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What Color Is Jesus?

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”                                                                                                                                                                                                            Isaiah 53:2

On my kitchen windowsill is a Christmas card I received a couple of years ago. It is a simple but colorful drawing of the Christ Child in the manger, with several shepherds kneeling in adoration. All the people in the picture are jet black.

Am I offended by the lack of historical accuracy? Not at all. Nor have I written back to the sender, saying “By the way, Jesus was Jewish, and the shepherds were Jewish, and that picture makes no sense.”

Nope. I love that card, because of who sent it and where it came from. The greeting inside is a hand-written note from one of my friends in Uganda – “To my favorite author.” Elsewhere in the note is written in big letters, “UGANDA LOVES YOU!”

Lately there has been some heated discussions regarding the question of “what color was Jesus?” This question was the basis for accusing whole cultures of racism, western European types in particular. It seems that some European paintings of Jesus show Him looking, well, like a European.

But then, why not?  I would expect pictures of Him in, say, a Mexican church to look more Hispanic. In Asia you can find pictures of Jesus looking Chinese or Indian.

There’s a reason for this, and I’m guessing those reasons were more theological than historical.

These artists were probably aware of where Jesus lived and died, and yet they decided to paint Him in a way that made Him more relatable to the people of their own culture. These artists weren’t ignorant. On the contrary, I would respectfully suggest that their critics are the ones who might be missing the point.

And what is the point? What is the message of the Incarnation?

The point is, the Son of God – God Himself – left His home in heaven to become one of us (“us” being Humanity).

As a Man, Jesus went through the same experiences we go through. He was hungry. He got thirsty. He experienced weariness and pain and loneliness. He knew fear and stress and the sting of other people’s hatred. He empathized, He grieved, He knew anger and frustration. These are things experienced by every person that ever lived, every color, in every era, and in every corner of the earth. He came for all of us – for black and white, Hispanic and Asian, Middle Eastern and Native American. And for every race, every nationality, every ethnic group, He took our sins upon Himself and took them to the Cross, where He died for the forgiveness of all of us.

One of my favorite outreaches, the Jesus Film Project has been showing the gospel in video form for decades. Their movie, “JESUS,” the dramatization of the gospel according to Luke, has been translated into more than 1800 languages! Until the pandemic shut down the world, small teams of technicians and evangelists would trek into the remotest places, set up their equipment, and show the film to whole villages at a time. The people would gather to watch and be mesmerized to see the gospel story played out in their language! Now of course when Jesus was on earth He didn’t speak in the tribal languages of these obscure groups, but that doesn’t matter to them. They watch, they listen, they understand – and they believe! 

SIDE NOTE: If you are a linguistics expert and want to get nitpicky about the language Jesus really spoke, you might want to rent “The Passion of the Christ,” where the dialogue is in the original Aramaic. (You might also want to make sure the subtitles are turned on.)

The Apostle John’s description of Heaven in Revelation describes a multitude of people that could not be counted, people “from every nation, tribe, people, and language.” (Revelation 7:9) I’m guessing none of those people got hung up what Jesus looked like when He walked the earth as one of us. Who knows? When we enter into eternity, He may show Himself to us in a glorious new color we have never seen before in this life! (Yes, my imagination can go wild when I think of entering eternity after leaving this finite world.)

The Incarnation is a profound reality, one well worth reflecting on.  John 1:14 says,     “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In these days of arguing about anything and everything, let’s focus less on the flesh and more on the Word.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for leaving the throne room of Heaven to live in this fallen world as one of us. Thank You for offering Your life for all of us as the perfect sacrifice. You paid the debt we could not afford, so our sins might be cancelled out and we might live with You forever. And now, as we place our faith in You, we can look forward to eternal life in Your glorious kingdom, along with Your children from every nation, tribe, people and tongue! What a glorious day that will be!  Lord, help us to focus less on the superficial and more on what’s truly important – how much You love us, how much we love You, and how much we should love one another in Your name. Amen.

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To Seniors and Others Missing Out

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.         Colossians 3:2

This piece, originally entitled “What Else Matters?” was posted May 3 of last year. I wanted to share it again, for all my readers who are or have seniors missing their prom, graduation, and other festivities they thought they would be enjoying now. Feel free to share this with them. I hope it encourages those who are feeling the loss.

It was the morning of the National Day of Prayer. I was sitting in the auditorium at City Hall, listening to my daughter’s school choir singing a goosebump-raising rendition of “You Are God Alone.” They were warming up for the city-wide prayer meeting that was starting in half an hour. And I was crying.

My daughter Kelly had been having a rough time in high school. The migraines that had first appeared when she was four years old had continued to plague her through grade school and middle school and had caused her record absences through high school, in spite of years of prayers and attempts to find a solution through medicine, both traditional and “alternative.”

But in spite of enduring more pain than some people suffer in a lifetime, Kelly had found a few sources of pleasure in her life. By far her greatest joy was singing, and her favorite part of school was choir. When the students performed, Kelly’s face radiated with unmistakable joy. She had looked forward to the national Day of Prayer and taking part, and as I had said goodbye to her that morning and she left for school, I had whispered a special prayer of thanks to God for this special day.

My optimism had been short-lived, however. Kelly had called me from the parking lot of a McDonald’s half a mile from school to tell me about the migraine that had assaulted her shortly after she had walked out the door. When I had suggested that she come home, take some medication, and rest until the assembly, she had sobbed that if she didn’t show up at 8:00 she wouldn’t be allowed to sing with the choir.

There are definite advantages to a small Christian school, one of them being teachers who know each student well and practice grace along with discipline. As I called the office to explain Kelly’s dilemma, the choir director, who “happened to be” right by the phone, responded with compassion. She said to let Kelly come home, take a pill and a nap, and meet the choir at City Hall at 11:30 if she was feeling better.

But the medication that knocked out the migraine had a way of knocking out the patient as well, and when I had tried to rouse Kelly for the prayer meeting, she had been hopelessly (and predictably) dead to the world. Now as the choir finished their warm-up and filed off the stage, there I sat, with nothing to do but feel sorry for Kelly, thinking of all the important high school events she had missed and would never again get a chance to do. And yes, I’ll admit I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, as well. (When “BabyBear” hurts, “MamaBear” hurts, too.) So in spite of my efforts to contain them, the tears flowed.

I was digging through my purse, looking for a tissue when I came across my small New Testament. Since the prayer meeting didn’t start until noon, I knew I had twenty minutes to kill, and the last thing I wanted to do was spend them wallowing in self-pity. So I pulled out the Bible and prayed.

