Psalm 55:6: “I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.’

Free as a bird – we say that because a bird is not stuck to the ground but can take off and fly wherever its wings will carry.

Inspired by birds men have created flying devices. The Chinese have understood that hot air rises and have applied this principle to a type of small hot air balloon called “sky lantern”. In Europe various designs of flying machines were attempted in the 17th century, but it took two more centuries to get to the powered, controlled flight pattern that we are familiar with today.

Sophisticated technology gave mankind wings; however, have you ever noticed that our souls, too, crave freedom from gravity? As problems weigh us down and sore disappointments crush us, we want to escape such turmoil by spreading our wings and fly. On this note, in the book of Psalms King David wrote (Psalm 55:5-6):

“Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.’”

We are not meant to be held down. Our Creator has designed our souls to soar. Whether it’s looking down on people or constantly mulling over a problem – looking down is the wrong approach; we are created to look up. Calling on the Lord is the most natural thing to do.

God’s intention is to lift our spirits and reunite us with Him. Returning to Him is our takeoff. Under the shadow of His wings we soar.

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise”
     Paul McCartney / John Lennon
Posted in Fly

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

Realizing we are God’s creation, we could not have come to this conclusion on our own. The Holy Spirit reveals this truth to us. One way or another, every person on this planet is on a quest to discover the truth. And we approach life differently after understanding where we are from.

We come from God and we all need Him. His absence promotes dysfunction while His presence completes us. God is our refuge and strength. He helps us through life’s darkest hours. And our personal trials will yield a precious crop: humility.

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

People weathered by various storms on the road of experience will sense when someone else is down. Using Gordon Lightfoot’s terminology, they are “rainy day people” who can relate because they have been through a rainstorm or two. Personally, I don’t know of anything more gratifying and satisfying than connecting with other people on a deeper level.

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

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

On one occasion, Jesus called His twelve disciples to send them on a short mission trip all on their own. Knowing that He was going to get killed soon, Jesus prepared His friends for the days ahead when they had to manage without Him. He said to them (Matthew 10:16):

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Sheep among wolves is a scary prospect and Jesus did not mince His words as He painted the picture of their not so distant future. He warned them (Matthew 10:17+28):

“Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” 

It is hard not to be intimidated knowing what people are capable of doing. To encourage His disciples Jesus began to talk about a certain little bird in brown plumage. Sparrows are indigenous to Europe, Africa and Asia. In the Americas, Australia and other parts of the world, settlers imported some species which quickly naturalized, particularly in urban and degraded areas.  Sparrows are a common occurrence and were sold for less than a penny in Jesus’s day. Naturally they would be prized differently if they were rare and had feathers like a peacock.

Feeling proud like a Peacock today or more like one of these countless sparrows, overlooked, underrated and unappreciated? God remembers you. And people moved by His Spirit remember you too. You are not alone. No sparrow goes unnoticed, Jesus says. If a sparrow falls from the sky, our Father in Heaven knows about it. If the Lord of the universe keeps track of the number of our hair even more so is He aware of everything else that is going on in our lives. Birth, death, marriage, divorce, love life, work life, global warming, war and peace, friends and foes, nothing escapes His attention. He looks at every detail in our lives because He cares about us. And knowing how much He cares we don’t need to be afraid.

God knows, the road ahead of us is not easy. Knowing we have such a strong advocate in heaven, why not approach Him, why not trust in Him, why not call on Him? We don’t need to convince Him to love us – He always has and He always will.

Psalm 149:4: “For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory”

Have you ever worked on a project with someone who completely dominated every step of the process? I know I have, and it was a nightmare. True collaboration requires maturity. We need to be grown up enough to know that we could use some input. I personally think only with a good dose of humility can we truly collaborate.

We are God’s creation – it’s humbling to realize how imperfect we are, but on the other hand this is our saving grace. I think we would all be a little full of ourselves if everyone was perfect. Limitations teach us that we need each other and most of all that we need the Lord – a blessing in disguise if you ask me.

God loves companionship, and when He sees us teaming up and working together in harmony He is pleased. David noted in one of his psalms (Psalm 133:1+3)

“How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!

It is as if the dew of Hermon
    were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing,
    even life forevermore.”

If it wasn’t for Mount Hermon, Israeli winters don’t normally have snow. Mount Hermon’s moisture is a special blessing as summers in Israel are without rain. And there is also a special blessing involved when God’s children get along. God smiles when His people live together in unity.

The Lord takes delight in His people; He looks at them the same way He looked at the results of His six-day-labor on the seventh day of creation – and He likes what He sees.

Isaiah 33:22: “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us.”

Believers obey the laws of God’s kingdom. This is why they get in trouble in countries that issue laws in direct conflict with God’s laws. In World War II the Ten Boom family got in conflict with the law when they started hiding Jews from the Nazis. As a result the family got arrested and some of them died – a brave example of civil disobedience because the laws of the German Reich were in direct conflict with God’s laws.

Fast forward to today, we may not live through the horrors of World War II, but since the world we live in does not run on God’s law believers will naturally run into all kinds of issues. Some believers pay with their lives. Most recent examples on US soil are civil rights martyrs. The Southern Poverty Law Center researched the deaths in connection with the Civil Rights Movement – between 1954 and 1968 and counted 40 people from age 11 to 66. Eight were white, and 32 were black. They came from all walks of life – students, farmers, ministers, truck drivers, a homemaker and a Nobel laureate. They died to end American Apartheid.

The world runs on self-promotion and beating the competition while God’s kingdom runs on loving God and our neighbor. Living the kingdom of God in a world that operates completely differently requires guts and endurance. It means that God’s children constantly swim upstream, against the main stream. Without the Holy Spirit that would be a hard thing to do, if not impossible. With Isaiah we pray (Isaiah 33:22):

“The Lord is our king; it is he who will save us.”

Following the Lord Jesus we can rest assured that He is with us every step of the way. He will see us through our various battles until we arrive home safe.

Psalm 119:160: “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.”

Human law is not always righteous nor is it eternal. In recent US history the Jim Crow laws are a prominent example. These were state and local laws enforcing racial segregation. As a body of law, Jim Crow institutionalized economic, educational, and social disadvantages for African Americans living in the South. The Jim Crow laws were overruled by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Human beings are flawed – and so are their laws. God’s laws on the other hand are righteous and they won’t be overruled. His laws continue on in perpetuity. Even so, misinterpreted by flawed human beings God’s law can become skewed. Jesus addressed this issue while walking through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, picked some heads of grain and ate them. This did not escape the attention of some Pharisees and teachers of the law who happened to be close by. Their interpretation of the law made the innocent act of snacking on grain an infraction of the Sabbath rest. They said to Jesus: (Matthew 12:2):

“Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

Jesus is the Word made flesh. If anyone is an authority on God’s law, Jesus is. Quoting from the book of the prophet Hosea (Hosea 6:6): “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” He challenged the Pharisees and teachers of the law. On yet another occasion Jesus pointblank called them hypocrites. Hypocrite is the Greek word for actor. Ignoring an important part of the law they turned into actors who just pretended to follow the law. Here is what Jesus said to them (Matthew 23:23):

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

Besides justice and faithfulness, mercy is an integral part of God’s law. Neglecting mercy we actually violate His law. God’s love shines through every letter of His Word. His love is eternal. So is His Word.

Psalm 119:130: “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”

Snuffing out the light leaves us in the dark. Darkness is great for sleeping purposes. However, if we want to get somewhere, we need to be able to recognize our surroundings.

Sailors sailing the seven seas and Nomads traversing the Sahara Desert traditionally have relied on StarlightThe North Star or Pole Star – aka Polaris – is famous for holding nearly still in our sky while the entire northern sky moves around it. This is essential for our orientation when the sameness of the endless sea or desert wasteland won’t give us any hint as to which direction we’re going.

Life can be compared to sailing – with winds of opportunity arising, a storm brewing or a nice easy breeze coming our way. We will get lost at sea if we drift anywhere the wind blows. Sailing through life, we all need direction. So, we look up; and instead of studying the stars in the sky we study God Almighty. He is the eternal flame, the Holy One – Creator of the universe. Everything evolves around Him. Depending on how close we get to the source of all light we’ll see more and more what life is all about.

King David prayed (Psalm 119:130):

“The unfolding of your word gives light.”

The depth of God’s communication is astounding; His Word has many layers. Studying His Word is similar to looking at a well-crafted piece of art from every possible angle. There is always something new to discover that we haven’t noticed before. God’s Word becomes more meaningful to us as we dig deeper. Giving us hope, His Word becomes our lifeline and provides us direction especially as we sail through stormy weather.

God’s Word sheds light – and light is what we need to see clearly.

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

New discoveries are exciting. Nonetheless, there are things no scientific effort will be able to reveal. God remains a mystery, and I think that’s beautiful. While the universe runs like well-crafted machinery, life is no machinery. Life is mysterious. So is love.

Personally, I think that a good portion of our discoveries actually stem from the innate relationship God has with each of His creatures. The driving force of our curiosity is like a river God leads into areas where we’ve never been. If you are a gifted scientist you’ll discover things you have never dreamed of. If you are a gifted musician you’ll bring a fresh musical breeze into the arena.

Our hearts and minds are like our fingerprints – unique. And God who made us understands us like no other. He chimes in from the inside. He can see what moves us – similar to watching a drama on a big movie screen He can read our thoughts and feelings. While it may come to us as a shock to realize that God knows absolutely everything about us, we do not need to be afraid of Him. He has no bad intentions. Mind control is so very much opposed to what He stands for.

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

Seeking God has many layers to it. The primal quest is reaching out for Love with a capital “L”, Love that embraces us completely as a person. God is excited about life, and He is excited about you. Discovering God is the mother of all discoveries.

