February 23. Love is the Greatest.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


February 23. Love is the Greatest.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

For those of you who know me personally at all, you know that I am completely and utterly in love with a new little cat that came into my life last October.  He showed up at my back door mewing and begging to be let in out of the cold and that’s just what I did.  This little guy – TB (sometimes it means The Beast) – has been a wonderful addition to my life.

But on days like today, I find myself resisting the urge to toss him back out the door and slamming it behind him.  Within the space of just a few minutes, he has bitten my hand, knocked over my filtered water container, tossed things off the dining room table, forced me to put my book and highlighter down (because he refuses to quit pawing at them), nearly pulled my monitor cable out of the computer (he did manage to turn the monitor pink, though), knocked my telephone over, pushed prints off the wall behind me, jumped up on the bookshelf and knocked books over, pulled Kleenexes out of the box, knocked over my pencil/pen holder and forced me to spank him and yell at him!

I might have cried once in the middle of that.

Several times during the day, this adorable cat turns into a terror.  The fact that most of my table tops are cleared of stuff and that I have remnants of bite marks on my hands and forearms is proof of that.

Through it all, though, I love him. Even when I’m so angry I cry, I fill his water and food and clean his litterbox. I toss toys for him to play and arrange blankets on the table beside me so that he can curl up next to me. I lift the blankets at night so that he can crawl to the bottom of the bed and feel safe and warm.  I tell him that he’s a good boy (when he is) and how much I love him. Because I do.

God taught us how to love.  It’s the only thing that really matters.  When Jesus was asked which was the greatest of the ten commandments, He didn’t hesitate.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.  And the second is like the first, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

When I list the things that TB does to make me crazy, it seems a paltry account of wrongdoings in comparison to the things I do which break God’s heart. But, through it all, He loves me.

It is because of His love for me that I am able to love.

It is because of His great love for you that you are able to love.

We love because He first loved us.  His love never ceases.  Ours need never end either.

Through it all … He loves us.

February 22. Hope Abides

Thursday, February 23, 2012


February 22. Hope Abides

Hope helps us heal through a medical crisis.
Hope allows us to keep living when someone we love dies.
Hope opens the door to love when we thought we were finished.
Hope sends us back to work when we fail at a project.
Hope sees the browns and greys of winter replaced by the fresh greens of spring.
Hope finds the item you lost.
Hope hears the voice of a friend who has been gone.
Hope assures us that tomorrow will see the sun rise again.
Hope looks for joy when misery approaches.

Hope Abides.

February 21. Faith Abides


February 21. Faith Abides

This is the first of the great triad of principles by which we are in relationship with God.  These concepts were familiar to Paul. He connects them in several other places: 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; Romans 5:3-5; Colossians 1:4-5; Ephesians 1:15-18; Hebrews 10:22-24.  (Try hovering over the Bible verse links – the verses should pop up for you!)

Faith – Pistis (Greek).

One of the great descriptions of faith comes from Hebrews 11.

What is faith?  It is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

In other words, faith is believing in something we can’t manage with our five senses.  We can’t smell it, see it, hear it, touch it or taste it.  Philosophers of the Enlightenment tell us that faith and knowledge are two separate things.  We can’t know that there is a God, but we can have faith that there is.

The funny thing about that argument is that while we might get our feathers all ruffled up when we are confronted with it, we forget that faith abides.

When faith is on the opposite side of the argument against knowledge … faith ultimately wins.  When knowledge ceases … faith, hope and love will still remain.

I’ve been in that argument before and when it finally occurred to me that it was alright that I couldn’t ‘prove’ God existed as long as I had faith that He existed, I was the winner.  I still had God.

Faith abides.

February 20. Reflection in the Mirror


February 20. Reflection in the Mirror

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12).

I love to read mysteries – to watch a plot unfold, then when the great ‘reveal’ occurs, to see how the author took me along the road, offering hints and then tied them all together at the end.  I love to be surprised and I love to discover an author that uses everything to surprise me.

In studying this passage, I discover that I’m surprised by Paul.  I shouldn’t be.  He was an incredibly brilliant man and had an amazing command of the Hebrew scriptures, but I wouldn’t have assumed he would have grabbed this verse from the Old Testament.

You see, I find that the New Testament and especially the book of Revelation uses portions of the Old Testament as hints along the road to bring us to understanding the truths of God.

Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the entrance of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward. And he said, “Hear my words: When there are prophets among you, I the LORD make myself known to them in visions; I speak to them in dreams. 
Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak face to face—clearly, not in riddles; and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed.  (Numbers 12:5-9)

Did you see verse eight?  “With him I speak face to face – clearly, not in riddles; and he beholds the form of the Lord.”

In the days when the Lord traveled with the Israelites as a pillar of cloud or of fire, He also spoke to Moses face to face.  To their prophets, he spoke in visions and dreams, but to Moses, He presented Himself face to face. The Israelites already had the experience in their history.  Though none of them ever experienced it, they knew that one of their greatest leaders had actually seen the Lord.

