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Love Much?

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” 
John 13:35, NIV

Several months after my mother died, I found on the bush beneath her bedroom window the winter beauties pictured here. I brought them home and placed them in a bowl that had belonged to her mother. Among all of our Christmas decorations that year, there was none more beautiful than the “Empress of Winter.” Chinese tradition conveys that a camellia’s perfectly symmetrical form symbolizes the expression of long-lasting devotion.

Shortly after my mother’s death, someone asked me what one word I would use to describe her. “Devoted” immediately came to mind. Her children and grandchildren were her focus, and she always signed her cards to me …

Finding the camellias a few months after my mother’s death not only served as a timely reminder of her life-long devotion to her family, but they reminded me of my Heavenly Father’s eternal love.

Scripture tells us that because God loved us, “he gave.” He gave what was most dear to him—his only Son, Jesus (John 3:16). There was no price too great to pay as a ransom for our souls. He gave his all.

We find one of the most beautiful stories of devotion in Luke 7—the account of the sinful woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, then kissed and anointed them with expensive perfume. She expressed her worship in the presence of self-righteous Pharisees who thought her unworthy of giving such an extravagant gift. To them, the gift held far more value than the woman who gave it. They saw the breaking of the flask and the spilling of the precious oil as wasteful, but Jesus saw her heart—a heart broken and emptied—one filled with repentance for a wasted life. Jesus defended the woman and forgave her sins because “she loved much.” She had given him her all.

Jesus taught that the secret of devotion is to love much. In the United States, we see much love expressed on Valentine’s Day. Even before the last of ole St. Nick is packed away, all things “love” pop up on store shelves. This heart-shaped frenzy results in the exchange of 1 billion cards in the United States alone, 50 million roses sent, 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates sold, and enough candy hearts made to stretch from Valentine, Arizona to Rome, Italy and back again. Now that’s a whole lot of love but not the “much” of which Jesus spoke.

Who are we devoted too? We’ll find our answers laced with actions. The more devoted we are to someone, the more we’ll give of ourselves in ways beyond disposable tokens given on holidays alone. We’ll empty our hearts. We’ll give our all every day of the year.

May it be said of us, “Because God loved, they loved much. They gave.”

Starr Ayers

Holes in the Darkness

“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”Daniel 12:3, NIV

Scottish novelist and poet Robert Louis Stevenson spent much of his childhood bedridden due to a chronic lung disease. One evening, he watched a lamplighter light gas lamps on the street outside his bedroom window. When his nurse came into his room and found him with his face pressed up against the glass pane, she asked, “What intrigues you so?”  He replied, “I’m watching a man punch holes in the darkness.”

 

God punched a hole in the darkness at creation when He said, “Let there be light!” (Genesis 1:3).

 

Jesus punched a hole in the darkness when He came to earth and said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

 

Christ-followers punch holes in the darkness whenever we let our lights shine. “You are the light of the world … let your light shine” (Matthew 5:14, 16).

 

Years ago, I received a phone call from a distraught friend. Her three-year-old was afraid of the dark. All of their attempts to comfort their daughter had failed. “Please pray,” she said. “Every morning we find her asleep in the hall. I don’t know what to do.” We agreed to pray against her child’s spirit of fear and the next morning my friend called to say her daughter had slept through the night.

 

Later that day, I bought a package of glow-in-the-dark plastic stars and took them to their home. When we led her daughter into the pantry and shut the door, the stars lit up the small room. I told her to ask her daddy to put them on the ceiling above her bed, then she could look at them and know that Jesus watches over her and would keep her safely through the night.

 

Once again, she slept.

 

Days later, I received a note from her mother. “Every night our daughter wants to turn out the nightlight so that she can see the stars. She says, ‘I can still see them, Mommy!’ It’s been a good reminder for us that sometimes we can see God shining brightly in our circumstances and at other times we have to look for him a little harder, but he is always there.”

 

To glow in the dark, phosphorus stars need continuous exposure to light. Likewise, in order for our lights to shine, we must position ourselves regularly in the presence of the Light Giver. Then, when we step into someone’s darkness, we’ll witness God punch holes in it and fill their soul holes with light.

 

Blessings,

Starr

 

Accentuate the Positive

“Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him.”  
Romans 12:2, CEV

Years ago, my husband and I visited Vancouver, Canada. Cool temps, long days, beautiful vistas, and friendly residents made our stay memorable. Several times while there, I was asked to repeat something I’d said. Whenever I did, the comment that usually followed was … “I love your accent.”

Dialects and accents often reveal the vicinities or regions from which people originate. Most areas of our world have distinctive tongues. I think we can all agree, it’s easy to peg someone from Great Britain, Asia, the Bronx, or Boston. And, yawl—what about that unmistakable southern drawl? It’s a dead giveaway, isn’t it?”

Accents are significantly influenced by the amount of time we spend in an area, regardless of our birthplace. I’m originally from St. Louis, but I’ve lived in the South far too long for that to ring true. When my husband was in the Air Force, we spent over five months in New Mexico. Whenever we returned to North Carolina, some said I’d already picked up an accent.

What do our accents reveal about where we spend the majority of our time? Do we immerse ourselves in the world, or do our words and actions reveal our place in God’s earthly kingdom? If we’re professing Christians, can others tell by the words we speak and the things we do?

In 1944, Johnny Mercer, a southern boy from Savannah, Georgia wrote the song, Ac-cen-Tchu-Ate the Positive. Inspired by a sermon, the song’s lyrics encourage us to dwell on the positive and eliminate the negative in our lives. In other words, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it.

The tongue is a small part of the body, but it holds the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). The words we speak and the ways we say them reveal the things we’ve stored in our hearts. Our words create actions, good and bad.

Let’s be people whose mouths are filled with life—those whose speech reflects the character of our Creator. When others engage in conversation with us, may our words be so distinctive that they not only reveal where we’re from but whose we are. Let’s be people who are asked to repeat what we say, and then perhaps hear … “I love your accent.”

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” –Psalm 19:14 ESV

Blessings,

Starr