1 Samuel 16:7: “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Previously, King Saul’s son Jonathan had provoked their arch enemy, the Philistines, by attacking a Philistine outpost. Then the king had the trumpet blown throughout the land to summon his people to join the army at Gilgal. Meanwhile, Prophet Samuel instructed the king to wait seven days at Gilgal, and he would join them at that time to present the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings to the Lord before they went to war. So Saul and his men waited. When the prophet delayed and Saul’s army began to scatter the king got nervous and took matters into his own hands. He went ahead and offered up the burnt offering himself. And wouldn’t you know it, just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived. The prophet was not happy about what he saw and he said (1 Samuel 13:13-14):

 “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

So the prophet went back home and the king went to war. It wasn’t long thereafter that the Lord sent the prophet Samuel to Jesse of Bethlehem. His mission: to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the future king of Israel. He took a heifer with him and invited Jesse to join him for the sacrifice. Jesse had eight sons. When Samuel laid eyes on one of them, Eliab, he was impressed and thought to himself – “This must be the future king of Israel” to which the Lord replied (1 Samuel 16:7):

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

As it turned out the son the Lord had selected was not even present at the time. Jesse had left his youngest son David at home to tend to his sheep. So they sent for him and brought him in. And Samuel anointed David in the presence of his family.

The Lord looks at the heart and the king of His choosing has a heart of worship. A millennium later King David’s lineage would bring forth the King of kings Jesus who remarked in a conversation with a Samaritan woman (John 4:23-24):

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Without God’s Spirit we are doing things on our own like King Saul did – and he was rejected by the Lord. God is Spirit and only through His Spirit can we connect with Him. Listening to His Spirit we will find God. Worship inspired by His Spirit pleases Him. We are called to listen and follow the Spirit of God to worship Him in the Spirit and in truth.

James 1:22: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

When we are born, the first thing we do is cry. Hearing that first cry, the mother is happy that her baby is alive and healthy. Crying out comes natural to us. We all want to be heard. Listening on the other hand, not so much! Listening takes a concerted effort. We have to get out of our own way to do so. Part of growing up is learning to listen.

Prejudice impairs our hearing. With preconceived notions we hear things we want to hear. Have you ever encountered a person who asks the same question in ten different ways, just to get the answer he or she wants to hear? That’s not listening for an answer, that’s suggesting one.

God Himself is a great listener. He listens to our heart all day long. And when He addresses us in person, the thoughts He has for us is something we need to hear; however His Word will only inspire us and build us up if we act upon it. The apostle James points out in his letter that we deceive ourselves if we know what God wants from us but don’t do it.

Well-received, God’s Word changes our heart. It’s fuel in our tanks. It builds our life, our relationships.

God’s input, while invisible, visibly shapes us.

Psalm 119:114: “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.”

From the Trinity flows eternal encouragement and good hope. And good hope is what we need. False hope or no hope is devastating.

Life can be quite overwhelming sometimes. My husband Bill and I have been out of work since the beginning of this year due to an economic downturn. Thanks to the Lord we are encouraged in a rather bleak situation. We have seen how He shields us from the storm, but beyond that He opens up new avenues. Presently Bill and I step out in faith by opening our own business.

God speaks to us and His Word revives us. Words we receive from God nourish the good hope inside of us and drive us forward. It is God’s good hope that lets us see beyond current circumstances and imagine a better future, a future worth living for, a future worth fighting for.

We need the Lord all the time, but especially when we are in distress – no doubt about it. The Lord is our refuge and strength in times of trouble and He is our vision in dark times. Hope is ignited when we embrace the Lord. The language of hope is prayer.

John 1:12-13: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

God’s name reflects who He is. So, what is His name? The prophet Moses asked this very question.  He was leading his flock near Horeb, the mountain of God, when he noticed a bush on fire that did not seem to burn up. As he approached the strange sight God called him from within the bush (Exodus 3:5-6):

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” 

Notice that God introduces Himself as Abraham’s, Isaac’s and Jacob’s God – not by name, which is something Moses brings up as he is about to accept the mission the Lord had in mind for him (Exodus 3:13-14):

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

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

When God revealed His name to Moses, His Son was yet to be revealed. Jesus was hidden in “I Will Be What I Will Be.” When the time came that His Son became flesh and lived among us, we saw God in human form. His Hebrew name Yeshua means Yahweh saves. God loves us so much that He saves us by giving us His Son.

God’s name is an open invitation to get to know Him. Knowing Him by name means we believe in Him. We believe that He indeed is who He is, has been and will be. As believers we are adopted into His family and “I Am” becomes the family name of God’s children.

God is who He is, and the children of God are who they are: a sign of God’s love and part of His mystery – visibly rooted on earth and invisibly connected forever to the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:13-14: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.”

In the years of His public ministry Jesus drew a large following. News about Him spread beyond Israel’s borders all over Syria. The crowds that followed Him were a motley crew ranging from locals to foreigners from all walks of life. Intermittently people would ask Him questions; in the spur of a moment Jesus decided to sit down on top of a hill and give them His full attention, inspiring the Sermon on the Mount. The traditional location for the Mount of Beatitudes is on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Bearing in mind that Jesus talks to a multi-ethnic crowd but addresses His countrymen in particular, He resorts to word imagery throughout the sermon. Images are strong and translate well into different cultures. He picked salt and light to address some issues He noticed among God’s people. “When salt loses its flavor it’s no longer good for anything.” Jesus says; in other words a believer loses flavor when love goes out the window.

Not to mingle with the unclean had become a religious obsession separating the Jews from the rest of the world. Just as focused light develops into devastating wildfires destroying wildlife and vegetation in the process and just as salt landscapes are entirely sterile, that’s the kind of barren landscape the believers represent who do not mingle. Light and salt can only serve its purpose when spread.

Sitting on the patio at night with a light source, we know what happens after a short while. All kinds of flying critters will come straight toward the light. Light attracts. Regardless where we are from, there is a common denominator: we are all drawn to the light.

God is light. Whoever walks with God walks in the light. And whoever walks in the light is very noticeable and attracts other people. Revealing God’s mysteries and uncovering His unfathomable love as we mingle with others is the destiny of God’s children. Spreading light and salt they make this world a better place – and point to an even better world to come.

Psalm 119:93: “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.”

Perishables need to be preserved. We pickle them, we freeze them, we dry them – that’s what we commonly do for food to keep it from going bad. A similar experience holds true for the core of our being. We go through the heat of temptations, experience dry seasons and are exposed to all kinds of negativity and adversity. Trusting the Lord as we negotiate life’s challenges will shape our integrity.

Seedbed of corruption is isolation from the Lord. And in that respect we are not unlike perishables. We disintegrate just like food that is exposed to bacteria. So here comes King David’s recipe. Quoting from his insightful prayers, we read in Psalm 119, the longest Psalm in the Bible:

 “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life.”

Walking life’s bumpy road without God’s guidance is like negotiating the desert without water. The conscience God has put inside of us will give us some direction, but we won’t make it through this life in one piece with just our moral compass. We need to connect with God and stay connected to not get lost.

Looking back, the Lord has carried me through many difficult seasons in my life and I am grateful for that. At the time of this writing the whole world is grappling with social unrest and a pandemic that has not been contained as of yet; the mortality rate has risen exponentially. Beyond our physical expiration date we have a heart and soul that lives on, and I pray that we all find the Lord at such a time as this. He knows how to preserve us. We are safe in His hands.

Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

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

Angels are part of this cloud of witnesses. They do much more than watching and cheering us on. They fight for us. The other portion of the cheering crowd is people of faith who have walked through life before us and understand our situation as we sweat, weep and sometimes bleed on the steep climbing road to heaven. And this is exactly what the heavenly crowd loves to see: they love watching us as we go by faith and not by sight.

Looking at this planet, we can see there is friction and unrest wherever we go. Clearly the odds are stacked against world peace. The world rallies around hierarchies, power, money and greed, a recipe for disaster. Going against the mainstream, believers follow the Light of Life in a world that seems to become darker every day. This requires every bit of their endurance and strength. Strangely enough, sometimes believers burden themselves with extra weight. Life as tough as it is, the last thing we need is adding stress. We need to shed the weight we are not meant to carry.

We have a crowd of witnesses cheering us on. Let’s tap into that as we walk by faith. As little as it seems, our steps of faith are big in the eyes of the Lord. And He is with us every step of the way.

Psalm 112:5: “Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.”

Psalm 112 describes a believer as a gracious, compassionate and generous person who pursues honesty and fairness in everyday affairs. All throughout his prayer, the psalmist counts a believer’s blessings (Psalm 112:2-3):

“Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever.”

In other words: Be good and good things will happen to you.

“Be a good girl! Be a good boy!”– Or so we hear growing up; and a popular holiday tune “Santa Claus is coming to town” puts it like this:

“He sees you when you’re sleeping
And he knows when you’re awake
And he knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!”

Make no mistake about it – trying to be good for goodness sake makes people miserable. Life ruled by the moral index finger is quite frustrating. Thankfully, this is not what goodness stands for.

We need to believe Jesus when He says (Mark 10:18):

“No one is good – except God alone.”

According to Him, all goodness comes from God. – Incidentally, the word “good” in the English language is actually rooted in the word “God”.

Goodness is God.

God is good.

Moral behavior does not make us good people – It is Lord who makes us good; but we need to let Him into our lives. He has loved us forever. And we are blessed when we love Him back.

Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Obeying God honors Him. Our blind obedience speaks louder than words and shows that we trust Him infinitely. Father Abraham is a wonderful example. He left home to travel to an unknown country – solely based on God’s instructions that came to him one night (Genesis 12:1):

“Go from your country, your people, and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

In the course of a lifetime Abraham’s faith was tested multiple times. He certainly had his personal hang-ups and imperfections, but he followed through with whatever the Lord had called him to do. When we venture out in faith we too may falter in our steps, but God is not asking for perfection. All He is asking for is our trust.

Jesus had Peter’s back when He invited him to get out of the boat in the middle of a storm.  It was the night after Jesus had fed a large crowd with five loaves of bread and two fish. Sending His disciples ahead He stayed behind to pray. Suddenly a storm rolled in and caught their boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. It wasn’t long before the break of dawn that Jesus decided to catch up with His disciples and took to walking on the lake, towards the boat. When they spotted Him they screamed; everybody in the boat thought He was a ghost, but Jesus reassured them – it was Him. Then Peter had something to say (Matthew 14:28-31):

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

We may get wet as Peter did – trying to get out of the boat and walking on water – but we won’t regret it. We must continue to act on faith – otherwise we won’t have much faith left to speak of. Believers cause a ripple effect: every leap of faith, whether big or small, serves to inspire others.

Stepping out in faith we bless more people than we know and in the process we grow closer to God’s heart.

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

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

“You are my portion, Lord;”

Although the Lord gave us a big blue planet to live on, He is our portion, not the material world we live in. We are lost if we live in this world without realizing the love God has vested into His creation. Driving the point home at the end of the current paragraph, the Psalmist observes (Psalm 119:64):

“The earth is filled with your love, Lord;
    teach me your decrees.”

The earth is filled with God’s love. Sunrises and sunsets are like light symphonies He creates in the skies. None of these are the same. Depending on the amount of cloud cover and the angle of the Sun, the filtered light produces original artwork each day. Vividly displayed on the horizon we see color progressions from violet hues to pink, from orange to golden. Seems to me this is God’s love letter written in the skies.

Flowers growing in inhospitable places; fresh green grass pushing through scarred soil after devastating wildfires – the outdoors is like an open book where we can read up on our Creator. He is the Bread of Life that leaves bread crumbs everywhere. Following the trail of His bread crumbs we become seekers of the Lord. We will most certainly find Him when we look for Him because He wants to be found.

In a broken world with broken people we need to know that God does not change. He does not turn on us – He loves us the same as He always has and nothing can change that. Evil forces cannot turn the Lord. He is who He is and always will be: the light shining in the dark. We have seen the light when we notice Him.

We can distinguish the Lord in His children. God’s children are the light of the world because they stepped into His light. With every loving word spoken and each act of kindness as a token we experience God’s love all around us – a love that cannot be broken.

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus says not to hinder the children to come to Him. Why? He goes on to say: the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Faith is not complicated. We essentially accept what the Holy Spirit whispers in our heart, and we go for it. Embracing Jesus like a child would, we can rest assured that the kingdom of heaven is ours.

Matthew 16:15-16: “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah. You are the Son of the living God.”

Broaching this topic with His closest friends, Jesus asks “Who am I?” while they were traveling to the area of Caesarea, an ancient port on the Mediterranean coast of present-day Israel south of Haifa. He prefaces His question by asking His disciples what others think about Him, and the answers are quite diverse: Some saw in Him His cousin John, the Baptist. Others said about Jesus that He had to be a resurrected prophet of old, like Elijah or Jeremiah.

Identifying who Jesus is remains a controversial topic today. Who is He? Have you asked this question lately? I believe only the Spirit of God can provide the accurate answer. And inspired by the Holy Spirit Simon Peter rose to the occasion and declared (Matthew 16:16):

“You are the Messiah. You are the Son of the living God”.

Peter’s enthusiasm was palpable. He also emphatically spoke up when Jesus and His disciples had their Last Supper together. After the Lord broke the news to them that He was going to be apprehended by the Roman authorities to be executed, Peter said (Luke 22:33):

“Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

In response to these two public statements of Peter’s, Jesus said two very different things to him (Matthew 16:18 and Luke 22:34):

“You are Peter. On this rock I will build my church.” 

“Peter, you will say three times that you don’t know me. And you will do it before the rooster crows today.”

Obviously the apostle Peter is not the only person misjudging himself on occasion. We have a tendency to either over- or underestimate ourselves. Jesus on the other hand knows exactly who we are. He sees the good, the bad and the ugly inside of us, and the good news is: He still loves us. In fact, God gave us His Son because He loves us so much. And His Son Jesus gave His lifeblood to save the world. Believing in Him we are added to His tribe, adopted into His family and counted amongst the children of God. Whoever does not believe has no way of knowing that God loves us. And as long as we are oblivious to His love we don’t know who we really are.

Who am I? It’s an important question to ask. We have a lifetime to get to know ourselves and most importantly, we have a lifetime to get to know God. Further down the line we will discover that finding God and finding ourselves is closely related. God is love, in other words: Love – this is who God is, and loved – this is who we are. Unlocking this open secret, we will find our true identity.

Ecclesiastes 7:28: “While I was still searching but not finding — I found one upright man among a thousand, but not one upright woman among them all.”

A popular song of Neil Young’s: “I’ve been searching for a heart of gold” expresses how people are searching high and low for integrity. Apparently, so did King Solomon in his lifetime. He authored the book of Ecclesiastes, which he finished toward the end of his life. In the first six chapters of his book he discounts everything, one by one, as being meaningless: wisdom, pleasure, work, accomplishments, wealth and reputation. In chapter seven Solomon turns his attention to honesty, and here is what he wrote (Ecclesiastes 7:28-29):

“I searched and searched but found very little. I did find one honest man among a thousand. But I didn’t find one honest woman among a thousand. Here’s the only other thing I found. God created human beings as honest. But they’ve made many evil plans.”

To put his aforementioned remark into context: Based on his life experiences he came to the conclusion that it is very hard to find an upright person, especially an upright woman. The question is, why would King Solomon mention lack of righteousness and hone in on women in particular?

We can assume that when King Solomon wrote about people he wrote about the people in his life. Solomon lived in a palace. He was surrounded by his staff and wives. Whenever he came in touch with people outside his realm it was either dignitaries from foreign countries or people who wanted something from him. I have never been in a position of political power and influence, but I imagine that it is hard to find a true friend in situations like these.

Marriage celebrates the fact that two people are partnering up to tackle life together. The spouse is supposed to be the person who has your back. Well, how many wives did King Solomon have? According to historical records, the size of his harem was legendary. Marriage is simply not designed for more than two. Any added spouse devastates this covenant relationship. In King Solomon’s case, the more women he accumulated, the more his chances dwindled to find a true friend.

Offending women – or any human being for that matter – never remains an isolated incident. Abuse begets more abuse and soon rears its ugly head everywhere. It did not take very long until this kind of attitude carried over into King Solomon’s business affairs. He employed slaves to build two very extravagant and elaborate buildings: the temple and his palace. Turning people into slaves significantly reduces prospects of having good and worthy relationships. That’s just a general observation.

Everything God has created is wonderful and special but becomes utterly meaningless when we fail to draw the connection. I believe the first step to healing a distorted world view is acknowledging that we are God’s creation. We give glory to Him that way – and giving glory to God renders everything meaningful.

1 John 1:7: “But suppose we walk in the light, just as he is in the light. Then we share life with one another. And the blood of Jesus, his Son, makes us pure from all sin.”

When I was a little girl I lost access to my dad when my mother and I left the country. My dad saw us off at the airport. I was just a baby, but the sadness of his face was edged into my memory and stuck with me. And so, as a young kid growing up, I often imagined God’s face to be sad. Thankfully the priestly blessing the Lord gave to Moses says otherwise (Numbers 6:24-26):

“The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”

God is light. His face shines. There is no darkness in Him at all. All life flows through Him, and He is forever connected to everything He has created. However, His connection to us is only a one-way-street when God is not part of our lives.

Suppose we say that we share life with God, but we have things to hide that we are ashamed of. Well, this does not work at all. Our life is an open book to Him. Whether we hide from Him or not, He sees us; but He will be extremely delighted to see us coming out of the closet and bring those skeletons along that we have been storing out of sight. Lies and deceit isolate us. There is no lonelier place to be. Our soul is made for fellowship, and fellowship does not happen in the dark. It only happens outside the closet, in the light.

The secret to intimacy is staying in the light. And when darkness creeps in, we openly admit to it. We don’t try to hide it. Jesus died on the cross on a hill in plain view. All the darkness was dragged out into the light for public display. That’s exactly how darkness gets beat every time: by pointing a spotlight right into the heart of it. Exposing darkness is overcoming darkness. And the blood of Jesus, God’s wonderful Son, seals the deal. The toxic effects of our failures and regrets are all washed away as we step into the light and trust His mercies that are new every morning.  

We are able to connect when we walk in the light. Sharing life with God and people, we will never be alone.

Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Prophet Isaiah describes a case of worldwide panic in chapter 41 of his book (Isaiah 41: 5-7):

“Far-flung ocean islands see it and panic.
    The ends of the earth are shaken.
    Fearfully they huddle together.
They try to help each other out,
    making up stories in the dark.
The godmakers in the workshops
    go into overtime production, crafting new models of no-gods,
Urging one another on—‘Good job!’ ‘Great design!’—
    pounding in nails at the base
    so that the things won’t tip over.”   
*Bible version: The Message

With ongoing pandemic in 2020, Isaiah accurately describes what is currently happening all over the world. There is fear, there is confusion, there is hardship and people huddle together on social media, on phones, via video conferencing to help each other out. Since a highly contagious virus requires social distancing we cannot huddle together in our friendship circles like we normally would. This further adds stress to a strange situation that we simply have never encountered before.

