longer hide behind our parents’ faults or anybody else’s faults for that matter. We believe we are responsible and humbly accept the consequences. We are who we are. Or to put it in God’s words: I am who I am.

We have a lifetime to learn two things: understand who we are and be who we are.

What if you are who you are and you get rejected? It hurts more profoundly when you put your heart out there and people walk all over it. That’s what happens, but still, this is the way to go. Rather have a bleeding heart than living a lie. God is not pretentious. He is who He is. We can learn from Him. We can also hide under His wings, especially when we are bleeding.

It’s a golden moment in time when we first realize that God loves us. Accepting God’s love has a lot to do with accepting ourselves.

God loves you. And by the way: that’s who you are!

1 Timothy 2:1-2: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

Prayer changes the world, and prayer also changes us. That’s the power of prayer in a nutshell.

We have an advocate in heaven who prays for us night and day. His name is Jesus. His prayers move mountains and work in conjunction with the Holy Spirit who is spread out all over the world. The Holy Spirit is on the move globally and challenges us to pray. Our prayers are like a breath of fresh air sweeping across our countries. We’d be suffocating without prayers, I’m sure.

Paul urges Timothy in his letter to pray specifically for kings and authorities. Men and women in authority need a lot of prayer because they affect a lot of people. I think it’s hard to pray for authorities because most of us aren’t related to them. We all probably find it easier to pray for people we know, or at least for people we empathize with. A powerful person quickly becomes an abstract for us. We see the person primarily in their functions, and that’s what they become in our minds – the CEO of a company, the police officer, the king of England, the president of the United States – but this abstract person really only exists on paper. That’s like painting a picture and claiming the painting is reality. Paintings are just two-dimensional. Reality on the other hand contains a third dimension, depth. To pray effectively, we need to take this extra step in our hearts and minds, go past a person’s title and status and see a vulnerable human being.

God knows everybody from the inside out. He can help us relate to a person better. And wouldn’t you know it? All of a sudden we pray with empathy. That’s how prayer changes us.

Prayer changes the world because God listens to prayer, especially selfless prayer. An active prayer life looks as different as our respective DNA codes. I am writing this as a precaution, because some of us are haunted by certain stereotypes triggered by such words as “prayer warrior” or “prayer closet”. Nobody prays the same, and we shouldn’t. That’s as if all love affairs were the same, and they aren’t. Prayer first and foremost is our communication with God. How that looks like depends largely on our personality. So don’t try to be a copycat mimicking what we think a prayer warrior would do. Be yourself. Just don’t give up on God or people. That’s what prayer is all about.

Ephesians 1:9: “He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”

Have you ever noticed that it takes time to get to know yourself? I can only speak for myself of course, and I know that I have gained a better understanding of who I am over the course of a lifetime.

God is mysterious, and so are we – a mysterious people!

God’s will is a mystery. The only thing we know about His will is that it is good. That’s why we pray with Jesus “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. God’s intentions are to bring unity in heaven and on earth. We have a problem just imagining unity. It seems, the world is falling apart due to our inability to reach consensus. Internationally, nations have a hard time getting on the same page. On a smaller level, it’s sometimes even hard to be on the same page within a family unit.

We’ve always known that lack of unity is a weakness. So, we have come up with ways to cope with that issue. Dictatorship is our worst and democracy our best attempt at uniting people. However, whatever it is we have come up with, it’s a far cry from God’s unity. I believe God’s unity is best described as unity in diversity.

In Christ heaven and earth is united. How is that possible? Leave that up to the wisdom of Christ.

Similar to a multi-faceted diamond is our multilayered God. Don’t be afraid to dig into the mystery! And don’t stop short at hearsay – especially when it comes to Christ. There is a laundry list of things said about Jesus, some of them good, some of them bad. Be a gold digger! Find out for yourself who Jesus is. And once you have struck gold, don’t stop there either. Keep on digging. There is more to God’s Son than just meets the eye.

Billy Joel once wrote a song about a mysterious woman, and in some ways this song reminds me of mankind’s relationship with its Maker, puzzled as we are in our attempts to get to know Him. The best approach for us humans is to seek God daily and enjoy the surprises when He shows up. King David’s poetry says it all (Psalm 22:26):

“Those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever!”

God is love – which is yet another mystery. In many ways the love of God is sort of an open secret. It seems, everybody knows and at the same time nobody knows. Certainly, there is no knowing of God’s love until we find out for ourselves who He is; and once we look for the Lord, I believe, His wondrous love will be hard to miss.

“And she only reveals what she wants you to see
She hides like a child but she’s always a woman to me”
Billy Joel

Proverbs 19:20-21: “Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.”

My husband likes to make an informed decision, which is why he typically takes his sweet time investigating. His research of pros and cons (which he calls “vetting”) comes before his buying decision.

Buying a product is simple in comparison to making life changing decisions. Do we get married? Are we going to have kids? Should I have this surgery? In fact, life decisions hardly fit the profile of vetting a product, or are we going to google the pros and cons of having children? Are we going to perform a background check for the person we are considering to marry? It’s not like that at all, but still, we will get all the advice we can if we’re smart. We will interview parents about the aspects of raising children, ask our friends what they think about the person we’re dating and regarding the surgery in question we will look for a second medical opinion.

It is wise to seek advice. However, if everything could be figured out by seeking traditional advice then we didn’t need the Lord to guide us through this maze called “life”. After everything is said and done, there is still this X-factor. Life is famous for its surprises.

We sometimes think we know our purpose, or we haven’t even thought about it just yet because we’re so busy making money and paying bills. Whatever the case, here is a gold nugget of truth: the Lord knows each person’s purpose. Here is another nugget: the Lord will do everything in His power for this purpose to come true.

We are all a diamond in the rough. Since diamonds are made of the hardest material in the world, only a diamond can be used to mechanically cut another diamond. Comparatively speaking, the Lord is the diamond who cuts us into shape. It is the Lord’s desire that we shine. We have a place in His kingdom, but we also have a place in this world. There is a reason why we were born. As long or as short our life may be, each life has purpose; it is the Lord’s purpose to uncover it. The greatest tragedy in human life is not an untimely death. It is dying before our purpose has had a chance to materialize.

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking we have everything figured out. Life remains a mystery. It’s good to stay humbly curious and seek the Lord as we go about our business. Committing our way to the Lord, He is committed to unveil our purpose.

Psalm 37:5: “Entrust your ways to Yahweh. Trust him, and he will act on your behalf.”

2 Corinthians 3:6: “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

In the story of The Princess Bride the main character Inigo finally confronts his father’s killer with the words he had waited half his life to say: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Headhunters were pursuing Jesus with increasing intensity as their hatred grew. Even though they had no good reason to hate Him, they were hell-bent to find an excuse to execute Him. According to the Law of Moses, sexual immorality and blasphemy both deserve the death penalty.  So the plan was to trap Jesus into saying something that could be used against Him.

