You Show Love When You Listen

In the current state of our culture, it seems that everyone is talking and no one is listening. There are so many topics to discuss and everyone has an opinion. But it seems that no one is listening.

A few years ago I went through a trying time where I felt like my opinions, ideas and suggestions were not valued or welcomed. I struggled with feelings of rejection that lead to some depression. During that time, I did some research and learned that I was not alone in my experience.

Studies show that one of the best ways to show someone love is to listen to them. Listening to others seems to be a lost art these days. What kind of listener are you?

Are you listening to understand? That means you intentionally choose to turn off all distractions and engage with the person speaking. Or, are you listening to respond? That’s means you’re listening but also formulating your response before the speaker is even done talking.

The Bible has strong words regarding this. It says in Proverbs 18:2, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

Ouch!

So how do we show love by listening? We take time to allow someone to share their heart. We put their needs of being heard before our own. We give them the gift of our time and we wait until they have finished what they need to say before responding. Sometimes a response may not be appropriate at all. Perhaps they just need someone who will share their load without trying to “fix” things or have all the answers.

Who in your life needs you to just listen? Your spouse? Your child? Your parent? Your friend or coworker? When was the last time you laid aside your own agenda and offered someone a listening ear? Isn’t that what our entire culture needs right now?

I encourage you to start today. Make yourself available to listen without feeling the need to make sure everyone else knows your opinion.

Just listen.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. – James 1:19

Turning Your What If to Even If

If you are familiar with the story of the fiery furnace in the third chapter of Daniel, you will recall the speech that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego made to the king. When asked what god was able to deliver them, they said, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

In times of uncertainty, we can often go down a dangerous path of “what if?” We can look at our circumstances and begin to wonder what if I lose my job? What if I get sick? What if someone I love dies? What if…

Usually the “what ifs” in life begin as fear. That little unsettling suggestion that things may not be going in the direction we want. Then the fear grows and we wonder what will happen if things go from bad to worse.

The men in the story in Daniel were facing certain death unless God did something miraculous and QUICK. But they didn’t focus on the problem, they voiced their unwavering faith in the God who was able. BUT they also understood that God might choose to allow them to die. Either way, they were not moving from their position of faith.

My husband and I have had several conversations about how these verses apply to our lives. And not just recently. Yes, this pandemic has brought this up again, but we have faced this moment many times during our four decades together. The most recent was 3 years ago when Randy was diagnosed with cirrhosis.

For nearly 2 weeks I spent the days with him in the hospital, getting more bad news with each day. It wasn’t just the failing liver, it was a steady stream of additional complications. One day it was learning that he also has a clotting disorder. Then it was learning that as a diabetic, he would now become insulin dependent because his liver could no longer process the oral meds that had been working. Then he developed vertigo and couldn’t get out of bed. Each evening I would leave the hospital and drive through the dark streets alone. I would cry out to God to do a miracle but each time I arrived home, I would conclude my desperate prayers with the same conviction those men feeling the heat of that furnace had.

My prayer would end with “even if… ” I would surrender what I could not control to my God who I knew was much wiser than I will ever be. I had learned over decades of walking with the Lord that He is always with me no matter what my circumstances.

And now, 3 years from those challenging days, we are facing a new challenge because Randy is at very high risk from COVID-19. We have had those conversations again about “what if?” And we have come to the same conclusion.

Even if one or both of us contracts this virus, our trust in our God remains the same. We will be made well through whatever means God chooses. Perhaps a miracle, perhaps a long difficult recovery, or perhaps an invitation to see Jesus face to face.

If you are feeling fearful and asking too many “what if” questions, take your fears to God. He is the answer to all your questions. He knows His plan for you and He has never been distracted. Put your trust in His perfect ability to take care of you and your loved ones.

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.” – Isaiah 26:3-4 (NASB)

Slow Enough to Notice the Details

Until a month ago, life on earth was cruising along at breakneck speed. Everyone was in a hurry. No time to stop and rest, no time to pause and ponder, no time to be grateful.

Then suddenly, the breaks screeched and we all came to a standstill. Then the waiting began. We heard people saying how they couldn’t wait to get back to normal. Adults expressed how bored they were, forgetting how they had counseled their children in times past to “use their brains and find something to do.”