The important first sentence after the above-quoted paragraph of disaster begins with the word “But”. “But” is going to make all the difference; “But” means “despite of”; “But” means there is something ruling in our favor. We need to listen closely every time the word “But” appears since it represents a crucial piece of information, and we don’t want to miss it. So here it is (Isaiah 41:8-10):

“But you, Israel, are my servant.
    You’re Jacob, my first choice,
    descendants of my good friend Abraham.
I pulled you in from all over the world,
    called you in from every dark corner of the earth,
Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.
    I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.     
*Bible version: The Message

Even though nobody likes to go through a crisis, there is a benefit to it: A crisis reveals what is reliable and what is unreliable. We cannot rely on luck and good fortune charms or idolatry in any shape or form – nothing of the sort is able to resolve a disease wreaking havoc everywhere; we cannot rely on our jobs since millions of people are out of work right now; we cannot rely on friends and relatives since we are isolated from one another through quarantine.

If we are serving God, here is the good news: He is with us every difficult step of the way. He provides us with peace when the rug is pulled from underneath. However, if we don’t know the Lord, He still knows us and cares for us. We are encouraged to call on Him.

God is the only reliable Rock that makes sense. He is the One we cling to in hope.

Psalm 119:7: “I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.”

Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” is one of the most replicated religious paintings of all time. The image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam has become iconic of humanity, probably because of the fascination of God and Adam intersecting. On that note, I like to call the book of Psalms the human-divine intersect. The psalms openly express how people feel about God. The joys and pains of their relationship with the Lord are all spilled out there.

Entertaining friendship with God, the Creator of the universe, is no minor thing. It’s everything. However, everybody can see that this relationship, this intersect has got to have its challenges. God is God and we are not. There is a natural home advantage: God who created us knows us like no other. The same can’t be said about us. We cannot know Him the same way He knows us. We did not create God, He created us. He will always know us better than we know Him. However, that does not mean we won’t get to know Him. If we want to, we will. He loves us – He wants us to find Him. The door is wide open.

There was a time in my life when all I would read was the book of Psalms. I did not discard the rest of the Bible, but I felt the heart of its message was hidden in the prayers of believers who preceded me. As human beings we struggle making sense of this life on earth. First thing we notice, we are not able to change ourselves. I believe this is the most frustrating thing we face in our lifetime. We may have tried to better ourselves by rolling up our sleeves and trying to be on our best behavior. Nine times out of ten, if we make a concerted effort in the moral department, we make two steps forward and one back – sometimes two, sometimes three steps back even. And backsliding has a very demoralizing effect on us.

King David’s Psalm 119 specifically mentions, by learning God’s righteous laws we praise Him with an upright heart. This goes to show that God changes our heart, and I truly believe only God can do that. That is why handing over our heart into God’s very capable hands is the single-most powerful thing we can do for ourselves.

The Lord is incredibly devoted to His creation, and nothing seems to make Him happier than to mingle with us. He delights in us. Hanging out with Him, we learn who God is. And learning who He is profoundly changes us. We learn to be the best version of ourselves by getting to know our Creator, and we will fall in love with the Lord the more we draw near Him.

Intersecting with the Lord is living life in its fullness. Loving life is loving God.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
” – Austin Miles

Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

In his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul says that he is not ashamed of the gospel. Gospel translated into English means “Good News” – and it is seriously THE best news the world has ever received.

The name of Jesus is written all over the story of the gospel. The Hebrew root “Yeshua” (Hebrew: ישע‎) in English translates into “Yahweh delivers”. To relieve the world from oppression, the Father gave us His Son. For His rescue mission no military weapons were used. The war against oppression culminated on the cross where Jesus died. On the third day He rose from the grave and returned to the Father while the Holy Spirit picked up where Jesus had left off – God’s Spirit was poured out on planet Earth and the gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached ever since.

The Trinity’s beautiful teamwork of salvation is legendary. God has fought a good fight for us and He has given it all. We are the reason why the Trinity is waging this epic battle; we are loved; we matter so much to Him – this is the heart of the gospel so amazing that it regularly stumps people.

Believing the gospel of Jesus Christ is a miracle, no doubt about it. It does not make sense, how could it make sense? Nothing like this has ever happened before. I believe this is the challenge Paul is indirectly referring to when he says: “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Why is he not ashamed? He allowed the Holy Spirit to carve the story of salvation deep into his heart.

In his prior life, Paul was difficult to reach, hidden behind layers and layers of pride; and yet where God is involved there is always reason for hope. The Lord expertly knows our hearts and He has a way of reaching us. He definitely got Paul’s attention. The circumstances of Paul’s dramatic transformation are recorded in the book of Acts and is a wonderful example how God touches a human heart.

God has a way. The entire faith population of the past and present can tell us all about it. I highly recommend listening to God’s salvation story. It is no fairy tale, but has real implications for you and me. It opens heaven’s door to everyone who believes: to our Jewish brothers and sisters who were historically the first to embrace the gospel, followed by many other tribes and nations who did the same. Maybe you can too – God’s salvation story only has a happy ending when we believe.

Colossians 2:9-10: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.”

Colossae was a populous and wealthy city, actually one of the most celebrated cities of southern Anatolia, modern day Turkey. By the time the apostle Paul arrived, the people of Colossae had dwindled in importance but were famous for a local angel cult. This unorthodox cult venerated the archangel Michael who is said to have caused a curative spring to gush from a fissure in the earth.

God on earth, God in human form may have been a figment of the human imagination in many religious doctrines underscoring a human desire to be near God. I personally think this has everything to do with the idea that mankind used to be close to God but has lost that connection a long time ago. This could be why Paul made it a point writing in his letter to the Colossians (Colossians 2:9):

“In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”

God walking up to us in a human body, that’s as close as He can get. It does not get much better than this. And this time around, it is not a figment of our imagination. It is no angel cult, no human being who mistakes himself or herself for a deity – it’s real.

The curative spring near Colossae stood for something else we have lost: we want to be whole; and Paul adds important news to his prior statement (Colossians 2:10):

“In Christ you have been brought to fullness.”

It is easy to identify with the Colossians, I believe. It does not take a rocket scientist to surmise that we live in a broken world. We have tried very hard to run a tight ship here, but governments, rulers and monarchies have not accomplished what they were set out to do. To this day mankind struggles to rule the earth. Peace is as elusive as ever. I believe by now it’s very clear that there is no human way to arrive to fullness and wholeness on this planet, but thankfully: God has a way. The question is: do we believe Him?

It is extraordinary that God went out of His way to show us the way home. A lot of people have a hard time believing that. Even believers fall off the bandwagon at times. It happens when Christ becomes a formula instead of being real. Jesus is no formula. He makes us whole and He connects us to God – and He is the only One who can bring us everlasting peace.

Psalm 73:14: “All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.”

Monsoon season in the North American Southwest will bring heavy rains, sometimes interspersed with solid thunderstorms. The Bible mentions a man named Asaph who had a storm of his own going on in his head. He voiced his frustrations in a lament (Psalm 73:12-13):

“This is what the wicked are like—
    always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
    and have washed my hands in innocence.

Human jealousy always gets the better of us. Asaph is implying that God neglects His own people while letting the wicked thrive. Obviously, this is crazy talk, and unwittingly he gives God a bad name by saying that the Lord is unjust and does not care.

Well, nobody is perfect and neither are God’s children, Asaph is no exception; but imperfect believers bear precious cargo – the Spirit of God. His still, small voice points us in the right direction. It is through the Holy Spirit that we know the Lord. We get a new lease on life every time we allow God’s Spirit to speak into our lives.

Taking a break and reaching out to the Lord is apparently what Asaph ended up doing – and his prayers began to change his gloomy point of view. All of a sudden He could recognize light on the horizon where he previously had seen nothing but darkness. Turning his lament into praise, his psalm ends on a much happier note (Psalm 73:28):

“But as for me, it is good to be near God.
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
    I will tell of all your deeds.”

This world has seen some pretty dark times, and it is easy to get depressed when the length of a crisis turns into a year with little relief in sight. Let us be smart like Asaph and listen to the Spirit of God. The Lord knows what He is doing and where He is going. Following Him adds purpose to our step.

John 15:10: “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.”

Thanks to my German background I tend to be a little too stoic sometimes. To lighten me up my husband Bill likes to crack a joke, and he also has silly little rhymes that he throws at me from time to time. Here is one of them:

“Smell my feet, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!”

Well, why would I want to smell his feet? Funny that I ask since this is completely beside the point, right? Speaking of feet – Jesus took a good look at His disciples’ feet on the night before the Passover Festival.  On a very sobering note, He already knew it would be His last. The cards were stacked against Him. He was going to be unjustly accused and handed over to the Roman authorities to die a tortuous death. Unfortunately, He still had to break the bad news to His disciples. So, what did He do? During dinner Jesus got up from the meal and one by one began to wash His disciples’ feet, which caused quite a stir. Simon Peter flatout refused to let his Master wash his feet, but Jesus told him in no uncertain terms (John 13:8):

“Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

After drying their feet, Jesus sat down with His disciples and delved into a deep conversation. His students had followed their Rabbi for three years, and now they were about to lead others in a brand-new movement that would shake the fabrics of human society. How would that be possible without Jesus by their side? The answer is partially found in Jesus’ conspicuous activities throughout the Last Supper. I believe washing the disciples’ feet actually set the tone of their later dinner conversation. Jesus demonstrated that love finds its outlet in servanthood.

Fast forward to today – this is how the story of salvation has been passed on from generation to generation: Getting our hands dirty and our feet dusty, the gospel of Jesus Christ meanwhile has proceeded all around the globe.

