Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  II Corinthians 9:7

The music begins, and people dance down the aisles to deposit their gifts and return, dancing, to their seats.  Another song begins, and another group repeats the process of dancing down the aisle to deposit a handful of treasure.  This will continue for up to an hour until everyone has an opportunity to dance and joyfully give his or her gift.

Offering time in Nebbi, Uganda, is something one must see and experience to believe.  These beautiful people who some might describe as economically challenged prove themselves to be some of the wealthiest in the world in their giving to their Lord.  With joy and thanksgiving everyone dances to the front as his or her zone moves forward in time with their special song.

I remember being in one congregation where the gifts were vegetables from the garden or bags that jumped around during the service as cherished small farm animals were given in thanksgiving.  The focus of the offertory was expressing gratitude for God’s abundance poured out in the lives of his children.

At home in Texas most of my giving is online.  My church, missionaries, and organizations that I support all encourage online giving.  I never get to dance.  The closest thing to Nebbi offerings that I experience here is when our church has our Noisy Offering:  all the children grab pots and pans, spittoons and buckets, anything that makes noise when change is tossed in.  One cannot avoid giving—the children are seriously in your face until you put something in their containers.  And they do dance back to the front to lively, joyous music.

I really do believe God loves cheerful givers, and it’s so much more fun.


Lord, our hearts burst with gratitude for your generosity that never seems to end.  Remind us that “all things come of thee, oh Lord, and of thine own we have given thee.”  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.  Proverbs 14:1  (NIV)

Let’s put aside the tearing down—there’s already too much of that going on—and think about being builders.  Don’t you find that prospect exciting?  So what if we’ve made mistakes or haven’t been perfect?  (As if anyone is…)  Joel 2:25 speaks to past mistakes or regrets:  …I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.  In essence, God’s redemptive power even touches those times we wish we could redo.  He is able to transform the past and give us hope for the future.

When I think of building, I think about all the joys we can bring to our families.  Lest we can’t think of a thing we can contribute, Proverbs 31 sets out a composite of the Ideal Woman.  I don’t have a vineyard to plant, and I haven’t spun any thread lately (or ever), but I do know the joy of arranging flowers for my family to enjoy and am pretty talented at spinning stories for the grandchildren.  We all have unique gifts that can be honed for blessing our families.  We just need to get in building mode.

Someone said that women are the thermostat of the home; they set the temperature for everyone.  Susanna Wesley (mother of John and Charles and 17 others!) set the tone for her household by huddling in prayer in the mornings with an apron pulled over her head.  From those two-hour prayer sessions, she emerged to teach and shape her children and her community almost single-handedly.

I rarely use an apron for anything, but my prayer time can reach out to my family and those I love just as effectively as those prayers of Susanna, and I can demonstrate love in ways that affirm and encourage.  I can be alert to the gifts that are beginning to blossom in my little ones (grandchildren) and praise their parents for their faithfulness during rough patches.  I can sacrificially give them my time, put aside my own activities, and offer undivided attention.

Susanna spent time alone with each of her children throughout the week, teaching, listening, and encouraging them.  Her son John later commented on how special those times were to him and his personal growth.  Even with just one or two children, I wonder how much time we devote in a week to each child?

Think of the opportunities we have to shape lives within our realm of influence.  What can you do to build your house?  It’s never too late.  Have you ever been driving with a GPS system, and you inadvertently get off track?  Siri (or whatever her name may be) says, “Recalculating…”  And eventually, you get back on course.  So, you may have gotten off course in your building project.  Recalculate and get back to work.


Lord, what a glorious opportunity you have given us to bless our families.  Open our hearts and imaginations to touch each one today with your love.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  John 13:34

One of the really beautiful things about having adult children is that one can sit back and take pleasure in conversation between them without having to be the monitor.  They reach the age where they enjoy each other and appreciate who each has become.

I’ve just returned from a family birthday dinner.  My two children, spouses, and four grandchildren were all there, chatting, beaming, loving on one another.  Even the grands were laughing and teasing each other and sharing funny pictures they’d created with their IPhones.  I could resonate with the Psalmist who said, “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!”  (Psalm 133:1)  The evening ended with the children’s enthusiastic discussion of where we should all go for vacation next year.

