Do your loved ones know how much they matter?

I usually avoid a lot of current events when I’m putting a devotional together in the mornings before work. Mostly, news I hear about is so depressing it’s just not worth bringing up, but something happened this week that I just couldn’t stop thinking about.

Robin Williams died.

I know of many actors who have passed away. Many comedians who graced the stage and made people laugh, dramatists who made people cry, artists who brought the fantastic to life. But I really think this is the first time an actor who I really liked has died–not of old age, not of natural causes, but apparently by taking his own life.

I can’t even tell you how many Robin Williams movies I’ve seen. I own lots of them. The man just made me laugh. And it’s heartbreaking to think that someone who brought so many people so much joy couldn’t find enough meaning in his own life to keep living it.

Today’s verses are Matthew 5:14-16.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

I know it’s probably understood. I know it’s probably something that everyone has already thought of. But when was the last time you went out of your way to tell someone important to you what they mean to you?

I’m not talking about strangers on the street. I’m talking about people in your family. People in your home. People you go to church with. People you live life with.

Do they know what you feel?

Don’t just assume they know. Obviously, I can’t speak for Robin Williams or for anyone else who has taken his or her life. But I can speak from experience when it comes to feeling alone and isolated, like I can’t do anything right, like I’ve failed. I know what depression feels like.

And when somebody is so deep in depression that they would consider taking their own life, they need to know they matter. It’s not just love. It’s not just respect. It’s purpose.

We can have all the love and respect and success in the world, but it won’t give us purpose. God is the only one who can accomplish that. Sometimes God communicates purpose through Scripture. Sometimes He does it through the Holy Spirit. Other times, He does it through His children–us–who are called to love others.

So how are we doing on that one? Not with strangers on the street even. I mean in our own families.

Do you think someone you love is depressed? Do you suspect someone you care about is on the edge? Don’t assume they know how you feel.

When you’ve convinced yourself that you’re alone and isolated, you don’t know anything for sure. When you’ve talked yourself into believing that you can’t do anything right, a pat on the back isn’t enough.

Maybe you think it’s overkill. Maybe you don’t think they need it.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather annoy them than take the chance that they convince themselves the world would be better off without them.

It’s their choice. That decision is up to them. It’s between them and God, just like the condition of their heart is between them and God. But don’t leave it like that. Don’t just leave them alone to sort things out by themselves. People lost in depression think they want to be alone, but they don’t really. They don’t really know what they want.

It’s my experience that people lost in depression just need to know that they matter. And they need to hear more than just words. They need to remember that they’ve made a difference, and they need to see that the world really is a brighter place because they’re in it.

And I don’t know how to accomplish that. I think it’s different for every person. But it has to start somewhere. It has to start with someone. And it might as well be us, Christ-followers.

God didn’t give us His Light so we could use it to beat people up. He gave it to us so we could push back the darkness and the lies of our enemy and help the world see how much God treasures us and what God gave up so that we could have a purpose.

Wherever you go, wherever you are, whatever you do, keep your eyes open and recognize that our broken world is full of broken, hurting people who just need to know they aren’t alone. And remember that without Christ, we’d be right there with them.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

Loving the differences in other people

Stop what you’re doing right now. Think about someone you know who you don’t understand. Not someone you get who does strange things. I mean someone who you genuinely don’t grasp the way his or her mind works.

We all have these people in our lives, and they come in all shapes and sizes. They’re in every kind of relationship. Close. Not-so-close. Distant. And they’re just puzzling. You scratch your head at them because no matter how you try, you just can’t figure them out.

But just because you don’t understand them doesn’t make them wrong. Have you ever thought about it that way? Sure it’s tempting to just write them off, but that’s not fair–to them or to you. Because if you write off someone with a different life perspective just because you don’t understand them, you’re missing the opportunity to see the world in a different way. And you never know. Maybe his or her different view of God can help you resolve the questions you didn’t even know you had.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

Combine harvesting across the street from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Todays verses are 1 Corinthians 12:14-18.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.

We are all different. All of us. Every one. Not a single person is the same. Find two people who think the same, talk the same, finish each other’s sentences (or sandwiches, if you’ve seen Frozen), and you can still put their brains side by side and their thought processes will be entirely different.

That’s the beauty and the brilliance and the sheer uniqueness of God’s creation.  We are all designed to fulfill different roles. We are meant to do different things, and if we start envying the roles of other people, we lose sight of what makes us unique.

Me with my amazing, beautiful sisters--Jessica Hoover, Kristina Buller, and Katie Morford

Me with my amazing, beautiful sisters–Jessica Hoover, Kristina Buller, and Katie Morford

I thought I’d add this photo in for a laugh. These are my sisters. Not by blood but by choice. The four of us are really odd, and for being so completely different from each other, we have a lot in common. We embrace what makes us different from each other. Where one of us is weak, someone else is strong.

