Posts Tagged ‘faith’

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.

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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.

Body Parts

I have a friend who insists that she was built on a Friday, after Quality Control had already left for the day. If that’s true, the right half of my body was built on a Thursday, but the left half on that same Friday. From head to toe, the left side of my body has, well, issues.  I like to joke that my left leg is twenty years older than my right leg.  My cardiologist recently told me the reason for a discrepancy on my EKG is that the left side of my heart is basically wired backwards. Doesn’t surprise me!

The human body was wonderfully designed by our Creator. It is so inter-connected that when my six-foot five son smashes his little finger at work, the rest of his body stays awake half the night in sympathy.

Paul reminds us that the community of believers is like a body — the body of Christ.  He explains the importance of every member doing his or her part:

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12-13 (NIV – emphasis mine)

Because my left eye does not function properly in conjunction with my right eye, I lack depth perception, which makes parking cars a challenge.  And even worse, 3-D movies just look blurry to me, even with the special glasses on!   Our unity, our maturity, the depth to which we understand Jesus, depend on all the body parts functioning together to their full purpose.  When the parts aren’t working properly, even one small part, we can miss out on the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

But here’s a scary thought:  I might be the reason someone else is missing out on this same level of maturity!

To perform to our full potential and to build up the rest of the body, I believe we need to understand the unique gifts, talents and abilities God has given us, then develop and use those strengths.  If we’re open, God will lead us to our perfect role.

As the commercial said, “parts is parts!”  Which part are you?

Copyright 2011 – Mary E. Egidio – Permission is granted to share this post, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes. (yes, you can share it, but please tell where you got it, and don’t sell it, please!)

Love’s Pure Light

In order to save my ceramic nativity set when my daughter was small, I crafted a play nativity set out of plastic canvas and yarn.  Elizabeth would spend hours rearranging the pieces and acting out the Christmas story.  I would laugh to myself when I would inevitably hear her say, “Hey Mary, can I hold your baby?”

I just couldn’t picture the work-roughened hands of a shepherd cuddling an infant, or a royal king stooping down to embrace a poor child in a manger.  It made perfect sense to her, however, that if these people were going to make a trip to see a baby, they wouldn’t want to leave without holding it.

She wasn’t really so far off.  When you see a young baby, it’s only natural to admire them and comment about how cute he or she is.  But if you actually pick up that baby, a whole other phenomenon takes place.  Somehow, holding that child, gazing into his or her eyes, connecting with that uniquely God-given personality — that baby just gets into your heart!  Perhaps the shepherds and wise men were drawn in the same way to embrace the infant of Bethlehem and experience the miracle of His love in their hearts that first Christmas.

As we make the journey to the stable in Bethlehem again this year, let’s not just gaze on the Child in the manger and turn away unchanged.  Let’s embrace the Child of Bethlehem — the pure light of God’s love — and let Him shine into our hearts and make us new.

Don’t leave without holding the baby.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

Copyright 1999 – Mary E. Egidio — (Originally published in “A Christmas to Remember — Advent Devotionals“) Permission is granted to share this post, but with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.

Are You Growing?

When my children were little, I would sometimes eye them suspiciously and ask, in a teasing voice, “Are you growing again?”  To which my daughter would often reply, “Mommy! I’m supposed to do that!” 

It seemed that my teen-age son would go to bed at night and wake up a few inches taller in the morning.  This actually didn’t stop until after his first year in college, when he reached 6 ft 5 inches.  As he rested his chin on my head, I announced that I was going to have a ‘growth spurt’ and would be as tall as he was soon.  Obviously, that didn’t happen.  The only growing I seem to do anymore is around my waistline.

In Paul’s letters to the New Testament churches, he encourages the new Christians to grow.  He tells the Colossians, “… we pray… that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good word, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.” Colossians 1:10-12 (NIV)

Growing in the knowledge of God.   It doesn’t matter how old I am, or how long I’ve been a Christian, I always seem to have something else to learn in the God department.  And as my pastor mentioned lately, most of that growing and learning has come during the most dark and difficult days of my life.  Those are the days that I’ve had to dig deeply into His Word and learn to trust in His truth.  In uncertain times, I’ve experienced the richness of fully surrendering my will and my life into His everlasting arms.  I can point back to those days and say that was a growing time.

Hard as it might seem some days, I want to continue growing in the knowledge of God.  After all, like my daughter said, I’m supposed to do that!

Copyright 2010  Mary E. Egidio   – Permission is granted to share this writing, but only with attribution, and not for commercial purposes.  (You can share this, but tell who wrote it, where you found it, and please don’t sell it)

Wiener Water Soup?

“I’m bringing your dinner in a little while, but go ahead and make something.”

