Baaa Or Maaa?

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There’s no time like the present for innovation.

As a writer, I usually try to read some word of inspiration in the early morning hours…and often with a cup of coffee on my desk.

Today my hand reached for Strong for a Moment Like This…The Daily Devotions of Hillary Rodham Clinton.  (Yes, I am aware of the plagiarism by the author Rev. Dr. Bill Shilladay, but, for lack of a better term… let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.  There’s some good stuff in there.  Give it a chance.)

The scripture for today’s reading was taken from Matthew chapter 25, verses 34-35.

The scene opens to sometime in the future.  King Jesus is sitting on his throne, and all the nations of the world are gathered before him to receive judgment.  Matthew says that on that day the King will “separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.”

So, what will constitute a lamb and what will constitute a goat?  What will be the deciding factor as to whether this nation takes the left or as to why that nation takes the right?

The one deciding factor is simply this:  The way the nation treated “…the least of these…” (I wonder upon which side America will stand.)

How we treat others is extremely important to Jesus.

Jesus views your treatment of others as equivalent to your treatment of Him.  Jesus actually puts himself in the place of “the least of these.”  He becomes hungry.  He becomes thirsty.  He becomes the stranger.  He becomes naked.  He becomes sick.  He becomes the prisoner.

I like both lambs and goats; however, in this particular scenario, the goats are the bad guys.  Yes, they are the ones wearing the black hats.  They are the ones who failed to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, feed the naked, care for the sick, and failed to visit the prisoner.

Believe me, when this day happens you don’t want to find yourself on the left hand of King Jesus.

The amazing thing about this story is that both, the sheep and the goats, are stupefied as to why they are labeled as such, and amazingly their response to the King is the same.  They both ask Jesus, “…when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison…?”  The King’s answer to sheep as well as the goats is virtually the same, “…I assure you when you did it [or not] to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

Yikes!

I’ve been raised to believe that what we do with Jesus in this life determines where we will spend eternity.  Jesus says what you do to others in this life is what you do to me.

This story is intended to be a glass of cold water to the face.

It is intended to wake us from our apathy.

It is intended to help us see others through the eyes of Christ.

It is intended to show us the importance of loving our neighbor as ourselves.

It is intended to show us that we cannot pick and choose our neighbors.

That our neighbors are all those whom God chooses to bring into our life.  They are there for a reason.  Ask God to show you that reason, and then go about fulfilling your God-given destiny.

There is no time like the present to start something new.

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Word-A-Day Blog Challenge:  Innovation

Fandango’s One Word Challenge:  Present

 

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Gasp! Jesus Agrees with Buddha…?

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Daily Proverb:

“If you roll a boulder down on others, it will roll back and crush you.”

Y’all, this sounds like God’s way of saying, “Karma’s a bitch!”

Could it be that Buddha and Jesus agree?  Gasp!

Damn straight!

Why should this simple thought bother us?

I’m convinced that most of the world’s religions are in some ways more similar than we believe.  Most, at its core, seeks peace with their God and peace with their fellow man.

If this is the case, why is religion used more as a weapon than the intended conduit to peace?

 My answer:  Pride.  Humans in their narcissistic, selfish pride have convoluted the simple message of most religions.  Of Christianity, Paul writes, “…I fear that somehow you will be led away from your pure and simple devotion to Christ…just as Eve was deceived by the serpent.” 

It’s sad to say, but religion in the hands of man has done far more harm than good.  I understand the case my Atheist friends bring to the table, and as a Christian, this hurts my soul.

Christianity, in a nutshell, is meant to be “pure and simple devotion to Christ.”

It was never meant to be complicated.  It was never about a list of do’s and don’ts.  Many who still use the list as a whipping stick have forgotten that Christ took care of the do’s and don’ts on His cross.

Jesus stressed time and time again to “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  ALL the other commandments and ALL the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”  

If we would but follow Jesus’s commands there would be no need for a list of do’s and don’ts!  Why, because our motives would be pure.  There would be no wars, and peace would reign.

Simple…and yet profound.  Such is life.

Friends, don’t listen to those who spout condemnation, those who seek to heap coals of guilt upon your head, and who try to put you once again under the bondage of “do’s and don’ts.”

Those who condemn and judge others would do well to heed the warning from Jesus:

 “…whatever measure you use in judging others it will be used to measure how you are judged.”

