The Greatest Hero.

For over 150 years, this solemn and hallowed day has been observed to honor those whose lives were lost for the freedoms that we experience in this great country. But why today? Why are the brothers and sisters of the military who have laid down their lives not on our mind every single day as we enjoy what we have come to know as “rights” in our freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, the ability to worship freely? But what rights would we have if blood had not been shed?

Stop and think a moment about what this holiday truly stands for. We are honoring individuals that are a part of our country who have literally lost their life in battle, some by choice, some by devotion to their responsibility as a citizen, for you and me. Strangers. Sure, those in the military know that they are fighting for the ones they love. But they also are fighting for people they don’t even know, every day. And in some cases, people that don’t deserve their selflessness. They put their lives at risk, watch brothers and sisters fall, all so that we can enjoy the luxury of the life that we live each day. For me, this is a sacrifice that I can’t even begin to comprehend and literally sends chills down my spin to think about.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  John 15:13

Jesus tells us that there is no greater love than someone who is willing to lay down his life for that of another. What a living testament our members of the military are to us, as they truly exhibit the kind of love God intends for us to have. Today, and every day, I pray that those who are lost are on your mind. I hope that you grieve with their loved ones, and honor their memory. But I also hope that you show your gratitude and the utmost respect for those still serving, that you take time out of your day to walk over to a man or woman in the military and say “thank you for your service.” What a small token of gratitude to show someone who has vowed their life to protect our country, a country full of people they barely know that they love and fight for every single day. Each and every one are heroes, living and breathing superheros.

But I can’t let this day pass without honoring the ultimate superhero, Jesus Christ. Sometimes it is hard to wrap our minds around his greatness and the true valor of his existence. But just as our military men and women are dedicated to protecting our great land and all of us who are a part of it, Jesus came to this Earth for that exact same quest, to save each and every one our souls.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

God loved us so much that he willing gave his son, his one and only son, to come to this Earth to pay the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus’ battlefield was much different than the ones fought on today, but his fate was the same as so many of those we honor today. He died to save us.

We are so far from the violence and horrors of war that sometimes it is easy to forget what the men and women of the military go through. And we are centuries removed from the story of Jesus and the cross, and so sometimes we can’t feel the connection in our hearts to the sacrifice he made. But the Bible recounts for us what Jesus went through on the day he was crucified. It tells us that before he even was taken to place he would take his last breath, he was beaten and bound. The guards of Pilate twisted together a crown made of thorns and placed it on Jesus’ head where I can only image the pain that he felt as the thorns ripped through his flesh as they mocked him, clothing him in the color of royalty and beat him as they pretended to honor his status.

He was then treated as a common criminal, forced to bear the intense weight of the cross on which he would be crucified. He carried the cross as far outside the city as he could bear before the weight became too much for his tattered body to support, and a man from Cyrene was seized and forced to bear the weight for him, as they dragged him to the ‘The Place of the Skull’. Once there, the cross was set and he was striped of his clothing, his beaten body was naked as nails pierced his hands, stringing him up for a mocking crowd. A sign was placed over his head, ridiculing the title they claimed for him. When he asked for a drink, he was given a sponge soaked in vinegar, bitter to the taste. All the while, the crowd and guards mocked him asking where his Heavenly Father was, and why he was not ripped from the cross. I can only image that God wept for his son, just as Mary did.

Before he gave up his spirit, Jesus made one last plea for those who tortured him. He said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” The next day, the guards came to break his legs and finish the deed, but instead they found that he had already passed and instead pierced his side.

These passages from the Bible destroy my soul, and make my heart physically ache for the one I call Lord. The pain, and mockery he endured as he was crucified for no crime of his is heart wrenching. And each and every strike of his face, and breaking of his flesh was done for you and for me. He was murdered in the most gruesome way for us, people who were yet to be born but had been cursed to a life of sin before breathing air on this Earth. Jesus died so that we could live.

