Famous Last Words

Have you ever wondered what people said the moment they knew that death was imminent? I am curious about that. According to Business Insider, these are some examples of famous people’s last words:

Nostradamus predicted, “Tomorrow, at sunrise, I shall no longer be here.” He was right. Joe Dimagio said, ”I finally get to see Marilyn again.” (Referring to his beloved ex-wife, Marilyn Monroe.) Winston Churchill’s son-in-law offered him a glass of champagne, and Churchill replied, ”I’m just so bored with it all.” And finally, former Beetle George Harrison: ”Love one another.” That will preach, George.

Today’s Scripture takes a look at the last words of King David, as recorded in 2 Samuel:

2 Samuel 23 (Common English Bible)

23 These are David’s last words:

This is the declaration of Jesse’s son David,
    the declaration of a man raised high,
    a man anointed by the God of Jacob,
    a man favored by the strong one of Israel.

The Lord’s spirit speaks through me;
    his word is on my tongue.
Israel’s God has spoken,
    Israel’s rock said to me:
“Whoever rules rightly over people,
    whoever rules in the fear of God,
    is like the light of sunrise
    on a morning with no clouds,
        like the bright gleam after the rain
        that brings grass from the ground.”

David made many mistakes in his life, and yet at the end, he was reconciled to God. His words about ”ruling rightly” were hard fought and hard won. He learned through his errors what it meant to rule rightly. As he was looking toward the next generations of leaders, he likened them to the light of the sunrise and the bright gleam after the rain … as long as they were ruling in the fear of God. Listen now to his words of appreciation and the acknowledgement of God’s faithfulness in keeping his part of the covenant, even when David had failed:

Yes, my house is this way with God!
    He has made an eternal covenant with me,
    laid out and secure in every detail.
Yes, he provides every one of my victories
    and brings my every desire to pass.

David lived a turbulent life, but he died in the peaceful security of the eternal covenant God had made with him. He relished the security he found in his restored relationship with God, and credits God with every good thing that happened in his life. Then he ends with a warning, perhaps one born of his own experience of thorniness:


But despicable people are like thorns,
    all of them good for nothing,
    because they can’t be carried by hand.
No one can touch them,
except with iron bar or the shaft of a spear.
    They must be burned up with fire right on the spot!

If David can be redeemed, so can we. If David can be restored, so can we. If David can die with gratitude and security, so can we.

Have you grown thorny? It is never too late to return to your eternal covenant with God. If a despicable, adulterous murderer can come back to God, so can we. Thanks be to God!

Last Road Home by Nancy Barniskis

Year-End Report

It is that time in United Methodism when we produce something called the ”State of the Church” for the District Superintendent and the Bishop. A committee thoughtfully evaluates the condition of the church in terms of ministry, growth, discipleship, etc. for the last twelve months.

Think about what we have been through the last twelve months. I think the committee should submit a two-word report: ”We survived.” It is ONLY through the grace of God that we have gotten through the last year. We’ve worshipped in ball fields, front lawns, graveyards, beaches, and everywhere in-between. We’ve mastered technology….okay, that is a fib. None of us have mastered technology. But with God’s help we have continued to be a worshipping body of Christ.

As strange as these twelve months have been for us, we have nothing on God’s people in King David’s time. They wandered the wilderness for years, obediently following the Ark of the Covenant as it traveled throughout the Promised Land in a movable tent. That tent was their church.

David built a palace, and after he had made himself comfy and cozy there, he remembered that God had no home. He began to think about that.

(Hmmm. Were David’s priorities in the right order?)

2 Samuel (Contemporary English Version)

7 King David moved into his new palace, and the Lord let his kingdom be at peace. Then one day, as David was talking with Nathan the prophet, David said, “Look around! I live in a palace made of cedar, but the sacred chest has to stay in a tent.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord is with you, so do what you want!”

Sometimes even well-meaning friends give you the wrong advice. God set Nathan straight.

That night, the Lord told Nathan to go to David and give him this message:

David, you are my servant, so listen to what I say. Why should you build a temple for me? I didn’t live in a temple when I brought my people out of Egypt, and I don’t live in one now. A tent has always been my home wherever I have gone with them. I chose leaders and told them to be like shepherds for my people Israel. But did I ever say anything to even one of them about building a cedar temple for me?