So, when it comes to judging others…tread lightly, my friends, because Karma’s a bitch!

Jesus and Buddha agree!

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Personal Proverb:

One is happy when one believes their Christian life, and relationship to Christ is nobody’s damn business!  LH

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Word Of The Day Challenge:  Gasp

 

Leaving Our Comfort Zones

Mountains of faith rise from the valleys of failure.   –Mart Dehann

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Don’t hate your failures, learn from them.

This looks good on paper, but let’s face it, most of us hate failure.  I know I do.  I’m pretty tolerant of other people’s failure…it’s mine that I despise.

Failure is embarrassing, and what if people laugh at me…it’s happened before, and will probably happen again.

I guess that’s why it’s good to learn to laugh at ourselves.  I’ve found laughter helps to ease the pain…and it lightens the mood of an awkward situation.

I like what’s written in Romans,

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, [failures]  for we know that they are good for us–they help us to learn to endure.  And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation…”

Now, I don’t believe God expects us to turn cartwheels over our failure, and he certainly understands our disappointment when we fail.  It is for this reason–his understanding–that he seeks to encourage us in the midst of failure.  God doesn’t kick us when we are down.  He is our loving Father who picks us up when we fall, applies ointment to our skinned knees, pats us on the back, and whispers,

“…it’s okay my child…just keep keeping on…We’ve got this…” 

Lately, I’ve been feeling God wooing me from my comfort zones, and it’s scaring me to death.  I’m afraid I may goof up, look like an idiot, or a babbling fool.

And to that, it seems God is saying…

“You’re right, those things may happen…but so what…”

Looking at failure from that perspective takes away the pressure for perfection.  It’s as if God is giving me permission to fail!

And…you know what?  It feels good deep in my soul.

***

“God, I’m scared to death of what you are calling me to do, but I’m going to do it anyway; and if I fall flat on my face…I know it’ll be okay.”

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Remember What I Have Told You

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Sometimes it’s just too easy to forget, and the older I get the more this becomes my super-power.

I feel confident my friends over fifty can relate…hmmm…unless, of course, they have forgotten how often they forget.

It’s true, I walk into a room and forget my reason for being there.  I stand blank-eyed, trying to remember what I was just thinking about before I entered the room.  My reasoning is this, perhaps my last train of thought is what led me to this room, so if I can remember that then maybe that would jog my memory as to why I am standing helplessly looking at the contents scattered within the four walls.

One time I got out of the car, closed the door, and realized I had forgotten my phone.  Knowing I would need it later, I asked my daughter…(on the other end of the line) to wait a moment while I retrieved my phone.  (true story)

Another time, again with my daughter, I found myself stuck in the snow.

I was in the midst of helping her move just outside of Boston.  We finally finished unloading the truck and hauling her stuff up three flights of stairs, and now it was time to go out and grab a bite to eat.  Beth jumped into the passenger seat and I got behind the wheel, we were sooo tired but happy the hard stuff was over.

Well, if you’ve visited Boston in the mid of winter, you know, more than likely, snow will be upon the ground, and it was on this particular day. Thinking about a cheeseburger I cranked up the old girl (my truck), put her in drive, and proceeded to exit the parking space; however, the wheels would do nothing but spin in place.

Two hungry women on a mission would not be deterred…so I told Beth to get out and push.

When that didn’t work we dug the snow from around all four tires and tried it again…me at the wheel and Beth pushing as hard as she could.

When that didn’t work we searched for something to slide under the wheels, hoping it would give some sort of traction for the spinning wheels.  We finally found a scrap of cardboard and I put it under the left front tire, as we were parallel-parked.  We assumed the familiar position, me at the wheel and Beth, outside pushing with all her might…still the wheels did nothing but spin!

Beth, exhausted from pushing, finally stopped and came to sit beside me in the passenger seat.  We were now two hangry women.

Frustrated, I smacked my hand against the steering wheel of the truck and noticed the small red light that illuminated the word brake.

That was the last time Beth has ever asked me to help her move.

Thank God, enough time has passed so that now we can at least laugh about it.

These funny stories came to mind as I read my morning meditation.

