Dear Harper…Happy Birthday!

Dear Harper,

Today (9/6/18) is your SECOND birthday! Where has the time gone? It seems like you just got here and now we are celebrating another birthday. I guess Poppo truly is getting old — just don’t tell anybody I said that.

I cannot begin to tell you what a joy you are in our lives. Your laugh is contagious and you absolutely light up a room with your smile. It was obvious when Hudson was born that he was a strong-willed child so we thought you would be our calm child. Well…not so much. You are giving your big brother a run for his money in that department. You may have outdistanced him just bit because you have the shrillest squeal I have ever heard in my life. I have a cousin, Natalie who had a very high pitched voice when she was a child. I kinda kidded her about that all her life. I’m beginning to wonder if your shrill squeal is my payback for making fun of Natalie. If so, I would like to publicly apologize to Natalie right now for that. You have her beat! When things don’t go your way…that squeal makes dogs howl all over the neighborhood!

You are also becoming our little princess. The funniest thing you do to me right now is this. When I ask for a kiss, you often tell me no. But then you present your cheek to me so I can kiss you! You won’t give Poppo kisses, but you allow Poppo to kiss you. Thank you, your highness.

But Little Bit, there is something else very special I have begun to notice about you. You have what I call the “second child personality.” I doubt there is scientific evidence to back up what I’m about to say, but I’ve noticed this before. Your daddy has this trait, your Aunt B (Poppo’s sister, Brenda) has it, and when I got to know your momma…I discovered she has it as well.

As your little personality has developed, I’ve noticed that you have a tremendously big heart. I noticed it first in the way you take care of your “babies.” Whenever you hold a baby doll, you love it and then bring it to Poppo and want me to love it too. That is so cute. But it goes way beyond that.

Second children seem to have this compassionate part of their personality that is greatly enhanced over the first child. I see this in you already. You are always concerned about everybody else. You want the approval of your big brother, you want to make sure everybody else is happy and you are quick to give a hug or to ask “you ok” when we sneeze or even cough. It seems that you have this inner instinct that causes love and compassion to be your first response to others.

I can’t tell you how happy that makes us. I can’t tell you how many times you have come over to me, asked me to hold you and then you put your head on my shoulder and just gently pat my back. You don’t always know what kind of day I have had or what kind of foolishness I’ve had to deal with that day, but you seem to know that laying your head on my shoulder and patting my back will make it all better. That, my darling is a God-given gift.

Just this week, Hudson was riding his bike down the driveway at our house. Nanna and momma and I were all out there watching and encouraging him. I was holding you. All of a sudden, I looked at you and you had both fists balled up and you were screaming to Hudson — “PUSH, PUSH.” When he was able to ride the bike, you raised those arms and just screamed, “YAY!!!!!” You were as excited for him as you would have been for yourself had you accomplished the same thing.

Oldest children don’t always see the importance of things like that. I can say that because I am an oldest child. In the Bible, there were two sisters — Mary and Martha. I think Martha was an older child. The Bible says she was always distracted doing things and being busy. That sounds about right. Mary, on the other hand was more observant. She sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him teach (Luke 10). I think you may turn out to be my Mary in a Martha world.

Many people unfortunately believe that you have to be busy and doing something all the time. Those people (like Poppo) sometimes miss opportunities to show compassion — not because we don’t care, but because we are too busy. I think second children — like you, your daddy and momma, and your Aunt B — are able to see things I don’t see. You all see how important it is to show compassion and to be encouraging. I’m thankful for that.

It’s so much fun for Nanna and I to watch you, Hudson and Ellie as you grow and mature. Each one of you has special qualities that God has given you which I know each of you will use one day to glorify Him. We love all of you so, so much.

I’m looking forward to watching you go through this second year. You are a typical two year old — we all see AND HEAR that. But you also are a special child — the second child. You seem to see through eyes of compassion. I pray that gift continues to grow and mature in you.

