Deeds of love

“Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”

1 John 3:18 (NAB)

Jesus reminded everyone to back their words up with deeds, because deeds really do count in the end. According to the many books based on the theory known as “Love languages,” everyone has their own language used to express and receive love. The theory of love languages is to help understand how we interpret the ways that love translates into deeds. It applies to all relationships, and is not limited to marriage. There are a total of five love languages, but each person has an inclination toward one or two. The books and seminars help determine which love language we most commonly use and identify with. The five love languages are:

Words of affirmation

Physical touch

Acts of service

Giving and receiving gifts

Spending quality time together

Jesus understands and relates to all the love languages. If you’ve ever been or currently are a caregiver for your loved one, you are expressing physical touch and acts of service every day. It’s a natural result of caregiving. Quality time and words of affirmation could be added by choice. I regret not giving more words of affirmation to my husband during the time of his illness. Taking care of a sick person requires so many acts of service, it’s easy to forget to give words of affirmation. At least he received quality time through all the visits from friends and family, which meant a lot, being the social person that he was. When I cared for my ninety two year old mother in the last year of her life, she loved music, so I played music from her era, which she enjoyed. One day I spontaneously started dancing to her music, and she just lit up with joy and clapped. That was a quality moment for her. It wasn’t about how I danced, but that she could see my joy. She used to worry that she was a burden to me, but seeing me dance made her feel loved through that quality moment. Deeds of love can be unconventional ones, and are more often spontaneous and not planned. Acts of service are expressions of love, which can be done for an elderly or lonely person. Physical touch can be a hug or just a touch on the shoulder, which relates to those who speak that love language. Giving a small gift is a token of kindness, love and friendship for others. For some people, words of affirmation are a treasure when spoken in the right moment. The two doctors I worked with came to my late husband’s wake, even though they never knew my husband. Just seeing them there meant everything to me, because I knew they were there for me. One other doctor who I worked with couldn’t make it to the wake, but he later showed up at my front door with a blueberry pie in his hands. He heard from someone that I liked blueberry pie, and it was his way of expressing his kindness by giving a token gift, and I will never forget it. Who knows what deeds of love we have already done for someone which will always be remembered with gratitude. Every day is another opportunity to speak someone’s love language and offer a deed of love that resonates with them and will stay in their heart forever.

Mind renewal

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2 (NASV)

The renewal of the mind begins with the message of the cross, which is the most life transforming message of all. Scripture says that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. Some may consider us fools, but we are not here to win arguments, only souls. One characteristic of a transformed mind is the development of shepherd like tendencies. Since Jesus is the Great shepherd, we are to be His mini shepherds. The shepherd urge is within each one of us, to seek, lead and feed His sheep. If you find yourself praying for lost sheep lately, they probably wandered into your pasture for that exact reason. In the natural I can only seek what is good for me, but the Holy Spirit is always transforming and renewing my mind. ShortIy after becoming a widow, I often missed someone to share my thoughts of the day with. I regularly talked to God, but sometimes I missed sharing my day with another person. In 2022, my friend of fifty years, died of cancer, so I stepped up to be the friend she needed toward the end of her life. Something changed after that experience. Instead of seeking for what I need out of friendships, I found myself asking how I can be a better friend to others. I recognized this way of thinking is transforming me into a mini shepherd. I’m only beginning to understand the mind of a mini shepherd, but I’m certain that there are people reading this, who have already been serving as mini shepherds, selflessly for years. I recently learned that Mother Teresa actually cradled in her arms about 16,000 dying people in Calcutta over the span of her ministry. Bishop Fulton Sheen once asked her how she converted dying people who never heard of Jesus and only knew the popular religions of India. She told him she would ask each one as they were in her arms, “Do you want to commend your life to Christ ?” and they would ask ”Who is Christ, is He like you?” They didn’t hear the gospel or read one page of scripture. They only saw her, and believing Christ was like her, they easily received Him and died in her arms. Mother Therese had the heart of a mini shepherd. We are all God’s mini shepherds, His ambassadors, His voice, His hands and His legs on earth until He returns. Jesus, help us to see people through your eyes, so that they can see You in us.

God fearing courage

“The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.”

