Sunday, June 24, 2018

No Trespassing

But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15

I was pretty upset at a friend, which is an an anomaly for me unless I am hormonal, which I am not, so I have spent a little extra time this week processing my indignation.   I feel like I was justified in being upset at a Christian friend who made a comment that demeaned and belittled an entire group of people in front of my kids. I first said something like, "You are joking right?"   I had known this friend for years and couldn't imagine such a comment would come out of their mouth. Being a little more blunt than the average person, I quickly told my friend I was shocked to hear such a comment and that it was mean and inappropriate. Though I told them how I felt, I am having a tough time forgiving them.

As I have been processing our conversation, I have been trying to view it from an eternal perspective, because a part of me is really struggling with how someone who knows that God created everyone of us and loves the whole world so much that he sent Jesus to sacrifice for all of us could then think it was okay to put an entire group of people down.  

I started thinking about how it seems that people have gotten more open with their demeaning racist, sexist, ageist, and xenophobic views. Maybe those attitudes have been there all along but I see them now.  Maybe I tolerated them in the past but find them intolerable now. Maybe all of society including myself is so quick to protest and call out hypocrisy in others because we have tolerated it for so long in ourselves. We all have messed up, thought unkind and demeaning thoughts, and tolerated white lies and places of compromise.

People who don't even know the Bible, can be known to quote Jesus when he said, "Don't judge others or you will be judged'" from Matthew 7:1   They might feel that a friend's shoplifting, infidelity, alcoholism, sexist or racist comments are bad but they "Don't want to judge..." because they don't want to be judged.  

When you read closely, you will see that Jesus' comment "Do not judge" was to hypocrites. So if you are a hypocrite, you shouldn't judge others. However, if you don't want to continue to be a hypocrite or you aren't one, you should read the rest of the Jesus' commentary on judging.
 "“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 
5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

My friend's insensitive and demeaning comment judging an entire group of people, resulted in my judging my friend's heart and their understanding of God's love.  When we demean and devalue God's people, we start a cycle of being demeaned and devalued.  My natural response to my friend's comment was to judge and devalue their perspective. This is a cycle that is playing out over and over in our society right now.  

Interestingly, I don't think "not judging" is the Biblical solution to stopping this destructive cycle. As Matthew 7:5 explains you still have to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Jesus' solution to breaking a hypocritical cycle is to first judge ourselves.  When we feel our feathers get ruffled, our indignation rises and we get offended, we have to stop and judge ourselves. Jesus uses the phrase to  "get the plank out of our own eye" as a way of showing us how beneficial and life transforming judging ourselves could be. Imagine how hard it would be to walk around with a 2x4 plank coming out of your eye.

Once we go through the process of seeing our mistakes, we can't keep the plank in our eye. We have to repent and we have to ask God for forgiveness.  

When we become aware of a plank in our eye, God's forgiveness is waiting for us as soon as we ask for it.   2 Samuel 12:13 encapsulates God's heart to forgive us no matter what we have done. After the prophet Nathan confronted King David with his adultery and murder,"Then David confessed to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." Nathan replied, "Yes, but the LORD has forgiven you, and you won't die for this sin."  David had done horrible things- way worse than my friend's mean comments- yet all it took for him to be forgiven was his confession. God's forgiveness was instant.   

An interesting part of this story is that Nathan didn't hold on to his righteous judgement after David repented.  I find I don't always want to give forgiveness and I want to hold on to my indignation and judgement. If I am holding on to forgiveness and continuing to judge someone after they have repented and asked forgiveness- I am holding myself above God.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:15, "but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."  The Greek word translated "Trespasses" in this verse is "paráptōma (from 3895 /parapíptō, see there) – properly, fall away after being close-beside, i.e. a lapse (deviation) from the truth; an error, "slip up"; wrong doing that can be (relatively) unconscious, "non-deliberate.""   The idea behind this word is of trespassing on someone's property, stepping on their toes, unintentionally offending them.  I know their are so many things that I have unintentionally done and said things that have been unworthy of my calling as a child of God, I am sure that God has forgiven so many trespasses that I am completely unaware of. His grace covers all the mistakes that I haven't even realized I needed to ask forgiveness for.

