Isaiah 33:2, ESV –
O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble.

Living as we do in the technology-driven 21st century, many of us find waiting a difficult task. We live in a society accustomed to instant gratification, immediate solutions, and prompt access to anything and everything we may need or want, with few interruptions or impediments.

When our computer doesn’t boot up as quickly as we would like, when our cell phone batteries need to be recharged and we can’t message, text, tweet or check Facebook (remember back in the old days, when phones were used to actually make calls so you could talk to people?), when the driver of the car in front of us is going too slow and we attempt to pass at great risk so we can gain that extra car length of victory, when a friend or loved one takes too long to understand our needs or our point of view, we grow impatient, even angry with the delays.

We hate to wait.

Psalm 37:7, ESV –
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

The world is a scary, chaotic and confusing place these days, and many of us find we are bracing ourselves and waiting – waiting for the next shoe to drop, the next senseless slaughter of innocents to take place, the next terrorist attack to occur, the next angry mob scene to happen, the next breaking news story to interrupt our day – and the waiting becomes almost intolerable, as does the outcome.

We’re waiting for solutions to seemingly unanswerable problems, for unity as a country whose inhabitants have turned against one another, where the “us vs. them” mentality we hold toward our fellow citizens, our brothers and sisters, is, in its own way, as deadly as the terrorist with the bombs and the guns.

1 Corinthians 4:5, ESV –
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

It seems like we’re waiting in darkness – the darkness of horrific events, the darkness of despair and discouragement, and for some unfortunate people, the darkness in their very souls. The time of year also reflects the theme, as the days grow shorter and night falls so much earlier. Even the moon is sometimes hidden from view behind the clouds.

We’re still here, waiting for the light.

Advent is a time of waiting, as well, as we await and acknowledge the coming of the One who brings peace to our hearts and souls, as we once again recognize the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It seems so appropriate that this waiting, in many churches and homes, is marked by the lighting of the candles on the four Sundays of Advent prior to Christmas Day. The candles are placed in a circle representing the eternity of God, His unending love for us, and the eternal life that awaits us through our faith in Jesus.

We wait with expectation and eager anticipation for the lighting of the fifth candle in the center of the circle on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, the white Christ candle of purity. This candle symbolizes the birth of the Baby King, the Light in the darkness of our world, the Bearer of peace, love, joy and salvation.

We wait for the only hope this crazy mixed-up grief-filled world really has.

Isaiah 9:2, ESV –
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shown.

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is heard as voices are lifted from churches and sanctuaries across the country, hymns of longing and hope are raised in homes and choirs and on street corners, until “Joy to the World” finally and gloriously rings out on Christmas Day, and the wait is over for His arrival – let earth receive her King!

Now we await His return.

Do not grow weary in the waiting, for He has promised He will, indeed, return for His children. Do not despair in the darkness, for the Light of the World is already here, and lives in the hearts of all those who welcome Him in.

The Light is brighter than any manifestation of darkness, and can never be dimmed.

Psalm 27:14, ESV –
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Let every heart prepare Him room . . .


Right On Time


There was once a season of my life where it seemed I was late to practically everything. It was a matter of poor time management on my part, as well as a rude and pathetically bad habit. I constantly underestimated the amount of time it would take me to get ready, to drive to a particular location, to find a destination in a geographical area with which I was unfamiliar, to deal with unforeseen complications, to traverse roads in bad weather, etc. etc. etc.

I would show up late to appointments, meetings and events, red-faced with embarrassment, or even worse, causing my friends and family embarrassment, should they have had the misfortune to be with me or waiting on me. While I wasn’t late to everything, I was certainly behind schedule more often than not.

Thankfully, that period of my life is long over, and I am on time or even early to appointments these days. I must admit, however, that during those chronically late years I bore a distinct resemblance to the White Rabbit in the book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” looking at my watch, scurrying about and crying, “Oh my ears and whiskers! How late it’s getting!”

It seemed like I was both always in a hurry and always late – I was too rushed to see what was around me on my way to my destination.

That type of tardiness was both selfish and disrespectful. Sometimes, however, there are very good reasons for being late to the main event.

Matthew 2:1-3, 7-12, NLT –
1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,
2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem . . .
7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared.
8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was.
10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!
11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

As we enter this Advent season, I’m reminded of a wonderfully charming and inspirational short story by Henry Van Dyke entitled “The Other Wise Man,” first published in 1895. The story was also made into a contemporary movie in 1985 called “The Fourth Wise Man,” as well as being presented in other movies, television shows, plays and even musicals throughout the years since its original publication.

The protagonist of this short story was also late.

Author Henry Van Dyke, regarding “The Other Wise Man”
“I do not know where this little story came from–out of the air, perhaps. One thing is certain, it is not written in any other book, nor is it to be found among the ancient lore of the East. And yet I have never felt as if it were my own. It was a gift, and it seemed to me as if I knew the Giver.”

According to the story, there was a fourth wise man, another of the Magi named Artaban. As did his three counterparts, Artaban also saw the star in the East, a portent that a newborn King was born, and set out to greet Him with precious gifts. His treasures for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords were a sapphire, a ruby, and a very expensive pearl.

On his way to hook up with the other wise men, Artaban stops to offer assistance to a dying man, which makes him late to meet up with the caravan. Unable to cross the desert alone on horseback, he is forced to sell the sapphire in order to buy a camel and supplies for the trip.

He is finally ready for travel and sets out, only to find he has arrived too late in Bethlehem – the Holy Family has already fled for Egypt, and the other three wise men have headed back home via a different route, to avoid Herod’s spies. While in Bethlehem, however, Artaban is able to save the life of a child, which costs him yet another of his treasures, the ruby.

He then takes off for Egypt in search of his Lord and King.

Artaban is too late to find the Holy Family in Egypt, for they have moved on. He travels throughout that country as well as many others over the next 33 years, searching in vain for Jesus. During this time, he performs countless acts of kindness and charity to strangers he meets along the way.

He is a deeply caring and compassionate man.

