Reflections

     This is the time that many of us spend time reflecting on the past year while making plans for the year that is upcoming. I am no exception. And as I contemplate the many ups and downs of 2016, and pray that 2017 brings love and blessings, I realize how very much I have regretted the downs, glorified the ups, and wished for more blessings.  

     I think the prophet Elijah is my favorite Biblical character. He is so extraordinary yet so ordinary; so amazing and yet so real; so perfect and yet so flawed. In I Kings 17 we find Elijah was fed supernaturally by ravens. Then during the drought that he had predicted as punishment for the king and the nation, he lived with widow woman and her son as the Lord supernaturally kept them supplied with food and water. When the widow’s son died, Elijah revived him.

     In I Kings 18 we read the account of Elijah’s confronting of the 450 prophets of Baal. In one day he called down fire from heaven, humiliated the prophets and the king, and proved that God is the one true God. Afterwards, he predicted that it would begin to rain and even outran the king’s chariots to get back to town. When the queen found out what he had done, she threatened to kill him, and he ran away.  

     So in I Kings 19, one might expect to find Elijah riding high on his victories and successes! I mean, Elijah should be featured in parades and starring in a major Hollywood film based on his personal life events. But no....in chapter 18 we find Elijah first sleeping under a broom tree and then hiding in a cave, afraid for his life. He was definitely depressed and potentially suicidal. What? It is hard to imagine what would have brought him to the depths of despair like this.

     Well, it would be hard for me to imagine if I hadn’t lived out a similar experience this year. The first two-thirds of the year was wonderful. God was moving in and through me and my family. Life was good and life was easy. Struggles were there, but they were incidental and easy to overcome.

     And then a series of obstacles and failures came in rapid succession. Professional curveballs, mommy-fails, personal weaknesses, and devastating loss...one by one these struggles began to drive me into the wilderness until I found myself hiding in a cave. And I confess to you that I am tired. I feel as if I could sleep under a broom tree for a few decades. 

     Back to Elijah: as I said before, I love how perfectly imperfect this mega-man was! The Lord allowed him time to wallow a bit. He gave him rest and susentance, and then in His grace and mercy He spoke to Elijah in a small voice and told it was time to pick himself up and get back to work. Is there a message here for me?

     As I write this I am in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where a few short weeks ago a wildfire ravished the Smoky Mountains. My family and I went for a drive through the Smoky Mountain National Park and witnessed some of the devastation. My husband asked my kids if they knew why forest fires were actually good for the forest. Three voices chimed in with the answer. The forests get so dense with vegetation that they need to be “cleaned up” so that sunlight can penetrate to the forest floor. In addition, the ashes of the burned up matter provide nourishment for the healthy trees that remain, and allow for new, luscious plant growth. 

     As my children shared their knowledge, (and a bit of mommy-pride welled up in me) the Lord spoke to me. While it has been uncomfortable, the last couple of months of this year have served to burn away some of what has been keeping me from the growth that the Lord has for me. It has not been enjoyable, but it has been necessary. And now it’s time to pick myself back up and get back to work. If Elijah can do it with the Lord’s help, then so can I!

Eternal, Unqualified Love

     And now we turn our attention to Ruth’s great-grandson, David and his best friend, Jonathan. I love these two guys! I especially love Jonathan’s selfless faith and unqualified love. 

     Jonathan’s father, Saul, was chosen by God to be the first King of Israel, (I Samuel 10.) He was chosen because, in the eyes of the people, he was the most qualified man to rule the nation. He was taller than most men, handsome, athletic, and came from a good family with a good reputation. Isn’t this exactly what we look for in our leaders? But he was also insecure - in himself, but also in the Lord’s working through him - and this insecurity lead to arrogance, as it so often does. He made the Lord very angry in I Samuel 13 when he offered an unlawful sacrifice, and the Lord promised then and there to replace him as king. 

     And who did God look for as a replacement? Well, he went after the seemingly unqualified, young shepherd boy and harpist, David. Now we know the end of the story - how David became a great warrior and a king who was called “a man after God’s own heart,” and who became the ancestor of our Savior, Jesus. But put yourself in Saul’s and Jonathan’s shoes. Along came this young kid who captured the hearts of the people and had great success in everything he did! It’s no wonder that Saul became very jealous!

     But Jonathan wasn’t. Jonathan looked past the lack of qualifications and saw in David what the Lord saw in David. And rather than hold on to the kingship for himself - he could have, you know, because he was the rightful heir to the throne after his father - he willingly gave it up for David and for the Lord! In I Samuel 23:16, (NLT) we read, “Don’t be afraid,” Jonathan reassured him. “My father will never find you! You are going to be the king of Israel, and I will be next to you, as my father, Saul, is well aware.” This is amazing to me! In his unqualified love for David, Jonathan looked past David’s lack of qualifications to be the king, accepted the Lord’s will, and declared that he will be David’s strongest ally in his kingdom! What a beautiful love story!

     Switching gears now, I want to look at a modern day love story. You may have seen the movie End of the Spear. What a powerful message of unqualified love! There are so many amazing men and women in this story, but I want to focus on Elisabeth Elliot, who has been called one of the most influential women of our time. 

     Elisabeth was born in Belgium to missionary parents. Her upbringing planted in her a heart to see lost souls won for Christ, especially in Ecuador. She set out to learn the Quechuan language so she could translate the Bible for the Ecuadorian indigenous people to read. She had met her future husband, Jim Elliot, in college, and their shared passion for the people of Ecuador and for mission work brought them together. They were married in 1953 and had a daughter in 1955. Jim and some of his missionary friends felt lead of the Lord to reach a vicious and militant tribe of indigenous Ecuadorians called the Aucas. Things seemed to being going well, until members of the tribe brutally murdered Jim and the others while they were attempting to make contact. Elisabeth was left alone with her 10 month old daughter to raise.

     But the story doesn’t end there...