Serving, by the way, is not a very sanitary activity. Blood, sweat and tears are part of the equation simply because life is messy and so are relationships. The highlight of our day would be handing over our dirty feet to the Lord right after our work is done. He’ll gladly minister to us. Probably one of the reasons why some of us wake up one morning and feel completely burnt out – we might have forgotten the very best part of serving: letting Jesus wash off the grime and slime of the day. Thankfully, that’s how we also grow closer to Him.

Unless we want to turn sour, we let Jesus wash our feet. It is amazing how good this makes us feel – and most importantly, this is how we get to remain in His love.

Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The Son of God is an intimate part of the divine Trinity. More than a theological concept, the Trinity represents what family stands for – in its purest form. There is no fonder family relationship than the mutual devotion of the Heavenly Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As Son of God, Jesus is not born to the Heavenly Father in the sense that we understand human birth. Jesus was never created; neither were the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity has been around forever and is the source of all life.

Looking at the Son of God in this context, we can appreciate how He approaches people. Human beings are God’s wayward creation. Between the first day of our emergence as a species and now, mankind has lost its way. When Jesus became a human being He had but one thing on His mind: to bring us back to the Trinity family circle. In His view we belong to His incredible family, the family of God. Very characteristically of Him, Jesus said to His disciples before His departure to heaven (John 20:17):

“Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Nothing could say it more precisely than this: “my Father and your Father, my God and your God” – in other words: Christ wants to adopt us.

Jesus sticks closer to us than any close relative would, while at the same time He happens to be the Lord of the universe. It seems that we have a tendency to get thrown off by His divinity. In our complicated relationship history with God, all too often comes the point when Jesus loses His humanity in our hearts and minds. All we focus on is His Lordship. Jesus on the other hand could not emphasize enough that He is not lording over us in the sense of a regular worldly ruler. In fact, wherever He went He kept referring to Himself as the Son of Man, something He mentioned with pride. It almost feels like Jesus wants to shout it from the roof tops:

“I am One of you. I am your Son. My mother Mary gave birth to Me in Bethlehem of Judea, in the nation of Israel. Joseph and Mary can testify to that.”

Proud to be the Son of a human, Jesus gives all human beings dignity. And by taking on flesh and blood He irrevocably invited us back to His family, the Trinity, the source of all life, the First Family from which everything originates – and for that Jesus is forever exalted; and one day in the hopefully not so distant future every knee will bow while every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord.

Understanding the truth is like the break of dawn with the Sun rising in our hearts. Nothing could make God happier than our return to Him. He loves us more than words can say.

Matthew 4:4: “Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Jesus expressed on more than one occasion that we don’t live on bread alone. Carbs are not it. Our complex soul demands a different diet: God’s precious words. It is essential to our soul’s well-being that we hear them and know them well, while it is detrimental to our sanity to go through life without paying attention to what God has to say.

While physical needs and cravings have a tendency to be on the forefront of our mind, the silence of not hearing from God is quite deafening, and our soul within us will eventually rebel against it. Born with an innate need to communicate, we want to be heard and understood. Searching for profound connection, we come alive when we receive God’s message.

Our soul withers in isolation while it thrives on adoration. Adoration goes both ways: We adore our Creator and our Creator adores us. Focusing our adoration towards another human being quickly becomes an obsession and will hurt us in the end, since nobody is without flaw. One is: God is perfect, and our soul craves perfection.

Following our soul’s desire is the sensible thing to do. God has a lot in store for you and me, and He has a myriad of ways to communicate. He can speak to us through other people (who mostly have no idea that God is using them to bring a point across) and He sometimes speaks to us through unforeseen events. One morning my husband Bill woke up from a strange dream: An uprooted tree crashed down right in front of him. It wasn’t long thereafter that my professional situation changed and we had to move. I believe Bill’s dream was God’s way of preparing us for an upcoming change.

The communication flow between heaven and earth is a conversation between two worlds. There is a definite language barrier. Not unlike foreign dignitaries who come with an interpreter, the Holy Spirit translates God’s thoughts into human language. He keeps the communication flow going between God and mankind, which I find truly remarkable.

In case you were wondering, God hasn’t stopped talking. The drumbeat of His heart sends shock-waves all across the universe. He expresses His love continuously because that’s who He is: God is love and He loves us dearly – which is the central message He has for you and me.

God communicates to us in ways we can understand; and He is thrilled when we pick up on it.

Jeremiah 32:17: “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

Used to thinking in limitations, it is hard to imagine “limitless” instead. However, nothing is impossible for the Lord. This is something to remember, especially when facing a serious challenge. Case in point: my husband Bill is presently considering becoming self-employed. Like so many others in 2020, he has been furloughed since early spring when the pandemic began to take world stage. As we are going through the logistics of his endeavor, we have the opportunity to pray with prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:17):

“Ah Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

There are no impossibilities that God’s great power cannot handle. One of the first things that come to my mind in this context is Israel’s initial and most recent Exodus. The initial Exodus from Egypt led to the birth of their nation. Israel’s latest Exodus happened in the last century and describes an astonishing event: The declaration of the State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948 establishing the first Jewish state in 2,000 years; as a result, Jews from all over the world exited their respective host countries to return to Eretz-Israel, Israel’s home soil. In 2020, the nation of Israel has grown to 8,655,535 people – a modern miracle.

Meanwhile, the theme of the Exodus seems to have lent itself to a number of historical events and situations. American settlers interpreted their flight from Europe to a new life in North America as a new Exodus. African Americans suffering under slavery and racial oppression especially connected to the Exodus, aiming it a catalyst for social change.

The Lord’s famous statement from long ago that He will spearhead Israel’s Exodus from Egypt is truly encouraging today when we can also see Him leading the Exodus taking place in our lifetime (Exodus 6:6):

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.”

When we are stuck and in desperate need for change, the Lord has a way; and with a mighty hand and outstretched arm He will lead our Exodus. It may be unusual territory to say the least; it may be out of our comfort zone, but all God is asking for is a little faith. This is the beauty of scary experiences of a modern Exodus: Trusting Him, God will bring us to places we have never been before and best of all – we get to know Him a little bit better every day as we are stepping out in faith.

Let us not forget: we are in the wake of many believers in similar circumstances. One step of faith at a time is all we have to take.

Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

God is an Artist. Just look around and notice that things are not purely functional in nature, they are also beautiful.

If you were involved in a project that was entirely yours – it could be anything from building a house, creating a garden, to cooking a dish, or painting a picture – have you ever noticed that for a while nothing seemed more important to you than to finish the project – especially when roadblocks are involved? Picture yourself in the middle of a project important to you; aren’t you at least a bit curious how the project will turn out? Are you anxious to see the results? Do you find yourself thinking about your project at night when you’re supposed to be sleeping?

Yep, that’s what artists do. They hover over their work like hummingbirds over their nectar-promising flowers. And this is what God does – He is hovering over you, because you are His work in progress that He is anxious to finish. And He is dead-serious about it too. It’s on His mind day and night. There’s no way He leaves anything unfinished. In human terms you could say that God is obsessed with His work – but unlike us human workaholics God is obsessed with the good work within us. He is passionate about bringing us to completion.

So, where does this leave us?

It leaves us dead-center in the Potter’s hands, God’s hands who simultaneously hold us, comfort us, and work on us. Here is an excerpt of the book of Jeremiah describing the work of the Potter’s hands (Jeremiah 18:1- 6):

“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.”

Maybe we don’t like to be the clay. Maybe we don’t like to be worked on either. However, it seems reassuring to me that the Potter is never trashing the clay that didn’t turn out. He just starts over, comes up with an ingenious idea, and ends up creating something entirely different – in the spur of a moment! God’s way of dealing with the sons and daughters of Adam – Adam incidentally meaning dust of the earth – is simply fascinating. God is not only artistic with a highly individualistic approach for each of His pieces of art – every human being walking this earth – He also seems to have plenty of patience by not throwing the towel when some of His artwork comes out all wrong.

Putting ourselves into God’s hand is the wisest thing we can do for our lives. We know He is relentless until His work of art is very good. Read up on the creation story at the beginning of the book of Genesis, and you’ll get the gist of it. God is passionate about what He creates. He doesn’t stop until it’s very good. That’s the kind of passion God has for you and for me.

“You are the Potter, I am the clay
Mold me and make me” (Eddie Espinosa)

Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen”

Departmentalizing is a human thing. We put God in Heaven and we leave things on Earth up to us, humans. And where does this leave us? “Stranded” is one way to put it.

God can do immeasurably more than we can imagine. Should we therefore stop imagining? I don’t think so. The challenge is ours to be inspired and imagine what could be if we leave God in the equation of life, life on earth that is. John Lennon put his imagination to work, and this is what he came up with:

“Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today”

Controversial lyrics – especially when we happen to believe that heaven and hell are real places. – Still, I think that John Lennon’s imaginations have a method to the madness, and here it is: As long as we live on planet Earth we can contribute to making this world a better place or we can turn it into a hellhole. The choice is ours.

I think one of the worst things we can do is to check out prematurely. There is no better hope than the hope for a better tomorrow, and we actively contribute to a better tomorrow with our lives today – yours and mine. If we care about people, then we literally contribute to heaven on earth. Do you think God is opposed to that?

Peace with God ushers in goodwill to men, which translates into people coming together from a variety of viewpoints and experiences, genuinely interested in one another. We don’t have to wait for heaven to see freedom, beauty and peace; we can live in this mindset right now. As a matter of fact, God endorsed this kind of lifestyle when He sent His Son Jesus. Jesus is famous for making things whole. His tender heart puts our broken pieces together. He completes us.

