The Gift of Being Needed

grandbabyMy sweet baby granddaughter Alice occupies most of my time these days. I’m serving as her nanny, and loving every minute of it. Her smiles melt my heart. Her cries melt my heart. In fact, all her funny faces and little noises are dear to me. I’m extraordinarily happy, and it’s not just because Alice is small and cute and happens to be my grandbaby. It’s also the joy of being needed. I wake up every morning knowing I have an important job to do. My daily efforts matter tremendously to our little baby girl and to her parents. During the hours I’m alone with her, I am her whole world.

Babies are inconvenient. I can count on Alice to suddenly need attention at the precise moment I’m sitting down to enjoy my lunch. Ditto, when I’m dialing an important phone call. Some days she can’t seem to get comfortable unless I hold her against my shoulder, walking the floor until my arms ache. During one of these sessions, pacing back and forth with my empty stomach rumbling, I happened to wonder, why am I enjoying this so much? Why is this different from all those times when I’ve resented being inconvenienced by the needs of others? Is it just because Alice is my grandchild? [Read more…]

“What Difference Does it Make?”

Some people say, “I don’t know whether heaven is real or not, and it makes no difference for my daily life. I do what’s right because it’s right, not because I’m chasing my eternal reward.”

This sounds like a noble sentiment. Even some Christians think it’s virtuous to downplay the resurrection. I believe they miss an important point. When Jesus turned up alive after his crucifixion, the excitement wasn’t all about the pearly gates. Thomas didn’t say “Thank goodness, this proves there’s an afterlife.” He exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”

It wasn’t until Jesus crashed his own funeral that the disciples understood who he really was. They had believed all along that he was sent by God, as a teacher, a prophet, or maybe even the messiah. They’d thought his mission was to usher in the “kingdom of heaven.” They may have been right about the mission, but they envisioned a future kingdom, with a program of events that must unfold before God could make His home among men. They overlooked the fact that heaven was already right there with them. God was walking beside them in the flesh, much as he had walked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. [Read more…]

The Servanthood Quest: One Year and Counting


Exactly one year ago today I launched my new blog, “Assertive Servants.”  Thank you for supporting this adventure with your prayers and comments.

On January 1, 2014, the first post outlined my mission statement.

The night before he died, Jesus prayed, “I revealed your name to the people whom you have given me out of the world. They were yours, and you have given them to me.” (John 17:6) 

Wouldn’t it be great if each of us could know which people and purposes God has assigned to us personally? We could focus our energies in a sustained and meaningful way, instead of spreading ourselves thin, trying to be all things to all people. My resolution for 2014 is to seek answers to two questions:

1. How can I know what my love-mission is?

2. Which skills and attitudes will help me carry out my mission well?

[Read more…]

Good Samaritan or Meddling Busybody?

lifebuoyMy life has taken an unexpected turn lately. One of my friends has needs so great that it feels perfectly natural to give more help than she asks for. More help than my previous plans allowed for. Priorities are shifting as I let other goals slide. Helping her feels good and seems right, but how can I be sure? Maybe I’m butting in where I don’t belong. Maybe I’m pushing my own solutions instead of letting God do His work. [Read more…]

Blooming from the Inside Out

photo 29I spent Memorial Day weekend with my Aunt Joan—one of the nicest people I know. These days, her short-term memory is impaired, but it really doesn’t matter. With or without memory, she’s friendly and generous, with a tendency to see the best in people. She told me over and over: “I’m so glad to see you,” “it’s great that we can spend this time together,” “I hope you can come again soon.” And my personal favorite: “You’re so pretty.” She made me feel cherished and appreciated.

If I lose my memory someday, I hope I’ll handle it half so well. The trouble with dementia is that you can’t monitor your own behavior. Whatever’s inside you, leaks out. How will I keep a lid on my impatience and defensiveness? With Aunt Joan, it’s okay because she’s full of optimism. When she wakes up in the morning and doesn’t recognize her surroundings, she assumes she’s in a hotel, and bounces out of bed ready for a vacation adventure. [Read more…]

Turning Gossip Around

gossipMark Twain said “It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you.” 

Some kinds of information should not be shared.  Proverbs 17:9 reminds us that love should govern our speech:

“Whoever covers an offense promotes love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” (World English Bible.)

More than hurt feelings may be at stake. For an eye-opening account of the destructive power of gossip, I recommend the historical novel, Kathleen Creek, based on real events in a Minnesota town, nearly a hundred years ago. [Read more…]

Marathon Grace


To every thing there is a season…”   (Ecclesiates 3: 1)

Pastors remind their congregations to take time for personal prayer and Bible study.  But our faith journey doesn’t end with those sweet moments of fellowship. Sooner or later, life will place us in the thick of action. The challenge, then, is how to remain centered in God’s will even when there’s barely time to think. [Read more…]

Talents Surrendered, Talents Reborn


One of the women who shaped my adolescence was a former fashion model named Vangie. She dressed with bold pizzazz, her stylish clothing and jewelry accenting the colors of her perfect face and hair. Then one day she came to church looking more casual and down-to-earth. “I’ve given up wearing makeup,” she explained. “The Holy Spirit showed me that I’ve been getting my self-worth from my appearance, instead of depending on God.” [Read more…]

The Dark Side of Dream-Seeking

We humans enjoy putting our talents to good use. I like to feed my creative side by inventing fun activities for the children at my school. It’s exciting to see my original ideas blossom into meaningful experiences for the kids. But, it’s not all sweetness and light. I hate to admit how many times I’ve snapped at a child who happened to interrupt me while I was self-importantly rushing around setting up my latest project. I doubt that God is pleased when I care more about showcasing my cleverness than about the welfare of the children I’m supposedly serving.

Our imaginations and ambitions, like all of God’s gifts, can be used either for good or for evil. Self-fulfillment cannot be, must not be, our ultimate purpose. [Read more…]

Dreaming Out Loud

images-1Other people cannot read my mind. This fact seems perfectly obvious, but sometimes I overlook it. Especially when my cherished hopes and dreams are involved. Afraid someone might laugh, I keep quiet. Then, I get frustrated that no one helps me reach my goals. As if people should be able to see inside my head and know what I want!

It took me years to admit out loud that I wanted to be a writer. It was my carefully guarded secret, and it should have come as no surprise that people had all kinds of other plans for me. They weren’t rejecting my dream, they were simply busy pursuing their own projects and responsibilities. [Read more…]

Godly Dreams


If our greatest need is to have a meaningful purpose, then we should take seriously our inner sense of calling. Cherished daydreams can provide clues to our life’s mission.

But, is it Biblical to pursue our own personal dreams and goals?  Some would say “no.”  Take, for example, this opinion expressed in an online forum:

“I doubt there would be anything in the Bible to support following your dreams or never giving up. The Bible teaches you to NOT be self-absorbed and also, to follow the Bible it is necessary to give up a lot of what is YOU.”   (See this Comment) 

[Read more…]

A Person Needs a Purpose


What is the most powerful human need? Aside from food, water and air, what do we hunger for?  According to Viktor Frankl, we crave, above all, to have a sense of purpose.

Dr. Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and the founder of a method of treatment called Logotherapy (after logos, the Greek word for “meaning.”) He began developing his theories while working in suicide prevention during the 1920‘s and 30‘s. His insights were tested and refined in the fires of the Nazi Holocaust. Frankl lost his parents, his brother and his pregnant wife. He himself was imprisoned in four different concentrations camps, including Auschwitz. [Read more…]