It was Elenor on the phone, a dear woman who was part of our congregation in our first church.  Her own children and grandchildren lived far away, and her daughter was married to a pastor, so she felt a certain kinship for us, and we for her.

“If you need to go to the hospital in the middle of the night, just bring the baby over and she can sleep on my couch,” she offered when we first arrived.  She loved on our kids, and they affectionately called her and her husband ‘Nana and PapPap.’

My first encounter with Elenor was the Monday after our first Sunday.  The house was still piled with boxes, our three-month-old, who had been with her grandparents while we moved, had arrived on the scene.  I was back to balancing the needs of an infant and still trying to get settled in. It was late afternoon, and I hadn’t even thought about dinner.  Then the phone rang:

“I’ve got your dinner, but I’m not inviting you to eat here.”  It was Elenor.  “Bring some pots and pans, and come over. I’ve got your dinner.”

Okay…I thought.  I got directions to her house, and before I knew it, I was leaving with a pot of homemade ham and bean soup, slabs of cornbread, and a container of rice pudding.  I didn’t even think I liked ham and bean soup, but I graciously accepted the offer.

The food smelled so incredible and we were both so exhausted and hungry from the move and new experiences, we literally inhaled the soup, sopping up the bowls with the cornbread.  And the rice pudding?…. mmmm, heavenly.  So, this was Elenor.

We spent many a Sunday evening in her home, sharing sandwiches and ice cream with her and her husband.  Harold was a mechanic, and always made sure his pastor’s car was well cared-for.  Once she told us, “You have a standing invitation to dinner at our house. ”  Then she added, with a twinkle in her eye, “that way, if someone invites you out and you don’t want to go, you can say you’ve been invited to our house.”

So when Elenor called that day and said she had my dinner, but that I should go ahead and make something, I wasn’t sure what to expect — but one never did with Elenor.

Soon the doorbell rang, and in she came, with a small paper bag in her hand.  She greeted the kids and giggled as she set the bag on the dining room table.  “Here’s your dinner!”  She laughed.

She opened the bag and produced a canning jar, full of a murky-looking liquid, laughing again.  When she saw my quizzical look she explained.  “It’s wiener water soup!”

“It’s what?”

“Wiener water soup!  I heard about a pastor’s wife from another denomination.  The story went that they were so poor, that one night they would boil wieners for dinner, and the following night they would use that water to make soup… wiener water soup!”  She giggled again.  “So I made wieners last night, and decided to bring you the wiener water for soup!”

We laughed together, and soon she was out the door.  I shook my head and said to myself, “Only Elenor…”

To this day, I can’t make hot dogs without thinking of Elenor.  I feel bad for that pastor’s wife who had been so poor she’d had to eat ‘wiener water soup.’  Obviously, she’d never had an angel like Elenor to take care of her.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”  Philippians 4:19-20

A Well-Watered Garden

Like so many people these days, we are no strangers to corporate restructuring in our family.  My husband has survived several rounds of lay-offs at his current place of employment, but we never know what might happen next.  Last week, his department moved to a different floor of their building, following some new lay-offs.  Rumors were flying of even more to come.

When I went to pick him up on Friday after work, he was later than usual coming out.  I waited in the car, flipping through a magazine, struggling to keep from thinking the worst.  Finally he came out the door carrying a box, wearing a sheepish grin.  My heart sank for a moment.  I studied his eyes for a clue to his mood.

He opened the trunk lid and set the box inside.  Then it occurred to me.  “Please tell me that’s stuff that doesn’t fit in your new office.”   He laughed.  “Yeah, that’s stuff that doesn’t fit in my new office.”

We joke about it.  They refer to the company’s Human Resources person as the ‘angel of death.’  I won’t even tell you what he did to me on April Fools’ Day this year. (well, I will if you ask…)  But we know it could happen.  And we’ve seen it happen to far too many people these days.  And it’s not really funny.  We just laugh to keep from worrying too much.

We experienced it several years ago, only a few years after we’d moved to Florida.  Restructuring had eliminated his job. It was a difficult time in our lives.  We weren’t sure what the future was going to hold for us.  But a dear friend, who was facing a similar situation in her own life, gave me a mug with this Scripture on it:

“The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land, ….  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”  Isaiah 58:11 (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but when I read a promise in the Scripture, I take it personally.  Especially when it seemingly jumps out at me when I’m needing guidance and reassurance.  The words in this promise spoke to me, especially since we lived in ‘sun-scorched’ Florida.  I took them as a promise from God, a promise I held Him to (I’m kinda bold like that). They became words that helped me and my friend through the difficult days while waited for His will to be  revealed.

Like those days a few years ago, we don’t know what lies ahead.  None of us do, really. I just know that we have a God that will satisfy our needs.  It’s a promise.  I’m holding Him to it.