Today, I invite you to honor those who have lost their lives in protection of our freedoms. Extend a hand to those who have received news that someone they love would not be returning to them and grieve with them. Say thank you to those who continue to fight for us everyday, without any of the recognition they so bravely deserve. But most importantly, I pray that you do this every day that you are able, not just today because no words we say will ever be enough to express the gratitude for a lost life, but what we can do is honor them with our actions.

And if you are a Christian today, I invite you to meditate on the pain and suffering your Lord endured on a cross so many years ago. Thank him for what he gave for us, so that we could have the chance to escape the punishment of sin. And examine your actions and see that you are honoring his sacrifice by living your life in a way that honors him. I pray that every day you are reminded of the love that your God has for you, and that his love surrounds you in your times of need. You are loved, so much so that God gave his only son so that you could be free of the chains of sin.

And if you read this today and have never committed your life to God, let me tell you that his sacrifice was for you too. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or the things that you have done, God tells us that anyone who confesses with their mouth that God is their Savior will be saved from eternal damnation. Jesus died for you, he endured a gruesome death to allow you to remove that blanket of sin that weighs you down every day of your life. If you would give your life to him, you would be renewed with a light that will guide you all your days. You will be filled with the Holy Spirit that will carry you through all of the hard times. You will experience a life you never dreamed of, because of God who loves you so much. Don’t wait until tomorrow, I cannot think of a more fitting day than this as we honor some of the greatest heroes of our time to dedicate your life to the greatest hero of all time. Will you love him today?

God, I thank you for blessing us with those who are so like you in that they would lay down their life for our great nation. I pray today that we would honor their memory and remember the sacrifice they made. I ask for peace and comfort for those who remember loved ones today, those who have grieved for a loved one who never returned from battle. And I pray that you surround those currently fighting with your love and shield and be with them each and every day. And God, thank you for loving me in spite of my flaws. Thank you for giving your only son, so that I may be saved from the curse of sin. Forgive me for straying from you in any way, and letting my heart get far from your grace. I can’t imagine the pain Jesus experienced and because of you I never have to. Thank you for being my hero, today and everyday. I love you and I honor you, for all the days of my life. To you be the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

 

 

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In Loving Memory…

Death hurts. Not for those who pass on, but for those of us who are left here picking up the pieces of a shattered heart, trying to figure out how to move on. This week I sat beside one of my very best friends with tears streaming down my face, trying to find the words to say to comfort her as she laid to rest one of the most important people in her life.

But sometimes there aren’t words. Sometimes there is a just a feeling of loss and despair that you can only acknowledge and offer a shoulder to cry on. I remember when I got the text message of the news, I was at work and completely shocked. I stood over the phone where I expected to see just another notification from my favorite store and instead read one of the most heartbreaking text messages I have received in my 26 years.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

If you had told me ten years ago as a high school junior that she and I would be facing the things in life that we are now, I would have chosen not to believe it. I would turned my head and pretended that such heartbreak didn’t exist and that the worst thing we would ever experience would be the woes of teenage love. Yet here we are, saying goodbye to people we love, along with so many of our friends. And had we known, what would we have done? Would we have lived our lives differently? My heart clings to the fact that our Lord and Savior knew our teenage hearts , and he knew what was ahead for us and he let us live our innocent lives, all the time preparing our hearts for what would come. Because what I would have believed had you told me this ten years ago, is that we would be here for each other through all the hardships in our lives. And what I know now is that God is our Savior, our ever-present help in times of need. And it is only through his love and salvation that we can lay our head down at night.

Wednesday I wanted to cry, I wanted to sit down right there in the middle of the floor and break down. But I didn’t, I sat my phone down, I took a deep breath and I walked away. But as I did, I started praying for my friend, for her family, for their loss, and for their comfort. I started praying for strength to help her through this, and grace to handle it in the way God would have me handle it. And I ate a little more ice cream that day, because the world just seems a little easier to handle when you have ice cream in your belly.

