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.

Balloons, Streamers, and Resurrection

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead’ … ” Matthew 28

[Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” Mark 16:15

As some of my readers know, I was involved in an outreach in Michigan called “Satan’s Worst Nightmare,” which occurred every Halloween. It took fifteen years for the outreach to grow into a multimedia production, complete with live music, drama (depicting the death, burial, resurrection and final victory of Jesus Christ – from Satan’s point of view), dance, special effects, sidewalk counseling, and free Bibles, food, hot cider, tracts, and candy. But it started as a simple yard display.

One October day I had been getting a little weary of the usual yard displays – cemeteries, corpses hanging from trees, the “Grim Reaper,” witches, zombies, giant spiders, etc. It seemed the world was celebrating death, darkness, and evil. My friend Kelly and I decided to decorate her yard with a different kind of display, one celebrating life, while keeping with the general style of the season. We filled her yard with tombstones, which didn’t seem that unique at first. But each one of our headstones had a verse from the Bible on it having to do with resurrection and eternal life.

It was meant to make people take a second look, and it worked. After the display was set up, Kelly would enjoy sitting in her living room, sipping her coffee and watching out the window as people walked by, stopped in their tracks, did a “double take,” and backed up to read the messages on the tombstones. As they read, she’d pray.

Since moving to Kentucky I have made some evangelistic tombstones of my own, and last Halloween they were spread out in front of our house – as much a anything could be spread out in our little yard. A black sign with jagged edges and creepy writing pointed to the mini-cemetery with the words “Satan’s Worst Nightmare.”

The night before Easter it occurred to me that the verses on the tombstones were just as appropriate for Resurrection Day, probably more. So I dragged them out, minus the “Satan’s Worst Nightmare” sign, and set them up in the yard.

When I backed up to inspect the display, it didn’t look right to me. The verses of Scripture were great, but from a distance the display as a whole looked like a graveyard, and anyone unable to read the Bible verses wouldn’t “get it.”

After a quick trip to the corner store, I blew up some colorful balloons and attached them to the tombstones. Various colors of curly ribbon dangled around the words of Scripture to emphasize the festive, joyous message they conveyed. It was midnight, but from what I could see, I was satisfied with the end product.

Resurrection Morning was sunny and beautiful, and as I was leaving for church, I spotted a neighbor I frequently saw out walking with his little granddaughter. As I greeted them, the little girl’s face lit up, and she went running toward the colorful balloons and ribbons. Grampa’s face broke into a grin as he pointed to the yard and exclaimed, “LOVE it!” I wished them a happy Resurrection Day and hopped in the car. As I drove away, I could see the tiny child still taking in the the view, as her grandfather stood looking at the headstones, I’m guessing reading the good news they were declaring.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, today we hear news that disappoints, distresses, frightens, angers, and saddens us. But You have given us the best news ever. -You have conquered it all! You died for us, to pay for our sins, and You are alive! You freely offer us the gift of salvation and ask only that we believe and share the good news with everyone. Let our writings, our voices, our faces, our actions – even our homes – communicate that good news daily. When people look at us, may they see You. In Your name we pray, Amen.

Easter Tears

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” John 20:15

The college I went to many years ago did not have “Easter Break,” just “Spring Break.” During my freshman year I was on campus for Easter, or as I prefer to call it now, “Resurrection Day.”

It had been a rough spring. Having had one throat infection after another, I had lost my voice entirely, and one doctor had even suggested that I may have damaged my vocal cords permanently. I had been forced to drop out of choir and the other singing group I had been a part of, and my final scene for acting class was an embarrassing mime, at which I proved woefully inept. For me to be a theater major without a voice was bad enough; having to refrain from singing, the thing that gave me more joy than anything, was downright depressing. And of course, the physical pain on top of everything else threatened to send me spiraling down even further into despair.

I had discovered – or rediscovered – my Christian faith during that year, and if you had looked up “Jesus freak” in the dictionary, you would have seen a picture of me. I wanted to tell the “Good News” to everyone, but now could barely communicate with anyone. And so I often could be found shut up in my room alone, praying and trying to read my Bible without letting the tears splash onto the pages. I sometimes would have Simon and Garfunkel singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” from my stereo to give me comfort, but that turned out to be merely the soundtrack of my pity party.

There was a special service in the chapel Easter weekend, and I attended, thinking I really should celebrate this holiest of all days. But as the choir filed in, I felt a lump in my already sore throat. When they began to sing “Christ the Lord Is Ris’n Today” and the congregation joined in, I felt so left out that all I could do was stand there and cry. I loved the Lord with all my 19-year-old heart, but here it was Easter, and all I could do was sit there and watch everyone else celebrate. It was SO UNFAIR!

