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Devotions

How my Love Falls Short of the Greatest Love

“‘But to you who are listening I say: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you.”

Luke 6:27, 28

When someone lashes out at me, my first reaction is usually concern for me. I reassure myself that I did not deserve it and I lick my wounds. I feel justified in coddling my dignity.

My love falls short of the greatest Love.

It happened the other day at Starbucks. My order was made incorrectly. It occurs occasionally and baristas are usually apologetic and accommodating. But this time was different.

I politely asked the young woman behind the counter for a correction to my drink and was shocked at the sassy reply I got in return. I tried to smooth it over with her, thinking surely there was a miscommunication, but that only made it worse. Her retort was rude and hurtful.

I retreated to the corner to wait, because although she was mean about it, she was remaking my drink. I stood there and replayed the exchange in my head. I didn’t say anything accusing. I didn’t deserve such a response.

Hearts in foam on a cappuccino: How my Love Falls Short of the Greatest Love
Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas on Pexels.com
Love and Coffee, both best brewed pure.

I had placed my order from an app on my phone, so I had a copy of what I’d asked for. I pulled it up. Yes, I did it right. She made the error. I had proof. I was licking my wounds.

When my corrected coffee was ready, I tried to let bygones be bygones. I mustered extra sweetness when I said, “Thank you! I really appreciate it. Have a great afternoon!” She responded with unkindness, and I hurried out.

I got in the car and told my husband all about it. As the words came out of my mouth and I heard them, I felt God nudge me. I’d missed an opportunity. My love had fallen short of the greatest Love.

I know that hurt people hurt people. I suddenly wondered what had transpired in the barista’s day to make her so bitter. I could have cared for her and her needs instead of protecting my own.

Coffee cup in the middle of a heart made out of coffee beans: How my Love Falls Short of the Greatest Love
Photo by Jessica Lewis Creative on Pexels.com
Showing love is more important than drinking perfect coffee.

I imagined my own daughters, who are similar to her in age. I remembered the times they had been hurtful and what had driven them to it. I suddenly wanted to cry. My new emotion was for her, not because of her.

It was too late to go back. I prayed for her instead. I prayed that her next customer was not as slow to hear God’s voice. And I prayed for me.

I asked God to recondition my responses to care for other people when they get in my face. I want to immediately seek to ease them at the source of their pain instead of taking offense. If they see Jesus instead of me, He can make an impact!

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Luke 6:35, 36

Oh Lord, please forgive me. I thought I was being the bigger person because I was polite. But You didn’t put me there to show that I could rise above. You should have been magnified. I should have ministered, on Your behalf to the injured heart I encountered. She was precious to You and I could have shown her your healing grace. Please continue to teach me how my love falls short of Your greatest Love. Help me do better next time, in Jesus’ name.

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Devotions

There is Something Amazing in the Sinking

“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said.”

Matthew 14:25, 28, 29a

Oh, these verses hit me in the gut!  Here’s why: Peter manipulated this call.  It was his idea. 

He saw Jesus doing something miraculous. He wanted in. More likely, he wanted out. He wanted out of the boat, out of the physical world constraints to which he was subject. He secured his invitation.

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

Matthew 14:29b, 30

There is something amazing in the sinking, a nugget for you and for me.

Let’s back up a little. The verses prior to these explain that the disciples were in the boat because Jesus had plans on the other side of the lake. He had sent them ahead while He stayed behind to finish after a prior engagement. And before He joined them, He went off, alone, to pray.

The disciples had quite a head start across the lake. The wind whipped up and the water got choppy. My version of the Bible says the boat was “buffeted” by the waves.

buf·fet; verb
past tense: buffeted
1. (especially of wind or waves) strike repeatedly and violently; batter.
2. knock (someone) over or off course.

Dictionary.com

There they were, in a little boat in deep water, being buffeted. If I put myself there, I imagine hanging on for dear life, trying not to throw up. It does not sound unlike how life feels to me right now, but that is a point for a different post.

