Tell me a story …

I am writing this post as part of the Christian Writers’ Blog-Chain. August’s theme is Memory. Please visit my friends’ excellent blogs, which are listed along the right side of this page. Thank you.

In this post, I will discuss two time-honored methods of passing memories, histories, and stories to others. The first is oral history. The second is written history. Both of these are gifts from God, in my opinion.

Do you remember *Roots, the television mini-series from the late 80′s? And the sequel, Roots: the Next Generations? Alex Haley knows the family stories of how Kunta Kinte, his ancestor, was captured in Africa as a young man trying to get wood to make a drum, and was taken to America where he was made a slave. Alex knows all the family stories since Kunta Kinte, but nothing before him. As Alex searches for the specific link between his family and Africa, he sits for hours in the Gambian village of Juffure listening to a tribal historian, or griot. Extremely fatigued and nearly asleep, Alex finally hears the story of a young man who went to cut wood to make a drum and disappeared. This is the story! It matches exactly! Alex rejoices and cries, “Kunta Kinte, I found you!” I absolutely love this part of the story.

Alex, being a writer, has already recorded the family history and now adds the newly-found African link. Until Alex, most, if not all, of the family history had been oral, passed from parent to child, grandparent to grandchild, elder to younger. Wonderful. And the Gambian tales, painstakingly memorized and rehearsed from generation to generation by the griots were detailed and accurate. Marvelous.

Did you know that many old cultures in the world have an oral tradition of a huge flood? Intriguing.

My Mom told me many wonderful stories of her youth. One person who really stood out in her childhood was her Uncle Charlie. He lived at a nearby farm and was well-known as a person who drove much too quickly. Yet, this was before automobiles were common.  You see, Uncle Charlie raced about on his horse wherever he went. The country road which separated the tobacco fields from the farmhouse was hilly and full of ruts. Mom remembers her Uncle galloping his horse which was pulling an old farm wagon along that road when the wagon wheels hit a bump. Uncle Charlie flew backwards into the wagon bed with only his feet sticking up while the horse continued its dash.

Another day, Uncle Charlie was driving past when he saw his brother’s house on fire. The whole family was out visiting, and no one else was around. The dutiful brother dashed to the house, entered, and looked around to see what he could do. He knew there was no phone in the house to call for help. The neighbors were too far away. The fire was spreading rapidly. There were no garden hoses with water pressure like we have today. There wasn’t even running water in this home, just a pump in the yard. There was no one to fill buckets so he could use them to douse the fire. He quickly realized this fire was too big to fight alone. So, Uncle Charlie decided to save some irreplaceable items. Maybe some photos or heirlooms. He frantically darted around. The fire was everywhere. Panic grew. Hurry! Hurry! He made his decision, and rushed from the house. Uncle Charlie had entered the burning home, and had heroically saved an ordinary feather pillow.

Written language has to be one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. Next to language itself, this extension of language, this ability to preserve thoughts and facts, is astounding. Through the ages some scribes have carved symbols into stone, others have etched in wet clay, while others have stained animal hides. The discovery of papyrus and then paper rendered the process of writing much easier. As a result, we have the stories, musings, opinions, and histories of people who lived hundreds and even thousands of years ago.

Unfortunately, it has not always been easy to protect ancient documents. The world has lost much through wars, fires, floods, and the slow decay of time. Even so, much has been preserved. Please see for a very interesting comparison of ancient manuscripts.

My favorite written documents are the 66 Books of the Bible. We have man’s early history, which may have been taken from the oral histories of Adam and Methuselah, which may have been passed on by Noah and Abraham along with their stories. Eventually, it was all probably recorded by Moses, much as Alex Haley did with his family tree in Roots. However this happened, it had to have been orchestrated and inspired by God. The Pentateuch, or Books of Moses, are too harmonious and profound to have been designed by man or to have been an accident.

We also have the writings of prophets and the chronicles of kings. We have the honest despair and triumphant praises of a man after God’s own heart, and the proverbs of the wisest man who ever lived. We have the foretelling and fulfilling of pivotal events; the most important of which are the extremely detailed prophecies and promises of the Messiah, who was to come and suffer for the sins of the world.