I don’t know if I was consciously praying or just silently whining to myself, but the though passed through my head,

What could be worse than wanting to sing AT EASTER and not being able to!?

But the One who was with me heard my silent question and answered immediately. I could “hear” His still, small voice in my heart, saying gently,

What could be worse?? Being able to sing at Easter, but not wanting to.

The Voice was right. Whatever this life holds, I have Jesus. And having Him, I am far better off than anyone, in any circumstance, who doesn’t.

My prayer for all of my readers/followers/friends this Resurrection Day is that you will know Him and let Him lead you through life, whatever comes. If you aren’t sure, or if you know you need a relationship with the Lord, here are a couple of posts to get you started:

If you take Jesus’ words to heart, if you place your faith in Him, I’ll meet you later – “here, there, or in the air” – and we’ll sing His praises together.



Prayer: Lord Jesus, the worst of times with You are better than the best of times without You. Keep us aware of Your presence, sensitive to Your leading, and obedient to Your will, in Your name. Amen.

“It’s Friday. But Sunday’s Coming!”

“Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.”                                                                                                                                                                     John 16:20


If the title of this post looks familiar to you, it’s because S. M. Lockridge (1913-2000), a prominent African-American preacher, preached a sermon by that name that has moved people, stirred their passion, and given them hope for years. Author and speaker Tony Campolo was so moved by Lockridge’s words that he has been sharing the message with his audiences and written a book by that name.

Even though the circumstances in the world have changed, the power of the Cross hasn’t, and the hope of the Resurrection remains timeless. Today of all days, let’s remember the incredible LOVE that was extended to us on that gruesome Friday so long ago, ponder its meaning, and share it with our loved ones.

Here is an excerpt from that famous sermon, as relevant as ever, followed by my “updated” 2020 version of the conclusion:

It’s Friday. Jesus is praying. Peter’s a sleeping. Judas is betraying. But Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. Pilate’s struggling. The council is conspiring. The crowd is vilifying. They don’t even know That Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. The disciples are running Like sheep without a shepherd. Mary’s crying. Peter is denying. But they don’t know That Sunday’s a comin’.

It’s Friday. The Romans beat my Jesus. They robe him in scarlet. They crown him with thorns. But they don’t know That Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. See Jesus walking to Calvary. His blood dripping. His body stumbling. And his spirit’s burdened. But you see, it’s only Friday. Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. The world’s winning. People are sinning. And evil’s grinning.
It’s Friday. The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands To the cross. They nail my Savior’s feet
To the cross. And then they raise him up Next to criminals. It’s Friday. But let me tell you something Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. The disciples are questioning. What has happened to their King. And the Pharisees are celebrating That their scheming Has been achieved. But they don’t know It’s only Friday. Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. He’s hanging on the cross. Feeling forsaken by his Father. Left alone and dying Can nobody save him? Ooooh It’s Friday. But Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday. The earth trembles. The sky grows dark. My King yields his spirit. It’s Friday. Hope is lost. Death has won. Sin has conquered. and Satan’s just a laughin’.
It’s Friday. Jesus is buried. A soldier stands guard. And a rock is rolled into place. But it’s Friday. It is only Friday. Sunday is a comin’! *

2020: It’s Friday. An invisible enemy has invaded nation after nation. The peoples of the world are terrified. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Once booming cities are all but empty. London, New York, and Paris are ghost towns. Italy is a graveyard. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. People are isolated from loved ones, separated by glass, social distancing, and fear. Smiles are hidden behind masks. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Hospitals are filled to capacity. Medical staff look like ghosts. They try to extend compassion through masks, gloves, gowns, face shields, and their own anxieties. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Families are devastated, losing loved ones without saying good-bye, mourning without funerals, grieving without comfort. Unless they know that Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jews are commemorating another time they were hidden in their homes, shielded from the Angel of Death by the blood of a spotless lamb on their doors. Again they are awaiting their liberation, watching and waiting for the second Moses, the promised Messiah. He has come! And He is coming back! (Sunday’s coming.)

It’s Friday. Christians are remembering the spotless Lamb of God, betrayed, arrested, beaten, mocked, spit on, nailed to a cross and left to die, the Lamb whose blood saves us from eternal death. (Sunday’s coming.)

It’s Friday. Skeptics and scoffers are shaking their fists at a God they claim not to believe in. They mock believers – “He’s coming back? You people have been saying that for almost 2000 years!” … almost. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Some are wondering if these are the end times. Some are predicting the end of the world. Some have given up hope. But don’t give up hope – Sunday’s coming!

So, now it’s 2021. Has anything changed in the past year? Are we still anxious to “get back to normal”? Are we willing to do anything it takes to get there?

Or are we realizing that “normal” is overrated? Is “normal” even possible any more? Is the world spinning out of control? (Have we ever been in control?) 