When a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus, the idea was to kill two birds with one stone: Jesus for saying something that could be (falsely) interpreted as blasphemy, and the woman for the obvious reason of being caught in the act of illegal sex.

Prepared to die?

Here was their loaded question: “This woman offended the law of Moses, so she dies. Or doesn’t she, Jesus?”

And how did He respond? Jesus stooped down to write in the dirt.

Technically, that’s how mankind started out. God stooped down, got His hands dirty and formed the first man out of clay (Genesis 2:7):

“Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.”

While it is true that we are made out of clay, dust is not our major component. We come to life through the Spirit of God. That also means that once the Spirit is gone, our life is gone. Only our ashes are left behind as our Spirit returns to God, our Maker (Ecclesiastes 12:7):

“For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.”

What is true for our bodies is also true for the body of law expressed in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. The letter of the law is the mud in God’s hands. Through God’s Spirit the Law of Moses comes alive. However, take the Spirit out of the equation, and the same law kills. We need God’s Spirit to understand what God has to say. Without God’s Spirit everything is futile, just like dust in the wind.

So, Jesus stooped down and wrote in the lifeless dust because no life comes out of accusation and condemnation. The people who brought the adulteress to Jesus were ready to stone her to death. They kept pressuring Jesus saying: “Now what is the verdict?” Jesus finally got up to face all accusers and silenced them once and for all with His famous answer (John 8:7):

“All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone”

We are all made out of dust. We are all frail and finite. We can all be killed through the letter of the law, because we all make mistakes. But – here is Jesus first dispersing all accusers and then asking you and me: “Now where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” And with everyone who ever was accused of anything we answer: No, Lord, no one accuses us of anything.” And here is Jesus’ encouraging word for us: “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

We get to start over. That’s priceless!

“Some people say a man is made out of mud
A poor man’s made out of muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that’s weak and a back that’s strong”
   Tennessee Ernie Ford

Romans 13:1: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

God established boundaries. Why, you may ask. Well, let’s go back to the beginning of mankind’s story.

In the beginning, when everything was formless and empty, there was chaos in absence of boundaries. So God separated the light from the darkness establishing boundaries and paving the way for new life.

Boundaries

Ever since mankind has become a crowd governing authorities have been established. I think we all know the reason why. An unruly crowd can quickly turn into a murderous mob. Anarchy is unhealthy and eventually leads to the extinction of the human race. God has our best interest at heart. He wants us to live, not to die, ergo the institution of human government was endorsed by Him.

We didn’t need a governing authority if we’d stuck with God in the first place.

The big rejection happened in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve’s emancipation from God’s leadership, which culminated in Adam and Eve’s ejection from Paradise. Exit Stage Right! Mankind’s first exodus was its exodus from God’s Garden. Isn’t the Garden of Eden a fairy tale? I don’t think so. Whether or not the Garden of Eden was a geographical place I’m not here to debate. However, was there a time when God and mankind was an item? I believe so. I call that Paradise.

No surprise, also Paradise has its boundaries. Ask yourself today: do you like boundaries? Probably nobody does, but meanwhile we have come to the painful conclusion that boundaries are indeed necessary. Adam and Eve didn’t see that. They questioned a forbidden tree, and a snake used this mindset to plant some seeds of doubt. Those doubts really pulled the rug from underneath the first couple. Paradise is founded on trust in God’s goodness. Distrust ended a Paradise relationship.

Back to those God-given government authorities. Well, the very first boundary, that forbidden tree, didn’t suit us. How about a forest of forbidden trees in a man’s rule book? Experiencing human rule versus God’s rule, we quickly discover that a whole lot more regulations are involved under human government.

Paradise still exists. Trusting God, we’re right back in that beautiful Garden. We might be governed by temporary authorities on the outside, but on the inside our hearts can be submitted into the capable hands of the Prince of Peace. Paradise is not bound by geographical distance. It’s as close or as distant as we want it to be. It’s just one decision away – our decision to make peace with God.

1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

If you have a problem with being rejected, welcome to God’s world! God experienced rejection when Adam and Eve turned their back on Him, and so did some of their children. With the birth of Jesus, God became man, and you would think that God’s proximity to us would grant Him a better reception. Wrong. Even as a human being God was rejected. Jesus was not only rejected, He was executed. However, that’s not the end of the story, as we all know.

God is currently building a house. An expert builder, the house He is constructing is going to be awesome. God knows to start with a good cornerstone. About cornerstones Wikipedia writes:

“The cornerstone is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation. All other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure. “

God takes a rejected stone, Jesus, and makes Him the cornerstone. Then he continues with people like you and me, people who love Him; they are called “Living Stones”. Every Living Stone contributes to the completion of this extraordinary building.

I’m sure, every Living Stone has experienced rejection in his or in her own right. Remember, rejection is not the end of things, not in God’s world. Rejection makes way for a promising beginning, and this beginning has God’s name written all over it. Here is what started when Jesus got rejected: a new movement that is still rocking the world. According to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey, there are 2.4 billion followers worldwide. If current trends continue Christians will remain the world’s largest religion, and, by 2050, the Christian population is expected to be close to 3 billion.

Numbers aside – God would have gone through with the movement even if only a few had jumped on the bandwagon. He is not interested in numbers; He is interested in people. Each person means the world to Him.

So, what kind of building is God constructing? Our building is called “Nation of Believers”; as believers, we fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. We spread the light. That’s what Jesus is all about and naturally, that’s what His friends and followers are all about. And this is what this building stands for: a shelter for the orphans; a safe haven for the rejected; a place to commune with the Almighty.

Human kindness mirrors God’s kindness. Without kindness, this world would be a very dark place. We are invited to become part of the kindness movement. God started it, and He is not finished yet. To this day He is adding Living Stones to His wonderful building. The more Living Stones He adds the more kindness He spreads.

Ephesians 1:18: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people”

Our hearts can see things. Sometimes our natural eyes cannot pinpoint what we’ve perceived in our hearts. A great example is first impressions. A complete stranger walks into the room. There is something familiar about this person, and we don’t know why we feel this way, until we strike up a conversation. Turns out, this person happens to be a relative of ours. I had this kind of experience when I met my sister for the first time. We grew up in different countries and didn’t get to see each other until well into our adulthood. As strange as it seems, when we met for the first time, we hooked up and had a connection as if we had known each other all of our lives.

Much like our natural eyes, the eyes of our hearts can run into vision problems. Feelings, strong emotions can cloud our vision. That’s when we see things the way we want to see them instead of accepting the truth.

A relative of mine went through denial when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He just wouldn’t have it, didn’t admit to his mental challenges and refused to face the fact that he was losing his mind. Well, the disease progressed without his permission.

