What Love Looks Like

I remember my pop would get dressed on Sunday morning, perk a pot of coffee, and slip on his gardening shoes. He’d find his car keys, then drive to the local country store to buy a paper. I guess it was more a habit to get a newspaper than to turn on a TV channel. Sundays were always quiet.

As he flipped through the news, I played on the flagstone porch floor whose mortar joints I used as roads. For hours I built and constructed a world all of my own. It was a painting better described as Norman Rockwell… a father’s face buried between the worldly events and sports, and a child at his feet building miles of dreams in his head. This is what love looked like to me at home.

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Romans 12:10

The serene scenery of swans swimming across the waters of the Tred Avon River lent itself to the ducks which lined the dock in search of food. It was a different world in those days. The infrastructure and landscape were ever changing. It would not be long before we could drive over the waters of the Chesapeake, instead of taking a ferryboat.

This morning I flipped from Google to Yahoo news and read the commentaries of discernment. The world is full of hatred – an opposite ingredient of what love looks like with God in your world. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to live in a place without the condiments of love! We are God’s prodigies who live in a society of recreational love with very little significance to the word.

The Bible has over one hundred scriptures directly related to the fundamentals of love. I can find what love looks like everywhere in my world. It’s from my sweet wife giving me a cold glass of iced tea on a hot summer afternoon; my cockatoo who comes to me in his time of need; hanging up a fresh towel for my wife on a hook near the shower; turning down her corner of the bed at night. Love isn’t just an expression of “I do’s,” but a state of mind.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.”

Ephesians 5:25-26

What love looks like outside marriage may involve the special squeezes or a smile from our grandchildren; a neighbor getting the mail for a someone housebound; baking a dish for the less fortunate; donations or volunteering to help others. Giving of yourself, even if it’s inconvenient, means more than all the money in the world. A lesson on the definition of loving one’s neighbor is in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). We are to have compassion and love towards each other, irrespective of the parameters which divide us.

So, what does love look like to you? Have you searched your heart, or is the wallet more important? Love is a verb meaning affection based on admiration. It begins when selfishness ends.

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:31

It’s another perfect morning, and I give God the glory and love. My gorgeous bride prepares breakfast for her hubby. I think about the many wasted years I wish I could do over, for we missed so much living separate lives. How can I ever show her how much I love her? It’s easy, you know…  I stand beside her, and God is our center. I never want to let go of the immense feelings of love I have for her!

Dana and Anne’s Wedding Celebration


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Fill the Empty Hole

It was February 2017 when I laid eyes on him for the first time in thirty-two years. Though we both aged gracefully, it didn’t stop the thumping of my heart for the beautiful man I dearly loved, Dana Bicks. A smile that lights up the camera lens and a sense of humor so witty it’s absurd, but oh… what a man of God!

I spent most of my adult life in and out of dysfunctional relationships, so I never really learned the concept of “loving” a man the godly way. In fact, I’d sworn off marriage. Many times I prayed the Lord would lead me to a job where I could serve Him. So, I pursued mission work in Africa and even signed up for the Peace Corps (which I decided against), but still, a great emptiness lingered in my soul. Something or someone was missing in my life. Help me, God, to fill the empty hole.

And, along came Dana…

Dana and I had many missing years to catch up on, so we left very few moments without speaking a word. But, when I discovered he was a struggling Christian author, I knew God had a reason for reuniting us. Dana had hundreds of narratives written on paper and in his cellphone, and an unpublished book poorly edited by Tate Publishing. I had several years’ experience of working for a publishing company. OK, Lord, you have a funny sense of humor! You put this man back in my life to fill my empty hole – both professionally and on a personal basis.

It is rare, indeed, to find a man who loves as deeply as Christ loved His church, but this is the story of Dana. He is a profound and humble man, chosen by the Lord to be His representative to the world; he never takes God’s messages for granted. Deeply devoted to serving, Dana is a blessing to all who come in contact with his healing words, and I can only stand back in awe.

I reminisce on the day we eloped on a beach in Destin, Florida. Just as we were pronounced ‘man and wife,’ doves flew out of the tall grasses. A sign from God? Perhaps, but better still was a rainbow which appeared over our heads in some pictures we snapped of each other. We glanced behind us to observe its pretty colors and no rainbow was in the sky! Yes, our dear Lord blessed this marriage.

