Adoption is More Important Than You Think

by Kathy Collard Miller

Did you know that in the Roman culture when Paul wrote his letters, a Roman father could disinherit a son born into the family but an adopted child could not be disinherited? The idea was a father had no choice as to what he received when a baby was born naturally into the family. If the child grew up and disgraced the family, the father could justify disinheriting him by saying, “I didn’t know he had all these flaws, otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen him.”

But an adopted child was chosen specifically with full knowledge of his strengths, weaknesses, appearance, and anything else a family considered important. Therefore, a father could not justify disinheriting him. A father could never say, “I didn’t know what I was getting.”

This fact refers to a significant meaning for Paul’s words in his letter to the Ephesians: “he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (1:5 ESV).

Paul’s wording didn’t just say we are sons (or daughters). He included the fact we are adopted. Paul fully knew the Roman culture—he was Jewish yet had Roman citizenship. His readers knew the significance of not only becoming a son but an adopted son—a position which could not be taken away regardless of performance or flaws.

I hope this speaks to you as much as it speaks to me. God wants us to know we cannot be disinherited—we cannot lose our salvation! He chose us fully knowing we would not be perfect. But he also wants us to desire to please him out of gratitude for the great salvation he has given us. As we live in that assurance, we’ll give glory to God.

When you read through Ephesians 1, it’s striking how often God’s glory is mentioned. You’ll find it in:

  1. 6: his grace brings him glory
    vs. 12: we are to the praise of his glory
    vs. 14: the gift of the Holy Spirit brings praise to his glory
    vs. 17: God is the Father of glory
    vs. 18: we can know the riches of his glory revealed in our inheritance.

What glorious connections to our inheritance.

If you are a Christian, you are secure. You may not always “feel” it, but you are regardless of your feelings. Because you are chosen and adopted.

…God sent forth His Son…so that we might receive the adoptions as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Galatians 4:4-6 NASB

Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller is passionate about helping women know their inheritance in Christ. She has spoken in over 30 US states and 8 foreign countries including China and Indonesia. Her 53 books include Christian Living titles and the Daughters of the King Bible study series. Connect with her at KathyCollardMiller.com

Join the conversation: What does your adoption into God’s family mean to you?

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God Answers While We Live Life

by Cheri Swalwell

“The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Judges 6:11-12 (NIV)

I’ve been struggling spiritually for a while. God has been speaking dreams and desires into my life. Passions and dreams that include writing, speaking, and something more I can’t name. Passions planted eight years ago by God after a sincere prayer of wanting my life to matter for Him, however He chose. Passions which have now become my passions and longings and gifts and talents to offer back to Him. Passions I don’t want to let go because they excite me.

A few years ago, God moved me to give those dreams and desires back to Him. In a small way, I felt it was much like when God asked Abraham to offer his son Isaac, the son of promise he’d waited so long to receive (Genesis 22). In my “Isaac moment,” I chose to believe that in giving back the dreams God had planted in my heart, He would  either give those desires back in His time or replace them with something better than I could ever imagine.

Then recently, God started whispering that I should get ready because change was coming. And I keep hearing that whisper, but nothing beyond that, which has me feeling like I’m in a sort of limbo. Have I missed something? Lost out on an opportunity? Or should I assume God is working in the background and just hasn’t given the signal to “move” yet?

Sometimes I get so fixated on the unseen future that it almost paralyzes me in the here and now.

But this week, God gave impressed a new truth on me as I read about Gideon in the book of Judges. Judges 6:11-12 states, “The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

It was while Gideon was living ordinary life, actually hiding away from the enemy, the angel appeared to give him an assignment.

God then reminded me about others: Noah, Esther, and Mary. The Bible isn’t specific about what Noah was doing when God approached him, so that makes me think he was busy with life, working to provide for his family. Esther was living in the palace with her eunuchs and female attendants when God called her to step up into her assignment. God announced His plan for Mary, the future mother of Jesus, while she lived with her family, quietly preparing for her wedding.

Each of these people was living in the here and now, simply determining each day to be faithful to Him in the ordinary.

No one missed the message, not one blew their calling. He was kind of hard to miss.

Bottom line? When I’m fully surrendered to Him, I’m living to fulfill His purpose, no matter how seemingly mundane it may be. And what better way to be ready to hear when a call for new service comes? When I keep my focus on Him, my heart is attuned to His. And no matter where He has me in any given moment, He will use me for His glory.

cheri swalwellAbout the author: Cheri Swalwell is a Christ follower who thoroughly enjoys her calling to be a wife, mother, and writer, in that order. She has the privilege to write regularly for Book Fun Magazine and her devotional book series, Spoken from the Heart, as well as two other books, Hope During Heartache and Caring for the Caregiver are available through Amazon. She would love to connect with you through her website, www.cheriswalwell.com, through email: clSwalwell99@gmail.com, or Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/cheri-Swalwell.