Exodus 1:17 (NIV)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

Midwives must be very resilient people. Before hospitals existed, midwives were essential for all birthing mothers. These midwives lived under the cruel, controlling domination of Pharaoh in Egypt. Pharaoh commanded the midwives to start killing every Hebrew male newborn, hoping to get control over the robust Hebrew population that was multiplying in their land. The midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, both outwardly agreed to Pharaoh’s new demand, but actually defied the ruling, and continued to deliver every baby and helping them live after birth. Asking a midwife to kill all male babies is like asking a fireman to burn down half a city. It goes against their purpose and calling in life. These midwives were women of courage, who feared God more than Pharaoh, and defied his ruling, putting their own lives at risk. Life brings many hardships that can challenge our central purpose and calling. We face problems that put fear in us, making us feel we can no longer do what we are called to do. There are many things to fear these days, but if a fear of God comes first, as it did with Shiphrah and Puah, our purpose continues and souls will be saved in the end. A healthy fear of God means standing firm, even when no one else supports you. I had a grandmother in Greece, who I never knew, who was my father’s mother. She gave birth to ten children and then was deserted by her husband. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she began offering her midwife services to the women in her nearby villages in Greece. She was able to support her ten children working as a midwife. Eventually, her oldest son, my father, emigrated to America as a teenager, afterward sending for his mother and siblings, who all settled here for the remainder of their lives. A very sad story, which sounded so hopeless, ended happily. Because of her courage, she and her children all survived, and she lived to her nineties in America. The midwives in this story today were all strong, resilient people. They didn’t shrink back in fear of defeat when faced with a frightening situation. Through a healthy fear of God, they all persisted to do anything they could to keep others alive. Shiphrah and Puah, in their decision to save the male children, one day saved a baby boy named Moses, and he grew up to free all the people from slavery under Pharaoh. God gives us courage in our hard times, and if we follow through, we will fulfill our purpose and calling in life, saving many other souls as a result.  When I first heard the story of my grandmother’s struggle, I wondered how she found the strength, but then I realized we each have the same courage deep within us. God is there all along, and will always help us through the many tribulations in a lifetime. Fearing God more than people is the beginning of wisdom, which leads to other virtues, and the courage needed to survive some of life’s most difficult tests.

Our prayer closet

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6 (RSV)

When we face a crisis, we need to go to our prayer closet, and everyone has a place where they tend to talk to God regularly. Our prayer closet is a place where we are able to ignore external stimuli and lock ourselves down into a mode of trust, while we  submit to His will. The garden of Gethsemane was the prayer closet for Jesus. He went there when the stress of His upcoming suffering became closer and more real. He prayed Himself into that mode of trust and was able to completely submit to the will of His Father. As we find that place, in our own garden, our prayer closet, we pray ourselves into submission to God’s will. It’s the kind of prayer that results in a deeper care for our soul, just as bathing is care for the body. There is something very spiritually purifying in our frequent surrender and submission to God. It is saying to God, “I trust you for tomorrow.” We don’t need to figure out next week, next month or next year. God is with all of our tomorrows, but He wants us to take one day at a time. He gives us His mercy and grace for one day at a time, according to what we need for that day, and that’s as far ahead as we were meant to look. I listened to the testimony of a couple who were raised without any faith. She was abused by a stepfather growing up, and he was paralyzed during his service in Afghanistan. It was two of the most heartbreaking twists of fate for anyone to go through early in life, and yet their journey eventually led them to faith in a God who has always loved them. After listening to their story, it was obvious that God was trying to gently reveal His love to them in spite of the trauma and emotional pain in their lives. God doesn’t always appear in people’s lives dramatically like the fiery burning bush that spoke to Moses, but He shows His love to us over time, whispering gently and patiently, through our pain. When you hear of someone’s incredible journey leading to faith in God, it is obvious that God has immense patience, loving us and waiting for us, even for those who angrily turn away from Him. He was working for years to bring these two young people closer to Him, and it was so edifying to hear the journey of grace in their lives. Through the testimonies of other people like this couple, we sense God telling us to stop worrying about any trauma in our past or concerns of our future. God doesn’t need to be informed of what we have suffered or what we need, He has been with us all along, so prayer is not about pleading for answers. The purpose of our prayer closet is to keep inviting Him into our life, surrendering everything to Him each day, according to the example Jesus left us. It’s a submission which opens the floodgates of heaven and pours out His grace and mercy upon our tomorrow. Jesus encourages us to go to our prayer closet, which is more than the physical place, it’s a state of the soul, a surrender of ourselves to Him. We are following Jesus when we submit ourselves to His will, and that submission brings great reward. Jesus, thank you for loving us and patiently waiting for us to surrender, so that we can receive an outpouring of your grace and mercy in our lives.

The Guest Room

Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”

Mark 14:14 (NAB)

Jesus sent this message to the master of a house, requesting a guest room to use for the Passover celebration with His disciples. We are the masters of our spiritual home, and the only ones who can give Jesus His guest room and place of honor in our lives. It’s easy to forget and treat Him more like a servant than a guest. Instead of spending time listening to Him, or giving Him praise and gratitude, I tend to give Him my daily laundry list of prayer requests and problems that need solving. If a guest is staying with us, we would never hand them a list of chores to do. We want to enjoy the presence of a guest in our home. When I treat Him more like a servant than a guest, I can almost hear Jesus asking, “Where is my guest room?”

Before He can do anything for us, we first have to invite Him in. It reminds me of that old classic painting of Jesus standing and knocking on the door, waiting to be let in. When I have a guest staying in my home, I clean up the guest room, put fresh linens on the bed, and stock my pantry full of good food, so that my guest can dine in excellence with me. I want my guest to feel special and Jesus wants to be that special guest. He wants to live in our guest room, and dine with us every day. I don’t want the worries of this life to so preoccupy me that I leave Jesus standing outside, knocking on my door, and asking, “Where is my guest room?”

The guest room we give to Him is an attitude of our heart. It’s a self reminder that if nothing else on that laundry list ever got done, it’s enough just having Him in our home. Giving Him His guest room means loving Him for who He is, and not just for what He does. The guest room is the heart of the spiritual home, where Jesus receives the honor and attention He deserves. In return, we receive the reward of His fellowship and dine with Him each day. 

Jesus, be our special guest, as we welcome you to the guest room of our hearts today.