The New Testament books include the recorded history of God walking on earth as a man, Jesus Christ (the Messiah); profoundly beautiful letters to believers in Jesus; and a recorded Revelation about the return and coronation of Jesus.

There is nothing else like the Bible in the entire world. To fully appreciate that these are actually God’s musings, opinions, and accounts of history, is to be stunned and awed. What a breathtaking treasure!!!

The following verses are 2,000 years old. Just think about that! wow.

“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

“So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:19-20)

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

*Alex Haley was sued for plagiarism by Harold Courlander, the author of The African. Haley admitted the deed and settled with Courlander. The plagiarism did not include facts in Haley’s family tree.

Why do we sing?

This month’s theme for the Christian Writers’ Blog-Chain is Celebrate. 

Please see the dates and links on the right margin for my friends’ excellent blogs.  Thank you.

I have long been intrigued by the etymology or origin of words. And I am fascinated by the process of change made to a word by subsequent generations and their particular cultures.  Over time, a strong meaning may slowly fade into the background, while a newer usage moves to center stage. This is good to keep in mind while enjoying older literature. Archaic or lesser known meanings add new life, color, and nuance to an old text.  This is true with the word, celebrate, which originated in the 15th Century.

According to William Whitaker’s Words, the word, celebrate, comes from the Latin, celebratus; which means to perform, frequent, honor, glorify, publicize, advertise, discuss, or bandy. In short it denotes, to keep in mind. To preserve.  In Dickens, they used to “keep Christmas.” Yet, in current American English usage, the popular meaning of celebrate is to party, revel, enjoy, rejoice, have fun, and be merry. Do you see the difference?

I believe that celebrating once meant honoring or keeping some person, event, or belief paramount by taking part in a remembrance of some sort. I love this. I miss this. Yes, we ought to celebrate with fun, family, and especially joy. Yet, when the glory and the memory are lost in mere frivolities, the heart is saddened. (Commercialized Christmas is a good example of this.) At least one purpose for a celebration, then, is to insure that something precious is never lost, but is kept fresh, and is passed on to future generations.

So, when most Americans under 40 know very little about American history, or when many Christians understand very little about what Jesus said and what the Bible teaches, concern grows. Are we enthusiastically raising our voices, yet forgetting the reasons we can sing at all?

The Jewish people were given four festivals a year by which to remember God’s goodness to them and His holiness, yet, they kept falling into idol worship.

Jesus had a real problem with some religious people of His day. They kept the kosher laws, the temple etiquette, and even tithed a tenth of their herb gardens. They absolutely loved the best seats in the banquets, and the greetings in the marketplace; they were truly enjoying themselves. Yet, they had forgotten their God’s character. They were exhilarated with the outer observances, but had forgotten the inner reasons.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he reminded them not to use the Lord’s Supper as a time for selfishness and excess.  They were doing the right thing, communion, in the wrong way. Were they having fun? Sure seems like it. Some were getting drunk and feasting. Yet, they weren’t fulfilling the purpose of the celebration: to remember the Lord’s death until He returns.

So, should we lay aside delight and joy to recall God’s merciful kindness with somber faces and gray apparel? Not at all. What an oxymoron that would be! We have been truly blessed! What does a King have that we do not have? We are redeemed and are given many great and precious promises!  We are heirs and joint-heirs with Christ.  Joy and gladness must reign at our celebrations, but the reason for the joy must be an honored guest, as well.

Celebrations are lovely and necessary, refreshing and joyous. Yet, all is empty if the celebrants only remember the glitz and the fun. Most anyone can hold a party. Let’s freely give to our young that which is important in the remembrance. Let’s remind ourselves of history. Let’s rehearse God’s truths and His goodness to us.  This greatly helps us, and also pleases Him.

So, beloved, let us preserve the heart of the matter, as the heart of the matter.

