Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

When Love Truly Wins

IMG_0247When Daniel Jones, editor of the New York Times “Modern Love” column was getting married, he and his wife discussed the possibility of digressing from the traditional wedding vows, to something more realistic.  Rather than a blind “I promise”, she thought  “I promise to try my best” might be more accurate…something on which they could honestly follow through.  Although they stuck with the traditional vows, twenty years later, Jones reaches this conclusion:  “Not once have I felt tempted to break them, only to think, Oops…but I promised not to… I’m more likely to say to myself, I wouldn’t want to hurt Cathi in that way…. Or, I don’t want to do that to us.”

He finishes with this:  “Here, in the real world of marital commitment, it turns out we’re less concerned about breaking rules than about breaking the heart of the one we love most.” *

What a wonderful picture of a life surrendered to Christ!  It’s not about keeping a long list of rules and judging ourselves and others by them. It’s not about attempting a perfection that could never be attained on our own.  Rather, our focus is to be on our love for God and for the people around us.  When the commitment to His holy love truly consumes us, anything less holds no allure.

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment in the law, His reply was a new commandment:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind….And …Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37, 39 (NIV)

But unconditional love can be complicated and messy.  And there’s that whole “commitment” thing to deal with.  What if I don’t feel like it anymore?  What if a better offer comes along? How much of my time and energy am I really expected to give?  Relationships can be so unpredictable! Instead, despite our Lord’s command, it’s too easy and much more comfortable for us to get out that clipboard and checklist, to track how we and the others around us measure up.

Paul instructed the early church in Galatia about such an issue.   As Jews converted to Christianity, they mistakenly thought they still had to follow the complicated Hebraic laws, and forced the converted Gentiles to do the same.  By doing so they were entirely missing the freedom for which Christ had died.  “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free,” Paul explained.  “Do not let yourselves be burdened again in a yoke of slavery.” Gal. 5:1 (NIV)  He goes on to explain it this way:   “The entire law is summed up in a single command:  Love your neighbor as yourself….So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”  Galatians 5:14, 16 (NIV)

It’s pretty simple.  Forget the list.  Live in freedom.  Follow the Spirit.  Love with abandon.  To do anything less would break the heart of the One we love most.

*Daniel Jones, excerpted from Love Illuminated, as published in Good Housekeeping, Feb. 2014, p. 168

Copyright 2015  Mary Egidio — permission is given to share, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Do You Have the Key?

My phone rang yesterday, and an unfamiliar number came up on the screen– but the voice on the other end was my daughter.  “Mom, are you at home?”

“Yes, what’s wrong? Where are you calling from?”

“The neighbors.  I locked myself out of the house. Do you still have my spare house key?” (There’s a reason for this question, I’ll tackle that later)

“I think so.”

“Good.  I’m locked out of the house.  And Logan is inside sleeping.”

I quickly grabbed every key hanging on our refrigerator and jumped in the car to head to my daughter’s house.  Fortunately, I’m on vacation from work this week, and she only lives a mile from my house.  No biggie, in comparison to much worse situations, but still concerning.  I delivered the key (now I know which one is hers), thanked her neighbor, and headed back home.

I can’t help but thinking that we live in a world where people get themselves into some difficult situations.  Some are more desperate and tragic than others, but difficult nonetheless.  I might have a key that would fit their situation.  A key that would point them to Jesus.  A kind word, a helping hand, a needed meal or clothing, something that’s just hanging around waiting to be used.  While I can’t possibly help every person with every problem, if I’m attuned to God’s voice, I can use some unique key, a God-given  gift or talent, my resources, my influence,  to help unlock them from their dilemma.   I’ve found the more I listen and obey God’s voice in these situations, the more He uses me.  And guess what?  I get the blessing in return.

Paul exhorts the church in Rome:  “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” Romans 12: 4-6a (NIV)  Further along in that section he mentions specific gifts, and then says — “if you’ve got it, use it!” (Egidio paraphrase)

Back to that key story . . . a couple years ago Lizz asked us if we had her spare Mustang key.  Hmmm. The one she hung on the ‘frig?  Hmmm.   Well. Dad was going through the keys on the ‘frig and said, “We don’t own a Ford anymore, why do we still have this key?”  And threw it away.  Ooops!  Sorry, baby.

See you later, I’m gonna go label the spare keys.  Got any you’re not using?

Copyright Mary Egidio 2012 — permission is granted to reproduce this devotional, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

The Art of Being Nice

My kids once had a bus driver named Mrs. Nice.  Really, I’m not making this up.  Of course, in our house, the jokes abounded:  “She’s a Nice lady.  Her kids are probably Nice kids.  When her husband proposed, he said, ‘You would be Nice if you married me.'”  Terribly original, I’m sure.