     If there was anyone undeserving of Elisabeth’s love, it was the Aucan people. But Elisabeth did something remarkable! She looked past their lack of qualifications, and loved them with God’s unqualified love. She and Rachel Saint, the sister of one of the other missionaries who died with Jim, learned the language of the Aucas and moved into their tribe! They established a written language and led many of the tribe to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ! Elisabeth’s and Rachel’s unqualified love for the unqualified Aucas led to a total change for that tribe!

“Cruelty and wrong are not the greatest forces in the world. There is nothing eternal in them. Only love is eternal.” Elisabeth Eliot

     Elisabeth recognized that only through the Lord and His eternal, unqualified love, can we love the unqualified. May we learn to love like Elisabeth and Rachel, and like David and Jonathan. 

Fear. Verses. Peace.

     

 When I was a little girl I was terrified of the dark and of large animals. It was debilitating. So much so, that my parents began teaching me to quote several scripture verses on fear. 

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
I John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
Psalm 56:3 “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.”

    My parents had me quoting these verses and many others as my four year old fears plagued me night after night or whenever I was around an animal bigger than a cat. For months we would quote these verses as they penetrated my soul. And a strange thing happened...I began to believe them! And then I began to practice them! 

    There are two stories my father likes to tell. In one, a family friend was babysitting me and I wanted a certain toy. She told me that the toy was in a room in which the light was off.  She says that I walked over to the room, stood in the dark doorway and said, “There is no fear in me,” and promptly walked into the room to retrieve the toy.

    A short time later, another friend was babysitting me who had a horse farm. To her surprise, I asked if we could go up to the horse corral. Once there, I asked if I could get on the horse. Then to her shock, as I was on the horse I asked her to back away from me, leaving me alone to conquer my fears. But I wasn’t alone - the Lord was with me. I knew that because I had spent weeks reminding myself every time I was afraid that the Lord of perfect love casts out my fear, replaces that fear with power and a sound mind, and proves that I can trust Him. 

    Now to be perfectly honest with you, I remember very little about these incidents. But when my own son was struggling with paralyzing fear at 3 years old, I did for him what had been done for me. We quoted scripture to battle the fear. Every night. Every day. And then, it was gone. His torment left just as quickly as it had come. 

    Fast forward a few years, and my adult self was faced with very real terrors. When you are told that you have an illness that might kill you, the fears are no longer imagined and much more terrifying. I praise God for the lesson I learned as a child! At night in bed when the fear was palpable, I rejected the terror and claimed the power, love and sound mind that the Lord promised me. The morning I went into the first major surgery of my life, I realized that His perfect love was casting out all the fear. Those moments during chemotherapy when I felt terribly afraid, I declared my trust in my Healer!

    I am grateful that my parents had me memorize these verses as a child so that as an adult the Lord could recall them to my mind when I needed them most. If you are struggling with fear, consider making note cards, meditating on verses, quoting them against the anxiety, and confessing them as truth!

I Am Hidden in Christ with God

Colossians 3:1-3 “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”

     Unfortunately, David’s predecessor, Saul, did not choose to make the Lord his Hiding Place, but instead decided he should hide FROM God. He hid from the call the Lord had placed upon his life. In fact, when Samuel came to anoint him, as he had been chosen by the Lord to be the first king of Israel, no one could find him. Finally they located him where he was hiding - in the garage heap! (I Samuel 10:22) Saul chose to look at his circumstances and saw his shortcomings and insecurities, rather than set his mind on the Lord and allow Him to do His work. 

     Adam and Eve had a similar response when they were faced with guilt and shame of their sin. Genesis 3:8 tells us that they hid from the Lord when they realized that He would see their shame and know what they had done. Rather than seek the Lord, who had been their friend and companion, rather than run to Him to cover their guilt, they hid FROM Him. If only they had known that they could run to Him, hide IN Him, and have their shame removed and their sin forgiven! They chose to look on the fruit and what it offered, and then chose to see their own nakedness and weakness rather than look to the Lord for what He offered and how He strengthened them. 

     Adam failed and hid himself FROM God, and because of it sin entered the world, yet God has provided for us a hiding place IN Christ, where we can experience His grace and forgiveness, if we run TO Him! We can live in triumph over sin and death if we do as it says in Colossians 3, “Set your affections on things above, not on things upon the earth, for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”

     We have two options. We can either hide FROM God or we can hide IN Him. That’s it. No other choices. We can hide FROM the call He has placed on our lives and deny His strength while focusing on our weakness, or we can seek His help and forgiveness.

     And how do we hide in Christ? We set our affections on the things above! We get our eyes off of our circumstance, off of our weaknesses and inabilities, off of our failures and sins, and focus on the things above.  

Matthew 6:19-21 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Why Me?

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    It was interesting when I was diagnosed with cancer how many people, in an attempt to encourage me, said things like, “Why you? You don’t deserve this! You’re so young - your whole life is ahead of you! It’s not fair...” It would have been really easy to agree with them. There is always that temptation to wonder if God really knows what He is doing when He allows “bad things to happen to good people.” And then it struck me... Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous; no not one!” I realized in all honesty what I “deserved” was far worse than cancer. But by the grace and mercy of God, what I deserve has been withheld and has been replaced with abundant life in Christ. Well, looking at it from that perspective sure changed my thinking and my language! 

    Recently I was asked I ever questioned, “Why me?” My answer? “Why not me?” Let’s look at some real facts: 1 in 8 women in the US will get breast cancer in their lifetime. That’s rough. Really rough. But let’s also look at what women all over the world go through. It is estimated that 800,000 women and children are victims of sex trafficking across the world. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten. According to World Food Programme, 1 in 9 people in the world do not have enough food to stay healthy. I could go on an on. It makes what I have gone through seem like a piece of cake. 

    Ok, so if I’m being real, I didn’t always have this really great attitude toward having cancer. About 8 weeks in to my second round of chemo treatments, I was feeling pretty horrible almost all the time. Don’t get me wrong, the first round of chemo and the double mastectomy had been pretty horrible, but with the Lord’s strength I had pushed through.  During the second round though, I threw one heck of a pity party and wallowed in my misery. For four weeks in October of 2011, I was woman most miserable. October is already a difficult month for some breast cancer patients. While we truly appreciate awareness for the disease we are fighting, and without a doubt we are grateful for any money raised to fund a cure and support those who are suffering, all the pink ribbons serve as of the constant reminder of the struggle. And that October, I let it get to me. 