It’s Friday. “Has God forgotten us?” some are asking. Others are wondering, “Is He mad at us? Does He hate us? Have we gone too far?”

YES, we have sinned, YES we are all guilty, YES, we desperately need forgiveness, but He has paid for our sins on the Cross, so we can be FORGIVEN and receive eternal life!

Does God still love us? Look at the Lamb of God, sacrificed for you.

(YES, He loves us!)

He has not fallen off His throne! He is in control! He knows things we don’t, and He tells us to trust Him. Death is not the end! He is coming back. Whatever the world, the flesh, or the devil are telling us, we need to keep looking to Him, knowing that 



Enjoy my new favorite song that I played (and sang) countless times in the past year, which seems very relevant today:

Andrew Peterson – Is He Worthy? – YouTube

Prayer: Lord Jesus, today as we remember Your suffering on the Cross to pay for our sins, we look to You as our only hope in a fallen and desperately wicked world. It has been said that something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. We have seen the price You were willing to pay for us, and we know that You won’t give up on us now. We thank You, we praise You, we rejoice in the Love that was demonstrated by Your sacrifice, and the hope of the Resurrection that we celebrate this Sunday – and every day of our redeemed lives. In Your name we pray, amen.

Don’t Tell Me God Doesn’t Have a Sense of Humor.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

In ancient times every devout Jewish man began each day with a prayer of thanks: “Thank You, God, that I am not a Gentile, a woman, or a slave.”

Saul of Tarsus, a devout Pharisee, a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” as he later described himself, no doubt began his days with that prayer.

When a strange new cult arose, one centered around a Carpenter from Galilee who allegedly rose from the dead, Saul saw it as a threat to his people’s way of life. He set out to stop the rebellion in its infancy, getting letters from the high priest authorizing him to round up the believers and take them prisoner to Jerusalem.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Damascus. Acts 9 tells the story in detail, but in short, Paul got knocked off his horse by something – or Someone. The witnesses merely “saw a light” and “heard a sound,” but Saul was blinded and heard the voice of Jesus, asking him,

“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” – Acts 9:4-6

Saul remained blind for three days, not eating or drinking anything, until God sent a believer in Jesus named Ananias to come place his hands on him and pronounce him healed. “Something like scales” fell from his eyes, and immediately Saul began to preach Jesus as the Messiah.

As many of you know, this was the apostle Paul, writer of about a fourth of the New Testament, who founded many churches in the first century all over the Mediterranean. One of these churches was the church at Philippi.

On the first Sabbath they were in Philippi, Saul – “also called Paul” – and his companions went outside the city, where a group of women were having a prayer meeting at the river. The men began to speak to the women, one of whom was a wealthy business woman named Lydia. She came to faith in Jesus when “the Lord opened her heart,” and after she and her household were all baptized, she persuaded the men to come stay at her house.

Later Paul and his companions encountered a slave girl with a spirit of divination, who followed them for days, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” (Acts 16:17) Paul finally turned and rebuked the spirit, and it left her. Most scholars believe that this slave girl then became a believer.

The owners of the slave girl were so enraged at losing their source of income that they dragged Paul and Silas before the authorities, charging them with stirring up trouble in their city. Paul and Silas were stripped and beaten severely, then placed in the inner cell of the prison with their feet in the stocks.

Next comes one of my favorite stories in the Bible:

At midnight Paul and Silas were not feeling sorry for themselves, but rather singing hymns to God while the other prisoners listened. Instead of applause, what they heard next was a violent earthquake that shook the foundation of the prison. The doors flew open, and everyone’s chains fell off!

Considering the situation and how dark it was, it’s easy to understand why the jailer assumed the prisoners were all escaping. This was a serious and shameful blunder for a Roman jailer, who would be executed for dereliction of duties. (I guess the Roman Empire didn’t accept “violent earthquake” as an excuse.) The poor jailer drew his sword to kill himself, but Paul called out to him that they were all still there.

The jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” (Acts 16:29-31)

Paul and Silas then gave a brief Bible teaching to the jailer and the others in his house, telling them about how Jesus came to save all of us by giving His life on the Cross to pay for our sins. They told them all that anyone who believed in Him and His atoning sacrifice would be forgiven, saved, and assured of eternal life with Him in heaven.

All the people believed! The jailer washed the disciples’ wounds, then he and his whole household were baptized, having received Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

THAT’S RIGHT, FOLKS. The man who once began each day thanking God he wasn’t a Gentile, a woman, or a slave, founded what was to become his most beloved church, the Church at Philippi, whose first members were a woman, a slave girl, and a Gentile jailer.

