What Can Unity Accomplish?

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

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These people are not drowning today!” This thought entered Jessica Simmons’ mind when she watched as six members of a single family struggled after a powerful riptide had swept them away at a Panama City Beach.

Others had tried to reach the family in trouble, but each previous rescue attempt left more people stranded. A lifeguard was not on duty. A rescue boat had not yet arrived. People began to use boogie boards, surf boards and their arms and legs to attempt a rescue.

When someone shouted, “Form a human chain,” five people volunteered, followed by 10 more. Then dozens more joined as the rescue mission grew increasingly desperate. Simmons and her husband, Derek, swam past the 80 or so human link and headed for the stranded swimmers. The couple managed to reach the children first, passing them via the human chain toward the beach.

Nearly an hour later, through the efforts of the growing human chain, linked together with wrists, legs and arms, the last of the 10 stranded swimmers were rescued. One of the adults rescued said, “It actually showed me there are good people in this world.”

Whether all of the rescuers that day were believers or not, their selfless act should be an example to everyone. Through their unified actions, 10 people are still alive.

Making Each Season Count

There is a time for everything,and a season for every activity under the heavens...Ecclesiastes 3:3 (NIV).

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 My two oldest grandchildren, now 12 and 13, spent several days with me recently. Cheyenne is now taller than I am by almost two inches. Her brother, Brennan, is also catching up with my five foot plus three inches. I’m not getting any taller, but they are.

It’s sometimes difficult to fathom how fast the years have gone. It seems just like yesterday that I was changing their diapers. While I miss those years, I’m enjoying this new season in life. Watching God at work in them and through them is a delight to this praying “Nana.”

A friend’s essay in a Christian writer’s newsletter made me think about our time here on earth. Martha, who turned 60 recently, wrote, “Am I really that old?”

Then, she questioned herself. “What do I have to show for sixty years of living? What impact have I made on my world? Do I even have a legacy to leave? If I die tomorrow, what would be put on my gravestone?”

Like me, Martha may have another 30 years to live or we may die tomorrow. Neither of us cares about making a name for ourselves, but we want our children and grandchildren to know what it means to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. We want others to know the peace only God can give.

As Christian writers, we know the best way to leave a legacy is through our writing. Encouraging other writers in our group, she wrote, “I believe my heart, and yours too, is in the right place. But if we never get what’s in our heart on paper or on the computer screen for our loved ones and the rest of the world to read, our gift will never see fruition.

Are You Controlling Your Attitude?

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it”—Psalm 118:24 (ESV).

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When I saw the following post on a friend’s Facebook page, I had to share it with my readers:

A famous writer was in his study and compiled the following list:

  1. Last year, my gallbladder was removed. I was in bed for a long time.
  2. The same year I reached the age of 60 and had to leave my favorite job. I spent 30 years with this publishing company.
  3. The same year my father died.
  4. The same year my son failed his medical exam because he had a car accident. He was hospitalized with a cast on his leg for several days. The destruction of the car was a second loss.

His concluding statement: “Alas! It was a bad year!”

When the writer’s wife entered the room, she found her husband looking dejected and sad. She read what he had written, left the room, and came back with another piece of paper. The husband read her version of his account of the year’s events:

  1. Last year I finally got rid of my gallbladder which had given me many years of pain.
  2. I turned 60 with sound health and retired from my job. Now I can utilize my time to write with more focus and peace.
  3. The same year my father died at the age of 95 without depending on anyone, without any critical conditions, and met his Creator.
  4. The same year, God blessed my son with life. My car was destroyed, but my son was alive and without permanent disability.

She concluded: This year was an immense blessing.

The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children

“For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me the petition that I made to him”— 1 Samuel 1:27(NRSV).

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When a child is born, a mother anxiously checks for 10 fingers and 10 toes. She waits to hear the verdict from the medical staff that her child is healthy and whole. It’s a time of wonder when that tiny being is first placed in your arms and a time of uncertainty when you’re released to return home with the responsibilities of caring for a new life.