As much as we think we would like to see the Lord face to face as Moses did and have all of our questions answered, the truth of the matter is that we aren’t ready for that.  It is enough to see the reflection of God in faces around us and it is enough to know only part of that which we will one day know fully.  While we still live in this life, that is enough.  God has provided all that we need and while it may seem to be quite limited, it is enough.

One day, though, there will be more.

February 19. A Child or a Man

Monday, February 20, 2012


February 19. A Child or a Man

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me (1 Corinthians 13:11).

I was seventeen, it was my last semester in high school and Mom and I were having a knock-down, drag-out fight.  I told her that I was old enough to make my own decisions, reminding her that I was headed to college in just a few months and I expected to be treated as an adult.  She quickly informed me that when I behaved as an adult, she’d treat me as one.  That took the wind out of my sails pretty quickly.

(And yes … if you think that Mom and I fought a lot, you are correct. There was nothing passive about our relationship – always dynamic, always passionate.)

I’m in my 50s now, and I still don’t feel as if I am qualified to be considered an adult.  I question my own actions and behavior. I worry too much about whether people will understand my motives. I do not feel as if I have all of the tools that I need to make the decisions that I am required to make on a daily basis.  Sometimes I still say things that embarrassed me when I was young and can’t believe I couldn’t stop my mouth.

I look back at my childhood and I liked those years of not having responsibilities.  I didn’t have to worry about making tough decisions without the support of a strong family.  If I made a mistake, someone would be there to encourage me to keep going.  The foundation that my parents offered was quite strong.

But Mom died when I was 28 and all of a sudden I owned a business and had many responsibilities.  Just as my life was transitioning from that business, Dad died. The one person who I would have trusted to help me through seminary was gone.  I had to be my own adult and my errors were my own – there was no longer anyone to cushion the blow or offer me a strong foundation.

As Christians, Paul often calls on us to grow up.  We don’t feel as if we dare take responsibility for our faith, just in case we mess it up.  We like being children and having things of God fed to us.  We like our Christianity to be easy and palatable.  When we surround ourselves with strong Christians who expect nothing from us – we will remain that way as long as possible.

It is time for each of us to grow up and take responsibility for being Christ’s emissaries to the world.  To move beyond Sunday morning worship and Bible studies.  We are called to carry His love with us every day.

February 18. Perfection & Imperfection

Sunday, February 19, 2012


February 18. Perfection & Imperfection

But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. (1 Corinthians 13:8b-10)

Biblical perfection isn’t necessarily determined as being good all of the time or doing everything exactly as Jesus (or Paul, or James or John, Martin Luther or even John Wesley) did.

Perfection is seen as completeness.  We will find this completeness when we are finally in union with God.  Our every moment should be focused on that perfection, completion with God.

Everything else will pass away, so if we spend more time thinking about the things that we do – even if they are as important as tongues or prophecy, or knowledge … good works, missions, church work, philanthropy … Bible study, etc.,  - than we do looking forward and orienting our entire lives toward the moment of perfection, we aren’t doing any of those things justice.  At some point, none of them will matter.  God actually doesn’t choose us for heaven based on those things.  These things are to simply be an outgrowth of our desire to be in relationship with Him for eternity.

Christ didn’t die on the cross so that we could pray in tongues or go to seminary.  Those things come as a result of our acceptance of Him as Savior of our lives.

It’s easy to place too much emphasis on the acts rather than the giver of life, to get our priorities all askew.

Paul reminds us that the things of this world are not what gets us to heaven … it is our relationship with God, our complete faith in Jesus Christ.  All of these other things are secondary to that.

February 17. Love Never Ends

Friday, February 17, 2012


February 17. Love Never Ends

Oudepote piptei – never ends.

Pipto means to fall down, to collapse, fall to pieces.  To perish, be destroyed, be completely ruined.  It’s quite a flexible word.

Love, however, doesn’t ever do that!  

It is hard for us to actually imagine love without end.

When my Grandma Greenwood died, I’d never again hear her say, “I love you a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.” When my mother died, I knew that I would never hear her tell me “I love you” again.  When my father died twenty years later, I was never going to experience him get the last word in by saying, “I love you” again.

Love ends.  Or so it might seem.

We feel such devastation when those we love die.  It’s as if we will never be able to hear them say the words or feel their love again.  We don’t have a good concept of unending love. We have a likeness of it, but not the reality.

It’s nearly impossible to imagine a love that not only lasts a lifetime, but crosses the boundary between life and death and moves with us into eternity.

When Jesus died for us to break death’s hold on humanity, He introduced never-ending love to people who couldn’t quite grasp how it would work.  He showed us that there was something beyond the few years we live on earth.

There is a love that never ends.  There is a love that has existed since before time began and will exist into eternity – an infinite love that cannot be destroyed, will never perish and will never end.