Our hearts can be asleep. An alert heart warns us when there is a dangerous situation. A heart fast asleep cannot do that. A person whose heart is put to sleep may function normally on the outside, but on the inside this person is as good as dead, auto-cruising through life with no enthusiasm to speak of.

When I was young, I found myself in a predicament. My reasoning was, if I did what my heart told me to do – which was breaking ties with all of my friends, moving away and starting from scratch in a different country – I felt I would lose everything, myself included. My identity was tied with the people I loved. And the people I loved repeatedly told me it was God’s will and therefore my purpose to stay with them. My heart didn’t agree. To soothe the ensuing emotional pain I retreated on an island of music. I am a songwriter, so songwriting I did. Completely consumed with my creative work, my songs were lullabies that put my heart to sleep. Coping mechanisms like that may work for a while, but like any other unhealthy situation swept under the rug, there comes a day when our hearts wake up. Sooner or later reality hits, and we will have to face the music.

Weighed down by depression, I ended up sick and became a shadow of myself. One day I sat down and said to myself: “Either I stay here and die, or I do what my heart tells me to do and leave.” Then and there I voted for life and followed my heart.

It is essential that the eyes of our hearts are enlightened so we find strength to do the right thing. An enlightened heart hopes. A shadowed heart has little to no hope. Paul writes in his letter that he wishes all our hearts were enlightened to see the beautiful things God has in store for us.

Listen to your heart, especially when it tells you something you don’t want to hear. Using the English language, here is a little pun for you: Have you ever noticed that the word “hear” is hidden in the word “heart”? Hear what your heart has to say, and I pray with Paul that the veil is lifted and your heart sees clearly.

“I can see clearly now, the rain is gone” Johnny Nash

1 Peter 5:8-9: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

The worst bear attack in Japanese history killed seven settlers in Rokusensawa, Sankebetsu, Tomamae, Rumoi, Hokkaidō, Japan. The incident took place between December 9 and 14, 1915, after a large brown bear woke up from hibernation and repeatedly attacked several houses in the area. At the time of the incident, Ōkawa Haruyoshi, the son of the Sankebetsu village mayor, was only seven years old. But he grew up to become a dedicated bear hunter and swore an oath to kill ten bears for every victim of the attack. By the time he reached the age of 62, he had successfully tracked and killed 102 bears.

The gruesome event in Japan, while tragic, also illustrates human tendencies to overshoot. Ironically, only a few decades later one of the endangered species listed worldwide was the Grizzly Bear. It’s an exception that human beings are hunted down by an animal. Usually it’s the other way around. We are the hunters.

In the spiritual world, however, the tables are turned; we are being hunted. Peter is using the imagery of a wild man-eating lion to depict a situation hard to digest. Personally, I don’t like to dwell on this topic too much and leave the monsters up to God who has an angel army fighting for His children. I don’t believe it is irresponsible to think this way. Clearly, the enemy force described in the Scriptures goes way beyond our own capacities and resources. Why even bother? So, I hide behind the Lord, so-to-speak. Call me a coward; quite frankly, I don’t care.

Peter reminds us in his letter to be aware of an enemy force whose profession it is to hate everything God has made, us included. It does not matter whether or not we believe in the existence of such forces. The devil does not need us to believe in him. He does what he does with and without our permission. The only way to resist him is in faith.

Psalm 91 talks about that (Psalm 91:9-13):

“If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.”

Loving the Lord is our protection from anything life throws at us. It may not be evil forces attacking us when something goes terribly wrong – I don’t like to see the devil behind every bush – but regardless how bad things are, we are going to be OK. The Lord makes all the difference in the world. We are going to get through everything. In God we trust. He will never let us down. My favorite psalm expresses this beautifully, and I want to close with these words today. The Lord says in Psalm 91 (Psalm 91:15):

He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him
.”

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

There is a lot of saving to be done from God’s end. What does He save us from? What is boils down to, He saves us from ourselves. We have the potential to destroy ourselves in the course of a lifetime. There is no formula with which we can beat the restlessness that lurks in every human heart. There is only one known cure: the restless heart finds its way back home. Our home base is Heaven. That’s where we belong. Nothing on Earth replaces Heaven. There are cheap imitations, but they don’t work. Our restless heart needs the real thing.

God is real. He is actually more real than reality around us. The things that we can touch, see, hear, smell and taste are here today and gone tomorrow. God on the other hand stays around forever.

We are not alone. God created a lot of life, and He didn’t stop with the human race. He is the Creator of an entire universe. The life He created has the ability to make independent decisions, which is risky. It means that any of the life forms He created could potentially turn against Him. And as a matter of fact, that has happened.

If reality was a river, the stream would pull us in all kinds of different directions. There are forces pushing and pulling that are clearly beyond our control. We should be aware that some of the forces we are encountering clearly hate God. Those forces are responsible for God’s misrepresentation. Thankfully, there are also good forces at work representing Him well; those are the ones who independently decided for God, not against Him.

Picture yourself in the middle of such a ferocious wild stream. If you like river rafting you might even enjoy life’s wild ride. To make it through though, we too have to make up our minds about God.

Nothing is as cut and dry as we wish it to be. We may have decided to side with the Lord yesterday and have turned our backs on Him today. Life is ferocious; the waves are over our heads. God knows. He once lived on Earth as a human being. He has literally been there, done that. Jesus has since returned to Heaven, but His heart is still here. Putting our faith in Jesus, we will not be disappointed. He is our Savior. That’s who He is.

If we fail, God forgives us in a heartbeat. We all need grace. We get another chance and start over. And here is the good news for you and me: God is never running out of grace.

Isaiah 40: 6-8: A voice said, “Shout!” I asked, “What should I shout?” “Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the Lord. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”

The late Jimmy Griffin wrote:

“Let time stand still, life ends too soon til it’s all over – Dance on the Moon!”

We’re subject to time. There is no way around it. Time marches on like an army. We cannot stop the clock. There is no turning back, even though we like to reminisce. Very interesting movies have been created around this topic speaking about time travelers changing the past and thereby changing the future.

Now that I think about it, we are changing our future every minute when we change our minds. Though time marches on, which is predictable to the millisecond, the wild card always is people. People usually don’t march to the beat of time. There is nothing predictable about people, even though, if asked, the majority of them would like to predict their future. However, nobody can. And that’s beautiful.

Where is God in all this? He is all over the place. As the creator of time, He is present everywhere at the same time, the past, the present and the future. That’s why we say that God is in control. Our future is in His hands. I still hesitate to say that God controls our future. The way I understand Him, He likes surprises. Granted, it’s hard to surprise the Holy One who has seen everything, but why, do you think, did He give us free will? I believe He hates predictability and loves ingenuity.

Now, there is one thing predictable about life on Earth. Prophet Isaiah mentions it as he compares us to the grass of the field. Grass fades away. Flowers bloom, and then they wither and die. We all age. It is wise to keep that in mind as we go about our business. Our bodies are not wired to live on in perpetuity. Life as we know it, our earth time is limited.