David, this is what I, the Lord All-Powerful, say to you. I brought you in from the fields where you took care of sheep, and I made you the leader of my people. Wherever you went, I helped you and destroyed your enemies right in front of your eyes. I have made you one of the most famous people in the world.

10 I have given my people Israel a land of their own where they can live in peace, and they won’t have to tremble with fear any more. Evil nations won’t bother them, as they did 11 when I let judges rule my people. And I have kept your enemies from attacking you.

God is so much more than a building. He is greater than four walls and a roof. The trouble with buildings is that they need constant repair, and sometimes donors end up worshipping the structure more than the Lord. Think I’m exaggerating? Look around. How many little brass “people-plaques” do you have in your sanctuary?

God’s “building” was going to be so much greater. He looked at David and decided to build a lineage that would run straight to Jesus. And Jesus would come to build a church of love, compassion, justice, hope, and peace.

Now I promise that you and your descendants will be kings.

If we’ve learned one thing from this pandemic, it is that God is wherever his people are. That is the whole point of being the church for the world. We are charged with carrying the message of how God came to us to inhabit our world, our lives, our hearts, our hopes, and our dreams for the future.

So no matter where you gather, you must proclaim the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection everywhere to anyone who will listen. We not only survive, we thrive. Thanks be to God.

Sunrise Church by Wende Pritchard

The Truth Hurts

Have you ever been called out for something you did wrong? Has anyone confronted you with the truth about your actions and caused you to feel shame and remorse? I am sure that we have all had that moment. I know I have. When we are held accountable for our sins, especially when this accountability comes from a friend, it is a very painful way to have to own up to our bad behavior. The truth hurts.

Our scripture today comes from 2 Samuel, when King David had Uriah the Hittite sent to the front line of battle in order for him to be killed. David seduced and impregnated Uriah’s wife, and after a failed attempt to cover up his misdeed, he resorted to plotting murder against Uriah. David then took Uriah’s wife for his own. He thought he had gotten away with it.

Then he got caught by his good friend Nathan:

2 Samuel (The Message)

12 1-3 But God was not at all pleased with what David had done, and sent Nathan to David. Nathan said to him, “There were two men in the same city—one rich, the other poor. The rich man had huge flocks of sheep, herds of cattle. The poor man had nothing but one little female lamb, which he had bought and raised. It grew up with him and his children as a member of the family. It ate off his plate and drank from his cup and slept on his bed. It was like a daughter to him.

“One day a traveler dropped in on the rich man. He was too stingy to take an animal from his own herds or flocks to make a meal for his visitor, so he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared a meal to set before his guest.”

5-6 David exploded in anger. “As surely as God lives,” he said to Nathan, “the man who did this ought to be lynched! He must repay for the lamb four times over for his crime and his stinginess!”

How quickly David screams for accountability! Yet he doth protest too much. It is interesting to see how easily David could spot the splinter in the traveler’s eye whilst having to look around the ginormous log that was lodged in his own. It is a common thing for guilty people to quickly deflect responsibility to others and point a finger away from their own behavior.

7-12 “You’re the man!” said Nathan.

You are the man. You are the guilty one, David, and God will surely deal with you in his own way. In the end, the truth always comes out, and David indeed was punished.

We are in the midst of the investigation of the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6th here in America Two Capitol police officers and two Metropolitan police officers gave their testimonies yesterday. These brave men in blue put their bodies on the line to protect and serve the men and women working in the Capitol building that day. Without a thought to their own safety, they did their job of protecting people against a violent insurrection.

Listen closely to their testimonies. Watch the evidence of their body cameras. It will break your heart. The truth of what they went through is so painful, it will make you want to turn away. Don’t turn away. They deserve our respect and our prayers for the continuing healing of their bodies, minds, and spirits.

Those who raised fists, used tasers, destroyed property, deployed tear gas and bear spray, bashed bones with baseball bats, flag poles, and pieces of furniture, etc. must be held accountable. Those who yelled, “Kill him with his own gun” must be held accountable. Those who facilitated this horrific event must be held accountable.

The truth is often hard to hear and harder to see. May God grant us clarity as we discover the uncomfortable truths. And God bless those officers who took the brunt for many people who remain ungrateful.