When we remember God’s faithfulness and His promises in a celebration, joy and rejoicing are a natural result. No long, morbid faces or hearts, please. Yet, we do not have fun for fun’s sake. We are advertising, practicing, frequenting, and glorifying precious jewels of memory which are so dear to us, we never want to lose them.

Let us sing, but mostly, let us rejoice in why we do.

Psalm 103:2 “Bless the LORD, O my soul, And  forget none of His benefits;”

“Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me,” Isaiah 46:9

“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD  gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name.” Malachi 3:16

“… and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:24-26

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

“I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder,” 2 Peter 1:13

“So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it,” Revelation 3:3a

Jesus, are you hungry?

This month’s theme for the Christian Writers’ Blog-Chain is Pursuit. 

Please see the dates and links on the right margin for my friends’ blogs.  Thank you.

1 Corinthians 14:1 a “Pursue love, …”

1 Timothy 6:11 b “… and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.”

2 Timothy 2:22 b “… and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

What if we each embarked on a pursuit of love in Jesus Name to help the hurting?

The disheveled young man sat hunched on the hard and sharp landscaping rocks in the temporary shade of the building. His clothes were newish but dusty and a bit too large for him. His shaggy sun-bleached hair nearly covered his eyes. The scrubbed and happy family approached on the sidewalk. They were on their way to celebrate Father’s Day in the restaurant; a treat from a grown daughter.

The father of the family noticed the despondent human and immediately felt his heart lurch. “He looks tired and hot. Thirsty. Discouraged,” the man thought. To the younger man he said, “Hello, how are you?”

As the family passed by, the young man managed a soft, “Fine.”

Soon seated, the family began to settle down, survey the menus, and joke with the waitress. The air conditioning was working well, and the ice water was refreshing. All around them were happy families honoring their fathers. Yet, the young man sitting alone outside in the shrinking shade in the June heat would not leave this dad’s heart.

“Would you all mind if I took something to drink to that young man out there?” the dad asked. The family looked up, a little surprised. “Maybe ice water? A chilled water bottle? He might even be hungry. Maybe we could take him some food in a take-out container. We can put it on a separate ticket, and I’ll pay for it.”

Everyone was thinking, but one soon joined in. “Why don’t you go ask him if he wants anything, first.”

“If you come with me.”

So it was decided. The dad and one daughter excused themselves and made their way back into the glaring hot day. There he sat; the young man in his narrow strip of shade.

“Hello again.” the man began. “Are you hungry? And thirsty? Would you like something to eat and drink?”

“I’m hungry!” said the young man jumping to his feet and taking a few steps toward the restaurant with a huge smile on his face.

The young man had misunderstood. Apparently, he thought they were inviting him into the restaurant to eat with them. Awkward. Only a split second to decide what to do. Explain it to him? “No, you can’t come in. You must sit in the heat. We’ll bring your food to you in a styrofoam box.” No! That would never do!

Why not share their table? If they could feed him, surely they could give him respite from the heat. They could also offer hospitality and friendliness to someone who looked to be very alone. So, in they went, the three of them to join the others. The waiting family members were surprised and taken aback, at first, but soon genuine love and warmth flowed around the table and amongst the diners.

That was the beginning of a long but blessed day. The family and the young man spent the entire day together. In the end, the family helped him on his way home, but he enriched their lives, as well. They met a Christian brother who had fallen on very hard times. He had been homeless for several months by the time the family met him, and he had experienced some very desperate days and nights. Yet, his quiet, gentle, and well-mannered character was intact, and perhaps strengthened by hardship. He had no bitterness; there was no whining or complaining. Only a quiet strength and sweetness. Amazing.

Folks talk of “God appointments.” This, most assuredly, was one of them. It’s as if God took an unsuspecting, yet willing, group of Christians and together used them as one vessel to scoop His beloved child off the scorching summer streets and send that child back to his loved ones.

The dad shuddered to think, “What if we had ignored him and pushed away all our compassionate inclinations?” He had done that before. Many times. What had changed his heart? Jesus had. The Lord had brought this man to the point of desperation. Illness. No money to pay bills. Lawsuits. Repossessions. Possible loss of home. This man knew what it felt like to be penniless, and to be practically invisible in a society where worth is measured by outward appearance and bank account balance. He personally knew the pain, injustice, and absolute randomness of poverty.