The meditation had taken me to John chapter 14.  Here, I found Jesus talking to his friends/disciples saying,

“Remember what I have told you:  I am going away, but I will come back to you again…I have told you these things before they happen so that you will believe when they do happen.”

Jesus was telling his friends that soon he would die.  He loved them and was worried about how they would feel when he was killed.  He worried they would feel confused, abandoned and afraid all of his promises had been a lie.  So, over and over again in the four gospels, he tells them,

Remember what I have told you…”

Friends, I believe Jesus, rich in his compassion, is telling us the same thing…

“Remember what I have told you…” 

When things go wrong and people hurt us…it’s so easy to forget he is with us.  Feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, and utter despair draw us down into those dark places we created as a child to keep us safe.

How easy it is to return to that lonely stomping ground.

Jesus knew this for his disciples and presently, he knows it for us, as well.   If we could but be still in those moments and just breathe…we would hear his voice gently telling us…

“Remember what I have told you…” 

I can write this with confidence because He has put his Holy Spirit deep within us and his Spirit abides with us even our in our darkest moments.  Jesus gave us his Spirit because he loves us so much, and he doesn’t want us to be alone or feel alone.  (It’s possible to be with people but feel alone…been there done that.)   In this world, our most loved friends and family may leave us, but Jesus never will.

“…know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you…the Father sends the Counselor…and by Counselor I mean the Holy Spirit, he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you.” 

“Remember what I have told you…”  (Jesus)

His Spirit moves within us…be still, breathe, and listen.

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Don’t Always Assume the Worst

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Plik: Rembrandt Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee

“And a furious storm of wind [of hurricane proportions] arose, and the waves kept beating into the boat so that it was already becoming filled.”  (Mark 4:37)

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I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be a rider in the boat above!

First of all, I’m not a very good swimmer.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE the ocean, but I don’t like treading it without some sort of flotation device.

Second of all, hurricane force winds can rip a little fishing boat to shreds.

And third of all, I’m sure the air was full of electricity, and I don’t relish the thought of being struck by lightning.

If I were a character in the story above I would fear for my life.  I admit I would assume the worst.

Corinne, my wife, and I once stayed in a high-rise in New Hartford Connecticut.  On the 17th floor, we had settled in for the night, under covers and enjoying an episode of Law and Order SVU.  At approximately 11p.m. a voice from the speaker above filled our room.

“Attention, there may be a fire in the building.  Please exit your room, in an orderly fashion and take the stairway down to the first floor, …there is no need to panic.” 

Corinne and I proceeded to the closest exit and began our descent with hundreds of other guests.  We had a long way to go to reach the bottom.  The 17th floor turned into the 16th and the 16th turned into the 15th, and with each passing floor, the fear inside of me increased.  My mind filled with pictures of people jumping to their deaths from the World Trade Center.  As I continued down the long stairway, I heard the sirens from the firetrucks below.  At that moment  I made the assumption that this was it…I was going to die.  In my mind, I decided that I too would jump rather than burn.

Obviously, I didn’t die that night.  When we finally reached the bottom, we discovered it was a false alarm and were directed back to our rooms.  Once again in our room, it took me a while to calm down.  When I wondered how the episode of Law and Order ended, I knew I was back to normal.

It is so easy for my mind to automatically jump to the worst scenarios.

Maybe you have this problem as well.

The men in the boat from Mark’s story felt the same way and I don’t blame them!  The story goes, “…but soon a fierce storm arose.  High waves began to break into the boat until it was nearly full of water.”  But Jesus was in the boat.  The frightened men ran to Jesus and cried, “…don’t you even care that we are going to drown?” Jesus “rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Quiet down!”  Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.  Then Jesus looked at the men, I believe lovingly, and said, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still not have faith in me?”

This morning, for my personal devotion, I read an article called, Facing Unexpected Storms, from one of my many Joyce Meyer books.  She made the point that “…not all storms are in the forecast…”  Her advice, “Don’t get distracted by the storms of life.  Stay focused and do what you need to do whether it is easy or difficult.  The more we use our faith, the stronger it will become.”

Her words comforted my heart and reminded me to do what I could and to not fret over what I couldn’t.  Whether it’s easy or difficult…only one step at a time.

Remember, Friends,…Jesus is in the boat!

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Daily Prompt:  Assumption

 

 

Disappear From Sight

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First time seeing Josh after 7 weeks of BEAST training at West Pont.