Join the conversation: What has been your experience in hearing God’s calling?

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A Tale of Two Kings

by Sheri Schofield

Yesterday, a close friend said, “Sheri, you have changed recently. I am seeing something new.”

I replied, “I wish I could take the credit for that, but it is the Lord working in me.” I’ve followed Jesus since age four, and the Holy Spirit is still not finished with me even as a grandmother! As long as I cooperate with Him, the Holy Spirit will continue to change and refine my heart until the day I step into God’s presence.

I am reminded of two kings in the Bible. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had an alarming dream night. He saw a huge tree with beasts and birds of the field sheltering under it. Birds nested in its branches. The tree was full of fruit for all the animals.

But suddenly an angel had come out of heaven and ordered the tree to be cut down and for Nebuchadnezzar to be given the mind of an animal (See Daniel 4).  In great fear as to what the dream might mean, Nebuchadnezzar sent for the one man who could help him understand it: Daniel.

Daniel was honest with the king. He told Nebuchadnezzar that because of his pride, God had issued an order that the king would lose his mind and be driven from mankind and his home and dwell with the animals of the field. There he would stay for seven years, until he admitted that the Most High God is ruler over all the kingdoms of men. Not until the king acknowledged God’s power and sovereignty would his kingdom be restored.

That is exactly what happened. In the end, Nebuchadnezzar did give testimony of God’s great power and sent the message out to his entire kingdom. He became a true believer.

But there’s another king in the Bible who went the opposite way when God confronted him: Pharaoh of Egypt (See Exodus 5). God sent Moses to Pharaoh. Moses’ people, the Israelites, were slaves in Egypt. Moses said to Pharaoh, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.”

But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go!”

God gave Pharaoh many chances to change his mind. God sent plagues, one after the other, giving Pharaoh nine opportunities to change his mind. It was not until the tenth plague hit and Pharaoh’s firstborn son died that Pharaoh let Israel go. Yet, after all this, Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his army after the Hebrews, only to see his vast army perish in the sea.

Neither Nebuchadnezzar nor Pharaoh were role models of virtue! Yet we will meet Nebuchadnezzar in heaven but not Pharaoh. Why? Because one, with all his great faults, humbled himself before God and believed. The other did not.

God does not require people to clean up their lives before they come to Him. But the one thing He does require is for us to approach Him in humility. We must acknowledge our sin and understand we cannot earn His forgiveness.  We bring nothing to the table.

All the rest — the clean-up — is the job of the Holy Spirit working in us, washing us clean, giving us new purity and effectiveness.  So let us be patient with one another . . . and with ourselves. For God is not finished yet! The work is His. The response is ours.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.        Philippians 1:6 NASB

sheri schofieldAbout the author: Children’s ministry veteran Sheri Schofield was unexpectedly called on to save her husband’s life, a battle that took her to the Pentagon, Congress, National Security and the President of the United States. At her website, www.SheriSchofield.com, she shares this journey in her book One Step Ahead of the Devil. Sheri’s new book, The Prince And The Plan, was launched June 1. It is designed to help parents lead their children into a saving relationship with Jesus.

Join the conversation: What makes you cling to the Rock?

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How to Stop Negative Self-Talk

by Debbie W. Wilson

Who hasn’t experienced negative self-talk? Years ago, a knowledgeable guide delighted our group of moms and kids on a fieldtrip to a local historic site. But I sensed her emptiness and wanted to talk to her about the Lord. My conversation didn’t go as I’d hoped.

Accusations pelted me as I drove away, “Why did you say that? You really botched an opportunity. You’re a poor excuse for a Christian.”

Have you ever left a conversation where you wanted to help someone know God better and been besieged by negative thoughts? Or maybe you attended a Bible study and left feeling like you shouldn’t have opened your mouth.

Have you ever wondered what’s up with that?

The Bible says, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephes. 6:12 NIV). We have an enemy who doesn’t want people to know the truth about God. When we try to grow closer to Him or tell others about Him we invite spiritual attacks. This knowledge shouldn’t scare us but prepare us.

Paul told us how to win the battle in our minds: “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5 NIV).

Here are two filters to help you recognize and defeat damaging self-talk.