    I wish I could tell you that I came to my senses and realized the power that I have in Christ to overcome the pain and the fear. Nope. I wallowed. A lot. I don’t exactly know what snapped me out of it. “God is good” is all I can say, and He didn’t let me stay there in that place.

Psalm 40:1-3 “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” (NLT)

     So here I am, five years out from that horrible month in 2011. Five years is a milestone for cancer patients...we officially become "survivors" at five years. And this October I have a new question: "Why me?" Why have I been spared when so many are not? Why do I get to go on living while many more holy, more selfless, more powerfully dynamic than I are no longer here? I have no answer. I just make it my prayer every day that I will walk worthy of the calling that He has placed on my life. As long as I live I seek to glorify the One who has withheld what I deserve, and has given me abundant life. 

He Is My Hiding Place

Psalm 32:7 (KJV) “Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.”

    Throughout scripture we see that the Lord provided a hiding place for His people and protected them for a time. Moses’ mother hid him for 3 months until she placed him in a basket and trusted the Lord to protect and provide for him. (Exodus 2) The prostitute Rahab of Jericho hid two Israelite spies until she provided a way for them to escape down the wall to return to Joshua to give a report. (Joshua 2) The prophet Elijah hid from the evil King Ahab and Queen Jezebel for 3 years until he confronted them and their prophets of Baal. (I Kings 17 and 18) Jehosheba hid prince Joash from his evil Aunt Athaliah until he was old enough to take the throne back from her. (II Kings 11)

    Over and over again we see that the Lord is a Hiding Place for His people until He can make a way for them to come out of hiding and fulfill His calling. He is our Hiding Place.

    The Psalm above was penned by King David, who was no stranger to hiding himself. He hid from King Saul who tried to have him killed and who personally tried to kill him repeatedly. David hid in caves and in foreign lands for years until Saul died and David was able to take the throne. David later hid from his own son, Absalom, who had stolen the hearts of the people and, for a time, usurped the throne from his father, the king. David hid until Absalom died and he was able to come out of hiding. 

    But these are not the circumstances under which David wrote Psalm 32. No, David was not hiding from someone who was trying to kill him at this time. Instead he wrote it after his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the death of their son, and the confrontation from Nathan, the prophet. He was begging the Lord to forgive him for his transgression with Uriah’s wife, and he claimed that the Lord was his Hiding Place and protection! 

    We need to recognize that we can run to the Lord, not only when we are being pursued by our adversaries, but also when our own sinful nature is trying to trap us and keep us from the Lord’s presence! In fact, in verse 5 (KJV) David says, 

 “I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” 

    David did not try to hide himself or his sin from the Lord, but instead ran to the Lord to find a hiding place and deliverance!

You Were Born and Bred in the Briar Patch

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

       I struggled with every fiber of my being to hold back the tears that wanted to be released. This was not the time or the place to lose it like that, with my students and coworkers surrounding me. We were having chapel time in the small Christian school at which I worked, and the poignant worship threatened to undo the control that I had been able to maintain for several weeks. But the physical pain that the chemotherapy was inflicting in my body, and the emotional pain that the fear of dying was inflicting in my mind were too much to hold back anymore.     

        The bell rang, indicating that I had 30 minutes until my next class, so I fled to the relative safety of the women’s bathroom. A few minutes of deep breathing and a lot of praying, and I felt strong enough to return to the public without making a complete fool of myself....but as I turned the corner, Mary, the mother of one my students was there - looking at me with the knowing eyes of a nurse and the sympathetic eyes of a friend. I crumbled. And she held me.     

       Then she began to tell me an Uncle Remus’ folktale about Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox, and how Brer Fox had managed to trap Brer Rabbit with a baby made out of tar. When Brer Rabbit came across the Tar Baby and got tangled up in the mess of sticky tar, the sneaky Brer Fox came in and snatched the unsuspecting rabbit.

        As the fox pondered how he should best prepare the rabbit for dinner, Brer Rabbit began to plead, “Drown me! Roast me! Hang me! Do whatever you please, only, please, Mr. Fox, please do not throw me into that briar patch!”

       Well, the fox determined to do just that, and flung the rabbit as far as he could into the briar patch. As he waited for cries of anguish, instead he heard a voice behind him. He looked up to see  Brer Rabbit skipping away, having been freed of the tar by the thorns of the briar patch, and he heard, “I was born and bred in the briar patch, Brer Fox, born and bred in the briar patch.”

       As Mary hugged me she told me that my enemy, the devil, thought he could throw me into the briar patch and destroy me. “But he doesn’t know that you were born in the briar patch, Amy!” she said. 

       Mary explained that God had equipped and prepared me with everything that I needed to survive - even to thrive - in the briar patch. It was true, she assured me, that the devil had thrown me to the thorns and briars, but the Lord truly worked all things for my good. What my enemy intended to use to trap and destroy me, God would use to deliver me!

       Life in the briar patch might be difficult, but that might be just what we need.

 

“Brer Rabbit.” American Folklore. S.E. Shlosser,  December 13, 2014. Web. July, 2016.

Faith That Moves Mountains

    There is a man I have greatly admired since I read his biography when I was in my teens. His name is George Muller, and I highly recommend that you read his entire story. This is only a small part of it.

    He was born in Prussia in 1805. Having lived his life for himself in his early years, (he was a partier, thief, liar and gambler, among other things) he turned his life over to Jesus after attending a Bible study at the invitation of a friend. What happens next, the way he turns his life completely around and ceases to live for himself and begins a life of selfless faith is a long story that, again, I hope you will read in its entirety. 

    As a summary, I will tell you that he ended up moving to Bristol, England, where he started a Sunday school for children and an orphanage. One orphan house became five orphan houses before he was done, and the number of children who were ministered to in Bible study and in the houses was immense. 

