Wednesday, February 29, 2012


“When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3: 14-19 NLT

His resources are unlimited! He will give us mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit! What marvelous thoughts about what God will do when he is at home in our hearts. We may have the power to understand the depth of his love! Amazing!

How deep is the love of Christ?  Can we grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ?  I’m not sure we can. But think of this, when we take one step toward him he runs to meet us. His love is deep. No matter how far away we’ve gone, no matter how much we have rebelled against him, he’s ready to forgive us and take us back. The God of the universe, creator of all things, wants a close relationship with each of us. His love is deep. His love is unconditional. His love is unlimited. His love is so deep we can never get to the bottom of it.

Dear Father, Help us grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.  We thank you for your love.  Help us share Your love with others.  

Monday, February 27, 2012


At the beginning of a marriage couples spend hours talking, laughing and enjoying each other.  But that gradually changes.  Life is busy, children take up time and attention and couples drift apart. Drifting apart usually happens very slowly. If it happened suddenly we would notice it more readily; we would react to the change, we would talk about it and work to stop the drift. 

Drift happens when we don’t have enough time together. Couples working different shifts have little time together and often find it difficult to stay connected. Some times drift begins with a disagreement that causes hurt and anger - so much hurt and anger that we shut down. We harden our hearts and become cold to the other person.         
Drift also happens when we stop talking about important things. We keep all conversation safe. We talk about the weather, sports, our routines. We talk in cliques. “I’m fine.  How are you?” We avoid controversy. We avoid our feelings. We don’t talk about our hopes or dreams. We never get beyond small talk. 
Before we know it the drifting apart becomes a cold war. In an extreme form drifting apart finds us eating meals separately. We pass messages through our children rather than talk to each other. We work late and find other ways to avoid each other. Drifting apart becomes quite serious.
To overcome any degree of drifting apart, do the following:
1.  Face issues that started the drifting apart process. If a major disagreement caused your drift you will need to talk about this. If it’s too difficult at first, each person can write out their thoughts about what happened. Later you can share what you’ve written but do so with respect.
2.  Face difficult issues by talking about them. Some of us “stuff” our feelings to keep the peace. We can’t connect unless we learn to be open with each other. .  Listen carefully to your partner to understand his or her point of view.  We’re all different and we often hurt each other unintentionally.
3.  Make a conscious effort to affirm each other. List all the positives about your relationship. List your partner’s positive traits. Share these with each other. 
4.  Make your marriage one of your highest priorities. List the things you enjoyed in the past but have stopped doing. Begin doing them again. Have fun together.                              
We drift away from God in the same way we drift away from our partner.  We’re too busy for prayer or Bible study or worship. We say a brief prayer on the run, telling God we’ll get back to him later. We skip Sunday worship because we’re tired. 
Do we really want to know God?  Drifting is serious business. I know, because I drifted far away from God for many years. God waits, wanting to hear from us every day. And he always takes us back.  We miss out on so much when we drift away from God. When we stay close and seek him we feel his presence, receive his guidance and live by his Spirit. We may even feel our hearts burn within us. Have you spent time with God today?
Work at the most important relationships. It will be worth it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

I Will Give You A New Heart

The sponge was dry and stiff; devoid of moisture.
Then it found a clear, warm, pool of refreshing water.
It absorbed the wet warmth, drinking, taking in, filling every empty and needy space.
Now the sponge is pliant, full, soft and has some wet warmth to give back.
It must stay in the pool in order to receive and give.

My soul was dry and stiff; devoid of moisture.
Then it found the presence of God and His people.
The Holy Spirit filled all the empty and needy spaces.
Now my soul is pliant, full, and soft.  It has some warmth to give back.
I must stay in God’s presence in order to receive and give.                                          
                                                                                       From my journal 7-8-92

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  Ezekiel 36:26

Blessings, Dottie

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Valuing Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday,
a special day celebrated in many Christian churches. Ash   Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the beginning of the 40 weekdays before Easter. Lent is observed in many Christian churches as a period of prayer, fasting, confession, repentance, and self-denial. It echoes the 40 days in the wilderness Jesus spent fasting and overcoming temptation. It also assists Christians in focusing on Jesus resolute journey leading to his crucifixion and resurrection. We learn to identify with his unwavering obedience. We recognize the price he paid for us.