Know the truth. Those trained to identify counterfeit money study real money. The better we know the truth the quicker we’ll discern lies. God’s Word is truth. Notice the difference between what Satan said to Jesus and what the Father said about Jesus.

Satan: “If you are the Son of God…” The Father: “This is my dearly loved Son.”

Do you know what the Father has said about you? Do you know the truth about how He sees you? When we know the truth we’ll recognize the lies.

Know the Shepherd’s Voice It’s not enough to know what the Bible says. We must know the character of the One who wrote it.

Satan knows the Bible better than we do. He quoted Psalm 91 to tempt Jesus. But Jesus knew Scripture was never intended to tempt, harm, or condemn God’s children. God’s word corrects, comforts, instructs, and strengthens us.

Do you hear a harsh tone when you read the Bible? Are your thoughts condemning and accusing? That is not the voice of our gentle Shepherd. The better we know our shepherd’s voice the quicker we’ll take every thought captive.

The better we know Jesus, the quicker we discern and defeat our enemy.

We must learn to filter our thoughts. Ideas that argue against the truth or don’t line up with our Shepherd’s voice must be captured and made to submit to Him.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (Jn. 10:27 NIV).

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson speaks, coaches, and writes to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever engaged in negative self-talk after a conversation or contributing to a group discussion?

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When You Can’t Go Any Further

by Cindi McMenamin

Nancy had been on long rides before. But nothing like this.

For months, she had pedaled it hard on an upright bike at the health club, training for the 40-mile bicycle ride with her friend, Donna, across Whidby Island in Washington State. But the workouts on the stationary bike didn’t prepare her for the steep uphill climbs she was encountering on this ride.

Nancy’s friend, Barb – and her husband, Rick – followed Nancy and Donna on the long-grueling ride up the hills, offering support by driving ahead of them in a pickup truck, then coming back and briefing them what they would encounter around the next corner.

But after a couple steep climbs, Nancy was exhausted. Each time they made a turn and started up a hill again, she struggled, without saying a word. Donna rode on ahead of her, apparently unaware of her struggle.

But Rick saw it. And after driving back down another time to tell the women what lay ahead, this time he did something different. He stopped the truck, got out, picked up Nancy’s bike, and put it in the back of his truck. Then he let her into the truck, and drove her up the hill. Once they were up, he got out, lifted her bike out of the truck and put it back on the ground for her to resume her ride.

“He did that over and over again and never said a word,” Nancy told me later, with tears in her eyes. “That was grace.”

Nancy was right. That was grace.

We often face struggles. And in our pride we are determined to pedal harder and wear ourselves out working through them. Sometimes we complain to others. Sometimes, like Nancy, we don’t say a word. But God knows what lies ahead, around the next bend. And instead of saying “Come on, you can do it, pedal harder!” God quietly carries us up those hills.

In Isaiah 40:29-31, we are told that God gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. And even though the young and energetic may fall, those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength as if they’re soaring on eagles’ wings.

Are you struggling through something right now because you’re trying to do it completely by yourself? If so, recognize help where it exists. And just yield. Yield to the One who knows what lies ahead and is there to carry you up the hill.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness….” 2 Corinthians 12:9 CSV  

Lord, thank You for always being there to not just encourage me, but to carry me at times. Help me to humble myself and rely on Your help to get me through whatever lies ahead of me.   

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindiAbout the author: Cindi McMenamin is an award-winning writer and national speaker who helps women strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is the author of 16 books including When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), God’s Whispers to a Woman’s Heart, and When You’re Running on Empty. For more on her books and ministry, or to learn more about her coaching and consulting services for writers, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Join the conversation: Has God ever carried you when you could not go on alone?

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Expectations

by Fran Sandin

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit…” (1 Corinthians 2: 9,10 NIV).

Margaree Harbor—the name slid off my tongue like a spoonful of ice cream on a hot summer day. We were in a time before online reservations and photos, but the name on the advertisement had me envisioning a perfect get-away on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. The details described it as situated on a hill facing the harbor. I imagined beautiful lights, moonlight shimmering on the water, and yachts skimming along the sea or peacefully docked in their berths. Yes! It sounded like the perfect romantic stop along our journey.

However, as my husband, Jim, and I arrived to our destination, we saw no people and no houses. We thought the city must be in the other direction, so we again tried to follow the map, all the while thinking…surely this is not the place. As gravel pebbles popped beneath our car tires, we viewed the “harbor”—a dried up ravine with an abandoned, rusty, fishing boat lying on its side, a string of colored Christmas-tree lights swinging from bow to stern. No water in sight, but lots of weeds.