I am certain my children love and appreciate each other because of family traditions that began generations ago.  I watched my mom and her two brothers interact and knew that they had been taught respect and love for others and for themselves.  And they learned to entertain each other.  It was fun hearing them tell stories of growing up with neighborhood children parading in and out of the house.  Everyone always sensed they were welcome.

When my brother and I were growing up, if we got even close to arguing, my mom would make us recite to each other, “… be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”  (Ephesians 4:32)  That wasn’t so bad, but after we’d spoken Scripture to one another, we had to hug and kiss.  That was deterrent enough to keep us on the straight and narrow.

We spent nights with our grandparents, often sleeping on the big feather bed with little Grandma sandwiched between us.  We’d roll to the center, and when the bed slats shifted, the whole contraption fell to the floor with the three of us laughing hysterically.  We’d put the bed back together, and the process was repeated until we were all so tired, we didn’t bother with the slats and just slept on the floor.

Dinner time at home was special because the rules were suspended.  Except for good manners.  One night my dad put giant marbles in his pocket and told us he was so tired, he thought his eyes would drop out.  Suddenly, he managed to make it appear that his eyes were falling out of his head.  My brother laughed so hard, he and his chair fell over.  And then we all had a turn doing the marble trick.

Simple little times of laughter and fun with our parents and grandparents who were otherwise the unquestioned authority figures in our home.  But everyone knew how to laugh and to ensure that we were all included.

There are so many encouraging stories and admonitions in the Bible for parents and for families – from the single person, to the widow, to the orphan, to large or small families.  We learn to train children in the way they should go; we’re admonished to model Christ-like behavior and to discipline with gentleness and care; and we’re instructed to pray for and with each other.  Mostly, we learn to love

Then as our children grow up, it’s funny how they replicate what they’ve seen and heard.  And it’s so good to see them loving each other.


Father, thank you for working in all our lives and for making up the differences when we fail as parents and family members.  Help us to support and encourage our children as they pick up their responsibilities as parents.  And help us to remember that we made our share of mistakes.  Thanks for your patience.  AMEN.



Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.  Matthew 18:21, 22  (KJV)

I don’t know about you, but injustice is the most difficult thing for me to forgive–when someone thoughtlessly (or with premeditation) harms someone else, and the injury isn’t deserved.  There seems to be a lot of injustice going around the world just now, so much so that we are all affected.

How is it possible to ever forgive the perpetrators of all the griefs that they inflict?  I absolutely cannot, but Jesus can.  I tend to look at the suffering through the lens of my own humanity.  I could never…  I would never… do so and so… forgetting that I’m already identified with all those who like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6), and that all my goodness is nothing better than dirty, filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

One of my favorite bishops says that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.  Unforgiveness gnaws away at us, diminishes our quality of life, makes us bitter, and eventually destroys us.  The spiritual cost is huge.  Jesus said, Father, “Forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us.”  (Matthew 6:12 LB)  If God forgives us in proportion and in the same way as we forgive others, we could be in a lot of trouble.

So, how do we pull this off?  We do it by an act of the will.  Forgiveness is not an emotion.  It’s a behavior.  Jesus told us we would be obedient if we love him (John 14:15).  When Peter impulsively suggested that one should perhaps forgive an offense up to seven times, Jesus shocked him by saying seventy times seven.  That’s 490 times of forgiving just one offending person.

If we love Jesus, we will forgive – just as he has forgiven us.  We will decide to forgive based on Jesus’ words, not on the repentance of the other person or on his worthiness, and we find God’s grace in us empowers us to forgive.  I once heard Archbishop Tutu say that we are obligated to forgive, but the one being forgiven cannot receive forgiveness until he has repented.  It’s really not up to us to hang on to our grievances.  Jesus didn’t with us, thank God.

Father, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.  II Chronicles 20:12  (Amp.)

Large numbers of soldiers from several lands were marching toward Judah to destroy God’s children.  King Jehoshaphat, godly leader of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, was frightened and called all the people together to fast and to consult the Lord.  Jehoshaphat reminded God of the long relationship between him and his people, and then he prayed, quite candidly, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”

Once again our beloved country is grieving after the tragic deaths of numerous people in Orlando.  We’ve seen this before.  In fact, the scene is becoming all too familiar.  Death of innocent people unexplained and unjustified.  We hear the horror as recounted by survivors and amazing tales of forgiveness from others.