The Lord actually began teaching me these lessons several years ago. I was confined to my bed for 8 weeks as I recovered from hip surgery. After I tired of watching movies and reading, I began searching for something to occupy the long days. I learned some new craft skills, started new journals, and began to notice things I hadn’t seen for a while because I had been so busy.
I remember sitting for a long time watching it snow one day. It was fascinating how the wind shifted and the snow danced its way to the ground. Who has time to watch snow fall? It’s amazing what you notice when you have nowhere to go. No time schedule, no place to be, just living on hold.

That’s what we feel like we’re doing now—living life on hold. It’s as though we’ve pushed the pause button on our remote and the TV screen has frozen in place until we can pick up where we left off. But do we really want to pick up where we left off? I don’t.

Could it be that God wants us to take time to notice our surroundings more?

I have been taking walks in the mornings and being intentional about observing things as I walk. I’ve noticed tiny little flowers that aren’t really visible unless you look for them. I’ve noticed the daily changes in the tree branches as the leaves have begun their spring growth. I feel like I’m seeing things I’ve taken for granted for a long time.

It might be a good time to begin to notice other people. We are so used to breezing by people because we have a hundred other things on our minds. Perhaps we should take notice of others now. Maybe we could be of some help to them.

When we look back on this time of isolation and limited activities, we have a couple of potential scenarios. We might remember that we learned something valuable when we surrendered to the slower pace.  Or we will remember how impatient we were, fretting about when this would be over.

In every trial we will ever face, we have the choice to set our own attitudes. Until this quarantine ends, why not choose to just rest and enjoy the pause?

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” – Job 12:7-10 (ESV)

Seeds and Fire Ants

A while back, we drove across the  Sunshine Skyway Bridge between St. Petersburg and Bradenton, Florida. 174 feet above the water. I’ve been over that bridge many times but it’s still breathtaking.  A huge tanker was going under the bridge just as we were going over. I wished we could just stop and watch for a while but there’s no stopping on the bridge! I wonder how many people going over that bridge were miles away in their thoughts and didn’t even notice the spectacular view.

After crossing the bridge, we drove for a few more minutes and arrived at our destination, Dooley Groves.  We were on a mission to pick Honeybell tangelos.  When it was our turn to go out to the grove, the guide gave us baskets and some specific instructions. The most important being, “watch out for fire ants.”  The lanes between the trees were filled with fire ant hills and stepping on one would cause the ants to attack the closest foot or leg.  Several times we had to quickly brush ants from the pants and shoes of one of us who, focused on the bright orange fruit, neglected to watch where we were walking. Fortunately, there were no serious bites to contend with.

We picked enough to fill our baskets and headed back across the bridge.  We were eager to taste the fruits of our labors which we had been thinking about all the way home.  After peeling a softball-sized fruit, I had juice running down my arms.  I’m sure I’ve never eaten an orange so close to harvest before. But as I ate, I realized that it would require some concentration to fully enjoy this treat. If I didn’t pay attention, I could break a tooth.  LOTS of seeds–I found four in just one segment.  I took my time and savored the sweet flavor, but I was careful!

Afterwards I thought, could we have just gone to the grocery store and bought oranges (without seeds)  with much less hassle?  Of course. But the experience and the waiting and the effort it took to eat this delicious fruit made it even more special.  And the memories we made in the process will outlast the sweet flavor of the fruit.

I think sometimes we get in such a hurry to get to the next thing on our calendar or our to-do list that we miss the blessings God has for us if we’ll slow down and appreciate the moment. In a lot of ways, I believe God purposely puts fire ants and seeds in our path to cause us to slow down and pay attention.

Perhaps today you can look at the things in your path that seem like a hassle and think about why God may have put them there.  It might just be that a sweet blessing is there waiting for you to notice.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.Psalm 34:8

How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.Psalm 31:19

We’re in This Race Together

During the 2016 Summer Olympics, we saw a wonderful example of sportsmanship. But I think we saw much more than that.

