Good Gifts


We love, because He first loved us.

I John 4:19

For Valentine’s Day at work, I helped a group of kids make a present for their mom or dad. We used old decks of cards and made a book called, 52 Reasons I Love You. Each of the 52 cards had a reason on it. It was a difficult project and a number of kids didn’t finish. But for the ones that did, it turned out to be a great gift for someone special.

I made some also. I made one for my husband and one for each of my four children. It was good for me to do this, making these books, thinking of reasons why I love each and every one of them made me look at them intently and purposefully and record what I saw and what I loved about them.

Did you know that the Bible is the book God wrote to tell us why He loves us? He tells us to what extent He went through, will go through to shower us in love and how much it means to Him that we are His beloved.

It would take a lot more than 52 cards to spell that out for us.

So, why do we love Him? This verse tells us we love because He first loved us. But I wondered while making these books, how many reasons I could come up with for why I love God. And wouldn’t it be a good exercise to start that list? To put me in remembrance of all that God means to me, all that He has done for me, all that I believe He has in store for me. Even if I could, there probably would not be any reason any greater than that He first loved me. He loves me.

I think that healing in whatever form in our lives need healing begins when that thought really sinks down into our heart. When we know that we are loved, completely, unconditionally, never-endingly and when we come to trust in that love especially when we feel totally unlovable. Maybe my next project will be a book called “______ Ways God has shown His love to me”.  How about you, do you have reasons that could go in that book?

Heavenly Father, to think that You love me is mind-boggling. Sometimes it is just so much more than I can comprehend and sometimes, I don’t even think about it. How awful is that? Please forgive me, for taking Your love lightly, for dismissing it at times when I feel unlovable, for choosing to feel unworthy of such love when You paid such a tremendous price to declare me worthy. Thank You for seeing me in my sin and in all my unlovableness and loving me anyway. Help me to let that truth truly sink down into my heart and help me to spread that truth to people who need to hear it, I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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“I have called you by name, from the very beginning.

You are mine and I am yours.

You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.

I have molded you together in your mother’s womb.

I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace.

I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child.

I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step.

Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch.

I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst.

I will not hide my face from you.

You know me as you own as I know you as my own. 

You belong to me.

I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover and your spouse…even your child… wherever you are I will be.

Nothing will ever separate us.

We are one.”

I needed to hear this today. Probably yesterday and perhaps, again tomorrow. It is all too easy for me to forget just how much I am loved. What about you? Is it hard at times to see yourself as the object of God’s love? I found these words in Henri Nouwen’s book Life of The Beloved. He also wrote, “We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children and friends loved or wounded us.”

How would it change our day if we got up and allowed these words to sink into our heart?  We are known, warts and all, and loved anyway. We are watched over, every step of our day, every moment of our day. Accompanied by the God of the universe, who holds all things in His hands.  All of our need satisfied by Him, and never, never, never will he abandon us. Even if we look away from Him, He won’t look away from us.

It might mean that whatever the doctor said, whatever the bank statement said, whatever the symptoms said, or the voices in our head that would trash talk us, that God says differently. He says, I am with you. I am here for You. Whatever the future holds, whatever this day holds, you are not alone, we will face it together and I will care for you. You are my beloved.

I can scarce take it in. I am Your beloved. I don’t understand that kind of love but I want to be open to receive it. Help me to still the voices that would tell me otherwise so I can hear Your voice whisper to me of Your love. Help me to remember that You are with me, whatever comes my way, You are already there to care and provide for me. Thank You, Father. Amen.

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Payment Accepted


So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.”

Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God.

The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.

 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out.

Hebrews 10:19-22

Message Bible

Need healing? Need restoration? Need peace? Need something you can’t even put into words?

Feel like you can’t even approach God? You’ve been too distant – feel too unworthy – it’s been far too long since you even considered Him as a viable source for anything? Whatever the barrier that keeps you from God, He hasn’t placed it there. The only barrier was our sin, yours, mine, individual sins and collective sins, all of them, the sum total, the past ones, the present ones, the ones you haven’t even thought of yet. Those caused a barrier; but that barrier has come down. They came down when Jesus said, “it is finished”. The sacrifice made to  atone for our sins was made. God was pleased to call our debts paid in full and the barrier that separated us is no longer.

If we believe that, if we accept that, we can walk right up to God – without hesitation. We can take our needs, our concerns, our fears, our joys, our hopes (the ones that are alive and even those that have died) and we can confidently know that we are, as this verse says, presentable – inside and out. We don’t have to clean ourselves up first, we don’t have to dress up or act proper, we just come, as we are, and know that it was God’s desire to have the barrier of our sin removed so that we could come. He paid an incredible price for it. The only thing to be done now is accept that fact and walk right up to God.