Lord, Jesus, please encourage me. I don’t want to feel this way today!

I was not in the habit of looking for answers to problems by haphazardly opening the Bible; I hadn’t done that since college. But since I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, I opened the Book at random, planning just to read until I found something helpful, or until the prayer meeting started, whichever came first.

The scripture that first caught my eye was the last chapter of Mark:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb, and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!”                    (Mark 16: 1-6)

Something told me I had seen enough, so I stopped reading.

OK, what does that have to do with Kelly’s migraines? I wondered. But then I pondered the significance of the passage.

Jesus is alive … JESUS IS ALIVE! That means that death is not the end … for Him or for us! And it certainly means this life isn’t the be-all and end-all for those who trust in the Lord. – It’s barely the beginning!

Yes, my daughter had missed the National Day of Prayer, over a hundred days of high school, and numerous weekend festivities. She had missed Homecoming, but someday she would be at the greatest Homecoming in history. She had missed singing in the choir that day, but someday she would sing in heaven’s choir forever. Kelly loved Jesus, and she would get to spend forever with Him, at the never-ending, greatest celebration of all time. When one had that to look forward to … what else mattered?

What else matters? I asked myself, and I found that in spite of my pity-party, I was smiling. I decided that I would pour myself into the Day of Prayer and keep a better perspective on life from that day on, by remembering the one thing that really matters –

Jesus is alive!

Excerpted from BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?)                           c 2015 Ann Aschauer

Prayer: Lord, we rejoice that You are alive! Keep us mindful of what really matters. In Your name, amen

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On Being Transparent

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.     Isaiah 64:6a

I don’t do windows.

Well, every few years I try. There will be that bright sunny morning when the light was streaming in, and the need for cleaning was so obvious, I grab the window cleaner, spray bottle, rags, paper towels, and squeegee and get to work. Two or three hours later I throw in the towel (and everything on it) and once more promise myself, never again!

Every summer we go to the house in Michigan that my grandparents built it in the 1940s. It was elegant then and it is still elegant now. Forty-six years ago my husband Marty and I got married there, and two years ago our youngest daughter married the love of her life there. The house has French provincial architecture, fireplaces, a bay window, and French doors that open onto a patio overlooking the lake.

It also has windows that have had a curse put on them. Or maybe it’s just the paint on the frames that dissolves every time any liquid touches it… Each magical little pane is specially made to get dirtier the more it’s wiped. After several attempts at cleaning, the glass will go from mildly dirty to ridiculously streaked on the outside – when you’re looking out. Of course, when you’re outside looking in, all you see are the streaks that are inside. I have on occasion treated the job like an Olympic event, “the Window Sprint” – Can I run outside and get that streak off before I forget where it is? Pretty soon I’m streaked too, with sweat and dirt, and breathless with exasperation. No gold medal here.

(Now please don’t write and tell me how you clean your windows. Believe me, I’ve heard the advice, all about vinegar and newspapers and yada-yadda-yadda… I’ve tried it all.)

A few years ago we put our house in Port Huron up for sale, and one of the many jobs that needed to be done was … clean the windows. [Insert scary horror movie music here.] When a perfectly gorgeous day came up and I had absolutely nothing on my schedule, there was no excuse to put off the job, however desperately I wished for one.

I was delightfully surprised to find the job was not only effective but surprisingly fun when it actually worked! I found myself singing as I got into the rhythm -squirt-squeegee-wipe, squirt-squeegee-wipe – and pretty soon I was looking around for more windows to clean. At the end of the day I was standing in the living room, gazing out at the Lake Huron, relishing the fact that the windows were virtually invisible and I may as well have been standing outside. >Eureka!<

For some reason I took this to mean I now knew how to clean windows, so when we later went to Portage Lake, one bright, sunny day I confidently grabbed my trusty squeegee and began to make the dining room gorgeous, one little pane at a time, forgetting that these windows were cursed… Two hours, one roll of paper towels, one bottle of Windex, and one tantrum later, there was not one pane that was totally clean. I threw up my hands and yelled “I GIVE UP!” followed by a few other things that were probably inappropriate for a Christian to be saying.

Have you been there? I don’t mean just with windows, but anything that you’ve tried to “fix,” that only gets worse the more you try? As I stood there that day, hot and exhausted, scowling at the streaks blocking the view of the beautiful lake, I figured the only way to get a clear view would be just to break the windows. That’s it! Just take out the pains – er, panes – completely, and the view would be great. Of course, that would have made the house a bit drafty and buggy, so Marty didn’t go for that idea.

It occurred to me that I was looking at a picture of sin. The Bible tells us that ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, all of Mankind has been under the curse of sin. For many people, their lives may seem “good enough.” But then the light of God’s truth shines through, and it becomes painfully obvious that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 6:23) The more we look at our sin, the more it bothers us.

So, what do some of us do? We try to clean up our act. Somehow we think we can make it right on our own, although it should soon be apparent that if we were so capable of doing good, our lives wouldn’t be such a mess in the first place. After trying to make things right, we see that we have failed, and more often than not, our feeble attempts have made the situation worse than ever. At this point we should see that we can’t do this ourselves. But some of us refuse to believe we’re that helpless. So we try harder, thinking if we could just try hard enough, we’ll finally clean up our lives.

The bottom line is, we can’t fix the mess ourselves. We have only two choices. We can avoid the Light and hope nobody notices the dirt, or we can go to God and ask Him to help us. Fortunately, He can. In fact, He sent His Son, Jesus, to take all our dirt onto Himself. When He died for us, He was taking our sin and nailing it to the Cross, and we never have to be enslaved by it again. He can make our lives clean, and He can shine His light through us. Isn’t it a relief to know we don’t have to try to clean ourselves up?

I haven’t yet figured out how to get Jesus to do my windows for me, but two years ago before our daughter Kelly married the love of her life on the lawn at that house, we did hire a professional exorcist – er, window cleaning service. Now when I look out through the crystal clear glass and remember how it used to be, I know what a mess I would be without Jesus. I’m just grateful that I’m not without Him, and that He was willing to do what was necessary to make me clean, so He could shine His light through me.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in ourselves we are powerless to clean up our own lives. Thank You that You have not left us on our own, but You have shed Your blood to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, that we can live the lives You want us to live – the lives we truly want. We choose to trust You to shine through us today, in Your power, in Your name. Amen

Here’s Our Big Chance, Folks!

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. II Timothy 2:23

I was saddened to read a blog post recently about the selfishness of people. I don’t deny that selfishness is part of the human condition. But this blogger was basing his judgment on one thing – who is or isn’t wearing a mask.