This man also knew God’s word. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells His Disciples about a time when he “comes in His glory,” and “will sit on His glorious throne.” Jesus describes two exchanges between the King (himself) and others.

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;

36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’

37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?

38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?

39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘ Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;

42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;

43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’

44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’

45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

(Do these actions make the sheep righteous? I don’t believe so. I believe that, because the blessed sheep are already righteous, they care for the “least of these.” I believe their actions are the fruit of their salvation which is by grace. It is as if the King examines the fruit of their lives right in front of them to expose what is in their hearts.)

John 13:12-15 “So when He (Jesus) had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.’”

Romans 12:13 “… contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”

1 Corinthians 13:3 “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

1 Timothy 5:9-10 “A widow is to be put on the list only if … having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.”

Hebrews 13:1-3 “Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.”

James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

James 2:14-17 “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”

1 John 3:16-18 “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”

Starve the Pride, Feed the Humility

This month’s theme for the Christian Writers’ Blog-Chain is Nurture. 

Please see the dates and links on the right margin for my friends’ blogs.  Thank you.

A little child is relieved when Mama or Daddy says, “That’s okay, you’ll do better next time.” We all love a second chance, a fresh start, or a clean slate.  Every Christian has been forgiven of serious sins against our Almighty God. And we are so grateful, that our hearts swell with worship and love toward our Savior. What a blessed gift is this forgiveness! We are clean! We are free!

So, why is it so hard to forgive others when they trespass against us?

“But you don’t know what he did!” some cry.

“She can’t hurt me that way, and get away with it!” others vow.

It is very ironic that those of us who revel in the forgiveness of our Lord, still hold grudges against our brothers and sisters. Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 18:21-35.

Yet, I don’t want to dwell only on forgiveness, but on the flip side, repentance. Repentance is a lovely gift. It springs from the humility planted by the Holy Spirit as He works in our hearts.

Humans are so stubborn, that we often cling to our opinions and rights as if we were falling from a high cliff and those were our only handholds.  Yet, we are often in the wrong. We bruise someone’s heart, and insist they shouldn’t be so sensitive. We push our opinions, when someone just needs a listening ear. Often, we act as if everything is about us, when in reality it’s all about Jesus.

So, when we have been real jerks, have no doubt that others have noticed. Our spouses, siblings, children, co-workers, neighbors, associates, or friends are probably smarting from our harsh remarks, or are deeply wounded by our thoughtless actions. Since we are human, even when we do not intend to hurt anyone, we can still leave paths of devastation in our wakes.

“I’m sorry,” are just two little words, but they are, oh, so powerful.

“I think I hurt you, and I am so sorry,” delivered with sincerity, is very freeing.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you, but I see I did. I apologize.” Offered with the softness of humility, this is like cold water to a thirsty heart.

Have you ever been wronged and keenly felt the sting and injustice of it? Then, the person who did the deed came and humbly took responsibility and offered a heartfelt apology? Do you remember what that did for your heart? Granted, this does not always happen, and we should let go of the hurt even if we never receive an apology.  Yet, when it comes it is sweet, isn’t it? Well, we can do this for others. If we discover we have hurt someone, let them see us repent.

Sometimes, we are afraid that if we apologize or even back down, we will lose something: our status, our standing, our pride, our reputation. Yes, well, we may lose those. And that may be a good thing. Instead, we will develop characteristics of far greater value, like those of Jesus: love, kindness, gentleness, goodness, meekness, and temperance.

What do we protect, feed, and nurture? The stubborn pride of our sinful natures, or the wise humility of our new natures?

1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world nor the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

1 Peter 5:5 “… and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Proverbs 16:18-19 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

You’ve been here all along!!

This month’s theme for the Christian Writers’ Blog-Chain is Joy. 

Please see the dates and links on the right margin for my friends’ blogs.  Thank you.