February 16. Love Always Perseveres


February 16. Love Always Perseveres

The Greek word is hypomeno.  To remain when others leave.  To hold out when there is opposition. To wait with persistence for someone to arrive.

Love simply doesn’t give up.  Ever.

Love is just plain stubborn.

Who have you given up on because it seemed more important to protect yourself than anything else? We’ve all done that.  People wear us the heck out.

When I was in high school, there was a friend that was so needy I wanted to scream.  I couldn’t believe that anyone had so little self-esteem they would put up with anything, simply to be around people. A couple of us spent a great deal of time with her because it seemed like the right thing to do and for heaven’s sake, she just never left!  She’d invite me to spend the night and I suspect the preparation for that event was a huge deal for her and her mother, who wanted nothing more than for this poor girl to fit in.

I was so thankful when she moved on because I could breathe again. But, her life never worked out well.  She had rough relationships and honestly, I have no idea what happened to her.

As I look back on that relationship right now, I am really quite ashamed of my behavior.  Yes, I invested a little time into it and spent time with her, inviting her to do things with other friends and doing all I thought I could do at the time, but I gave up.  She wore me out.

I’m betting that none of you would blame me for any of my feelings – you’ve been there.

But, that isn’t what God is about – is it?  He doesn’t ever give up on us even when we are needy or whine constantly about our problems or cling to Him.  He just keeps pouring love out onto us.

I didn’t have it in me to be stubborn enough to love her through her own issues.  And no matter how many excuses your or I make about it – the truth is, we do not understand what persistence in love is really about.

Jesus does.  He loved to the point of death.  For my selfish high school self, for that poor girl who needed friends more than anything, for all of us.  He loved persistently.

February 15. Love Hopes All Things

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


February 15. Love Hopes All Things

The Greek word used here is ‘elpizo.’  To look forward to something with confidence and expectation.

I’ve always had something to look forward to, something to hope for.  When I was in high school, a pastor spoke to a large group of youth and told us to be wary of always looking forward with expectation because we would miss the moments in which we were living.  As much as I understand what he was telling to us, I also think that having those dreams and expectations, hopes and possibilities out in front keeps us moving forward.

If we replace the word ‘Love’ in this passage with Christ’s name, we discover a passion that comes from God regarding how He wants us to live.  Jesus hopes all things for us. He doesn’t expect us to fail or be miserable, he looks forward to our futures with great confidence and expectation.

When we wake up in the morning and look at the day with hope, knowing that it has the potential to be amazing; He is beside us with encouragement.  When we get to the end of the day and it has been an awful day, it is Jesus who looks at us and offers hope that the next day will be better.

All of these things that Paul writes to the Corinthians about in this chapter are things that they were unable to do well.  He reminded them that their focus was in the wrong place.  When they didn’t know how to hope … love still did.  When they felt that all hope was lost and their lives would be miserable, Jesus still saw hope for the future.  There was also still hope for the church in Corinth, no matter how far down they had dragged themselves.

In love, we hope for more.  In love we find that hope is fulfilled.  In love, hope becomes reality.

February 14. Love Believes All Things

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


February 14. Love Believes All Things

The word ‘pisteuo’ means to believe or to trust.

I can still see myself in the living room.  I had done something so awful that Mom had given me the “I’m so disappointed in you” lecture.  I can’t remember any longer what I had done, but she ended her lecture by telling me that she could no longer trust me.  That one episode had destroyed all of the trust I had earned over the years.  As I fell apart into tears, I asked how we could get back to the place we had been before.  She told me that it would take time.

Well, just as she said, time passed and we got back onto an even keel and it didn’t come up again.

As humans, we easily get sidetracked from implicit trust.  We get angry, we are hurt, we believe that our hurt and anger justify the removal of trust.  It’s one of those things that by stating we no longer trust someone, we can ensure that they are now cowed by us.  We won’t trust them until they do a certain list of things to earn our trust back again.

Mom was angry and hurt and in her desire to punish me (oh, I’m sure I deserved it), she chose to remove something from our relationship.  I might have deserved that as well.  But, as I look back on that argument, it occurs to me that she really didn’t mean the words she said.  She didn’t remove all trust from me.  Say, for instance, that I hadn’t called to let her know where I was and where I was going.  That specific issue was something I needed to deal with.  She didn’t trust me to make that call because I had messed up – but, she still trusted me to do other things, such as obey her when she told me to do something; complete my homework on time and do well in school; practice the musical instruments so that I would do well; be at family meals; participate in the activities I was involved with; the list goes on and on.

No, she didn’t stop trusting me altogether.  She loved me.

Love trusts implicitly.  Love believes … always.

Jesus Christ is the epitome of this type of love.  You see, not only is He always worthy of our love, but He loves us without condition.  If we screw up, He doesn’t stop loving us and He will look beyond those mistakes to continue trusting us.

Love Trusts.  Love Believes.

February 13. Love Bears All Things.

Monday, February 13, 2012


February 13. Love Bears All Things.