    What is, perhaps, most incredible is that George Muller never asked anyone for a dime to help him support the thousands of children that he cared for! He worked tirelessly and selflessly day in and day out to see that the needs of his family and these children who he considered his own were met, all without requesting for financial help from anyone!

    There is one account that especially ministered to me. A day came when there was absolutely no food to feed the orphans. The matron of one of the houses came at breakfast time to ask George what she should do. He told her to have all the children come to the table and to put in front of each of them a plate and cup. When they were all seated, he told her to have them pray over their meal. When she asked him what they would be serving, as there was not a morsel of food in the house, he replied, “God will supply.” He led the children in prayer saying, “Dear God, we thank you for what you are going to give us to eat.” 

    As soon as he finished praying, the doorbell rang. It was the local baker saying that God had awakened him in the middle of the night and told him to bake enough bread to feed George Muller’s orphans! As they began serving the supernaturally provided bread, the doorbell rang again. This time it was the local milkman whose cart had broken down outside the door of the orphan house. He asked for help repairing the cart, but he needed to lighten the load first. He had 10 full cans of milk, if they could use it! Just like that, God had provided for the children, as George had, in faith, declared that he would. 

    This is just one of many stories of George Muller’s selfless faith. He served children right up until the day that he died. His funeral was the largest in the history of Bristol, England. It is estimated that in his 63 years of selfless service, he provided for over 10,000 children - all through prayer and selfless faith.

A Father's Love

   While I was growing up and continuing to this day whenever my daddy prays, he begins with the words, “Father, thank you for loving us...”

    It took my becoming an adult to realize how often he repeated these words, and even longer to understand what a miraculous thing it was for my dad to not only pray but believe this truth! You see, my dad never truly experienced love from his earthly father. He never knew what it was like to have his dad want to spend time with him or to be proud of his accomplishments. He has confessed that growing up his greatest desire was to know and experience the love of his father. 

    Who knows why my grandfather did not, or maybe could not, show my dad the love that he craved. Perhaps it was modeled to him that it was weakness to love. Or maybe it was because he did not recognize that he had received love himself. But I do know that many who have grown up feeling unloved become men or women who neither recognize that they are loved, nor know how to give love to others.

    So you see that it is a miracle that today my dad’s every prayer is an acknowledgement of the Lord’s unconditional and unqualified love for him.

    And perhaps the greater miracle is that he has always made a point to let me and my siblings know just how much he loves us.

    I remember my dad, who is also a pastor, preaching a sermon when I was a teenager. He had sought the Lord for a new revelation and specifically asked the Lord what was the one thing that He wished His children knew about Him. 

    God gently returned the question, “What is the one thing you want your children to know about you?” 

    My dad answered immediately, “I want my children to know that I love them, all the time, no matter what!”

    And the Lord responded, “That is what I want My children to know about Me, as well!”

    I John 3:1 ”Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!”

    There have been times in my life that I have doubted what my future holds and how long it would last; when I have doubted the Lord’s plans for me and whether I have the ability to fulfill them; when I have doubted my own strength and faith. But I have never doubted The Lord's love for me. This is the greatest gift my earthly father has ever given me - the gift of the knowledge of the greatest gift my heavenly Father has given me - His love.  

    And my father's second greatest gift is the gift of his own unqualified love for me. I love you, Daddy!

Ruth's Unqualified Love

     The lines in Ruth 1:16 -17 have often been quoted at weddings as the bride declares to the groom, “Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to separate us!”

     But isn’t it interesting that Ruth was not talking to her groom at all, but rather to her mother-in-law? Ruth’s declaration of unqualified love to Naomi was exactly what impressed Boaz, the man who would later become her husband. 

     Yet, Ruth herself was quite unqualified. She lacked the qualifications to become the wife of a great man of Bethlehem, and certainly she lacked the qualifications to be the great grandmother of King David, and one of only five women mentioned in Jesus lineage! Let’s look at her resume.

     Ruth was a Moabitess. Her ancestor Moab was the son of Lot. You remember him - he was Abraham’s nephew who greedily settled in Sodom because it looked like the land was the best around. But Sodom was wicked, and God destroyed it. Yet because He loved Abraham, God saved Lot and his daughters, while Lot’s wife was killed for disobedience. Lot ended up living in a cave with his daughters, and in desperation, the girls got him drunk two nights in a row so that he would impregnate them. His oldest daughter gave birth to a son and named him Moab.

     The Moabites did not worship the God of Abraham, but worshipped the detestable god, Chemosh, who required human sacrifice, among other horrific things, and Baal of Peor who it is believed required sensual indulgence as a form of worship. 

     Several generations passed, and Abraham’s descendants were escaping from Egypt. As they passed through the land of the Moabites, they expected, or at least hoped, that their relatives would kindly let them pass through. On the contrary, Balak, King of Moab, was so terrified of the Israelites that he hired Balaam, a prophet, to come and curse the people of God. But God would not allow His people to be cursed, so Balaam blessed them instead! (See Numbers 22-24)  

     However, in Numbers 25 the Moabites, along with the Midianites, managed to infiltrate the Israeli camp with promiscuous women who turned the hearts of the men away from God and toward Chemosh and Baal of Peor. Consequently, in Deuteronomy 23:3, God declared that no Moabite would be able to enter into the assembly of the Lord until ten generations passed from this event!

     This was the heritage of Ruth. She was only two or three generations into this ten generation punishment. She was certainly not someone that a respectable, God-fearing Jewish man would seek for a wife! But because of her unqualified love for Naomi, and the fact that she rejected the detestable gods of her people, she was shown unqualified love and acceptance by Naomi, Boaz, and the Lord.

     What a beautiful love story!

Remember!

     Recently my family visited the Alamo. I had been when I was a kid, and I wanted to take my own kids to see it - to experience a part of their heritage, (my dad’s from Texas.) I was familiar with what happened at the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, and how it impacted the War for Texas Independence from Mexico, but this time it struck me in a different way. 