For the past fifteen months our nation has been embroiled in controversy regarding (among other things) masks – whether or not they work, whether they increase bacterial infections, whether they decrease the oxygen supply to children’s growing brains, whether emotional damage is done when people can’t see one another’s faces and smiles, whether masks are dehumanizing, and whether not wearing a mask is a sign that a person doesn’t care if they infect and kill people.

Hearing-impaired people, no longer able to read lips, are feeling cut off from society. People wearing glasses get cranky because wearing a mask fogs up their lenses … Maybe that’s just me…

I even heard on the news of a man who was ticketed for wearing a mask and glasses while driving. He was told he could wear a mask or glasses while driving, but not both.

People wearing masks while driving alone have their intelligence questioned. People not wearing a mask in stores get hateful looks from people who are.

Crossing to the other side of the street when seeing another person approach used to be considered rude, now it’s deemed considerate. Keeping one’s distance in general is considered thoughtful, while elderly people with dementia sadly wonder why no one hugs them any more.

And I haven’t even mentioned the closed businesses, bankruptcies, suicides, riots, and social media wars.

Face it, it’s been a crazy, confusing, and potentially depressing year.

Now there’s hope on the horizon…. allegedly. The new “va**ine” is being either touted as the savior of the world, or feared as a conspiracy to rid the planet of half its population.

So we have yet another controversy fanning the flames of hatred among us.

People getting the injections are called “guinea pigs” by those who won’t, while those who rolled up their sleeves are enraged at the “anti-vax” people, blaming them for delays in getting us back to “normal.”

People asking questions, instead of getting reasonable, well-documented answers, are simply being “cancelled” and looked upon as trouble makers. Physicians who have practiced medicine for decades are being blocked on social media by anonymous “fact checkers.”

What am I trying to say here? … Good question.

I’m saying that everything that has been happening for the past year and a half is way more complicated than “If you wear a mask, you’re a good person who cares about others. If you don’t, you’re a scumbag.” Since when do we have the right – or the ability – to judge other people’s hearts?

To many, a healthy lifestyle involves more than avoiding microbes. Emotional health is also vital – enjoyable activities, human contact, meaningful relationships, creativity, and learning new things. Bodies are weakened not only by germs, but by fear, stress, rage, isolation, loneliness, sadness/depression, and hopelessness. We will never know how much damage was done in the past year to people driven to the breaking point by both the virus and the “solutions.” Children especially don’t need more fighting to add to the stress.

I certainly don’t have definitive answers to any of the myriad questions, and there are people way smarter than I am on all sides of the debates. But here’s what I do know:

CHRISTIANS, THIS IS OUR BIG CHANCE!

While the rest of the world is screaming at one another about masks and shots, election fraud, who’s lying and whos’ gullible, who doesn’t care about others and who’s virtue signaling, here are a few things we can do to stand out from the others, to represent Christ well:

  • Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. When you see people wearing masks, assume those people believe they are doing what’s best for the people around them, and respect that choice. If they seem to be glaring at you, assume that underneath those masks their mouths are smiling – and smile back. Assume people who don’t wear masks have their reasons. Don’t waste emotional energy being angry.
  • Treat everyone with the respect you would want. If someone seems nervous about getting near you, keep your distance. If you‘re nervous, keep your distance. If people have a different opinion from yours, assume they simply have a different perspective, which they arrived at honestly.
  • Refuse to get sucked into an argument (See scripture above.), especially considering it’s highly unlikely at this point that you will change anyone’s mind, even if you were 100% right about everything. (Trust me, you’re not.)
  • Priorities! “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” While educated, sincere, passionate people debate political issues and social problems with no perfect answers, believers in Jesus Christ can be confident about one assignment: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” – Mark 16:15-16 There is only one decision people will make that affects their eternal destiny. Everything else is details. Don’t squander your credibility arguing over lesser things.
  • Remember God is greater. Nothing can happen to you without His permission, and He loves you. He loves your children more than you do. He has more power over lives than any disease. His kingdom is greater than any political party, and it is forever. We don’t have to be burdened with judging anyone – in fact, we’re told not to. He knows hearts, and He will judge everyone justly.

Even if God has called you to battle in a certain area of social or political change, while you’re “fighting the good fight,” you can still stand out with a Christ-like attitude.

We should be the most unconditionally loving people on the planet. We should be staying joyful in the middle of everyone else’s angst.

People will notice. They’ll notice, because grace in these times takes more than human effort and being “right.” It takes supernatural help, the kind we get only from our Savior.

Time is short. People are lost. We have the answer!

Now’s the time to stand out.

LET’S DO IT!

Prayer: Jesus, help us, especially in these times, to be more like You – in the world, but not of the world. Make us a reflection of Your love, extending to everyone Your invitation to eternal life. In Your name, amen

*#%?! It Happened AGAIN!

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. – I Peter 3:15

Lately I’ve had conversations with some unlikely allies regarding medicine, politics, and which conspiracy theories might not be theories after all. I am not a doctor or a scientist or a politician, and I am not willing to risk my credibility asserting things I’m not absolutely certain are facts. Since there are people with all different perspectives that are way smarter than I am, I’m willing to respect anyone’s point of view, as long as they arrived at it with a degree of intelligent reasoning.

I recently had a long phone conversation with someone I didn’t know very well, who wanted me to send her a link to some information I had shared with a mutual friend. After about a half hour I was sensing a connection between us and possibly an open door for sharing something way more important than any current event.

I told her that at the end of the day Jesus gives me peace, so while I’m concerned about certain things, I’m not freaking out over them. She responded that she gets her peace from good feelings, positive vibes, and such. Then we were out of time and had to hang up.

Suddenly I realized, It had happened again! I had used up a full thirty minutes talking about issues that won’t ultimately matter, and I had missed an opportunity to share the only thing that does!

I wanted to call her right back, but not feeling 100% prepared for a debate, I wrote her this letter instead. (I’ll call her “Renee” here.)

Renee, I’m glad we got to talk the other night, although I was kicking myself after we had hung up, because I had spent 30 minutes talking about somewhat important things, but then only about 30 seconds on the most important.

As you may have sensed, I don’t like confrontation, but nowadays we can’t let fear of conflict keep us from telling people what needs to be said, whether it’s regarding experimental shots or smothering their children, however well intentioned. If I warn them and they don’t listen, it’s on them, but if I say nothing, I am at least partly to blame if disaster strikes.

However, the most important message I’ve been given to deliver is not a warning about microchips, poisonous injections, election fraud, socialism, or a One World Order. Jesus told His followers to tell people about Him. Those other things are important now, but not as important as eternal things. If I can address both, that’s great, but if not, I have to get my priorities straight.