The payment has been made; my debt is wiped away. What an amazing gift! I come to You, confident that I am presentable, inside and out, and ask for wisdom. I feel somewhat divided today. Does what I do honor You? Does it please You? I want, I need to know that what I do with my life is Your will and not mine. Would You show me, lead me, help me settle in my heart just what You would have of me? I ask in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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Really Jesus?! Children?!


The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.

Mark 10:14-15

Jesus was constantly surprising people by His word and His actions, even His disciples who had been with Him for some time. He refused to condemn the woman caught in adultery, He dined with tax collectors, He touched lepers, He healed all, He fed thousands with a handful of food, He walked on water, He taught with such authority that people scratched their heads in amazement, He claimed to be the Son of God. And here, He has the audacity to tell His disciples that children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Who but Jesus would elevate children to such a place?

Jews at that time would have been taught that the kingdom of God is something you earn your way into and how could a child do that? By their standards, most adults couldn’t do it.   The disciples attempted to shoo the children away,  thinking Jesus apparently had more important things to do. Once again, Jesus surprised the crowds, the Pharisees and the disciples by showing them what He considered worthy of His attention and His kingdom – children.

This is a beautiful story of Jesus welcoming all of us who can’t earn our way in to be able to freely enter the Kingdom of God. The kingdom prepared and planned by God, planned and prepared for us. A kingdom where Jesus is Lord over all. I don’t know what that kingdom will look like, but I suspect that if Jesus is Lord it might look a lot like all of these things He did on earth that surprised people. Loving the least of people, healing the all and the many, dining with the ones society might call unworthy, refusing to condemn those we would gladly point a finger at, opening His arms and His heart to children. Welcoming people like me and people like you and laying His hand on our head to bless us. Wow! I can’t even begin to imagine the healing that flows from His hand when He lays it on my head. Can you?

What a beautiful story this is Jesus of Your love for us all, for me. To be welcomed into Your arms, knowing full well I can do nothing to deserve such a love or embrace and yet…  Words fail me now, I am so touched by the thought of Your kingdom and Your hand of blessing on my head. Thank You. Amen.


Worth Loving?



“You need to love him”.  Those words, spoken by the Holy Spirit, woke me in the middle of the night.  I looked around, who is the he I need to love?  I realized He meant my husband, (now ex) Donny, asleep or should I say passed out next to me.  My response was immediate “I can’t love him, You see how he is”.  And with that I went back to sleep.

The next night, I was awakened by the same words, “You need to love him”.  I still didn’t have to think very long for my answer, “I can’t love him, You see how he is, he is so mean to me”.  And again, I went back to sleep.

This continued night after night and night after night, I added to the list of reasons why I couldn’t love my husband. It got harder and harder to come up with reasons and I found myself during the daytime thinking of more reasons.  It was getting old to me and every night I thought I had made my case and this would be the night the Holy Spirit didn’t wake me with the now familiar words, “you need to love him. But every night, He did.

One night out of frustration, when He spoke those words, I presented my whole list:

You see how he is, he’s mean to me, he’s seldom home, he’s almost always drunk, he doesn’t help out with anything, he’s unfaithful, he neglects me, he neglects his kids, he’s abusive, he abandons us for months every winter, he’s always at the bar.  I ended my list with, “no, I can’t love him because in my opinion, he’s not worth loving”.  I went to sleep satisfied that I had settled the issue.

The next night, I didn’t hear the words I had come to dread.  Instead I heard these words spoken in a very soft and imploring tone, “But, you weren’t worth loving either”.

Wow! I felt like Eve in the garden of Eden, naked, exposed, ashamed and desperately in need of somewhere to hide. 

I wanted to crawl under my bed and dig a hole through the carpet and the floor and keep digging until there was no chance of being seen. 

I was so ashamed.

When I realized there was no place to hide and no need to hide (He’d already seen my gross sin), I asked for forgiveness and the grace to begin loving my husband.

I’d like to say that as a result of that encounter, I was able to love him well enough that he responded to my love and responded to God’s love and changed his ways and we lived happily ever after.  But that’s not what happened; we were divorced three years later.

What did happen was a paradigm shift in my thinking. I had been raised to believe that love was conditional – conditional upon my being good as defined by … whomever.  I never was good enough and never felt worthy of being loved.

What I learned is that I’m not worthy of love, no one is really. 

We are loved simply because God decided to love us. Love is a choice, not a feeling. 

God’s love for me, for you, is not based on our worthiness, it’s not based on our good behavior or lovable actions. 

It is based on His character and His decision to love us – regardless. 

Isn’t that good news?

