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Proving Ground

Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in faithfulness to you.

Psalm 26:2-3 –

prov·ing ground: an environment that serves to demonstrate whether something, such as a theory or product, really works.

What do you believe about your belief?

  • Do you believe you have power over your decisions?
  • Do you believe you are enough for your life?
  • Do you believe you are capable of doing what needs to be done today?

I have a friend who is going through a tumultuous season with her teenage son. She’s a believer who has struggled, like all of us, with understanding how to apply the Word to her life. And how to be the Word in her life. Her focus is selective with an attempt at literal application. Over the years, she has repeatedly missed the same mark. A mark that appears to me to be an easy goal. Simple to achieve. No hardship at all. Her test has been love. Love is her proving ground. Truthfully speaking, love is the proving ground for all of us.

What do you know or understand about love?

  • I know that if I allow love to have it’s way in my life, I am de facto relinquishing control over where love leads me.
  • I know that love has nothing to do with romance, lust or physical desires, yet everything to do with one’s heart and spirit.
  • I know that love has nothing to do with me in and of myself while at the same time I am both fully a product and a conduit of love.

I know that God is Love. I know that He created a human version of Himself to live among the rest of His creation here on Earth in order to minister to us in our sin, our sorrow, our disappointments, our madness, our bondage, our sickness, and even in our death. Love is so much more powerful than obedience, preferences, plans, lifestyle, ideals, gender, sexuality and doctrine.

Love covers a multitude of sins because love is not diminished by sin. But perhaps love is proved by sin.

Do you love me?


Why not?

Because you hurt me.

Then you never loved me at all.

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

~ Proverbs 10:12 –

People who sin against you, violate your trust, hurt your heart, betray your relationship – whatever the trespass may be – are still precious to the Lord. God has not stopped loving the person you turned your back on because they do not live the way you want them to live. He is actually proving to that person that you had no understanding of love at all. You who were to be this person’s light and source of love took action to drive them further into darkness instead.

How do you respond when your interpretation of the Bible is challenged by a situation within your own family or friend circles?

Do you respond in love, with your heart and spirit projecting the love God gave the world when He laid Himself down for His creation?

Or do you respond in ego, in self, with pride.

ego: a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.

self: a person or thing referred to with respect to complete individuality; a person’s nature, character; personal interest.

pride: a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.; the state or feeling of being proud; a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one’s position or character; self-respect; self-esteem.

If we believe God IS who He says He Is, then we know His Word is performative. He didn’t just just tell us about love being gentle, long-suffering, kind, selfless and faithful. He gave us His Spirit of Love from the beginning when He breathed His Life into our lungs. And again in the middle when He sacrificed His form, His Son, Jesus, to show both obedience to the responsibility of love and the extreme performance of love. No one on Earth is worthy to be the Lamb. Not one person. There has never been an alternative to Jesus. No person created has been a potential stand-in cross-bearer for His assignment. Yet Jesus chose to die for us all. Not because we deserve His death, His blood, His concern, or His sacrifice. We didn’t then and we still don’t. And certainly not because He wanted to die for a dying, sinning populace. But Jesus too is a product and conduit of love. He is the Word Love personified. And even He said that those who come after Him will perform greater deeds than He did. Those who believe in Him, will perform Love better than Jesus. Imagine that.

Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

~ John 14:11-12 –

As you consider Love, evaluate your relationships, especially the strained, difficult ones. In your interactions with the people dear to you, do you represent Love? Are you taking the responsibility of gentleness, kindness, patience, care, sacrifice and faithfulness seriously? Or are you focused only on self – your beliefs, your concerns, your perspective? The bumps and boulders in the road are your tests. Your relationships and daily interactions are your proving ground. As long as you are alive, it’s not too late to take on the responsibility of love and prove yourself the perfect conduit within your circles.