Finally, he arrives in Jerusalem, just in time for the crucifixion of Jesus. Artaban has still never laid eyes on his Savior. While in Jerusalem, he runs across a young girl who is being forced into slavery, and hands over his final treasure, the precious and expensive pearl, in order to save her from this fate.

Artaban is even too late to see Jesus hanging on the cross.

Shortly after saving the girl from life as a slave, Artaban is hit on the head by a falling tile from a roof and lays dying, having never seen the One for whom he sought so many years, although he did many good deeds for others during his search.

In his final moments, Artaban hears a voice saying:

Matthew 25:40, NLT –
I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!

Artaban had at last found Jesus.

My prayer for us all during this season of reflection, contemplation and anticipation is that we not be so caught up in the “big event” of Christmas that we lose sight of Jesus in the faces of the needy, the helpless, the homeless, the different, that we may encounter along the way.

May we be the Light to others during this time of waiting, may we offer shelter and hospitality to those seeking sanctuary, and may we never become too rushed, too busy, too hurried to offer acts of kindness, both large and small, to others.

May we never be too late to share the love of Jesus with those who need Him the very most.

O come, let us adore Him . . .



Hi friends, I’m “recycling” a devotional I wrote almost a year ago, with a few edits and revisions. I’ve been quite sick this week, and am still not feeling at all well. Prayers would be greatly appreciated, as I’m supposed to leave on Wednesday for a 5-hour trip home to spend Thanksgiving with my Mom. I’m thankful for all of YOU!


I’m quite fond of sheep. Growing up in rural Ohio, I certainly saw my fair share of them. I knew some of the country kids that raised sheep as part of their 4-H projects, or whose families raised sheep and other farm animals, and I always enjoyed meeting their woolly friends. I was – and still am – always delighted to see sheep in the fields as we drive by farms on our travels. If you ever visit my house, you’ll even see a good-sized flock of sheep figurines residing on my hutch.

Yes, sheep hold a special spot in my heart.

Psalm 23:1, ESV –
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Sheep are generally meek, mild and pretty sweet, but they aren’t always the brightest creatures in God’s creation. If you look in the dictionary, you’ll find that the term “woolly-headed” means confused, vague, muddled in one’s thinking. I’m sure that phrase likely came about because of the behavior of sheep in general.

The term “sheepish” also comes to mind, which Merriam Webster defines as “affected by or showing embarrassment caused by consciousness of a fault.” I am often embarrassed by the foolishness of my actions, and certainly affected by the outcome of my sins. I understand the word “sheepish” all too well.

While I cannot say with any certainty what animals were present during the birth of Jesus (or even if any animals were there at all), sheep, cows and perhaps a burro or two are generally depicted in various manger scenes. I can easily envision the sheep placidly looking on as Mary coos and cuddles her new baby boy – a Baby who was born to find those of us who, like sheep, have gone astray.

Isaiah 53:6, ESV –
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Sheep can get themselves into some pretty sticky situations (sometimes literally), and often have no idea at all how to extricate themselves from the messes they’ve made. They can become stuck in fences, lost (sometimes within plain sight of their destination), caught in crevices, marooned in high places, or become separated from their woolly buddies in some other way.

Sheep grow easily stressed when they’re away from the rest of their flock. They can be quick to flee, and quick to panic. At the same time, they are often stubbornly set on going their own way, much to their own detriment.

Now who, I wonder, does that sound like? Oh yeah. Me.

Just like sheep, we, too, can get caught in tight places, and grow weary of trying to extricate ourselves. We grow oh, so very tired and discouraged as we find ourselves stuck in places we don’t really want to be, trapped in a mess of our own making, struggling to find our way back to a place where chaos and confusion no longer reign.

We long to feel safe.

When we’re separated from the flock of believers, or worse yet, separated from the Good Shepherd Himself, when we stubbornly insist on going our own way, we feel lost, scared; we become panicked at the situations in which we find ourselves. We all too often try to shepherd ourselves, rather than depending on the true Shepherd to find us and guide us back to safety.

Luke 15:3-7, ESV –
3 So he told them this parable:
4 What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?
5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’
7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Thankfully, Abba Father knew all about our predilection to behave like sheep, and a Savior was born in a manger on that day so long ago, a Shepherd who takes great delight in finding His lost sheep, who is willing to go after His children when they find themselves in sheepish situations.

It only seems fitting that the first people to know of the birth of that Savior were the shepherds, watching over their flocks in the dark of night.

I’m so glad that the Baby who was born in a manger, perhaps with sheep watching the events transpire on that special, holy night, grew up to become the Good Shepherd who watches over each and every one of us, who is always ready to come find us when we stray, who hears our panicked bleats and leads us back to still waters and peaceful settings.

What a blessing, what a good gift from a good God! How inexpressibly comforting is that image of Jesus, picking me up in His arms and carrying me back to a place of security.

I am safe and protected in His arms.

No matter how sticky the situation or how far we wander, our Shepherd will always find us if we call out to Him. Praise His holy name!

Kindness Matters Part II — Knock Knock!

DANGER Negative self-talk

As a follow-up to my last devotional about how kindness truly does matter in how we treat others, today I want to focus on the fact that kindness matters in how we treat ourselves, especially in the things we say about ourselves in our self-talk.

This is a bit different from those old tapes I wrote about once, the metaphorical tapes of comments and judgments and criticisms of us that others have made. Those tapes all too often play on an endless loop in our brains, and can bind us up and wrap themselves around us. Those tapes are created for us by others. Negative self-talk is created all on our own – it’s sort of like inviting in unwelcome guests when they come knocking on your door.

Who’s knocking on YOUR door?

Would you open it to a man wearing a hockey mask, who’s wielding a big shiny knife poised to stab you straight in the heart? Would you respond to a seemingly kind old woman of the Arsenic and Old Lace variety, who holds out a nice cup of tea which you watch her “doctor” with poison before your very eyes? Would you welcome someone into your home if you know that guest will do nothing but gossip, criticize, whine, complain, and metaphorically stab you in the back at every available opportunity?

Would you throw open the door for the devil?