Have you ever had to eat your words?

I’m sure I have, but at the moment, nothing comes to mind.  Perhaps, even if I could, I wouldn’t share as “eating your words” is considered quite distasteful.

Often, the words we have to eat are bitter.

I believe the words we say never disappear.  They linger and take their abode within the minds of those who hear.

I remember the day, Corinne and I left Josh, our son, at West Point.  As a new cadet, he was about to enter basic training, or “BEAST BARRACKS” as it is referred to at West Point.  Beast Barracks is a 7-week program designed to transform young men and women into cadets worthy enough to be sanctioned Plebes, the lowest rank on campus.

My heart hurt at the thought of what he was about to face, and as most moms in this world, my imagination soared beyond the realms of reality.  Sitting in the auditorium I heard an officer beckon the new cadets to come forward, and I knew this would be the last time I’d see Josh for what would seem an eternity.  I looked at him and he looked at me, and I’ll never forget the words he said, “Write and write soon.”  Tears ran down my face as I watched him walk away and disappear from sight.

I was able to write him immediately; however, it would be weeks before he would be allowed to write home.  When those letters came, I couldn’t wait to open the envelope and devour the words on the page.  The words were few because he rarely had a moment to spare during BEAST, so I hung on every word.  His words were important to me.  Finally, after seven weeks, we were allowed to go and visit him at West Point, and that is a moment, and a hug, I will never forget.

When we love someone, their words matter.

This was true of King David’s relationship with God.  In the book of Psalms, he has this say about the words of God,

“They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold.  They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.”

The more we fall in love with Jesus, the more we want to listen for his still small voice.  They become a balm for our soul.

On the flip side…guess what?

Our words are just as important to God.  He loves us so much, that our words matter, and he waits patiently to hear them.

Talk to God today…He loves your voice.

***

Daily Prompt:  Disappear

 

Okay, I remember a time when I had to eat my nasty words…I even wrote a blog about it.  Almost two years ago on election night, I colored the world of Facebook with a wide array of colorful expletives.  As a result, there were consequences to bear.  I was unfriended by friends and family.  Those family members, to this day,  ignore my Christmas cards, and of course, I get none from them. Words matter.

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May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer.   (Psalm 19:14)

 

 

 

When Things Get Complicated

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Photo From Urban Wired

What do we do when things get complicated?

Well…here’s some of the things I find myself doing…

  • First of all I get a sick feeling in the pit of my tummy
  • Second I began rehearsing all the “what ifs”
  • Third my mind grasps the most horrendous “what ifs” and runs wild like a cheetah on the Serengeti.
  • Fourth, I become so mentally worn out I sink into depression
  • Fifth, I begin to form a “plan”
  • Sixth I try to implement the “plan”
  • Seventh, I become exhausted
  • Eighth, I pray.

Talk about putting the cart in front of the horse!  Of which I’m the master…so, here, hold my beer while I take a bow!

Why the hell can’t I remember to pray first?  Does it make me a horrible Christian?  On the contrary…it makes me human.

It’s just good ole “human nature” to desire to fix something when it breaks, and we shouldn’t berate ourselves for following our God-given, intrinsic instinct.  If we do, then that, my friend, is the real tragedy.  God doesn’t hold it against us…

Why?

Simply put, God knows how it feels to be human!

God, himself, put on flesh, and walked this earth for 33 years, and his friends called him, Jesus.  During these 33 years he was tempted in all ways, and personally experienced every weakness that can ever befall us.  Remember, He understands.  His arms are open, and he bids us come… “give me your cares for I care for you.”

Now, I’m not so naive as to believe that prayer is some magic wand that fixes everything…

No.

However, this is what prayer will do…

[Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Through prayer we receive God’s understanding, His Mercy, and His Grace.  Armed with these we can face any circumstance that life throws our way.

So, when things get complicated remember….

  • He will not hold our weakness against us…because He has once felt the same way
  • His arms are always open wide
  • He bids us come
  • He wants us to share our problems with Him
  • He loves us more than life itself…for He gave his life for us
  • His Mercy and Grace never ends…it is new every morning

 

Oh what a Savior we have!

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“…Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him…”  (Hebrews 4:14)

Daily Prompt:  Complication

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This High Priest of ours [Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.