In recent weeks, we learned our faith and love will be put to the test. A doctor diagnosed me with heart failure and other serious problems – a devastating blow to newlyweds whose lives just hit the top of the barrel. With many more inspirational books to write and other deeds to do for God, Dana continues to wake each morning shining in hope. Each night he gently touches the skin over my heart and prays for healing and answers. He is a husband and a father with so much love for God and man, and I cannot thank him enough for just being him.

On this Father’s Day, I want to thank God, my Father, for blessing me with the special husband who filled the empty hole. Regardless of my outcome, I know the Lord will let Dana soar above the clouds, for he is truly gifted. However much time I have left to love him, I am honored to be a small part of Dana Bicks’ world. My time with him has been filled with compassion, respect, and love of life. Better yet, he allowed me the opportunity to serve the Lord as I so desired for many years.

God bless you, my sweet baby – I dearly love you! Happy Father’s Day!

Written by Anne Bicks

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Learning to Walk

All our life we live like we’re playing in a scrimmage game – time is on our side to make things right. But, along the way we suffer multiple hurts and wounds. We stumble and fall because we never really learned to walk in forgiveness.

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Please join us on Blogging 2 Believers! We are discussing “Learning to Walk” and forgiveness. Just click this link: https://youtu.be/NxTaCRiJez4

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In my younger years, I believed, somehow, God and the Bible would magically erase my aches. Yet the pain I suffered, and inflicted on others, was crippling to my soul. The art of putting one foot in front of another was difficult to grasp, especially with forgiveness.

The Bible is full of verses about our mental health. Forgive others and yourself, and it stabilizes your disposition; for only the strongest shall learn to walk in the presence of God’s holiness. It may not be part of your daily curriculum, but it’s the healthiest antidote for your mind, body, and soul.

Forgiving Others

Forgiveness is a complex thought and requires many baby steps, but God is absolutely clear about it:

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins”~ Mark 11:25

 “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” ~Colossians 3:13

I was confused the first time I read the first verse. Why should I forgive someone who terribly wronged me? How could I say to them, “I forgive you?” To clarify this bible verse, forgiving others does not justify the deed or the person; nor does it offer God’s forgiveness for their actions. It also doesn’t mean coming face-to-face with someone to tell them you forgive their behavior or action. Instead, we are to move forward from our past, silently asking God to forgive them. Allow Him to handle their sins. Then you will release the deep hurt and heal from the inside out, taking your first step in learning to walk with the Lord. After all, we are all sinners and need God’s forgiveness.

A true testimony to forgiveness was a murder trial aired on TV and the internet last year. A mother’s son was brutally murdered, and she suffered for a year with anxiety, hurt, and anger. She sought professional help from her minister who explained to her the true meaning of forgiveness. As the convicted assassin took the stand for his death sentence, she spoke to the courtroom; she told the murderer she forgave him because that is what God desired for her heart. Then, she stood up and hugged him! She later told the media that as she spoke the words to her son’s killer, God at once filled her with peace. Ideally, the Lord does not wish for us to confront an abuser or sinner, but for this broken-hearted mother, it was the answer to her prayers. Here is her story: https://www.today.com/news/how-do-you-forgive-killer-mother-moves-past-tragedy-4B11203330

Forgiving Ourselves

The flip side of forgiving others, and the most difficult, is forgiving ourselves. God promises to pardon us if we believe in Jesus Christ, and our sins are no more. (Jeremiah 31:34) Some sinners, though, never heal from their self-inflicted pains; they limp along in life carrying the guilt of their own misgivings. Yesteryears become part of their present life while anger, hatred, self-pity, and depression lurks just around the corner. It’s exhausting! The energy they give to negativity robs them of the good deeds they need to become the person God wants them to be. Look for a silver lining because “what doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger.”

God sends the lessons we learn from our mistakes. The storms might be furious in nature, and some may be hurdles still left unfinished, but He placed them there to teach us a lesson. Learn from the shadowing experiences, pray for forgiveness, and move forward… never to repeat the errors.

Learning to walk in unison with our Father takes great maturity and courage, but necessary to heal the pain. Stop beating yourself up and accept God’s hand. Experience His peace for Peter exclaimed, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34). You are free!

www.danabicksauthor.com

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Ego Avenue

The giant oaks turned golden in the fall, shading the avenue of homes trimmed of gold. The walkways of washed aggregate and stained concrete floors in the garage smell of money. An oriental rug lies squarely beneath the oil plug of the minister’s Rolls and Bentleys. It’s a lovely life – a weekend cabin in the foothills of the Castiles, a yacht swaying at the dock of their favorite country club. Their lifestyles are of the rich and famous. Do I need to tag them with names for you or the descriptions of these church leaders who appear on TV and radio, bearing witness?