When you engage in negative, destructive self-talk, you basically do just that.

1 Peter 5:8, NIV –
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 John 4:4, NLT –
But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

I’m sure you’re all denying that you would do any of those above-mentioned things. I would like to agree that I, too, would never let such people into my house, my home, my refuge. And yet, I do so almost every day, to one degree or another. All I have to do is listen carefully to how I talk to and about myself. It can turn into a pretty scary experience.

My body is my temple, the “house” where the Holy Spirit dwells, but I sully that temple with the dirty fingerprints and muddy footprints of my negative self-talk when I’m not closely monitoring my thoughts.

There are a few days when the door to my house is shut up tight, locked against the harsh criticism and painful attacks I bring upon myself. Other days, the door is at least cracked, if not open, and the locks have apparently been removed.

On my worst days, those days when I’m quite sure the evil one is using my thoughts as a weapon against me, both the front and back doors are standing wide open, and all the windows are raised and missing their glass.

On days when I answer the knocking of negative self-talk, I say things to myself such as:

• I’m so stupid/what an idiot!
• I’m just too fat to be pretty.
• I am useless.
• Everybody here is a better writer than me. Why would anyone care about what I think or say?
• I have nothing to offer.
• Because of my health challenges, I’m nothing but a burden.
• She’s so beautiful/talented/smart/charismatic/clever, etc. etc. etc. – I wish I was more like her.
• What a loser I am.
• I’m all but invisible these days.
• I can’t believe I said/did that in front of my boss/colleagues/family/friends. What a moron.
• If they knew me better, they probably wouldn’t like me.

These are all things I’ve said to myself, sometimes on a recurring basis, although I’m much better than I used to be about guarding my thoughts and monitoring my inner dialogue. Still, even those of us who know we are loved unquestioningly and unfailing by a good and merciful Father have times when we speak to ourselves like we are prime specimens of overgrown, algae-covered pond scum.

I am, without question, my own worst critic.

They are all lies, those comments, yet I open the door and allow them into my house, and like heat-seeking missiles, they find their target and aim to destroy my peace of mind, my self-esteem, my self-confidence, my soul. I don’t really mean to invite them in; they seem to just show up and take over the couch, change the channels on the T.V., play discordant, disquieting music, share my bed and steal the covers.

They represent almost automatic responses, uttered to myself without really thinking about the consequences. Without due diligence and no small amount of discipline on my part, they can rent space in my head and my heart, and attempt to become permanent residents.

I refuse to allow these unwanted guests to remain, yet I must admit it’s a battle to stop them from even knocking on my door in the first place.

These “guests” wound, cut, damage, scar, stab and tear apart the carefully sown stitches of my life like a seam ripper pulls out threads and opens seams. Sometimes they just chip away, unnoticed, until a big hole is left in the foundation of the sacred space where my mind and my heart are housed, in the very fabric and construction of who I am, the woman God has created me to be.

We all make mistakes, fall on our faces, falter and fail. We sin, screw up, cause pain to ourselves and to others – often accidentally and thoughtlessly, but sometimes deliberately and with intention. We act like what we are – sinners saved by grace.

Yes, we are new creations in Christ, but we are still quite human.

I would never, ever speak to a loved one in the same way I speak to myself. I would never be so rude, disrespectful, unkind, and downright mean to anyone, whether a stranger or a friend. I loathe bullies, but in this case, the bully is me – and I am also the victim.

Of course, there are times when I need a “good talking to,” when I’ve done something I know in my heart is wrong, or when I’ve hurt someone by my words or actions. It’s important to then acknowledge my shortcomings (without calling myself names), to repent, to remind myself that, yes, I messed up, and then review ways to ensure I (hopefully) don’t do it again.

I bring it to the Lord. That is taking constructive action, not engaging in self-destruction. There’s a big difference between the two.

If you wouldn’t say words to a friend, a loved one, or even a stranger, you shouldn’t say them to yourself.

If we truly believe God loves us with wild and crazy abandon, if we believe we are joint heirs to the throne and His beloved children, if we believe we are made in His image and that He delights in us, we shouldn’t find it so hard to believe we are not the names we call ourselves, that the labels we attach to ourselves are a far cry from the sum total of our being.

So how do we ignore the knocking, how do we stop opening the door to these unwelcome, disparaging thoughts disguised as guests? I believe that Scripture is one of the very best tools in our arsenal.

Memorizing Bible verses and quoting them to yourself when the negative self-talk begins makes it harder to listen to what the unwanted guests are babbling on about. Speaking words to yourself of hope, love, joy, reassurance, of life in Christ, will push the devil back out the door and no longer allow him a foothold over you or a place on your couch.

The truth in those words really will set you free.

Romans 12:2, NIV –
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.

2 Corinthians 10:5, NIV –
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Psalm 19:14, NIV –
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Proverbs 4:23, NLT –
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

It’s not always easy to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, but by the grace of God, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it is most definitely doable. The Bible verse below lays out a very good plan of action:

Philippians 4:8, NLT –
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing: Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

I’ve also found it very helpful to find a phrase or sentence or a few positive words of my own to counteract my self-inflicted attacks. For myself, I’ve chosen the words “God’s girl.” Each person can reflect upon something personal and meaningful to their own situation.

For example, when I hear myself say “I’m so stupid,” I come back with “You made a silly mistake, but you’re not stupid – you’re God’s girl!” Or, “Yes, I would feel better and my overall health would improve if I lost some weight, but I am beautiful in my Father’s eyes. I am created in His image – I am God’s girl!”

It takes practice, it takes discipline, and some days I fail miserably, but I find those words of belonging and reassurance to be helpful in combating the enemies that wage war within me.

Even though it’s tough to do, don’t open the door to anyone who’s trying to beat you up, tear you down, wound your heart, and kill your spirit – especially if the person knocking looks a whole lot like you!

Who’s knocking on your door today? Will you let them in?