As I have been processing my friend's comment, God has taken me full circle.  I realized I first had to repent of the times when I demeaned a group of people (I used to think girls were better than boys, I guess that is why God gave me two sons). I had to repent of having eyes but not seeing.  I had to repent of my insensitivity to others. I had to repent of when I unknowingly made blanket statements about other people.  I had to repent of saying demeaning things in front of my kids. I asked for His forgiveness for not even realizing all the times He had forgiven me.  As I prayed and asked for God's forgiveness, I heard him clearly say, "I forgive you. As I have forgiven you, forgive others."  

Experiencing God's grace and forgiveness helped me move to a place of faith rather than anger and indignation. What my friend said was wrong but I know I have to forgive my friend just as God has forgiven me. I have to trust that just as God is working in my heart to reveal my hypocrisy and need for forgiveness, my all powerful and all knowing God is also working in my friend's heart.  

How do you process hypocrisy in others?  Is your response anger or repentance?
Do you think people can change? If someone repents, do you still hold on to indignation and anger or do you respond like Nathan, "God forgives you"?  
Have you let your frustration over someone's hypocrisy keep you from receiving God forgiveness? 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Peace in the DMZ

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

I was recently struck by the similarities between a story in Second Chronicles and a newspaper headline about North and South Korea.  The headline was South Korea Turns Down the Volume as Trump Talks Up Summit.   The caption below the picture explained that South Korean soldiers had removed high decibel loudspeakers that were used to broadcast positive messages along the contested border between North and South Korea. As a prerequisite to a peace summit, the North Koreans asked for the speakers to be turned down because it demoralized their troops and was an effective tool against the propaganda and lies put out by the North Korean government. Interestingly, this is a strategy that has been used for thousands of years both for good by countries like the US and South Korea and for bad by countries who used various communication channels to restrict freedom and  promote lies. A couple of days after I saw the headline in the paper, I read the story in 2 Chronicles 32 of Assyria's threats to Jerusalem. Though the situation in the Bible happened over 2700 years ago, it is relevant today because propaganda and lies still cause us to doubt God  and let fear rule our decisions.  I have written two books on Hezekiah because I think this story is relevant to each of us.  

In 2 Chronicles 32, King Hezekiah and his leaders were in a tough situation.  The Judean town of Lachish had fallen to Assyria after a devastating siege.  Lachish was only 39 miles away from Jerusalem and Assyria's armies had decided that Jerusalem was their next target.  An Assyrian advance team had been sent to Jerusalem to convince King Hezekiah and his leaders to surrender without a fight.  

The Assyrian emissary's goal was to strike fear and confusion into the hearts of the people. Just like the South Korean government broadcast their message along the North Korean border, the Assyrians blasted their message in Hebrew so that the people would understand and be afraid. 

They played on the people's normal fears that they would die of starvation like the people of Lachish.  They asked the people, "On what are you basing your confidence, that you remain in Jerusalem under siege? When Hezekiah says, ‘The Lord our God will save us from the hand of the king of Assyria,’ he is misleading you, to let you die of hunger and thirst."  It is interesting to me that Satan used food to draw us away from God as a strategy both in the Garden of Eden when Eve realized that the fruit was "good for food" and when he tempted Jesus to "tell these stones to become bread."  Jesus responded to Satan's attack by quoting scripture from Deuteronomy 8:3. " Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[a]”  We have to trust that God will give us what we need. Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." When we look to food, money or any thing else as our security, our salvation and our happiness, we aren't trusting God. 