Jesus became God’s physical presence here on earth when He was born in Bethlehem; this goes to show that while God is in heaven He is also right here with us. The Lord Almighty is not otherworldly as many picture Him to be; He has created every world there is, and He is particularly interested in the world we live in. I personally think there is nothing wrong imagining for a moment that this universe is all there is, because when God created the world, He entrusted this world into our care; and I believe it is our calling to care.

Let us never give up dreaming – God never does. Let us never give up on people – God hasn’t. Let us never withdraw into our own little world of exclusivity and leave the rest of the world standing in the rain. Jesus never did.

Psalm 138:2: “I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame.”

The Lord Almighty surpasses human expectations. He simply blows our mind. He loves us when there is nothing left to love, and He has our back when we have no backbone left; He takes our side when we are not on His side, and He is out on a rescue mission to save us when we are not even asking for His help.

Loving His enemies, the Lord gives mercy a new name. Call it “super-mercy” – nobody expects empathy for the enemy, but the truth is that the Lord cares about His creation, His love knows no bounds, and His sympathy includes opponents who hate Him. What does this mean for us? I think it means “watch and learn”.

Family is the perfect playing field to experiment with mercy. It is safe to say that all families have their issues. The fact that no human being is perfect translates into imperfect family relationships. Add divorce and remarriage into the equation and the family dynamics become even more interesting.

It is common to get hurt by close relatives. Family gatherings become painful to watch when certain family members have nothing to say to each other. Mercy neutralizes that, and it starts with me. I need to have mercy on myself. This may sound ridiculous at first, but if we are supposed to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, then we should also have mercy on our neighbor as we have mercy on ourselves.

When we are unable to forgive ourselves it is hard, if not impossible to forgive and let the other person off the hook. Being gracious with ourselves allows us to be gracious with others. It is easier to put ourselves in other people’s shoes when we have worked through our own issues. We stop judging people too harshly when we no longer beat ourselves up.

Family members won’t feel judged in our presence when we apply mercy. A merciful person literally becomes the safe zone in the family. Mercy actually has the capacity to heal broken relationships. The Lord knows that and He is super-merciful. Looking up to Him we can become inspired. His unfailing love and faithfulness can turn us into better people.

God exceeds all our expectations – and in a broken world His children turn around and do the same.

Psalm 18:30: “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.”

Psalm 18 is David’s Psalm. In a subtitle it is noted that “he sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.”

It was complicated. When King Saul’s jealousy became a threat to his life, David had to leave the palace overnight. From then on, he lived the life of a refugee. Meanwhile King Saul’s death-wish on David slowly became an obsession. Still, David refused to lay hands on God’s Anointed. Over time, he gained an underground following; David’s men were ready to go into battle and die for him. And yet, regardless how badly his following wanted King Saul removed from office, according to David they had to avoid an open confrontation at all cost. And so, they had been on the run for years. When King Saul got too close for comfort, they finally had to leave Israel and hide in the land of the Philistines, Israel’s traditional arch-enemy.

Sometimes we hide because we are shy; sometimes we hide because we have done something wrong and we want nobody to see. Seeking refuge in the Lord is a different kind of hiding. It’s the kind of hiding that lets the Lord do His job while the believer has to wait things out. I believe most people prefer to do something instead of waiting things out. Letting go of our own action plans and waiting for the Lord is not an easy thing to do. It requires faith.

David and his men stood the test of time. They waited on the Lord and the Lord took care of their situation. Eventually, King Saul and his son were both killed in battle. And just like that, within a day, a door opened and David was offered Israel’s throne. History has noted that he was a man who refused to take the throne by force, an unusual move in the “Game of Thrones”.

We are often tempted to do things our way, and so was King David. Looking back he said (Psalm 18:21):

“For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
    I am not guilty of turning from my God.”

The Lord was able to resolve a tricky situation in His time and in His way because King David was determined not to interfere. And in hindsight he saw how everything had fallen into place. He marveled at God’s wisdom saying (Psalm 18:30):

“As for God, his way is perfect.” 

Take it from King David: God’s way is perfect. We may not feel perfect, we may walk a rather difficult path, but if we follow the Lord, the path we are on is the way to go. God Almighty protects the ones who trust in Him – we can count on that.

Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

The apostle Matthew is a former tax collector who had left everything behind to follow Jesus. One night, Matthew and the other disciples sat with Jesus on Mount Olive and asked Him a follow up question about something He had mentioned earlier that day: the destruction of the temple. Jesus decided to go beyond answering their questions about the future fate of the Jerusalem temple. He began to delve into the end-times. Matthew’s recollections of the nightly conversation on Mount Olive are found in chapter 24 of his gospel. Following are some of the highlights:

Matthew 24:9: “Then people will arrest you, hand you over to be hurt and kill you; They will hate you because you believe in me.”*

Back in the days of the first exodus, the Jews had to slaughter a lamb and apply its blood on their front door to be identified as members of God’s people. Similarly, the future worldwide exodus of believers does not happen without bloodshed. The preceding war on God’s children will serve to separate believers from non-believers.

Matthew 24:14: “The Good News about God’s kingdom will be preached in all the world to every nation. Then the end will come.”*

Starting point in Israel spreading all throughout the Northern hemisphere, the gospel torch was eventually passed on to the southern hemisphere when the Americas and Australia were discovered and colonized by Western civilizations. Meanwhile, the Good News has made its way all around the globe. Unfortunately, the people of God have not known unity. Jesus mentions divisions among believers as symptomatic for the end times. This gives me pause when I look at current hate speech happening between professed believers.

Matthew 24:11-12: “Many false prophets will ·come and ·cause many people to believe lies.  There will be more and more ·evil in the world, so ·most people will stop showing their love for each other.”*

Climate change is not only an environmental topic; there is a distinct climate shift in how people interact with each other. Love grows cold, and it happens everywhere.

Matthew 24:29: “Soon after the trouble of those days, the sun will grow dark, and the moon will not give its light. The stars will fall from the sky. And the celestial bodies will be shaken.”*

Jesus refers to the predictions of the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel and Joel [Is. 13:10; 34:4; cf. Ezek. 32:7-8; Joel 2:10, 31] announcing what seems to be the destruction of our solar system – at which point Jesus appears in the sky to gather His chosen people from every part of the world. When the world as we know it disappears, we are smart to cling to the Rock. Referring to the future apocalypse, Jesus says something incredibly profound: The matter that we walk on – planet Earth – will pass away. His Word on the other hand stays around forever. In the end it is important to distinguish what truly matters.

*All Bible verses quoted above coming from Expanded Bible (EXB) translation

Isaiah 12:4: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.”

A glimpse of a day in the future of mankind when promises have been fulfilled and God’s kingdom on earth has been fully established – this is what the prophet Isaiah speaks about in his book. He paints a detailed picture of this special day. All eyes are on the Branch from Jesse. Jesse is King David’s father whose lineage brought forth Jesus from Nazareth. Isaiah uses big brush strokes to describe Jesus’s impact on the earth population (Isaiah 28:16):

“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
    a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
    will never be put to shame.

The Cornerstone serving to protect those who trust in the Lord is the same Rock causing others to stumble. With Jesus comes the distinction between people who choose to follow Him and people who refrain from doing so.

Prophet Isaiah describes a last exodus when all peoples and nations will rally to the Cornerstone. The glorious assembly under the umbrella of the Lord of lords and the King of kings signifies that the days of God’s people in the diaspora will have finally come to a close. No longer will there be predator societies where the strong abuse and devour the weak. There will be no more predators whatsoever! And what is true for human societies will also apply to the animal kingdom. The lion and the lamb will lie side by side; abuse between species will come to a complete stop; a child will be able to play with a snake.

There is no doubt in my mind that this new reality is going to happen. The picture Isaiah paints in his predictions is real. The reason we hear about such prophecies is to confirm the new normal: life without violence. And as believers we already live in that reality – citizens of God’s kingdom are kind, compassionate and humble; they don’t believe in predator mentality; they follow Jesus who pursues peace.

Once the greatest exodus the world has ever seen is completed, the beautiful tapestry of diverse peoples representing the kingdom of God will be so inspiring. Unbeknownst to them, the people of Israel have given birth to believers from all kinds of different nations and tribes. Father Abraham will wipe his eyes, I’m sure. Astounded, prophet Isaiah says (Isaiah 12:5-6):

“Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
    let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
    for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Let the troubled times not fool you. They are the waves of pain we all have to go through. The time of the Last Exodus represents a period of intense labor pains. Through it all, believers all over the world learn to trust in the Lord. Signs and wonders will happen, and in the end our eyes will see what the prophets have foretold us a long time ago. We will chime into Isaiah’s song of praise proclaiming right then and there that the Lord has done glorious things.

Now is the time to look up in hope and expectation. All we need is the Lord – the Lord is all we need.

Psalm 33:12: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.”

The Holy Spirit has created a nation under God that stretches all around the globe – from the Middle East to the Western civilizations, from the Northern to the Southern hemisphere. It’s a holy nation in the diaspora. And it all began after the gates to the Garden of Eden had closed behind us. God created a people He chose for His inheritance. How does He do that? He calls his people, one by one. In a personal encounter the Holy Spirit reveals the truth and shines a light that penetrates darkness and confusion.

There are other nations that are at odds with the nation whose God is the Lord. The psalmist says about them (Psalm 2:1-3):

“Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
‘Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.’”