Prayer: Lord, You have such creative ways of humbling our proud hearts. Thanks You for giving us the happy gift of laughing at ourselves. Help us never to take ourselves too seriously or think too highly of ourselves, but to recognize that every person You created is of equal importance, deserving our respect, and eligible for citizenship in Your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, amen.

P.S. The gospel that Paul and Silas taught to the jailer and his household is just as true today as it was back then, and as Paul learned, you don’t have to be a Jewish man to believe in Jesus and be adopted into God’s family. You only need to acknowledge your sin and need for a savior, believe that Jesus died for your sins, and surrender to him, asking Him to be the Lord of your life. Connect with him each day through prayer (talking to Him) and reading the Bible, and ask Him to lead you to a good fellowship of believers (church). This could begin the biggest, most glorious adventure of your life. For more details, check out this two-part series:

St. Patrick Would Be Pleased

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine … Ephesians 3:20

“If being a Christian is boring, you’re doing it wrong.” My favorite t-shirt (Clean Apparel)

Wednesday didn’t seem like St. Patrick’s Day. For the second year in a row the big St. Patrick’s Day parade had been cancelled and there were scant decorations to be seen. Still, I dutifully donned my green top, with a shamrock pendant and earrings for emphasis. I grabbed a little booklet I had written years ago for a St. Patrick’s Day outreach and stuck it in my purse before going out the door. I prayed, asking God to send me someone to share the gospel with.

I was on my way to have Bible class with my granddaughters. Today we were continuing the story of God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. This was the child of promise that Abraham and Sarah had waited decades for! Incredibly, Abraham was obedient and set out first thing next morning.

Leaving his servants at the bottom of the mountain, he said to them, “‘Stay here with the donkeys while I and the boy go over there. We will worship, and then we will come back to you.'” (Genesis 22:5) [Emphasis mine]

When Isaac asked the heartbreaking question, “‘Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?'” Abraham replied that ‘”God Himself will provide the lamb.'” (Genesis 22:7,8)

The day before, my granddaughters and I had speculated as to why Abraham had said “… we will come back to you.” We tossed around a few ideas. Was Abraham lying about both of them coming back? Or did he not intend to sacrifice his beloved son? Or was something else going on? But then one of the girls suggested that Abraham might have been hoping God would resurrect Isaac afterwards…

Bingo! Today I planned to show them that this was the correct guess. (Hebrews 11:19)

But as you well might know, resurrection was unnecessary. As Abraham raised the knife to kill his son, an angel of the LORD called out to him to stop. – It had been a test. Moreover, as Abraham looked up, he saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.

What a great example of how God rewards faith! Abraham had such faith in God’s power – even power to raise the dead – that he was willing to sacrifice his son in obedience. But his willingness was enough, and God provided the sacrifice Himself (as Abraham had predicted) before Abraham had to carry out the command.


The lesson today was about God’s willingness and ability to give us even more than we ask for, when we have faith in Him enough to obey.

Little did I suspect I was about to give Charlotte a living example before Bible class even started.

Before Bible I took Charlotte to get her allergy shots, and on the way I planned to pick up something at the vet’s. But when we got off the highway, I realized we had overshot the vet’s office and were headed for the allergist.

“Oh well,” I said to Charlotte, “we’ll just get your shots first.” Since the office always closes an hour for lunch, I knew we would get there a little before it reopened. But the last time that had happened, we had ended up having a nice conversation with some others who had also arrived early…

Wait a minute…! I prayed, suspicious. Is this timing part of Your plan? Do I have a divine appointment?

When we got there, two women and a young man about 13 were waiting.

“Happy St. Patrick’s Day!” I greeted them, and I’m pretty sure under their masks they were smiling.

“So … who here knows the most about St. Patrick?” I asked with a smirk, taking on the teacher role.

“Not much…”

“I know green, that’s about it.”

“Did you know St. Patrick wasn’t Irish?” I asked. There were some guesses as to what nationality he was, as the nurse opened the doors and we checked in. After we sat, I offered the most responsive woman the booklet with the quiz I had written.

“Check it out, if you want,” I said. “There are just four questions. How many of them can you get right?”

Challenge accepted.

As she read aloud the multiple choice questions, the young man stood “socially distanced,” peering over her shoulder.

[The quiz was posted here last year: ]

She got two questions right, and laughed at the ones she missed. She went on to read the final pages of the booklet – “If St. Patrick were here, he would tell you …” – and when she had finished, she looked up, delighted.

YES! The gospel!” she exclaimed.

I told she was welcome to keep the quiz and share it with others, if she wanted to. I also told her about the outreach we were planning to do (one of these days!) at the parade, offering the quiz to any spectators who were interested, painlessly sharing the Good News, and giving people a real reason to celebrate.

