Oh, How He Loves Us!

iStock Photo by B-C Designs
iStock Photo by B-C Designs

What was the awesome power that kept Jesus, the Son of God, nailed to a weathered piece of wood, with spikes piercing his hands and his feet?

How was it possible for angry human hands to lay hold of Jesus, the Christ? How were they able to capture Him? What strength was available to those mocking soldiers with their furious faces? Even the sun was stunned, so traumatized by spitting scorners, cruel taunters, and the sight of a wounded Savior that it turned off the brightness of the afternoon and summoned midnight.

When He was captured in the garden, Jesus reminded Peter that He could have asked the Father for thousands of fighting angels to come to His defense. But we know why He did not. He who is King of Kings and worshipped by angels allowed those gritty human hands to subject Him to the cross. He did it because that was God’s plan. In their classic 1993 album, The Mississippi Mass Choir put the answer to our questions to music when they sang: “It wasn’t the nails that nailed Him to the cross. He could have come down, but my soul would still be lost. The ransom was so high, only He could pay the cost.”

Love held Him there. Christ volunteered to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

Yet, His great love for us does not grant us immunity from life’s tragedies or disappointments. I encounter people every day who ask relevant, real-world question–even in the light of the victory of the cross. “If Christ loves me, why did He allow my spouse to die?” “If He loves me, why is my financial situation so hopeless?” “If He loves me, why did I lose my home?” Why did I lose my job? Why didn’t He save my child?

I sat in a chair in the kitchen today chatting with my daughter as she shared the story of the sudden loss of a colleague’s wife. Inexplicably, someone who was there is suddenly gone. And this is a family of believers. “What do you say?” she asked me. These are questions that confront us, even on Resurrection weekend when we celebrate the deep love we embrace as Christians. How do we understand the cross; how do we understand a life of victory in a world where unfathomable pain is possible? How could hundreds of Christians be murdered in Kenya? Why are there one hundred individual stories of mistreated children, innocent people incarcerated for decades, the working poor robbed by unscrupulous predators…why?

Jesus chose the wood, the nails, and the thorns. He did it for our victory. He did it because, no matter what we encounter in life, He assures us that we win. We win over sin and death. We win over pain and grief. This victory replaces any darkness that threatens. We can stare it down. We have undefeatable joy and an anointing that prevails. After the crucifixion comes Resurrection Sunday. Amen, and Thank God!

Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.–Hebrews 12:2 NCV

GO DEEP, BE STRONG IN 2014

It’s that time. Once again.  (Wait, no, I’m not complaining. I’m really, really glad to be present, alive!)

The last vestiges of 2013 have washed away.  Each new wave.  Each surge of the tide. Each twist, turn and bend in the road ahead may be somewhat of a mystery, but it is God’s gift to us … to see a fresh path and to receive where it leads us.

Last year was great. So many wonderful things happened. New projects were born. Yet, ahead is a brand new year, full of opportunities. Stretching out before us, like the winding yellow brick road of Oz, is the wonderful miracle of 2014.

This could be your year.  The year that is full of untold potential. The year when all access is cleared and any obstacles that have blocked your progress are moved out of the way.

I was surprised to learn that Sheryl Sandberg is “Leaning In” to the women of China and they are hearing her message.  According to The Wall Street Journal, Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and author of “Lean In:  Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” gave a speech last fall in Beijing. She was there to promote the Chinese translation of her book, which has been selling briskly in China and is particularly appealing to the still minute numbers of Chinese businesswomen.

If we are to heed the voices of those who have been world changers in the past, I feel it is critical to do these things in 2014:

1.  Transform lives. Make your ideas work for others.  Like Sheryl Sandberg, don’t be reticent about sharing what you have discovered.

2.  Disconnect from the grid of being ordinary and of repeating the same old thing. Go deep, be strong, do something different.

3.  Love what you do. In fact, love your life and what  you give way, way  more than you ever have in the past. Start from where you are and build upon what matters most to you—your school, your team, your business, your friends, your family, your church, your community.