Jesus intended to catch up with them so they would arrive together on the other side. Do you think they wondered how He was going to do that? They were certainly not expecting Him to come walking out on the water.

“Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.”

Matthew 14:25, 26

Can you imagine? It would have been amazing on a calm lake, but this water was rough! It was a show of power indeed.

Peter wanted to walk in power too. (That is giving him the benefit of the doubt. My suspicious side thinks maybe he just wanted to do something cool. Either way…) He stepped out onto the lake, became afraid, and started sinking. Jesus immediately caught him and put him back into the boat. 

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

Matthew 14:31-33

Jesus did not pull the disciples out of the storm and put them back, safely on the shore. He moved them forward. He calmed the storm and then saw them through to the other side.  Why?  Because crossing was God’s plan, His idea, His will. 

Peter, though, was plucked from the waves and returned to the boat from which he came. Jesus gave Peter a glimpse of what was possible, but there, in the middle of the lake, in the pre-dawn dark, more water-walking was not the miracle they needed.

Ferocious blue waves: There is Something Amazing in the Sinking
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Peter’s first thought was not to calm the waves, but to walk on them like Jesus did.

Peter was enthusiastic, but his timing was wrong. Miracles bring glory to God, not men. God was working. Jesus was calming waves. The buffeted boat was going to make it safely across and Peter was distracted by his own idea. He had to be put back in his place.

Peter’s ego was probably a bit worse for wear when he found himself back at square 1. But did this disqualify him from being part of what Jesus had planned? Not at all.

Jesus had something amazing to do on the other side of the lake. It was to heal the sick and save the lost. All the disciples, including Peter, got to be part of it.

“When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all who were ill to him and begged him to let those who were ill just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.”

Matthew 14:34-36

There is something amazing in the sinking of Peter that resonates with me. I recognize times where I have called myself into ministry. I saw Jesus doing something amazing, somewhere other than my area of responsibility, and asked Him to let me participate.

Ultimately, when I sought positions, as opposed to being called to them, I was chasing opportunities for my own glory. Whether I wanted to appear useful in the Kingdom of God, feel gifted for service, or whatever my reasons, they were about me.

When it became apparent that my ideas were a distraction from what God had asked me to do, my efforts tanked and I sank. Jesus had to grab hold of me and set me back where I started. 

A boat safely moored and in calm water: There is Something Amazing in the Sinking
Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com
I need to stay in the boat God puts me in until He calls me out.

Jesus, the ultimate Life Guard, has always rescued me. In his grace, He has allowed me to get back on board with His amazing agenda, even after distractions and failures. I can say, there is nothing like sinking to remind me to ride contentedly in the boat I am given to the shores God has in store for me.

Lord, You are so good! Please forgive me for every time I’ve stepped out into situations for which you hadn’t prepared or called me. You are faithful to rescue and restore with such patience! I do not want You to have to keep returning me to square one. I want to progress in doing Your will, in Your time, and for Your glory. Oh Lord, your agenda, not mine!

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Devotions

Forgiven and Free – Fooled by Feelings or In the Know?

The following quote made me stop and think. Do I bank my future on what I feel or what I know? How about you? Are you fooled by what you feel? Do you need to know whether you’re forgiven and free?

David Hocking quote about feeling forgiven: Forgiven and free - fooled by feelings or in the know?
Feelings can fool us. We need to know we’re forgiven!

To be sure, we need to go to the Source. The Bible helps us know whether we’re forgiven and how to fix it if we’re not. Feelings change but the Word of the Lord abides forever.

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Matthew 6:14, 15

“And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”

Matthew 12:31

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 2:38

“All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Acts 10:43

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”

Ephesians 1:7

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Colossians 1:13. 14

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9
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Reflections

Powerful Winter Storms in Line with Lessons for Life

Powerful winter storm stories abound in the news. Have you seen them? They implore people to prepare. They describe harrowing conditions which are hazardous to life and livelihood. They follow the storm as it rages and then they show the aftermath. Have you endured any of these storms this season?