Have you ever tried to contact these evangelists personally even if you are a member of their congregation? Several of these ministers started following my blog last year. I tried to respond to some of their emails, but a computer-generated nonresponse system returned it. One such minister put an email address at the bottom of his correspondence with an enticing note to always feel free to connect with him. Are you kidding me? This is a man who is a public servant of God, and he lies about his contact information on his website and newsletters! It makes me wonder…

I used to collect mail from a rather sizeable religious outfit who films daily television and documentary shows. I’d call it a church, but it was all about money. I never met the soft-spoken old man who read from the pulpit, though he wasn’t there when I entered the building. He hides behind the silver screen while anointing his son to be the Senior Pastor.

Another younger notoriety wears his sacred cross, but is more concerned of the welfare of his structures, which he owns, than of those whose dollars helped to build it. An example of his personal greediness was during a hurricane which hit his area two years ago. Homeless people, seeking comfort from the storm, stood outside in nature’s wrath because he wouldn’t open his church doors. Perhaps he was afraid of damages incurred – a chunk out of his own pocket which might affect the mortgage payment on his $10.5 million home.

I could continue with my tirade, but Christians are smart enough to observe who indeed professes to do the Lord’s work. There was only one minister I knew who was genuine and a spiritual adviser to many Presidents. His money filtered through to the crusades he conducted in 185 countries on six continents. He passed away last year and now works for Christ in a different capacity.

I see the actions of these Bible scholars, who can’t live what they preach in front of millions. Most believers are aware clergy are the amongst the lowest-paid occupations. So, how are they living in mega mansions and in the lap of luxury? Do they ever use their personal income from TV appearances and other sources to give back to their communities? Or is preaching the Word of God just a business designed to make them a millionaire?

As I look down Ego Avenue and observe its evilness, I thank God for my health and my wife who keeps me in check. A simple Christian writer and life, I am blessed by the Holy Spirit, and I have peace in my soul. A few friends asked me if I was afraid of giving out my cell phone number which is written on my business cards. My honest reply was why? I’m no better than the mentoring I try to give to others. I meet many wonderful people from around the world – some famous, but most are common folk. I treat everyone the same. Spiritual leaders should be receptive and have personal contact with believers, especially with individuals they follow on social media.

To those who live on Ego Avenue and read my blogs, are you better than our Lord? After all, Jesus was a dirt poor man, and he was always reachable in desperate times. He laid the foundation for your obligations as a clergy member – to provide spiritual, moral guidance, and assistance to believers. If I’m wrong, then please correct me.

My examples of hypocrites and false witnesses, in the name of our Lord, only touch the surface of the United States. I’m sure dozens more exists in countries worldwide. Some may say security issues are dilemmas facing the famous religious leaders, but I highly doubt this. Too many other upstanding clergy submerge themselves in others’ lives unharmed. I think the root of the problem is simple – the love of money. Perhaps it should be explained as “delivering God’s word in order to become a millionaire.” Call it greed or narcissism; either way, God will place a harsher judgment on them. As someone once said, “Knowledge is a dangerous thing!”

Are there any “amens” to my point of view?

A Nativity for One

A little tree twinkles on the coffee table. The instrumental music of Elvis Presley’s song, “Blue Christmas” softly plays while you rub your stocking feet together. Staring into the flickering light of the fireplace, you glimpse the Three Wise Men moving on the mantel. It was an inherited nativity scene, now meant for one person only to enjoy this Christmas.

It’s a ‘single’ holiday. Perhaps the children are grown and gone, you’re a widow or widower, or just alone with no one to snuggle with under the covers and to wish a “Merry Christmas” to on this day. But, did you know singleness is a gift from God? In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul speaks candidly of this aloneness as being a higher calling–a time to dedicate our lives to serving the Lord. Single people can devote themselves entirely to His work without marriage troubles or the anxieties of children interrupting the flow of your Christian duties. So, make the most of being unattached while it lasts!

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:32-34 ESV)

Depression knocks quickly on the door during the holidays when you are alone, but turn this negativity into positive energy. This world is full of others who want a visitor at Christmastime. Visit a homeless shelter, senior homes, other single members of your church, a food bank, or help deliver gifts to the needy. A smile of gratefulness will brighten your season.