In an incident during the women’s 5000 meter race, two runners, Abbey D’Agostino (United States) and Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) collided. Abbey stopped to help Nikki up and they continued. Soon, Abbey realized she had suffered a more serious injury and struggled to complete the race. Nikki returned the favor and helped Abbey up and they finished the race together. Because of their example of sportsmanship, they both earned a place in the finals.

I just finished a study of First Corinthians and at the conclusion of the study we tried to summarize Paul’s purpose in writing the letter to the Corinthians. What was he after?

I think Paul wanted them to realize that they weren’t in this world to make a life for themselves. He wanted them to understand that they were all in this together. He taught them to worship together and to work towards unity.

Those two Olympic runners had trained and worked for years to have a shot at competing in an arena most of us would never dream of. They came from different countries but had the same goal on that day. When the race began they were focused on one thing, running that race with all they had and achieving their goal.

But then something happened. A collision of their bodies and their worlds. They both made the same choice to put another’s needs before their own. They both risked losing all they had worked for in order to help a fellow runner.

In First Corinthians, Paul asks the church to do the same thing. To come together, to look out for one another and to serve the body of Christ.

Are you willing to set your own goals aside at times in order to help another brother or sister in Christ?

“Instead, God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable,  so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other.  So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” – 1st Corinthians 12:24-26(CSB)


Biblical Ways to See 20/20 in 2020

During the Christmas holidays, we watched the movie “The Santa Clause.” In one scene, an elf says to Santa, “Seeing isn’t believing, believing is seeing.” Who would have thought that a movie about Santa would have such a profound biblical truth?

Isn’t that what faith is—believing before we see?

I’ve been thinking about that and about the new year. I’ve been asking God what I should focus on for 2020. Suddenly it occurred to me that there was a play on words there. The best way to focus is to have 20/20 vision.

What would it take to have 20/20 vision in a spiritual sense? Here is what I believe the Lord showed me.

1. Take care of your eyes.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,” – Matthew 6:22

2. Guard your eyes.

“I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” – Psalm 101:3

3. Ask for your eyes to be opened.

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” – Psalm 119:18

4. Ask for your eyes to be turned.

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” – Psalm 119:37

5. Ask for your eyes to be enlightened.

“Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,” – Ephesians 1:18

6. Clean out your eyes.

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” – Matthew 7:3

7. Look beyond what you think you can see.

“As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:19

8. Lift up your eyes.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121:1-2

My challenge for 2020 is to ask God to help me become more intentional about these 8 ways improve my spiritual vision. As I do this, I believe God’s priorities will come into focus.

Will you join me in this challenge?

Mary and Joseph’s Packing List








unnamedThey embarked upon a journey that neither of them had chosen. They were compelled by the government to take a trip that would take them eighty miles from their home. Mary was not just a little pregnant, she was, according to the scriptures, “great with child.” She knew her time was near and yet she had to travel a long and difficult journey that would take about a week to complete.

What did she pack to take on her trip? Only what she and Joseph could carry themselves. There were no luggage handlers to load and unload their baggage. There were no suitcases with wheels and handles. Mary and Joseph didn’t take several changes of clothes, toiletries or reading material to entertain them on their journey. They didn’t take an extra pair of shoes or dress clothes for an evening out while they were away. They likely only packed the bread they would eat on the trip and perhaps a blanket or two if they had an extra. Talk about traveling light!

But they took one other thing with them. They took a complete trust in their Heavenly Father who had told them He would care for them.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”Psalm 23:1 (ESV)

They knew God would care for them because He had promised to do so and they believed Him. That doesn’t mean they didn’t fight some doubt but after all, if Mary was in the final days of her pregnancy, they’d had several months to wrestle with their doubts. I would like to think that by this time they were beginning to have some assurance in their hearts that God would keep His promise to them. He’d already seen them through the long pregnancy and the ridicule that they likely experienced from their friends and family.

They knew what a shepherd’s job was. They knew that if God was their shepherd, he would lead them and feed them. He would also protect them, provide shelter and keep them safe. He would care for their every need like he’d been doing since the day the angel had told them of the coming of their son, Jesus.

They were indeed, as helpless as sheep. They were vulnerable and weak. But they knew their shepherd was able to meet their needs. They were in want of nothing.

What do you need from your shepherd? Do you believe He is able and willing to care for you? Spend a few moments this Christmas season thanking Him for all the ways He gently and lovingly cares for you.