I have always loved 1 Corinthians 13, but with just a little bit of study, I find that it fills my heart to overflowing.

This phrase in 1 Corinthians 7, can not be translated into English in a way that allows us to perceive the depths of its meaning.  The Greek word, stego, means to cover … to enclose in order to keep bad things out – like keeping water from flowing into the inside of a ship.

It means to keep confidential, to cover, to pass over in silence … it is a love that throws a cloak of silence over what is displeasing in another person. It also means to endure difficult things, to bear them without complaint.

In society today, we believe that it is necessary to expose people to the light in order to bring them back into the right.  Let them face their punishment, let them stand in humility so that all can pass judgment and then all are able to forgive.

Paul tells us that while it might be the person’s responsibility to expose themselves, it is sometimes of greater importance, in love, to cover those things and to give them a little freedom to handle their difficulties.

This really does go against our nature. I think of how lives have been devastated because the entire world feels that it has a right to see deep, dark secrets.  Is there no one that will stand up and say stop?  From Hollywood celebrities to pastors.  Homosexuals feel that they have to ‘come out’ and face the beating that will come in order to be true to themselves. Is there no one that stands between these people and the public that would destroy them? Is there no one that will stand as a cover in order to protect them from negative attention?

When there is the threat of exposure, who will stand by and say, ‘Walk through me first and when you are finished battling with my strength, then if you have any left, you must walk through me again.  I will not let you past.”

Jesus Christ said this.  He stands as a covering for our sin. He protects us from the wrath of a holy God. He turns the weakness of death on a cross into incredible strength.  He does this, not only to offer us a way into heaven, but also as a model for how we are to treat our friends and family.  If, as sinless man, Jesus Christ loves us so much that He will offer Himself for us … how can we offer less than ourselves for those we love?

When someone needs you to stand between them and the world, will you step aside because you believe that you are justified in exposing them or will you stand in love and strength to protect them from themselves and the world?

February 12. Love Rejoices in Truth.


February 12. Love Rejoices in Truth.

… it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  (1 Cor. 13:6)

The Greek word for wrongdoing, adikia, is commonly translated as unrighteousness. It is any act that ‘violates standards of right conduct.’ It is ‘the quality of injustice, unrighteousness, wickedness.’  I’m pretty sure that we all understand what this word means.  We know what sin is, though sometimes we want to ignore that knowledge.

Truth is translated from alethia, which comes from a word meaning to ‘hide nothing.’  Alethia is simply that … truth.  Uprightness in thought and deed.  It is used in Biblical literature to show that Christianity is the ultimate truth.  It is also used to describe reality.

The word ‘rejoice’ is translated from the Greek – chairo, which means to rejoice or even to welcome.  It is a state of happiness and well-being.  In secular Greek literature it is also used as a greeting when meeting someone.  Wouldn’t you like to be greeted with Rejoice! As opposed to Hello.  What a great way to signify your joy in seeing a friend.

There’s another word that I enjoy using – schadenfreude.  It actually means taking pleasure in another person’s misery.  I hate to admit it, but this occurs in my life on a regular basis, unless of course that person is really hurting.

One day my husband called me from home.  He had been working out on a recumbent bike that we owned.  All of a sudden, the back of the bike snapped from the pressure.  He bounced his head into a dresser that was behind him and then a clay flowerpot fell on his head and broke.  He wanted some sympathy. I couldn’t help myself.  All I could see was a scene from the Three Stooges and started laughing out loud.  I knew he wasn’t hurt badly – I’d asked that question first, but his misery just made me howl with laughter.  I find myself to be rotten that way.

Paul’s words probably aren’t going to call me to repentance for something like that, though I’m sure my husband would have liked for me to feel a little more sorry for him.  Paul’s words will call us to repentance for a great many things that our society has termed to be ok.  Cheating on our taxes?  Sure.  Not returning the overage we received when getting cash back? That’s fine – someone else’s mistake. I even knew a person who was thrilled because the guy loading her groceries accidentally added someone else’s to her vehicle.

What is truth?  Love is truth.  That never changes or wavers. When we do everything in love … we can rejoice because we know we are doing so in truth as well.

February 11. Love is Not Irritable or Resentful

Sunday, February 12, 2012


February 11. Love is Not Irritable or Resentful

There are two words – even sometimes combined and translated as ‘easily angered.’  The first word – paroxyno – is an internal emotion, a passionate feeling; the arousal of the spirit to anger or grief, an urge or sense of provocation to irritation.  The second phrase – logizetai to kakon – has more to do with the mind.  Logezetai means to calculate, to consider, to think about something, to classify.  Kakon means bad / evil.  Say that word out loud.  Kah – kon.  Those consonants have come down in our vernacular as well.  Kaka is a slang term for vomit.

This sentence reminds the readers that passionate negative emotions come from both the heart and the mind.  Our hearts react when they are aroused to anger; our minds use strategy to express that anger.