People always say that time heals, but maybe it doesn’t. Maybe each day that we live past the hole left in our hearts from loss, especially a daddy-shaped hole, we learn that we can still wake up everyday, put one foot in front of the other, and make the most of what we do have. The Lord gives us an amazing strength when we need it most, it is the love of God that holds us up during times of grief. And I saw that in full force at the funeral home as I saw the strength with which my second family carried themselves through one of the hardest days of their lives. And I know that it is only for the love of God that they were able to do that.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Mourning is something that there is no recipe for making it easier. There is not material things, or vice that will allow us to move on faster or easier. It’s an ugly process but we have the Creator of Heaven and Earth to lean on during those times. He can’t take the pain away, but he can hold you, lift you up, and find a way to remind you of the life your loved one lived. And the life that my best friend’s dad lived was a glorious one. He was blessed with a beautiful family, enough love to build a bridge to the moon, and most importantly the grace and Holy Spirit of God. The only sadness he had at the end of his life was that he couldn’t do more for the Lord as his time here on Earth was cut short. What an amazing testament of a man he was. And because of that, the ones he left here on Earth know that his heart is shining with the love of God in Heaven today.

At this stage of my life, I don’t have the knowledge to write about how to make it through grief. What I do know is that the only reason I am able to pick myself up after things like this is because I have my Lord and Savior close to my heart. But I was reminded of perhaps one of the greatest hymns of all time that speaks to the true purity of a heart of God and is the best representation I could come up with to honor someone that I thought so much of. It comes to mind from one of the most powerful testimonies I have ever experienced from a man who attended Living Hope Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He told of his battle with cancer and his decision to be at peace with whatever happened to him. He played the most glorious performance of this piece that I have ever heard on the piano and it struck my soul. I can’t think of more fitting words to honor those we love who have passed on. So, I pray today for my dear friend and her family, and I leave you with this beautiful tribute. Share it, cherish it and remember it, because this is the life he now has. May God bring us even a taste of the peace he has.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

In loving memory of Garry Caswell.

It is Well with My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

Written by P P. Bliss, Gloria Roe • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Warriors of Christ.

When your heart is in turmoil, it feels like every day you fight to see the sunshine peek through the clouds. Sometimes it can feel like you’re scratching and clawing your way out of a hole you’ve stumbled into, only to feel the land give way beneath you. But what we sometimes forget as Christians is we are fighting for our lives every day, regardless of the situations we find ourselves in.

God has called us to be his children, but we must work for that honor every single day. 

I think as Christians, we often get hung up on the idea of life on Earth. We strive to achieve Earthly standards of accomplishment like wealth, career achievements, and personal relationships. We put so much stock in the things that satisfy us now, that we sometimes forget that this is not our home. We are so distracted by the things around us, that when tragedy strikes, we often find ourselves lying on the ground wondering how we got there. As my family has experienced first hand the devastation that a disease like cancer can deliver, it seems that my ears are more in tune to the number of times I hear people question why things like cancer, death, illness, and tragedy happen. You hear people talk of the goodness of a human, their service to others, and the love in their heart and how it simply isn’t fair that such a person has to suffer through such terrible things.

But what my heart is constantly drawing me towards is the promise in the Bible that our days on Earth will not be easy. In fact, we find the pages of our Heavenly Father’s beloved book packed full of verse after verse encouraging us to move forward in the hard times, to stay strong in him when we face suffering. Our love letter from Christ tells us that life will be hard, even more so because we are cloaked in the Heavenly spirit. But what we can lay our head to rest on is the promise that for whatever suffering this life may bring, our Heavenly home will satisfy a desire in our heart we have yet to uncover and the immensity of the happiness we will experience there will leave whatever sufferings we encounter here on Earth in the dust beneath our shoes.

Instead, what we should remind ourselves is that every single day, we are fighting a battle for our eternal lives. We are facing our demons, Earthly woes and things we cannot even begin to understand in our quest for an eternal seat at the Father’s table.