As I told the “contact tracer” recently, I am going to die.

In fact, you are going to die, too.

Are we going to die of C*vid? Probably not – but we might.

Are we going to die today?! Probably not – but we might.

The question isn’t really “Are we going to die?” We already know the answer to that one. But the next question, and the more important one is, “What happens after that???

A belief system needs consistency, a permanent point of reference, and for me, that’s the Bible. While positive vibes and good feelings might be enjoyable, they aren’t stable enough to give me unwavering direction. In fact, I’ve found them to be downright deceiving! As the Bible says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end, it leads to death.” (Proverbs 16:25) and “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) I’ve learned this truth over and over, through painful experiences when I realized my heart (emotions) had been lying to me!

On the other hand, the Bible has always said, unwaveringly, that someday we will face God to be judged and told where our souls will spend forever – either in His presence in everlasting joy, or apart from Him, in everlasting misery.

This will be the defining moment of our lives for all eternity.

I can guarantee that when that day comes there won’t be one person who gives a rat’s rear end whether they died of C*vid or an experimental injection, or shot by a racist cop, or whether they were living free or under a socialist government, or who was President and whether or not he cheated. It’s not going to matter. This life is a tiny blip on the radar that will soon vanish into nothingness. In the eternal scope of things, all that matters is whether we have followed the truth and our sins (We’ve all committed them.) have been paid for by Jesus’ death on the Cross, clearing the way for us to be forgiven and clean.

Jesus said that He is the ONLY way to heaven, (John 14:6) and I believe Him. Why wouldn’t I? He is all-powerful (He created everything.), all-loving (He sacrificed Himself to save me.), and all-knowing (He created it all in the first place.). And He has never let me down.

Just as with the C*vid information, I can’t make anyone else’s decisions. What you choose to believe is up to you: Either

(A.) Jesus is who He said He is and the only way to eternal life (John 3:16), or

(B.) He isn’t.

Option “B” means Jesus was either a liar who would tell us He was something He wasn’t, or a lunatic who thought he was God. There is no option “C.” Contrary to popular opinion, He can’t have been a “good, wise, moral teacher.” Good, moral people don’t lie about something as basic as their identity. And wise teachers aren’t confused about who they are.

Maybe you have already decided that Jesus was a liar or a crazy man, and that’s your choice that no one else can make for you. But if don’t do my job and tell you what I know, then shame on me.

Feel free to call me again any time if you want to talk about this.

Blessings,

Annie

Prayer: Lord, please reveal the truth to “Renee.” Let her be reborn into Your family and live forever with You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

OH … You Mean LITERALLY? (Part 2)

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31

Loving those we find it difficult to love doesn’t always involve people who hate us or do mean things to us. Sometimes the people who are nicest to us are the hardest to tolerate. When Marty and I first moved to our “little house in the big woods” early in our marriage, I had a neighbor who craved company. She would “drop by,” sometimes several times a day, and talk to me at a volume I found myself matching as I tried to communicate with this person I was assuming must be hard of hearing.

Hard of hearing or not, I knew Vicki was lonely, and the Lord had been showing me that I wasn’t truly showing her His love. While I tolerated her constant visits, I had never initiated any contact. Instead, I got involved with my new community to a point where I was rarely home. It was easier for me to be involved with the youth or the ladies in the Christian Women’s Club than with this retired hairdresser that I had very little in common with.

While something in me really didn’t want to, I decided one morning that I’d beat Vicki to it. I would come to her house, show her the love of Jesus. No matter how loudly she yelled, I would sit and take it, I would smile and nod, and try to be the friend she so desperately needed.

As I left my house, not feeling at all ready for this visit, I prayed for God to steady my heart.

Lord, You know I don’t enjoy these visits with Vicki. I get stressed, and …

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” He admonished through the familiar verse.

I got annoyed.

I know, Lord, I’m TRYING to be nice to her! What else do You want me to ... ?

“STOP.” He cut me off, then added, like a patient parent, “You’re not listening to Me. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'”

I stopped in the middle of the road and pondered what He had said. It was a simple concept. What was I missing???

What do you want Vicki to ‘do unto you’?” He coaxed. I sighed.

I just want her to speak to me in a normal voice – not shout!

“So…”

Seriously? I thought. Could it be that simple?

I knocked on Vicki’s door, and when she opened it, her face lit up.

“ANN! HI! IT’S GOOD TO SEE YOU!” she bellowed.

“Good morning, Vicki,” I said in a voice that was almost a whisper. “How are you?”

“Come on in!” she said – at a perfectly normal volume!

I was stunned. I didn’t know which surprised me more, that she could actually hear me in the soft voice I was using, or that it took only a moment for her to bring her volume down to the same level as mine.

We went on to have a very pleasant visit over tea.

As I walked back to my house, the profoundness and simplicity of the lesson sunk in. Sometimes I can overcomplicate things. But people really do tend to relate to you in the way you relate to them, maybe not always as quickly as Vicki did, but do we give up too easily? Do we assume that someone can’t be changed? We certainly can’t change them, but God can.

I’ve also noticed that for all my seeking the wisdom that can seem so elusive, the LORD will drop a nugget of understanding into my mind and heart unexpectedly – right after I have just obeyed Him! Before I had even finished walking back to my house, it occurred to me after all those months why my neighbor had the habit of shouting.

Vicki had worked in a salon for years, communicating with women whose heads were under noisy hairdryers. And if the majority of her customers were elderly, even without the dryers there was the daily challenge of speaking to the hard of hearing.

But once I had communicated in six words that I was not one of those hard-of-hearing, under-the-dryer people, she had lowered her voice immediately.

(As my daughter used to say, “DUH.”)

I chuckled at the memory of my long bouts with laryngitis, having no choice but to whisper. People would whisper back, until halfway through the conversation they would ask, “… Uh … why are we whispering?” I would laugh and respond, “I don’t know why you‘re whispering, but I have laryngitis.”

For the most part. people respond to others the way they are spoken to. If that is true with volume, it’s not a stretch to believe the same principle applies to the tone of voice. And if that’s true, isn’t it logical to think that if we just speak to others kindly, they will usually respond positively?

If we are being snapped at or yelled at for no particular reason, we tend to respond defensively. But if we will take it upon ourselves to do a “reset,” speak softly, calmly, – and yes, kindly – that response could change the direction of the whole conversation – even the relationship. As the book of Proverbs says, “A soft answer turns away wrath.” Like many Proverbs, this isn’t complicated, it’s just a simple fact of life, one that we don’t need to overthink!

