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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God touched the hearts of a few contemporaries of Saul, and they would eventually become his close companions, a much-needed support for transitioning into a new era: Saul became the very first king of Israel. God touched the hearts of a group of men to help promote a change. As God moves human hearts so He moves human history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God speaks. What a beautiful thing that is!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was hilarious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of James Taylor:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You are my portion, Lord;”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God invented fatherhood. He is the Father of fathers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is my freedom story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank God nobody looks up in this town!”

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

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

I came across an interesting statement by Morgan Freeman today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Right back at ya, God!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gentleness is a rare gem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We all start here – and we love forever!

Posted in Sin

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

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

However, does this mean that there is no pain in heaven? What about God’s pain of losing His creatures due to their free will? Since we don’t have to choose Him (God being no dictator) pain is inevitable, because apparently there will always be creatures opposing the Eternal One. They will be harvesting ongoing pain, and consequently, God will go through the parental pain of not being able to help them. If God is in pain, how can we be oblivious to that when we’re right there, in heaven, the place God calls His home? Don’t we share both His joy and pain, especially as we get closer to Him?

Personally, I think Heaven would be one-dimensional if we had it any other way. Joy has more depth to it if we are unafraid of pain and embrace the undesirable feeling of sadness.

My husband Bill and I cried more than one tear when we lost our cat Misty. We had her going on 15 years. She came to us when she was a kitten and left her paw prints permanently in our hearts. I remember the puzzled look on the face of some people when I came grief-stricken to a meeting, and assuming I lost a dear friend or relative of ours came to find out we had lost a pet. Obviously, not everybody will be able to relate, but trust me: somebody will!

The worst part of being in pain is thinking we are alone in this. That, quite frankly, is a lie. Even if (hypothetically speaking) nobody should be able to empathize with what you are going through, God certainly can. However, the reality is: people can usually relate. We don’t have to go very far to find out that another person has been dealing with some kind of grief. When pain bears the fruit of empathy it will create community. If nothing makes sense in pain, this always will: Your pain will equip you to be the best friend you can be to the person next to you who is facing some major challenges.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 19:20-21: “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Cats can hear everything! Maya, our pet, can determine by the sound of the engine who is coming home. In comparison, human ears are not as well-equipped. While cats hear sounds about as low as humans, they can hear much higher pitches than we can, and their range goes even above that of dogs.

Even if we had catlike ears, the question is, would we take advantage of our enhanced hearing? Here is another question for you: How easy is it to listen? The talkers among us will probably say it’s easier to talk than to listen. But what about the people who don’t like to talk? Do introverts have an advantage over extroverts when it comes to listening? Perhaps – but keeping silent doesn’t necessarily mean that a person keeps listening. Our thought life has a profound impact on our listening skills, maybe more than we want to admit.

I googled synonyms for the word “listen”, and here goes:

Give one’s attention to a sound, pay attention to, take heed of, heed, take notice of, take note of, mindmark, bear in mind, take into consideration, take into account, tune into

We can drown out God’s voice with our own – the voices in our head and our busy mouth; but we are missing out if we do. There is a world of knowledge and wisdom available to us if we are curious enough to take the time to stop and soak it up. 

The art of silence that takes the things of God into account has a profound impact on our lives. And who would have guessed – honing our listening skills with God also upgrades our people skills. We take the time to listen we find that we have a better understanding of the person next to us.

In a world that’s deeply divided with angry voices competing for our attention, paradoxically, listeners who don’t join the angry choir but lend an unbiased ear have a far better reception. Listeners make things better. Their wisdom contributes to solving the trickiest problems. Listeners promote peace.

Let’s take a mouth break, shall we? Let’s take time to listen today.

Romans 12:10: “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

In Queen’s rendition of the Bohemian Rhapsody we are presented with a murder case. The song powerfully expresses the contradictory feelings of a man who had just killed a person. Following is a brief excerpt of the lyrics penned by the late Freddie Mercury:

“Mama, just killed a man
Put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead
Mama, life had just begun
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away”

We sometimes forget that by proceeding down the slippery slope of anger and hate we’re all prone to kill someone. The best way to prevent this disaster from happening is to pursue the opposite direction: Investing genuine interest in other people and loving generously is the way to go. The trick is not to differentiate between people because God doesn’t. God loves humans indiscriminately, always has, and always will. We’re supposed to follow His example once we jump on His bandwagon. Of course we have our reservations when it comes to loving everybody. Jesus had a conversation about this very topic with a teacher of the law.