And what that battle requires is preparation. It doesn’t call us to weep about our troubles, or cry out for an explanation. It demands that we take refuge in the love of God and allow him to carry us when we cannot go on anymore. This week it was laid on my heart to simply talk about staying strong on the battlefield of life and training everyday to handle whatever life throws at you. I encourage you to spend your days seeking the guidance of God through scripture and prayer. If you train your heart each and every day, you will be better equipped to handle anything that is thrown your way. You will be in tune with your Father and have that foundation to lean on when your foes fall on you.

In my quest for a way to write just what was churning around in my mind, I stumbled upon yet another prayer from the book of Psalms. And like Psalm 23, this too was written by David. In this Psalm, David is crying out to God in a moment of trouble, asking for his help and his guidance. We see this vulnerability from David as he is fleeing for his life from Absalom. What this Psalm holds for me, is a prayer to God in the midst of a storm that although the Earth is shaken, and although the enemy seems stronger than ever, I know that my God is there with me, fighting alongside me.

Psalm 3

“Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him’.”

People often say that when it rains, it pours. And oftentimes we find ourselves in a situation where it feels that as everything is crumbling around us, the very floor beneath us seems to be failing as well.

What are your foes? Are you struggling with temptation, are you facing an illness? Maybe you are fearing for your life literally, or you can feel yourself losing a grip on who you are and who you want to be. Does it feel that your back is against a wall?

And in those times, as we find our world straying farther and farther away from God’s word, it seems that when we walk through valleys of hardship, we must also dodge the contagiousness of negativity and doubt.  I think that David was experiencing this very same thing all of those years ago. He was in a bad place, he was fearing for his life, and it seemed that the foes were too many to count. And undoubtedly he had a host of people questioning his faith in God and why he would end up in such a situation when his God should have delivered him. But although he is questioned, and although he is challenged, David knows that his God is near. As should you.

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lordand he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.”

David speaks to the power and strength of having God as your fortress, equipping yourself with his word and his grace to face your biggest threats. He knows that it is only because of God that he is able to lift his head up and move forward in the wake of hardship. He also trust that God will help him through, giving him the strength and the will when he has neither to continue in his battle. As Christians there will be times when we simply can’t go on, that is when Christ picks us up and carries us. He gets us out of bed in the morning and lays our heads on his armor at night. And because of his glory and his love for us, we should never fear whatever it is that we face. Even death. For we have the creator of Heaven and Earth on our side, whom shall we fear?

“Arise, LordDeliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.”

It is with this verse that I like to imagine David laying down his worries at God’s feet and asking him to arise and deliver him. Have you ever been in a dark place, or struggling with a mound of fear and finally come to the point you knew you couldn’t face it alone? As Christians, we can lay down our ego, we can say “I give up,” and we have a Heavenly Father that is ready and willing to go to battle on our account. Some days, we won’t be strong enough to fight, but with a personal relationship with God, on those days he will be near and he will deliver us.

It’s easy to give up when your heart is so full of angst and worry, when you feel like your back is against the wall and your life as you know it is crumbling. It is easy to feel that there is no hope for your situation, or that you won’t survive what it is you face on your battlefield. But what is even easier is crying out to the glorious God and Savior and simply saying, “I need you.” Then we are able to fight side by side with God. And I pray that if you find yourself in this battle, that you would push away doubt and the need to understand this life and call upon the strength of the Lord’s armor. We will never belong here, therefore we will never be at peace here. We will face battle after battle in the name of the Lord. But we will always have deliverance in Christ alone, and we will have a Heavenly home waiting for us that far outweighs all.

Days of Doubt.

I’ve struggled with what to write about this week. Not because of writer’s block or a lack of content, but because I have battled with how to put on paper exactly what has been laid on my heart. My dad has prostate cancer, a very advanced form of it, and right before my eyes I have watched a strong, healthy man suffer not only from the disease itself, but from the treatment. There are so many loved ones in my life who are either battling cancer or watching someone they love fight and it breaks my heart. I struggle for words every day to say to them and to my family to comfort them.

What do you tell someone who’s life has been ripped out from underneath them like a rug when they get yet another dose of bad news? How do you remain positive for them but be respectful of the fact that their heart is literally breaking in front of you?