Not into the above suggested community activities? Try turning on an inspirational Christmas movie, or one which will cause you to laugh (“Elf” perhaps??); deliver cookies to your neighbors, or read the Christmas story in the Bible; call someone you haven’t connected with in a while for a light conversation. Did God bless you with creative talents? Get crafty and build something or create new tree ornaments; accept a dinner invitation. You have the gift this year to do what your little heart desires, and you never know who God will place in your way along the path of fun.

You’re not alone this season. The Holy Spirit is trying to anoint you so feel your blessings and rejoice! The ultimate gift is to live better with compassion and faithfulness. Don’t let the Star of Bethlehem shine on a nativity for one – let it glow God’s love for others too!

God bless you and have the merriest of Christmases!


Kindness: The Graceful Virtue

Kindness and grace

Number five in a seven-part series on virtue

The virtue of kindness can be a confusing concept to understand because it can be defined in many ways. Perhaps the best way to understand kindness is to examine other words associated with kindness.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary uses two important words in defining kindness. Those words are affection and favor.

Kindness Is an Expression of Affection

If one demonstrates kindness to another, it expresses a level of affection toward that person. A fine example of how this is manifested in life is found toward the end of the book of Acts in the New Testament.

Kindness and grace

Paul and his companions had just survived a shipwreck and found themselves stranded on the island of Malta. Luke, Paul’s companion and chronicler, records the kind actions of the natives to their group in chapter 28.

After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. Acts 28:1-2 [ESV]

The Greek word translated here as kindness is philathropia, the same word from which we derive the English word, philanthropy. It means a feeling of good, or fondness of humankind in general.

In other words, a kind person is one who shows an affection for other people in general. Thus kindness could be defined as an inner motivation to help others, even strangers, especially when they are in need.

As we notice in the passage, Luke was impressed by what unusual kindness these strangers showed by their actions. They welcomed them in and made a fire to shield them from the cold and rain.

Kindness Is A Demonstration of Grace

Kindness and grace

The word most often translated as “grace” in the New Testament is charis. Among the definitions of this Greek term is “favor.”

Paul the Apostle writes using this term in Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [ESV]

Grace given by God is more than mercy for sin, though it is certainly that. Grace is also a demonstration of the favor of God.

Kindness is directly linked to grace by Paul earlier in Eph. 2:4-7

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ [ESV]

Kindness Helps Enable Grace

Kindness, as noted by Paul in the passage above, ultimately is an act of God. Moreover, it is an act whereby God displays “the riches of his grace.”

The ultimate act of kindness is given to us by God Himself. He sees the desperate need to be freed from death in our sin and ‘in kindness’ supplies grace to meet the need.

The Cross and kindness

How does God do this? Because of His ‘great love’ Jesus is executed and raised from the grave to pay the price for sin and offer the gift of grace.

The grace of God is offered because of the kindness of God. His kindness is shown to others in many ways through we who have already received His grace.

That is a key difference between faiths like Islam and Christianity. Islam demands submission through fear; Christ kindly calls to the heart in love.

Islam says to conquer and kill your enemies to advance the rule of Allah. Christianity teaches that force is to defend and rescue the helpless.

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:3-4 [ESV]

The kindness that one shows to another in ways large and small provide an opportunity for the heart of another to be softened toward God’s grace. To paraphrase an old saying, “I’d rather see a sermon lived than to hear a sermon preached.”

A Modern-day Example of Kindness to Grace

I was attending a Christian music festival a few years ago and witnessed a moving testimony of kindness leading to grace. It was delivered by a young woman who identified as a lesbian.

She gave her story of how her journey into that lifestyle had come about, and I was impressed by her courage and forthrightness. More importantly, she testified of one particular church group and the kindness they showed to her regardless of her sexual preference.

Kindness and grace

She said that it began with an invitation to play on a church softball team. She was a bit wary, as she was also a gay activist who had already encountered other ‘christian’ groups that exhibited hostility to her.

However, she accepted the kind offer because she both loved sports and had a level of trust with the person who invited her. She ended up becoming pleasantly surprised with the treatment this team gave her.

She remembered that her manners were somewhat crude at that time. For example, she would often let loose with a string of profanity when she missed a play or made a mistake in the outfield.

Some of the young ladies on the team were disturbed by this and went to their coach, who also happened to be the pastor of the church. They asked him what they should do about this.