Discussing the specifics of loving God and particularly our neighbors, a teacher of the law spoke up and asked Jesus: “Who’s my neighbor?” In an attempt to narrow down on the amount of people to be loved he asked Jesus this very loaded question. “Who is my neighbor?” really leaves a lot of room for individual interpretation, if you think about it. Basically, we pick and choose whom to love and whom to pass by. In other words, we categorize people, apply tags, and consider some of them not worthy of our love.

Well, Jesus’s answer is a classic. He told the story of an unnamed person who got mugged and left on the road to die. After having been conveniently ignored first by a priest and then by a Levite, a despised Samaritan finally came to his rescue.

At the end of the story Jesus answered the law expert’s question with a question of His own (Luke 10:36-37):

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

God has created no sub humans. Our job is to love everybody. How that works, I don’t know. I would say it’s humanly impossible. But we can start with the people right next door. And as we walk with Jesus, the Master in Human Relations, we can learn from Him. No doubt, loving people is a wild ride and it will break our hearts more than anything, but according to our Creator, it’s all worth it. Love doesn’t kill, which immediately cuts down on murder cases; love honors and respects people regardless of status, gender and tribe; love brings life, literally – thanks to love we have families; love rules, and most definitely: love makes this world a better place.

Galatians 5:13: “It is to freedom that you have been called, my brothers. Only be careful that freedom does not become mere opportunity for your lower nature. You should be free to serve each other in love. For after all, the whole Law toward others is summed up by this one command, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.”

Thanks to God there’s freedom. God is a freedom lover. In His realm every creature is free. So in order to explore what freedom is all about, it’s best to look to the source of freedom and go from there.

The first thing I notice, to be free does not necessarily mean we are lawless. Exploring the laws of nature we become aware that the whole universe is fine-tuned. The universe contains organized structures on all different scales, from small systems like the earth and our solar system, to galaxies that contain trillions of stars, and finally extremely large structures that contain billions of galaxies. Planets of any given solar system orbit the Sun. Thanks to the way our home planet Earth orbits the Sun, our terrestrial days fall into 24-hour sequences. Plants use the sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water to produce the lush green pigment chlorophyll generating oxygen as a byproduct, the very oxygen land mammals breathe in. And what do we breathe out? Carbon dioxide! The very carbon dioxide plants use to synthesize foods. What a genius idea to create a partnership like that between vegetation and land mammals! And this is just a little tidbit of the inner workings of nature to illustrate that there is an underlying law to everything we see. Without an underlying law there wouldn’t be a universe to begin with – and no life form to give freedom to.

The inner workings of freedom are based on the law of love. We’re never truly free unless we give love. A freedom lover is a lover of God and people. Just as the laws of nature promote life on Earth, the love law “Love your neighbor as yourself” promotes freedom. It’s a well-known secret: the more love you share, the more love you have. This is contrary to common experience: we spend money and our money dwindles. We spend love and our love increases. Go figure!

Needless to say that the more time we spend in trying to satisfy ourselves rather than to satisfy someone else’s needs, we won’t see the end of it. Catering to our own needs and urges is like a vortex that sucks us in. Our world gets smaller and smaller and we become enslaved to our own ever-growing demands. That’s the opposite to freedom, and it’s hell!

Once we realize how invigorating it is to give something to someone that only unique “you” is capable of giving, we won’t stop sharing. For me it’s the best thing in the world to sing for people with memory challenges. Music plays a key role in these short encounters. Within 60 minutes of playing and singing we are getting to know each other as we dwell in the world of music. What a precious moment in time! I leave there richer than when I came. That’s what happens to everyone who goes out and shares something.

Giving is freeing. Try it and you’ll be amazed!

1 Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”

Have you ever pictured the Trinity as a hierarchy? I know I have. We tend to think in these lines since this is what we’re familiar with; and so we have trouble understanding how God operates. While God is everywhere and knows everything and potentially could run and rule every tiny little detail of His creation, He refrains from doing so. It’s very characteristic of God to delegate. A prominent example: His hands-off approach with planet Earth. He gave humans this planet as an assignment and made them chief administrators (Genesis 1:28):

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Members of God’s kingdom see themselves as caretakers of this planet, not owners – ruling out human greed, the seedbed of many wars and conflicts.