Violence begets violence (Matt. 26:52).   We seem not to know how to stop this horrible evil existing throughout the world.  Our one common enemy has come to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), and all our negotiations and conciliation do not bring about the peace that’s vacant in so many hearts.

Those of us whose allegiance is to the eternal King who self-identifies as Love can lift our voices, crying for his mercy, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”  When Jehoshaphat listened, he was given a unique battle plan tailored precisely for the circumstance.  It worked without Judah’s having to inflict any harm.

It’s past time for us to unite in prayer for our country and for the peace of the whole world.


Father, only through the Prince of Peace will we ever know lasting peace.  Cause us to seek you for your direction and then to be obedient to act as your children.  In Jesus’ Name.  AMEN.



…if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.  II Timothy 2:13

I am reviewing the life of King David, the “sweet singer of Israel” (II Samuel 23:1), the king described as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).  It almost seems unfair that David gets to be listed in the ranks of saints of the ages.  But that is God’s designation, not ours.

David’s relationship with Bathsheba could be viewed as a sin of the flesh.  After all, David should have been out doing his kingly duty and fighting with his men (II Samuel 11:1, 2) when he stayed home and was attracted to Bathsheba.  The relationship that followed David’s yielding to temptation is not unusual.  But the cover up is reprehensible.  When Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, refuses to visit his wife two times during his return to Jerusalem, David meticulously plans his murder and sends the order for his execution in Uriah’s own hands.  It’s obvious that Uriah is highly trusted; he could have read David’s order and avoided death.

There are other records of David’s careless approach to his responsibilities before God:  his pride in numbering the soldiers of Israel (I Chronicles 21:2), his overlooking Joab’s murder of Abner (II Samuel 3:30), and his lack of discipline of his children (II Samuel 13:21, 28, 29, 18:5).  And yet, God saw David as a man after his own heart.

God knew David, the man who spent time meditating on him, praising him, and instructing the priests and the people in worship.  God saw David’s heart, and God saw David’s instant response when confronted by Nathan, the prophet:  “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.”  (Psalm 51:4)  David understood that sin breaks the heart of God, even more so than the ones feeling its pain.

In Psalm 16:2, David confesses, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”  David throws himself onto God’s mercy in full recognition of his need for cleansing and God’s grace (Psalm 51:1, 2).   Like Paul, David recognizes that “by the grace of God” he is who he is (I Corinthians 15:10).

And while we sometimes look at ourselves (or others) seeing only the flaws, even the sins, God looks at our hearts (I Samuel 16:7) and responds to genuine repentance, forgiving at least seventy times seven (Matthew 18:2).  He knows that one who has been forgiven much loves much (Luke 7:7).  But even more than this, God is not dependent on our faithfulness to remain faithful.  Faithfulness is an intrinsic part of God’s nature, and he remains faithful to his character forever.

Let us be encouraged in our journey to faithfully follow our Lord without fear, guided by love (which calls us to obedience), and without condemnation (walking in the Spirit).  He will never leave us or forsake us.  He is always faithful, and we can be.


Father, we are often overwhelmed by your love and your faithfulness that came at such cost to you.  Continue your good work that we may in turn be faithful to you.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



…mine own vineyard have I not kept.  Song of Solomon 1:6  (KJV)

“Come on, we’re going on a field trip,” the bishop announced as he pulled staff members out of their offices.  The rains have been abundant this spring, and so avoiding the many puddles would be part of the adventure as we headed out the door.

We all walked cautiously down the hill and then traversed the pathway that edged the meadow where children hunt eggs every Easter.  We passed by patches of iris that were standing in water, on through stands of Mountain Laurel that had already bloomed, and then made our descent to the springs—the source of the San Antonio River.

When the aquifer fills, the springs burst from the ground and mostly follow their ancient path.  Some spill over onto the meadows creating a bog.  The life-giving source of water has drawn people to this site for thousands of years and was the impetus for settlement of the indigenous Payaya Indians and later the Spanish missionaries.

The sense of history on our sacred grounds is compelling.  Prior to the bequest of the lands to us in the last century, the owner had obviously respected and loved the place where so many had lived and thrived for centuries.  He employed twelve gardeners to maintain the nineteen acres that stretched across the valley and on into the basin.  Besides the native species of plants and trees, Gaucho planted hundreds of azaleas and created a small pond where a boat was moored for an afternoon’s enjoyment.