Then we looked up the hill to a tall, narrow, frame house with dingy, white-flaking paint, the windows askew, and a sagging front porch. Jim, and I looked at each other and struggled to smile. We double-checked the address. Yes, this was it.

When we gained the courage to knock on the front door, a man in overalls answered and cordially showed us our room upstairs with a shared bathroom down the hall. The three-story monster was a 1927 farmhouse, filled with what were the original furnishings. Thankfully, no one else came to stay and share our bathroom. We endured one night there but enjoyed our other destinations.

From that vacation on, our experience caused me to be skeptical when reading travel descriptions.

But there is a travel destination, one worthy of our trust, described in the Bible. It is the perfect location, visited by reservation only. Heaven. The Bible tells us this special place is created by God Himself. Jesus is there now, preparing a place for us to dwell (John 14:2).

The Holy Bible contains no false or misleading information. Heaven is a real place, reserved for believers who have repented of sins and trusted in Jesus as our Savior, because He paid the penalty for our sins with his own blood. If we believe in our hearts that Jesus was the Son of God, died and was resurrected, then our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Acts 16:31).

God does not want anyone to perish, but all to be saved. With the life of the Spirit in us, we have already have eternity in our hearts today.

Dear Father, thank you that your Word is true and we can depend on it. In a world that is always changing and sometimes deceitful, YOU never change—We can trust you. You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. In sending your dear son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sins, we are given the opportunity to make a reservation in Heaven, a place of magnificence because we will gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. No disappointments there. Thank you, dear Lord. In Jesus’ name, A-men. 

fran sandlinAbout the author: Fran Caffey Sandin is a retired nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother in Greenville, Texas. She enjoys baking, flower arranging, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Jim. Fran is a church organist, a core group leader for Community Bible Study, and author of See You Later, Jeffrey, and Touching the Clouds: True Stories to Strengthen Your Faith. and has co-authored others. Jim and Fran are parents of two sons awaiting them in Heaven; a married daughter and son-in-law, and three fabulous grandchildren.

Visit Fran at her website:  www.fransandin.com

Join the conversation: What are you looking forward to when you get to heaven?

 

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Making New Friends in New Places

by Kathy Howard

Determined to meet my new neighbors, one Sunday afternoon I made a big batch of banana-chocolate chip muffins. Warm muffins would be my offering of friendship, my reason to knock on their door. While the muffins baked, I wrote our name and contact information on little note cards and attached them to the top of the plastic containers.

That afternoon I walked six long driveways. I stood in front of six doors waiting for a neighbor to respond to my knock. But no one answered. Feeling lonely and defeated, I went home, made a cup of coffee, ate two muffins, then stored the rest in the freezer.

A few weeks before that Sunday afternoon, we had moved to a new town. This makes new start number eight. Throughout my husband’s career, his job moved us seven times. Then my husband retired and we moved again. This move may actually be our last.

Moving and starting over can offer wonderful opportunities, but there are also challenges. Making and building new friendships is one of them. Thankfully, some of my other efforts to meet new people and make new friends have turned out better than the muffin fiasco.

Throughout our moves, God has taught me to take the initiative. It’s not that the people around me don’t want my friendship or care that I’m new. Most are simply settled in with a full life and a circle of friends.

I am naturally shy, so reaching out and taking the initiative in new friendships always feels risky – like standing in front of a stranger’s door, smiling at a security camera, warm muffins in hand. Will they open the door? Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.

Yet I continue to take the risk because I’ve experienced the value of friendship. In each place we’ve lived, God has graciously given me beautiful, lasting friendships I still enjoy. But no matter how wonderful these relationships are, I need local friends. I need women in my day-to-day life.

God designed us for relationship – with Him and with others. We not only need Him, we also need other women to encourage, comfort, and challenge us in our daily lives and our walk with Jesus. No matter how independent we are, we really aren’t meant to go it alone.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NIV

We all need a friend to help us up when we fall. Do you have a friend or two to call when you’re on the floor? If not, reach out, take the initiative. Be the friend God can use to bless someone else. I’d be happy to share my muffin recipe with you!

Kathy HowardAbout the author:Struggling to navigate the parent/child role reversal? Kathy Howard’s new book, 30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents,explores God’s Word to find hope and encouragement for the wide range of physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual challenges the adult child caregiver may experience. Each of the 30 devotions – which can also serve as a guide for a daily quiet time – includes a Scripture passage, a real-life illustration, biblical commentary/application, and questions for reflection. You can order your copy here

Join the conversation: How do you reach out to make new friends?