Kindness Matters

Kindness Like Rain

“I choose kindness . . . I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.” (Max Lucado)

I am a relatively simple woman. I am not a great theologian, nor am I an impressive and profound Christian apologist. I love the Lord with all my heart, I pray, and I read my Bible, but there is still so much I have yet to learn. I’m definitely a work in progress in so many ways.

There is, however, one lesson I’ve learned over and over again in my 57-plus years of life here on earth. It’s a very important but simple one – only two short words – still, it seems to be a hard lesson for some folks to learn. To be fair, it’s one of which we all need to be reminded, no matter how good or holy or Christ-like we think we are. The lesson is this –

Kindness matters.

That doesn’t sound like such a difficult concept to comprehend, does it? Yet, there are those who associate being kind with being weak, namby-pamby, and ineffective; those who believe there is no place for kindness on their climb up the corporate ladder or in their ambition to get ahead at all costs, and as quickly as possible.

They are convinced there is no place for kindness in their Darwinian “survival of the fittest” game.

Most people really enjoy receiving kindness from others, but some don’t always think to give it back, or to demonstrate it first. They’re in too much of a hurry, too caught up with their own agendas, too focused on their own lives to care much about the lives of others, especially perfect strangers.

So what, exactly, does it mean to be kind? Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it this way:

“Having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others; wanting and liking to do good things and to bring happiness to others.”

That sure sounds like something to which we would all aspire.

There are so many ways to be kind – thousands and thousands of them! Kindness may be as simple as smiling at a stranger; holding the door open for the next person; allowing a car to go ahead of you in traffic (without using hand gestures!)

It might be sincerely complimenting another on some aspect of their being or dress; stopping a bully, whether in the school yard or the workplace; giving up your seat to someone with a physical limitation, the elderly, the pregnant, the exhausted.

It may entail being respectful and patient with the waiter or waitress or salesperson who is there to take care of your needs; buying a meal for a homeless person; picking up the tab for the person behind you in the drive-through; performing kind deeds for those who have no way of giving back.

The list goes on and on.

Being kind doesn’t necessarily mean doing great, magnificent acts of philanthropy. The small, daily acts of kindness sometimes matter more than we realize to those who are on the receiving end. I know from personal experience that when I’m going through a painful time, when I’m feeling down and depressed, a smile from a stranger can mean the world, and may even bring tears of gratitude that someone cared enough to make the gesture.

During a very dark time in my life, a time when I was questioning my reason to even be here, a complete stranger smiled and gave me a compliment, chatted with me as we waited in the same line, touched my arm as we spoke, and I suddenly felt like someone cared. I felt like I mattered, even a little bit, that I still had something left to give. That stranger never knew how much she touched my heart and my life by her simple act of kindness.

She was “God with skin on” for me that day.

Proverbs 12:25, NKJV –
Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.

I truly believe that kindness transforms even the plainest person into a beautiful one.

I kept one of my favorite quotes on my desk at work back in the days when I was still a corporate cube-dweller. It stayed with me for years, and I now have a copy on my desk here at home. I try hard to live out the words. The quote is this:

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” (Leo Buscaglia)

Such small acts have definitely turned my own life around.

There are thousands of quotes about kindness from individuals from every walk of life – playwrights, actors, authors, comic strip developers, philosophers, saints and clergy of all denominations and religions, to name just a few. Here are some that really speak to my heart:

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” (Scott Adams)

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” (Mother Teresa)

“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” (Aesop)

“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” (Mark Twain)

“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” (Oscar Wilde)

“When you are kind to others, it not only changes you, it changes the world.” (Rabbi Harold Kushner)

The most important reason to pursue kindness as a way of life, of course, is that, as Christians, we are called to be God’s hands, feet and mouthpiece here on earth – to demonstrate to others as much as possible the same kindness, compassion, grace and mercy that He shows to us.

Isaiah 54:10, NKJV –
“For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

Ephesians 4:32, NKJV –
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit, as evidenced in Galatians. If we are seeking to live as Christ would have us live, kindness should be manifest in our lives.

Galatians 5:22, NKJV –
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.

There are many examples and Scripture verses regarding kindness scattered throughout the Bible, but the one story that almost everyone knows is found in Luke 10:30-37, better known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

As a man, likely Jewish, was lying robbed, beaten, stripped of clothing, and close to death on the side of the road, he was passed by twice from those who overlooked him, considered him beneath their dignity and social status, and who had no compassion or kindness or mercy on his plight. However, when the Samaritan saw him, he was filled with kindness, and cared for him.

Luke 10:33, NKJV –
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.

This is significant because, for the most part, Samaritans and Jews hated one another. Jesus used this parable as an object lesson to show how the Samaritan acted with the same kindness He would have us demonstrate to others, including those we may dislike or even despise.

We are all connected, even when our “neighbor” is someone who looks, acts, or thinks very differently from ourselves.

“We are never more like Jesus than when we are choked with compassion for others.” (Anonymous)

Matthew 7:12, NKJV –
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them . . .

“The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them: the Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on – including people he could not even have imagined himself.” (C. S. Lewis)

Kindness is also demonstrated verbally, but I think all too often people forget the power their words contain. Words can uplift and heal, or wound and destroy. As Christians, we are called to watch our words, to think before we speak harshly or critically, and to speak with love and kindness to one another, especially to those who share our faith.

Galatians 6:10, NKJV –
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

One of the reasons I felt particularly compelled to write about kindness today is that, over the last four months, I have received three private messages from Christians who are my Facebook friends. As I have stated before, one took me to task for being Catholic instead of Christian (even though Catholics are Christians), and one had issues regarding my friendship with a transgender person. A new message I received last week chastised me for publicly asking for help when I needed it; this person encouraged me to “pull myself up by my bootstraps.”

I have forgiven these individuals and moved on, but their words sure hurt at the time – they were not written with kindness, but instead were judgmental and harsh. I believe they likely had good intentions, but the words were particularly painful because they came from other Christians, those who have been on the receiving end of God’s abundant grace, mercy, kindness and compassion.

Colossians 3:12, NKJV –
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering . . .