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ACAD – Accepted: 1 Thessalonians 2

Paul’s Ministry in Thessalonica

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters,[a] that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle[b] among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters;[c] we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. For you, brothers and sisters,[d] became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets,[e] and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last.[f]

Paul’s Desire to Visit the Thessalonians Again

As for us, brothers and sisters,[g] when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again—but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Yes, you are our glory and joy!


a. 1 Thessalonians 2:1 Gk brothers
b. 1 Thessalonians 2:7 Other ancient authorities read infants
c. 1 Thessalonians 2:9 Gk brothers
d. 1 Thessalonians 2:14 Gk brothers
e. 1 Thessalonians 2:15 Other ancient authorities read their own prophets
f. 1 Thessalonians 2:16 Or completely or forever
g. 1 Thessalonians 2:17 Gk brothers

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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ACAD – Rejected: Jeremiah 6

The Imminence and Horror of the Invasion

Flee for safety, O children of Benjamin,
    from the midst of Jerusalem!
Blow the trumpet in Tekoa,
    and raise a signal on Beth-haccherem;
for evil looms out of the north,
    and great destruction.
I have likened daughter Zion
    to the loveliest pasture.[a]
Shepherds with their flocks shall come against her.
    They shall pitch their tents around her;
    they shall pasture, all in their places.
“Prepare war against her;
    up, and let us attack at noon!”
“Woe to us, for the day declines,
    the shadows of evening lengthen!”
“Up, and let us attack by night,
    and destroy her palaces!”
For thus says the Lord of hosts:
Cut down her trees;
    cast up a siege ramp against Jerusalem.
This is the city that must be punished;[b]
    there is nothing but oppression within her.
As a well keeps its water fresh,
    so she keeps fresh her wickedness;
violence and destruction are heard within her;
    sickness and wounds are ever before me.
Take warning, O Jerusalem,
    or I shall turn from you in disgust,
and make you a desolation,
    an uninhabited land.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:
Glean[c] thoroughly as a vine
    the remnant of Israel;
like a grape-gatherer, pass your hand again
    over its branches.

To whom shall I speak and give warning,
    that they may hear?
See, their ears are closed,[d]
    they cannot listen.
The word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn;
    they take no pleasure in it.
But I am full of the wrath of the Lord;
    I am weary of holding it in.

Pour it out on the children in the street,
    and on the gatherings of young men as well;
both husband and wife shall be taken,
    the old folk and the very aged.
Their houses shall be turned over to others,
    their fields and wives together;
for I will stretch out my hand
    against the inhabitants of the land,
says the Lord.

13 For from the least to the greatest of them,
    everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and from prophet to priest,
    everyone deals falsely.
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
    saying, “Peace, peace,”
    when there is no peace.
They acted shamefully, they committed abomination;
    yet they were not ashamed,
    they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
    at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,
says the Lord.
Thus says the Lord:
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
    and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
    and find rest for your souls.
But they said, “We will not walk in it.”
Also I raised up sentinels for you:
    “Give heed to the sound of the trumpet!”
But they said, “We will not give heed.”
Therefore hear, O nations,
    and know, O congregation, what will happen to them.
Hear, O earth; I am going to bring disaster on this people,
    the fruit of their schemes,
because they have not given heed to my words;
    and as for my teaching, they have rejected it.
Of what use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba,
    or sweet cane from a distant land?
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable,
    nor are your sacrifices pleasing to me.
Therefore thus says the Lord:
See, I am laying before this people
    stumbling blocks against which they shall stumble;
parents and children together,
    neighbor and friend shall perish.

Thus says the Lord:
See, a people is coming from the land of the north,
    a great nation is stirring from the farthest parts of the earth.
They grasp the bow and the javelin,
    they are cruel and have no mercy,
    their sound is like the roaring sea;
they ride on horses,
    equipped like a warrior for battle,
    against you, O daughter Zion!

“We have heard news of them,
    our hands fall helpless;
anguish has taken hold of us,
    pain as of a woman in labor.
Do not go out into the field,
    or walk on the road;
for the enemy has a sword,
    terror is on every side.”