May the truth set them, and us, free.

The Truth Will Set Us Free by Michelle Robertson

Undignified

Would you do something that felt uncomfortable in order to serve the Lord? Would you engage in something that others didn’t understand if God sent you to do it? How far would you go in potentially embarrassing yourself if you thought God was calling you to perform a task outside your comfort zone?

Most of us never face this question. The closest we may come is the discomfort of doing mission work in a foreign place, volunteering to do something new, or the embarrassment of raising our hands in worship when others around us are wooden and stiff. In my decades of ministry in a church, the only time I actually risked humiliation was when I preached sermons that bombed (several times!), or when I made a statement in an administrative meeting that wasn’t well received (several times!). Oh, and there was the time that I accidentally introduced a couple at the end of a wedding as “Jim and Kerry Whale (her maiden name)” when I was supposed to say “Jim and Kerry Gentry.” Whoops!

David went a lot farther in his willingness to appear undignified before the Lord. He just couldn’t help himself. His complete and total joy in returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem overcame him, and his spontaneous dancing revealed more than just his happiness:

2 Samuel 6 (New International Version)

12 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf.14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

Permit me to be irreverent here for a moment. Every time I read this passage I remember a scene from Seinfeld where Elaine is exuberantly dancing. She is terrible! She is awkward and uncoordinated, and it is hilarious because she thinks that she has smooth moves. I imagine David dancing like this, with his little linen loincloth flapping in the wind. Both of these images are a little cringe-worthy! Michal surely did not appreciate her husband’s jubilant moves.

17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

The conflict between Michal and David is apparent. She was the youngest daughter of his enemy Saul, and she loved David with a pure heart when he was the national hero. But when he had to flee from Saul’s hatred and wrath she was given to another man, even though she was still married to David. When David returned, she was torn away from that man and given back to David. Michal had no control over her life. In addition, she was an idol worshipper. And so here she is, watching David debase himself before a Lord she does not recognize. We can understand her discomfort with the whole thing.

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

David stands his ground. He knows who called him to this moment in time, and he worships the Lord in gladness and joy. God delivered a great victory to Israel and David is now the king….and all who worship God, including the slave girls, recognize the magnitude of what has happened.

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

And so they separate, and the marriage is not revisited. Michal dies childless.

There may come a time in your life when God calls you to do something uncomfortable. You may feel the urge to witness to a stranger on a plane, take an unpopular position in a debate, give generously of your resources, etc. Wherever you feel God is leading you, GO and serve God with all your might. Yes, you may feel some embarrassment, but David reminds us that the only audience that counts is the Audience of One. When we please God, nobody else matters.

Downpour by Victor Miles

A Little Bit Goes a Long Way

I love anything spicy. I have actually been known to say to a waiter, “If it doesn’t make my forehead sweat, it’s not spicy enough.” I said this to a local seafood provider once when I ordered Spiced Steamed Shrimp. Billy’s is a local establishment that is located right on the water. If you peek behind the flat, one-story cinderblock building, you can see crabbing boats tied up at the dock. Crab pots are stacked all over the property, and the minute you open the door, the smell of fresh fish assaults your nose. An L-shaped table holds today’s catch nestled in ice. Tuna, grouper, flounder, crab packed in containers, scallops, oysters (but only in months that have the letter “r”), and three sizes of fresh shrimp are just some of the bounty that awaits you. I go to Billy’s for two things: Miss Judy’s Tunafish Salad (made daily with fresh catch) and their steamed shrimp, which they cook to order.

So I made my famous statement about spiciness as I requested “extra spicy,” and the fellow took it on as a challenge. He even drew a picture of a steaming cauldron with the words CAUTION! HOT! EXTRA HOT!! on the outside of the styrofoam container. As soon as I opened the lid, I saw what he had done. In addition to Old Bay and the usual blackening spices, he added a liberal dose of cayenne pepper. Suffice it to say that my forehead sweat a lot that night! When it comes to cayenne pepper, a little bit goes a long way.

I thought about that this morning as I read this account of the moment that David became the king. He had faithfully led the Israelites as a successful military commander, and they came to him to be their leader. As you read through the passage, see if you can spot the moment when a little bit of power goes a long way in David’s mind:

2 Samuel 5 (New International Version)

1 All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the Lord said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’”

When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.