And while it seems that every human instinct in me should be questioning why such a horrible thing is happening to people I love and care about, good people, instead my heart seems to draw closer to the Lord every day. It is so hard to explain to people how I can keep my faith, because the last thing that crosses my mind is to question God’s will. In fact, the question that is constantly on my mind instead is what do people do who go through these things and don’t have God to lean on because they don’t have a personal relationship with him? As I searched my heart for answers, I continued to pray to God for strength, for myself and for those I love. And that’s when Psalm 23 crossed my mind.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – Psalm 23

The magnitude of comfort that this Psalm brings is me indescribable. I have heard this preached, and taught, and recited since I was little and yet never has this passage meant more to me than now. I often describe the Bible, as many people do, as Christ’s love letter to us as Christians. Imagine sitting down and putting into a book everything that you ever wanted to tell or teach your children. How incredible this piece of literature is, as it is Christ’s personal instructions to us as to how to live life and survive whatever may come our way.

This Psalm in particular, to me, is so stripped down and honest that it resonates with my soul. Here is how I break it down and keep in hidden in my heart.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Wow. To take this line and apply it to your life really reveals the life Christ called us to live. The Earth is our physical home for now, but we do not belong here. God has destined us for a far greater home with him in Heaven and in this verse we know everything we need to know about life with God. Though our egos and our human nature demands that we have worldly possessions, though we judge our success by our things, and our value as a person by the opinions of others, this verse tells us that if we have God, if we allow him to lead us through life, we will be ok. God has provided us with everything we could possibly need to survive and thrive with him. We lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

For me this part is twofold. One, this part of the passage says to me that God will satisfy every need we have if we allow him to be Lord of our lives. The Psalm as a whole equates God to a shepherd and us as his sheep. As a shepherd, he knows what is best for us, he knows how to help us steer clear of harm’s way and he will always provide for our physical and spiritual needs. We all know those people who seem to be constantly searching for something in life, they never feel fulfilled. They buy Earthly goods, or seek the companionship of others, thinking that it will leave them filling whole. But in truth, that fullness can only be felt when we put our trust and hope in God. He will provide for us in a way that no one else can.

This part of the passage to me is also God’s way of saying he knows what is best for us and sometimes that means lying down in green pastures. As humans we are driven to fix problems, to control situations and often times it is a true struggle to just be still. But that is what God calls us to do in certain instances in our life, to just be still and let him work. Just as a shepherd will give his flock rest as he prepares for the remainder of their journey.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

This right here is the most precious part of the entire Psalm to me. God promises us as Christians that no matter how hard things are, no matter how absolutely terrified we are, he is always there. There is nothing in our lives that we should fear, or worry about. Not even the evil things of this world or death itself, for if we are living in the glory of God, he will protect us and lead us through the hardest and most difficult times of our lives. For me, this is the passage I want to repeat every single day to my dad, and to those around me who are suffering as well. There are dark times in our life, God never promised there wouldn’t be. He equates those times to the valley of the shadow of death, teetering on the edge of the demise of our physical being, and yet there even still he remains with us, guiding us with his light and his staff until we can make it to the other side of that valley. But what may be perhaps the most difficult thing about this, is sometimes that outcome, that ascent from the valley is not what we want. It is not the answer we search for. But what it is, is God’s will for our life and it is far better than anything we could have ever planned ourselves.

He knows every single second of our lives before we are even born and much as a storyboard is laid out for a movie, he knows what scenes come next. Take comfort in the fact that our all-knowing and ever-present God knows what lies ahead and he knows exactly what lies beyond and he will get us there, one way or another. We only need to trust him and take comfort in his presence.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Again, the Lord shows us that we will encounter enemies, whether physical or spiritual. There are beings and things that will drag us down and threaten our spiritual well-being around every corner. But he is quick to show us that not only will he help us merely survive those times, but he will provide everything we need to go through them and then some. We can compare the description of “preparing a table” to laying out a feast for us. He will not merely provide a slice of bread to keep us moving, but will fill us with all of our desires.