O my poor people, put on sackcloth,
    and roll in ashes;
make mourning as for an only child,
    most bitter lamentation:
for suddenly the destroyer
    will come upon us.

I have made you a tester and a refiner[e] among my people
    so that you may know and test their ways.
They are all stubbornly rebellious,
    going about with slanders;
they are bronze and iron,
    all of them act corruptly.
The bellows blow fiercely,
    the lead is consumed by the fire;
in vain the refining goes on,
    for the wicked are not removed.
They are called “rejected silver,”
    for the Lord has rejected them.


  1. Jeremiah 6:2 Or I will destroy daughter Zion, the loveliest pasture
  2. Jeremiah 6:6 Or the city of license
  3. Jeremiah 6:9 Cn: Heb They shall glean
  4. Jeremiah 6:10 Heb are uncircumcised
  5. Jeremiah 6:27 Or a fortress

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Small Ripples, Big Impact

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers — the moon and the stars you set in place — what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?  ~ Psalm 8:3-4

Life lesson: though I may be a pebble or a tiny insignificant grain of sand, the ripple effect of my life can be great.

Over the last few months, I’ve been trying harder than usual to make sense of life (in general) and the people who have crossed my path (more specifically). Attempting to understand the vagaries of life and relationships has proved to be a futile effort which soon ended with me throwing up my hands and accepting that nothing matters at all. A devastating thought. Crushing, actually, and depressing because if nothing in life matters, it stood to reason that I didn’t matter either.

I concluded that I’m not significant to anything or anyone. It didn’t matter how I loved or showed love, what I said or what I did, if I showed up or if I didn’t, it didn’t matter what I thought or believed, what I learned or what I dismissed. Nothing about the process of my journey mattered, or my experiences or my lessons. It all amounted to naught. From inception I was a waste and my time here could be likened to a waiting room, a transition space I paused in before being released into a place where my existence would matter. A paradise where my love would be accepted and my open heart would not be derided or neglected.

My underlining thought was: How much longer must I suffer here, in a world full of people who have no care for me, no concern, no openness, no honesty, no true sense of sharing?

I hadn’t dared approach my heart condition during this season of brokenness. Primarily, because I had believed myself to be in a season of wholeness. A season of recovery. I had believed myself to be in the midst of reaping a bountiful harvest of blessings – so joyful of heart and spirit, so clear of mind and purpose. I wanted to enjoy every moment of that sense of wholeness without giving one iota of concentration to the encroaching darkness, the crippling loneliness, the horrendous sadness. This month, I’ve reached a point where I not only have to concentrate on my dark, lonely sadness, but I also have to give voice to it in order to let it go. I have to acknowledge it so I can shine a light on it and defeat it.

About face on Facebook

One issue in the midst of all this is technology. I have increasingly become discouraged with technology, primarily social media. The internet makes you feel only a few clicks away from people living hundreds or thousands of miles away. That accessibility creates a false sense of intimacy and that false sense of intimacy makes online interactions feel like real relationships. That’s the web I got entangled in, during a time I was confronted with the fact that my person-to-person relationships didn’t amount to a hill of beans either. So, in effect, I crashed due to a software malfunction or overload because I was trying to compute people in my actual and virtual worlds with malware.

A few months ago, I deactivated my Facebook account because I felt I wasn’t benefiting anyone, therefore it wasn’t benefiting me.

A line from Reese Witherspoon’s 2006 Oscar acceptance speech for Walk the Line, has never left my mind. Her whole speech is beautiful and encouraging for any woman doing any work in this world, but her closing line, which she attributed to June Carter, sums up this whole internal conflict of mine:

I want to say that my — my grandmother was one of the biggest inspirations in my life. She taught me how to be a real woman, to have strength and self-respect, and to never give those things away. And those were a lot of qualities I saw in June Carter. And people used to ask June how — how she was doin’. And she used to say, “I’m just tryin’ to matter.” And, I know what she means, you know. I’m just trying to matter and live a good life and make work that means something to somebody.  ~ Reese Witherspoon

I, too, want to matter. I want to count for something. I want to feel as if my presence isn’t a waste of space in this continuum of life.