So far, so good. David responded to the request of his people as they reminded him that God had called him to shepherd and lead them. Then they made him king and he ruled over them.

David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years

But the next verse contains a hidden clue that things are about to take a turn in David’s heart. Can you spot it?

David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the terraces inward. 10 And he became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him.

Somehow in the course of events, David lost sight of his calling to be a shepherd. Now that he’s the king, he named an entire city after himself and built it up as a fortress from the terraces INWARD, where he was safely tucked inside. He became more and more powerful because God had anointed him to lead, but by the time the next wars began, he elected to stay home. As king, he now let other men lead while he relaxed in the palace with nothing to do. Then he noticed the beautiful Bathsheba bathing next door, and his lust for her resulted in adultery and murder. Gone is the faithful shepherd-leader as pride and arrogance grew larger in his heart. A little bit of power goes a long way. In the end, it ruined David.

Take a look at your life. Have you let a little bit go too far? Are there places in your heart where power, laziness, self-indulgence, anger, resentment, privilege, etc. have gone too far and taken over?

Remember who you are. You are called to walk humbly with God and give him the glory for the great things he has done. It is never too late to put things right with the Lord. Thanks be to God!

Give God the Glory by Michelle Robertson

Hidden Places, Secret Spaces

Our beautiful Psalm today comes from a moment in King David’s life when he had just been called out by his friend Nathan for committing adultery with Bathsheba. The affair resulted in a pregnancy, so David called her husband home from the war for a “conjugal visit” in hopes of a cover-up. Uriah did not “cooperate” so David sent him back to the front lines so that he would be killed in action. David thought he had gotten away with his deceit…until Nathan called him out.

Facing the enormity of his sin was far greater than the condemnation of his friend. David’s heart is truly broken at his own behavior. He is crushed by his own transgression, and he crawls to the Lord in agony. Only God’s forgiveness can bring him relief.

Have you ever felt that way?

Psalm 51 (Common English Bible)

Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
    Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!

David understands that he can’t make amends based on his own character. He has to count on God’s great compassion. He longs to be made clean.

Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
    purify me from my sin!
Because I know my wrongdoings,
    my sin is always right in front of me.
I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
    I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
    completely correct when you issue your judgment.
Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
    from the moment my mother conceived me.

When David says “I have sinned against you—you alone” he is not discounting the damage he has done to Uriah and Bathsheba. But he is aware that the breach of trust he has committed with God is far worse than any human consequence. He has to tell the truth.

And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
    you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just offer God truth in your hidden places? Well, you can. No matter what sin has separated you from God, confession and repentance allow you to start over again. God will completely cleanse you of your guilt.

Repentance is a complete turning away from the evil behavior that ensnared you. It is walking away and not looking back.

When you do that, ask God to teach you his wisdom and fill your most secret spaces with his word. God’s faithful love will redeem you.

Secret Spaces by Kathy Schumacher

We Are the Church

Where is the strangest place you have attended church since March? A parking lot? A ball field? Your car? The front lawn of the church? Your living room?

As strange as these last few months have been for us, we have nothing on God’s people in King David’s time. They wandered the wilderness for years, obediently following the Ark of the Covenant as it traveled throughout the Promised Land in a movable tent. That tent was their church.

But after David had made himself comfy and cozy in his brand new palace, he remembered that God had no home. He began to think about that.

(Hmmm. Were David’s priorities in the right order?)

2 Samuel (Contemporary English Version)

7 King David moved into his new palace, and the Lord let his kingdom be at peace. Then one day, as David was talking with Nathan the prophet, David said, “Look around! I live in a palace made of cedar, but the sacred chest has to stay in a tent.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord is with you, so do what you want!”

Sometimes even well-meaning friends give you the wrong advice. God set Nathan straight.

That night, the Lord told Nathan to go to David and give him this message:

David, you are my servant, so listen to what I say. Why should you build a temple for me? I didn’t live in a temple when I brought my people out of Egypt, and I don’t live in one now. A tent has always been my home wherever I have gone with them. I chose leaders and told them to be like shepherds for my people Israel. But did I ever say anything to even one of them about building a cedar temple for me?