For the Lord is your shepherd, you shall not want.

Which Will You Choose?

“Ignorance is bliss.” I’m sure everyone is familiar with this phrase. Or, how about “what you don’t know can’t hurt you?”

I think most of us at times, would like to think that we can hide behind ignorance. If we don’t know about it then we don’t have to worry about it and we aren’t responsible to do anything about it either. But God has a different view of ignorance.

In Ezekiel 45:20 the priest is told to atone for the sins committed in ignorance. It was still sin even though the sinner was unaware that he was sinning.  And in Ephesians 4:20 Paul says that the Gentiles had been “excluded for the life of God because of their ignorance.” That doesn’t sound like bliss to me.

So, if ignorance is not a good thing, what other options do we have? I can see only two.

We can rebel and turn away from what we know or we can be obedient to act in the way God’s Word directs us.

1 Peter 1:14 says as obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance but like the Holy One who called you, be holy in all your behavior.”

In order to step out of ignorance, we must make the decision to become informed. We have to learn what God’s word says, and then we must choose to do it.

Deuteronomy 28 is an entire chapter outlining the blessings the Lord had for Israel if they chose obedience. It also outlines the consequences of choosing rebellion instead.

It’s really very simple. We have three options; ignorance, obedience or rebellion. Only one allows us to receive the blessings God has stored up for us.

Which will you choose?

Help With Your Laundry

Doing the laundry can be an unpleasant experience. When I had a houseful of little boys it was sometimes downright disgusting. It’s not something you would want others to see so it’s done out of sight if at all possible. Sometimes in a separate room or the basement. Far from where you would entertain guests.

We all have dirty laundry. It’s really laughable to think about how we hide that sort of thing thinking it would be inappropriate for others to see.  I’m sure all of us have laundry stories. None of us would be shocked by yours.

I remember a season when I was in a difficult circumstance. I’d just had my seventh child by an unplanned C-section. My husband was self-employed and working long hours. I needed help with household tasks and the laundry for nine people topped the list. While I didn’t relish the idea of others doing our laundry, there were a few close friends that I felt comfortable entrusting that chore to. I knew they wouldn’t love me less when they saw my disgusting laundry!

Can I tell you that this picture is a picture of the church? While it isn’t really appropriate to “air your dirty laundry in public” there are people God has put in your life who will not only still love you when they see the ugly things in your life,  they will pull out their washboards and help you sort it out and scrub it clean.

Sometimes we just need to allow others to see into our lives so they can come alongside us and help us work through our stuff. Maybe they can’t solve the problems but they can listen and perhaps lighten the load a little. And God has just the right people in mind for you. People who won’t be shocked by the things you share but who will roll up their sleeves and start scrubbing.  Be willing to do the same for them.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” –
Galatians 6:2(ESV)

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”1 Thessalonians 5:14(ESV)


Do you know of someone that could use this word of encouragement today?

Please share this with your friends. Perhaps it’s just what they need to get through their day.

Sometimes You Gotta Do the Hard Stuff

Several years ago, I sent my 15-year-old son on a plane by himself. I knew it was the right thing to do. But it wasn’t the easy thing to do.

And I don’t think it was a coincidence that at the same time he was changing planes in Chicago, I was working on my Bible study lesson. The lesson was about how difficult it would have been for Paul and Silas to send Timothy to the Thessalonians by himself. He was young and inexperienced but they had confidence that he would be fine.

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I thought about how God orchestrated that moment to show me something. As I wrestled with the feelings a mother gets sending her children off on their own, I heard God speaking to my heart.

There are many times that God asks us to do things that seem hard. Many times we feel stretched beyond our capacity to face the challenges that are set before us.

But the good news is that God has full confidence in us as he asks us to do the hard things. He already knows the growth that we will experience by trusting Him as we take steps that might feel a little scary.

What are you facing that seems hard today? Be encouraged! God will walk each step with you. As a mother, I couldn’t go with my son on that plane, but I knew that my Heavenly Father was right there with him.

And who knows what work the Lord did in that young man — and his mother — because we were both bold enough and brave enough to trust Him with the outcome.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” –Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)