“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart,
this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God,
the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,
and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
As I do most mornings, I walked my dog and prayed for guidance for the coming day and for the words to write and share. As I was turning the last corner in my walk, I spied a cardboard sign on the ground. It had blown out of a trashcan during the storm last night. I read it’s message and smiled. There before me was today’s message!
No matter if you were for or against the woman’s march on Saturday, the message on the homemade sign that I assume someone carried in the march rings true. “Defending the marginalized among us is defending us all.” It reminded me of a passage in 1 John: “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:11).
How might you share God’s love in deed and in truth today? How can you help the downtrodden, the sick, the suffering today? How can you keep yourself unstained from the world and all if it’s shiny distractions? That is the true religion, for it is love. And that’s what God is—love (1 John 4:8). How can we all love more today?
“He must become greater; I must become less.”
“You’ve got to let go,” God whispered to me as I sat pondering a situation that felt overwhelming. “Don’t rely on your understanding. Lean on me. You have my Spirit inside of you. Nothing can harm that. All things are going to work out for the good,” God explained.
“It’s hard to trust that. You seem out of touch sometimes,” I confessed.
“It’s your ego that gets in the way of Me, in the way of love,” He reminded me. That’s why it’s important to have faith. Let Me become greater, while you become less and less. You’ll arrive at peace and serenity when you do that,” God promised
I thought of the emotional hooks the situation I was pondering contained. I was being pulled into negative thoughts and judgment, and away from God’s Spirit, away from His love. I was seeing the world through my eyes, not through God’s eyes.
“I’ll do my best to become less and for you to become more,” I promised.
“Good! You’ll find that life is much easier when you hand the reins over to me,” God said. I knew He meant it.
“The integrity of the upright guides them.”
Just as I got to my car after some much needed retail therapy, the heavens opened up. I pulled my umbrella out of my purse but it refused to open. I unloaded my cart as quickly as I could. When I got all of the items out of the basket, my heart sank. On the bottom rack of the cart was an item that had not been rung up. I knew I had to go back and pay for it, even if it meant getting soaked to the bone in the process.
I must have looked like a drowned rat by the time I got into the store. “This was overlooked on the bottom of my cart. I wouldn’t sleep tonight if I didn’t come back in and pay for it,” I said to the clerk as I wiped the rain from my face.
“Thank you! You have a good heart,” she said as she scanned the item.
I paid for the item and dashed back out to my car. I’m soaking wet because of you, Mom! I thought to myself. All of my life my mom has modeled honesty for me. It its her “fault” I had to walk through the rain to pay for the item. I got in, turned on the car and cranked up the heater. Thank you for the integrity you taught me. I turned on the windshield wipers and made my way home with a happy heart.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour
and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Life isn’t going the way you think it should. You’re overwhelmed. Tired. Frustrated. Nothing you do seems to solve your problems. You spiral down into self-pity and despair. You are angry with God. You’re weary.
Jesus was very specific in His instructions for when we are heaven laden with problems. He wants us to go to Him and give Him our burdens. In exchange, He will give us rest. When we stop trying to solve everything with our own logic or understanding, and we let God take over, we calm down. We don’t have to fight against anyone or anything, anymore.
You can give your burdens to Him right now. “Dear Jesus, I am tired. I can’t carry this any longer. I place it in your hands. I’ll let you carry it. Thank you.” Anytime you find yourself ruminating over a problem, stop, and give it God.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
My dog Shakespeare balked at jumping into the back seat of the car. I thought it odd, as he is usually excited to go places. Eventually, I convinced him to get in. Once we ran our errands and got home, he balked at walking up the stairs. Quickly, I connected the dots. He had hurt his back and was in pain. It’s happened before. I gently picked him up and carried him inside and put him in his dog bed.
I had major back surgery when I was 21. Most of my back is fused together. I can empathize with sweet Shakespeare’s pain, because years ago, I had pain too. It is easy to recognize someone’s pain if we’ve experienced something similar, but not so easy if we haven’t.
I’m learning to ask others, “What does that feel like?” when they tell me things I haven’t experienced, and I don’t have a reference point. We don’t have to fully understand someone’s pain to be helpful. All we have to do is to listen and to give someone our time and attention. Lending someone our ears, and our arms for a comforting hug is often the best medicine on the planet. In Shakespeare’s case, it’s a trip to the vet, rest, and lot’s of my attention—and some dog treats!