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    Beautiful to God

    When Denise began dating her boyfriend, she attempted to maintain a slim figure and dress stylishly, believing she would be more attractive to him in that way. After all, it was what all the women’s magazines advised. It was only much later that she discovered what he really thought: “I liked you just as much when you were heavier and didn’t worry about what you wore.”

    Denise realized then how subjective “beauty” was. Our view of beauty is so easily influenced by others, and often focused on the external; forgetting the value of inner beauty. But God sees us in only…

    No More Running

    On July 18, 1983, a US Air Force captain disappeared from Albuquerque, New Mexico, without a trace. Thirty-five years later, authorities found him in California. The New York Times reports that, “depressed about his job,” he’d simply run away.

    Thirty-five years on the run! Half a lifetime spent looking over his shoulder! I have to imagine that anxiety and paranoia were this man’s constant companions.

    But I have to admit, I also know a bit about being “on the run.” No, I’ve never abruptly fled something in my life . . . physically. But at times I know there’s something God wants…

    When Sharks Won’t Bite

    My children were thrilled, but I felt uneasy. During a family vacation, we visited an aquarium where people were encouraged to pet small sharks kept in a special tank. When I asked the attendant if the creatures ever snapped at fingers in the water, she explained that the sharks had recently been fed and then given extra food. They wouldn’t bite because they weren’t hungry.

    What I learned about shark petting makes sense according to a proverb in the Bible: “One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet” (Proverbs 27:7). Hunger—that…

    The Lord Rejoices

    My grandmother recently sent me a folder full of old photographs, and as I thumbed through them, one caught my eye. In it, I’m two years old, and I’m sitting on one end of a hearth in front of a fireplace. On the other end, my dad has his arm around my mom’s shoulders. Both are gazing at me with expressions of love and delight.

    I pinned this photo to my dresser, where I see it every morning. It’s a wonderful reminder of their love for me. The truth is, though, that even the love of good parents is imperfect. I…

    Hide-and-Seek

    “He’s going to find me,” I thought. I felt my little heart pound faster as I heard my five-year-old cousin’s footsteps round the corner. He was coming closer. Five steps away. Three. Two. “Found you!”

    Hide-and-seek. Most recall fond memories of playing the game as children. Yet sometimes in life the fear of being found isn’t fun, but rooted in a deep instinct to flee. Run and hide. People may dislike what they see.

    As children of a fallen world, we are prone to play what a friend of mine labels, “a mixed up game of hide-and-seek” between God and us. It’s…

    The Savior Who Knows Us

    “Dad, what time is it?” my son asked from the back seat. “It’s 5:30.” I knew exactly what he’d say next. “No, it’s 5:28!” I watched his face light up. Gotcha! his beaming smile said. I felt delight, too—the kind that comes from knowing your child the way only a parent can.

    Like any attentive parent, I know my children I know how they’ll respond when I wake them up. I know what they’ll want in their lunches. I know countless interests, desires, and preferences.

    But for all that, I’ll never know them perfectly, inside and out, the way our Lord knows…

    Knocking Down Pins

    I was immediately intrigued when I noticed a tattoo of a bowling ball knocking down pins on my friend Erin’s ankle. Erin was inspired to get this unique tattoo after listening to Sara Groves’s song, “Setting Up the Pins.” The clever lyrics encourage listeners to find joy in the repetitive, routine tasks that sometimes feel as pointless as manually setting up bowling pins over and over again, only to have someone knock them down.

    Laundry. Cooking. Mowing the lawn. Life seems full of tasks that, once completed, just have to been done again—and again. This isn’t a new struggle but an…

    Fearless Love

    For years I wore a shield of fear to protect my heart. Eventually, my fear became an excuse to avoid trying new things, following my dreams, and obeying God. But more importantly, fear of loss, heartache, and rejection hindered me from developing loving relationships with God and others. Fear made me an insecure, anxious, and jealous wife, and an overprotective, worrying mother. As I continue learning how much God loves me, however, He’s changing the way I relate to Him and to others. Because I know my loving God will care for me, I feel more secure, more willing to…

    Bear Hug

    “Bear” was a gift for my grandchild—a heaping helping of love contained in a giant stuffed animal frame. Baby D’s response? First, wonder. Next, an amazed awe. Then, a curiosity that nudged a daring exploration. He poked his pudgy finger at Bear’s nose, and when the Bear tumbled forward into his arms he responded with joy joy JOY! Baby D laid his toddler head down on Bear’s fluffy chest and hugged him tightly. A dimpled smile spread across his cheeks as he burrowed deeply into Bear’s cushiony softness. The child had no idea of Bear’s inability to truly love him. Innocently…

    Love Won’t Stop

    After I turned nineteen, and years before I owned a pager or a cell phone, I moved more than 700 miles away from my mom. One morning, I left early to run errands, forgetting our scheduled call. Later that night, two policemen came to my door. Mom had been worried because I’d never missed one of our chats. After calling repeatedly and getting a busy signal, she reached out to the authorities and insisted they check on me. One of the police officers turned to me and said, “It’s a blessing to know love won’t stop looking for you.”

    When I…

    Come and Get It!

    I peeked over the grape-stake fence that encloses our backyard. There, I saw folks running, jogging, walking, shuffling around the track that surrounds the park behind our home. I used to do that when I was stronger, I thought. And a wave of dissatisfaction washed over me.

    Later, while reading the Scriptures, I came across Isaiah 55:1, “Come, all you who are thirsty,” and I realized again that dissatisfaction (thirst) is the rule, not the exception in this life. Nothing, not even the good things of life can fully satisfy. If I had strong legs like a Sherpa (mountain-climbing guide), there would…

    In the Moment

    The ambulance door was about to close—with me on the inside. Outside, my son was on the phone to my wife. From my concussed fog, I called his name. As he recalls the moment, I slowly said, “Tell your mom I love her very much.”

    Apparently I thought this might be goodbye, and I wanted those to be my parting words. In the moment, that’s what mattered most to me.

    As Jesus endured His darkest moment, He didn’t merely tell us He loved us; He showed it in specific ways. He showed it to the mocking soldiers who had just nailed Him…

    Flourishing Like a Flower

    My youngest grandson is only two months old, yet every time I see him I notice little changes. A few weeks ago as I cooed to him, he looked up at me and smiled! And suddenly I began crying. Perhaps it was joy mixed with remembering my own children’s first smiles, which I witnessed so long ago, and yet it feels like just yesterday. Some moments are like that—inexplicable.  

    In Psalm 103, David penned a poetic song that praised God while also reflecting on how quickly the joyful moments of our lives pass by: “The life of mortals is like…

    Unexplainable Love

    Our small church decided to surprise my son on his sixth birthday. The people in our church decorated his Sunday school class with balloons and set up a small table with a cake on it. When my son opened the door, everyone shouted, “Happy birthday!”

    Later on, as I was cutting the cake, my son came over and whispered in my ear, “Mom, why does everyone here love me?” I had the same question. These people had known us for only six months but were treating us as long-time friends.

    Their love for my son reflected God’s love for us. We can’t…

    Surrounded by God

    In a busy airport, a young mother struggled alone. Her toddler was in full tantrum mode—screaming, kicking, and refusing to board their plane. Overwhelmed and heavily pregnant, the burdened young mother finally gave up, sinking to the floor in frustration, covering her face, and starting to sob.

    Suddenly six or seven women travelers, all strangers, formed a circle around the young mother and her child—sharing snacks, water, gentle hugs, and even a nursery song. Their loving circle calmed the mother and child, who then boarded their plane. The other women then returned to their seats, not needing to discuss what they…

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