I’ve noticed that the end of the story seems to be largely determined by how a community responds to the beginning. When proper precautions are taken and preparations made, tragedy is often avoided. These powerful winter storm stories are in line with lessons for life.

I do not live in the projected line of many winter storms. The warnings on the news do not usually apply to me, other than as a reminder to pray for those who are in the path of possible destruction. But I have noticed a surprising correlation which applies directly to me. And maybe to you!

A bear in beanie and scarf, sitting in the snow: Powerful Winter Storms in Line with Lessons for Life
Photo by Marina Shatskih on Pexels.com
Life storms can leave us feeling cold and alone

Powerful Winter Storms in Line with Lessons for Life

This winter has presented powerful storms of another kind for my family. The weather outside has been relatively mild, but inside our home, conditions have been harsh. We’ve had to hunker down in the face of health hurricanes, financial flurries and many hardships in between.

Related post: No Disinformation Here: Our Genuine Experience with COVID-19, Omicron variant

As I watch the news and see people preparing for, enduring, and rebuilding after powerful winter storms, I can’t help but draw valuable analogies for my life. How about you? Does any of this feel familiar?

Winter Storms

  • Winter storms are powerful and uncontrollable.
  • They isolate communities from needed resources.
  • They demand attention and require preparation, much of which must begin before the first signs of danger appear on the radar.
Cabins buried in snow to the roofline: Powerful Winter Storms in Line with Lessons for Life
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Storms are unavoidable.
They demand our attention.

Winter storms are in line with life. Have you experienced the following parallels? I’ll bet you have!

Life Storms

  • We all encounter powerful life storms over which we have no control. (Health, finance, relationships, tragedy, violence, etc.)
  • These storms can cause us to lose connection to others. When we are isolated, our problems loom larger and we feel alone in our efforts to cope.
  • When life storms hit, they cannot be ignored. Our ability to endure will be greatly increased if we have been diligent to prepare in advance.

What life lessons can we take from the powerful storms we’ve seen and experienced this winter? Oh friend, we can’t grasp a breeze, let alone control the storms. But we know the One who can!

Lessons for Life

  • We must realize who is in control (God) and who is not (us). God gives us incredible power of choice over many things. But when He exercises authority, we must surrender ours.
  • Harsh conditions can seem to isolate us from God and others. No matter how we feel, we must focus on truth. If we have given ourselves to God, no storm of life can disconnect us from Him. He stands near, offering shelter and an endless supply of everything we need. We are never alone.
  • God has given us His Word, the Bible. In it, He has warned us about the powerful storms we may encounter and given instructions for how to prepare. We can (and should!) read and heed in seasons of calm. Then, when powerful storms rage, our hearts are fortified and supplied with peace.

“Storms make trees take deeper roots.”

–Dolly Parton

“When trouble comes, focus on God’s ability to care for you.”

–Charles Stanley

“I will call on the Lord in my distress and he answers me.”

-Psalm 120:1

“I have made you. I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

–Isaiah 46:4
Sun shining through the tress and onto the snow: Powerful Winter Storms in Line with Lessons for Life
Photo by Haoshuang Lou on Pexels.com
We can have peace amidst the storm.

It is winter in the United States. Much of our country is being pummeled by powerful seasonal storms. In other parts of the world, the sun is shining.

But each of us, around the globe, is in the direct path of life’s storms. We are either preparing for, enduring, or rebuilding in the aftermath of one at all times. Where are you right now? Do any of these lessons for life, presented by recent powerful winter storms, apply to what you are facing right now? If I can pray for you, please leave your request in the comments.


“Storms draw something out of us that calm seas don’t.”

Bill Hybels

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.”

Psalm 107:28-30

“The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we’re going to drown!’ He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.”

Luke 8:24
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Reflections

3 Instances of Compromise and 3 Reasons God is Greater

What comes to mind when you hear the word compromise? Does it carry a negative connotation or a positive one? Are you someone prone to compromise?