Clearly a believer herself, she became very excited, and I asked if she would be interested in participating whenever the parade came back. She loved the idea! I gave her one of my cards with all my contact information, and she invited me to visit her church. She said they were “all about that kind of thing.” I got the idea she meant there were likely people at her church who would love to take part in the outreach, too.

“You know,” the woman said, “you could do this sort of thing with other holidays, too!”

I thought of the 15 years I directed a multimedia production on Halloween night, the subject of my next book …

[ ]

[ ]

“Don’t get me started,” I laughed.

Prayer: Lord, You only ask us to “trust and obey.” Thank You that when I merely asked for an opportunity to drop a seed, You sent me a new friend, sister, and fellow harvester. Thanks for the excitement of a brand new day, and the joyful anticipation of seeing what surprises You have for me today, in Jesus’ name and for His glory. Amen.

Respect. What a Concept.

Love is … not rude. (I Corinthians 13:4-5)

When I taught middle school speech, the first day of class the students were greeted with Aretha Franklin’s “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

The first order of business after taking attendance was to go over the class rules and guidelines. Key word: “Respect.” I gave them handouts so they would have in writing what it means to respect the teacher, respect the other students, respect school property, and respect themselves. It took a good portion of the class time, but it was time well spent. There would never be any confusion about what was expected of them in this class.

Over the years we had various ways to reinforce the “Respect” theme. There was the game I invented, called “Say WHAT?” The kids would divide into teams and brainstorm alternative ways of expressing themselves besides the obscenities and profanities we’ve come to know and hate. We even has a “jargon jail” on the wall, where certain words and phrases were put “behind bars,” with lists of alternatives posted below. (The strategic use of the bars kept the words from being on display in their entirety.)

I’m not sure, but I think the assistant principal might have heard something about “Say WHAT?” One day in the cafeteria, a student stood up and yelled to another student on the other side of the room, “JOHNSON, YOU SUCK!” To his surprise, the student felt a gentle tap on his shoulder. Turning around, he found himself face to face with the assistant principal!

“I think you mean, ‘Johnson, you appear to be an individual with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.'”

The student yelled across the cafeteria, “WHAT HE SAID!”

The students were taught that the use of profanity can mean a number of things, none of them very flattering. Continued use of certain words ad nauseum (You know what those words are.) can be not only tiresome, but a sign that

1.) the speaker is uneducated with a very small vocabulary,

2.) the speaker is just too lazy to come up with a more interesting way of saying things, or

3.) (back to the original theme) that the speaker is not very respectful of the person (s)he is speaking to.

The kids were taught the benefit of using language effectively. Solomon’s book of Proverbs has much to say about the power of words, and none of that wisdom has changed over the centuries.

Speech class was not only about speaking words. Communication also involves tone of voice, facial expression, gestures, and body language. I realized very few students were deliberately rude or lazy, they just had never been taught how to effectively communicate in a positive way. My middle school boys were behaving the same way boys did when I was that age – and that’s been quite a while! These young men were of the mistaken opinion that a good way to get a girl’s attention was to be crude, or even mean.

Burp, she’ll think it’s funny! Trip her in the hall, that‘ll get her attention! I had my work cut out for me.

By the second or third week of the semester, my class had the opening routine down. The classroom was set up with rows of tables, two chairs at each table. The students were seated with a boy and a girl at each table, so each boy had a girl to practice treating with respect. The students would set their books on the tables and remained standing until everyone was in his or her place.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I’d say, “you may be seated.”

At that point, the “gentlemen” would pull out the “ladies'” chairs, the young ladies would smile and say “Thank you,” and be seated. Once the ladies were seated, the young men would take their seats.

Having a cute young girl smile at them, and say “Thank you” was a revelation to the guys. (Wow! So, girls actually like it when you treat ’em nice?! Who’d of thunk it?)

The other teachers had thought I was insane, but to their surprise, the kids loved it! So did at least one parent. At parent/teacher conference, one mom went on and on about how her son was now holding the chair for her and opening house doors, car doors, mall doors …

I have started to look back on these lessons when I hear or read the disrespectful words of adults who should know better on social media, in the news, and in group texts.

My alma mater has a large group email that keeps us all up to date on one another’s lives – marriages, births of children and grandchildren, deaths of parents, and more recently, sad news of the passing of classmates themselves or their spouses. As the emails were circulating regarding next year’s reunion, one classmate said she refused to get together with people who insulted her. To make sure we understood, she attached a meme someone had posted on social media insulting people of a certain political persuasion, which she had apparently taken personally. A few fiery responses made the rounds, and one dignified classmate responded simply, “Oh my …” Subsequent emails expressed affection for classmates, whatever their beliefs.