As we meandered through the soggy grounds, I noticed an overgrown stone walkway climbing the hillside.  And then to our right where terraced cutting beds had lined the walkway, bushes and weeds blotted out all signs of flowers from another day.  The acreage around the old home is lush with naturalistic landscaping, but the farther one roams from the house, invasive plants are obscuring what was once a paradise.  Nothing is static.  Everything has to be maintained.

My practical mother told me of a time she dressed and was headed out the door to do some “good works”.  She said that as she was leaving, she noticed cobwebs on the ceiling of the porch and sensed God telling her she needed to first take care of her own home before she could credibly go out and share Jesus with someone else.  Maintenance.

And so, I’ve been thinking…  Seeing the overgrown beds and walks on our grounds was sad, but it was just a reminder that, while it might be more exciting to get out of the familiar and engage in stimulating ministries, our first obligation is Jerusalem:  our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus and our family and our community.  Solomon’s “beloved” had been busy taking care of the family vineyards, but she hadn’t tended to her own needs (Song of Sol. 1:6).  And Martha was so busy worrying while she worked that she had neglected “the most important thing” (Luke 10:41).  On the other hand, Jesus regularly spent time with his Father, communing and being strengthened by him (Matt. 14:13, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:45, 46, Mark 14:32-34).  Essentially, even our spiritual lives must be maintained.

And that happens through the spiritual disciplines – Bible reading, prayer, and meditation as starters.  To paraphrase the violinist Jascha Heifetz, if I don’t spend intentional time with God one day, I notice it; if I miss two days, my friends notice it; if I miss three days, everyone notices it.  We have to tend our own gardens, spending time with our Father, and then we can go out to work in the fields to which he’s called us.


Lord, thank you for speaking to us in our ordinary days through your creation.  Give us ears to hear and feet to obey.  In Jesus our Lord.  AMEN.


Bear one another’s burdens…Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

Then Jesus called the Twelve to him and began to send them out two by two…”   Luke 10:1

I laugh when people emphatically declare their single-handed accomplishments. I remember a young man who was so thrilled that he’d built a thriving enterprise from scratch and all alone. He forgot the people who believed in him when he was nothing and who financially and psychologically supported him. He forgot the successful people who mentored him. He even forgot his own family who, in their limited way, were there for him.

When I was in primary school, my Sunday school teacher saw potential in me and asked me to be her assistant. She turned the class over to me to teach once a month. She convinced me that I could do it – and I did. In youth group, our adult sponsors assured me that I was a leader, and they invested time and themselves in developing my skills. A college professor encouraged me to keep studying and taking advantage of scholarships. Her belief fueled my confidence and a career that would inform many aspects of my calling. My husband, a first generation American, trudged along through school, working as many jobs as he could while studying, and caught the attention of one of his teachers.  “Young man,” she admonished, “you can be something some day.” And because of that and other affirmations, Peter went on to noteworthy service as a state judge.

So, are there really any self-made people? Moses needed Aaron by his side; Ruth and Naomi were brilliant companions; Jonathan encouraged David during some of his darkest hours; and Paul always ministered with a friend. Even Jesus himself traveled, lived, and worked in community with disciples who were themselves learning.

Pride and delusion tell us we don’t need anyone. But think of all the advantages we have in community. If one falls down, the other can help him up (Ecc. 4:10); we can encourage each other (Heb. 3:13); we become wise by being with wise people (Prov.13:20); there is safety with an abundance of counselors (Prov. 11:14); and we sharpen each other in fellowship (Prov. 27:17). The challenges of community are real, but the benefits are eternal.

Jesus’ first appearance to his disciples after his resurrection was in a closed room where they had gathered for fear of the Jewish leaders. Everybody but Thomas was there.  Could it be that Thomas was one of those people who had to process his grief alone? Did he have the need to suffer in isolation? By focusing on himself and attempting to resolve his doubts alone, he missed seeing Jesus. When he rejoined the group, his doubts were dissolved, and he recognized Jesus as his Lord and his God.

John Donne was spot on when he said, “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”

Father, you said it wasn’t good for a man to be alone, and you instructed us to bear one another’s burdens. Cause us to love one another, to walk together in peace and harmony, and to live and learn together. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.