That’s the key. Embracing what makes us different. So you’re good at speaking? Awesome. I’m not, and I’m fine with not being good at speaking. But I’m great at putting words together on a page so you can read them to a room full of people. We can help each other. We can work together to accomplish something awesome for God. Instead of focusing on how our differences separate us, maybe we should focus on how we can use our different talents to bring glory to the One who created us.

But it’s not easy. If you’ve ever tried to understand someone  else who is wired completely differently than you are, you know it’s not easy. And that’s why I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the chapter in the Bible about embracing our differences is followed directly by the chapter about how to love each other.

1 Corinthians 13 is called the Love Chapter. Sounds like a cheesy romance book, I know, but bear with me. 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible, and it’s all about the kind of love that only comes from God. It’s the kind of love Christians are to have for each other.

We won’t make it without this kind of love. Without this kind of love, the differences between people will drive them apart. Without this kind of love, a person can’t live. Not really.

So what does this mean for us today? Well, consider that friend of yours, the one you can’t understand. Instead of getting frustrated that they can’t see things from your perspective, try to see things from their perspective. Be kind. Be patient. Love like it says to love in 1 Corinthians 13, and not only will you learn something about that friend, you’ll probably learn something about yourself.

Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Why being perfect doesn’t matter to God

Does your brain ever grind to a screeching halt? Where it simply refuses to think one more useful thought? It’s like your mind hits a brick wall and the only thing it generates is an overwhelming desire to eat chocolate and watch Doctor Who. Maybe that’s just me. =)

I didn’t used to need to write anything down. I could keep track of everything in my head. Then I hit high school. Then I hit college. And after that? Well, everything changed. Let’s just say I realized yesterday that I’m going to have to start keeping track of everything I do in a notebook because my brain just can’t keep up.

Why? Because I missed something. I forgot something. I misplaced something important. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s going to be a huge pain in my backside.

There’s too much going on. I’m trying to simplify, and it’s helping. But kind of like cleaning your room, you’ve got to make a bigger mess before you can really start organizing, and I feel like that’s where my life is right now. And that can be really depressing if you think about it too long,

Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Psalm 94:17-19.

Unless the Lord had helped me,
    I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave.
I cried out, “I am slipping!”
    but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.
When doubts filled my mind,
    your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

Life is busy. Everyone is busy in some way or another. If you aren’t, I’d love to know your secret.

Being busy is good as long as it doesn’t take you away from the things that really matter in your life, like your relationship with God and your family. But no matter how hard you work, no matter how much of a perfectionist you are, you’re going to screw up.

You will. Don’t argue.

That’s not an excuse to underperform. And just because you know you aren’t perfect doesn’t justify not even trying. But I know I get so wrapped up in dotting every i and crossing every t that sometimes I don’t even want to take the risk that I’ll screw up. And that’s not how we’re called to live.

We aren’t called to hide in the shadows for fear that we’ll make a wrong move. We aren’t called to hunker down in our safe little bubbles and cover our heads so we make sure we never fail.

We are called to be warriors. Conquerors. More than conquerors, actually. And with God on our side, there’s nothing we can’t do. With God on our side, there’s no fall we can’t pick ourselves up from. That doesn’t mean we should plan to faceplant, but when we do, we shouldn’t let it throw us.

Like the Psalm says, God is there to help us. If not for Him, we all would have been destroyed years ago. God’s love is unfailing, which means that even when we don’t perform at our best, God loves us anyway.

God’s love isn’t dependent on our performance. Aren’t you glad for that? Can you imagine having to do a song and dance to keep God happy? I know some people live their lives that way, and I couldn’t do it.

We don’t have to pay God off. We don’t have to get straight A’s in school or make it through a month without a speeding ticket. We don’t have to keep perfect records or walk on eggshells. God’s unfailing love supports us no matter what. And we should take comfort from that.

If you’re in the same place today that I was yesterday, that should cheer you up. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to know all the details. I don’t have to get everything right. God loves me in spite of all that, and He is going to help me get through it.

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try my best. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t aim to do the best job I can do. But it does mean that on the days when I don’t get everything right, when I forget something, when I make a mistake–He isn’t going to drop me. He isn’t going to forget about me. He isn’t just going to walk away because I’m too much trouble.

When you have doubts, when you start making mistakes because life is too busy for your brain to keep up, remember who God is and remember what He’s promised you. His unfailing love will support you. No, it may not look like what you think it should, but since when did real love look exactly like you expected?

So stop being so hard on yourself. Do your best, but don’t beat yourself bloody for missing a step. God doesn’t hold it against you. So you shouldn’t hold it against you either.

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Loving without doing

Can you follow Christ and sit at the same time? And I don’t mean rest because many times Christ-followers will work themselves to death, and I firmly believe we should rest before we get to that point. But how closely related is action to our Christian walk?

Many times, I think people accept Christ because they want to avoid going to hell. And don’t get me wrong. That’s a great reason to accept Christ. But it’s not the only reason. Being able to spend eternity in heaven with God after we die is certainly a huge selling point of Christianity, but for me there are more important reasons that have to deal with our daily life. Eternity is the end reward. Do we even realize that following Christ offers awesome blessings every day?