Never one to remain silent, I opined that we have each arrived at our convictions based on our education, experience, personalities, beliefs, and the information we have. (Nobody knows the whole story.) I added that none of us is stupid, and I would never assume that anyone just blindly follows a point of view without reason. I hoped that we could remain friends, maybe exchange ideas respectfully, and possibly even learn something from listening to one another.

I got a private email from the moderator, thanking me and ending with “Respect. What a concept.”

Prayer: Lord, You know our weaknesses. We all struggle with different issues – rudeness, pride, judgmental attitudes, self-centeredness, and other qualities that do not glorify You. We want to show the world what You are like. Help us to get out of the way and let You live through us, with love and respect for others, even those we disagree with. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Prayers and the ADD Mind

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Romans 8: 26, 27)

A fellow blogger wrote recently about things to do during the seemingly imminent second lockdown. He suggested that one of them might be, “write silly blog posts.” Indeed, as we get into that “quarantine” state of mind, those may be the only ones we’re capable of writing.

If you’re like me and have a touch of ADD, the struggle to stay focused and coherent may be a lot more common than the occasional lockdown.

So, for those of us that need a little comic relief, here’s my “stream-of-consciousness” meditation on the important topic of prayer:

Prayer and the ADD Mind

Aren’t you glad God loves everybody, even people with ADD? I was actually relieved when I found out there was such a thing as adult ADD. I remember thinking, “Well, that sure explains a lot…” before my mind was off and running to another subject.

ADD stands for “Attention Deficit…” Have you seen the movie “Up”? Remember the dog in that movie that obviously had ADD? He’d be running along with the others, right on board, and suddenly, – “SQUIRREL!” and he’d be gone. Wasn’t he cute? So was that little fish in “Finding Nemo,” who definitely had a problem with short-term memory. What was her name? I forgot …

Anyway …

When you actually do have these personality traits, it’s not always cute or funny. When it comes to prayer, it can be a real guilt trip. I hear about these people who can pray for six hours straight. These super-saints get up around 4 AM, and they not only pray, they fast and pray … I’m pretty sure that means no coffee. How do they do that? I’m lucky if I can go from one end of the house to the other and have any recollection what I came for.

When I talk to someone I don’t know very well, I can usually stick to a logical sequence of questions and information, but with certain friends, one thing will remind me of something else, which will remind me of something else, and by the time it’s my turn to say something, I seem to be totally changing the subject. I have one or two friends who won’t even flinch when I do that. We’ll just keep on the same train of thought going full speed down the track while our husbands look at each other with eyes glazed over, obviously still at the station. They say men’s and women’s minds work completely differently, but I digress. (So what else is new?)

Back to prayer … I know it’s crucial. What’s a relationship without communication? And what relationship is more important than a relationship with God?

For some reason, when I’m talking to God, my mind is even more random. Even my best girlfriend probably couldn’t follow my train of thought sometimes when I’m praying for someone and suddenly I’m asking God questions like “How come the prodigal son’s older brother wasn’t invited to the party? They just left him out in the field working! And then we criticize him for having a bad attitude! I’d have an attitude problem, too, if my younger brother had been missing for years and finally came back and nobody even told me there was a party going on!”

Have you ever tried to be really organized in your prayer time? Have you ever had everything written down in a nice, neat list that you can check off one at a time after you’ve prayed for each item? I have those lists, and I really should date them, because they are all over the house, and when I come across one marked “URGENT!” it’d be nice to know if that’s a request from yesterday’s Bible study or last year’s Christmas get-together. Putting things on computer is supposed to cut down on paper, but I’m always thinking, “What if the computer crashes?” so I make hard copies of everything, and then forget where I’ve filed them, or that they even exist.

Oh yeah, prayer … I sometimes wonder if my apparent ADD (I have to say “apparent,” otherwise I’m making a negative confession, and that drives certain Christians crazy and makes them think I’m guilty of negative thinking, and I’ve got enough to feel guilty about, thank you.) … I sometimes wonder if my apparent ADD is a tool of the devil to keep me from praying, so any time I hear about a new gimmick – a new method of prayer that comes on the scene – I grab hold of it and try it to see if it’ll help me get my devotional act together.

Come before his presence with singing! (Psalm 100: 2a, RSV) OK, I should sing first. So I get out my guitar and start praising God, but once I get started, I could sing to Him for hours, so there were days I never got around to the prayer and Bible reading, and I’ve got two more reasons to feel guilty …

You need to thank God before you ask Him for anything new. Otherwise, you’re being ungrateful! OK, I don’t want to be ungrateful, but I’m one of the most blessed people in the world, so that could take days, too. Besides, once I start thanking Him for my children and grandchildren, I always think of a reason I should call one of them … next thing you know, I’m on the phone, and I’m not talking to God…*

(Am I the only one who has these problems?)