Remember…Nanna and I love you UNCONDITIONALLY. No matter what you do or where you go, we will ALWAYS love you. That doesn’t mean I won’t correct you when you misbehave, but I promise to always be your biggest cheerleader in life.

You truly are #MYFAVORITEREDHEAD. Happy birthday Little Bit. I love you.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Tell…

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

Who are your enemies? 

“Pastor…do you REALLY want to start off with that question this morning?”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that sometimes it is hard to tell who my enemies are. It would be much easier if they would all wear some kind of sign or something.

When World War I broke out, the War Ministry in London dispatched a coded message to one of the British outposts in the inaccessible areas of Africa. The message read: “War declared. Arrest all enemy aliens in your district.”

The War Ministry received this prompt reply: “Have arrested ten Germans, six Belgians, four Frenchmen, two Italians, three Austrians, and an American. Please advise immediately who we are at war with.”

E.C. Mckenzie said, “Some people make enemies instead of friends because it is less trouble.”

There probably is more truth there than we realize. But in our verse today, Jesus told us to do the very opposite. He said that we should “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Again, I don’t know about you…but that is not always so easy for me.

I read a piece written by Corrie ten Boom once in which she said, “When Jesus tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with that command, the love itself.”

It is only the grace of God that ever can enable you or me to rise to the spiritual level of being able to love an enemy.

Perhaps my favorite story about General Robert E. Lee says that General Lee was speaking — in only the highest terms — to President Jefferson Davis about a certain officer. Another officer, greatly astonished, said to General Lee, “General, do you know that the man of whom you speak so highly to the President is one of your bitterest enemies, and misses no opportunity to malign you?”

Lee replied, “Yes, but the President asked my opinion of him; he did not ask for his opinion of me.”

Are you following God’s command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” today? Perhaps we should all begin to follow that command. Remember, God will give us the love if we will just be willing to spread it around.

Have a great day.

Is your theology getting in the way of your LOVE?

“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

I don’t recall seeing this verse listed as among the “Top Ten Favorite Bible Verses” of most people. In fact, I’m becoming more and more convinced that it takes a great deal of courage to face the truth contained in this verse. It actually shows a requirement that is basic to discipleship. The question it asks is a very simple one — “do you love others?” As people watch the way you treat fellow Christians, are they reminded of the Lord?

There are many people today who believe that the way you tell if a person is “Spirit-filled” is by how loud you shout, or how high you raise your hands, or whether you speak in tongues or roll in the floor and kick your feet or whether you have the “right” theology. Don’t misunderstand — theology is important and there is no wiggle room in regards to salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. But these “tests” of Christianity create a big problem – they just aren’t commanded in the Bible. The Bible that I read says that the way we can know we are Spirit-filled is that we love the brethren. I John 4:12-13 says, “No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us. This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given assurance to us from His Spirit.”

Amy Carmichael wrote: “If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting ‘Who made thee to differ? and what has thou that thou has not received?’ then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel bitterly towards those who condemn me, as it seems to me, unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

I guess it’s the “age” in which we live, but because of social media and other avenues of communication, ANYBODY can write or say ANYTHING they want and somebody will publish it. That often leads to things being said or written that are hurtful and that actually call into question the salvation of brothers and sisters in Christ. My friends, if you theological system causes you to condemn others because they differ with you at some point — even to the point that you call them heretics — perhaps pride has slipped in where love should dwell.

We can never expect the world to believe that we are Jesus’ disciples if we don’t have Christ’s love for our brothers and sisters. I know there are disagreeable Christians with whom it is hard to get along because they are unlovely and unloving; but remember — we are probably not as lovable as we should be either. The secret to being able to love the unlovely is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Who did He love? Nice people? Good people? Attractive people? I John 4:15 says, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God — God remains in him and he in God.” Jesus loves “whoever.” If I want to be like Jesus, I must learn to do the same.

Have a great Monday.