This weekend God showed me how I mattered to His network. Oh, being shown my place in His web of connections has had an equally awe-inspiring and humbling impact on me! I’m still processing… but from a clean reboot this time.

Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. You gave them charge of everything you made, putting all things under their authority…  ~ Psalm 8:5-6

I matter to the Most High. And His words of love have been penetrating me this weekend!

I opened an email from Cyndy Lavoie yesterday after posting This Time. Her email had been sitting in my spam folder for exactly seven days. I hadn’t even been trying to look at email let alone spam, but a series of erratic movements with my mouse pulled her email up before I even realized what I was looking at. As a matter of fact, I sat looking at her name for at least a full minute, blinking, trying to guess at why I would have an email from her.

See, Cyndy Lavoie is a contact from Facebook that I corresponded with no more than 5-7 times via FB page posts or blog comments over the pass summer. We have never met, nor have we spoken voice-to-voice. She lives across the continent in another country. I had linked to her blog through the page of a mutual “friend” on Facebook. Her blog posts touched my heart and I sensed we were on a similar journey.

She started her email to me with: “Not sure if you remember me, we met on Facebook (somehow!! LOL) and you have been coming to mind lately, and it occurred to me that I’ve not seen you on Facebook for quite some time.”

God’s Social Network

In addition to to the onslaught of my technical difficulties, I started attending a new church. For pretty much the full time I was on Facebook, I read The Daily Bible Verse every day. I posted scripture and commentary from it regularly on my pages. Some time before closing down my Facebook page,  I noticed the pastor writing the commentary headed a church in New York City. One day I googled the church.  In September, I contacted the pastor and inquired about the small group Bible studies listed on the church’s website. He invited me to the one that evening and I’ve been participating ever since.

Today, after service, many of us went to lunch. On the walk to the restaurant, a young, very lively couple introduced themselves to me. I learned that they had just relocated back to New York after a year living in Texas. Through the course of the afternoon, I learned she’s an actress and he’s a software developer. I was seated quite a few people down the table from them, but their energy was so contagious I moved closer so I could hear their conversation. As I pulled up a recently vacated seat, Carl, the husband, said, “LaShawnda, I was hoping to be able to speak to you! I heard that you found the church through The Daily Bible Verse.”

“I did! It’s been an amazing experience!”

“I’m the developer that developed The Daily Bible Verse. It’s been taking off like you wouldn’t believe.”

“Getoutahere! You’re a person! {Yes, I said that!} I thought it might be some corporation with layers and layers of ridiculousness!”

“Nope – maybe one day! For now, it’s just me and Dave. I’m the technical guy and he’s the commentator.”

I don’t think I can adequately explain how powerful this is to me. Carl and Dave impacted my life before I ever met them, saw them or knew their names. They were part of my day. Part of my study and learning. I have shared the product of their work with people I don’t know, haven’t met or seen. They are both modest men, living modest lives who share a passion for the Word of God and a desire to distribute the Word to the masses. Upon meeting them both, I told them how their work impacted my life. Though the meetings were months apart, their responses were the same, “Thank you, that encourages me!”

My amazement is for the way God has moved us all to the point of contact. We’ve come from all corners of this country and connected in New York City. We’ve gone back and forth with churches and arrived at Grace. More amazing, the majority of the Grace community are transplants. Looking at this maze of connectivity gives the lie to the thought that nothing matters. The “coincidences” of impact and connection points to the fact that EVERYTHING matters. Even when comprehension is out of reach. Even when darkness blocks the source of light. Even when life beats you down within a blink of giving up – that blink makes a world of difference.

The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.  ~ Stephen W. Hawking

Encourage Yourself by Donald Lawrence & the Tri-City Singers