Prayer: Lord, thank You for understanding our groans when we can’t put our longings into words. Thank You that we can trust You to meet our needs, even when we don’t know what they are. Thank You for loving us, even when we are hard to love. (Thank You for GRACE.) In Jesus’ name, amen.

*[Excerpted from my book BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?) ]

How Would Jesus Pray?

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…”

Matthew 5:43-44

Lately social media (and society in general) has been crawling with controversy, and I for one have not been seeing much “healthy debate.” Hostility and rage are the norm, and I’m not going to insult my readers by elaborating on the obvious. Anyone who has been on line for more than five minutes knows human relationships aren’t what they used to be or could be, but few seem to have any answers about how to fix the situation.

But we who have a personal relationship with God – who created everything, knows all, sees all, and loves us all – SHOULD have answers. We should BE the answer.

There’s no shortage of individuals on social media describing themselves as Christians, complete with the vocabulary and their own style of virtue signaling. The latest revelation of corruption in our culture is met with appropriate hand-wringing and bemoaning the moral decay in America today. I’ve read comments such as, “I hope they burn in hell!” Most are subtler, but not much. Influential people who promote or support ungodly agendas, or who are suspected of working behind the scenes are described with such biblical-sounding terms as “demonic,” “pure evil,” and “Jezebels!”

But, to quote a movement from a decade or two ago, “What would Jesus do?”

Jesus walked this earth during the Roman rule, when the poor were downtrodden and taxed into oblivion, while the rulers built lavish palaces for themselves. Those who dared to resist could be seen beside the road, nailed to crosses or trees with vermin and wild birds feasting on their rotting flesh – a clear warning to anyone else who might be thinking about rebelling.

Enter Jesus, the God-Man, perfect Love, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, touching and cleansing the lepers, delivering the demonized, and preaching love – even love for one’s enemies.

And how was He received? He was betrayed, abandoned by His followers, stripped naked, beaten to a pulp, crowned with thorns, mocked, spat on, and nailed to a cross.

And how did He respond? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Praying for one’s enemies is about as counter-intuitive as it gets, but Jesus was living out this teaching from His Sermon in the Mount, when He had told His disciples to love their enemies. He had elaborated by saying, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matthew 5:46-47) Clearly Jesus didn’t want His followers to be like everybody else. He even said that if we love our enemies and pray for them, we will be sons (and daughters) of our Father in heaven, who “causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (verse 45)

When Jesus prayed for those who were crucifying Him, He was resembling His Father. And when we love our enemies enough to pray for them, we will, too.

But I haven’t seen much of that kind of family resemblance lately. We’re good at righteous anger and having compassion for the victims. We pray fervently that the “right side” will prevail, but what motivates those prayers? Hoping the “evil, people” burn in hell?

When praying about the political world these days, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the corruption that seems so rampant, and evil forces that seem to be in control, even among those I had admired and trusted and expected to take a stand for what’s right. I’ve been disappointed almost to the point of despair.

Then I think of Chuck Colson.

In case you’re too young to remember (I doubt many history classes are telling his whole story), Colson worked for President Richard Nixon and had a major role in the Watergate scandal. He was caught, convicted, and sentenced to prison. This man went from being one of the most powerful men in the world to being a convicted felon with a number.

But something changed. Someone had been praying for him.

Before Colson went to prison a friend gave him a copy of C. S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity and told him about the God who loved him even while he was a sinner and died in his place so he – Charles Colson – could be forgiven and “born again.” After wrestling with his pride and self-sufficiency, which was pretty well shot by this point, he surrendered his life to Jesus. Through providential circumstances, Colson was released early, but not after his life had been transformed by the humbling experience of being a “nobody” in the eyes of the world. He went on to write a best-selling book, Born Again, which had the country talking about what exactly that phrase meant.

And, keeping the promise he had made to his fellow inmates, Chuck Colson went back to prison – not as a convict this time, but as the founder of a new ministry, Prison Fellowship. In the decades to come Prison Fellowship would minister to millions of prisoners world-wide, sharing the same Good News that had changed Colson’s life Meanwhile, with his knowledge of law, history, and government, he spoke to millions daily about the Christian world view through his radio program “Breakpoint,” as well as speaking engagements all over the world.

When I pray for the people who seem totally corrupted by evil, I do pray, like many, that the guilty will be caught and brought to justice, but it’s because if that happens, there’s a chance that they, like Chuck Colson, could repent and be transformed into a glorious child of God. If not, they likely will go to their graves believing they got away with what they’ve done, only to face eternal justice. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

My wildest dream as I pray for the situation today is that God will raise up a thousand Chuck Colsons for His glory!