My father refused to allow us to accuse him of being mad.  He’d acquiesce to the word ‘angry,’ but never mad. In his mind, he associated that word correctly – with madness – a certain level of insanity and he never wanted his emotions to be that out of control.

When he was still in high school, he was hired at the Iowa home for the criminally insane in his hometown.  He knows they should never have hired him, but his calm demeanor and incredible strength were a bonus and they needed him. He watched madness encompass patients and had to hold them while electroshock treatments (of the 50s, no less) were applied. He saw too many minds destroy people from the inside out.  These people had no control over their passions and ended up there because they had lost control in some hideous way.

Madness frightened him and he didn’t want to ever admit to allowing any of that to touch him.

Anger that is fueled by passion and then released in a calculated means in order to hurt others is in opposition to love.

Love will not allow these types of negative emotions to reign in the heart or in the mind.

February 10. Love is Not Self-seeking

Saturday, February 11, 2012


February 10. Love is Not Self-seeking

What is more important - to be right or to be in a relationship?

We live in a world of one-upmanship, where it is so difficult for us to settle back and allow another to be at the top of the heap.  If they make an error, we must point it out to them, if they sin we must ensure that they know we caught it and will never forget. If they Great errors, mistakes, sins, must be punished publicly so that we can all feel better about the things that we hide from the world.

It is much more important to set ourselves forward than it is to take a second or third or even a fourth position in obscurity so as to lift another up.

Who do you know that needs encouragement and needs to be given strength and support.  Who are you competing with  that might need you to back off so they can finally get a win in their life?  Who is it that needs you to set everything aside and give them the stage?  Who simply needs you to leave all that you feel behind and open your heart in love and prayer?

February 9. Love is Not Rude

Thursday, February 9, 2012


February 9. Love is Not Rude

The Greek word here is aschemoneo (ah skay moh neh’ oh) – to behave disgracefully.

How is it that rude behavior is seen by everyone else as disgraceful, but the person acting poorly rarely understands that what they are doing is so awful?

My mother insisted that we three kids learn good table manners.  Over and over and over, she worked on things such as chewing with our mouth closed, putting the napkin in our lap, not talking with our mouth full, keeping one hand in our lap while using a utensil with the other; the list goes on and on.  Anything other than proper behavior at the table was rude.

We also learned that, as children, we had the right to be heard, but interrupting while others were speaking or bursting into a room without good reason was rude and unacceptable.  In a pastor’s home, there were always people coming and going, and it did not matter whether they were the president of the local bank or a transient family in need of a meal; we were never rude.

She spent a lot of time with us helping us to understand the difference between good and bad behavior.  Rudeness was completely unacceptable in any situation.  It was disgraceful and in our family there was no worse punishment than hearing either Mom or Dad tell us they were disappointed in us.

When I was a senior in high school, by the second semester I was done.  As most of us did, we thought we were much too big for the high school any longer and senioritis was in full swing.  The last period of the day was phys-ed and I hated it.  I hated it.  So, a friend and I began leaving early.  We’d head to her house and listen to music or chat until school was out, then head back for whatever activities were on tap.

I must have been a complete idiot.  The high school principal sang in choir at church with us and mom was on the school board.  They were rather good friends.  He called her one afternoon to ask if everything was ok with me and of course, she was surprised by the call, but assured him she knew exactly where I was and would take care of the situation immediately.  My friend and I were upstairs at her house when the knock came on the front door.  I looked out the window and there was our car.  I couldn’t avoid the confrontation with mom, she’d caught me.

What is interesting, though, is how she handled it.  She didn’t ground me – I was involved in too many things at school and was necessary to their success.  She didn’t yell at me – that would have justified an argument between us.  She simply told me that I had been rude.  I had shown disrespect to my teacher, to the school and to my family.  The greatest punishment lay in front of me.  I had to go back into the school, apologize to the principal and to the teacher and plead with them to give me a second chance.

Rudeness wins no battles.  Respect and right behavior will always win. I learned a lesson that day that has stuck with me for 35 years.  I am never greater than anyone else and will never have the right to belittle anyone by my disrespectful actions. If I do so, I am responsible for setting things right.  If I love … I will not be rude, I will be respectful.  And since love is of more importance to me than anything else, rude behavior is unacceptable in any situation.

February 8. Love is Not Proud

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


February 8. Love is Not Proud

The word physioo (foo-see-ah-oh) is used here.  Let’s see what we can do with this word.  Literally it means to blow up – to inflate.  But, it’s all about having an exaggerated image of one self.  Older translations might have said ‘puffed up.’  Conceited, one who puts on airs.  Do you have a picture now of what Paul means?

When I was in elementary school, I was less than nothing.  I was in a class of 23 kids and had joined them as we entered second grade.  The girls weren’t really prepared to accept me.  In the five years we lived in that little town, I never once felt as if I were part of the top clique of 3 or 4 girls in my grade.  I never could understand what they saw in each other – those girls weren’t that bright, they didn’t do anything really fun.  Sure, they spent time flirting with the boys, but at least I got out and did things with the boys and competed with them academically.  They didn’t have much going for them at all, but they puffed themselves and each other up so far, they blew around the school as if they ran the place.  Teachers didn’t particularly care about them – the only people that cared whether they were important were the girls themselves.