Anointing our head can only be described as a Biblical practice that was used to honor and dignify a person. God does that for us by allowing us to live a righteous life through him. Despite what evil and darkness we may find in our lives, God always promises a robe of white and a life of goodness and mercy if we trust in him. So much so, that as described in the Psalm, it will run over and burst from its container. For me, this is every time I read his word or worship him through song, I truly feel like my heart may burst from how much happiness and true love he gives me. When I think about the people that have been placed in my life and the impact they have had on me, I feel full to the brim.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

And our final promise from God is what we can expect from a life with him, if we trust in him with all our heart and lean on him, goodness and mercy, love and protection, will always be a part of our lives. He promises strength for the times that are hard, and mercy for when we fall short. The house of the Lord to me in my relationship with him through the Holy Spirit. Because I accepted Christ so long ago, his spirit has been within my heart, guiding me and protecting me. The fact that I will have that for every day to come is what helps me pick myself up and put one foot in front of the other, each and every day.

God never promised that our time on Earth would be free from suffering and pain. What he did promise was eternal strength and love through him at all times, especially those days when we need it most. He promised fulfillment and satisfaction in everything through him. We must only seek him and his will to fill the fullness that we are programmed to yearn for. And not only will God provide for us, he will give us more than we deserve. Not in physical worldly possessions and measures of happiness, but in every Heavenly desire our heart, mind and soul can crave.

Some days are just hard. There are times I just want to stay in bed, cover my eyes, and lock the world out. I want to be selfish and run from everything that threatens my happiness. I sometimes feel like the world is closing in on me and the heaviness of the weight I carry is suffocating me. But in those moments of doubt, in those seconds of anger, my God is always with me. He is whispering in my ear, “Be still child, for I am here to comfort you, to love you, and to guide you through.”

God loves you, and he understands that we struggle to grasp his grace and goodness. He gets that there will be days of doubt. But he calls us to never let those emotions win, to fight against them with the grace and love he has tucked away in our hearts. I encourage you, when you struggle to find your way, pick up your Bible and remember this passage. For our God is an awesome God and his word is true and good.

He will never, ever forsake you.

Love Without Abandon.

I’m a dog person, it’s no secret. If we are friends on Facebook, fellow Tweeters on Twitter or connected on Instagram, you know that my feeds are full of pictures of my fur children. I have two dogs, one little and one big. They have their own unique personalities but the one thing they have in common is that they love their momma. As I type this blog, my Doddle is literally resting his head on my shoulder.

Being a dog mom has taught me a lot, it’s given me patience and showed me that if I can make it through the puppy years, I can raise a child one day. But the most important thing that my sweet boys have taught me is how to love. It may seem strange to think of an animal that doesn’t speak our language or share our belief system as the perfect symbol of how we should love, but I truly believe that the love a dog shows is the purest love and the closest we will ever get here on Earth to knowing the true immensity of God’s love.

Let me explain.

My pups meet me at the door every time I come home, and their excitement is uncontainable. They are wagging their tails, licking my toes, and doing their very best to get my attention and let me know that they are so happy to see me. Our doodle is one-year old, and Andy my shih-tzu mix is only three. I remember their younger year very vividly. I got frustrated a lot and let’s face it, I still lose my temper with them now and again. But you know what? No matter how loud I yell at them, or how many times I get angry with them, they are always right back at my feet, begging to be loved.

As sad as it is, we see it all the time in the news. Every time a new animal neglect case comes up or animal cruelty pictures surface, those gruesome photos depict the face of a poor dog who loved its owner despite their cruelty and shortcomings. We see a heartbroken, defeated animal learn to trust a human again in such a short time. We see a puppy who gets a second chance with a new family and falls in love with them all over again. It seems that no matter what this world does to these defenseless babies, they bounce right back and learn to love in spite of it all. We could learn something from our furry friends.

