By Robin J. Steinweg –
Picture eight to twelve beginning guitar students seated in a circle. I’m teaching my very first group class. They try to tune their instruments all at once. Feeding time at the zoo produces no greater cacophony.
Obviously, this doesn’t work. Their ears aren’t developed enough to tell whether they have a string on pitch or not. Mine is. So I decide to tune each guitar myself. I set my instrument to perfect A440 (the industry standard of 440 vibrations per second for the A above Middle C). I grab the guitar to my left and get it exactly like mine. The next guitar is adjusted to the one I just finished, and so on, until they’re all completed. I have the students play a G chord together. Yikes! It sounds terrible. As careful as I’ve been, they’re still not in tune with each other. What happened? I keep working at it. This one’s right on with that. Now that one’s good with the previous one. I have them play a chord again. Nasty. Finally I figure I’ll use my own guitar as the master. It works! When aligned with the one, all of them are in perfect harmony.
Isn’t it like our God to build spiritual truths into the very physics of the earth? A hundred instruments tuned to each other will not be in accord. But a hundred instruments in unison with one instrument will match up perfectly with each other.
In the same way, God’s children, hearts duplicating those around them, will be in discord. But if our hearts are attuned to the A440 of God’s Spirit, we’ll be in flawless harmony with one another.
PRAYER: Lord, You are the perfect Master I want to be in tune with. Don’t let me conform to others, but let me be transformed by the renewing of my mind—by reading Your Word and spending time in Your presence.
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV).
By Candace McQuain –
Take a lesson from a dog. Yes, a dog.
For anyone who has ever owned one, you know exactly what I mean. Dogs love their owners unconditionally. Dogs love their owners no matter what. They never get angry, hold resentment or turn their back on the ones they love. They only have one behavioral mode when it comes to their owners and that is to love them unconditionally.
Now when it comes to chewing up your favorite pair of shoes or messing in the house, well that’s a whole other story.
Just as with His canine creation, God has equipped His children to have that same capability to love unconditionally. He has pre-programmed our hearts with this ability and has provided very clear instruction on how to use it. Romans 12 (NIV) is sprinkled with powerful messages of unconditional love. Verse 10 states, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Verse 16 says, “Live in harmony with one another.” Then there is Ephesians 4:31-33 (NIV), which brings it all home, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (emphasis mine). I wish I had known these incredibly relevant pieces of Scripture the many times I spoke out of anger, held harsh grudges and judged people as if I were God himself.
Why do we do this to others and ourselves?
Pride can make it very difficult to admit when we are wrong or apologize without a “but.” For me, when I apologized with a “but,” what I was saying was, “Yes I’m sorry and I love you, but I had good reason for doing what I did.” The truth is, there is never a good reason to hurt anyone. Sincerely apologizing and asking for forgiveness will not only heal a wound you didn’t think was healable but it is what God expects from us.
On the flip side, maybe the area you struggle with is forgiving others. Sometimes we find it’s just easier to hold on to the resentment. If we forgive, we give up the right to retaliate and our weary heart could be exposed to more hurt.
Thank goodness our God does not think along these lines and that when we go to Him for forgiveness and love, we get it, and it doesn’t come with a “but.” Letting go of resentment and opening our hearts should not be a hindrance, but God-given relief.
Through God we have the power to transform relationships, and forgiveness is at the core of that transformation, and that my friend, is love that is clearly unconditional. I believe good ole’ Rover would agree.
By Carin LeRoy –
One afternoon the doting father of a new piano student walked in to observe his daughter’s piano lesson. Since I inherited her from another teacher, I asked her to play a few songs to assess her skills. Along with missing several notes, she also lacked counting and rhythm skills. To get a better grasp of the fundamentals, I asked the father if he’d let me put her into a different book for review.
“But she does very well, and she’s learned every song in that book. I’m not sure we should do that,” he said. “Do you really think that’s necessary? I’m just sure she will blow right through the other book.”
I had my doubts.
Our discussion went on for several minutes as he showed full confidence in his daughter’s knowledge and abilities. He questioned why I felt she needed review. The love and pride he had for his daughter and his belief in her talent was evident as we carried on our conversation. Reluctantly he agreed that we could go back and review.
As I began to think about how much that father loved his little girl and the confidence he had in her skill, I was reminded of how our view of truth can sometimes be flawed. Our perspective can be different from reality, and our love and lack of understanding can skew truth. I am thankful that we have a Father in heaven that never lets His love for us get in the way of what He knows we need. As He desires change in our lives and growth in our spiritual walk, He purposes to help us learn those lessons—even if we perceive it as unnecessary or painful at the time. As we gain understanding of what He teaches, we will emerge as stronger, more confident and mature Christians that He can use to impact others.