1 Corinthians 13:4, NKJV –
Love suffers long and is kind . . .

None of us are perfect, and I certainly am not! I know that I, too, have been unkind more times than I care to remember, often inadvertently, but sometimes, by my word choices and tone of voice, quite deliberately. Unkindness not only diminishes others, but it diminishes our own lives, especially our spiritual lives, and our relationship with God.

Kindness matters.

My prayer is that I will constantly seek to find opportunities to show kindness to others, to be a reflection of the kindness, goodness and love that our Heavenly Father has shown to me. I pray that I will act without selfishness or expectation of reward, and that I will be on the lookout for the many occasions  throughout every day in which a kind word or deed might make a difference.

May I always be grateful for the abundant and continuing kindness the Lord shows to me, and praise His Holy Name!

Psalm 63:3, NKVJ –
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.

Gifts and Gratitude


Chorus from “How Great Thou Art” (public domain Christian hymn) –
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,
How great Thou art, how great Thou art . . .

Gifts. Lately, it seems I’m reminded over and over again of the multitude of gifts we receive from a good and loving God. This devotional could quickly turn into an encyclopedic tome were I to list them all out, but so many are obvious simply by looking around, stepping outside, taking a walk in nature, pausing to look up at the stars and constellations in the night sky, gazing into the eyes of a loved one.

Today I awoke in the very early hours of the morning, and could not fall back asleep. In that still, quiet time, when it seemed no one else was awake but me and God, I reflected on those gifts. My heart swelled and overflowed (as did my eyes) with gratitude, and I could almost feel God’s smile as I pondered the bounty He’s provided for each and every person on this planet.

One of my favorite hymns is “How Great Thou Art,” a stirring tribute to the inventiveness, inspiration, greatness and glory of God, the Maker of all good things. My soul truly does sing when I reflect upon His miraculous gifts.

Verses 1 and 2, from “How Great Thou Art” –
O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hand hath made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze.

Perhaps it’s the season. Autumn is my favorite time of year, and as I gaze upon the leaves that are transformed from green to glorious reds and yellows, enjoy the crisp, cool weather, view the bright, cheerful orange of pumpkins, rejoice in the varying shades of color in apples, sniff in delight the spicy-sweet scent of apple cider, apple cobbler, apple and pumpkin pie, and thrill to the beauty of that big old shining yellow-orange harvest moon, I marvel once again at the artistry and creativity of a Heavenly Father that gives such incredible presents to His kids.

James 1:17, NLT –
Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

And the sun – how I love sunlight! As one who suffers from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), light is essential to my overall sense of well-being. My mood can plummet if I go without direct light for any length of time. I think St. Francis perhaps understood this, as well . . .

St. Francis of Assisi, from “The Canticle of Brother Sun” –
“Praised be You, my Lord, with all your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor;
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.”

The splendor of rugged, craggy mountains reaching high up to the heavens; the beauty of a quiet stream or babbling brook, or the roar of the ocean as the waves pound the shore and the tides roll in and out; a gentle breeze that lifts and ruffles your hair and cools you on a hot summer day; a soft, gentle rain that lulls you to sleep at night, or a pounding rain that’s accompanied by the majesty of rolling booms of thunder and jagged streaks of lightning – a laser light show from the Creator; the exquisite colors of a rainbow that follows the rain; spectacular sunrises and sunsets; birds and reptiles and every kind of creature from aardvarks to zebras; trees; rocks; forests; fields; flowers; friends; family . . . the list goes on and on.

Oh, and music – I simply cannot imagine my life without music! How amazing that God inspires musicians to put the notes and the chords together in just the right way, to create harmonies so sweet they can bring tears to the eyes of listeners; that He prompts lyricists to write words that heal and praise and uplift and sooth, and allows vocalists and even those of us that can’t carry a tune in a bucket to lift up our voices and sing.

Hildegard of Bingen –
“Don’t let yourself forget that God’s grace rewards not only those who never slip, but also those who bend and fall. So sing! The song of rejoicing softens hard hearts. It makes tears of godly sorrow flow from them. Singing summons the Holy Spirit. Happy praises offered in simplicity and love lead the faithful to complete harmony, without discord. Don’t stop singing.”

Johann Sebastian Bach –
“I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.”

And children! I look into the eyes of my grandchildren, and am poignantly reminded of what precious gifts they truly are. I consider my soon-to-be fourth grandchild, and reflect again upon the miracle that is childbirth, the way our Father orchestrates it all, the way He knits each and every one of us together in the womb.

Psalm 127:3, NLT –
Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.

Of course, our very life itself is a tremendous gift.

Rich Mullins quote from “Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven,” by James Bryan Smith, @2000 –
“Sometimes it’s hard to believe that life is good. It’s not always pleasant, but life is a great gift and your job as a human being is to go out there and live it the best you can.”

Even on those days that seem bleak and dark and hopeless, when we are mourning and grieving, when we suffer, when we wonder why we’re even here, life is still a blessing. We may complain and grumble and cry out to God about prayers that seem to be unheard and unanswered, but sometimes “no” to our prayers is the gift we really need the most, even though we may not understand it in this lifetime.

We live the gift of our life the best we can.

Ephesians 2:8, NLT –
God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.

And there is certainly the amazing gift of God’s love that He showers abundantly and lavishly upon His children, undeserving though we may be.

Brennan Manning, from “The Ragamuffin Gospel,” @1990, 2000, 2005 –
“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.”

God’s greatest gift, however, is of course the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, and the prospect of eternal life with Him if we only believe, trust and obey.

Romans 6:23, NLT –
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

I cannot imagine the pain of the sacrifice that was made for us, so that our sins were taken away as God’s Son hung on the cross in our place. That is a gift beyond all imagination, a gift of redemption, a gift no one else could ever give.

How great Thou art, indeed . . . my gratitude knows no bounds, and I will thank Him and praise Him forever!

Verses 3 and 4 from “How Great Thou Art” –
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!


Thomas Campbell Quote Legacies

Legacy (as defined by Merriam Webster Dictionary):
1. A gift by will, especially of money or other personal property.
2. Something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.