As each year passes, we watch our children grow, revealing their distinct personalities. While one child may be more fearful, another may test a mother’s patience with attempts to defy gravity or some other activity leading to cuts, bruises and broken limbs.

Letting go is difficult.

As the mother of two sons, now in their late 30s, I am aware of the limitations of my influence at this stage of their lives. With the lessons they learned as children embedded in their memories, I can only pray daily for their safety, well-being, their relationship with God and success in all they do. I pray for their work situations, their health, their relationships and how they raise their children.

When a child is young, a mother knows how to fix things. We can kiss a scraped elbow, place a warm, damp wash rag on their heads to bring comfort when ill, listen to their fears and promise them there are no monsters under the bed.

A mother’s heart is torn when a child becomes an adult and she realizes how her role has changed. Letting go is difficult.

Is Forgiveness Good for Your Health?

“Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots to divide his clothing”— Luke 23:34 (NRSV).

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Good Friday has passed, but Jesus’ prayer on that fateful day should be taken to heart. One take-away from the day Jesus was crucified was His willingness to forgive those who persecuted Him.

Looking down from the cross on the Roman soldiers who were gambling for His clothing, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

But it wasn’t just the Roman soldiers He referred to during this distressing time. On either side of Jesus were two criminals who belittled Him. As the religious leaders mocked Him and the crowd jeered at Him, what did Jesus do? He prayed for them—a prayer of unmatched mercy and redeeming love. Even in His agony, Jesus’ concern was not for Himself but for the forgiveness of His enemies.

Is there someone you need to forgive?

Did you know withholding forgiveness from someone who has wronged you does more harm to you than the one you refuse to forgive? Refusing to forgive not only weighs down the spirit, it can also affect your physical health. Whether it’s a minor spat or long-held resentment toward another, unresolved conflict can go deeper than most realize, especially if it’s a family member or friend.

Refusing to forgive ups your risk of high blood pressure, the risk of heart attack, sleep problems, increased pain and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. As we age, research reveals a greater increase in the connection to forgiveness and our health.

When Will You Be Good Enough for Love?

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners”— Romans 5:8 (NLT).

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Growing up, I never felt as if I were good enough. My mother expected perfection from her daughters. In retrospect, I’m sure she followed in the footsteps of her own mother. Both meant well.

When you’re raised to seek perfection, you never feel worthy. A feeling of unworthiness leads to insecurity in all your relationships. Striving to earn the love of others leads to internal conflict. Being a people-pleaser creates a false identity.

His mercies are new each morning.

Until I came to know Jesus as my redeemer and Lord, I never understood the meaning of “unconditional” love. I struggled, like others, to understand how God could love me without any conditions attached.

Pastor Charles Stanley says, “. . . maybe we just feel unworthy of His love. Well, I have news for you: No one is worthy. God’s love is based not on whether we are deserving but on His character—we need to understand that love isn’t simply something God does; it’s who He is.”

No Other Commandment is Greater Than These

“‘And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’” The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these”—Mark 12:30-31(NLT).

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For over 11 years, I’ve sat down at my computer each week to write this column. It wasn’t part of my retirement plan after leaving education in 2005. But God had other plans.

Although I grew up in the church, I didn’t have a personal relationship with God until my late 40s. I’ve never regretted accepting Jesus as my Savior and Lord. There have been times, however, when I wanted to give up. Trials have left me drained but Jesus has sustained me.

When I grow weary and want to quit writing, His Holy Spirit encourages me through the feedback I receive from readers. Writing for His glory is a labor of love.

We can’t love the unlovable on our own.

Love is the answer to the current discord and hate in this world. If we claim to be Christians, shouldn’t our life reflect the light of His love? If we claim to be Christians, shouldn’t we love everyone, even the unlovable among us?

Love everyone? What about the person next door who disturbs the neighborhood by constantly yelling at his children? What about the neighbor who leaves trash scattered across his lawn, distracting from the beauty of the area?  What about the grumpy one who never speaks, even when you try to establish a relationship? I admit it’s not easy and I sometimes fail.