4.  Be fearless. Approach this new year, rich with things you have never seen, sprinkled with places you have never visited, and filled with tasks you never dreamed you could accomplish.

No matter what promises this year holds, know that possibilities are a part of it.

Vision is just the shape your dreams take in those moments before your faith kicks in.  Vision is how you describe the future just before you’re ready to move ahead with real conviction. And it’s okay if you approach 2014 one vision at a time

You be the solution to a problem the world has. You be that one with the key.  You be the agent of change.  Inspire trust and hope in others, then help pass it on.  You be the visionary, the achiever.

#Betheinspiration.

 

All Things

Paul’s letter to the church in Rome has an important message about how life works.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

—Romans 8:28

I’m not a good juggler. Are you? At the moment, I have so many possibilities in the air that some threaten to crash down, hitting me squarely on the head.  I’m juggling a maddening whirl of exciting opportunities. Work projects, looming writing deadlines, and a few self-imposed (should I say, self-inflicted?) prospects.

All the while, I’m comforted by Paul’s assertion about “all things.” Vision and reasoning point me to the opposite conclusion, but I see God’s Divine plan in my chaos.

Whenever I ask myself if it takes all this to get to success, I hear a sage voice which once said, no circumstances “are so great that they cannot be built into the very steps of the staircase by which souls mount up to heaven.” Sounds good. Lead me to the  staircase.

All things; that means everything is good. This heavenly math equation assures us that no evil has final power. God’s work in our lives results in only one possible outcome—what’s best for you. The only condition is your affection; as long as you love and trust, you come confidently to “all things.”

And so, if you are having one of those David vs. Goliath moments—facing giants and feeling over-matched by the sheer pressure of all you have to do, or if an unexpected circumstance has just caught you off-guard—remember this. He is moving you into your “all things” position and weaving every element together in your life.

Have you heard about autonomous drive? Nissan announced that, by 2020, they will pioneer the self-driven car. Working with global experts at top universities, the Nissan 360 program will introduce a car that steers, brakes and accelerates without any help from you.

God can do that right now. Get in the back seat; let Him drive. If you love Him, you’re in a splendid position.

Fathers Paint Beautiful Pictures

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…”

Proverbs 13:22

Fathers create beauty when they invest time, energy, love and patience into children. The investment of about two decades can result in a lifetime of blessings for several generations.

The most memorable photo I have of my father is of him at the end of the day. Dad was leaving the foundry with soot on his face. I love that picture because It captures the authenticity of who he was and the impact of Dad’s work ethic.  A traditional blue-collar guy with a strong back and grit under his nails, Dad’s legacy gave us the gift of perseverance.

Fathers with a strong work ethic cultivate in their children the seeds of persistence, a pattern of not giving up. We need people in our lives who pass along important lessons, by word or example. Fatherhood comes with rich opportunities to share inspirational lessons that last a lifetime.

Here are seven authentic lessons fathers can teach children:

1. Feed those thoughts and dreams. Thoughts and dreams need nourishment. Feed them with good information, great books, and positive people. Nourished dreams have a way of coming true.

2. Words have power; watch them. Be careful of the words you speak. Breathe life and light into children with words of motivation and encouragement.

3. Affirm their divine destiny. Every day, point children toward their best future.

4. Nurture the power of faith. Faith lets us accomplish what others label impossible. Faith fills the darkest moments with light.

5. Be grateful. More than saying “thank you,” help children cultivate an attitude of appreciation—valuing what you have and appreciating what others do for you.

6. Be Forgiving. When you let go of hurts, you remove a burden from your own heart. Forgiveness isn’t so much about freeing the one who hurt you as it is about freeing yourself. Counting wounds detracts from the powerful things you can do.

7. Love unconditionally. This last lesson is the most important. A heart of love touches and heals like nothing else in the universe.

On Father’s Day, 2013, may all of the children, mothers, and wives be especially appreciative of fathers who are willing to teach authentic lessons. The celebration of Father’s Day is always an occasion to remember what having a father really means.  And, for me, it is about appreciating a husband who was present; one who knew instinctively how to be a fantastic father.