     I kept reflecting on the fact that they lost the battle. And not just that they lost, but lost in a big way! All 183 men who fought in the Alamo died, and died brutally. I can only imagine how the surviving Texians and friends who were fighting for Texas felt a hopelessness - felt like their cause was lost. But it had the reverse effect. The loss of the Alamo renewed the call for Independence, gave them a defiant hope, and inspired a new group of freedom fighters to join the fight. 

     The cry, “Remember the Alamo!” resonated with the Texian soldiers, and though they were outnumbered 6 to 1, they went on to win the Battle of San Jacinto. Within 6 weeks of the loss at the Alamo, Texas had gained Independence. 

     There are thousands of examples just like this....how a loss can be turned into a gain; how failure can become success; how a defeat yields to victory. 

     Joseph is the perfect example. His brothers betrayed him, selling into slavery because of their overwhelming jealousy. But as Joseph told them in Genesis 50:20,

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (NASB)

     The Lord used Joseph’s defeat to save his family when famine struck. This is God’s standard MO; when all hope is lost, He intervenes to bring about His purposes. 

     My sister-in-law, Karen, is also one of my closest friends. God has truly blessed me. She knows more about me than just about anyone - and she still loves me! That is much more a testament to what a loving and forgiving person she is than how great I am. She is fiercely loyal and unendingly patient. And those times in my life that I have sincerely wondered if I should just give up my fight, her cry to “Remember!” reaches me with the truth of my testimony. “Remember what the Lord has done for you! He has not failed you yet, and He never will!” 

     Karen has had her own struggles. At times they have been so overwhelmingly difficult that I wondered how she would get through it. Those times she found herself in “the dark place,” as our friend Liz affectionately calls it, she remembers. She journals; she reads the Word; she talks it through; she prays; she worships; she remembers. And I have watched her go from defeat to victory, first in her heart and mind, and secondly played out in her life.

      And it inspires me. 

Revelation 12:10-11, (KJV) “The accuser of the brethren is cast down who accused them before God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of their testimony.” 

     The ultimate defeat of our enemy and our ultimate victory comes when we remember what the Lord has done for us!  

     Pass this on to someone you know who needs to remember!

The Unstoppable Refrain

     I love the song, “In the Girl There’s a Room” by Sara Groves. I don’t know, there’s something about the picture I get in my head of a room inside me with a table, and a lit candle on that table that will never burn out. That candle represents my hope - the hope in Christ that will never die! I especially love the lines,

“In our hearts and souls, an unstoppable refrain! Hope stands in defiance!”

     The devil will use circumstances or difficulties or even people to try to blow out my candle, but the unstoppable refrain drowns out the sound of the devil.

     Abraham is the perfect example of the unstoppable refrain and the candle of hope that never burnt out. He waited and waited and waited for the promise of the Lord to be fulfilled. For 100 years he believed that the Lord would do what He said He would do. Can you just imagine? Doctors, friends, even his own wife must’ve thought he was nuts, but he still waited expectantly.

Romans 4:18 (NLT) says, “even though there was no reason to hope, Abraham kept hoping.”

     What if Abraham had finally given up after 99 years? I don’t think anyone would’ve blamed him. He could have thrown up his hands and allowed Ishmael to be his only heir. He could have spit in God’s face and told him where to go with His promise. But he didn’t. give. up. He waited, and waited, and waited...even when there was no reason to wait any more.

    What are you waiting for? Is there a promise from God that you have been believing to see fulfilled? Do you need healing - whether for your physical body, your emotions, your finances or your relationships?

     In John 5:1-9 we read about a man who was paralyzed and waited for 38 years to receive his healing. He waited, day in and day out, by the pool of Bethesda where, every so often, the pool was stirred by an angel. The first person to enter the pool after it was stirred would be healed of whatever ailed him. Well, this paralyzed man was incapable of getting into the pool on his own before everyone else, so he sat there day after day waiting...waiting for someone to help him in...waiting for there to be no one else around when the water stirred...waiting for a miracle.

     I ask you again, what if he had given up and gone home after 37 years? Again, who would have blamed him? That’s a very long time to sit in one spot, waiting for the healing he believed would come. But he waited. When he started waiting, Jesus had not even been born yet. He continued waiting as Jesus grew to be a man and started his ministry. He didn’t know that Jesus would be coming by - he had no reason to believe that his healing would come other than by the pool, and even that was unlikely. But God had a plan. Like Abraham, the plan for this man took a while...it took longer than either expected...it took so long that most would have given up...but his hope that he would be healed was fulfilled... because he waited!

Trials, Tattoos and the Truth

     We sat in our favorite coffee shop, reminiscing about the “old days” in the charming spot where we had spent so much time together. One minute we were chuckling over a funny anecdote, and the next we were sniffling as we shared some difficulties we had faced since our last visit. For me, this time was especially poignant as I was able to thank Amanda in person for the blessing she had been to me during the difficult season of my life. You see, when I learned I had cancer and started treatment, Amanda came alongside me in selfless support and friendship. She sought the Lord on my behalf regularly, and I have the proof of that at my home where, tucked away in a special box, I have sheets and sheets of handwritten scriptures that the Lord gave to Amanda to share with me. Those verses, written in her distinct handwriting, were a gift of hope and encouragement that I will treasure forever. Her favorite verse jumped off the pages to minister to me,

“Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives, I give to you.” (John 14:27)

     When I was hurting, just knowing that there was someone who loved me, who actively took me before the Lord in her prayers, and who would selflessly take the time to share His Truth with me, brought the peace of the Lord that I cannot explain. 

     I have until now left out the most incredible part of this story. You see, at the time that I was sick, Amanda was my 17 year old student - a senior in the high school at which I taught. While most girls her age were concerned with boys or fashion or what they would do after graduation, Amanda concerned herself with a teacher, twice her age, who was hurting. Even now, when we get together, she expresses her concern and love towards me. I get emotional when I think of this lovely young woman and her selfless compassion.