But you won’t get the opportunity to be blessed if you sit back and do your own thing all the time.

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Blooming rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is 1 John 3:18.

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

Love is a human experience that shouldn’t be passive. I won’t say passive love isn’t real, but sometimes I wonder. If you love someone, you want to do things for them, you want to show them how much you love them. Maybe that’s just me.

I don’t need people to prove their love for me personally, but when it comes to expressing my love for other people, I love to serve. I love to help. I love to do things for them as evidence to them that I love them.

Even if you aren’t one of those crazy servant-hearted people who run themselves into the ground in the name of Christ, you still do things for people you love. You don’t just sit back and refuse to interact with people you love. You don’t sit back and watch them struggle without doing something to help. Even if all you can do is pray for them, you still do something.

If you tell someone you love them, are you willing to back it up with actions?

The difficulty comes when we realize just how difficult love can be. Love hurts. You always take a risk when you love, no matter what kind of love it is. if it’s friendship-love or family-love or romantic-love, it doesn’t matter. Love makes you vulnerable. Love opens the door to your heart and decorates it in bright neon signs, which makes it ever so much easier to find and break.

It’s so much easier to tell someone you love them and then invent a clever reason why you can’t help them when they ask. It’s so much easier to tell someone you love them and then keep yourself so busy you don’t have time to invest in their lives.

Love isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Because when you love as a Christ-follower, God’s love shows through you. And God’s love changes people. God’s love changes you inside, and it changes the people around you too.

The more you love like God loves, the more you start to see like Him. You see people like God sees them. You see the world like God sees it. And it’s really really hard to hate people when you’re looking at them through God’s love.

And how does this amount to blessings? Well, have you tried it?

I’m the most blessed person in the world. I really believe that. I try not to think about it too much because I’ll just turn into a crying wreck of sloppy gratitude and dumbstruck awe that God would give me so much to be thankful for. But years ago, I didn’t believe that. Years ago, I didn’t see the blessing. I just saw people and problems and the never-ending struggle to survive from day to day, but the more I’ve learned and the more I’ve gotten to know God, the more I understand what He’s done for me personally. And that alone is enough to help me see that I’m already blessed.

But more than already blessed, I’m already loved. God loves me so much, I can’t help but love other people too. Yeah, it’s messy and exhausting and emotionally draining at times, but what can compare to watching someone else experience God’s love through you?

Dove sitting on a power line at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Need to see God today?

Sometimes don’t you wish you could see God so you’d know what He’s up to? Not metaphorically. Actually. There are days when I really wish I could see Him leaving those footprints in the sand instead of merely coming on them after they’re made.

Some days God moves so slowly it’s all you can do to keep following. Other days, He moves so fast it’s all you can do to keep up. But even though you can see indications of what He’s been doing, we never actually get to see Him. And at this point in our lives, that’s probably a good thing because seeing Him in reality would kill us. Very few people in the Bible ever actually saw God.

But there’s something in us that yearns to see truth with our own eyes. I think it’s because our brains are so small and limited. Our world as we know it is limited to what we can experience, what our five senses can comprehend. If it can’t be experienced through taste, touch, smell, scent, or hearing, we tend to think it doesn’t exist. We think it’s not real.

And that’s the irony because the things that our senses can’t understand are more real than the ones that are. But that’s not much comfort for people who need to see God, who need to remember who He is.

Well, if that’s you today, look no farther than your inner circle.

Doves sitting on a power line at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Doves sitting on a power line at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 1 John 4:11-12.

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

Have you ever had someone encourage you when you were down? Have you ever had someone listen to you and let you blow off steam without getting anything in return? Have you ever had someone tell you they love you for no other reason than just to tell you?

You realize behavior like that isn’t always compulsory. Just because you are friends or family or Christians doesn’t mean that people will go the extra mile to show others how much you love them. But people filled with God’s love can’t help but share it with others.

Do you have friends like that in your life? I do.

Here’s the deal, friends. If you need to see God, look at the people in your life. Pay attention to what they’re doing for you. If the people in your life love you and sacrifice for you, what do you think could make another stubborn, selfish human being actually want to do that for another person?

That’s right. God’s love. God’s love for us overflows so that we have too much to handle and have to give it away. And if that’s not evidence of God in my life, I don’t know what else is.

On those days when I’m feeling down and all I want is to see God so I know that I’m going the right direction, inevitably someone comes across my path to encouragement–and they have no reason to.

So if that’s where you are today, hang around someone who loves God and see what happens. If you need to see God, watch people who love Him, and you’ll see undeniable proof of God through the love His people have for each other and for those around them.

True, Christians can be the meanest people on the planet, but I’m not talking about those kinds of Christians. If you’re friends with those kinds of Christians, sorry to be blunt, but you need to change your crowd. Fortunately, those kinds of Christians are usually pretty obvious. They won’t hang out with mere mortals anyway!

But if you’ve got a crowd of normal, average, broken people who need Jesus every moment of every day, I promise you’ll get to see God before your time with them is over. Just keep your eyes open.