Their conceit and arrogance ran deep. And what a terrible time in a young girl’s development to have this type of antipathy aimed at her.  You see, I recognized right away that they were filled with nothing but hot air and though I would have loved to have been invited to all of their parties and sleepovers, they had absolutely nothing to offer me.  My innocent recognition of that might have contributed to their disdain of me, but I didn’t know any other way to live.  Just at the time we were starting to develop physically, they declared (in essence) that being undeveloped was the best way to live.  One poor little girl in our class was constantly harassed by them for having done exactly the opposite – even though she really had no option.  She spent a lot of days after phys-ed in tears because of their bullying techniques.

Being puffed up about oneself is truly useless.  We fill ourselves with so much empty air that those around us do recognize the fallacy in our personality.  Paul calls us to be honest about who we are.  With that type of honesty, we have no need to wound those around us as we recognize the incredible relationships that exist.

February 7. Love is Not Boastful


February 7. Love is Not Boastful

This word – perpereuomai – means braggart, heaping praise on oneself, behave as a windbag.

All of a sudden, I saw caricatures of politicians in my mind’s eye and realized that we have become quite comfortable with this person in our society.  In fact, we are so comfortable with them, it is almost as if they are the jester in the court.  They speak and speak and speak – and soon, the things that they say become so much a part of our existence that we no longer question them or their purpose for being in our lives.

In today’s culture, one of the basic foundations of Christianity – humility – is ridiculed and set aside. No one really expects us to remain quiet about the good things we do.  We are expected to shout it to the world.  Oh, we might find ourselves being falsely humble, but we like receiving accolades for the things that we do, the smart things we say, etc.  Facebook publishes the number of friends that we have and we’re always working to make that number grow.  We want people to see our pictures, our achievements, we want to roar and be heard.  We want people to pay attention to our likes and dislikes, to agree with us and if they disagree to be heard loudly and clearly as we challenge their beliefs.  We want to declare our beliefs and have the world see what we have to say – no matter that we might hurt friends and acquaintances with our insensitive presentation.

We are the best, the brightest and the most amazing people on earth.  We root for the best teams, vote for the best people, raise the best kids. We wear the best clothes and drive the best cars. We ridicule countries, opposing political parties, belittle immigrants and those who make less money than we do, those who don’t save everything or can’t seem to come out of a mess that has been created.  We spell correctly, use proper grammar. We listen to the best music and read the best books.  We have the best marriages, only hang out with the best friends and go to the best churches.

We present to the world our best face and challenge anyone to say something different.  We are afraid to be thought of as less than the best, because then we would all have to face the fact that we simply are nothing in relationship to the entirety of the world.

We don’t do humility well.  We do boast quite well, though.

And if, for a moment, you think this is an attack on Facebook or any other social network, think again. This is about our need, as individuals in a culture that promotes itself, to do everything to be better than any other person; whether it is possible or not.

February 6. Love is Not Envious

Monday, February 6, 2012


February 6. Love is Not Envious

Greek – zeloo (zay-lah-oh). To have intense negative feelings over another’s achievements or success.

This is just one of those things that drives most of us insane.  We can’t help the feelings of envy that crop up, no matter what.  We are envious of so many things – wealth, fancy material items, healthy children when ours are sick, nice car – or even a drivable car. Another person is doing what they love to do while we are stuck in a job we despise, two of our friends seem to have a great relationship and don’t involve us, someone has success in a field we work so hard to even get something done in, their church doesn’t have nearly the number of problems that we have – or maybe their pastor is better at relating to the people.

Every day we face a million things that cross our path intent on creating envy in our hearts.   Advertisements and media set us up to feel like we are missing something unless we compete with others for the very best.  We are told that we can’t be the best unless we are wealthy, look a certain way, shop at the right stores, drive the right cars, get the right education, spend our money (or save our money) in a specific manner.  And if we don’t live up to the world’s values in these areas while others seem to, our hearts are destroyed and we begin a cycle of attempting to live like the Joneses.

Because of envy, we destroy relationships.  Rather than support and encourage those who are out there going after their dreams, we do our best to hurt them … sometimes in insidious, hateful ways.  How many of us have found ourselves bad mouthing a friend who was doing something because we felt we should be doing it instead.  Rather than giving them our full support, we are angry that they didn’t give us their support.

Envy is such an ugly, ugly emotion.  There is never a time that it is healthy.  We don’t always see it for what it is, because we are so caught up in our own messy self-confidence – or lack thereof.

How do we stop envy from getting in the middle of our relationships with each other and with God?  What steps can we take to lessen its impact in our lives?  How would it change our relationships if we could begin to eliminate envy from daily interactions?  And when you consider these questions, how quickly do you think of someone else’s problem with envy and how it would help your relationship if they would just get over it?