While human civilizations have been largely institutionalized, by contrast Heaven is not, which is why Church does not work very well as an institution. Church is best represented by believers focused on loving God and people. Throughout history, human institutions have repeatedly failed, especially in the area of unity. God’s concept of peace on the other hand took on flesh and blood with the arrival of the Prince of Peace, Jesus. He preached in His sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:9):

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Here is some exciting news: By pursuing peace God’s kingdom begins to form and establish wherever we go. That is why being a peacemaker is so powerful. For the same reasons, Paul wrote a letter to his Greek friends and asked them to avoid division; God knows, living by this code profoundly impacts the world we live in and ushers in the Kingdom to come!

Matthew 19:23-24: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

According to Oxfam Finds 1% of the world population will have accumulated more than half of the world’s wealth in years to come. This deepening global inequality is increasing and unlike anything seen in recent years.

Jesus once told a rich man that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. That’s a strong statement! Does that mean that God is partial to the poor and less accepting of rich people? I don’t think so. I believe the point He wants to get across is that we are creating a lonely society via self-sufficiency. Our desire to be independent and run a one-man-show gets all of us into trouble. Realizing we’re incomplete without God, a rich person may have a harder time recognizing this crucial piece of wisdom.

The rich young man Jesus encountered had one question weighing on him. Specifically, he asked Jesus what needed to be done to secure his place in the Kingdom of God. Jesus kept it general in His initial answer when He pointed out that we receive eternal life by keeping God’s commandments. Interestingly, the rich young man was dissatisfied with Jesus’ answer as he kept digging. “What else must I do?” he asked. Jesus’s reply to his follow-up question quickly ended the conversation (Matthew 19:21):

“Jesus told him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’”

Matthew’s gospel records describe how the young man went away depressed knowing that he would not want to separate from his many possessions.

We don’t need to be rich to share in a rich man’s worldview. The question Jesus is asking is whether or not we are willing to share. If we use money just to make more money we are in the same boat with the rich young man. Driven by self-serving ambitions, our life’s direction will take us further and further away from God. Similar to the rich man who walked away from Jesus, we will be walking away from God depressed and sad. It’s no secret that riches and fame won’t make us happy.

If every person on this planet had the sharing mindset Jesus is talking about the world wouldn’t suffer with rising global inequality. Let’s not hold on too tight to what we’ve got. Dare to share! It makes a world of a difference.

“A man of riches may claim a crown of jewels; but the king of heaven can be told from the prince of fools.” (Song lyrics by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings)

Hebrews 6:10: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

Bad movies are usually set up with a flawless hero and a super-bad anti-hero with no shred of goodness left. This is a figment of our imagination. There is no such thing as one-dimensional people. People are many things, which is why it is not easy to judge them. I dare say that our judgement calls are flawed. God on the other hand is our perfect judge. Without prejudice and knowing the entire picture, He is the only One who understands our actions and knows us through and through.

The person who sat down and wrote a letter to a people called “Hebrews” was probably steeped in Jewish culture and knew all the hot button issues. One of those topics: Judgement and Justice. Even when all we see is blurry lines, God, like a skilled surgeon, cuts through those gray zones and delivers a perfect verdict. A person so judged is perfectly understood. Actions are not just exposed as they appear to be; its intentions are also laid bare. Sometimes bad things happen with good intentions. Sometimes good things are motivated by selfishness and deceit. Weighing one against the other, God’s mercies come to full fruition.

God is as merciful as He is justice-oriented. On one hand we have His brilliant mind, profound wisdom and impeccable discernment, and on the other His mercies show up every single morning. God sends rain to the good and bad, which is something we tend to grapple with.

I believe there is a reason that God’s name is “I am”. He Is Who He Is, Has Been, And Going To Be. He fits no box. However, if we need a more descriptive name, here it is: God is love. All of His actions, including His judgment calls, are motivated by love. His intentions towards us are always good. God does not judge us to condemn. He bears in mind where we are coming from and goes from there when He interacts with us. He never forgets anything good we’ve come up with. He wants us to thrive, so anything He does on our behalf is growth-oriented. That’s the God we are dealing with!

Sometimes it’s helpful to remember how God interacts with us when we’re about to lose our patience. It’s thanks to God’s patience that we’re still here; and our patience towards another human being will indeed go a long way!

Romans 11:33: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”

Are all mysteries solved? Ask any scientist, and they will tell you “no”. There is always stuff to learn and new things to discover. That’s the happy side effect of living in a God-created universe.