Good King, Bad King

I read the Bible for the first time in 1983. I was a brand new Christian and wanted to see what God had to say for Himself. I started at Genesis and read through to Revelation. It took about 3 months. When I closed the book I lay my head down and cried.

I grew up in a Presbyterian Church.  We went on Sunday mornings and almost every other time the doors were open.  I remember a lot of things but I don’t remember learning anything about God.  I am sure He was mentioned but I’m just saying, for me, church wasn’t where I discovered God.   I did, however, have an opinion of God. I envisioned Him with a large blackboard where with white chalk, He made tally marks of each of my sins.  Probably yours too, but in all honesty, I was way too self-absorbed to be concerned about your sins.  Mine scared me.  Terrified is a better word.  I lived in tremendous fear of His judgment.  I had no idea what His judgment would be like and I had no idea if it would be brought on by the sum total of my sins or one big, bad one that would tip the scale. Only that it was imminent.

I also had no idea of what sin actually was. I had enough knowledge of the Ten Commandments to know that I wasn’t supposed to steal, or murder or commit adultery and I wasn’t doing those things. But still I felt those tally marks being made and I had no idea how to stop them from being made or how to erase them. I lived with condemnation and fear that was crippling.

But then I read the Bible.

It was the kings of Judah and Israel that helped me see God.

And myself.

Reading through I and II Kings was an emotional roller coaster ride for me.

These books record the history of the reign of kings over the Israelites.

Some were good and some were exceedingly bad.

A chapter might begin something like this:

“Now Ahaziah was twenty -two years old when he became king…and he did evil in the sight of the Lord”  II Kings 8:26-27 .  

And I would cringe.

And then a new king would come to power and it would read like this:

“Then Jehoash became king and …. he did right in the sight of the Lord all his days”  II Kings12: 1-2.  

And I could breathe again.

But then the next king would come to power and it would read like this:

“Jehoahaz …became king and… he did evil in the sight of the Lord”   II Kings 13:1-2 

And I would fear for them.

This continued for chapters and chapters and years and years and years of their history.

And I couldn’t take it.

I just knew the tally marks were winning and they were doomed.

Like me.

Each time an evil king came on the scene I would want to scream at them the way I might do watching thriller movie when someone is in danger and doesn’t see it.

I wanted them to stop their sinning; I wanted to believe it was possible.

For them; for me.

I didn’t want to see what God would do to them because whatever God would do to them wouldn’t He surely do the same to me when my tally marks exceeded His limits?

What God did do surprised me.

He allowed consequences for their sin; sin always has consequences but His heart for them was always merciful, compassionate.

He stood with open arms to welcome them back.

To forgive them, to wipe away the tally marks.

Listen to His heart in this passage from Isaiah:

“For the mountains may be removed

and the hills may shake,

but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,

and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,”

says the Lord who has compassion on you”

Isaiah 54:10

God isn’t watching over me to keep track of my sins; He is watching over me to find ways to tell me once again just how much He loves me.

Is it any wonder I cried?


Born To Be Loved

I worked at a Boys and Girls Club and got to visit with some pretty amazing kids. One day the subject was puppies and I happened to have a litter of puppies at home that we were all enjoying watching grow up.  The kids were very excited to learn about them and see pictures and after a bit one child started connecting the dots and asked, “So, you mean you let your dog have puppies just so you can sell them?”

Well, when put that way it did sound rather crass.  We did have puppies to sell them, but we saw it as a wonderful experience and meeting the people who adopted our puppies was a memorable time for us and it was a great life experience for our son who is homeschooled.  But, ok, the bottom line was that if it didn’t make us money, we wouldn’t be doing it.  So I tried to cover my shame as best I could and fess up, “Yes, that’s why we let them have puppies”.

“Oh” she replied, “I would let them have puppies just so I could tell them that I love them”.

All I could think of was, yeah, that’s a great reason too.

But later, as I thought this over, I realized that this is why we were born.  I mean there could be other reasons, but what if the only reason God created man and placed us in such a beautiful creation and went to such great extents to get our attention, to provide for us, to reveal Himself to us, to consistently be there for us, what if the bottom line is just this – we were born just so that God could tell us that He loves us and all the things He has done since are because of that love.

Isn’t it hard to imagine that kind of love?  And if that wasn’t enough, He also sent His son Jesus, to take our place of condemnation so we could be free of it; to take our pain and sufferings so that we could be healed of them as well?  What kind of love is that?

Thank You God for loving me.  For truly loving me and for going to such great lengths to prove that love to me.  Thank You for providing for my freedom from sin and sickness and pain.  Help me to grasp just how deep and how wide is Your love for me and then help me to share it with others who need You.  Amen.