February 5. Love is Kind

Sunday, February 5, 2012


February 5. Love is Kind

One of the Greek Lexicons (BDAG) tells us that this word (chresteuomai) for kindness is only found in Christian writings. This type of kindness comes from love and mercy offered to someone else.

The phrase ‘random acts of kindness’ was coined by Anne Herbert in 1982, then ten years later, a book was published with the thought that the world could be changed if everyone did one kind thing on a daily basis.

Random Acts of Kindness are really simple, but we don’t often think of doing them and when we do, we can easily justify reasons not to do anything at all.  It’s ok to think about paying for coffee for the person behind you in the drive through lane, but what if there isn’t a car there at that moment; would you trust the cashier to not just pocket the money?  It’s hard enough to manage shoveling your own walk after a winter’s snow; why spend any more time outside when there are healthy kids next door.  They can shovel their own walk.  You’d best not give money to strangers who have a hand out, it is documented that some of these panhandlers have made this their career and probably make more money than you – it’s better to give to an organization who will manage this.  Why should I bother taking shopping carts to the storefront, they pay kids to do that.  That stranger will think I’m nuts if I tell her that her smile is beautiful – she’ll probably call the police or something.  I don’t have enough money to pay for this person’s meal … just because.  I’ll try to do it another day.

It’s so easy to talk ourselves out of doing small acts of kindness.  It can be just as easy to talk ourselves into them.

Imagine how your small act of kindness could change a day for someone.  Is it too difficult to offer a smile to a checkout clerk who has just dealt with a nasty customer?  What about simply writing a thank you note … even if it is ten years later?  What about writing a thank you note for good service you received just yesterday?  When I owned a business, it wasn’t unheard of for people to call me to complain about the service they received from one of my employees – it happened several times.  However, when I got the call to compliment the service a customer had received, it transformed the entire shop that day.  Make that call to a supervisor.

There are so many ways that we can extend kindness to each other.  It doesn’t have to be a big deal, it might only take a moment.  But, every time that we do something kind for someone else, we show love and mercy to that person.

What kind of things can you imagine doing to show kindness?

February 4. Love is Patient

Saturday, February 4, 2012


February 4. Love is Patient

I was only fourteen years old, but I recognized that patience wasn’t something easily acquired. So, I asked God to help me have patience one evening while in prayer. That was the beginning of a 35+ year struggle of wills.  My impatient nature against that which I had asked God to teach me.

In so many ways, He has won the struggle; yet it seems as if I continually find new ways to beat at the walls of a patient life.  I suspect that with age comes a better understanding of the passage of time and I comprehend the need to allow some things to just play out in their own time.  With myself and my failings, my need to understand and learn, my desire to accomplish goals, on and on … I have limited patience.  I want to be at a certain point and am not terribly understanding of the passage of time while I get there.

The Greek word here is ‘makrothymeo.’  Its definitions will not make you feel any better about yourself if you think you’re an impatient person.

1. To remain tranquil while waiting.  When we were kids, mom would come into our room after we had fallen asleep on Christmas Eve with a stocking stuffed to the brim and lay it at the foot of our beds.  She knew there would be no tranquility on Christmas morning for anyone until we could get to the foot of the tree, but she bought an extra hour or so for her and for Dad.  We weren’t allowed to come out of our rooms until they were up and moving, so the stockings kept us busy.

2. To bear up under provocation without complaint.  I don’t know of too many people who will put up with something without complaint.  I immediately think of the number of churches I’ve belonged to … the complainers are loud and noisy.  Too many things get done just to keep them happy and out of everyone’s hair.  It only reinforces a bad behavior and it is hard to believe that we prefer to get things done with negative behavior, but we do.

3. Delay.  A third definition entry finds that this word is used when describing God’s purposeful delay in activity on earth.  It is never easy to understand why God doesn’t jump in and fix things when we think He should, but our patience and trust in His omnipotence will always enrich the relationship we have with Him.

Patience is a difficult lesson.  Have I gotten better at having it over the years.  I certainly have, but it seems as if there is a never ending series of circumstances that will bring me to my knees with impatience.

February 3. I Gain Nothing.

Friday, February 3, 2012


February 3. I Gain Nothing.

If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.  (1 Corinthians 13:3)

There’s an episode of Friends in which Phoebe tries to do something completely selflessly.  It occurs to her that everything she does for someone else will gain her some accolade or some benefit.

We like to be recognized for the good things we do.  In fact, because we like it so much, universities and hospitals, non-profit groups and even some churches feed our desire to be recognized by putting names on buildings and rooms in buildings, even theater seats and pews in churches might have the name of someone who donated money.  We buy bricks with our name on it so that down through the years people will recognize that we donated a small amount of money and might be impressed with that action.

We work awfully hard to impress the world around us.

It is nearly impossible for us to do things without recognition – even if it just one other person knows what we’ve done, it satisfies our need to be appreciated and maybe to boast a little bit about how terrific it was.