God comes in layers. After all, God is Trinity. When people meet God, it’s on God’s terms. He reveals what He wants to reveal. For me, I had a meeting with God the Father when He revealed Himself to me. It’s what I needed most. But it didn’t stop there. That’s one beautiful layer of God. Walking with Him, I get to peel back more and more layers. I’ve learned to appreciate the Holy Spirit and I’ve encountered the Son of God, Jesus. Peeling back layer after layer, I’ve come to find out, there are always more layers to the Almighty One. Never be afraid to dig deeper! Even though there’s no end to the digging, getting to know God is the most thrilling experience I know.

The same goes with exploring our world. Everything God created comes in layers. Digging into the micro cosmos and macro cosmos, there is no end to scientific discoveries. Literally, the sky is the limit! Obviously, God is limitless, endless, timeless, and impossible to fathom – so is His creation. However, we are encouraged to dig. We are encouraged to discover. Ultimately, we discover His foot prints everywhere. Every stone has His signature. Every leaf carries His thumbprint.

God may be mysterious, but He is no introvert. He does not hold back His blessings. He gave us His Son so we can find Him. On the other hand, God is no extrovert either. He spreads His hints everywhere, but He is not in plain sight. We need to look for Him to find Him.

I encourage you to go out and seek Him. God can be found. You will discover that finding Him is the adventure of a lifetime.

Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Life is a dance. What sets dancing apart from the regular steps we take – dance steps go with a song. Dance and music are inseparable. It’s better to dance than to walk and it’s better to sing than to talk. I know some people would like to disagree and it’s mostly people hung up on talent. We’re watching those talent shows and marvel over powerful vocal performances and see dancers hit the dance floor who don’t seem to have a contract with gravity. Flawlessly in time, their bodies swaying, their feet effortlessly working the floor, dancers are in their element like fish in the water. And the same goes for singers. They hit the notes like there is no tomorrow.

Well, this is not about talent. To dance through life and to sing our song is an attitude, and it begins with the Lord of the universe.

God actually started the song and He danced the first dance. God is the author of music. He invented it.

God always had dance partners, and He sang harmony from the get go when all Three of the Trinity chimed in. The beautiful thing about God dancing and singing is His generosity in inviting all of His creation to the dance floor. At some point in time the Trinity began to call things into being and has been extremely prolific creating ever since. The hustling and bustling world around us is a vivid reminder. Nature swaying to the heartbeat of the universe, the Lord has invited all of us to His dance floor.

God is asking us for a dance. And then, when we say “yes”, He is so happy that He starts singing. He sings over us. He composes a brand-new song, especially created for the occasion. He sings this song because He is happy we’re with Him. He’s glad that we’re dancing with Him. He does not take our trust we put in Him for granted.

Dancing with God, we’re learning the dance steps as we go. Every day is a new dance. Every day we get up and adjust to changes; we never stop learning. The hardest dance steps to learn in this life would be our dance with death. Our last day rolls around, and we’ll dance into a new tomorrow.

Regardless what kind of day we’re facing let’s never forget that God is with us every step of the way.

Ecclesiastes 11:5: “Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.”

Life is a mystery – it’s because all life comes from God, and God is mysterious. Personally, I keep away from those “why-questions” and stop asking why this or that happened. What if nothing ever happened? We would have a bunch of nothingness!

Thankfully, God happened. He decided at some point that He wanted to add relationships to the one already existing among the Trinity.  And the rest is history! Over time the Trinity called a wide variety of specimen into being and developed them into various species – angels, humans, the animal kingdom, and all the unknown species we’re blissfully unaware of. And the Trinity bonded with all of their creation. God’s heart is huge, bigger than this universe. The stories and letters penned down in the books of the Bible give us a small glimpse of that. Scriptures reveal God’s heart to the curious and God-pursuing reader. Here are some facets of His big heart:

  • Being connected with His animal kingdom God is not unaware of tiny birds falling from the sky (Matthew 10:29): “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.”
  • We see God mourning over the loss of a relationship with one of His angels, namely Lucifer. Lucifer’s fallout is recorded in the book of Isaiah. There God laments (Isaiah 14:12): “How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world.”
  • Scriptures mirror the joys of God’s relationship with humans – (Isaiah 65:19): “I will rejoice over Jerusalem and delight in my people”– while also expressing its woes (Psalm 78:40): “Oh, how often they rebelled against him [God] in the wilderness and grieved his heart in that dry wasteland.”
  • God celebrates restored relationships as seen in the story Jesus told of the lost and found son. In this story recorded in Luke’s gospel one of the main characters who was believed lost and gone forever showed up in his hometown one day, back at his father’s doorstep. His father’s reaction was profoundly joyful (Luke 15:24): “We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” Jesus told this story to illustrate God’s compassion.