Our faith journey, described in Changing Churches, began in a United Methodist Church - a church that observes Ash Wednesday. Throughout our years there, Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of a solemn and holy time of reflection. While searching for a church in 2008 we attended an Ash Wednesday service at another Methodist Church. I noted in my journal:
We sang six verses of "Just As I Am" and "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood." The hymns, responsive readings, confession, and pastor's message, touched and filled us. We received ashes in the shape of the cross on our foreheads and took Communion - opening and recommitting ourselves to Him. What a sacred event!

Prayer Journaling
In 2004 the teacher of my ladies Bible class mentioned journaling Psalm 51 (about David's sin), one phrase at a time, for the forty days of Lent. This proved to be a sobering but valuable exercise. In order to build up the church, Christians must change and grow. We must face our own sin and repent. The next forty days are a good time to focus on this in prayer.

Understanding the Church Calendar
For those not in a liturgical church, Mark Galli's explanation from his book Beyond Smells and Bells, may help you appreciate the emphasis on the church calendar. He writes:
The church calendar aims at nothing less than to change the way we experience time and perceive reality. . . . Advent signals the new year. For the church, the annual rhythm is not winter, spring, summer and fall, but Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and Pentecost. . . . The church calendar is not about the cycle of life - school or sports or harvest time - but about the movement of history toward a glorious goal. We celebrate the past events of history not merely to remember them, but note how they infuse the present with meaning and power, and point us to our         future hope.

Let this be a Holy season for all Christians to ponder and pray and deepen our faith.
  Blessings, Dottie

Monday, February 20, 2012

Love is Very Patient

Yes, I have blogged all through 1 Corinthians 13. In the process I found this story written about twenty years ago - a true story. I hope my readers enjoy it.

"I'm not a patient person, God," I prayed. "Where do you want me to park?" I was taking a bulk mailing to the downtown Post Office before my first appointment at 9:30 a.m. I circled the Post Office twice; then prayed as I went around the third time. There it appeared, smack in front of the Post Office, an empty parking space—to my relief and surprise! Dropping my nickel in the meter I quietly thanked God.
At the bulk mailing window a clerk checked my form almost immediately. The price had gone up requiring extra postage. The clerk calculated the amount and told me to meet him at the front window.
I walked around to the front window and groaned inwardly at the sight of a line. An elderly man slouched in front of one window. A middle aged woman, in the process of being helped, stood at the second window. A young woman waited behind the rope as required. I took my place behind the young woman. The clerks, while friendly and cheerful, were very slow. 

I thought again, patience is not one of my virtues. "Pray without ceasing" (I Thess. 5:17), my Bible verse for the week, popped into my mind. It seemed impossible to carry out. "I want to learn to stay continually in your presence, God. Help me feel your presence here in this post office," I prayed without much conviction.

Then I glanced at the wall behind the clerks and astonishment filled my heart. Three large posters of LOVE stamps filled the wall. I felt God's presence three times: God in three persons, LOVE, LOVE, and LOVE! Along with His LOVE I absorbed some of His patience. My turn came before I knew it. I had plenty of time to get to my 9:30 appointment.

"Love is very patient" (I Cor. 13:4) is my verse for next week.  I think I'll buy some LOVE stamps soon.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Love Extravagantly

1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

The Message says:  “But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

Until perfection comes, until Completeness arrives, until Jesus returns we can focus on three things.

Faith: As Christians we have faith in God as revealed in Christ Jesus and in His Word. He has revealed his character as holy, eternal, gracious, loving, and trustworthy.

Hope: Our hope is in the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the one and only God who will reign forever, and ever.

Love: We love because he first loved us and revealed his love in Christ Jesus. He taught extravagant love in his death on the cross for us. We are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others as we love ourselves. The greatest gift, the greatest way to live is to love extravagantly.

Lord, grow us in loving as you love – extravagantly.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Our Vision is Blurred

 Corinthians 13:11-12 “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”


The Message says: “When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”

Paul compares his understanding of things as a child with his maturity as a man. Then he notes our limitations. He compares our limited earth-bound, self-bound perspective as humans with how clearly we will see and understand God and know God in the life to come. Now our vision of God and of life is blurred, but when Perfection comes we will see, know and understand Him. We will see Him face-to-face just as clearly and fully as God sees and knows us.