David, this is what I, the Lord All-Powerful, say to you. I brought you in from the fields where you took care of sheep, and I made you the leader of my people. Wherever you went, I helped you and destroyed your enemies right in front of your eyes. I have made you one of the most famous people in the world.

10 I have given my people Israel a land of their own where they can live in peace, and they won’t have to tremble with fear any more. Evil nations won’t bother them, as they did 11 when I let judges rule my people. And I have kept your enemies from attacking you.

God is so much more than a building. He is greater than four walls and a roof. The trouble with buildings is that they need constant repair, and sometimes donors end up worshipping the structure more than the Lord. Think I’m exaggerating? Look around. How many little brass people-plaques do you have in your sanctuary?

God’s “building” was going to be so much greater. He looked at David and decided to build a lineage that would run straight to Jesus. And Jesus would come to build a church of love, compassion, justice, hope, and peace.

Now I promise that you and your descendants will be kings.

I write this today to offer you a message of comfort. You may not be able to be in your “building” on Christmas Eve. You may not be in a sanctuary for many more months to come. But if we’ve learned one thing from this pandemic, it is that God is wherever his people are. That is the whole point of Christmas. The incarnation was about God coming to us to inhabit our world, our lives, our hearts, and our hopes and dreams for the future.

Christmas is all about God WITH us…Emmanuel.

Come, Lord Jesus! Come.

Sunset Church by Karen Warlitner

Pouring Out Speech

This has been a week for “pouring out speech.” The presidential debate and ensuing commentary have not lacked for words. If we thought things could not get worse on social media, news commentary, and our overall feeling of woe, we were wrong. A lot of speech was indeed poured out, but not much knowledge was revealed. We just left feeling battered and bruised.

This phrase actually appears in a psalm of David. Where would we be without David? The Old Testament would be lacking in so much learning had there been no King David. From his many acts of sin, which teach us about repentance, to his incredible way of shaping and forming word-pictures in the Psalms, we owe David a debt of gratitude for his life and his work.

Today’s Psalm is a favorite of mine. I can hear the music from an old choir anthem I sang decades ago in the first verse. The last verse is a common prayer used by pastors before they preach. You may have heard this in church and not realized that it is from Psalm 19:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

I think this is a challenge for us as well, but first let’s dive into the beauty of the beginning of the Psalm. Pay attention to the way David figuratively gives voice to the different aspects of creation…the sky proclaims, the day pours out speech, and the heavens declare:

Psalm 19 (English Standard Version)

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

We see an image of God’s entire creation singing his praises in David’s words. It is chill-bump worthy. Then David pays homage to the safety and comfort of the law. As one who broke it many times he should know!

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules[d] of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward
.

At the end of the Psalm is the challenge I would like to put before you today. It’s not just preachers who need to pray that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to God…it’s all of us. It applies to what we say to our spouses, how we discipline our children, what we post on social media, the words we wear on our t-shirts and yard signs, and how we behave in Presidential debates. We, too have been given a voice to either declare the glory of the heavens and be a proclamation to God’s handiwork or be an embarrassment to him. So here is your challenge: THINK before you speak or post.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Heaven Declares God’s Glory by Karen Warlitner

Being the Runt

The Lectionary passage today takes us back to the time when a new king of Israel was to be selected from among the sons of Jesse. Samuel was in charge, and as he looked over the fine specimens standing in front of him, he assessed them by their height and physical appearance. Watch what happens:

1 Samuel 16 (The Message)

When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Here he is! God’s anointed!”

But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.”

10 Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel. Samuel was blunt with Jesse, “God hasn’t chosen any of these.”

11 Then he asked Jesse, “Is this it? Are there no more sons?”

“Well, yes, there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep.”

Samuel ordered Jesse, “Go get him. We’re not moving from this spot until he’s here.”

12 Jesse sent for him. He was brought in, the very picture of health—bright-eyed, good-looking.

God said, “Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one.”

The runt, of course, was David, who is still thought of as one of Israel’s most powerful kings. And he wasn’t even in the running.

Have you ever felt like that?

I suspect that one of the greatest roots of sibling rivalry is feeling inadequate in comparison to one’s siblings. If your sisters and brothers are good-looking over-achievers, you may have grown up feeling like the runt of the family. I know a very accomplished third-born who, in his 50’s, was still comparing himself to his high-achieving older sister and brother and calling himself “the runt.”