God took a risk when He created beings capable of making decisions on their own. In the aftermath of Lucifer’s and mankind’s downfall we may or may not appreciate God’s treasured freedom of choice. However, I’m assuming that if God took such a tremendous risk, even when it backfired, it’s probably worth it. So, He made beings, free to love or reject Him, with all the nasty side-effects. As a result, today’s world is filled with wonderful and amazing stories but we also witness deeply troubled and depressingly heartbreaking ones. The mystery in the mess is God’s involvement. He didn’t create the mess but He’s more than happy to see us through. How He sees us through we don’t know. He relates differently to you than He does to me. God does not create copycats. And God does not have microwaved solutions. He is as creative as ever and writes a new story with every newborn. As long or as short as the story may be, it will always be one-of-a-kind because God’s relations to His creations are each unique, similar to how we bond differently with each person we know.

Like it or not, we’re part of God’s mystery. People relinquishing control and trusting in God get swept away by the waves of His affections. He’s like the wind as He guides us through life. We might as well enjoy the ride! We may not know what tomorrow holds but walking with God we do know where we are headed. We know our destination is home. And home is where God resides – our home is in Heaven.

Philippians 3:20: “But we belong to heaven. And we are waiting for the Savior to come from heaven. He is the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Psalm 139:13-14: “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

The other day I was watching an advertisement praising the efficiency of a certain bug trap. This product is designed to attract those unwanted critters and kill them, at which point they fall into an internal trash bin so the bug corpses can be easily discarded. This is when it struck me: We have designed a bug killing machine because we don’t like bugs. However, none of us could ever create a single fruit fly.

Needless to say every life form is complex and a wonder to behold. When it comes to human beings we tend to be narcissist saying we’re the crown of creation. I like to think that every part of creation is a jewel. We have a big backyard and I love the plant life. Our plants attract birds and butterflies, and I’m delighted to see them in the morning when I take my breakfast out on the porch. If we interviewed God and asked Him which part of creation is His favorite, I’m certain His answer would be He is partial to everything He made.

The Psalmist prays: “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!” Being thankful for our complexity includes awareness. Without noticing that we’re complex, how could we be thankful for it? So ever since there were people, we looked at ourselves. We notice our physical makeup, our cell structure, our DNA. We explore how our organs are functioning and communicating with one another. We are exploring our bodies to intervene when there is malfunction; hence the medical profession was born.

We are wonderfully complex. Let’s not forget that when looking at our world at large. Our own bodies are complex and yet it works as a unity when our bodies are healthy. Sickness in some shape or form robs our bodies of this unity. As a result, our bodies die. Without unity, the world as we know it dies a little at a time.

Complexity is beautiful. Embracing complexity and working together from different angles speaking different languages, that’s the magic of unity without conformity. God’s kingdom is wonderfully complex. Let’s open our senses wide and take in what is there to explore. Let’s find out and be curious together. And let’s put ourselves in the pool of complexity by sharing what the Lord has uniquely put in our DNA. That’s what Life with a capital “L” is all about.

Genesis 41:51-52: “Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, ‘God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father’s family.’ Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, ‘God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief.’”

The other day Joseph’s son accidentally ran into a stranger as he was running backwards to catch a ball. The stranger, clearly annoyed, yelled at him: “Hey you! What’s your name?” “I Forget” “No really! What’s your name?” “My name’s I forget” “You’re weird! How can you forget your own name?”

Of course I made this up, but couldn’t a conversation like this potentially happen if you apply names to your children that mean a lot to you but maybe not so much to your children? The names of the two brothers Ephraim and Manasseh represent his father Joseph’s life experience. And what a life experience he had! A roller coaster of events: from favorite son back home to slave in a foreign country; from a no-name slave in Egypt to Potiphar’s Personal Attendant; from Potiphar’s Personal Attendant to a forgotten prisoner in an Egyptian dungeon; from a forgotten prisoner to the Prison Warden‘s Assistant Manager; from the Prison Warden’s Assistant Manager to Pharaoh’s Second in Command. That’s Joseph’s story, and so he named his kids “Forget” and “Fruitful” because God made him forget the past and made him fruitful in a foreign country. His own name was changed from Joseph to Zaphenath-paneah as if to make the transition into his new life complete. A different name, a different life, a different identity!

