The Candle That Cannot Be Blown Out

single-candleEarlier this week, I celebrated another birthday. I had no birthday cake this time; instead, I splurged on a gluten-free chocolate dessert.  However, when I was growing up, cakes were an important part of a birthday celebration. I have a picture of myself sitting in front of a cake on which there is one tiny candle.  I don’t remember how long that candle remained lit. I suspect that one of my grandparents, who attended that birthday party, blew it out rather quickly.

After I got married, I kept the birthday-cake-with-candles tradition going.  As the number of candles increased, blowing all of them out with one breath became more of a challenge. To make it more interesting, one year for my husband’s birthday, I bought candles that kept relighting after they had been blown out. Recalling that incident, today, reminded me of these words from the Gospel of John: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:5 NLT).

What is the light that can never be extinguished? Is it an LED or halogen light bulb? No. These long lasting bulbs are only good for 22 or 23 years. Is it our sun or some distant star? No. These huge bodies of light that exist for millions or billions of years, eventually die—turn into a black hole.

The light that can never be extinguished is not a thing. It’s a person. The name of that person is Jesus Christ. He called himself the Light of the World. The light that he brought to the world was a life very much greater than ordinary life.

The life that Jesus lived and the life that he offers us is like birthday cake candles that cannot be blown out. After 33 years, it looked like his light had been completely extinguished. It died. It was buried for three days, but then it came back—bigger and brighter and stronger than it had been before—proving that love is greater than hatred, that goodness is more powerful than evil, and that truth prevails over deception. I find great comfort in these facts.

Therefore, when I listen to newscasters talk about the current political confusion, uncertain economic problems, horrendous storms, the shooting of police officers or citizens, racial divisions, spread of the Ziki virus or other distressing matters, I do not panic—no matter how bad things get in this world.

And as one of Jesus’ light-bearers, my desire and prayer is that by the grace he gives me, I will—in my everyday life—show that love is stronger than hatred, good is more powerful than evil, truth prevails over evil, and light cannot be extinguished.

I intend to be the candle that cannot be blown out. What about you?

Two Forms of God’s Amazing Grace

100_6794During our breakfast-time, table-talk one morning this week, my husband told me about the following incident. While driving on the highway not far from our home, he saw a small fawn standing in the road in front of him. The animal walked into the road, stood there, and just looked at him. My husband said, “If that happens again, I’m going to speed up, not hit him, but blow my horn as loudly as I can.”

“What!  Why would you do that?”  I said, thinking how mean that would be.

“I want to scare that deer, so that he will understand that cars are dangerous and instead of standing in the road, he will run away. I want him to be terrified.”

Perhaps, that’s what the songwriter of “Amazing Grace” meant when he wrote this phrase—Twas grace that taught my heart to fear.  Although these words are essential to the meaning of grace, most of my life I’ve sung them without thinking much about what they mean and quickly moved on to the next phrase—and grace my fears relieved.

Why would a loving God want us to be afraid? And how does he use grace to teach us fear? Don’t we have enough fear in our hearts?

The problem is not that we are afraid but that we fear the wrong things—and especially the wrong people.  Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul.  Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell”.  (Matthew 10:28 NLT) I’d prefer not talking about hell, but Jesus did. Why?

Not because he represented an angry Father who’s out to kill us, but because he represented a loving Father who’s determined to save us from eternal destruction. God’s grace teaches us that before his power, we are as vulnerable as an ignorant fawn standing in the middle of a highway. Fawns that walk on highways are not unsafe–in danger of being killed. As long as they stay in the forest, they will be safe—assuming it’s not hunting season. But they are ignorant of that fact.

Ignorance is also part of problem. We may not be able to discern which road is safe and which one is not. Often, as the writer of Proverbs knew, the way that appears to be right ends in death. (Proverbs 16:25 NIV)

But ignorance is not our only problem.  Sometimes, we choose to disregard what God has told is a safe highway; Instead, we walk into a very dangerous highway of life. What does God do? He gives us much more a warning.

Imagine this: A fawn appears in the road in front of him. The driver of this car leans on his car-horn. But the fawn, paralyzed by fear, does not move. The driver stops his car, jumps out, runs as fast as he can, picks up the fawn and carries it to safety. Not understanding what is happening and being terrified, the fawn kicks, struggles, and bites him. Yet, the drive of this car does not become angry. A little while after the incident, he comes down with an incurable infection and dies.

That, today, is my picture of God’s incredible grace—the grace that teaches our hearts to fear, and then, relieves our fear.

We’re all like sheep [or deer] who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him. (Isaiah 53:6 MSG)

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. (John 3:17  MSG)


Two Images of a Wonderful Marriage

Earlier this week, I posted a picture on Facebook of John and me with this caption: “Walking on the path where we fell in love 50 years ago.”  Among the comments that I received were words such as these: “love, romantic, special, cute, and wonderful.” I appreciated all of the comments, and I love my friends and family members who made them. John and I do have a wonderful marriage. What has made it so is the topic of today’s post.