Father God, this is sobering and exciting. We are so limited now. We need to remember this and be humble in all we say and do. We need to lean on You for guidance – since we’re living in a fog. In spite of our blurred vision we see our future through the mist.

The future is thrilling! We will see You and know You face to face!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our Knowledge is Incomplete

1 Corinthians 13:9-10 “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”

The Message puts it this way: “We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be cancelled.”

Our knowledge in all areas – physical, mental, emotional, creation, science, life, relationships, spiritual, heavens and earth – our knowledge is limited – even with high-powered computers, advanced degrees, Mensa IQs and all the Scripture – all is limited. We do know some things and we can predict some things with some accuracy. But we can’t even predict the weather! What we know about God is certainly incomplete – as his ways are not our ways. He is beyond us. Our minds can’t grasp a complete knowledge of our great God.

But when perfection comes – the imperfect disappears – when Complete arrives our incompleteness will be cancelled. What a promise! When LOVE comes our loveless-ness vanishes. 

Is this about end-times? Come quickly, Lord. We need you – our sorry, hurting world, our sin-sick, love-starved world needs you.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Love Never Fails

1 Corinthians 13:8  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

The Message says it this way: “Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit.”

Love never fails. Love never dies. Love is eternal, everlasting, unchanging, trustworthy. God is LOVE.

Prophecies – inspired speech – sermons and messages by pastors or prophets will end.

Praying in tongues—private prayer languages will end.

Knowledge will end or die; understanding will come to a dead-end.

This scripture is beyond my wisdom or understanding. Scholars ponder and debate the meaning of this passage. In simple terms, love is eternal and all other spiritual gifts given to man are limited, dwarfed – are nothing – compared to LOVE. So acquiring these gifts is of less value compared to learning to love.

Help me pursue love; teach me to love, Lord.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Love Puts Up With Anything

1 Corinthians 13:7 Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

The Message says: “Love puts up with anything. Trusts God. Always looks for the best. Never looks back, but keeps going to the end.”

Love looks at the positive side of everything! If we love, we will guard, care for, and shield those in trouble or in need. If we love, we will trust God and we will trust others in spite of their shortcomings. If we love, we will see the glass as half full – at least.

If we love, we will live in the present and look forward to the future. We will forget the past. We will forget the hurts and betrayal of others. We will focus on the good, true and lovely in the present and expect grand things in your future kingdom.

If we love, we won’t give up. We will press on as Paul did. We will persist. We won’t quit.

Lord, this is a hard, yet marvelous recipe to follow. Teach us to love through your Holy Spirit.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Love Does Not Delight in Evil

1 Corinthians 13:6  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

The Message puts it: Love “doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything.”

Love does not delight in evil. How to apply this? When someone sins or fails, when someone is humiliated by their own wrong doing – am I amused or pleased? Am I judgmental? Or do I realize that I sin and fail, and do or say stupid or even wrong things?

Delighting in evil — don’t we all do it? Someone else’s downfall is an occasion for juicy gossip. Someone we know divorces, or loses their job or leaves their church, or goes to jail.  We gleefully ask for the details so we can pray for them. Or do we ask so we can gloat over the fact that we would never do what they did.

We need to remember we are all sinners and all sin is equal.  

Love doesn’t rejoice in wrong doing. Instead, love rejoices in the truth—in the flowering of the truth. In other words, we need to assume the best about others, especially those whose sins (or problems) are most obvious. We need to see others from God’s point of view and from their own perspective – and believe in the good in them. We can expect a blade of truth to grow and blossom.

Lord, this is a difficult verse. Help us ponder your meaning about this as it applies to us.

Blessings, Dottie

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Love is Gracious and Selfless

1 Corinthians 13:5
Love “is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

The Message says it this way: Love “doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always ‘me first’, doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.”

There are four things listed. I’ll take them one by one.

Love is not rude, doesn’t force itself on others. In other words it is gracious and well-mannered. I’m usually kind but I can be persistent. Lord, guard me from being rude. Teach me to be gracious, always.