The Assyrian officials used words to attack the people's faith in God as misguided; other other cities had trusted their "gods," yet they had all fallen to Assyria. The Assyrians used logic to make their case against the Lord God delivering Jerusalem. They asked, “Do you not know what I and my predecessors have done to all the peoples of the other lands? Were the gods of those nations ever able to deliver their land from my hand? Who of all the gods of these nations that my predecessors destroyed has been able to save his people from me? How then can your god deliver you from my hand? Now do not let Hezekiah deceive you and mislead you like this. Do not believe him, for no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my predecessors. How much less will your god deliver you from my hand!” 2 Chronicles 32:13-15

I think it is interesting that the Assyrians accuse Hezekiah of misleading and deceiving the people when they were the ones who were lying and distorting truth. Satan used the same strategy in the Garden of Eden was to accuse God of lying by asserting to Eve, "You will not certainly die."  Satan often will call the truth a lie so that we doubt it.  Satan often uses fear to cause us to doubt God and His sovereignty. Doubt weakens our faith and leads us to disobedience and away from God's blessings. 

Hezekiah's response was to pray and ask his friend to Isaiah to pray. Hezekiah's prayer is recorded in 2 Kings 19 and ends with his plea, "Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.” God miraculously intervened and wiped out the Assyrian armies and peace reigned in the land.  

When we are faced with overwhelming situations that cause us to doubt God, we have to get on our knees and pray.  We have to go to the source of truth. We have to be aware that the same loudspeakers can be used to communicate truth and lies.  We need to fill our mind with His Word so that we can discern truth and counteract Satan's lies .  Too often I don't go straight to God, because I have let doubt weaken my faith; I start to worry, I call friends and get their opinion, I google and let anxiety rule my heart.  This is not the best strategy for overcoming anxiety.  Philippians 4:6 tells us  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."   This passage in Philippians continues, "And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Though we might not be under siege by the Assyrian army, we can have peace and freedom from anxiety by bringing every situation to God in prayer.  

Are there places in your life that you doubt God?  He is big enough to handle your questions and doubts.   Fill your mind with the Word of God - often a slight distortion of truth - propaganda from the enemy can cause us to doubt God's goodness, power and love.

Are you facing an impossible situation?  You are under siege and it seems like there is no way out. Bring your worries and requests to God.  His power and might is not limited by what we can see, the resources we have or our abilities.   Peace will come when you praise God, give thanks for all that he has done through time and make your requests known.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

My Embarrassing Audition

Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”  “No, Lord,” she said.  And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11
I have had many embarrassing moments in my life- some I am not ready to talk about and others I am way too open about -mention lactose intolerance and you will get an earful.

Looking back on my high school years- one stands out.  I was reminded recently of my embarrassing audition as a just turned 16 year old to play the adulterous woman in a professional production of the Passion Play.  The Passion Play was a re-enactment of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. I had been cast the year before as a shepherd girl and I was pretty great at herding sheep and shouting “Hosanna” or “Crucify Him”during my scenes. Mid season the actress playing the adulterous woman left the show, so the director held an open audition. My friend Sandy, a beautiful curvy junior in high school with perfect 80’s hair was auditioning, though as a sophomore, I had the figure of a skinny middle school boy and flat hair that did not scream stylish, oblivious to the concept of typecasting, I decided to audition. Getting the part would have doubled my pay, plus it wasn’t a hard role. All I had to do was scream, cry a little and look around and say “No one, my Lord.” No problem, I thought.

The time for the audition came. Sandy’s audition went perfectly. She screamed loudly while being roughly dragged to Jesus. She huddled crying softly on the ground by his feet. The priests proclaimed, “This woman was caught in adultery, the law says we must stone her.” Jesus looked each of the accusers in the eye and said, “If any of you are without sin, let him be the first to cast a stone.” Each of the priests and accusers dropped their stones and slowly began to slink away. Jesus then looked her in the eye, and gently asked, “Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, my lord.” “Neither do I accuse you, go and sin no more.” Jesus answered. End scene.