However, beyond that, anything is possible on a day to day basis. All we need to do: take advantage of the time given to us. We know that life on Earth is not everything there is; there is more to come; our souls and spirits live on – but that is beside the point, because right now we are in the current chapter of our lives. Life on Earth is precious. We have so much to give, more than we are aware of, probably. We need all the time we’ve been given to live to our full potential.

If we feel we have wasted our lives, think again. Though we’re not time travelers who can go back to the past and fix things, we have a more powerful tool available: There is always time to change our minds and do things differently. Jesus makes all things new. He has the power to turn our lives around.

Last but not least, enjoy life and be thankful. Leaving this life is bittersweet. It’s hard to say goodbye, but it’s beautiful to say hello on the other side.

2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Denise Schmandt-Besserat is professor emerita of Art and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and has explored the origin of writing and counting. She says:

“Writing may have been invented independently three times in different parts of the world: in the Near East, China and Mesoamerica. The cuneiform script, created in Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq, ca. 3200 BC, was first. The evolution of writing from tokens to pictography, syllabary and alphabet illustrates the development of information processing to deal with larger amounts of data in ever greater abstraction.”

Before the written word, there was “only” the spoken word. Verbal communication was king, which meant stories had to be told and retold to be carried on to the next generation. God has always connected with us humans. Whether or not we were illiterate did not matter. Early on, people who were touched by God told other people about it. Stories were told and retold and became an innate part of their cultural identity. As a result, God is remembered all throughout the world. He left His footprint everywhere. When people started writing, they started writing down God’s story with man, which is His story, or if you put the two words together: History.

Our History with God eventually became the Scriptures – a collection of verbal communication that is, especially the more dated books of the Old Testament. The New Testament is a collection of books written by authors who were already steeped in the culture of the written word and familiarized with abstract thinking. Paul, who wrote at least thirteen letters that are included in the New Testament, is a good example. His letters clearly go beyond story-telling digging deeply into the matter of truth-finding. However, there are still enough people around who do not exactly relish abstract thinking. I personally love the fact that Jesus was a great storyteller. I can retrieve gold nuggets from His parables, while I’m sometimes stumped by Paul’s interesting but hard-to-digest letters. This goes to show that God has something to say for everybody – the intellectuals among us and the ones that like it short and sweet.

The very fact that God hasn’t stopped communicating is a sign that He loves us. He wants to speak to us – verbally and in writing – and He does not want this to be a one-way-street. We can respond to His written communication – verbally and in writing – and then we have what we call a prayer life. Most importantly, we will become part of His story, and isn’t that a wonderful thing?!

John 6:20: “But Jesus called out to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. You know who I am.’”

A ghost haunts a house because it has no place to go. Essentially, ghosts dwell in the past in lack of a better future. Why am I writing that? Good question. I’m not sure why, but I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about ghosts of the past. You know how it is – we all have good memories and bad. The bad ones we like to bury, the good ones we like to keep. Sometimes, a bad memory slips out of the grave and creeps back into our thought life. I believe the reason is almost always unfinished business.

Ever since my near death experience I feel like I have to hurry up to get everything done on my dream list, and I have quite a few dreams that I would like to see come true. I think there is nothing wrong about having a bucket list, however there is something wrong with thinking about death every time when a physical symptom of any kind pops up. That’s the ghost haunting me, and I believe I can let that go if I want to.

Jesus was mistaken for a ghost a couple of times.

One time He was walking on water in the middle of the night during a raging storm. Understandably, His disciples weren’t expecting Him. They were battling the storm in a tiny boat. Jesus was not on board; and as they were fighting to keep this boat afloat, they noticed a figure approaching them, stepping over the foaming waves like treading solid ground. Matthew, one of His disciples, wrote (Matthew 14:26):

When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.

Nobody expected Jesus, especially not walking on water in the middle of the night, and yet there He was!

The other time Jesus was mistaken for a ghost was right after His resurrection. Again, nobody expected Him walking around. He got killed publicly three days before, so seeing Jesus waltzing in where His friends were assembled was probably similar to seeing a ghost; or a walking dead; something like that! Jesus has a refreshing approach regarding ghosts. Here is what He says (Luke 24:29):

“Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

Jesus is definitely not a ghost, so that is the good news! The bad news is, ghosts may not be physically present, but they can scare us nonetheless. Jesus is obviously unafraid of the terrors of the night. He experienced death and resurrection; in fact, He is the Resurrection and Life. That’s something solid to hold onto when it comes to our unresolved fears.

There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus wants us to be free from fear. A fear-driven life is no life at all. A love-driven life however has the power to wake up the dead. There is no fear in love. Jesus is our prime example. Let Him deal with our ghosts so we can live!

“When my hopes and dreams are far from me
And I’m running out of faith
I see the future I picture slowly fade away
And when the tears of pain and heartache
Are pouring down my face
I find my peace in Jesus’ name” Ryan Stevenson

Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Here is a way to get rid of your personal burden: carry someone else’s burden!

I don’t think we’re meant to be stuck in our own little world. We can get eaten up by our own problems big time. Preoccupied, we don’t even notice when someone else is down and out. Or if we notice, we look away because we couldn’t bear another person’s burden on top of ours.

We have to take care of ourselves first, and then we can help others. Right? Well, that’s not how it works according to the law of Christ Paul mentions in his letter to the Galatians. As strange as it seems, we do not take care of ourselves first; instead we take care of another man’s burden.

What happens to our own burden in the process? Obviously we have to set it aside for a while until we’re through dealing with the other person’s issue. Since this is the law of Christ we’re talking about, Jesus will be all over this situation. Don’t underestimate the benefit of helping someone. We will feel good about it. Almost always we learn something.

Here is the thing about our own burdens and responsibilities: We are not supposed to carry them in the first place. Carrying each other’s burden is the law of Christ, which means Christ Himself does not carry His own burden, no, He carries ours. And He invites us to carry His yoke, which He says is light.

We are supposed to let go of all our burdens. If you feel irresponsible about that, think again. We’re born to be free. Unburdened, we look around and see people into the eye. We are fully present. We can truly contribute to this day and age because we are not weighed down or held back by our own problems and issues. That’s why the law of Christ is such a blessing to our society. Hospitals; charity work; animal shelters – all of the above is based on the law of Christ. Take all of this out of the equation, and we would have to face a very brutal reality.

Our world runs on kindness and empathy. Angels will cheer us on as we get on board with the law of Christ, let go of our own burden and help the person next to us.

“I’m gonna lay down my heavy load down by the riverside. Ain’t gonna study war no more” – Mark Braud

Proverbs 15:23: “Congenial conversation—what a pleasure! The right word at the right time—beautiful!”

Communication happens all over the planet. It’s what I call “the traffic flow between minds”. Sometimes that traffic doesn’t flow so well. We don’t get through to another person and vice versa. If we run into a series of bad communication with certain people, we will mostly avoid them, if at all possible.