God’s nation is like a flock of sheep surrounded by wolves, a beacon in the night, and a rock in the raging sea. To grow God’s nation, Jesus calls heart, after heart, after heart. He goes after the lost, broken, forgotten, neglected and poor. He calls them tenderly. The Lord Jesus is careful not to further break the broken. He is the Healer of healers.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Jesus issues a serious warning to the kings and queens in this world lording over people (Psalm 2:10-12):

“Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

Blessed is each person seeking refuge in the Son; and blessed is the nation whose refuge is the Lord; blessed are the people He chooses for His inheritance, and blessed are the people who choose to follow Him.

Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.”

God has seen the rise and fall of many empires in the past and present. Most historians agree that an empire’s progressive corruption is responsible for its later downfall. Telltale signs of an empire on a downward trend are:

  • National self-absorbedness – The nation or empire does not care about the rest of the world. It only fosters matters of national self-interest.
  • Power hunger – The nation or empire wants to grow bigger and dominate more people instead of collaborating with other nations.
  • Favoritism of rich people – Little to no support of the poor and the disadvantaged combined with deference to the upper class causes division and leads to more crime.
  • Lack of interest in the next generation – Trashing the environment is an example of not acting in the best interest of our children and children’s children.

Driven to dominate and subdue, earthly empires leave behind a trail of blood. And so, the battle for dominance has been raging on for generations. To bring peace to our world, we need an empire of a different kind. Instead of the kingdom of man we need the kingdom of God, a kingdom based on righteousness.

Righteousness or ethical conduct is best summarized in the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as yourself. Interestingly, the concept of the Golden Rule occurs in nearly every religion and ethical tradition of the world, which leads me to believe that God has been openly promoting the Golden Rule all throughout human history:

  • In ancient Egypt a late period papyrus (664 BC – 323 BC) contains an early negative affirmation of the Golden Rule: “That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.”
  • In ancient India the Sanskrit tradition says to treat others as you treat yourself.
  • In ancient Greece Socrates (436-338 BC) says: “Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you.”
  • Ancient Persia: (300-1000 AD) “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself.”
  • In ancient Rome Seneca the Younger (4 BC – 654 AD) expressed the Golden Rule with regards to the treatment of slaves: “Treat your inferior as you would wish your superior to treat you.”
  • Lastly, in Judaism and Christianity the Bible spells out a number of rules of fair conduct, such as in Matthew 7:22: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Specifically, in the Law of Moses we find the following instructions (Leviticus 19:18): “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

We uplift our nation when we live out the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as yourself; and we can love our neighbor as ourselves when we know that God loves us.

All we need is a little faith to make a big impact. To get this particular point across, Jesus used the illustration of a minute mustard seed that grows into a lush tree. Faith in God is such a little mustard seed. It looks insignificant, but this little faith-seed transforms us from the inside and revolutionizes the world around us as a result.

A nation’s welfare is based on righteousness; and righteousness begins with a change of heart – one person at a time.

Jeremiah 17:9-10: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

The proverbial rug has been pulled underneath your feet the day you realize, you have been lied to. It’s a horrible feeling. Lies destroy our integrity making us less a man, less a woman. We were created to walk upright and live in the truth. Anything less noble ends up breaking us apart.

A heart does not turn deceitful overnight – it is led astray. A straying heart is an aimlessly wandering heart, which never arrives, never feels at home, has lost touch with its true self and slowly has become corroded; this is the story of the deceitful heart.

Who can understand the deceitful heart and tell its story? – God can. He searches every heart and examines every mind. God listens well. And as a result, He knows your backstory and mine.

Where does the deceitful heart go?  – Running away from the Lord, all we can do is continue to deceive ourselves and others. Running towards the Lord, we courageously step up to the plate and face the truth. Truth-seekers invite the Lord to shine His light on them. His light shines through and through, accessing the most remote corners in our heart.

How can we heal the deceitful heart? – Prophet Ezekiel wrote in his scroll that a deceitful heart is actually beyond cure. That would be truly devastating news if it wasn’t for the Lord. God is not known to give up that easily. He fought with passion for the good hope bestowed to us. In order to completely renew the compromised heart inside of us, He gave us His Son Jesus. Through Him human beings can be adopted into the family of God. God’s children let go of their unresponsive heart and receive a sensitive heart instead, a heart that can hear the Lord’s voice (Ezekiel 36:26):

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”

Receiving a new heart from God is an incredible gift. With a new heart, our inner being wakes up to a brand new world: the kingdom of God. Listening to the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit, the love of God begins to ring true in our hearts. We start walking in His footsteps and our life will never be the same. It is the power of God’s love that makes all things new – starting at the very core of our being – our heart.

Just like a blind man I wandered along
Worries and fears I claimed for my own
Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light
” – Hank Williams

Romans 12:3: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

Is the life of one human being worth more than the life of another? Hopefully, we all agree that the answer is no. Every life is equally precious. Problems come up when we forget that.

“Thinking of ourselves with sober judgment”, as the apostle Paul puts it, is tricky. We have the tendency to either be full of ourselves or we feel small and inconsequential and don’t appreciate who we are. It is funny that the golden middle, which means loving ourselves without overindulgence, is so hard to do. I believe it’s probably impossible to do, unless we have met the Lord.

God loves us like no other, so chances are, if we accept this reality, we also accept His perception of us. “I am loved by the Lord” is a healthy self-assessment. In addition, what puts things into perspective is our understanding that God loves both me and my neighbor. This knowledge comes in handy, especially when I have a fight with the neighbor.  

I remember a work relationship that slowly went from bad to worse; and no amount of business meetings seemed to be able to resolve the issues at hand. We were simply not on the same page, and I had to accept that. For the sake of my sanity, I finally resigned and moved on. Careful not to burn any bridges, I made sure not to broadcast any negativity. As a result, my ex-employer and I have stayed in touch and remained on friendly terms.

Processing conflicts, I have learnt this simple truth: God loves me, but He loves the other person too.  We need to remember that when we don’t see eye to eye. Continue to respect a person, even though this person represents a different school of thought and has a world view that you cannot buy into. After all, we don’t know it all; only God knows everything. In times when old friends divide over political opinions I have found this approach extremely helpful.

As a general rule of thumb, let’s refrain from snap judgments. Nobody is perfect. When we are offended by someone, we can always err on the side of caution by applying plenty of grace.

Zechariah 14:9: “The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name.”

Single-mindedness is not part of our current reality. Division and strife on the other hand, is what we are familiar with. Division is like cancer ailing our society and even splitting up families and friends. What makes us strong? – Community and unity, love and friendship, humility and understanding.

Division weakens us. The prophet Zechariah looks at the people of Israel in his generation and does not find much unity there. Into the chaos of wars and revolutions; into battlefields littered with blood, sweat and tears; into human desperation and loneliness, the prophet speaks words of encouragement.

Words of encouragement – God has a knack for that. He speaks: “Let there be light” when there is utter darkness and confusion. And guess what – God’s Word makes all the difference. He says: “Let there be light” and there is light.

Prophet Zechariah speaks: “The Lord will be king over the whole earth”. The prophet spoke the Word of God, and it will turn into reality. There will be a new heaven and a new earth devoid of division. There will be no more wars. There will be blessed peace.

How do we get there? We won’t. It is not by human endeavor that we achieve unity. Only by God’s Spirit and His might can we come together. Meanwhile, the Lord keeps prodding every human being on this planet to listen to what His Spirit has to say. He invites everyone to jump on His peace train before the new heaven and the new earth come to pass and a new chapter in the history of mankind begins. Jesus spoke to John, His disciple (Revelation 21:5):

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

We can trust His Word. When we find God we find unity. He alone knows the way to peace.

“Now I’ve been smiling lately,
Thinkin’ about the good things to come
And I believe it could be,
Something good has begun
Oh Peace Train sounding louder
Glide on the Peace Train
Come on now Peace Train
Yes, Peace Train holy roller”
– Yusuf Cat Stevens

Psalm 138:8: “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. Lord, your love is eternal; do not abandon the work of your hands.”

Broken pieces; a pile of rubble; chaos; nothing seems to make much sense.

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

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

From God’s perspective we are a piece of art – broken, yet beautiful; lost, yet restored. God is immensely proud of His creation. Human beings have been the Wildcard. On countless occasions and all throughout history, God has shown His mercy and patience. He is the Healer of broken hearts; at the same time, God is an accomplished Artist. He knows how to make things beautiful.

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

Our triune God is dedicated to making things better; that is why Jesus is our Savior. The Lord is life giver, but most importantly to me: He is Life restorer.

2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

God’s patience is different from people’s patience. His patience is so remarkable that it is often misunderstood and interpreted as slowness, or worse, as indifference. “Why is God doing nothing?” is sometimes the question. Well, God is doing something. Believers know, the Lord is always up to something. Everything He does and does not do is premeditated. He can do that – He is God.

It is difficult for our human minds to grasp God’s thought process. Starting with the fact that the Lord is Three in One – God the Father, the Holy Spirit and the beloved Son Jesus are an entity that converses with each other. Human beings are on God’s mind day and night, night and day. I imagine that decisions on how to react to certain situations, how to answer prayers and how to interfere into human circumstances are not processed lightly. We have a hard time understanding God’s patience because we do not see what He sees and we do not know what He knows. But what we do know is that the Lord will make good on His promises in His time. He comes through and the door opens when it is beneficial for many.

Specifically, when we think about human tragedies, the Lord’s patience seems out of place. Think about the collective human suffering of the past and present. Think about the people of Israel who were enslaved by the Egyptians for 400 years. 400 years of prayers you would think went unanswered for too long. By the time Israel left Egypt, the Egyptians had had a close encounter with God. The plagues that happened, the signs and wonders in connection with Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt left an indelible mark. Slavery is a terrible thing. God delivered Israel from the hands of their taskmasters, but not without appealing to their conscience. God loves His people, but He loves the Egyptians too.