Dictionary.com defines nice as pleasing, agreeable, or delightful.(A nice visit)  Or amicably pleasant, kind (they are always nice to strangers).  We teach our grandson to be nice to the dog, which means to pet her softly and not pull on her ears or tail.  He’s still working on it.

Paul encourages the Ephesians to be nice, too.  He says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)  Sound impossible?  He goes on to urge them to “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children . . .” (5:1a)   That makes more sense.  We can only really be nice to each other when we allow the source of Love — God — to love through us.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I don’t feel like being nice.  Oh, I don’t think I could ever be downright nasty to someone.  I’m not that bad.  But always being as kind and patient as I should be, as God would be?  With certain people, in certain circumstances, I can be just plain —  well — not nice.  How about you?

It’s easy to make the excuse that I’m just tired, or busy, or distracted.  Sorry.  Didn’t mean to be unkind.  I’m so glad that my Heavenly Father is never too tired or busy or distracted to be nice to me.

So I’m still working on not pulling ears or tails, even a little bit.  Thankfully I have the best teacher in the Universe.

Copyright 2012 – Mary E. Egidio –  permission is granted to share this post, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Thanksgiving

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone at our house.  I think this one will go down in the books as one of the most unusual.  It was unusual because this year, both of my children are married, and their spouses were with us for dinner.  That was especially joyous, since their work schedules usually make it impossible for all of us be together at once. 

I generally insist on having Thanksgiving dinner around 1 pm.  This allows time to play games in the afternoon and eat turkey sandwiches later on. But the pie baking got delayed (my fault!), which caused the turkey roasting to be delayed (no, we don’t deep fry turkey at our house, thank you!).  We had to juggle oven times to get all the side-dishes properly cooked.  My new daughter-in-law shared her grandmother’s sweet potato casserole and macaroni & cheese recipes, but an error in the cookbook resulted in several phone calls and a longer-than-expected cooking time.  Of course, a fussy grandbaby only added to the general confusion.  Just as frustrations were beginning to build, in walked our son-in-law — off work earlier than expected and able to join us for dinner — a wonderful surprise.  The meal was hours later than intended, but as I looked around the table  at my family I realized all these delays were for a good reason. 

Yes, the turkey was tender, the gravy was tasty, the stuffing — which included sausage — was interesting, the sweet potato casserole and macaroni &  cheese were yummy.  The pie crust was appropriatly flaky.  But as long as we were all together, it wouldn’t have mattered if we were eating pizza or peanut butter sandwiches.

I know all too well that even on Thanksgiving, many families deal with issues far more serious than an ill-timed dinner.  Past hurts, broken relationships, missing family members, health and economic problems can all combine to create deep sadness, or explosive interactions.  Others face the holiday alone, hoping for the generosity of strangers to fill the void.

I don’t know what future Thanksgiving dinners will be like at our house.  It may be a while before all of our feet are under the same table together.  At some point, I’ll no longer be the kitchen manager, but hopefully I’ll still be able to put together a decent pumpkin pie.  No matter the circumstances, I hope I can always find a reason to be thankful, and rejoice in God’s blessings of family and love.

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what he has done.  sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts.”  Psalm 105: 1-2 (NIV)

Copyright 2011 Mary E. Egidio

A Second Look

Okay, I have to admit it.  I cheated on my driver’s license test last month.  There.  Now I feel much better.  Except I hope my friend the police officer isn’t reading this.

Actually, I cheated on the eye exam.  You see, when I put my eyes up to the machine, I was instructed to read the letters on the third line.  I saw three rectangles in a row, but  the first rectangle was empty!  I could see letters only in rectangles two and three.  Never fear, I knew exactly what to do (this is where the cheating comes in).  I closed my right eye, and letters magically appeared in rectangle number one.  After I read those letters aloud, I simply opened my right eye and closed my left, and read the rest of the letters.  In the busy DMV office, no one even noticed.

Fact is, I’m able to see pretty well out of both eyes, just not at the same time!  (see Body Parts) Friends who know this about me get a little nervous when I’m driving, since depth perception isn’t my strong suit, but hey, I’ve got a great driving record.  If you don’t count that red light in April … but I digress.

A man in the Bible was having some trouble with his vision, too.  He was a servant of the prophet Elisha.  One morning this guy woke up to discover the hills were alive – but not with the sound of music!  Instead, an army with horses and chariots, sent to eliminate his boss, surrounded the city.  He ran off to deliver the bad news, but soon learned he needed to take a second look:

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (Our friend had to be thinking –‘So, exactly how many imaginary friends do you have?’)

And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”  Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”  2 Kings 6:16-17 (NIV)

When he took a second look, with a different pair of eyes, he discovered the true picture.  Phfew!  What a relief.  God was in control.  Nothing to worry about here.

Like my eye test, and Elisha’s servant, sometimes I miss it on the first glance.  It’s too easy to focus on the circumstances and the problems, and forget to take a second look with God’s eternal view in mind.  When it seems like the odds are overwhelming, I have to remember the God who created the stars is on my side.  It’s a huge relief when I finally see the real picture and realize God is in control.