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I am Going to Out-Love You!

by Pam Farrel

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.                                                                              Mark 10:45 NASB

Jesus was a good son.  Bill and I recognize a good son, because we enjoy having three good sons.  A good son carries out the will of his father. A good son represents his family well and moves the family legacy forward. Good daughters do the same. Good daughters represent their family well.  We meet people each week and many of them are those who value the heritage that have been handed to them and build upon that solid foundation.

Within minutes of meeting John and Barb, we knew they had an unusual love. Barb found it easy to gush about how blessed and fortunate she found it to be married to John. John found it easy to compliment a wife he so obviously cherished. They have been married about the same amount of time as Bill and I, for over three decades! When I asked Barb the secret of their long lasting love, she said, “My husband forgives easily. He is full of grace, mercy and forgiveness.”

When we asked John the same question, his reply was similar, “My wife knows how to keep giving love when people are hard to love. She loves unconditionally and tenaciously.”  Notice it is really just two sides of the same coin: he loves without limits and she is limitless in her love.

They are the owners of Morning Star Dairy. They live in the home where John was raised. John had the privilege of watching his parents live a life of love. Love is a rich heritage on Morning Star Dairy.  John describes his mother as a saint who loved lavishly, never uttered a harsh word, and had a servant’s heart. Her heart of love was often expressed toward her husband as she darted about the kitchen waiting on him with an affectionately, “On the way, Daddy Baby”.

And that legacy of love continues as one will sometimes hear Barb call John, “Daddy” and with a twinkle in his eye and sheepish grin he will tease back, “That’s Daddy BABY to you.”

How does one go about building a legacy of love that passes from generation to generation? Follow John and Barb’s pattern and the example they followed in their parents and simply out-serve each another.

Love is an action verb and it is best expressed with a servant’s attitude.  What is a servant’s attitude?  Phil 2: captures it best when it simply says:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant . . .”  (Phil 2:3-7 NIV).

Loving well is simply a matter of maintaining a “you first” attitude toward others. The plus side of having a servant’s attitude is that your children are watching.  Perhaps you will be laying a foundation of a family that all seek to out love the other!

Lord, help me not seek my own interests as the first priority but help me look out for my mate’s needs. Give me your same heart and attitude Jesus.  Help us lay a legacy of love. Amen   

pam ferrelAbout the author: Pam Farrel is the author of 45 books and the Co-Director of Love-Wise.com. She has been seeking to “out love”  her husband, Bill for 38 years of marriage. Discover resources to help you love well at www.Love-Wise.com

Join the conversation: How do you employ a “you first” attitude in your relationships?

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Off the Shelf and By the Book

by Rhonda Rhea

My favorite part of dusting the bookshelves in my office is the part where I never really do it. At all. And actually, it’s my personal belief that if there’s dust on a bookshelf, that means there aren’t enough books on it.

Incidentally, I’m always on the lookout for more books. And for more reasons to buy more books. Okay yes, I may have a bit of a book problem. Some may think me “shelf-ish” (I know, I can’t believe I said it either). I think I’d rather call it a dust problem, but whatever.

My favorite way to dust the bookshelves? Turn on the ceiling fan. After a few swirls of the fan I figure the dusting is done and I can sit down and read a book.

I won’t deny that I do have a lot of shelves—with a lot of books protecting all those shelves from dust. I was standing in the doorway staring into my office the other day and suddenly found myself thinking it’s a little embarrassing that though I have so many shelves and so many books, there’s not a book in there anywhere that I can pull to open up a secret passage. What an unfortunate oversight.

Neglected secret passages aside though, there are oversights along this life journey that are so much more unfortunate. I wish I could tell you that I’ve never overlooked a person. I would love to tell you I’ve never neglected giving needed attention to the people I’m called to love. But I have.

Does it ever happen to you? You see someone across the room and avoid eye contact so the person doesn’t mistakenly feel welcomed into a conversation. Or you’re at the grocery store and quickly jerk your cart onto an aisle you don’t need to visit, all to dodge getting trapped into a dialogue with that guy from down the street.

I so regularly need to dust off my compassion and grace and to become intentional in the way I love. Active love doesn’t avoid. As a matter of fact, it purposefully searches out opportunities to love—even to love the unlovely. To love the annoying. The foolish. The depressing. The smelly. The inconvenient people. An active love, dusted off and in use, is a love that goes yet beyond that. A God kind of love runs to meet those people.