But what may be the most rewarding thing ever about being a dog owner is their ability to love endlessly without expecting anything in return. Sure they like to be loved on, they are hearty eaters and enjoy the occasional stroll through the park with you. But they demand none of it. They would love you the same if you both sat day in and day out in one spot and never ate again.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

The greatest commandment that God ever gave us in the Bible was to love; to love Him with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And yet as humans, this is often one of the most difficult task for us. We are quick to judge others, we are afraid to expose our hearts and we hide behind walls that prevent us from loving unconditionally. And we are skeptical. We are threatened by anything that presents itself as pure love. We are quick to discount it, and toss it out of our way because it scares us.

Whether it is in a relationship with a significant other, a second chance connection with someone who hurt us or basking in the light of a potential love, we often run and guard ourselves from hurt. I sometimes wonder if it is that exact reason that often times people stray from the church and God’s love because they just don’t quite get how someone as awesome and powerful as God could love them, and forgive them and keep on loving them through all of the bad and the good. But the truth is, he does. Our God is an amazing God that loves us no matter what we do.

Do your reservations about love hold you back in life? Is it holding you back from the relationship with your Lord and Savior that you crave?

The Bible itself tells us to guard our hearts, they truly are important. But for us that typically means hiding our hearts, and containing them from the cruelties of this world. But I encourage you to not let the state of our world, or the hurt you’ve experienced keep you from a true relationship with God. Open your heart to him, only there will you find the peace and comfort you crave. The truth is, each and every one of us have a God-shaped hole in our heart that is yearning to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And if you have been holding God at an arms length, scared of what that love may feel like, you my friend are missing out on one of the greatest things we will ever experience. God’s love can change not only your life, but your eternity.

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Luke 6:35

And perhaps what is often times even harder than the immensity of love, is giving something so dear to you to someone who has done you wrong. But even so, God calls us to not only love Him, love ourselves, and love our neighbors, he calls us to love our enemies. If we are so guarded against love from those we care about, it may seem impossible to love someone we despise.

As Christians we have something that no one else has; the perfect role model. God is the very definition of perfection and his love is the purest and most real love you will ever experience in your life. He loved us so much that he sent his only son, Jesus, to be crucified on a cross, ridiculed and beaten, just so that we could have the choice to live free of sin. God himself said it in John 15 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” And that is exactly what Jesus did for us. I encourage you as Christians to look to the example of your Heavenly Father to love one another.

How are you holding back from giving your love away to those in your life?

Have you had bad experiences with love in the past? Were you done wrong by someone when you had just opened your heart to vulnerability of truly falling in love? Or maybe you had your love taken advantage of by a family member or friend and you were left feeling scorned and exposed. Whatever the case may be, I encourage you today to not let that experience keep you from experiencing one of the greatest gifts God has ever given to us. There is a hole in our hearts that is perfectly carved out to hold the love that we will carry with us through our lives here on Earth. God intends for us to find fellowship and companionship with our brothers and sisters on Earth through friendship, a church family, a husband or wife or even the joy of a pet. What he didn’t intend for us to do was take a gift so great as love and find a hole in the ground and bury it so we never have to be hurt by it.

So if you are on teetering on the ledge of falling in love, jump in with both feet.

If you are cultivating a new friendship, open your heart and soul to that person.

If you are married to the love of your life, cherish them and tell them how you feel every day.

If you have children, encourage them to love without abandon.

If you have a furry little head resting on your shoulder, give that sweet puppy kisses every day.

But don’t stop there, share your love with others by doing things out of love. Don’t do things because you feel obligated, or because you have to. Do things because in your heart you feel that small tug that says “this is right.” Look for ways to do small acts of kindness for others. And when you experience one yourself, find a way to pay it forward. If there is anything that we can do as Christians in a world so full of hate, it is love. You have no idea the amount of power you have sitting right there in your chest. If we open our hearts and let the love that our Heavenly Father gave us poor out into our everyday life, we can change the world.

I pray that every day you would pick up your Bible and read this verse. Memorize it, put it on a post it in every room of your house and carry it in your hearts. Live this verse, practice this verse and share this verse with the world because nowhere will you find a more perfect definition of how we are called to love one another…except maybe through the eyes of a man’s best friend.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 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.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8