Being on the same page with someone is more than just a pleasant feeling. In a lively conversation, sparks are flying, inspiration takes place, and we feel exhilarated. Another great aspect of a great conversation is feeling understood.

Silence is golden only to a degree. Of course we all need to give our mouths some rest, otherwise there is communication overload. At the same time we are made to communicate, that pretty much is the essence of life. If we have issues getting the word out or problems taking information in, then we have to work on that. Bad communication skills will isolate us.

God is a beautiful communicator. He can be loud and in your face in an extreme case scenario, but typically His way with people is laid-back. He gives us space. He is curious what we have to say. He loves our minds and He especially loves a good exchange of thoughts, which will inevitably happen in our prayer life. God’s input is always golden.

Granted, it’s not easy to get a communication flow going between Heaven and Earth. We all need help in that department. I find it not easy to pray. But trust me, God does not leave us hanging. He has a vested interest in us praying. God wants to speak with us, and He will open Heaven’s door any time we knock. His door swings wide open. He loves us so much!

There are disturbances that get in the way of our prayer. Sometimes we really have to want it to make it happen. We get distracted so easily. However, our prayer life is well worth fighting for. We will quickly discover that having conversations with God makes way for great conversations with people. It’s only natural since our Creator is connected with all of His creation, and as such He’ll give us insider information. We’ll be able to be a little more appreciative and understanding towards the people in our lives.

We all win when we pray. I dare say, the best thing happening in our lives is having a conversation with God Almighty.

“You say it best when you say nothing at all.” Ronan Keating

Psalm 40:8: “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”

Broken pieces scattered all over the floor – the result of me putting together a gingerbread house! Trying to follow instructions, I built this little house that was supposed to be held together by gooey sugar paste. Clearly, that didn’t work out! We sometimes make a mess of things because we rely on our weakness rather than on our God-given strengths. I’m not exactly crafty, so you get the picture!

Not unlike my failed gingerbread house, this world is badly broken and hurts in many places, but it’s still a world full of wonder and beauty. A lot has to do with God’s restorative power. The reason for passion, love and life is God’s Spirit blowing around the world igniting new ideas, openness, friendships, peace, and hope. He is able to raise the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes. He puts us back together, broken as we are, when we make a mess of things and are at the end of our rope.

The world we see around us is based on God’s ability to see in the dark. God had a vision when there was nothing yet to be seen (Genesis 1:2):

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

God took nothing and made something. Only God can do that. He is simply good at everything. Technically, He does not need anybody’s help, doesn’t he? And yet, apparently, He decided one day that He does not want to do things on His own. So here we are today. We are invited to partner up with God, can you believe it? He wants to do stuff with us. He wants to build a bright future. God has so many things in mind, and amazingly we are included in His plans.

Recognizing that we are building a better life in God’s company, the psalmist David wanted God’s laws of life written deep into his heart. He desired to be close to the Holy One who in turn longs to be near. God is not far from us. He is more involved in our lives than we often give Him credit.

Essentially, our desire to be with God gives us wings. Together we set out to create something new. We contribute to beauty in this world, and we also contribute to making things around us better. The eternal flame, the Spirit of God, is alive and well in us when we walk with Him.

Jesus has many names. “Prince of Peace” is one. “Wonderful” is another. Opening our hearts to Mr Wonderful, we have God’s law of life deeply embedded into our hearts. And what a beautiful thing that is!

Psalm 37:4: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

The Holy One is extremely generous. We have a greathearted God who gets excited about the things we get excited about. He knows us so well! As we grow to love the Almighty He caters to the dreams hidden in our hearts. What a concept!

Some people have strong visions, and they go for it, build their lives around it and fight to promote it. However, God is going to open doors that lead to the fulfillment of dreams beyond what we were shooting for. And even if we’re not dreaming, or if we have stopped dreaming, or if we don’t exactly know what our vision is, God, who knows our hearts, knows what makes us tick.

The Lord Almighty catches our dreams. Under His care this dream will take on shape, color, and flourish; before we know it, this dream will turn into reality.

I once had a dream. It was a dwarf of a dream. I dreamed that I could make music on the side. That dream actually didn’t come true. My day job became all-consuming and didn’t leave much room for my sidekick.

One day, out of the blue, I got a call from my doctor’s office at work. I was told not to drive. “Have someone drive you to the emergency room. You have an aortic aneurysm that is about to go bad.” – Well, dip me in buttermilk! I had no idea. Didn’t I just go in for a CAT scan? In the end, that CAT scan initiated my first open heart surgery.

Unfortunately, it took two more open heart surgeries to convince me to let go of my so-called day job. I finally started devoting my energies to the things I love doing. And as it turned out, music was only part of it. Once I tapped into my dream, more avenues opened up.

Now my husband and I own a publishing company dedicated to publishing our music, our art work and writings. Never in a million years could I have come up with a dream like that!

Whatever your dreams are, His dreams are bigger. Personally, I think that our dreams are sometimes detrimental to the bigger purpose God has in mind for us. Our own dreams can very easily turn into a horrible nightmare. How many people have dreamed to become rich and famous, and when their dreams came true they had lost themselves along the way.

Our safest bet is to entrust our fickle hearts to our faithful God. God is a catcher of dreams. Let Him catch yours too!

Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
‘Till you find your dream

Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Nobody is born patient. Patience is best expressed in the ability to wait. For that, we all have to grow up. Imagine telling a crying baby to wait – food is just around the corner. A baby doesn’t understand. A baby wants food now! Whining on the freeway when there is an hour’s delay, we’re all behaving like babies.

It takes strength to wait.

It sometimes takes guts to wait.

And at all times hope will help us out.

In fact, I don’t believe patience is possible without hope. We lose hope, we usually also lose our patience. The trick is not to nourish false hope. If we’re betting on the wrong horse, chances are, we’re going to be sorely disappointed. I believe one of the things the psalmist is getting at is not to wait for any old thing – but to wait for the Lord.

I’m a pusher by nature. I work hard, want to get things done and thrive on accomplishments without dwelling too much on them because I’m already pursuing the next project. I may exhibit patience at work because I love to work. I’m into details. I’m thorough. So I may fool some people into thinking I have all the patience in the world. – Well, no, not really! I’m only patient with the things that I like to do. I have little to no patience with the things I hate doing, such as repairing my bike for instance. I leave that to my husband.

Does that make me an impatient person? Maybe! Or maybe we’re all impatient at the core and we all have to choose to be patient.

Honestly, I think that patience can’t be learned, it has to be chosen every waking moment. I choose to be patient, because I know better. I choose to wait on the Lord because I know He will come through for me.

Choosing the Lord, we choose life. Choosing the Lord, we choose to wait on Him. Remember, we’re not choosing our circumstances, but we can always choose the Lord.