You may not see Him yet.  But, trust me, He’s there.  Look again.

Copyright 2011 — Mary E. Egidio  Permission is granted to share this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Dressed to Be Blessed

I have a ‘vacation shirt’.  It’s a black sleeveless polo that is as thin and soft as a well-worn hanky.  Most of the year, it lives quietly tucked away in my dresser drawer.  But my family knows I’m officially on vacation when they see Mom in that shirt.  It’s comfortable for hanging around the house or walking along the beach.

We all have certain clothes for various occasions.  They’re our church clothes, wedding attire, gardening grubbies, our favorite torn T-shirt for washing the car or the sports team sweats for watching the game.  We have that special outfit that we wear when we want to feel confident, professional, even powerful.  Don’t believe me?  Next time the President of the United States gives his State of the Union address, just count how many women in the audience are wearing a red suit!  Even the president’s tie choice is scrutinized that night.  Leaders understand the importance of dressing for success.

The prophet Isaiah had something to say about clothing, but he wasn’t talking about power suits:  “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness…” Isaiah 61:10 a (NIV- emphasis mine)

Righteousness is a word that appears in almost every book in the Bible.  It describes both the nature of God and His desire for His children.  The Lord is described as a righteous judge.  Jesus encourages us to “seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and everything else will fall into place.”  Matthew 6:33 (paraphrase  mine)

The thought of trying to achieve that righteousness in our own power is overwhelming.  But Jeremiah, when prophesying about the coming of the Messiah, proclaims, “This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness”  Jeremiah 23:6 b (NIV)

Not only is God the Righteous, Almighty, Eternal — but because of His love for us, He sent Jesus to become Our Righteousness.  He gives us — yes, clothes us, in that same righteousness.  It’s something we can’t earn or strive for or manipulate.  Whether in my sinfulness, or when I’m struggling to achieve religious perfection, He reaches out His hand, gently wraps me in His love, and whispers, “Here, I’ve got this.”  At that point, I have only to let go and surrender to Him, and  find myself arrayed in a “robe of righteousness.”    It is both freeing and humbling to realize it is nothing I have done, but only God’s love and mercy.

That’s some wardrobe!  It’s what the “well-blessed” folk are wearing these days.  How about you?

Copyright 2011 Mary Egidio — Permission is granted to share this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Hiding Behind the Bed

Our Chihuahua, Miss Cocoa, prefers to hide behind our bed (see Finding Refuge) during our many Florida thunderstorms.  We don’t mind it, since it gives her a sense of security and keeps her from panting desperately in our faces.  Lately, however, she’s developed a new habit.  If we’re not careful to block the entrance, she’ll sneak away to this favored hiding place in the morning, even in calm weather.  Since we’ve entered the summer thunderstorm season (we live in the nation’s thunderstorm capital), she tries to hide before we leave the house.  I think her rationale may be two-fold:  partly in anticipation of a possible storm, and partly because she doesn’t want to be confined to her kennel. Her actions, if I read my dog’s mind correctly(a scary thought) are based on fear  and just plain stubbornness.

Maybe I know what she’s thinking because I can relate.  One morning as I watched her heading for the bedroom, her tail tucked between her legs, I sighed to myself, “Some days we all wish we could hide behind the bed.”

Just like Miss Cocoa, sometimes it’s fear that makes me want to go hide for the day,  usually fear of something that may or may not actually happen.  With help from the enemy, my mind has anticipated a problem or conflict and grown it out of proportion.  Rather than face it head-on, I’d prefer to join the dog behind the bed for the day.  Thankfully, I’ve learned that most of what I fear and worry about is not nearly so terrible as I’d imagined.

Then again, sometimes I’m just plain stubborn.  (I know, it’s hard to imagine, but play along with me)  God wants me to do something, or stop doing something, and I’d really prefer to have my own way.  I want to do things on my terms,  without having to obey or cooperate with what is surely a better plan.  Someone hurt my feelings and I want to lick my wounds and stop playing the game.  I want to take control.  I’ll crawl behind the bed and come out when I’m good and ready, thank you very much. In case you were wondering, this is called SIN.   Come on, admit it, you’ve been there, too.

But here’s the thing.  As much as I’d like to, I can’t stay behind the bed.  Well, I could, but it wouldn’t be much of a life.  Besides, I don’t fit!   To live a victorious life, the life God intended for me, I have to experience the joy and the pain, the fear and the peace, and even an occasional storm.  And here’s the good news:

“The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”   Zephaniah 3: 17 (NIV)

Hey!  Come out from behind the bed!  God is singing over you.  You don’t want to miss it.

Copyright 2011 by Mary Egidio.  Permission is granted to share this work, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.