Love is not self-seeking; it isn’t always ‘me first.’ Love puts the interests of others ahead of their own interests. Well, I’m not always self-seeking. But do I put the interests of others ahead of my own interests some of the time? This goes against natural instincts, natural self-focus. Help me, Lord. 

Love is not easily angered, doesn’t fly off the handle. Lord, I’m often irritated by minor things. Inwardly I fly off the handle—if not overtly. You’ve helped me turn to you and at least not sin in my anger. My sweet husband teaches me by his laid-back demeanor. And he listens when I sound off on anything, just as you do. Denying my emotions doesn't work. They slip out in sneaky ways. Help me accept them and learn from them. Help me grow up.

Love keeps no record of wrongs, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others. In other words, love doesn’t judge or criticize, but is accepting of others. Guard me from judging, criticizing and remembering wrongs. Delete the critical spirit in me and fill me with your accepting love.

Wow! This is a very high standard of behavior. Well, I guess so! It’s a holy standard, one we can strive for but not attain. Lord, keep us growing in love.

Blessings, Dottie

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Love is Patient

1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”

The Messages puts it like this:
“Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Loves doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut. Love doesn’t have a swelled head.”

Love is patient – Love never gives up. Love calmly waits, trusting God. I’m impatient, doubting. Love is my goal, but one that I often miss.

Love is kind – Love cares more for others than for self. Love is gentle, helpful, puts others needs first. I try to be kind; I put others first when it’s convenient. Once in awhile I go out of my way to help others. I care for my loved ones as much as for my self – at least at times. Do I ever care more for others more than for myself? I doubt it.

Love doesn’t envy – Doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love rejoices in the successes, comfort, health, wealth, happiness of others; love is happy with its own life. I do better on this one. I am happy with my own life – but I have been greatly blessed with good health, enough money, and a great family.

Love does not boast – Love doesn’t strut. Love is humble. Love is modest. Love is not proud. Love doesn’t have a swelled head. Love is not arrogant, not full of self. Love recognizes its own vulnerability and lets it show. Being transparent isn’t easy. Lord, help me live this.

Blessings, Dottie

Monday, February 6, 2012

Without Love I'm Bankrupt

I'm continuing to journal each verse or two of 1 Corinthians 13. The Love chapter. See prior blog posts for the first two verses. 

1 Corinthians 13:3 “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” NIV

The Message says: If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but don’t love, I’ve gotten now where. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.”

Wow! If I give all, everything I own—my furniture, my house, my car, my savings, my time, my talent – to the poor – the homeless, the sick, the war-torn people in other lands, the lowest castes in India, the lepers, the sex-slaves, the prisoners—or even give up my life – die for Christ’s cause, but don’t love—it’s all useless. The things I do have no impact, no influence, without love.

Wow again! Teach me Holy Spirit how to love as God loves.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Without Love - I Am Nothing

1 Corinthians 13:2 “If I have the gift of prophesy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. NIV

The Message says: “If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.”

This is sobering, Lord. If I speak your Word with power, – but I speak your Truth without love, I am nothing? I am useless? Even if I understand all mysteries and all knowledge – even if I know and understand more than Einstein knew or more than a top theologian knows – I am of no use without love. Even with faith—strong, powerful and amazing faith that moves mountains of unbelief – this is useless, without LOVE. You are LOVE with capital letters.

It’s clear—I am nothing without YOU! Help me live this today.

Blessings, Dottie

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Learning to Love

I'm journaling 1 Corinthians 13 - 1 or 2 verses at a time. These will be short posts, but will appear more often. Writing helps me grasp, in a devotional way, the meaning of scripture. I highly recommend it.

1 Corinthians 13:1  “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.” NIV

The Message: “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy, but don’t love, I am nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.”

So even if my words are eloquent and passionate, but I am without love, I am only making a nerve-wracking noise, my words are useless at best and could be very annoying. Lord, help me LOVE in word and deed.

My husband visited a cousin in a nursing home recently– a very loving thing to do. I spoke loving words to my sister. I wanted to help her. Guide my words, Lord. I know I often offer advice, trying to fix or control my loved ones. Teach me, Lord. 

Blessings, Dottie