I may not be able to control others, but when talking with another individual, I have control over my half of the conversation, and if I remember to use what control I have in a positive way, God might use me to let His love overflow onto the other person.

(I might at least avoid a migraine.)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we don’t know the hearts of other people the way You do. Help us always to speak others the way we would want to be spoken to, and if they are resistant to our message, rather than shout, we will leave it up to You to convince them of Your truth, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

OH … You Mean LITERALLY?

Jesus replied, “‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matthew 22:37-39

When we first moved to Michigan, this city girl felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder. Our “little house in the big woods,” was a beautiful setting that Marty adjusted to quickly, having grown up in rural Illinois.

(When Marty is in the city, he wonders, Where are the woods? the lakes? the creeks? When I’m in the country, I wonder, Where is everybody?)

We lived at the end of a dirt road that had three houses at the time, and we could only see one from our front door. It was hardly a setting where one would expect challenges in neighbor relationships.

I learned quickly who lived in that house across the road, when as we were still unpacking, the woman who lived there came to visit, bringing something she had baked and enthusiastically welcoming us to the “neighborhood.” How nice, I thought. She stayed and talked a while, and I learned all about her and her husband. They were both retired, and while he seemed to keep to himself, Vicki clearly wasn’t used to being without people around. She seemed downright giddy to have a neighbor to talk to.

And talk to … and talk to…

She was a retired hairdresser, and her specialty had been elderly ladies. She told me numerous times about the “senior citizens” coming in on certain days and getting a special discount. I learned all about perms and body waves and what might look good on me. Vicki told me about her dog Sandy, a large, undisciplined German Shepherd that was always running off into the woods. I already knew about “Sandy-Bandy-Boo-Boo,” as Vicki regularly stood at her door calling him, seemingly oblivious to the fact that despite her shouting, he would come back when he was good and ready.

It was not only Sandy’s perpetual absence that brought out Vicki’s booming voice. Even in our visits (In those early days it was two or three times a day), she shouted. The moment she yelled, “HI ANN!” I would greet her back at nearly the same level, assuming she was hard of hearing, and the volume would either remain or escalate as the conversation went on. Usually by the time she left, I was a bit hoarse and totally stressed.

I was a young Christian in those days, just learning to have regular, uninterrupted time with Jesus every morning. Before long I was having that time even before Marty got up, in order to be “prayed up” before any surprise company arrived. Soon I joined a women’s Bible study that met one morning a week, got on the board of the local Christian Women’s Club, and signed up to substitute teach at the local high school. The substitute teaching led to my having an informal “youth group” in my living room one evening a week. I did like to be involved, but I think at least part of my eagerness to get out of the house involved escaping my loud neighbor’s constant visits.

I was keenly aware that Jesus commanded His followers to love others, even those who were hard to love. I had always assumed this referred to people who were unkind to us. When someone insulted us or ridiculed us, or even persecuted us, we were to “turn the other cheek” and respond to their hatred with His love. We were to love those who didn’t love us, who abandoned us, ignored us, or treated us as dispensable.

It hadn’t occurred to me to apply that command to the neighbor who wouldn’t leave me alone, who was so overwhelmingly friendly day after day after day, and whose baked goods were piling up on my kitchen counter, as if they were the price of admission for an hour of companionship.

I realized that Vicki, was one of those people – the “least of these” – that was hard to love. And while I wanted to delve into the deeper things of God, to become a more mature Christ-follower, I knew if I hadn’t yet mastered the grass-roots concept of “love thy neighbor,” I was a pretty pathetic believer.

I knew Vicki was profoundly lonely, that she needed Jesus, but whenever I had tried to talk to her about Him or about my church, I had been interrupted or shouted over, and the conversation would go back to baked goods and perms and dogs and senior citizens, and I would give up. Now I wonder if I gave up too easily – if deep down I was just reluctant to have her and her loud voice join my church or Bible study.

It also occurred to me that I had never actively shown Vicki the love of the Lord. She had always come to my house. I had never once initiated a visit, had never even seen the inside of her house.

I had tolerated her, but never really loved her.

As usual, Jesus was not content to leave me at that shallow stage of discipleship. But knowing that I wasn’t exactly a spiritual giant, the lesson had to be quick, simple, and profound. And it was, evidence by the fact that over forty years later I still remember it quite clearly…

(To be continued …)

Prayer: Lord, You are infinite in Your love and understanding, and we are limited in both. We find it hard to love, not only those who don’t love us, but even those who do love us – who need us. We are selfish creatures. We need to be needed, but we don’t want to be tied down. We don’t understand others, and frankly at times we don’t want to understand them. Lord, bring us out of our self-centered bubbles and open our eyes to see the way You want us to live. Fill us with divine love, not merely human tolerance. For only then will we experience true joy that we can pass on to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Mysterious, Morphing Me (Update)

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 childish ways behind me. – I Corinthians 13:11

Recently I heard a Bible teacher outline the spiritual journey of a Christian in three stages: Curious, Convinced, and Committed.

Hearing this brought back a memory of a brief but vivid dream from years ago. I wrote about it here before, but for the 600 followers I’ve picked up since then, I think it worth repeating, especially in a time where the world is in so much turmoil.

Looking out the window, I saw a large squirrel, pure white. As I was thinking I’d never seen an albino squirrel, it began to grow, morphing into a sheep!

Confused, I asked the person next to me, “Is that a squirrel, or a sheep?” – realizing the moment the words were out of my mouth how silly they sounded.

But now the sheep was changing, too! Its legs were getting longer and more slender, and the way it moved was less like a sheep’s walk and more like the energetic trot of a dog. It was only then that I noticed a young man calling to the squirrel/sheep/dog. Promptly and obediently it came and trotted alongside its master.

When I woke up, I lay there for a few moments, asking the LORD, What was that all about???

I thought about the characteristic of the three animals, starting with the squirrel.

Curious

Squirrels are … well, squirrely. They are curious and flighty, with an attention span of about two seconds. I can only imagine how their little minds run. Hey-what-IS-that?-wow-cool-That’s-awesome-gotta-go-now! Squirrels are energetic and entertaining, but don’t expect them to be responsible. One thing they are not is committed.

As a child I was flighty (even more than now), and although I now know God was caring for me and looking out for me as I explored my world, I was oblivious to His presence in my life. I was a little squirrel – cute perhaps, but pretty useless.

Convinced

Sheep, on the other hand, are not oblivious to their shepherd! They know he is their guide to food and clear, clean water. He’s their protector and the one who cares for them when they are sick or injured. Sheep are almost never far from their shepherd. If one does wander away, it most certainly will find some kind of trouble and need to be rescued.

