“I have decided to stick to love. Hate is too great a burden to bear,” said Martin Luther King Jr. If we are to experience life as God intended, we have to let go of our personal agendas and biases. We have to ask God to help us discern the truth, even when that truth differs from what we already believe. On this Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday, I’m asking God to remove my blind spots (the beams from my eye). Let’s look to Christ together and pray together and respect one another and humbly admit we may not always see things as they actually are. May God help us and our country to choose love, not hate!
Though I’m told not a lot of people bother making New Year’s resolutions anymore, I do believe the New Year is a good time to take a long look at ourselves. I, for one, kid around about being an introvert, but am I using that personality trait as an excuse for not reaching out to others? Hmm! Even this long quarantine session hasn’t been as bad on me as my extroverted friends. I’m really good at social distancing even without a pandemic. Do I judge others for being different from me? Hmm, again. Some of my friends feel a strong need to be with others, not just once in a while, but often. They feel charged up by social contact and can become depressed without it. Actually, I’m thankful for those friends. Without friends like that, I would definitely be a hermit!
Have you ever hesitated to reach out to someone suffering from a devastating loss, such as the death of a parent, a spouse or a child? It’s difficult to know what to say to that kind of debilitating pain. We’ve all heard what we shouldn’t say (at least I hope so), but what can we do? As one who has suffered such loss, I will say this, no matter if it’s hard, reach out anyway. It doesn’t have to be a phone call or a personal visit; it can be a text or an email or even a response on Facebook. But I believe written cards are the best. I didn’t realize the importance of sympathy cards until I lost a son. And, don’t worry if you’re late hearing about the loss. Every day for months I received at least one, usually several sympathy cards from friends and family. Those kind messages of love and support helped lift the burden of grief I was carrying.
When I was young, my dad brought me home a horse. It was a love-hate relationship from the beginning. That gray mare sensed immediately I wasn’t a seasoned rider and gave me all kinds of trouble, which always included inflicting pain on my skinny body. But finally, as I became more experienced, we came to a kind of cease fire. She may not have been the best gift, but she gave me one of the best gifts a horse-crazy teenager could want. One frigid February morning with a punishing Western Oklahoma wind freezing our faces, my dad and I braced the blowing snow to get to the barn to witness the birth of the most beautiful filly I had ever seen. I trained her and rode her for many years. I loved that horse! Some believe your beloved animal friends will be there with family and friends to meet you when you’re resurrected. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, I’m sure I’ll be riding a luminous, whiter-than-white, flying, but very familiar, horse then.
Remember the passage in Matthew where Jesus tells his disciples John the Baptist was his messenger, preparing the people for his coming? (Matthew 11:10). No doubt you do. But have you ever thought John’s job is our job too? I heard a pastor say we Christians are, like John, preparing the way for the second and final return of Jesus Christ to the world. That drew me up short! I knew we were his witnesses, but I hadn’t thought of it as having John’s responsibility. Jesus is here with us even now, but he’s coming again, and not this time quietly among sheep and shepherds in Bethlehem. When he returns next time, it will be with power and glory and all will see him! People need to know! They need to be prepared! Let’s keep that in mind as we live out our lives daily, witnessing of him through his loving, forgiving, generous grace toward others.
“I thought I was your favorite,” my daughter said. She was responding to me saying I loved them all and had no special favorite. That was some years ago, when she was much younger. I tried to explain that each of my children is my favorite. That doesn’t mean I relate to each the same. Though they share family characteristics, they are unique individuals with different personalities. I enjoy and I love their differences as well as what they have in common. I believe that’s how God loves and relates to each of us. He loves that I am different from you, and you are different from me. We are each unique. It doesn’t matter our gender, race, color or what part of the world we live in, he loves each of us. (Truth be told, I’ve always thought I was his special favorite, but I bet he tells that to everyone!)
Does it frustrate you to read 1 Corinthians 13? It has that effect on me at times. The love Paul describes here is an over-the-top, impossible love. Even being known as a prophet, having the answers to all mysteries is not enough. Faith so strong you can shake up the Alps is not enough! He says giving away all your possessions is not enough. This is not just paying for someone behind you at Starbucks or Walmart, this is giving your absolute all, home, car, bank accounts, IRAs, clothes off your back, everything. And that’s not enough! How in the world can I be expected to love like that! The answer is, I can’t. God is love. I read God or Jesus (the same) in the place of the word love. He’s the only one who has all the attributes of love because he is love! His love is all that counts and thanks be to God, our Savior loves and lives in us!
Christmas lights are glowing around my neighborhood. Some homes have huge, magnificent displays accompanied by music synced to your car radio. Others, such as mine, are on a much smaller scale (think one large lighted wreath and a big basket of fake poinsettias on the front porch). But one display in particular I enjoy more than all the others. My neighbor across the way told me the lighted tree on her porch was put there for me to see. Now, how sweet is that! Every time I look at it I think of her thoughtfulness and also of how many ways God uses to share his love. And why not use light? After all, our Savior is the Light of the world!
I enjoy almost any genre of music if I’m watching and hearing it live, but the classical music station is my favorite on the radio. During this season they play beautiful Christmas music to honor Christ’s birth, composed by some of the greatest musicians ever. It’s glorious! But the other day, I wanted to hear some gospel music. As Elvis sang, “I Believe in the Man in the Sky,” it reminded me that’s how we often think of God. We think of him as up there somewhere. But, really he’s not just up there, he’s everywhere. God tells us he’s here with us all the time. How comforting it is to remember that promise. Sometimes you just need a little Elvis.
Usually my neighbors and I have a Christmas get together, but not this year. It doesn’t stop them from giving me gifts though. My neighbor Sue came over bearing homemade cookies, fudge, peanut brittle and a juicy pear. She even gave me the Christmas plate it was on along with a Christmas ornament. Another neighbor brought me a beautiful poinsettia. What did I do to deserve such good neighbors? I’m such a hermit, maybe God wants me to learn how to be a better neighbor. It’s working! I had a jar of apricot-orange jam ready to give her. (It was homemade but not by me.) My neighbors don’t see what they do as teaching moments for me. What we do for others may not seem like much to us, but God can share wonderful Christian values through our actions, along with showing his love.