Isn’t it good to know that there are no runts in the family of God?

This story reminds us that God sees all of our potential, beauty, and promise with no comparison to those around us. He sees us as uniquely designed in HIS image, and recognizes the value inherent in each of us….a value that he himself imparts to us, so we can trust that it is GOOD, just like the rest of his creation.

You matter to God. You are highly valued by him. You, indeed, are the apple of his eye!

So if you woke up this morning feeling a little inadequate, a little left out, or a little down, remember that God cherishes YOU. You are a child of God in a family that is runt-free. Thanks be to God!

Milk Dud the Runt by Welcome to Nature via Twitter

Judging Covers

Living on a canal affords us magnificent views of the sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and the neighbors’ back yards. Think “Rear Window,” the iconic Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly thriller. In that movie, Stewart is confined to a wheelchair after an injury, and spends hours watching his neighbors from his apartment’s rear window. He witnesses what he realizes is the murder of one of them, and the disposal of her remains by her guilty husband. If you have never seen this movie, find it today if you enjoy Hitchcock mysteries. Or just to watch Grace Kelly, who is nothing less than ethereal in this film.

But here in Colington, I have only observed the mundane things of water living; neighbors and their kids swimming off their docks, people enjoying the sunshine on their decks, a lot of waterfowl, lots of fishing, and early morning crabbers going out in their boats to check their traps. On Wednesdays I see sailboats circling in the harbor for the weekly community sail out to the sound. One time I watched an aggressive osprey fight with a large eel that kept slipping out of its talons. The osprey almost dropped it on my head as it victoriously flew over my deck back to its nest to feed the family. That surely would have caused me to list my house immediately, views or no views.

The fronts of our houses face the water, so when you travel along the streets of Colington, you are actually looking at the rather plain backs of houses. I remember taking my Mom on a boat ride on the canals and she exclaimed, “Oh, the houses are so pretty! I never realized I’ve been looking at the back of the houses all this time!” Indeed, the fancy decks and staircases, the covered porches, and the tiki bars that people have constructed all face the water. It’s like the houses have turned their backs on the street in order to face the prettier view themselves.

There is a saying that comes to mind: Never judge a book by its cover. This is just a reminder to us to look deeper and don’t make assumptions about books, houses, and especially people.

There was a time when a man named Samuel was sent to select the next king of Israel. When he looked at the fine young men standing before him, all of them Jesse’s sons, he naturally selected the biggest and most handsome one, but God said no. He continued down the line, and each time God rejected the obvious selection:

1 Samuel 16:7 New International Version (NIV)

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Finally, the smallest son was called from the field where he had been tending sheep. This one, the runt of the litter, was the one whom God chose. His name was David, and he became one of Israel’s greatest kings.

The Lord looks at the heart. People focus on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks inward.

What can we glean from this today? Is there someone in your life who needs and deserves a deeper look? Are you guilty of making snap judgements about people you meet, based solely on their appearance? Where is God calling you to take a second look, and this time to look at the heart?

I met an elderly lady once in the lobby of a very fine restaurant. We were surrounded by all sorts of people, nationalities, and ages. The younger ones were tattooed, as most younger ones are today. Within the first three minutes of meeting this woman, she expressed outrage at all the girls and their tattoos. I live on the Outer Banks and don’t even SEE tattoos on people anymore. It’s wearable art. Everybody has at least one. This lady was dressed to the nines, but would have been highly offended if someone had criticized her choice of scarves and fake pearls. She would have wanted people to see the real her. So do the tattooed girls.

Take a look around you. The down-and-out person might be just the one Christ is calling you to befriend. The uppity church lady wearing too much perfume might be shielding a life of loneliness and heartache. The frantic, hassled guy at the gas pump might have just been told his wife is dying of cancer. The rude teenager might be having suicidal thoughts.

Look deeper. Ignore the wrapper. Be like Jesus and look into the HEART. What is on the outside is just window dressing, but what is inside is a real human, deserving of your kindness and consideration. That tattooed girl just might be royalty under all that ink. After all, she is the daughter of the King.

This tattoo is on the arm of a girl with a heart of gold.