Falling in Love

Here’s a question for you: Is there such a thing as falling in love with someone after only knowing him or her a short time?

If the stories in our family are any evidence–then I’d say yes.

Mom& Dad wedding 2Mom and Dad: My dad first laid eyes on my beautiful mom at the Cinderella Ballroom in Appleton in 1942. He asked her to dance and, while they were dancing, told her that he was going to marry her. Mom said she thought he was nuts–but three months later, they were married.

Jim and me: Jim told me that as soon as he asked me out the first time, he knew I was the one for him. On our second date, my father answered the door and asked Jim to wait in the living room. Then Dad took me upstairs and said, “When are you two getting married?” He had just seen Jim for the first time, and they hardly exchanged more than a few words between them. I thought Dad was nuts. But three months later, Jim and I were engaged, and five months after that, we married.

Okay, and I’ll confess. When Jim brought me home from that aforementioned second date, we sat in his car, mesmerized by each other and quietly talking for so long that the birds started singing their morning songs before I went inside. By that time, were Jim and I in love? Oh, yes.

So what do you think? Can a couple fall in love even though they’ve only known one another a short time? What’s your experience?

Freedom from Prison

“How can you ask me to do that?” Alison wiped the tears from her face. “You know all the ugly things he’s done.”

Yes, Debra knew what her brother-in-law had done before, during, and since their nasty divorce. She also knew how much it hurt when someone who should love you turned on you in hatred. Hadn’t her own daughter hurt her more than any parent should be asked to endure?

“But that’s not the point–” she began.

“Oh, I get it. You want me to say, ‘I forgive you, Leo. It’s all right. It wasn’t your fault.”

“Not at all.” How could Debra help her dear sister understand? Oh, yes. “Alison, remember the story Jesus told about the king who forgave his manager who embezzled a million dollars from him? Do you remember how that same manager then refused to forgive someone who owed him very little?”

Alison nodded, but from her glowering expression, Debra  had the feeling her sister knew where this was going and didn’t like it. She continued anyway, “Later the king discovered his manger refused to forgive a neighbor’s debt and threw his manager in prison.”

Debra looked into her sister’s red-rimmed eyes. “Alison, unforgiveness is a prison.”

Alison crossed her arms. “So you want me to let him get away with all the terrible things he’s done–all the terrible things he still does every chance he gets.”

“I want you to put all that in God’s hands where it belongs. The important thing is for you–all of us–to trust God to know what is best.” Debra took took her sister’s hands. “Alison, when we choose to forgive, we get our lives back. We are free! No more tormenting prison of self-pity and hatred. You want that, don’t you? Then start right now by forgiving Leo for each thing you remember that still hurts you.”

“Forgiving him won’t stop him.”

“No,” Debra said.”But as long as you keep forgiving, you stay free and give God room to work in your heart and his. Alison, let God handle Leo.”

Debra was right. Forgiving another’s wrongs doesn’t make the person right. It simply says, “I cancel the debt you owe me–love, money, respect, or anything else–and put the matter in God’s hands.” Jesus gave us our one sure way out of the painful prison of unforgiveness.

Focus: “Forgive whatever grievances you may have … forgive as the Lord forgave you” ~ Colossians 3:13, New International Version.

How about you? What do you think of Jesus’ method of freeing yourself from the prison of unforgiveness? How has it worked for you or someone you know?

 

 

Love Your Enemies!

With increasing unease, Paul listened to his friend tell about seven years of suffering in a North Vietnamese POW camp.

Ron’s captors had tortured him relentlessly. He described how he had been bound tightly for days and left in agonizing pain. “I heard someone far away, screaming through the night. Then I realized. It was me.”

Paul clenched his fists and gritted his teeth. Oh, how he wanted to do bodily harm to those who had tortured his friend so cruelly! His eyes blazed as he growled and asked Ron, “You felt that way, didn’t you?”

“No,” Ron quietly replied. “All through those days and nights, I simply prayed that they might come to know and love Jesus as their Savior.”

Paul’s anger rushed from him in a heavy breath. “Wow!”

Somehow Ron had seen his tormentors with a heart that looked beyond what they were doing. He saw their deep need for Christ and chose to obey Jesus’ command to love his enemies.

Few of us have suffered in POW camps. Yet at one time or another, we have all felt the sting of undeserved pain. Some of us–or those we care about–have suffered cruelty again and again at the hands of another.

We may want to lash back, but God offers a better way. Instead of stewing in our anger and biding our time to get even, we can choose to obey his call.

Focus: “Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!” ~ Matthew 5:44-45, The Living Bible.

How about you? Jesus said we will always have trouble in this world. But how might our lives and our world change if we chose to trust him by loving and praying for our enemies?

The Story of Thanksgiving Day

Crossing the Atlantic, most of the 102 passengers aboard the tiny Mayflower suffered severely from sea sickness. As they finally sighted Cape Cod on November 9, 1620 with only one death among them, they fell to their knees and thanked God who brought them “over the fast and furious ocean … and a sea of troubles.”

The storm-tossed waters prevented them from sailing south to the Virginian colony, their intended destination. Yet they believed God in his wisdom had directed them to the place  they must now prepare from scratch to make it, for winter was already upon them. Having arrived with little food, they sent out scouting parties who found baskets of grain and a good place farther north where hey could build a permanent community.

They struggled through that first winter with inadequate clothing and blankets, hardly seven of them well at one time. By the end of March, half had died of pneumonia. Yet not one among the living boarded the Mayflower for the return trip to England that Spring.

Squanto arrived and made his home with them. An Indian who spoke English, he taught those city folk how to plant corn, fish the river, and hunt turkey and deer in he forest. He also helped them forge a lasting peace with Indians living in the area.