The days were painfully long. The woman did not think she could endure many more of them. She felt heightened anxiety nearly every moment of each day. The only respite from this emotional turmoil was the hopelessness that often smothered her like a heavy quilt in July. At least when it descended, the fear abated for a short season. Yet, the nameless dread rushed back like air into a vacuum each time the bleakness gave way. It was one or the other. No peace. No rest. Death would be a welcome relief. Or so she thought betimes.

Yet, a light had begun to shine in her darkness. Initially, only a tiny ray of hope reached her. Then more hope and, here and there, bits of peace. She knew the source of these stirrings of relief. Jesus. She had cried out to Him constantly in her profound despair. Even though she had not been able to feel His touch or presence at this time in her life, she had screamed to Him in her heart; hoping beyond hope that He would, indeed, hear her cries and rescue her. For truly, despair is a death row where each inmate is chained alone in darkness, and no one is ever executed. Resolution is not the aim of the jailer; torture is. Into this darkness the light was dawning.

On a beautiful day, the lady went for a walk with her husband. She had been reading a devotion by Charles Spurgeon about how deep and unfathomable is the love of Christ; as unending as an ocean to a seabird skimming along the surface. She was dwelling on this thought, as she and her husband strolled down the desert path under the fair blue sky. Then it happened.

The day rolled back and reality, as she knew it, folded away. Still, the two of them walked hand in hand through the cacti and muhly grass. What was happening? The sky was above, the ground beneath, and husband beside. Nevertheless, actuality had pulled away the heavy blanket of normalcy. She was immediately enveloped by joy. It was strong, alive, crisp, and verdant. Joy filled the air, or rather, joy replaced the air, and she inhaled its purity.

At the very heart of this pulsing aliveness was Jesus. She could not see Him, but He was there! The joy emanating from Him washed, baptized, and filled everything with hope and love. She looked around with her new awareness of joy at the same scenery she had known for a decade, now bathed in peace.  How could she not have known this before?! How could she have existed all these years and not have waded in joy’s strong and generous current?

Oh, such joy! The lady reveled in it; her words eagerly tumbled out to her husband, “The grandest music doesn’t describe joy well enough! Words can’t define joy! Artists can’t create a painting lovely enough to show its colors, shades, and beauty! And just think! Joy lives just beyond the heavy shroud of this life; waiting for those of us who know and love Jesus!”

As her dark chains fell away and disintegrated, the lady said to her Lord, “You’ve been here all along!! Oh Lord, Jesus, thank you!”

The heavy blanket of pseudo-reality had been pealed back to reveal certainty itself. Himself. Though she knew that normalcy must eventually be laid back over her mind, emotions, and awareness, she also knew that despair could never again torture and crush her heart with fear and desolation. For she was tasting of heaven; Drinking deeply of eternity! She could never forget this luxuriant breath of life! She would ever after recall the magnificent Joy that thrives in the presence of Jesus!

Psalm 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

Isaiah 35:10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Isaiah 51:11 Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.

Isaiah 55:12 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

John 16:22b I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. (Jesus)

(All Scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible.)

The Fragrance of Christ

This post is one link in a chain of Christian Writer’s Blogs.  Please see the dates and links on the right margin for upcoming blog entries.  Each month there is a unifying theme about which we write, each from our own unique insight and style.  The theme for March is “Savor” (or Savour).  

The word savor (savour) is a noun as well as a verb.  As a noun, savor denotes a fragrance or an aroma. The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16b, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life.” (NASB)

On April 21st, 2010, my dear Mother went to be with Jesus.  I still miss her terribly, and I guess I will long for her until she and I are reunited one day.  As I think of all that I love and appreciate about my Mom, one kind of memory continually returns like the faithfully sweet fragrance of night-blooming jasmine.

In the last few years of her life, my Mom became increasingly thankful.  Over and over she expressed to me her gratitude toward our Lord Jesus, and our Heavenly Father.  In her youthful voice, she told me all for which she was grateful.  A few times, I thought perhaps joyful tears were trying to form (my Mom rarely cried).  Her face glowed and her eyes shone as she recounted God’s goodness to her.