Well, not quite! Joseph’s past would catch up with him when a worldwide famine brought his brothers to his doorsteps – the same brothers who sold him to teach him a lesson. The lesson they tried to get across to Joseph: “You may be Dad’s favorite but you’re not better than we are!” As it turned out, they too had a lesson to learn.

Lesson #1: You will be treated just the same way you’ve been treating others. 

Lesson#2: Lies will eventually catch up to you.

More than two decades went by when a time of testing came for both parties: Would Joseph bear a grudge? Would his brothers finally get real? The story fortunately ends on a happy note: his brothers confessed the ugly truth they had kept hidden from their father Jacob for so long; and Joseph completely forgave them. As a result the family was reunited, a dead relationship rekindled and his family saved from starvation in a seven-year drought.

Joseph lived up to his new name Zaphenath-paneah which loosely translated means: “God speaks life”, and Joseph certainly spoke life into a very bad situation! What kind of words do we speak over a hopeless mess? Do we pray to God who sees potential? When God speaks, life flourishes.  That’s His very nature.  We see the world around us as living proof. Connected with Him we become His life agents. We struggle with unemployment, our health, our finances, and we find that God is navigating us through very confusing times – if we dare to look up. Joseph put his trust in God when people meant to harm him.

The truth is, we do not need to be in control. Even though it’s quite unsettling to let things go, at the same time it’s a huge relief! We believe in the same God Joseph believed in, and our faith will transform into our very own life’s story and encourage more people than we’ll ever know!

Isaiah 43:2: “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”

Joshua 5: 13-14: “Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’ – ‘Neither one,’ he replied. ‘I am the commander of the Lord’s army.’”

When Joshua addressed the Angel of the Lord he assumed God is taking sides. He was mistaken. The angel made it very clear when asked on whose side he is on: Israel’s or Israel’s enemies: The answer was: neither!

Let’s remember that before taking sides: God is on both sides.  God is for you, and “you” means everybody. There is no exclusion in the kingdom of God. There is no hierarchy as we know it, no club of insiders versus excluded outsiders. The kingdom of God values every creature in this universe, including this hot spot called Planet Earth. God loves His angels, His vegetation, His animal kingdom, His people without a shred of favoritism.  However, His capacity to love is grander than the universe because while He loves everything and everybody, He also uniquely loves singular you. We can relate to this fact if we look at our own relationships. You have a different connection to every person you know. That is the way God’s love operates.

The triune God can’t be divided. Neither can His children be divided.  The body of Christ is one.  Frictions in God’s kingdom are man-made and will definitely end in Heaven. Can you imagine Heaven divided? The beauty of Heaven is harmony with diversity. The lion and the lamb sit side by side. The nations of the world are talking to each other, hearing each other out, respecting each other. Everybody is fully loved, fully accepted, on the peak of potential, producing and contributing to the new world called Kingdom of Heaven.  That is the future of mankind.

Isaiah 11:6: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calfand the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.”

2 Chronicles 7:14: “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

There is a communication flow going on between Heaven and Earth, and we’re in that flow as we pray. Intercession is part of it, but I would venture to say that intercession is not the essential part of that communication flow.  Comparatively speaking, if our only communication in a marriage relationship was to issue a To-Do-List to our spouse every day, love would probably go out the window after a while.

Don’t you hate those fruitless conversations which after a while turn into mere monologues? One person does the talking, the other person’s job is to listen. Maybe occasionally the listener is asked for some feedback, but mostly this person is expected to be the sounding board.

Thankfully, God is no sounding board. The communication flow between Heaven and Earth goes both ways: God speaks to us, and we listen; we speak to God, and He listens. While it is certainly OK to vent to Him and spill all our beans, prayer is a two-way-conversation. God wants to impress His wisdom, and we need an open mind to receive His directions.

Dishonesty presents a major obstacle to our communication flow with God. We can lie to our neighbor, we can lie to ourselves, but lying to God does not work. Actually, lying never works – and hiding from God does not work either. Adam and Eve were prime examples. And why would we want to hide? Why would we be afraid of Him? There is absolutely no question about God’s merciful attitude. Unlike people, God is not quick to condemn and His patience is astounding. He forgives and forgets and gives us a fighting chance as we go through our daily battles. And as we do, we just keep the prayers coming. This will positively affect our lives and the world around us.

We can pray anywhere, anytime. Let’s not give up on praying!