By Fall, the grateful band of devout Christians recovered their health and had enough food to see them through the coming winter. Inviting their Indian friends to join them, they held a three-day feast to thank God for his goodness–a practice they continued year after year. Eventually, some of their descendants settled elsewhere, taking with them their annual thanksgiving-to-God feast.

Then in 1863, President Lincoln declared the occasion a national holiday. But it all began with a small group of Christians who made it a habit to thank God no matter what.

Did they face danger, illness, lack, or loss? They thanked God. Were they blessed with safety, unexpected help, a new home, enough food? They thanked God. These people chose to obey God’s Word about giving thanks.

Focus: “In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:18, The Living Bible.

How about you? For what are you especially thankful to God this year?

Are Good Manners a Small Matter?

Wearing a big grin on his little boy face, Tyler ran to his mother in the church foyer. “Mom, can I–?”

She held up her hand in a kindly way, and then turned back to the woman who was talking to her.

Tyler knew the signal.  It had something to do with not interrupting a conversation until invited to speak. Something his mother called good manners–courtesy. He guessed it was like saying “please” when he asked for anything and “thank you” when he got it.

He immediately fell silent and waited–if impatiently–for his turn to speak.

Was Tyler’s mother wrong to teach him the ways of courtesy? In today’s TV sitcoms and other media, good manners are a small matter.  We laugh at crude remarks and rude behavior. They are so common that they’ve become “the new normal.” So what’s all the fuss?

Just this: God doesn’t agree. His Word clearly tells us that love is not rude (1 Corinthians 13:5). It does not behave unseemly.

Imagine that! Good manners are a way we show love! Not only in our relationships with one another, but in our relationship with God. Yes, we should freely ask God for what we need, but with a humble word of please. And we should remember to thank him. But courtesy toward God is more than that.

Yet how many times, like exuberant Tyler,  do we rush into God’s Presence, blurting out our requests? While like a loving Father, God desires, and even invites us, to present our needs to him, his Word tells us the right way to do it. We are to approach him in love … with courtesy.

Focus: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise” ~ Psalm 100:4 (New Living Translation).

How about You? Do you agree that showing our love through good manners is still important? If so, what change would you suggest we as believers in Christ adopt to lead the way in today’s world?

As Exciting as a Packer Game!

Along with hundreds of others, My husband and I drove to Green Bay. When we arrived and had to park more than a mile from Lambeau Field, we didn’t complain. Surging forward with the crowd, we hurried on in eager anticipation.

Inside the fast-filling stadium, we found our seats and settled in to enjoy the next few hours. We cheered as the team took the field. We chatted with the fans around us about the plays and speculated on the season’s possibilities. Did it matter that we were mostly strangers to one another? Not at all. We were united by the one thing we had in common–our love for football and the Green Bay Packers.

Interesting how I find a similar joyous unity among my brothers and sisters in Christ. All week long I eagerly look forward to Sunday morning when we gather at church with those of “like precious faith” (1 Peter 1:1, King James Version). Oh, it may not sound like much, but it’s as exciting as going to a Packer game!

I may not know everyone who comes, but we are united by the one thing we have in common–our love for God and his family of believers. Together we sing his praises and eagerly listen to what he will say  to us through that morning’s sermon. We share what the Lord has done in our lives during the past week and cheer one another on. We pray for each other’s needs and help one another.

Yes, I am constantly  thankful for the loving help and faithful encouragement I receive from my friends in Christ–not only those in the church where I serve but also those serving God and one another in other Christian denominations. And I’ve heard other believers in Jesus share the same sentiment. Yes, we are thankful.

Focus: “We always thank God for all of you …” ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:2, (New Living Translation).

How about you? For what are you especially thankful when you gather with other believers to worship God?

Getting Out the Garbage

I headed out for my usual early morning exercise–a brisk walk to the lake, around the neighborhood loop, and back again. As I passed by, a neighbor emerged from her garage. We waved to greet one another before she grabbed a large plastic container to haul to the end of her driveway.

Yikes, garbage day!

I made a mental note to  put our garbage out as soon as I finished my walk. We sure didn’t need health hazards, clutter, and all things stinky hanging around for another week. How good it always felt to get rid of garbage.

Rid of … hmm. Didn’t God’s Word have a lot to say about “getting rid of”? When I returned, I’d check that out, too.

Ah, hah! Just as I thought. The Bible listed all sorts of garbage that Peter and Paul urged Christian to “get rid of.” I studied those lists for any garbage I needed to get rid of.

Curious? Would you like to know what I found on those lists? Here are just a few items I considered, in case I was carrying them around:

  • “Get rid of all malicious behavior and deceit. Don’t just pretend to be good. Be done with hypocrisy and jealousy and backstabbing” (1 Peter 2:1, New Living Translation).
  • “Get rid of … slander and dirty language” (Colossians 3:8, New Living Translation).
  • “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words … be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:31, New Living Translation).
  • “Get rid of all filth and evil in your lives … humbly accept the message God has planted in your hearts, for it is strong enough to save your souls” (James 1:21, New Living Translation).

Paul also pointed to a major source of garbage–pride. He could claim lofty heights in his family bloodlines, education, and social status. Though all those things seem important to us, what is their end result? They encourage us to look down on others and count them of less value.

Yet God calls us to love one another regardless of these things. Awakened to this truth and compelled by his love for God, Paul led the way for us. He chose to change his attitude.

Focus: “I once thought all these things were very important, but now I count them as worthless … when compared the with priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage” ~ Philippians 3:7-8, (New Living Translation).

How about you?  How would your life change if you took seriously God’s Word and Paul’s example?