My Mother did not have an earthly life of ease.  Two major tragedies irrevocably marked her life when she was barely into her thirties.  Through the years, life ferociously continued to pummel her with severe hardship, and further loss.  Yet, as she drew nearer to eternity, this battle-weary lady became increasingly beautiful in spirit.  All hints of sorrow were swallowed by praise and thanksgiving.  As I watched my Mother rejoice, I witnessed a profound change: Her face softened and become more beautiful than I had ever seen it; her presence became more peaceful, loving, and kind than in all the years I had known her.

My dear Mom died at 86 years of age, but her mind was sharp to the end.  As her conversation returned over and over to the gratefulness swelling in her heart, I knew that this was not the repetition of age: For each telling was a little different, and each time was more precious than the last.  It was as if she were dipping ever deeper into the unseen well of the pure water of life; and she was sharing the sweetness with me.

So now, when I think of my Mother, the precious memories of her thankful spirit caress my heart with the hopeful and loving aroma of Jesus.  She indeed left behind her “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him,” and “the fragrance of Christ.”

God Values His Love in Our Hearts

He got up from the supper table, and took off his garments.  He purposefully laid them aside, and wrapped a large towel around himself.  Then He got a basin and filled it with water.  He looked like a servant!  All eyes were on Him: What could He possibly be doing?  Then the King of the Universe knelt in front of each sinful weak human at the table, and one by one, He washed their feet.

In the Middle East, feet and shoes have long been very symbolic.  Moses was told to remove his sandals as he stood in front of the burning bush, because he was on holy ground (Exodus 3:5).  In the book of Ruth, (4:7), the custom was to give one’s sandal to confirm a deal.  In Jesus’ days, if a servant of a house did not wash a guest’s feet, the insult or breach of etiquette was attributed to the master of the house (Luke 7:44).  John the Baptist said he was not worthy to even untie Jesus’ sandals (John 1:27).  Today in the Middle East, it is considered rude to show the sole of your foot or shoe; or to sit with your feet, or even one foot, elevated.

Yet, here was Jesus washing feet (John 13).  He knew who He was; doing a lowly servant’s duty did not take anything away from Him.  When He finished washing and drying at least 22 feet, stood up from the hard floor, and donned his clothing; Jesus was still the glorious Lord Almighty.  So, what does this have to do with love?  Everything. 

Jesus said, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” (John 13:14,15) He also said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) (See also John 15:17 & John 13:34.)

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

This is not the romantic, ooey, gooey emotion that our culture calls love.  The real love, the kind from God, is something the world had rarely experienced before Jesus came.  God showed it, but humans were scarcely looking.  He told it, but mankind was barely listening.

Then Jesus came, as a bright light in a dark cavern, and spread God’s love everywhere.   He taught the kind of love that doesn’t fight back; but responds to unfairness and cruelty from others with kindness, mercy, and forgiveness.  He taught the kind of love that doesn’t need to be the top dog who has all the wealth, fame, and power; but gives others the opportunity to prosper, succeed, and lead.  He showed the kind of love that touches the untouchable, heals diseases, and feeds the hungry.  He showed the kind of love that washes another’s feet, and lays down one’s life for others.  Jesus lived, and died, the unselfish love of God.

God knows that humans are not capable of this kind of love.  We are naturally selfish (Romans 3:10-18).  We spend thousands of dollars on one dress; while mothers watch their babies starve to death.  We get angry if others don’t do exactly what we think they should do at exactly the right moment; while we want them to understand our every need, and forgive us in every way.

On the other hand, when we come to know Jesus as our Savior and Lord, His love saturates our hearts.  Then His love flows out of us to others.  People notice the change in our actions and attitudes; and the beauty of character that this love causes (John 13:35).

This love is not natural; this love is different.  This love is the supernatural love of God.  And God is pleased when He sees His love in our hearts, and as a result, in our actions (Matthew 25:31-40).

Additional Verses: Genesis 8:21; John 2:24,25; John 16:27; Romans 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; Hebrews 13:16; 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:7-14