It now was time for my audition- I was ready. Everything went perfectly till the actor playing Jesus looked my accusers in the eye and said, “If any of you are without sin, let him cast the first stone;” then he ad-libbed, “You should be ashamed of yourselves, this woman is not even in High school”. I was mortified. First of all, that wasn’t in the script and most importantly, I was in High school! The director had us redo the scene to give me a fair audition but it was too late. It was even more embarrassing the second time.  I knew what people thought of me.   I knew I didn't have a chance.

Every time I would read this story in the Bible, I would hear "This woman is not even in Highschool." I finally got past my embarrassing audition memories of this story by focusing on Jesus amazing sacrificial love for this woman and all of us. When Jesus got down in the dust and told her “neither do I accuse you,” he made this statement as one who was without sin.
I realized by pardoning this one woman, He was condemning himself.
Jesus made the choice to bear the consequences of her sin. For Jesus, it was personal. That woman didn’t realize the price Jesus would pay for her pardon. She and everyone watching the accusers drop their stones probably thought this was a legal and philosophical question. They were impressed with Jesus’ ability to turn the question back on the accusers.

Two thousand years ago, every person that witnessed this woman being accused of adultery knew that the legal consequence of adultery was death. They didn’t realize Jesus had come to fulfill the law. The woman and the man she had been caught with were to be stoned according to the law. (On a side note, this situation was a little sketch because only the woman was brought to Jesus).

Long before he lifted her out of the dirt and shame, he knew that he would pay the ultimate cost for her selfishness,her choice to please herself and her lover instead of choosing to please God, yet he still chose to intercede and to save her. Jesus has done the same for all of us, regardless of the mistakes, selfish choices and shameful decisions we have made, Jesus reaches down into the dust to lift us up and ask us “Where are your accusers?” “Neither do I accuse you. Go and sin no more.”

Do you feel guilty or ashamed of the choices you have made? Take a minute to imagine yourself accused and caught red-handed in the biggest mistake you have ever made. Now imagine Jesus choosing to accept the consequences, the suffering and to pay the price for your guilt. It is finished. You are forgiven. Jesus chose to pay the debt long before you fell at his feet. 

You are free. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Put Your Phone Down and Pray

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

"Put your phone down and pray." I knew it was God speaking to me, just like I know my son's voice even if a dozen kids were saying "Mom" at the same time or I know my husband's sneeze even if he is on the other side of a grocery store. I just knew it.  

Hearing God is one of those sketchy subjects that can bring up images of charlatans dressed in church robes proclaiming "God told me....and give money"  I haven't always known if God was talking to me. I struggled with hearing and knowing God's voice before I made it a priority to read and listen to the entire Bible.  I personally love reading the Bible in chronological order because reading the prophets in context makes it easier to understand.  For me discerning God's voice has gotten easier because I have read the entire Bible more times than I can count.  I know God's voice as the Author and finisher of our faith just as I can pick out Jeff Kinney's style of writing or know Dr. Suess' voice in a children's book. 

God's voice always aligns with his heart and his Word. I knew "Put down your phone and pray" was a modern version of a verse I had read many times before.  First Thessalonians 5:17 says "Never stop praying".  This is of those verses I would have loved memorizing as a kid.  It is short and sweet. It is even shorter in other Bible translations.  The entire NIV verse is "pray continually."  It is easy to read but hard to do.

"Put down your phone and pray" was a command, maybe not on the level of the Ten Commandments but for me it was just as significant. I have come to realize if the God of this Universe, the Creator of Heaven and Earth speaks to me I need to drop everything and be obedient. 

I heard God say this to me while I had a few minutes of solitude between picking up my son from school and taking him to tennis practice.  This was "my time" that I would spend on my phone scheduling activities, researching health stuff, checking social media and texting my friends. All these things are good ways to spend my free time but I was avoiding what I knew God had called me to do. 