Last week, while browsing through the gift shop of a Swedish restaurant in Wisconsin, I saw a cup with this inscription—“Not only am I perfect, I’m Danish, too!” I could not resist buying it. “Don’t you have one for Norwegians?” John asked the sales clerk. A few minutes later, she found a cup which read “Not only am I perfect, I’m Norwegian, too!”

As I was writing this post, John appeared at the doorway of my office with his new cup in his hand and said, “There’s nothing like a cup of hot chocolate that’s been made to perfection.”We both laughed, because we both know that neither of us is perfect. A wonderful marriage does not mean a perfect marriage.

How shall I define our wonderful marriage? I have two images in my mind: the elasticity of a womb and the strength of a rope.

A wonderful marriage is as expandable as the womb of a woman with a child. The uterus of a woman is small, but it stretches, and stretches, and stretches, and keeps on stretching.  So in a marriage, much stretching needs to takes place—lots of stretching.

“Wonderful” is the elasticity of a love bond that stretches beyond the limitations of genetics, aging, education, beyond the challenges of child rearing, and beyond the uncertainty of moves and vocational changes.  “Wonderful” is a love bond supple enough to encompass “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and for better or worse.”

For me, some days have been better, and some days have been worse.  Two things that made my days worse were bitterness and regret. Learning how to let go of bitterness (related to my hurts) and being willing to let go of regrets (due to my failures) have made my days indescribably better.

A wonderful marriage is as strong as a triple-braided rope. This imagery of a rope is used in the book of Ecclesiastes. Referring to the strength of three persons living in unity, King Solomon says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12 NLT).

As John and I have walked, hand in hand, down the pathway of life, we have not walked alone. He whose strong hand holds all things together has held us together—in a circle of love.  In that bond of love, Jesus has taught us to cooperate instead of compete; he’s taught us to stoop down and to look up.  Stooping down means I notice where my spouse needs help, instead of how my spouse has failed.  Looking up means I choose to honor and express gratitude, instead of to envy or compare myself with him or her.

What has been birthed in us through fifty years of stretching and walking is a new creation—a new identity. At times, the process has been challenging and painful. But it’s beautiful. And it is wonderful. Our identity as a couple is strong.  It’s unique. It’s special. It’s precious. Our focus is not so self-centered, anymore. It’s centered on who we are and what we can do together—in Jesus.

What we can do together is much more than what we can do separately—still, it’s within the context of having separate identities—nothing of our true selves has been lost. I wish I could explain it better, but this is the best that I can do—for today. It’s a mystery. That’s perhaps why the Apostle Paul compares marriage to the union of Christ with the Church. That, too, is a mystery—and wonderful—wonderful beyond the stretch of my imagination. Perhaps that will be the topic of another post.







How God Healed a Broken Marriage

Today’s post is written by my friend, Rosemary Losser. We are both passionate in our desire to teach others 1) how to grow toward emotional and spiritual maturity and 2) how to develop better relationship and peacemaking skills.

I invited Rosemary to share her story because, through it, she both illustrates God’s power in prayer and talks about choices we must make in order to access that power and “grow relationships that reflect His image”.

I love the fact that she wrote her concluding prayer in the form of a poem.

How God Healed My Broken Marriage

 My husband and I loved each other, but we had no idea how to live it out on a daily basis.  We were not patient, or kind.  We insisted on our own way.  We were irritable, resentful and rude to each other.  We kept a record of wrongs–a dirty laundry list–and read them off to each other regularly. We did not bear all things, or endure all things. We had lost all hope.

(“How good and pleasant it is
      when God’s people live together in unity”! Psalm 133:1 NIV)

We did not even know it was possible to have a pleasant relationship.  Both sets of our parents loved each other and were faithful to live together into old age.  But they did not know how to demonstrate their love either, so we did not have good role models. However, we could not blame our parents.  We had to take responsibility for our own lives and our own walk with the Lord.

It is embarrassing to admit that we were Christians but struggled in our relationship for many years.   We cried out in prayer for things to change. He saved and healed our marriage and we give him all the glory.  You may be asking, how did He do it?

You may be surprised to hear us say that prayer alone was not enough. God gives us free will so he does not intervene without our cooperation.  Praise God for his love, patience, and kindness toward us.

We had to not only pray; we had to put forth the effort to follow His commands. We had to choose to love—to be kind and patient.

We believe our prayers helped us to want to change, which in turn lead us to the knowledge of what to change and then how to change.  In simplest terms… we had to unlearn old communication patterns and learn new ones. We had to learn new LIFE skills!

The skills we learned apply to any relationship.  By God’s mercy and grace, He has blessed me with the ability to put all I have learned into simple terms. And, He has given me the desire to teach others how to have peace-full relationships.

I wrote this prayer and I offer it to you for yourself or to share with someone you know who is living in difficult relationship.

Dear Lord, create in us the desire to
     Learn new skills
limit what we say
listen all the way

Urge us to
     Invite each other to
invent solutions.
interests are the key.

Help us to focus on
     Facts; not attacks
feelings that matter
forgiveness sets us free.

Teach us to
     Empathize and recognize
elevate and respect.
evaluate: don’t hesitate.

Lord, we know you are never too late!


Rosemary Losser

Pieces to Peace-Full Relationships