Let’s be thankful today that we have a wonderful and wise Father who knows exactly what is needed in our lives.
PRAYER: Thank You, Lord, that You are my Father and I am Your child. The truth of what is needed in my life to grow and mature is never skewed by Your love for me. Thank You that You have full understanding to teach me. Help me to learn all that You desire for me.
“Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Psalm 25:4, 5 NIV).
By Cheri Cowell –
I was amazed the other day to discover young girls still use lemon juice in their hair during the summer. My teen girlfriends and I put lemon juice in our hair before heading to the beach. While out all day in the sun, the lemon juice would bleach our hair in streaks—a cheap highlighting job. If we returned to the beach day after day, those streaks would turn almost white. I remember one time, however, we tried this when spending a day at a friend’s pool. Some of you may be laughing right now because you know what happened. That’s right, our hair turned green. The lemon juice produces a chemical reaction with the chlorine in a pool that turns hair green. And there is no way to fix this problem, except to bleach your hair. I still chuckle with that memory. God knows all about highlighting, bleaching, and the solution for color mistakes.
In God’s color wheel, sin is given the color red—blood red. Purity is white—snow white. Though our sins are blood red, God’s forgiveness, or His purity, bleaches that sin, making it as white as snow. How does this process work? We begin by highlighting them, and then submitting them to the rays of His Son. Often, you and I try to make this process “easy” by skipping the step of bringing our sins into the Sonlight. Instead, we try to hide them in the pool of self-help, self-analysis, or self-pity. But these don’t really work and instead of white as snow, we get green with envy. Our only hope is to turn to God’s bleach bottle and blot out our transgressions. His solution is the only one that works.
PRAYER: I praise You God for Your gift of forgiveness that comes through the blood of Your only Son. Forgive me when I choose self-help, self-analysis, or self-pity instead of the wonderful free gift of forgiveness—Son bleached sin.
“‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’” (Isaiah 1:18 NIV).
By Pam Kumpe –
When people annoy you, what’s your response?
During a late winter snow storm as I puttered to work in my car, this woman came racing past me in her SUV, splashing muddy water from the pothole onto my car. As she disappeared into the distance, did I lift her up in prayer? Or did I utter words I’ll not share?
What if I learned she was a single mother who had finished a ten hour shift, and she was rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her five children?
Would this change my response? Would I have prayed for her?
This same week I remember seeing a young man, pierced, tattooed, seemingly disinterested, standing in line in front of me in the grocery store. He couldn’t make change correctly or fast enough to suit me.
What if I discovered he was a worried 19-year-old college student balancing his fear of those final exams with a worry of not qualifying for his student loans the next semester?
Would this change my response when I watched him count his pennies?
A few years ago, a scary looking bum wearing a trench coat begged for money behind my car. He was in the same spot every day, and I wondered why he wasn’t applying for a real job.
Now what if I heard this bum’s father had died a horrible death, and this caused him to start using over the counter medicine to cover his pain, only for it to become an addiction? What if I heard his worst nightmares of being addicted to street drugs came with this journey?
Would this change my response? Would I have even considered praying for him?
What about those slow walking couples who shop together in the store? Ever got stuck with them? They block my attempts to rush in and out of the store.
Now what if I overheard one of those couples talking about the biopsy report the wife got back last week? What if they looked at each other with tears, and talked about how this will be the last year they go shopping together?
Would this piece of information change my response? Would it?
When I hurry past someone, without thinking of where, what or how he or she is dealing with life, I believe I miss why we’re here. Aren’t we designed for relationships, for caring and loving others, so why do we forget to do this?
My prayer is that God opens my heart, not to only those close to me, but to those who are struggling, to those on the corner, to those in the store, to those I’ll see today. Offering up a prayer is something I can do anytime, anywhere, even now.
I want to be slower in judging, and quicker to forgive, and I must ask God for the patience to see others with a heart of love and compassion.
As I think about this, I can only wonder what you thought about when I splashed mud on your car. Or how you reacted when I held up the line in the store? Or when I took too long shopping for the right cookies? Or when I took your parking spot?
But wait, if you knew more about me, knew my heart, my struggles, my dreams, and my hopes, would it change how you respond?
God says in II Chronicles 7:14 that if we, who are called by God’s name will humble ourselves, pray and seek His face, plus turn from our wicked ways, He will forgive our sins and bring healing our way.
So, when life splashes mud your way, try a new response: Seek God’s face, eat a cookie and pray. And don’t forget to enjoy the day because some day you’ll find yourself taking the final walk in the shopping aisle of life—and you might as well have fun along the way.