To all of the fathers who take time to paint masterpieces, Happy Father’s Day!

When You Open Your Eyes, What Do You See?

“…I will guide You with My eye.”  Psalm 32:8 NKJV

Got healthy eyes?  If so, that is a reason to be thankful. Scientists tell us that nearly 4.2 million Americans are blind or visually impaired. Experimental therapies and modern technologies are opening up incredible doors for solving our vision problems. New treatments involve gene therapy, stem cell therapy and even modified versions of Vitamin A.

Not long ago, I panicked when I saw a small pool of shadowy spots drift across one eye. When I had my eyes examined by a young doctor—who, by the way, looked young enough to be a recent high school graduate—she assured me that “floaters” are not at all uncommon. The solution she proposed:  “Come back if they get worse.” Later, in the drug store, I was surprised to find an entire section of vitamins just for eye health. I bought some.

Each morning, when I open my eyes, one thing I am thankful for is vision. If I could not see, what would I miss? How would I work?

The eye has an infinite ability to express many emotions—what we feel, how we love, how we instruct, what we think. The eye speaks many languages. Just ask the mother of a young child how she uses an expressive look to speak a loud but voiceless, “No!” The strange and lovely words written by the psalmist remind us of God’s compassion, His gentleness. How remarkable to think that God has His eye on you.

What do you see when you look at God? What does God see when He looks at you? The greatest level of communication might well be those moments when we have eye-to-eye contact with God. If faith is our inner eye, in that contact, two become one. You and God.

In heaven, we have been promised to see Him face-to-face. Yet, for today, clear your vision and focus your gaze on God. Don’t miss His guidance. Prayer clears the vision. Meditating on Him adds light and focus. More prayer means that more light streams in and the brightness illuminates your day.

0.3 seconds. That is the time it takes for one blink. We lubricate our eyes with every blink. Each day, those 0.3 second blinks total thirty minutes. Thirty minutes of your waking time with eyes closed; you see nothing. In the spiritual context, fix your vision on God; try not to blink! Keep your eyes open.

Meeting God, eye-to-eye, opens the way for you to receive the message He has for you today. God is looking at you, individually. He focuses on your eyes in a sea of other faces. The mind of God shines through His gaze, caring for you. Look back. You’ll like what you see.

The Power of Love

L L Cool J, the celebrity actor and rap artist, was interviewed on television the other day by Piers Morgan and asked about the key to his successful marriage.  “What is the secret?” Piers asked.  After just a brief moment of contemplation, his reply was brilliantly direct and simple, “Eat your soup and let her talk.”  Indeed!  Even as someone who has always enjoyed having the last word, I can appreciate that. In fact, I greatly love the quotation by theologian, Paul Tillich, who said:  “The first duty of love is to listen.”

In its best example of the power of love, we express our thankfulness and our praise for one another. Not just on the occasion of an annual love holiday, but every moment, every day, all year long.

The knowledge of how to live your best and most lovingly joyful life will forever transform, illuminate and unshackle you.

The celebration of Valentine’s Day is an occasion for us to exchange flowers, candy, gifts and verbal or written expressions of our love and commitment. We share love with others, not because they demand it, but because we choose to.

As one who was married and committed to one person for nearly fifty years, I know for certain that having a truly personal relationship with a loving God is best demonstrated by how well we love those around us.  And that includes our spouses, parents, children, friends, fellow Christians, neighbors, coworkers, colleagues, strangers—everybody.  Love demonstrates what living your best life is all about.  On the deepest level, the energy of our love reflects the energy of how much our Creator loves us.

Real love transcends distractions, procrastination, unforgiveness, and all of the reasons why we should not love one another.  To experience the true power of love, learn to express your love, even to those who may not love you.  After all, loving those who love you first is the easy part.  When you can love the difficult people in your life, then you know for certain that you’ve got this love thing figured out.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.~ 1 John 4:7 

(Photo:  ©iStockphoto.com/cillay)