I realized I was looking to my phone to fill my mind and my calendar, to answer my questions and meet my needs.  My phone had become a crutch that kept me from depending on God and tied me to my own resources, knowledge and time. 

Rather than praying I was researching, 
rather than praying I was chatting, 
rather than praying I was escaping. 

There is nothing wrong with researching, chatting or even escaping but I was avoiding praying for the people God had put around me. I was resisting prayer because it felt vague and weak even though I know it is not. I filled my mind and my time with concrete things, facts and information instead of seeking God's perspective and power in the situation.  Prayer is not mutually exclusive. Just because God has called me to pray doesn't mean I can't do the other stuff. Logically, it must be possible to research and pray, chat and pray and even escape and pray or 1st Thessalonians 5:17 wouldn't tell us to "Never stop praying."  Prayer should be like breathing. Prayer is the foundation that everything else is built on. 

My favorite scripture passage is found in Matthew 6:25-33. It points out if you make the kingdom of God and His righteousness a priority then all the other things you need like food and clothes will be given to you.  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your lifee ?
28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." 

This week I am turning "my time" into prayer time.  Rather than seeking first to get my friends' opinions or see their status updates, researching 50 sites for the best deal or discovering a new health and diet tip, I am going to put down my phone and pray.  I will pray for God to guide my research, for God to lead my friends to truth and help us all not worry, for God to provide all my friends and I need, for God to heal and guide their Doctors to truth, for God to lead our government and protect us. 

If God has told you something or shown you truth, why wouldn't you treat it with honor and respect and obey His word?   Do you struggle with worry?

Do you find it hard to pray continually?    What is your biggest distraction? 

Want to join me in putting down the phone and praying?  Let me know how it goes. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Plan is Salmon

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. 
Proverbs 16:9

"What's for dinner?" my people asked. It was a little after five and the natives were getting restless. 
"The plan is salmon," I proclaimed
"We don't want salmon," they exclaimed. "We want pizza."

The one who works so hard every day explained he had already had fish that week.  I didn't argue -  maybe I didn't really want to cook anyway.

But the salmon is coming. It is already defrosted in the fridge. The plan hasn't changed even though they are eating pizza. It only appears that it has. The plan is still salmon. 

I bought it for my family because it is good for us, full of healthy fats, protein and other nutrients.  My plan for them to have the salmon was because it was beneficial for them and my desire hasn't changed.  I serve it with sushi rice and sauteed zucchini.  I have assembled all the ingredients.  It is always a delicious dinner and way better than pizza. 

As I was cleaning up the kitchen tonight, which after ordering pizza is a breeze, I wondered how much of our life is like my "Plan for Salmon."   God plans our steps, assembles all the ingredients and tells us His will for our lives; even if we go in an opposite direction, His plans have not changed.  

His plans for Jonah didn't change even though Jonah got on a boat heading to Tarsish.  Jonah 3:1-2
His plan for Joseph didn't change even though his brothers sold him as a slave. Genesis 50:20
His plan of salvation doesn't change even if someone rejects it. John 12:44-48
His plan to bless us doesn't change even if we are living with the consequences of poor decisions. Jeremiah 29:11-13

My kids might get a couple more meals without salmon- but it will happen. I know the future because I am the cook.   In the same way,  God knows the future because He is the Master Chef. Rather than wasting our energy resisting his plans, let's trust that what he plans for us is good and lovely. 

Romans 12:2 encourages us that God's will is good, pleasing and perfect.  It is time to make that jump and trust Him completely in every part of your life.  

Thinking back on your life, have their been times that you have let go of your plans to follow God's will?  

Is their something that you need to let go of to fully embrace God's will? 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Season For Everything

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: Eccl 3:1

Everything is cold here.  Lakes and ponds are covered by sheets of ice.  Cars take forever to heat up in the morning, plants have gone dormant and I actually started wearing a coat when I go outside. A couple inches of snow and we will have a Winter Wonderland. It is cold. Very, very cold!