Three instances of compromise

  • Personally, I tend to first think of compromise in a negative light. I quickly equate it to the failure to live up to an ideal. For instance, when I commit to getting up early and then compromise with the snooze alarm.
  • Compromise can be valuable. Last weekend, I suggested a walk with my husband to one of our favorite restaurants for lunch. He wanted to watch the game. We compromised with a shorter walk so we could be home to watch the second half while we ate.
  • Recently, I made a mutually beneficial compromise with someone in the professional arena. I made the agreed-upon concessions on my end, but my colleague did not. One-sided compromise is utterly disappointing.

Compromises are sometimes necessary, but they are risky. You take a gamble that you will gain something by giving something. They are ever-present in human relationships.

But you know who never needs to compromise? God!

Three reasons God is greater than compromise

  • He always keeps His Word. If He said it, He’ll do it. He will not compromise on His commitments to us.
  • God’s plan was for His glory and our good from its inception. There are no competing agendas which require compromise. We can fully embrace His will without reservation.
  • God is trustworthy. He doesn’t trick us or send us on fool’s errands. He cares deeply about us.
3 instances of compromise and 3 reasons God is greater
I don’t want to compromise with God. Com means “together”. If I remove myself, I’m left with “His” promise.

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

Hebrews 10:36

Compromise requires mutual concession. It literally means “together promise”. It can be selfless or selfish. But it has no place in my relationship with God. If I take myself out of the equation, I’m left with His promise and I’m more than ok with that!

“Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I shall live; do not let my hopes be dashed.”

Psalm 119:116

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

2 Corinthians 1:20
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Reflections

God’s Unusual Show And Tell Made A Spectacular Splash!

The memory had escaped the forefront of my mind but was pulled back in an instant when I came across the photo. We had gone hiking near the American River. On previous visits, there had been rapids. On this day, the water was smooth as glass.

I pulled out my camera to take a picture of the reflection of the rocks on the opposite bank. Unbeknownst to me, my husband picked up a large rock and threw it just as I snapped the shot. I was upset with him at first, assuming he had disturbed the calm of the water.

But when I looked at my photo, I was incredulous. I caught his splash on film before it disturbed the serenity. The still, calm water spectacularly reflected the splash. We couldn’t have timed it so perfectly if we’d tried.

Water so glassy that even the splash has a reflection!
The rock in motion looks blue! See the splash above and the reflection below?

I’m not sure I’d ever seen the reflection of a splash before. I may never see one again, at least not in nature. But I’d like to see it happen in me. Let me explain.

As I have been practicing Slow Living, I’ve been meditating on the idea of being still. Even when my mind and body are active, my heart and soul can be still. It does not come naturally, but like I said, I’m practicing.

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”

Psalm 46:10

The most spectacular application I see of God’s Splashy Show and Tell is this: When an existence is characterized by unusual peace, even disturbances reflect peacefully.

Can I quiet myself to reflect the nature of God to the degree that, even when I am disturbed, His reflection remains?

And when it all settles, and the ripples are formed, am I calm enough to maintain His image? Can the color of His majesty be seen in and through something which upsets me?

Because that is my goal. But if I am honest, right now my disturbances risk the ruin of any, and all, Godly reflection I may have achieved beforehand. When something unexpected splashes down on me, it can change my demeanor. God and I are working on it.

“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.”

Proverbs 27:19

Thank you, God, for your unusual Show and Tell. What a spectacular picture of reflection! I want to resemble the water in this photograph – calm to the the depths of me. I want to reflect your majesty, from my surface through the core of my being. And when sudden disturbances come, Lord, my desire is to have such peace that even the splashes are ricocheted in peaceful worship back to you.

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”

Psalm 29:11

“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”

Psalm 119:165

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”

Romans 8:6

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…”

Galatians 5:22a

You may be familiar with the first verse of the Serenity Prayer. Did you know there was more? Here is the extended version.

God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change…
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference.


Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
Amen.
 
~Reinhold Neibuhr     

God’s unusual Show and Tell made a spectacular splash on my soul. It sent my mind spinning towards stillness. Are there disturbances threatening your peace right now? My precious friend, God can sustain you, and will if you let Him!