To this day people are mistreated, disrespected, hurt and killed. Slavery is not just a thing of the past. The international labor organization estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150-billion-industry worldwide. Where is God in all this? God is in heaven, but most importantly, God is with His people. God’s interaction is sovereign, but He is also expecting His people to see where injustice happens and act as His agent. In the above example of human trafficking, the first line of defense for those labor organizations is to receive a call from a witness who identified a victim and dialed the National Human Trafficking Hotline to get help.

We want God to come through for us in personal matters. I believe God also wants us to come through for other people, people who are hurting, people who need our attention, people who have been waiting for justice and retribution. When God opens our eyes and shows us a need, we as believers are the ones God has been patient with – at the cost of the people waiting for us to wake up and face the music. Those victimized, overlooked and abandoned individuals who have been in our neighborhood and cried out to God had to be feeling like the Israelites in Egypt who prayed for deliverance for 400 years. They had to be exceedingly patient.

To save all parties involved and not wanting anyone to perish, the Lord’s patience has a significant reason in a roundabout way: He hopes that in the end everyone will come to repentance. A beautiful fruit of God’s spectacular patience – is a change of heart.

Matthew 16:25: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

Personally, I’ve been a health nut for as long as I can remember. Eating healthy, working out have been non-negotiables. All in all, I have taken good care of my body as best as I could. All through my life, however, I’ve been battling a chronic cough, and my lung function has progressively diminished over the years. My husband Bill and I have spent an inordinate amount of time and money in medical services to find out what exactly is causing this situation. We have learned it the hard way that we had to let go of this battle.

Presently, we are no longer looking for a diagnosis. Instead, we are learning how to manage my symptoms better. This is a powerful release of all anxiousness connected with medical procedures, tests, doctor’s visits and looming medical bills. Best of all, we are able to move on with our lives.

There is a time for holding on, and there is a time for letting go. Holding on to dear life, I have survived three open heart surgeries in the past ten years. This gave Bill and me additional years together, which we both consider borrowed time. However, in order to make the best use of the time allotted to us, I find it equally important to learn to let go. By letting go of my health concerns we can turn our attention to the things the Lord puts in our hands for us to do – and let Him worry about the rest. Living like that is finding life.

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

Jeremiah 23:24: “‘Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.”

Shame is a very uncomfortable feeling. We don’t want anybody to see us when we feel ashamed. So, we hide. Hiding is a coping mechanism as long as there have been people. We read about this behavior in the oldest story of the Good Book: Adam and Eve’s attempt to hide from the Lord in Paradise after having eaten the one fruit in the Garden they were not supposed to touch. I believe the ensuing conversation between the Lord and mankind’s first couple is worth paying attention to. Here it is, in Genesis 3:8-13:

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Ever since I read this piece of Scripture quoted above I was wondering what would have happened if Adam and Eve had admitted to the truth – instead of hiding behind fig leaves and shifting the blame. Maybe God had them exiled from Paradise anyway, but of course we don’t know that for sure. What we do know (after looking at the outcome of this unhappy conversation), hiding from the Lord simply does not work. Outside of Eden, things quickly went from bad to worse causing a deep rift between the Lord and mankind, a rift that only Jesus was going to be able to heal.

Before the expulsion from Paradise, God related the consequences of their sin to the serpent, the woman and the man. Addressing the serpent first, the Lord said (Genesis 3:15):

“And I will put enmity
    between you [the serpent] and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

As our rainbow of hope, Jesus was announced in the same paragraph where God pronounced His judgment. The Son of God was going to step on the serpent’s skull. And by crushing the serpent’s head Jesus addressed the root of all evil, namely the lying, the blaming and the hiding.

It is a good thing that we cannot hide from the Lord. The Lord brings everything to light – not to shame or blame us, but to set things right. If we put our cards on the table and ask God for His help, He will have mercy on each and every one of us. The Lord fixes what is broken and sets us on the path to righteousness. Righteousness is something we hunger and thirst for ever since we lost Paradise so many years ago. We can make things right when we turn to the Lord and discontinue hiding behind fig leaves. Adam and Eve are the first to tell us that fig leaves are unsuitable means for cover up.

The only sane course of action after the damage is done is to step out in the open and trust in the Lord. May His light shine on us and fill us up to overflowing so we can bring peace wherever we are going.

Let the healing begin.

2 Thessalonians 3:3: “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

Knowing we have the same enemy unites us, as demonstrated in the 1996 film “Independence Day”.  Its story line is about a worldwide alien attack and subsequent resistance of humankind culminating in the battle on Fourth of July. In the movie script, the acting President of the United States rallied his troops before releasing them to the battlefield. Here is an excerpt of his televised speech:

“In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world, and you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind… Mankind. That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests.”

Unity has never been our forte. Strife and division on the other hand, we could say we have a Master’s degree. Global peace hangs on the precarious balance based on threat. I am certain  that the combined weaponry of all nations could potentially blow up our home planet Earth many times over. I have always said we don’t need a devil to destroy humankind. Mankind is pretty proficient in self-eliminating. However, that does not mean there is no evil force currently working behind the scenes.

Obviously, the best way to wage a good battle is to have the right allies. In God we have a powerful ally, but we need to understand that God is for all people. And He will support us if we have the same mindset. We need to be interested in everybody’s welfare. We need to learn what it means to love our enemies. And we need to understand that all God’s creatures are equally loved by their Creator.

In times of crisis when we fight for our survival we need to be extra-careful not to lose our humanity. God has equipped us for battle, but He especially has equipped us for love. We need to use both our brains and our hearts to address the challenges and problems presented to us in our lifetime.

The most important thing there is to know, is to know the Lord. I believe that with all of my heart. Loving God and loving people grows out of knowing Him. Living the love command, we will see how faithful the Lord is. He strengthens His people and protects them from the evil one.

Isaiah 40:31: “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.”

The soaring technique of an albatross over the ocean is called “Dynamic Soaring”. Dynamic Soaring takes advantage of the difference in wind speed between the ground and higher up, which causes the bird to climb up facing the wind and heading back to the ground downwind. The wings are angled slightly, which allows the soaring bird to deflect the air downward and produce a lift.

Flapping-Wing flight in birds uses an altogether different technique. The wings flap with an up-and-down motion pushing the bird forward through the air. While doing that, the bird reduces the wingspan and partially folds its wings to eliminate the draggy outer part of the wing to maintain smooth cruising.

The difference between flapping and soaring is obvious: the former relies on the wind; the latter relies on the bird’s ability to manoeuver.

Yesterday I watched a documentary about conserving water. In arid areas with low rainfall, water becomes a precious commodity, not to be wasted. To that end, water has to be recycled to make the most of it. In most drought-ridden countries bordering the ocean, water plants are built to turn seawater into freshwater. Lack of water dictates prudence to be able to manage wisely the water resources that are still available.

The same scenario applies when we weaken and run out of steam. With our energy almost gone, we start managing our remaining strength in a different manner. In this context, Prophet Isaiah recommends soaring over flapping. Why? As opposed to flapping, soaring is a much more energy-efficient approach. And when we have come to the end of our rope, it is appropriate to think energy efficient.

We are only human and our strength will eventually deplete. God on the other hand never grows tired. Tapping into His power, we can carry on for a very long time, and this is in fact the moment we begin to soar. The wind of His Spirit carries us, and all we have to do is trust the aerodynamics of the Holy Spirit to carry us wherever we need to be.

Soaring birds can teach us a lesson or two: Faith lets us spread our wings wide while hope lets us soar. This is the spiritual reality of God’s children when they trust in the Lord and put their hope in Him.

“Some glad mornin’ when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To a home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away”
– Albert E. Brumley

Psalm 121:7-8: “The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

Some Jews place a copy of Psalm 121 in the delivery room to ask God for an easy labor. I think it is a beautiful tradition to involve the Lord in this manner and thus pave the way for a new human being about to be born. The psalmist here asks the Lord to watch over our coming and going, which implicates our birth and death. Life on earth has a distinctive beginning and specific end – and in between we have a lot of mountains to climb.

Going in and out of exile represented a major mountain in the 3300 years of Israel’s history. Jews were repeatedly exiled from their home country. And even though the deportations were devastating, the traumatic experience seemed to have had a refining effect in the end. Instead of being assimilated into their diverse host countries and disappear forever, the Jews emerged and defined themselves as a people. During Babylonian exile for instance, their oral traditions were put to paper. In the process of writing down their history with God, a collection of fifteen Psalms were grouped under the category “Song of ascents”, among which is also Psalm 121. When the captive Jews were released, I imagine the pilgrims singing the words of these psalms to God while climbing the temple mountain for the first time in a very long while. What a day that must have been!

The world is currently experiencing an exile of a different kind, and it’s called “Quarantine”. At the time of this writing, we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, which requires ongoing isolation to curb the infection rate of a threatening virus. As a result, we are taken out of our routine and placed into a strange, confusing situation for an undefined period of time. Instead of descending into despair, we can learn from the experience of our Jewish brothers and sisters and take this opportunity to redefine ourselves as a people and make things better.

For the sake of our sanity, now is the time to seek the Lord. We won’t notice much of God, unless we look up to Him. And when we turn our attention to Him, we escape confusion and see things more clearly, not to mention the blessings of being in His presence, which has a thoroughly calming effect on our soul. Remember: The Lord will keep us from all harm — He will watch over our life; the Lord will watch over our coming and going both now and forevermore.

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
Yeah, we wept, when we remembered Zion
There the wicked
Carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
Now how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”
 (Boney M, song lyrics based on Psalm 137

Leviticus 19:18: “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.’”

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

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

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

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

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

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