What is it that we should gain?  Is it the appreciation of humanity?

No, though for many that is all that matters.  If all we are looking for is a few pats on the back, that is all we will ever gain.  If that is all we desire, love is not part of the transaction.  We will gain nothing.

Mother Teresa did not sacrifice herself for pats on the back, though she received many.  She held in her heart a strong love for humanity and for the Lord whom she served.  Knowing that those accolades could help her raise funds to continue her work allowed her to continue to accept the praise and honor that came her way, but it didn’t change her base desire.  All she wanted to do was to serve others out of love that poured from within her.

It’s all about our heart, isn’t it!  No matter what we do, whether others feel it is incredible or not enough to warrant a second glance, if what we do is an outgrowth of the love we have for each other and for God, we will gain everything.

February 2. I Am Nothing.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


February 2. I Am Nothing.

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)

Prophetic powers, understanding mysteries, having all knowledge, having all faith.

These are things that make up the best science fiction and fantasy stories.  A seer who can discern the great mysteries of life; jacking into a system that will allow you to access knowledge regarding anything you desire; a prophet who can proclaim the truth of what tomorrow will bring; great faith that will bring God’s hand to bear on any situation we encounter.

Which of these might tempt you?

When I first saw the movie “The Matrix,” I was overwhelmed by the power of the story and the impact of the special effects.  It didn’t take long for me to see it again and again.  Would I be against someone inserting a jack into my brainstem so I could immediately access and use the knowledge of the world?  Absolutely not.  I’d do that in a heartbeat.  Neo learned martial arts and how to fly a helicopter. There were training programs for riding motorcycles.  All of these things came with immediacy and once learned, it is assumed the knowledge remained.

I would love to have that kind of immediacy to understanding mysteries and gaining knowledge.  In the movie trilogy, Neo ends up sacrificing himself over and over to save the world.  We understood the power of what he did because of the love that he had.  It was a basic motivator for him.

There were other characters in the movies that had access to the same immediacy and amount of knowledge.  Their purpose for gaining access to all of that was selfish; whether to build fortunes or power.  No one could understand why Linus Torvald wanted to release the power of Linux to the world.  He could have made millions had he kept it and built a private company.  Corporations today thrive on the privacy of the knowledge they acquire.  Power and wealth are great motivators and it seems that most of the time they are greater motivators than love.

Our public school system today comes from early Sunday Schools in England in 1780.  Street children were stuck in mills six days a week and on Sundays they were released to the streets, terrorizing people.  One man decided to fill their minds with knowledge of God’s love and with food.  He opened the first public Sunday school in a home and soon the idea spread.  John Wesley incorporated the idea into his Wesleyan groups. The Queen of England caught on to the idea and helped with fund-raising. In just seven years, more than 250,000 children were involved in Sunday schools around the country and over the next fifty years, more than 1 ½ million children were being taught around the world.

When love provides a foundation for knowledge and understanding mysteries, for prophecy and faith, lives are changed.

For me personally, no matter how much knowledge I gain, I am absolutely nothing without love as my foundation.

February 1. Clanging Cymbals

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


February 1. Clanging Cymbals

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)

The years of the smarmy tele-evangelists have pretty much come and gone, but they did a lot to destroy the way people looked at the church.  They were wonderful speakers and could con people out of their money faster than any Nigerian email scam.  How could you not send your money to them when they were offering you a chance to connect to God?

The worst of it is, that when they began preaching or teaching or whatever else it was they were doing, they loved the Lord and loved the people they were preaching to.  After a while, though, their love of self far outweighed anything else.

Before we go too far down the judgmental path, we need to be sure that our words are heard and not shrugged off because we are simply a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

Are they surrounded with action? Are our words supported by our lives?  If we talk about God’s love, do we show it when in the stands at a high school basketball game or wrestling match?

My mother (a minister's wife in a small town) went to a lot of high school football games because she loved watching her youth group kids play on the field, in the band, on the sidelines.  She was there because she loved it.  One Friday night, she and a few friends were watching the game when from behind her the foulest language came out of a woman’s mouth as she screamed at the boys on the field, boys from her own team.  She cursed them until she ran out of breath.  Mom knew that voice.  She heard it every Sunday from a Sunday school room and sang with the woman in the church choir.  It broke her heart.

She did manage to stand up, turn around and greet the woman by name, telling her that she looked forward to singing with her again on Sunday morning.  Then, mom sat down.  The woman couldn’t stand it.  She left the stands; in fact, she left the game that evening and the next Friday evening, made sure she knew where mom was sitting before finding her own seat in the bleachers.

We accept a lot of bad behavior from each other and from ourselves when we are outside the church walls.  We gossip, speak crassly, judge each other out loud, whine about our problems without paying any attention to those around us.  We are self-centered and rude much of the time when we are in public.

Are we a noisy gong or clanging cymbal?  Will people see God’s love in us through the words we speak each day?