His advice was, “Just keep loving her, mistakes and all.” He knew God would work in her heart when she saw the reaction of loving kindness from His people.

That force of kindness through others did move this woman to seek God’s grace. She responded in sincere repentance and faith in Christ.

Through such kindness, God draws others to see His love and the greatest kindness of all, Jesus dying on the cross for each one. That is why kindness is the graceful virtue.

D.T. Osborn

Sources: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001
A Greek-English Lexicon of The New Testament, William F. Arndt and F. Wilber Gingrich, University of Chicago Press, 1979

Top Image courtesy of duncan c’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 1 courtesy of Art Gallery ErgsArt’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 2 courtesy of Evans E’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 3 courtesy of Evans E’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 4 courtesy of BK’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License

All other sources linked or cited in the text

Originally published at TIL Journal

A learning experience!

Hi friends,

How are you all doing?  I have been enjoying the festival of Diwali with lots of good food, bright lights and my favorite people.  Since it is almost the end of the year I am also going through my blog to see what all I have written and how I feel about them now.

Learning experiences

This year has been an important year for me in terms of blogging because I have started blogging regularly.  It all started after my recovery from an illness when I craved to write on my blog.

Today, I want to share some lessons I learnt from my illness.  It made me value everything a lot more.

The link to my blog post is:

learning experience…

I would love to hear your thoughts on the same.

Love,

Rashmi

 

P.s. Image created using Canva

The Best for Last

The Best for Last cover

It’s quiet and dark. God, I know, is ever-present with me. I awaken to welcome our Lord on this calm Sunday morning. What do I do in moments such as these? I write to you, my resting angel….

For you, my love….

What a gracious moment to reminisce! The things you and I accomplished this year, and God’s gifts, make it such a wonderful time to give thanks. I feel my heartbeat resting; no man should ever attempt the suicidal race against time as I do six out of seven days a week.

Someday, I pray to sail away with you my fair lady, hand-in-hand, to conquer a distant world awaiting us. Our toes will poke in the sand near the crystal clear waters. It won’t be long, my love, because our first anniversary is on the doorstep.

The Best for Last pic 1

In the meantime, I sit in sweats, enjoying the daybreak, and counting the moments. It’s one day closer to reminiscing our beginning of time – a reunion of sorts. We met as kids and were too young to realize the other’s needs. There were babies to raise and a whole life of mistakes to live. We never thought we’d find each other, or marry, after thirty-two years apart!

But, God, in His infinite humor, watched us go crazy. Little did we know He was saving the best for last! I have to smile and ask myself – how could one little week, in 1985, direct the course of two people reuniting and then creating such a perfect pair? Only through our Father! It’s the only possible way. Now, my little angel, we are infinitely heaven bound, together.

First, though, there are things we must do, here on earth. God anointed me to be a messenger nine years ago; so we need to spread His word and passion to others. Perhaps, we are Adam and Eve, His original creations, reincarnated to prove how real love shines in this world. It certainly explains my back pains for God took a rib from me to make my dream come true. Overjoyed, I am better for the ache!

The sun ignites the gray morning sky. It’s undeniable our Father planned to unite these two souls from the beginning. So, it is here I stay content in spirit, God abounding, and mother nature is dormant. Tomorrow, on our first anniversary, we will celebrate this blessed union. I can come forward to share an everlasting miracle with a world waiting to witness perfection in the flesh.

Jacob's photo 3

Today, I am alive, in love, and tranquil as the dawn. As my goddess sleeps, I pray our devotion will conquer all. It’s clear, God in His magnificent wisdom, saved the best for last – YOU.

Happy Anniversary, my love!


PLEASE BE SURE TO JOIN US SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 4TH!

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Give the gift that keeps on giving….

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I thought I was done with you

woman and man holding hands while walking between rock formation

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

I thought I was done with you;
That is why I heaved such a sigh
Of relief;
How mistaken I am!
Your beautiful words again
Have mercilessly pierced my heart
With love;
Leaving me totally defenceless;
Why are you so irresistible?
What is this charm in you
That holds me captive to you?
Each time you extend a hand
Of love to me,
I find myself skipping excitedly
Like a little school kid
To grab it
As if it were a gold medal
I had won in the championship
Of the season.
Yet, it doesn’t take you long
To dump me on snow;
Tell me the magic spell that
You have to win my heart.
Can I have it too?
So I can pour on you and make you
Prisoner of my heart for ever?