When I first knew about Jesus, I loved Him in my own little-lamb way. I trusted Him, knowing that He had created me, came to earth to save me, died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins, protected me, provided for me, healed me, and would someday give me eternal life in heaven!

That’s an awful lot of “me’s!” My love for Jesus then was based on the things He did for me. As long as I was being cared for, I would follow Jesus, and I usually took Him for granted. It never dawned on me that I could do anything for Him.

Committed

Dogs also know where their food and care come from, but unlike sheep, their loyalty is not based entirely on having their needs met. A dog is often in the position to serve his master, as well. Dogs help firefighters and law enforcement officers save lives, help sheep herders round up the flock, or bring love and joy to patients in hospitals and nursing homes. Service dogs can guide the blind or alert a patient of a medical need. Even the average family dog can find ways to help, guarding the home, alerting the family when company comes, or just being there to hug after a bad day.

As I have matured in my relationship with Jesus, I desire to serve Him – not to get Him to love me, because I know He already does – but to express my love and gratitude. After all, He suffered and died to save my soul. Today I want to make Him smile.

Which creature are you?

Do you identify with the loyal dog, wholeheartedly serving your Master? Does His kingdom benefit from your ministry and mission? Or are you more of a little lamb, just staying close to your Shepherd, trusting Him for getting your needs met?

Trusting Jesus is a great thing, especially if you’re a new believer. We should all have that quality of complete trust, all of our lives.

But are you ready to take your devotion to the next level and explore ways He might work through you to accomplish His purposes? Are you ready to give back to Him – not to earn His favor, but to celebrate His love and share it with others?

Every morning the news headlines have terrifying stories from all different fronts. The problems are overwhelming. We may want to stick our heads in the sand and wish it all to just go away. But as I often say, while sticking your head in the sand might be an option, it leaves the rest of you pretty vulnerable!

So, while we can rest in knowing we are His beloved sheep, there comes a time to step out of the green pastures and still waters of our comfort zone and reach a world that is lost and dying. Our Shepherd renews and strengthen us for a reason. No one of us can solve the world’s problems, but that isn’t an excuse to do nothing. God can use each of us to make a difference to someone. The Church can’t afford to simply graze in the comfort of the pasture.

The world needs JESUS, and we need all hands on deck!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for being our Good Shepherd and for Your constant care for us, even before we knew You. Help us to grow spiritually, so that we can be all You created us to be, not only Your sheep, but Your servants. In Your name, amen.

Note to the curious: Maybe you aren’t even at the sheep stage yet. Maybe you’re just an energetic little squirrel, running aimlessly through life. Have you been keeping God at arms’ length, because the world has so many other things to occupy your mind? If so, maybe it’s time to finally get acquainted with the One who loves you so much that He died to give you life, and discover the reason He created you.

For more on this journey to true happiness, see the following posts:

Visiting My Mothers in Heaven

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” John 11: 25-27

The dream came shortly after my mother’s death, and about eight years after my mother-in-law’s. It was one of those dreams that caused me to wake up smiling.

I’m not sure how I got there, but in my dream I was with my mother and my mother-in-law in a place that seemed neither inside nor outside. If it was inside, the place was huge. If it was outside, it was inexplicably cozy.

The floor or ground was covered with flowers – flowers we were making together. Although my school never had a homecoming parade, I imagined it was a little like gathering in the gym with classmates to make paper flowers for a float. But these flowers weren’t paper. They were real, soft, colorful, fragrant flowers!

As we made one beautiful blossom after another, we indulged in “girl talk,” reminiscing about the highlights of our lives, joking, telling stories, laughing, even singing. As the piles of flowers grew higher, the fellowship grew sweeter and sweeter.

At one point I realized somehow that my visit with them was coming to an end. I reluctantly told them it was time for me to go, and they seemed to understand.

“This has been so wonderful!” I exclaimed, unable to fully express what our time together had meant to me. “And such a delightful surprise,” I added, still not quite realizing this was a dream. In my confusion, I stammered, “I-I thought you two were dead!”

Those dear women looked at each other for a moment, and simultaneously burst out laughing. They giggled as though this were the funniest joke they had ever heard.

When finally they began to catch their breath, my mother shook her head and said to me in that sweet, reassuring voice I had grown up depending on, “Oh honey, of course we’re not dead!” I can still picture their affectionate smiles as they said good-bye – or rather, “We’ll see you soon.”

For some people Mother’s Day is a sad reminder of someone dear who has departed this life. But if that mother knew Jesus as her Lord and Savior, it doesn’t have to be a sad day. After all, Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sin that separates us from our Creator.

And since Jesus didn’t stay dead but rose from the grave – conquering death once and for all – we know that death is not the end! Those who accept Jesus’s atoning sacrifice as a free gift are washed clean of their sin, and those who believe in His resurrection will be raised as He was raised! We will be together again – not sitting around on clouds playing harps (unless playing a harp is something you enjoy doing – I do.) – but in some way being an active part in His kingdom. Maybe we’ll be making flowers, or sculpting mountains, or composing worship music that surpasses anything we have yet heard on earth. I can envision my creative husband helping build the most beautiful mansions in preparation for souls yet to arrive.

On Mother’s Day, when memories of my mother come to mind, there is a certain bitter-sweetness to them. But it’s more sweet than bitter. I know she’s safely with her Savior, as well as all the other loved ones who have gone to be with Him – what a glorious fellowship we have to look forward to!

Meanwhile, I can still talk to Jesus every day, right where I am, and I can pray,

“Lord, tell Mom I love her, and I’ll see her soon.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thank You for mothers. For some of us they have been channels of Your love, for others, examples of the fallenness of the human race. Some of us struggle to forgive our mothers, while some of us miss our mothers terribly. Some of us feel conflicting emotions of love and resentment, because our mothers are doing their best but are as flawed and imperfect as we are. Lord, the qualities we look for and appreciate in good mothers – tender love, nurturing, comfort, loving discipline, patience, humor, loyalty, forgiveness, encouragement, help, self-sacrifice – all are found in You, the Author and Finisher of our faith. For those of us who have mothers in our lives, for those of us who are mothers ourselves, give us these attributes, and help us to be the people You created us to be, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

God’s Split-second Timing

For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. – Psalm 91:11

“Anyone with kids has to believe in guardian angels, because statistically it’s impossible to grow up.” – my father

I didn’t want to interrupt their day. Thank God I did.

While my daughter Joanna’s family lives only a mile from us, the other grandparents live in another state. So, when “Marni and Papa” are in town for a visit, my husband and I usually do our own thing and let them have the grandkids to themselves.