I just can’t seem to get the word “legacy” out of my mind. Whenever a word or phrase is stuck in my head like this, it’s often a sign that The Boss is trying to make a point I need to hear, teach me a lesson I need to learn, or just reinforce something I already know.

Maybe because so many friends have lost loved ones in recent months, legacies are more prevalent in my thoughts. Maybe it’s because another phase and season of my life is drawing to an end, as I leave a contract job I love due to my health challenges. This greatly saddens me, and I find myself fervently hoping I will be fondly remembered for any positive changes I made during my tenure there.

Maybe it’s because we should all be more mindful while we’re still here of what will remain in the hearts and minds and memories of others after we depart.

I believe many people, when thinking of legacies, immediately focus on what’s physically left after someone dies – property, valuables, and/or a monetary inheritance of some sort. While that is certainly one definition, what we leave behind encompasses far more than just the physical aspects of our lives – our legacy reflects the type of life we lead, as well, and our effect on others.

We all leave a legacy after we die, whether good, bad, or somewhere in between. Did we live our lives in the service of others, demonstrating Christ’s love and compassion? Did we honor His command to “love your neighbor as yourself?” If we are living for Christ while we are here, what we leave behind will be the fruits from His vine, a spiritual, loving legacy to our children, our family and our friends.

Or will our legacy be one of selfishness, greed, intolerance, abuse, overwhelming ambition, the pursuit of worldly riches? Was the world made just a little bit better because we were here, or did we only add to the misery?

As long as we are still here on earth, we have the opportunity to change and improve upon what we leave to others.

I think of people like Mother Teresa, Corrie Ten Boom, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and a multitude of other men and women – of the good works they did during their lives, the way they cared for others, and the legacy of compassion, caring, positive change and peace they left behind. Then there’s Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Charles Manson, and far too many other infamous men and women throughout history who left a legacy of fear, torture, arrogance, greed, evil and death.

While very few of us are well known for being either extraordinarily good or extraordinarily bad, we all leave an imprint. Our lives and our actions will potentially have a greater effect on others than we will ever know.

Proverbs 13:22, ESV –
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children . . .

Matthew 6:19-21, ESV –
19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

My beloved Daddy passed away in 1988. I do not come from a wealthy family, but he did leave behind a small amount of money for me, as well as enough to leave my mother secure, if not rich, for the rest of her life. The greatest legacy he left me, however, is one of unconditional love; he was my first earthly model of how much my Heavenly Father loves me.

He also left me a legacy of loving and respecting others, of taking joy in the everyday things of life, of reading and poetry and music and photography, of the value of a childlike spirit, of the gift of a smile. He taught me about God, sometimes without even trying, simply leading by example.

The greatest things my Dad left behind had no monetary value, but they were, and are, priceless to me. It’s the best inheritance I could ever ask for.

I think of my dear friend I’ve known for well over 50 years, who lost his wife unexpectedly less than six months ago. She left a legacy of healing, love, and laughter. When her family and friends think of Lisa, they remember and miss her radiant, sparkling spirit, the way she lit up a room when she entered it, her desire to help others. She exuded love for her patients, her friends, her family, and an undying love for her spouse. It was a tangible thing, and a precious gift to those who remain.

I think of my longtime friend I’ve known since my college days, who lost her brother only a week ago. Tom is greatly mourned, but those left behind smile through their tears as they reflect on his generosity of spirit, his wonderful sense of humor, his kindness, his willingness to help a friend in need. He was Nancy’s brother as well as her best friend, but the endearing and enduring legacy he leaves will forever be etched upon the hearts of his siblings, children, grandchildren and all whose lives he touched.

Rich Mullins, my all-time favorite Contemporary Christian singer/songwriter and fellow Ragamuffin who went home to be with the Lord in 1997, certainly springs to mind when I think of legacies. I imagine he would be shocked to discover how far-reaching his influence still is, even on people who were not yet born before he died.

His songs, his music, his articles, his charitable works for the poor and downtrodden, the movie “Ragamuffin” that was made about his life, the Ragamuffin retreats and other retreats directed and taught by his brother and his dear friends, the memories shared by those who knew him and loved him, have all had an inestimable and long-lasting effect on scores of people, including those who never knew or met him while he was still here.

Rich Mullins, from “Pursuit of a Legacy” video, ©1994 and 2003 –
“I hope that I would leave a legacy of joy . . . a legacy of real compassion. Because I think there is great joy in real compassion. I don’t think that you can know joy apart from caring deeply about people, caring enough about people that you actually do something. But I have a feeling . . . if my life is motivated by my ambition to leave a legacy, what I’ll probably leave as a legacy is ambition. But if my life is motivated by the power of the Spirit in me – if I live in the awareness of the indwelling Christ – if I allow His presence to guide my actions, to guide my motives, those sorts of things, that’s the only time I really think that we really leave a great legacy.”

Of course, the ultimate and most important legacy is the one left to the world by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – a legacy of wild, crazy, unconditional, unfathomable, and wholly sacrificial love. He bequeathed no property, money, or possessions, but He left an example that has changed hearts and lives forever.

Jesus’s legacy has the power to change the world. We, the inheritors of His grace, mercy and love, are called to share that legacy with others. By selflessly dying on the cross for us, He leaves us freedom from the bondage of our sins, life eternal, triumph over the grave, if we will only remember His lessons and follow His example.

C.S. Lewis, taken from “Letters to an American Lady” –
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.

We will all leave a legacy . . . what will yours be?

A Helping Hand

Let God Help You Help Others

I’ve been pondering a conundrum this week. Of course, it may only be a conundrum to me and those in my immediate family, but I have a sneaky suspicion it just might apply to others, as well. The conundrum is this:

Why is it so much easier to help someone else than it is to seek help for ourselves when we really need it?

Perhaps it is because we feel blessed when we help others. I know I do. As long as we help those less fortunate than ourselves without expecting repayment, without having a “what’s in it for ME” attitude, then we are blessed to be doing God’s work, to be going about God’s business.

Acts 20:35, ESV –
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Having the heart of a servant is a wonderful thing for both the giver and the receiver.