Will you pray that with me?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your prayer for the ones who crucified You proved that You can love anyone, and your transformation of Chuck Colson proves that You can save anyone. We pray for those who are caught up in today’s corruption, that they might be stopped in their tracks and be brought to justice. We pray they will learn the futility of trusting in themselves. May they surrender their lives to You and be reborn to new life. Make them trophies of grace that tell the world of Your transforming power, in Jesus name, Amen.

Revelation in the Key of C

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

If you’re a writer, you know that one of the biggest headaches is when your writing apparatus stops working, whether that’s your only pen that runs out of ink when you’re inspired and writing like mad in the waiting room, or a laptop keyboard that suddenly malfunctions when you’re at home, having set aside the afternoon to “finally get some writing done!” I’ve been through both experiences, the latter being when my “C” key seemingly went on strike. I was on a roll with a piece I was writing and really didn’t want to stop everything to pack up my laptop and take it to be repaired, where they would want to keep it for who-knows-how-long.

Resisting the urge to throw something or yell something inappropriate, I tried to work around the problem. At first I found myself playing a game of “Synonym City” (Make that “Synonym Metropolis”), where I thought up alternative words for the ones that had the letter C in them. This didn’t last long, though. Try writing about “divine perspetive” without using the words “Christ,” “Christ-like,” “Christian,” “Christmas,” “church,” “character,” … well, you get the picture.

I found that my entire laptop wasn’t in on the protest, because if I wrote “hristmas,” and hit spell check, it would give me the word “Christmas.” When I needed more unusual words and my computer couldn’t read my mind, I had to find a word having a “c” or a “C” in it that it would recognize, type that, hit spell check, copy and paste the word where I needed the c or C, and then delete the other letters, leaving me with the “c” or “C” I needed.

Does this sound like a lot of work? YES. It was. And I would be embarrassed to tell you how long I kept this up before I finally decided enough was enough and took the laptop in to be looked at. I was pleasantly surprised to have the expert take it away for a few minutes, bring it back, and tell me it was working now.

I was unpleasantly surprised when a couple of days later – just when I was getting out of the habit of doing all the fancy finger-work every time I had a C word – the keyboard said, in essence, I’m tired of this, and stopped typing the C’s again. This time I took my husband’s advice, bit the bullet, and bought a new laptop, one that wasn’t as much of a “dinosaur.” (I’m one of those low-tech people that needs to be dragged into the twenty-first century kicking and screaming.)

Once I got my new laptop, it took very little time to adjust to writing on it, and I’ve been very happy with it ever since. The only thing that disgusts me is thinking how much time I wasted working around the problems with the old one and just do what needed to be done.

It reminds me of the way some of us deal with the sin that creeps into our lives.

The moment we realize something is not right with our behavior, words, or attitude is the moment we should go running to God – the Expert who can fix the problem. The Bible gives us very clear and simple directions – “Confess sins, receive forgiveness.” It’s not complicated.

But for some reason admitting our guilt, while simple, is not easy. Something in our nature thinks I can fix this, and we go about trying to undo what’s been done, or talk ourselves out of the attitudes clouding our minds, or verbally backpedal and try to convince people that what we said wasn’t really what we said…

Lies get covered up with more lies. Frustration adds to whatever started the bad attitude to begin with, and no amount of “good behavior” or religious activity can make us feel good about what we did in the first place. Until finally the voice of reason (The Holy Spirit) says ENOUGH!

It’s not as if Jesus doesn’t know about our sins, faults, and foolishness – He died to pay the penalty for them. Instead of trying to hide, instead of running from Him, why not run to Him? Accept His invitation to exchange our sins for His righteousness, and watch how the frustration of trying to fix things on your own is replaced by the joy of a fresh start and knowing you’re not alone in the struggle.

If you’re part of a fellowship of other believers, you’ll find we all struggle. When we see the feeble attempts to undo our sin by “copying and pasting” or “close enough?” or other ways of atoning besides the biblical way, we can remind one another to just take our mess to Jesus. He will not just repair the problem, but exchange the old, messed up life for a brand new one.

You’ll find yourself, as I did, asking, Why did I wait so long?

If the idea of Jesus’ paying the price for your sins is a new concept to you, I’d love to walk you through the process of salvation and down the road to true happiness. These two past posts explain the “Be-attitudes” that will lead you to a relationship with the God who created you, a fulfilling life here on earth, and ultimately eternal life with Him!

Prayer: Lord, thank You for loving us while we were still in our sin, loving us enough to send Your only begotten Son to pay the price for our forgiveness. Thank You for not requiring us to earn our own forgiveness and salvation – You knew we never could. Forgive us for ever entertaining the notion that we can fix ourselves or undo our sins. Help us remember that repentance is as close as a prayer, and that You stand with Your arms open, ready to forgive and give us a new start, in Jesus’ name. Amen