Caroline, with her sassy sense of humor, made it abundantly clear that the focus was on the visitors Tuesday when I was dropping her off along with her sister Charlotte. We had been enjoying a frozen yogurt treat and some animated conversation, but when the girls spotted the familiar car in the driveway, the pitch got even higher as both shrieked with delight, “Marni and Papa!” As they got out of the car, Charlotte said “Thank you, Nana, I love you,” and Caroline, who had barely finished her frozen yogurt, yelled, “‘Bye, Nana! You’re yesterday’s news.” (I guess it was a little rude, and I probably shouldn’t encourage her, but if I had tried not to laugh, I could have hurt myself.)

In spite of the visit from the other grandparents, Friday I “borrowed” Charlotte for a little while. My younger granddaughter gets allergy shots two or three times a week, and because that’s something she and I have in common, I am the one who takes her. On days when I get my shots we get them together. It’s one less thing my daughter has to do, and it has proven to be a very special time for Charlotte and me. The conversations in the car, more often than not, have been those “teachable moments” we’re always hearing about. Of my five grandchildren, Charlotte has always been the one who is most curious about the things of God, and from the time she could barely talk I have frequently marveled at the depth of her questions.

So Friday morning I shot a text to Joanna: “Good morning! Yesterday’s News here. Do you want me to take Charlotte for her shots today? If so, what time?” After assuring me that I wasn’t yesterday’s news to her – (heart emoji) – Joanna said whatever time I wanted, they were just kind of “hanging out,” doing miscellaneous things.

Little did I know that the “random” time I picked was spot on in God’s plan.

(Or was it foiling the enemy’s plan?)

It was a beautiful day, and as I turned the corner next to Joanna’s house, I saw Charlotte standing in the yard, ready to be picked up. Her little brother Jackson was sitting at the edge of the street writing on the pavement with a big blue, piece of chalk, right behind his mother’s minivan. I wondered why the little guy had chosen that odd spot for his artwork.

Suddenly I saw the minivan moving – Joanna was backing out of the driveway!

Realizing she couldn’t see him in any of her mirrors, I hit the horn loud and hard.

Jackson jumped, saw the van, moved over, and kept right on writing. Joanna stopped, giving me an inquisitive look. I parked and ran over as she rolled down the window to see what the emergency was.

“I didn’t know if you knew Jackson was sitting behind your car…” I panted.

From the expression on her face, she clearly had not.

Somehow we both survived the incident without a heart attack, and between Joanna, Charlotte, and me, we persuaded (scolded) Jackson to draw elsewhere and stay out of the street. Annoyed that he had to start over, he clearly didn’t see what all the fuss was about. He threw the chalk onto the ground and stomped into the house.

As Charlotte and I pulled away and headed for the allergist, I said to her, “Well, Charlotte, if you ever wonder why God allowed you to have allergies and have to get shots, if nothing else, here’s a reason: to save your brother’s life!

I walked her through the “what-ifs”: that if it weren’t for having to take her for her shots, I would not have come over and interrupted their day. It also dawned on me that, had I arrived five seconds later – or if I had picked up Charlotte five minutes earlier – there could have been a tragedy from which none of us would have ever recovered.

Every day I ask God to take care of our family, and at times like this I can clearly see His hand in our lives.

But I truly believe that there are countless other times He has had His angels around us when we aren’t even aware of the dangers or thinking about Him, and He “delivers us from evil” more times than we know.

I realize that there are many godly families that have experienced tragedy, and I wouldn’t attempt to explain why. I expect those times will come for us in some form, someday – no one’s life is without its hardships and grief. But that’s exactly why I want to take nothing for granted today. If we’ll focus on and and be thankful for the thousands of times the Lord has been merciful and gracious to us, I believe the memories of those times will give us strength and faith to trust Him when we don’t understand what He’s doing or allowing.

He’s in control, and He knows best.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for every moment of our lives. I believe You have a plan for each of us, and as we put our trust in You, we will not leave this world one moment before Your plan for us is completed. Give us divine perspective, to recognize Your hand in our lives, that we would continually give You the thanks and praise You deserve, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

My Fellow Bloggers, You Have Been Un-spammed.

My first hint that something was off came a while back when some of the comments I received included things like, “Welcome back! I’ve missed your posts.”

The fact was, I had been consistently posting every Friday …

Hmmm …

I also began to notice I had fewer notifications of new posts from many of the blogs I follow. For a long time I figured that as society had been “opening up” and people were less stuck at home, y’all must be getting out more and blogging less. (Not sure why I thought that. I certainly hadn’t been writing less.)

Last night I checked my “spam” folder, and WOW… Looked like y’all were having a party that I wasn’t invited to! I’m not sure how you got there, but I just spent the past hour going through weeks of spam and marking as “NOT spam” the bloggers I have been missing.

So, it’s my turn to say, “WELCOME BACK!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have 282 emails to attend to…

Blessings,

Annie

seekingdivineperspective.com

P.S. A big “THANK YOU!” to those of you who have been loyally reading my posts in spite of my not reading yours lately. And if I ever seem to be making myself scarce, check your spam. Those folders seem to be like ditches we fall into every now and then, except with a real ditch, we’d know it.

Amazing What God Can Do with a Couple of Innocent Sneezes…

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

People who are unfamiliar with the power of prayer might think of it as a dull, monotonous activity. I know I did at one time. But lately I have seen answers to my daily prayers that have added more excitement to my life than I ever expected to see at my age. The following is an email I received from a dear friend who is a pastor in another country. I had received word that he had been hospitalized with Covid and had asked every prayer warrior I knew to intercede with me for him.

As it turned out, he didn’t have Covid at all, but something much more interesting had been happening. Here is the story, in his words:

“Respected servant of God,

Greetings to you in His Holy name! Thank you so much for your love, care, and concerns and prayer supports. Thank you SO MUCH> Let me write in detail on how I got into the COVID Hospital. It is indeed interesting but God’s Plan.