    In the five years since we were with each other every day at school, Amanda has lived a lifetime of trials and difficulties - much more than most adults I know. I have watched her struggle against the devil and his desire to stop the gift the Lord gave to her of compassion and love. I have tried to be for her the blessing that she was to me, and to be the voice of Truth for her the way she was for me. This day when we sat at our favorite coffee shop and laughed and cried together, she spoke of seeing “the light at the end of the tunnel” of the struggle.  And she told me about a new tattoo she was getting in a couple of days. It would cover some physical scars, and proclaim the truth of the Lord in her life. 

“Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives, gives, I give to you.”

     I am praying that the tattoo and the powerful, constant reminder it bears, will be the voice of Truth for Amanda. And I am excited that every time I see Amanda - every time we get the opportunity to laugh and to cry together, I will remember the gift of Truth that she gave me.

Joseph and the Shunammite Woman

    In Genesis 45 we read about Joseph as he revealed his identity to his brothers. His brothers had betrayed him and sold him into slavery at age 17. Rather than wallow in the unfair lot that life had dealt him and the horrible treatment by his brothers - rather than act like victim - he selflessly worked hard on behalf of his master, Potipher. But 11 years and several promotions into his time with Potipher, he was again betrayed, and for 2 years he lived in the dungeon, even though he had done nothing wrong. 

    Can you imagine? He could’ve stomped his feet and insisted that he was the child of a very wealthy businessman, which was true, and demanded to be released. But again, he served, even in the dungeon.

     Finally at age 30 he was released to Pharaoh, and promoted to head of the entire nation of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. At that point he could’ve insisted that Pharaoh release him to have vengeance on his brothers. But once again, he stayed and he served. 

    When his brothers came begging for help, he then could have rejected them and told them it was their just punishment - and he would’ve been right! His response to them is so beautiful and selfless. You can tell that he had been thinking it over for many years.

     “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life!” (Genesis 45:5, NIV)

     He had clearly come to terms long before with the fact that God had allowed him to be sold into slavery to bring about His purposes, and he was ok with that. How could he be ok with that? Because he had laid aside his identity, and had become a selfless servant - first of God, then of Potipher, next of Pharaoh, and ultimately of his family, including his brothers. Beautiful!

     In II Kings 4 we see another example of selfless faith in the Shunammite woman. I love this story! The first thing she did was offer to feed the prophet Elisha and his servant whenever they were in town. Then in verse 10 we read that she actually built an entire room onto her house for Elisha to stay in when he passed through town! Talk about a selfless act! 

     What would cause her to do this? Well, it’s not because she wanted something from him. He offered to help her out by dropping a good word about her to the king, and she refused. She obviously was not serving Elisha for herself - she was selflessly serving a man she recognized as a man of God. 

    Elisha and God did reward her, however. She gave birth toa son, though her husband was very old. Then one day that son suddenly became ill and died. Did she then stomp her feet and curse God and Elisha? Did she say, “After everything I have done for you, this is the treatment I get?” Nope. She told her husband to saddle a donkey and in faith she said, “It is well.” Even when she was seen far off by Elisha, and he knew something was wrong, her response to Elisha’s servant when he inquired whether everything was ok was, “It is well.” 

    What on earth? How could that be her answer? All was NOT well! But her answer was one of selfless faith. She knew who she was as a child of God and a servant of the Lord and of this holy man. And she knew that it would be alright. She was correct, and her son received his life again. Another beautiful example of selfless faith!

"Suck it up, Buttercup!" From push ups to ring pops.

“Suck it up, Buttercup!” Her voice resounds through the park as we heave and gasp for breath. Ropes whipping, tires flipping, muscles building...we all fight to do more than last time - to beat our previous time or reps. This is the “best and worst hour” of my day, as goes the motto for the bootcamp class that I have attended for the last six years. The instructor, Christine,  just so happens to be one of my closest friends. I know - I am blessed! Before I started working with her, I was in pretty terrible shape and had never worked out in any significant way. But within a few months under Christine’s training, my doctor told me I had the heart of an athlete - literally! And I must say, I now have the figurative heart of an athlete as well. 

What makes Christine unique as a trainer is not her ability to bring out the best in her students, although she does that very well. Nor is it the fact that when we do as she teaches, we see significant results, although that happens as well. No, what is different about my friend Christine is love. She loves us. She loves us when we do succeed, and she loves us when we fail. And the best part? The love - the unconditional, unqualified love that she has for people - comes from the Lord. 

She often tells me she loves my guts, and it’s true. Christine has loved me through good times and through bad times. In fact, a few months into my training with her was when I found out I was sick. Looking back at those first few months, I realize that the Lord was preparing me to fight the fight of my life, and He was preparing Christine to become a trainer who fights with and for her students. For many who are going through chemotherapy and surgery, exercise is moved to the back burner. We feel sick and tired and incapable of accomplishing difficult physical tasks. But my friend did not let me stay there. She pushed me to push myself. We continued to meet at the gym, to run together, to attend bootcamp...she let me do what I could, recognizing it was not what it once was, but she reminded me it would be better again...one day. And because of that training - because she never let me stop - I came through the other side victorious. 

Christine wasn’t just my trainer during those months of treatment and the years of recovery. She was my friend, struggling with me - right next to me. For most of the 16 chemotherapy treatments, she sat in the chair beside mine, advocating for me and encouraging me. She was with me in the hospital after the surgery, praying for me and helping me. She gave me hope, encouraged my faith, and especially showed me limitless love. 

Early in the process she brought ring pops for me to one of my treatments. I’m not sure why it struck us so funny...perhaps because we were two grown women sitting and sucking ring pops...perhaps because ring pops conjure up a picture of care-free, happy-go-lucky times, and the reality of what we were doing was anything but care-free. For whatever reason, those ring pops became a symbol of God’s grace and protection - offering to me the hope that life would be easy again. 

The truth is, life did not ever get easy again - maybe it never was all that easy in the first place. But it is easier, and much of that is thanks to Christine. She prepared me, physically and emotionally, to battle cancer, and stayed by my side to battle it with me. As I continue to struggle against fear and discouragement, she struggles with me. I have never doubted her love for me, and I pray that she always knows how much “I love her guts!”