It’s no secret that we can love like that as we allow the God of love to do it in us. “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love,” (1 John 4:7-8, HCSB).

To love unselfishly is to allow the God who is love to work in us. Anytime we’re not loving others, we’re testifying to the world that the Gospel hasn’t changed us on the inside as we claim. It’s like shelving our Gospel effectiveness.

Our love for others is our testimony. We’re the book others read, as it were. “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35, HCSB).

O Lord, may we be quick to love the unloveliest. As you work your love in and through our lives, may we ever love like You.

Here’s hoping we’re on the same page. Me? I’m mostly an open book.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.    Mark 12:30-31 HCSB

rhonda rheaAbout the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 12 books, including Fix-Her-Upperco-authored with Beth Duewel, and a hilarious novel, Turtles in the Roadco-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda and Kaley are also excited to be teaming up with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, for a new book and TV series titled, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer. Rhonda enjoys speaking at conferences and events from coast to coast and serves as a consultant for Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What has helped you to maintain a loving attitude?

 

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The Great Hiking Boot Debacle

by Kathy Howard

 I filled my suitcase with shorts, flip-flops, three swimsuits, and one pair of hiking boots. My husband Wayne and I planned to do nothing but hike, snorkel, and soak up the sun during our 30th anniversary trip to the Caribbean island of St. John. The week would be easy, fun, and relaxing. And it was, all except for one small incident involving a steep, rocky trail and a worn out pair of hiking boots.

Once dominated by sugar plantations, today more than half of the island falls within the borders of the Virgin Islands National Park. Therefore, dozens of trails crisscross the island – some follow the coast, some snake through plantation ruins, and others delve deep into the tropical forest. We wanted to explore them all.

According to our travel guide, the Ram Head Trail was the most challenging. That’s where we began. The Ram Head Trail switches it’s way back and forth up a saddleback hill to the high, southern-most point of the island. Our book described it as a “steep, narrow, and slippery path, which can be tricky.”

However, since Wayne and I are seasoned hikers, we felt confident we could manage this trail without a problem. We had plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen. We both had sturdy hiking boots – at least we thought we did.

That last sentence needs a bit of explanation. Even though we have done lots of hiking, it had been quite a few years since my last hike. My good hiking boots had been sitting unused in the closet. Wayne encouraged me to buy some new ones. But mine still fit and felt great. “No need,” I had insisted.

Big mistake.

Just before we started up the steep part of the trail, my right boot began to feel strange. When I examined it, I discovered the sole had come loose from the boot at the heel. With every step the sole flopped against the ground.

Wayne pulled a small bungee cord out of his backpack and we used it to keep the sole tight against my heel. And it worked! For about 50 yards. Then the front of the sole released its grip on the toe of my boot.

Wayne didn’t have any more cords in his pack, but he did find a piece of thin nylon rope right on the trial. We fastened that around my toe and started back up the trial. Although the sole slipped around a bit, it allowed me to walk without any trouble.

Then about 30 yards from the summit, the inevitable happened. The sole on my left boot released completely. I picked it up and carried it the rest of the way to the top. Only a thin layer of fabric remained between the sole of my foot and the rocky trail. I felt every pebble on the last few yards to the top.

When I arrived, I plopped down on a large rock. Wayne wandered around taking photos. How I was going to get back down the trail? “Wish I hadn’t left my sport sandals in the jeep,” I complained out loud.

“I’ve got mine,” Wayne offered. “Do you think you could wear them?”

Of course his sandals didn’t fit my feet, but they did fit nicely over what was left of my boots. I tightened the Velcro straps as snug as possible and down the trail we went. The lug soles gave me the grip I needed on the rocky path. And they stayed put! Wayne to the rescue yet again! I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a kitchen sink in his pack.

My feet did look pretty strange. The few hikers we passed on the way down gave me weird looks. And it wasn’t my imagination. But Wayne’s sandals protected my feet and got me safely to the bottom.

Sometimes our lives are like that trail. The going gets steep and things start falling apart. We may even wonder how we’ll go on. In those times of struggle, God wraps His strength around our weakness. He graciously protects our tender places.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.                                                                                                                   2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT

When we cannot go on, He carries us. When difficulty overwhelms us, His grace rushes in. His strength. The greater the trial, the greater the grace. His protection. His love and mercy. Lavishly poured out.

Kathy HowardAbout the author: This post is adapted from Kathy Howard’s new Bible study Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing. Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: When was the last time God gave you His strength? Do you need His strength today?