On 23rd March 2021, I was returning from a mission field by local transportation after the baptism program, I twice had sneezing. I had a mask on my face and no fever, no cold nothing. I was talking and sharing the Gospel. When I sneezed twice, the three people that were seating in our front seat though their faces were towards the front side, created a problem. Since I was sharing the Gospel with my neighbor but they were listening to me very keenly. And I am sure, they too heard the Gospel. But I didn’t know that they belonged to [a fanatical group from another religion]. So, they started arguing with me saying: “The god Jesus you were talking about is a foreign god, you people are forcefully converting other faith people and making them Christian….etc”. But very politely I told them, “I am sharing the Gospel which is the real story that happened in the history of mankind. It is my duty to share the Gospel, but it is the hearer’s responsibility to accept the Gospel or reject the Gospel.” But in order to bring some allegation upon me, they slowly led the argument towards my sneezing. Finally, they put an allegation saying that you are a coronavirus patient. I said, I am not. But they tried their best to put me into trouble. Early morning, I arrived home, but without my knowledge someone was following me. And those three people informed the police that I am affected by the coronavirus. So, on 24th March 2021, around 3 PM, one man came and took me to the nearby hospital to have a covid test. Then I came back home. The hospital people told me to collect the report by 8PM. I was getting ready to go for the same, again the same people reached my home and said, you are tested covid positive and you have to go to the covid hospital. Without giving me a report, they simply said, I am tested covid positive and they forcefully took me to the hospital by an ambulance. I was in the hospital till 31st March 2021, but they didn’t give me a single medicine because I didn’t have any cough, cold or fever. I was discharged from the hospital on 31st March 2021 evening, but they again took me to an isolated place for quarantine. They asked me to be there for a week but they released me from there yesterday and again they have asked me to be at home quarantine for a week.

This is nothing but a game played by those three people who were seated in front of our seat. They wanted their best to do some harm for me but God protected me from their hand. It was their plan and game to put me into corona hospital. Moreover, since last year, I think I must have told you that, police department and medical department in [that country] play a politics with corona cases. They simply take people in the name of a corona positive case; they enter the patient’s name in the hospital register book, keep them for a few days and leave them. The more numbers, the more money they get from the government. And by doing this, they get more money illegally. But I thank God for this incident. Though those three people out of anger they put me into the covid hospital, God used me to share the Gospel with more than 150 people inside the hospital and more than 80 people I offered prayer in the Name of Jesus upon their request. Even, when I was in quarantine, I spent my time in prayer, particularly praying for those people whom I shared the Gospel and offered prayer. I strongly believe that God would bring them to the saving knowledge of Christ Jesus. Some of them have taken my mobile number and I have asked them to call me if they need to hear more about Jesus.


So, this is the story. The enemies of the Gospel are active in their work when we are active in sharing the Gospel.

[He goes on to (again) thank everyone who prayed for him and tell about the books he was reading in the hospital, including my book BARRIERS – which he read three more times ( ❤ ) and requested I send more copies. (!) – So, I get to be part of this incredible ministry!

Pretty boring, huh? 😉

Prayer: Lord, Your enemies are no match for You. You are the most powerful (You created the universe.), the wisest (You outwit all Your enemies.), and the most loving (You gave Your life to pay for our sins.) We are so blessed to have the God of the universe on our side! Thank You, Jesus! Amen

Do You Smell Right?

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other the fragrance of life.

II Corinthians 2:14-16

One Sunday I was greeting a friend at church when she grinned and said, “Pastor Tom hugged you this morning, didn’t he?”

“He did,” I confirmed. It wasn’t a wild guess. Not many people got through the door without getting a hug from Pastor Tom.

“I could smell his aftershave,” she chuckled. Apparently the hugging pastor had his own distinctive ambience, and all he came into contact with took a little of that ambience with them. That got me wondering, can people tell I’ve been with Jesus by the way I “smell”?

After Jesus was arrested, people recognized Peter as one of His disciples by his accent. (Matthew 26:73) In the book of Acts it was written that people who saw the courage of the disciples took note that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13) And in the passage above, Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians that God spreads through us the fragrance of the knowledge of His Son.

So, the question is, are we (Christians) doing that? When we’re in the room, can people “smell Jesus”? Have we spent enough time with Him that His essence permeates our lives? Have we been embraced by Him, enveloped in His fragrance, – saturated in it – so that wherever we go we are the aroma of life to those who are called of God?

Another question – and here’s where it gets hard – are we the stench of death to those who are perishing? Are we so good at representing Jesus that those who hate and reject Him also hate and reject us? – And if so, are we okay with that?

I think with all my early insecurities and fear of other people’s opinions, I had as an unspoken goal of having everyone like me. There were a few times I seemed to have succeeded. I have memories of summer camp in my middle school years, sharing a cabin with girls who were prone to be drama queens on occasion. I remember more than once hearing a young lady wail in despair, “Everybody hates me! … except Ann!” (I doubt it had anything to do with any virtue on my part, just an unwillingness to get in the middle of an adolescent cat-fight.)

But for the mature Christian, being liked by everyone and avoiding others’ disapproval is not the goal.

On the contrary, if everyone likes us, it’s a pretty sure sign we’re doing something wrong.

Jesus told His disciples ahead of time,

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (John 15:18-20)

Apparently, not everyone is going to appreciate the fragrance we carry with us from belonging to Jesus. With all of the beautiful promises He has given us, there’s also the promise that we will be persecuted for His sake. Being rejected and hated could very well be a sign that we’re doing something right.

But persecution is not something we should go looking for! We’ve all met people who act like jerks and then, when others respond in kind, take it as a sign that they are righteous people being persecuted. Let’s not kid ourselves.

Peter wrote:

If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. (I Peter 4:15, 16)

Although we can’t expect everyone to love us, or even like us, this does not excuse us from Jesus’ command to love everyone, even our enemies!

“But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

It isn’t up to us to decide who is going to be saved and who is going to reject Christ’s offer of salvation forever. God can do surprising things, and sometimes the last person you expect to surrender his life to Jesus is the one who is transformed seemingly overnight and taking the world by storm – if the Christians around him don’t blow it by acting un-Christlike.

So, I for one want to spend ample time each day, as early in the day as possible, in the presence of Jesus. I want to be able to come away from my prayer time filled with His light and saturated with His fragrance, so that as I go about my day, I can bring His presence with me, so that He can impact lives around me in any way He sees fit to do.

In other words, our job is to spend time in the Lord’s presence and walk in His Spirit. If we do this, wherever we go we will carry His aroma to those around us. Whether that’s the aroma of life or the stench of death is up to them.

Prayer: Lord, I delight in You; give me the desires of my heart – the desire for more of You: to see Your face, to hear Your voice, to feel Your embrace, and to have my heart beat in sync with Yours. I want to smell Your fragrance and be enveloped in it, saturated with it, so that wherever I go I will be the aroma of life to those You are calling – even if it means being the stench of death to those who are perishing. May I not be hated for being a despicable person, doing despicable things, or even as an obnoxious person. But if I am hated for being Yours and for being like You, I will wear that rejection as a badge of honor, in Jesus’ name. Amen.