Cold weather brings out my desire to roast turkeys, bake potatoes, and make pies. I am basically looking for any reason to use the oven as an extra heat source.  My husband loves the cookies and pies. I think he looks forward to these cold induced domestic urges all year long.  Unfortunately for him, my urge to bake is a brief season that lasts as long as a cold snap in the South.  Instead of calling this time of year, Winter;  I propose naming it, Baking Season.  What do you think?  Would you name this time of year "Netflix Season" or "Football Season"?

We all go through seasons that aren't exactly determined by the calendar or even the weather.
Solomon wrote about this in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 
 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

As I look back on last year, it ended with a season of mourning for my dear friend Joyce but was filled with rejoicing with my brother in the birth of his son. God restored friendships that had been lost for years and brought new friends into my life. It has been a year focused on studying blessings but as a result it has made the power of demeaning people so much more obvious.  It was a year of determined blogging, after only sporadically blogging in the past, I was determined to faithfully write my blog every week. 

Looking forward into 2018, I am challenged to finish my fourth book. I have been researching and studying blessings for the past two years.  This is a loaded topic that has a lot of baggage from the prosperity gospel to being used in a demeaning way like, "God bless her pea pickin' heart." To focus on my book, I am taking my new friend Sue's advice to cut back on my weekly blogging.  Hopefully, I'll get a couple of blogs written over the year to let you know what I am working on and learning but this year is going to be "Blessing Book Season." I would appreciate your prayers and I am so excited about all that God has in store this year.  

What season did you find yourself in last year? Is there something you need to let go of or cut back on to fully embrace the next season?  Is God calling you into something new for next year?  

Sunday, December 24, 2017

What Makes a Gift?

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

Is a gift determined by the heart of the giver or the acceptance of the recipient? Our church often receives requests for help at Christmastime and I signed up to help a family who had asked for help. The lady I spoke with requested Christmas presents for her two grand kids ages 4 and 5.  They didn't want much and I was happy to help make their Christmas special.

Her humble apartment was decked out in anticipation of Christmas - with a cute "Santa Stop Here" sign that stood out among the emptiness of the other doors. A petite blond grandmother with the wrinkles and voice of someone who started smoking young met my son and me and invited us in. She quickly hid her pipe in the other room as we walked into her house.  In the apartment was a small tree with one present under it and Home Alone was playing on TV.

She was grateful for the gifts and explained that she suffered back pain from an accident in her teens. Her daughter and kids weren't there but I am hopeful that they will be blessed.  I gave her a hug and told her I would be praying for her, her daughter and her kids. After I left I had take off my sweater because the smell of smoke that wasn't tobacco was overwhelming.

On my drive home,  I struggled with feeling like a sucker.  To counteract my doubting heart, I had to dedicate all the gifts to God, hoping that the kids would get them and love them but realizing this wasn't about two kids getting a Buzz Lightyear and Imaginex toy but a lesson in God's great love for us.  I have no control over that Grandma giving those toys to her grand kids. She could easily take them back to the store and buy alcohol or use them to barter for drugs. I intended to bless their family but it is up to them if they accepted the blessing and use it for good.  Isn't that the story of God's love for all humanity. He gave his chosen people the law and his love as a blessing and they rejected it. He sent Jesus to share His love with the whole world.  Even though Jesus was the perfect gift and just what everyone needed so many people will exchange God's love for cheap fleeting thrills.  Yet God doesn't stop loving us or generously blessing us. In spite of our foolishness and unfaithful hearts, he still loves us, pursues us and lavishes us with grace.

Here's how Titus 3:5-7 explains this amazing concept, "He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."

I have decided to trust that I am fulfilling my mission to love others just as God in his mercy and generosity is always giving and reaching out whether or not we are worthy or even appreciate the value of the amazing gifts He is giving us.

Have you ever given a gift that was rejected or wasted?  How did you handle that? How have you seen God's love in spite of being rejected?