“But those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint” – Isaiah 40:31

Psalm 10:1: “O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?”

When I visited my little niece and nephew in Germany a few years ago their favorite game was to play hide-and-seek. For some reason the oldest of children’s games is still quite popular. While playing games and hiding out is fun, a hiding God is not. Have you ever felt stuck in a situation wondering: “Where on earth is God?!” Welcome to the club of God-seekers!

When we are troubled in some way then we also know the feeling of helplessness creeping in when nothing seems to work – especially after praying (sometimes viewed as the last resort). Frustrated, the psalmist here prays (Psalm 10:1):

“God, why do you stand so far away? I’m over here! Why is it that you seem farthest away when I need you most?”

We have to come to terms with the fact that not everything about our mysterious God is explainable. – And I believe that this is a good thing, even though it may drive us crazy sometimes. Remember, God was here first; He preceded His creation; and since He has lived forever, His experience is simply enormous. Bearing that in mind, can we appreciate His complexity?

Speaking of complexity, even human beings are hard to predict, although we’re often tempted to. We see certain behavior patterns, and then we jump to conclusions. If we are seriously expecting people to always behave the same way then we’ll be quickly disappointed. People are a wildcard! The 1993 American fantasy comedy film “Groundhog Day” plays off of that notion.  In an effort to create a perfect date for a special lady, one of the main characters in the movie tries to win the girl’s favor by memorizing all her likes and dislikes. Spoiler alert (if you haven’t watched this movie yet): it ain’t working!

If figuring out people won’t work, how much less figuring out God!

Where does this leave us when we are frustrated with God’s apparent nonchalance? The best we can do is to hang in there. I’m a firm believer of venting in the privacy of my prayer closet. If venting to God prevents us from doing something stupid, then our prayers are already working.

God always listens to what we have to say, so if you are already praying, don’t give up just yet. And if you haven’t prayed yet, by all means, try it! Tell God how you feel. Be direct with Him. And as you pray, get ready for some curve-balls flying – because God is in the habit of answering prayers in most surprising ways!

Isaiah 43:11-12: “I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.”

There are many gods spelled in lower case. They sound a bit like this:

“I am god; I can do whatever I want and you just have to deal with it.”

It’s our exposure to such gods that brings about the misconception that we have to appease the deity somehow to win him over. We have to crawl and cater to his whims and strange wishes. We think with this capricious god on our side we gain power and can dominate the world just like he already does.

This flawed god-perception has done a lot of harm to planet Earth in general and humankind in particular since it feeds the attitude of an abuser. We wreck a planet to cater to our needs, and we wreck relationships because we act like little gods.

This attitude, however, is foreign to the God spelled with a capital G. This God is often mistaken to be one of the gods in lower case. I call that a tragic misunderstanding, and it leads to a couple of problems:

There are people out there who feel extremely frustrated with the gods and they rightly say: “I’m done with gods. We’re better off without them.” Atheists have my vote, any time of day. I too am done with gods, and the older I get, it seems, the less patient I become with those unpredictable beings with the god-complex.

Then there are people that cling to the gods to various degrees in hopes to better cope with everyday living. I say to various degrees and mean Fahrenheit or Celsius for that matter. The hotter their god-pursuit, the more fanatical they become shedding a real awkward light on the real deal, the God with the capital G. God calls His competitors foreign gods, because they are foreign to His character.

Let’s turn to the real deal for a while and think of the situation this way: We’re caught right in the middle of gods competing with God, even though it’s ridiculous to think they stand a chance. They simply don’t compare to the real deal. However, that’s exactly the issue at hand: We’re so familiar with false gods that we have a hard time imagining there’s a real One.

It’s confusing, isn’t it?

In an attempt to better differentiate Him from the lower-case gods, going forward I’ll call God with a capital G “God Almighty”. So, where does God Almighty start to get our attention? Here is one thing I’ve noticed about Him and it’s a stark difference to the brazen and noisy gods around us:

God Almighty is subtle.

Here is another one, and I believe that must be difficult for Him at times:

God Almighty does not abuse His power.

We are so used to being manipulated by the false gods that this probably escapes us how the all-powerful almighty God could not use His capabilities to initiate His favorite outcome. Yes, He could do that in a heartbeat. He could get rid of all the false gods that way, but the outcome, true to His divine nature, would be highly unsatisfactory. Here it is:

God Almighty does not seek God-copycats.

God Almighty seeks face-to-face encounters with independent minds. God Almighty, the real deal, seeks the real deal with us. He wants a relationship unburdened with fear and manipulation. He wants honest opinions, raw feelings, and openness. The ensuing communication flow is more precious to Him than anything else.

So, what does God Almighty do to get our attention? He does everything: He reveals Himself, He saves and He proclaims. He has been doing these three things consistently, and personally, I’m glad He has, praise God! What a relief to get rid of all these wanna-be gods and meet the Original. I rest my case.

Granted, it’s sometimes not easy to get through to Him. Life on Earth is a bit convoluted, to say the least. And those gods really mean business. They hate being ignored. God Almighty doesn’t fight dirty. He lets those gods have their way with us, but then He doesn’t leave us hanging either. In all His subtlety, He is also very direct and straight forward. He will kick butts if He has to, but He will not overstep His boundaries when it comes to our free will. Does this blow your mind? Welcome to God’s mysterious heart. Dive deep and explore. He is awesome, that is all can say, the rest you have to find out for yourself.

Our God is an awesome God; He reigns from Heaven above with wisdom, power and love

Genesis 1:3-4: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.”

The rainbow sits in the clouds; the sun, moon and twinkling stars are the jewels of the sky. We look up to see the light because our light sources generally come from up above, not from down below. In light of certain events, things turn around and may look very different from what we’ve seen the day before. This is why we don’t give up hope: the upcoming day hasn’t happened just yet. Besides, being hopeless is never a good idea.

There are physical light sources, as mentioned above, and there is a spiritual light source. I believe that all light originates from the Trinity. God is light. He lights up the deepest darkness by bringing both physical and spiritual light into the world. Darkness does not bring about life and growth at all. That’s what light does. Light reveals while darkness keeps things hidden. Darkness does not have to be created. Darkness just is and represents the places where God is absent. Wherever God dwells, however, there is light.

When sunlight strikes a falling drop of water, it is refracted and creates beautiful rainbow colors. Life without light is not only dark, it’s colorless. If we look for the subtle differences in color and hues, then we definitely need light.

In the world of photography it’s a commonly known fact that we owe depth perception and texture of two-dimensional images to the presence of shade in the picture. Darkness and light in tandem actually work as a great couple. The benefit of God’s separating light from the darkness is that we can differentiate form and texture of all the things we see.

There is no reason to believe that we don’t need darkness at all. We welcome the nightfall at the end of a long working day. We all need a break. However, imagine there is no morning and the nightfall never ends. Darkness is only a blessing when we rest in the expressed hope that dusk is followed by dawn. If we stick with darkness too long, depression settles in. Darkness is not our friend, the Light of the World is.