In spite of my unqualified love, His love is unqualified

     I John 4:10-12, (NIV) “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

     The word “unqualified” is interesting to me. The meaning that most of us are familiar with, the meaning that we use most often, according to dictionary.com is, “not qualified, not fit.” However, there is an alternate definition that I would like to focus on for today. It is, “not modified, limited, or restricted in any way, without reservations; also, absolute, complete.”

    When I first thought about both definitions together, my first reaction was confusion. I mean, these significances are on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. One indicates an unworthiness, that something is lacking. The other implies wholeness, that nothing is lacking. 

    And the more I thought about it, a beautiful picture began to form as I applied this adjective to the love between my Lord and me. My love for Him is certainly unqualified. It is not fit, but rather is lacking in every way. And there is nothing that I can do to ever be qualified enough to earn His love. But His love for me is also unqualified. He puts absolutely no restrictions, no qualifications on His love. It is complete and absolute regardless of my own limitations. In fact, the more I recognize how very unqualified that I am, the more I can see how very unqualified His love for me is!

    I think my favorite man in the New Testament next to Jesus was John the Beloved. I especially love that he gave himself this nickname! Five times in the Gospel of John he refers to himself as, “the disciple who Jesus loved.” He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was loved by the Lord, despite his lack of qualifications. 

    Let’s take at look at his resume... He was a fisherman, (Matthew 4:21.) He desired the place of honor above the other disciples, (Matthew 20:21.) He fell asleep while Jesus had asked him to pray for him, (Mark 14:37.) He deserted Jesus when they arrested Him, (Mark 14:50.) He returned to fishing after Jesus was crucified, (John 21:3.) There is nothing in his history that screams, “Pick me, pick me! I’m the one that you need to help you further your kingdom on the earth!” And yet, Jesus does choose him, and somehow John realizes that the Lord loves him despite of - perhaps because of - his terrible resume.

    John the Beloved wrote five books in the New Testament. In these books he mentions the word “love” 67 times! Do you think he thought it was important for us to recognize and experience God’s love?

I trust You - help me to trust You! The day my sister gave me Defiant Hope.

I am dancer. Well, not exactly. I have danced in my church worship service for several years, but I do not have any formal dance training - just the desire to express my adoration and appreciation to the Lord in physical movement. Nothing brings me closer to the Lord than dance. And while I may not be the most beautiful dancer, I feel the Lord’s pleasure when I dance for His glory. 

Now my sister, Bethany, on the other hand...there’s a beautiful dancer! It’s in her soul, and it just comes out of her in an incredible rush of energy and exuberance that is completely captivating! Today’s love letter is for my sister.

I imagine I am not the only person who struggles to trust the Lord when life gets so hard that the weight of it is almost too much to bear. I appreciate very much the father in Mark 9:17-27 (NLT) whose son was tormented by a demon that would cause the boy to throw himself into the fire or into water. The father pleads with Jesus to heal his little boy in verse 21, Have mercy and help us, if you can.”  I can just imagine Jesus reaction - “If I can? What do you mean, IF I CAN? Do you not know who I am and the power that I have to heal?” But He simply and lovingly says to the man in verse 23, “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father’s response is raw and honest - you can almost hear the desperation and frustration from years of struggle in his answer, “I do believe, but help my unbelief.” (verse 24) Oh, how I relate to this feeling! I want to believe - with all my heart I want to believe, but I am still struggling Lord! Please don’t hold it against me! I do trust you, it’s just that what I feel and what I see are two different things, and it is so hard to keep trusting! 

In His infinite mercy and grace, Jesus heals the boy, despite the father’s failure to completely trust - to completely believe. In fact, I think another miracle here is that this father’s faith was increased that day by the Author and Finisher of his faith.

When I was very sick, I confess that I had similar discussions with the Lord every day. It would start with begging, pleading for the Lord’s healing. Then He would gently ask me, “Do you trust me?” In defiant hope I would declare, “Yes, Lord, I trust you!” But five minutes later I would find myself wallowing in fear and doubt. Confessing to Lord my weakness, I would proclaim, “Help my unbelief!” 

At a time when this struggle was repeated several times a day - sometimes several times an hour - my beautiful sister came to me. The Lord had told her to dance over me a song proclaiming the healing power of God. I stood with feelings of desperation in the middle of her kitchen as she danced around me and over me to the song, “My Healer” sung by Kari Jobe. This may seem strange to some of you, but I tell you that it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life! A repeated line in song says, “I trust in You, I trust in You!” Bethany instructed me to reach up to the Lord as I sang those words and figuratively grab ahold of His hand. As I raised my hands one at a time and in my spirit grasped his hand, something broke inside me. The physical expression of my trust in my Healer led to a breakthrough in my spirit and soul. From that point on, when my hope and faith would waiver, I would stand wherever I was - in my room, my kitchen, my shower - and reach up to grab the hand of the Lord and declare, “I trust You, Lord - help me to trust You!”

That gift of defiant hope that Bethany gave me that day is like a picture in a scrapbook that I pull out regularly when I need to remember to trust! I can never fully express my appreciation to her.

Daniel's Defiant Hope

Romans 8:24-25 (ESV)

"For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."

   Hope is the expectation of something that we do not see - something that we have no proof will actually happen, but we have some reason to believe will happen if we just wait long enough!

    So what is defiant hope? So much of what we see every day - so much of what we are told runs counter to the hope that we have in Christ and the promises He has given us.