Let’s Get The Party Started!

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Photo from Images Buddy

Would it be too premature if I said, “I’m enjoying Heaven on this Earth?”

Well, lets take a look-see…

So, first of all, my description of Heaven is anywhere I can commune with Jesus.

Yes, I know that one day this body will die, and my spirit will ascend into Heaven, and I realize Heaven to be a tangible…touchable place.

After all, Jesus said this about Heaven,

“In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you…so that where I am you may be also.”

So, yes…physically I am far…FAR away from the physical Heaven.  Even the Pharisees, of long ago, questioned Jesus about the whereabouts of Heaven, and He said,

 “The kingdom of God does not come with observation;  nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Jesus proclaims that His kingdom abides within us!

There may be thousands, upon thousands of galaxies that separate me from Heaven, the place, but guess what?  Nothing, absolutely nothing, separates me from Jesus or His Love! Even the Apostle Paul agrees with me on this one, for he writes in Romans,

 “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, who freaking cares how many galaxies exist between me and Heaven!  It doesn’t matter because God has already set up His Kingdom within my heart!  Jesus lives within me, and He wants to live in you too!

Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Don’t wait to celebrate Heaven, dear friends!

Open the door and let’s get the party started!

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Jesus Wants Us To Be Happy Christians!

Daily Prompt:  Premature

 

 

Thin the Clutter

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Image from thinkingfaith.org

The gospel of Matthew opens with the ancestral lineage of Jesus.  Most of us just skim over these verses because, lets face it, its pretty boring, but often, there are surprises hidden within the mundane, and they remain unseen unless we are willing the thin the clutter, and look beneath the surface.

You may be shocked to learn from whom Jesus descended!

I love a good surprise.  I love movies and books that end with a crazy twist that you just don’t see coming.  I love writers like Stephen King are are masters of this.

Good surprises can also do wonders for stale relationships.  Want to create sparks in your love life?…send flowers, write love notes, take them out for an unexpected date, pat their hiney, and grab a few stolen kisses… etc.

We all love these kinds of surprises.

As I read the Bible it seems to me that God also loves surprises.  The wonderful stories between Genesis and Revelation are mostly about how God uses the mundane to confound the wise.  He uses simple folk like you me to change this world for the better.  We become vessels of the Holy Spirit to carry out the plans of His radical love.

Yesterday, my morning devotion just happened to be called, Surprise Me!  It opened with a beautiful passage from the book of Ephesians that tells of Christ in our hearts, and how we become spiritually empowered through his love and presence.  I’ll attach this scripture at the end with hopes that it will bless you as much as it blessed me.

In this devotion, Cindy Hess Kasper, associate editor for Our Daily Journey, writes,

“Do you like surprises?  Would you dare say “Surprise me!” to God?  Through out the Bible we read that God delights in doing the unexpected.  Jesus’ time on earth was filled with amazing events…He turned water into wine, calmed the storms, healed the sick, and raised the dead.  What kind of God do we serve?  One who is not confined by our finite imagination.  He wants to bless us…He delights in His children who trust Him and are willing to say, “Surprise me, Lord!”  

God, open my eyes…Surprise me today!

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When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit.  And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him.  May your roots do down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, and how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.  Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  Now glory be to God!  By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we world ever dare to ask or hope.  May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages.  Amen.               Ephesians 3:14-21

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Daily Prompt:  Thin 

 

 

 

God’s Abstract Love

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There are some things we will never understand, and God’s love is one of them.  Maybe there are times, we think, we comprehend its depth, only to have the knowledge drift away, like a cloud in the sky.

If it were possible to put God’s love to canvas, you can be sure, it would be abstract art.  I truly enjoy abstract paintings, because every time I view it, I learn something new; and for me, that is exciting!

Such is God’s love, dear friends.  It is multifaceted with many doors, but, behind each door stands Jesus.  He tells us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in.”

Jesus knocks at our door, but sometimes it is required of us to knock. In the book of  Matthew, Jesus speaks, “Ask and it shall be given you, seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

Sometimes we hear, see and feel his love, but often we do not.  When we walk the latter, we walk in God’s abstract love; but don’t despair; for it’s during these times, our faith is strengthened, and our eyes are opened to something new.

Jesus is whispering, “Seek, and you shall find.”

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Daily Prompt: Abstract