Heaven is where we are headed when we keep looking for the Light of the World. We need to keep Jesus in our minds when darkness approaches. He emits light when darkness surrounds us. He is our GPS guiding us through confusing times. He is the reason why we are not losing it when all seems lost.

We can always count on God. He’ll never leave us out there in the rain. Looking up when we are rained upon, let’s remember Him – and guess what? We won’t feel forgotten in the process!

“If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time” Cyndi Lauper

Isaiah 26:4: “Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.”

On the road of experience accidents are bound to happen – hopefully more happy accidents than bad ones – and yet whatever comes our way, it’s a good idea to take the time to sort through things. Not everything happens for a reason. Your birthday cake that slid off the plate and plunged down to the floor is not necessarily a bad omen for the year to come. But some things are waiting to get our attention, and we won’t notice, unless we slow down.

Ironically, if we are in the habit of rushing through life we’re not gaining time, we’re losing time. Not only could we create a bad accident putting us on hold, we are also missing out on what could have been, had we only slowed down a little bit.

Slowing down has become a lost art. We stopped walking in the pursuit of flying to get to places quicker, to get more things done. As a result, a whirlwind of activities with the force of a Hurricane is moving through our lives. Yesterday we were kids waiting with baited breath for Christmas morning. Today we are adults and before we know it, the first signs of aging begin to show up. If we haven’t learnt to slow down by then, aging will teach us a salty lesson.

I’m preaching to myself of course! Always pushing to advance to new horizons I got a lot done, but I also missed out on things important to me; I didn’t give myself the chance to settle down and have children. For a woman the proverbial biological clock is very real. I ran into that clock, and that clock outran me. However, I’m not beating myself up over a missed opportunity either. I have grieved over it, but I have also learnt a few lessons from it. One lesson for me is this: People are more important than things. I found that taking time for people is no lost time and making memories is a very rewarding activity.

Norman Milton Lear (born July 27, 1922), an American television writer and producer once said in an interview:

“How can you be jaded? Tomorrow hasn’t happened yet.”

In other words, the full scope of reality always escapes us. Unless we know the future, we just don’t have the full picture. God being the Creator of time, we are well-advised to put our time into His hands. Call on Him! Seek Him out! Drop everything if necessary. Declare a “Time Out” – whatever it takes to have this special moment with the Almighty. He will expertly guide us through each day.

Trust in the Lord! Nobody knows what tomorrow brings, but knowing the One who holds our future we all stand a better chance to be at peace.

“Slow down, you move to fast. You got to make the morning last!” Paul Simon

Proverbs 29:25: “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.”

Why is it so dangerous to fall into a trap? If we could interview a rat, the answer would be: “It’s deadly!” Fearing people is dangerous, because when fear grips us it traps us. And when we’re trapped, we’re stuck. We are not going anywhere. People should not have that kind of power over us. In fact, God did not create people that way.

In the beginning, Adam was very much on his own. The second person that came into being was taken from his rib. Eve was part of him and as such part of mankind; so is every person born ever since. Mankind is connected and functions just like an organism and is also prone to sickness and disease.

One of the diseases known to man is the autoimmune disease. A body attacks itself. It sees a part of the body as a disease and tries to combat it; in a manner of speaking, this is exactly what we see happening in genocide: humankind kills a part of itself.

On a much smaller scale, fearing people is a derivative of the autoimmune disease, because in fear we combat our own kind. This is so wrong! We should not be afraid of each other. We should love and respect each other. That’s how mankind was wired initially. However, we all realize that this is much easier said than done, especially when we are already stuck in the trap of fear and disillusionment.

Jesus has set a precedent in His way with people. He loves each and every person, but He hates the effects of the autoimmune disease. Here is what He once said in a public statement (Matthew 23:37):

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

All of humanity – not just Jerusalem – suffers from self-inflicted pain. Jesus offers us refuge under His wings. Indeed, under His wings we are at a much better place! No longer ruled by fear, we can deal with whatever comes our way. Most importantly, we are set free to love.

Fear is never the answer. Love is.

Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

First things first; secondary things second – which is secondary here? Matthew is referring to bills to be paid and food on the table, things of that nature usually claiming our prime attention. We all need a roof over our heads, clothes to wear and food on the table. Once our basic needs are covered we turn our attention to something else, or so we think. How much food is enough? What type of roof will do? And which clothes fit us well? Before we know it, all we do is taking care of our basic needs.

God’s approach to turn things around and let His Kingdom stuff be first and our basic needs second makes more sense if we think about it this way: Let Him take care of our basic needs so we can focus on the more interesting stuff: people; this world around us; our friendship with God.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s sometimes hard not to worry. Bills are like unwanted relatives, they stick to our shoes like gum. It’s that element of trust, however, that makes all the difference. And in an awesome way, trusting God sets us free. We are not just stuck paying bills. We can actually venture out and do something meaningful.

By the way, the lifestyle of worrying does not add a single hour to our lives. If anything, worrying most likely shortens our lifespan. Worrying is unproductive, self-centered and makes us sick; trusting the Lord on the other hand frees us up to live productive lives that touch other people.

After some debate, my husband and I decided to relinquish one of us from bringing home a regular paycheck. Effective October 1, 2018, I became self-employed. With 50% of our income gone it was a huge step of faith for both of us. Meanwhile, I’ve created a client base for music entertainment, specifically Memory Care facilities. To boost their memory, I’ve been singing old familiar songs to the patients. One of them is “Don’t worry, be happy” by Robert Jr. McFerrin.

“Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy”

It seems, the only thing left to worry about in the last stages of our lives is to have a bed to sleep in. If the bed is taken away, what else is left? Well, here is the thing: We can hold on to worrying until we take our last breath, or we can let go and let God. The choice is entirely ours.

Hebrews 10:30-31: “For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said, “The Lord will judge his own people.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

For all who think that revenge brings satisfaction of justice being served, let me burst your bubble: Taking revenge holds no blessing whatsoever. Payback time is a time of horror leaving destruction in its wake. It makes a new beginning impossible and therefore squanders all hope.

The sad truth is, revenge brings nothing but gloom, doom and death. And to make matters worse, revenge does not end a bad situation once and for all. Quite the opposite! Revenge heaps up more revenge. There is no peace to be found in paying back. Nobody gets what he or she deserves. In the end, we all overpay if we keep going down this route.

In His infinite wisdom God once said: “Leave revenge up to Me”. In other words: “Don’t go there!”

And yet, humanly speaking it’s hard to let go of the pursuit of revenge when we have tasted abuse, neglect, violation of basic rights, even murder. “What are we supposed to do! Just sit there and do nothing?” is the outcry of the bullied, the ones taken advantage of, the people trampled upon. The cry for justice is the most basic human cry for relief. And justice we need, but the way to justice and peace is not by way of revenge.