Defiant hope stands in daring opposition to the lies of our enemy, the devil, and boldly challenges his plans for us! And despite what others might say, how we might feel, or even what we see, we “hold tightly without wavering to the hope that [we] affirm, that God can be trusted to keep His promise.” (Hebrews 10:23, NLT)

    In Daniel chapter 10, we read an interesting account of a vision that Daniel had, but which he did not understand. It disturbed him so much, that he sought the Lord and fasted for twenty-one days to receive the interpretation. Finally, after three weeks, an angel appeared to him and explained to him the significance of the vision. But first, the angel told him that the minute Daniel had asked the Lord for the meaning of the vision, the Lord had sent the angel to Daniel with the answer. Yet the prince of Persia - a demonic spirit - fought with the angel and kept him from reaching Daniel, until Michael, the archangel, arrived to help, and relieved the angel so he could finally get to Daniel. Daniel could have given up hope of receiving the answer during those twenty-one days. Yet if he had stopped fasting, praying and seeking the Lord, he would never have received what he was asking for! He would’ve gone home, and forever questioned God’s wisdom, and why on earth God would give him a vision, only to withhold the answer! But Daniel did not give up.. He did not even give up on day two or three or even day twenty as many of us might have. He expected God to answer, and then he patiently waited for that answer!

    As I said before, hope runs counter to our culture. We live in an age where people want to see proof before they will believe anything. Science, math, medicine, even the law, all require proof before we are allowed to say that something is true. My son is taking biology and geometry in school this year. When he makes a hypothesis, he does a scientific investigation to prove his hypothesis before he can reach the conclusion that his guess was correct. Before he can say with certainty that if A=B, and B=C, than A=C, he has to do a proof to verify he is correct. While this is a necessary process he needs to go through to pass the tenth grade, it is not how the Lord operates! The Lord asks us to first believe His Word, then expect Him to keep His promise to us, and wait for HIM to fulfill it.

To know him is to be served by him

    If you read my previous post, perhaps you were inspired to be like Jesus, lay aside your royal identity and selflessly serve those around you. Chances are that there is someone in your life who is like the men and women Jesus encountered - struggling to make ends meet, hungry, poor, tired, in danger, under attack, sick and even dying. How can you demonstrate selfless faith to these?

    My first love letter is to one of the most selfless and faithful men I have ever known. My husband, Dennis, has been given the gift of serving by the Holy Spirit. To know him is to be served by him. While this is one of the things that attracted me to the man in the first place, it was also the source of much frustration in our early years together! I can’t tell you how many times he showed up hours late for our date because he was helping a little old lady stranded on the side of the road, or he had picked up a hitch-hiker and gave him a ride. No matter how I tried, I could never justify being angry with him!

    Another strong gifting in his life is faith. He never doubts - never waivers - in his belief that the Lord is working all things for his good, (Romans 8:28) and that God is faithful to keep His promises, (I Thessalonians 5:24.) 

    Needless to say, when we were first married nearly 17 years ago, I did not know that these qualities that attracted me (and sometimes frustrated me) would be the very qualities that I would need to uphold me. 

     I remember clearly the day I found the tumor in my breast. Previously, whenever I took a suspected ailment to Dennis he would shake his head and tell me that the swelling or bump or wound that I was experiencing was completely normal and nothing to worry about. This day he did not. Instead, he set to work, serving me by making appointments, calling doctors, insisting that I needed to be seen immediately. 

    After the diagnosis of breast cancer he spent countless hours researching treatments, both dietary and medical, and hospitals and doctors, both near and far. During chemotherapy and surgery, he took over nearly all the household chores: washing the dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning and cooking. He spent a large portion of his day juicing carrots and kale to resupply my body with the nutrients that chemo was stripping away. I drank gallons of carrot juice - so much that I looked like I had a beautiful tan!

    When we were discussing chemotherapy options he told me that he believed the poison of chemo would take me to the brink of death, but He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God would bring me back to life. He never doubted. He still doesn’t doubt. Despite what the doctors said and continue to say, he has faith that the Lord has healed me completely. In my darkest moments when I dared to begin to wonder, “what if?” he never let me falter in my faith that the Lord was working in my body. 

    We all need a Dennis when we are struggling. We need someone to come alongside to selflessly serve us and build up our faith. I am so grateful that God provided a servant husband for me years before I knew how much I would need him. My prayer today is that I can stand as a woman of selfless faith and meet the needs of others.

Jesus: the perfect example of selfless faith

“I see a generation rising up to take their place, with selfless faith!”

    These are the lyrics to the song “Hosanna” by Hillsong, which we sing frequently in our church worship service. I confess that the term, “selfless faith” puzzled me for a bit and got me thinking...what does it mean to have selfless faith? The more I have thought about it, the more I have come to love it.

    Philippians 2:3-8 says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

    Jesus is the perfect example of selfless, and He requires us to have the same attitude. He knew who He was, and He had faith in who He was. He didn’t doubt his position for a moment, yet He put His identity to the side for a while, and became a selfless servant. 

    So if we are supposed to have the same attitude as Christ, first that we recognize who we are in Him. Among other things, the Word tells us, “You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people...” I Peter 2:9. You see, we are called to be royalty, too. But that realization just means that we need to lay aside our own privileges, and humble ourselves as Jesus did.

    While He was on the earth, Jesus helped a friend save face at a wedding, caused his friends (twice) to catch a load of fish that was more than they could haul in, fed 5,000 men and their families on one occasion and 4,000 men and their families on another, calmed a storm that would likely have killed his friends, paid his friend’s taxes, cast out demons, healed countless people, and even raised three people from the dead!

    But I tell you what - He promised us that we will do even greater works than these if we BELIEVE ON HIM. (John 14:12.) What will it take to do even greater works than the amazing things that Jesus did on earth? Selfless faith. Jesus did not perform these miracles for His glory - in fact He repeatedly asked those He touched not to tell anyone. He knew who He was, but He laid it all down to serve. 

    In John 13 we read the account of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples just before he was to be arrested and crucified. I don’t know about you, but I think I might’ve spent my last moments before my murder a bit differently, but Jesus isn’t like me. Verse 3 says that He knew who He was, that He came from God and He would return to God. So knowing that, what did He do? He laid it aside once more, and “He loved [His own] until the end.” (Verse 1) He loved them by washing their feet, but it was more than that. He loved them by setting the example that they were to follow - the example of selfless faith. This example is for us as well.

May we be like Jesus and lay aside out royal identity, take up an unshakeable faith, and become selfless servants.