Although I don’t personally know every individual who reads my words, I imagine most of you have servant’s hearts, and find multiple ways to carry out His commandment to love one another, and lift one another up. A great many friends and acquaintances of mine have no problem seeking out ways to fulfill Christ’s directive. After all, there are many verses in the New Testament that tell us how we are to live as followers of our Lord and Savior by helping others. Below are some of my favorite examples:

Philippians 2:4, ESV –
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Galatians 6:2, ESV –
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 15:1, ESV –
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Romans 12:13, ESV –
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Matthew 7:12, ESV –
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them . . .

Perhaps some of the best known verses about helping others are found in Matthew 25:35-40. This portion of Scripture makes it quite clear that by helping others, we are honoring Christ by our actions. Each and every person on this earth is made in the image of God, and although many do not follow Him, He loves them all.

We are called to do the same – they are our brothers and sisters.

Matthew 25:35-40, ESV –
35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

I have friends who are involved in prison ministries, spreading the Good News to those who are incarcerated, and coming along beside them in their solitude. Others work with those struggling with various addictions, helping them see that freedom lies in surrendering to the Lord. Many people I know gladly donate time, clothing and food to shelters and food pantries, and put together special kits to hand out to the homeless in all types of weather.

Several work tirelessly to provide medical care for those who are sick, for those disenfranchised who do not receive such attention  on a regular basis. Still others build houses, do repair work, offer shelter to those without a place to stay. They provide refuge for those who seek escape from domestic violence, or give homes to children who are bound over to the court system.

Some people visit the elderly and the housebound, prepare funeral luncheons, bring food to the grieving and the ill. Still others visit those who are in the hospital. They deliver God’s Body and Blood in the form of the Eucharist or Communion, and share God’s words of comfort, healing and peace.

Some do all of this, and much, much more.

There are multitudes of people out there serving others. They feel blessed to be able to offer their time and talents to assist those in need.

I know that, personally, some of the times in my life I have felt the most blessed involved working in a food pantry, helping to cook and serve food at a mission in a very poor area of my former city, and volunteering at a concealed location for individuals with various stages of AIDS – those who I considered the modern-day equivalent of lepers, since at that time, very few people wished to have contact with them due to fear of contagion, or because of their sexual orientation.

I didn’t do those things because I wanted acknowledgment, payment or rewards of any kind. I did them because God has given me so much, and because blessings are meant to be shared. I was willing to help those I could look at, touch, hug, clothe, feed, and know that there, but for the grace of God, was me.

I saw Christ in them, and was blessed beyond measure.

Why, then, if I know without question that helping others is a blessing, am I reluctant to allow others to be blessed by helping ME when I am in need? Is it because I don’t want to appear weak, needy or helpless in front of others?

I don’t think it’s exactly any of those things.

To be honest, I suppose it all comes down to pride, and the fact that I am now physically unable to help others in the same way I once was. There are many, many ways to serve that don’t involve physical stamina or manual labor – my head knows this, but my heart is slow to catch up – yet there are times I feel useless, and because of that, my pride tells me I shouldn’t “burden” others. I look at my own needs and decide they’re not “bad enough” for me to ask for help.

I even feel guilty at times because my husband has drawn the short end of the “in sickness and in health” part of our marriage vows, although God has given me a wonderful spouse who does not look at caring for me when I’m ill as a burden in any way, shape or form. He just loves me – he’s a living example of Christ’s love.

Yeah, I know – that whole “I’m a burden” thing is stinkin’ thinkin’, and I would deem it ridiculous if someone else verbalized such thoughts, but then again, you know what they say about pride:

Proverbs 16:18, ESV –
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

In my case, that “fall” could be quite literal.

It took me a long time to admit I needed assistance with cleaning the house, or to use a cane on a regular basis when walking. It took me even longer to confess my need for a stairlift to get me up and down the 14 steps in and out of our home. I’m just now getting around to admitting I can no longer keep up my music booking and hosting schedule, even though it’s been a bit too much for me for almost two years. It is equal parts of pride, fierce and hard-won independence throughout my adult years, and sheer stubbornness on my part that has kept me from asking for help.

OK, so I’m not always the brightest bulb in the marquee.

I’m watching this same scenario play out in my mother’s life. She’s elderly, but she’s also a feisty, resilient, stubborn woman, and determined to do things on her own as long as possible – and in many ways, it’s no longer physically possible, but she still forges on.

She lives by herself in a (thankfully) small home, the same one she’s lived in since 1957, still drives around in the same (thankfully) small southern Ohio farm town she has lived in most of her life. Mom has been blessed with remarkably good health, and although she’s over 90 years of age, she’s just now dealing with some of the issues her contemporaries dealt with 20 or more years ago.

She gave us a health scare last spring, and after a tearful meeting between Mom, my husband, and me, with my physician assistant cousins chiming in from the sidelines, we convinced her to begin wearing a life alert pendant, which will connect with a security firm and provide help if she falls and is unresponsive or needs assistance in any way. She didn’t want to wear one, since she believed the necklace was for “old people with health problems.” (She’s 92!)

She also agreed to line up someone to help her with grocery shopping, doctor appointments, house cleaning, and other errands and needs. She found a wonderful woman who lives just down the street, a retired nurse who is anxious to assist Mom in any way she can. She even said to help Mom out would be a blessing to her.

She has a servant’s heart.

Mom has never called her, and gets quite upset when asked about it. I understand she doesn’t want to give up her independence, but sometimes we ALL need a helping hand, no matter our age, physical limitations, or financial status.

By refusing to allow others to help us, we are denying them the opportunity to be blessed for their servant’s hearts, to be used by God to lift another up in some way, whether it’s home repairs, bringing in dinners, financial assistance of some sort, medical help, or a myriad of other ways, both big and small.

There is no shame in asking for help when you need it. Asking for help does not make you look weak, for the asking is actually a sort of courage in and of itself. It takes a strong person to admit they cannot do everything themselves. Allow someone else to be a blessing to you, and to be blessed by God in return.