Here is one thing that distorts our vision once we’ve gotten onto the bandwagon of retaliation: The world bleeds out its color and we see everything in black and white. We are right, and the other party is wrong. We forget that we are not perfect either.

God warns us not to fall into the trap of self-righteousness. He shows us what mercy brings to the table. Unlike revenge, mercy opens the door to a fresh new beginning. Debt cancellation is unfair, isn’t it? Apparently, we let someone get away with something. It’s undeserved. It’s outrageous. Well, yes – God’s mercy is outrageous, but because of God’s mercy we are all still here.

Granted, without our criminal justice system there’d be anarchy. We need to pursue justice when rights have been violated. However, let’s not forget that this system we so heavily rely on functions as a Band-Aid and works only to a degree. The criminal justice system does not change people. Love alone is a true change agent making impossible things possible. Love and mercy have brought us to the doorsteps of heaven. No chance in hell to get there through the pursuit of justice and revenge.

God knows, there is no salvation in condemnation, but there is precious hope in mercy.

Romans 15:7: “Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.”

God is Creator of all things. It’s one thing not giving Him any credit for His creation. It’s quite another to know He created everything and not accepting it. And yet, that’s what we do when we reject each other.

I will not lie to you, accepting is no easy thing when it comes to accepting people, and it starts with accepting oneself. I can only speak for myself when I say that accepting myself has been a work in progress. However, I know one thing: without accepting myself I have found it hard if not impossible to get close to other people. Self-acceptance is well-worth our attention since it enables us to accept others too. All good relationships are built on mutual acceptance and trust.

So, let’s take a closer look at self-acceptance. How have you liked yourself lately? How have you treated yourself recently? And what do you think of yourself secretly? Believe me: what you think of yourself secretly is not so secret. It’s more of an open secret. People can see it in your eyes, in your demeanor. It’s often the first impression people get when they see you walking up to them. So, you can hide a million skeletons in your closet, but you can’t really hide the fact whether or not you like yourself.

Accepting yourself comes before liking yourself.

It’s a funny thing that very young children, before they become self-conscious and self-aware, instinctively like themselves. I remember how happy I was as a little kid that I was born a girl. “Girls are so much prettier than boys” I thought, “I’m so glad I’m a girl!” Well, this innocent confidence was gone by the time I shifted into my teenage years. As a budding teenager I questioned the status quo – that’s what all teenagers do – and I also questioned the way I looked and what types of talents I brought to the table. Unfortunately, it took most of my adulthood to snap out of a rather negative self-assessment. Self-critique is pointless if it has only one purpose in mind: to put oneself down.

Assessing our qualities and flaws and acknowledging the assessment with an accepting nod: “Yup that’s me!” is an important step into adulthood. It’s part of growing up. As a young adult I hated the fact that I wasn’t good at math while being unappreciative of my artistic talents. Looking back, I think my deranged point of view came from witnessing how hard it was to make a living as a single parent. Our amazing mother pulled it off, but it also made me wonder how in the world was I supposed to support myself as a starving artist? It wasn’t until recently that I threw some of these concerns overboard. It is unfortunate that it took so long, but better now than never, right?

Finally pursuing the dreams I had put on hold for so long, I find that accepting oneself is the basis to all of that. Being a working artist is impossible without self-acceptance. The same applies to you as you put to work your particular talents. We got to accept our talents first before putting them to work. And as we do, we will finally develop our talents. And what a blessing that is to the world around us – and I’m sure it makes God smile.

2 Corinthians 13:14: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

“May the Trinity be with you,” Paul wrote in his letter addressed to the people in Corinth, Greece – i.e. “May the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you” – what an amazing blessing!

Is Paul a dreamer? How can the divine Trinity be in close proximity to ordinary human beings such as you and me? And yet He certainly can. Emmanuel – God with us – has a tremendous effect on us. He completes us.

God is set up as Trinity, which means He works as Trinity, loves as Trinity and blesses us as Trinity. In fact, the Big Three are inseparable! As an exception, the Trinity was separated for a little while when Jesus became human and died on the cross; other than this particular time window, the Trinity is known to be a unit and a force to be reckoned with.

King Solomon wrote about the power of two people agreeing, but added that a consensus of three is even greater. Here are his thoughts on the matter (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12):

“Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

A consensus of three is stronger than a consensus of two, hence the unity of the Trinity is supremely tight.

What can we learn from the Trinity?

Full power and blessings flow in community, not in a party of one.

Technically, when the Trinity is with you, you are not a party of one – God is with you, hence you are not alone. You are in community. And who wants to be alone anyhow? Who could survive alone?

Living in community is a lifestyle invented by the Trinity. We thrive in community, we bless in community, we overcome in community, and we celebrate in community.

Community needs freedom of expression and thrives on trust. Different viewpoints are weighed against one another. Each person’s input is taken seriously, and by way of negotiation we can reach consensus and come up with interesting new pathways.

Life is a direct derivative of community; so is love, and love is what keeps us going, which is yet another trademark of the Trinity.

May the blessing of our Triune God be with us all!

Joel 2:23: “Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains because he is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.”

Spring rains bless the world when new life ventures out behind every corner. Autumn rains soften the scorched soil when the summer heat finally lets up. – Spoken like a true Arizonan! Like many desert dwellers we know all too well what it means when those Autumn and Spring rains delay. In May 2018, after a prolonged drought, nearly 200 Wild Horses were found dead, stuck in the mud near a watering hole in Cameron, Arizona.

Currently going through another dry Monsoon season, we are essentially looking at an ongoing 19-year drought, which has brought water levels in the American Southwest dangerously low. Ensuing water negotiations to divvy up cutbacks in Colorado River water deliveries were difficult to say the least. John Schwartz from the New York Times wrote:

“In March 2019 seven Western states have agreed on a plan to manage the Colorado River amid a 19-year drought, voluntarily cutting their water use to prevent the federal government from imposing mandatory squeeze on the supply. State water officials signed the deal after years of negotiations.”

Water means life, however not just in a desert environment. The human body will die of dehydration much quicker than of starvation. A human can go without food for about three weeks but would typically only last three to four days without water.

So, it is for a very good reason that Prophet Joel loves the spring and autumn rains. He celebrates the water of life by addressing our life-giving Creator to thank Him. All water leads to the Lord since He created it. We need to remember and not take things for granted. Joel does the appropriate thing: He thanks the Lord. I believe that gratefulness is the foundation of abundance.

We all have been blessed one way or another. If we cannot see our blessings, then we definitely need a fresh perspective. Realizing our blessings, we thank God who increases our awareness, which leads to even more gratefulness. Thanking God raises our satisfaction level exponentially. It also makes us very attractive people. Who does not like to be around a positive person? Such human beings seem to attract even more blessings from above.

Blessings we have – still more blessings we need. Here’s to more rain!

” I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:19

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