And if you can no longer physically be of assistance, like me, do not think your days of helping others are over. You can still pray, offer encouragement, a hug, a listening ear, a presence, even a smile to a stranger. I believe God will direct you, that He find ways for you to help others. Sometimes the smallest of acts makes the biggest of differences.

May God greatly bless each and every one of your caring, serving, helping hearts.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” (Charles Dickens)

Blessing God

Bless at all times

Blessing (as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary):
1. The act or words of one that blesses; approval; encouragement
2. A thing conducive to happiness or welfare
3. Help and approval from God
4. Grace said at meals

I’m in more than a normal amount of pain today. To be honest, I’ve felt that way all week – great pain, a tidal wave, a tsunami of it – the kind that washes over you and leaves you gasping, groaning, and crying out loud as you sink under the waves one more time, drowning in the stuff. You’ll not find it anywhere in the Bible, at least not with the same phraseology, but my reaction to this week can be summed up in two little words – pain sucks.

So what am I to do with all this pain? Well, there are generally two “escape routes” I pursue. While they may not actually take away the pain, they do help me stem the tide, and make it easier for me to put my own suffering into perspective.

It’s important to get out of my own head for a period of time.

My first action is to begin counting my blessings. No matter how bad I think things are, in spite of the world of hurt I may be in, I always, ALWAYS have so many things for which to be thankful. I’m well aware there are multitudes of people in much worse pain than me, in situations that I can barely even imagine.

Does that make it hurt any less? Well, no, but it does develop a different attitude toward the pain deep within my spirit.

I may be in pain, but I have a nice, comfortable bed in which to rest, a shower that allows wonderfully warm water to flow over my body and provide relief to my muscles and joints, a soothing cup of tea to bring comfort to my spirit, healthy food to nourish my body, a devoted and loving husband to care for me when I’m unable to care for myself, and a Bible to read when I’m crying out to God and need the reminder of His wild, wonderful, unfailing love.

My pain is both chronic and acute, but it is not going to kill me, it’s not a side effect of a terminal disease, it does not involve chemotherapy or radiation as part of the healing process.

I am very blessed.

I know there are people without a place to sleep, without a roof over their heads, and no running water in which to bathe or with clean water suitable to drink. So many people have no food to feed themselves or their families, or are isolated and alone. A great many people don’t know God, and depend solely upon themselves to get through this life. Even some that proclaim themselves as Christians have no clue about “the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God,” as Contemporary Christian singer Rich Mullins described it.

And horrifyingly, even in this day and age, there are thousands of people who are persecuted, tortured, dying and dead, because they DO know that Love, and refuse to deny it.

Yes, I’m one very blessed woman, indeed.

The second thing I generally do when in great pain is turn to the book of Psalms in the Bible. There’s something very reassuring about the verses found there, perhaps because they reinforce the fact that pain is a very real part of the human condition. They show that David and the other psalmists suffered tremendously, even as they praised the One who was with them in their suffering.

In the Psalms, I read verses such as the following:

Psalm 6: 2-4, NLT –
2 Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
3 I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me?
4 Return, O Lord, and rescue me. Save me because of your unfailing love.

Psalm 38: 6-9, NLT –
6 I am bent over and racked with pain. All day long I walk around filled with grief.
7 A raging fever burns within me, and my health is broken.
8 I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart.
9 You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh.

Psalm 69:29, NLT –
I am suffering and in pain. Rescue me, O God, by your saving power.

No, my pain is nothing new.

Recently, however, as I was leafing through a favorite devotional in which some Psalms were used as Scripture references, a verse that I’ve read many, many times seemed to leap off the page and grab my attention. This particular translation read:

Psalm 103:1-5, ESV –
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity, heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Bless the Lord? How can I, as a human being, bless the Creator of the universe and all that is within it? Isn’t it God that blesses us, not the other way around? Surely the Lord doesn’t need a blessing from ME!

Or perhaps He does.

I decided to do some searching through the Bible, and sure enough, there are several places that refer to blessing God in both the Old and New Testaments. The English Standard Version and the King James Version both use very similar language. Below are some examples from the ESV translation:

Ephesians 1:3, ESV –
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places . . .

Psalm 16:7, ESV –
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

Psalm 34:1, ESV –
I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Psalm 104:1, ESV –
Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty . . .

Psalm 115:18, ESV –
But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord!

And then there’s Psalm 134, which contains only three verses – two of which talk about blessing God.

Psalm 134:1-2, ESV –
1 Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
2 Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!

During my research, I recalled my time as the Rabbi’s Secretary at a Conservative Jewish Synagogue several years ago. Rabbi Wise, from whom I learned so much about the Jewish faith, frequently mentioned blessing God. I found an article regarding this topic which referenced a portion of the Talmud (a vast collection of ceremonial laws, doctrines, legends and discussions that comprise one of the central works of the Jewish people, written between the 1st and the 7th centuries of the Jewish calendar).

Talmud Berachot 35A –
If you enjoy something in this world without saying a blessing, it is as if you stole it.

We certainly enjoy God’s love every single day, even when we may not recognize it as such.

Jewish tradition requires that the Lord is blessed for each and every experience of the day, even the ones that aren’t so good. It’s certainly a way to develop an attitude of gratitude, and a reminder that God is with us, even in our suffering.

In Hebrew, the word “blessing” (barak) is translated as “to kneel.” To kneel reminds me that I am to bow in humble adoration before my Lord and Savior.

To bless God, as I understand it, is very similar to praising Him, to humbling ourselves before Him, to acknowledging that He is in charge of all of the details of our lives, to worship Him. I’m sure it must please God when His children praise Him, worship Him, and lift up His holy name. Some later Biblical translations have even changed the word “bless” to “praise,” although that seems to limit the definition.

Perhaps, then, blessing God is much the same as glorifying Him. We offer Him blessings in the form of glory, honor and praise, which He certainly deserves. He blesses us with His grace and mercy, which we certainly do not deserve, but which He provides out of His unfailing, unfathomable love for us.

Yes, pain still sucks, but with every fiber of my being, I proclaim, as did King David:

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth!”