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It improves cocoa and makes chocolate more interesting. Nutritionists claim it boosts metabolism and immunity. While a little goes a long way, Mexican food isn’t the same without some form of this spice. Cayenne powder takes the chili seasoning to another level.

Life could go on without cayenne peppers, of course. We’d eat our dull food and survive. Some might even thank heaven for less heartburn. Bland routines avoid pain.

I recognize the comfort of routines. It’s easier not to think about adventure or passion. A day like yesterday risks nothing. If I raise my hands halfway in worship, no one will think me over-zealous. If I only offer blessings when someone sneezes, I can avoid offending someone who doesn’t believe.

Living in Christ means I no longer feel comfortable in my comfort zone. I’ve tasted the zest of grace, enjoyed the boost of God’s love, and dwell in the shelter of a glorious Father. My Lord offers more than a ho-hum, routine love for me. God’s love always rises to another level, one with intense passion.How can I settle for anything less than grabbing Jesus’ arm each day and setting out with Him on an adventure?

So, I’m endeavoring to add my spirit’s zeal to each day, like a dash of cayenne. Whether there’s a risk of pain or rejection, I know from my Savior’s example that passionate living is worth every kind of risk it takes.

 

“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you” (Psalm 63:3).
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light” (Psalm 36:7-9).
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2).

A Florida sunset blazes across the horizon–our effortless version of the summer campfire. Temperatures hover near ninety degrees, and customer traffic doubled at the neighborhood pool store. Yesterday’s evening breeze swept away the last remnants of spring. While Midwest residents continue salting icy walkways, we’re dipping our toes into the next season.

Not that there’s any hurry. Life strolls along at a casual pace in the sub-southern peninsula. Flip-flops clap along the sidewalks year-round. On special occasions, ladies switch to heeled sandals. A number of fair-haired drivers refuse to accelerate for the sake of impatient youngsters. Don’t bother honking to rush them. They either can’t hear you or will enjoy the pretense of deafness at your expense.

The tropics harbor unique creatures and comforts. Our kids weather hurricanes instead of snow days and build sand castles instead of Frosty men. Northern children make jewelry from fireflies, but here we have lizards to hang from little earlobes. When asked about sharks and alligators, natives shrug.

“Stay out of their way, and the neighbors won’t bother you.”

Cockroaches pose a more imminent threat. At least the larger predators won’t invade homes. Unless you have a doggie door, of course.

Battling insects and minding the local monsters–small sacrifices to preserve us from scraping, plowing, and arduous winterizing. When the long yard work season tires us, vacation options abound. Dreamy weekends beckon, less than a gas tank’s trip away. From world-class theme parks to sugary beaches, we grin at those who ask why we choose to reside in the lightning capital of the world.

When visitors bemoan rattlesnakes or the free outdoor saunas, it fails to lessen my appreciation for home. I imagine such dubious folks could experience the same epiphany that once struck my parents during an ice storm. Perhaps then they would join the highway’s right-lane caravan. Straining to see over the steering wheel, their questions might change from, “Why would anyone live there?” to “Are we in Florida yet?”

Quality of life hinges on perspective. Each can opt to embrace or despise his circumstances. The key to a satisfying life rests in recognizing and joining God’s magnificent work. The Lord created beauty in nature and within our hearts to be celebrated, participated in, and shared.

There might be some who fail to appreciate the Sunshine State. I hope they find beauty and joy in their hometown. As for me, I gotta love Florida.

 

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” – Deuteronomy 8:10

Rejoice in the Lord always…in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” –Philippians 4:4-8

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” — 2 Peter 1:3-4

 

Wrinkled baby feet and carriages adorn cards dedicated to “new moms.” Friends and family members send these greetings to stuff the mailboxes of bleary-eyed mommas. The envelopes pile on the counter, for the most significant part of a mother’s life wasn’t delivered by post.

The most significant aspect of mothering doesn’t come in print, either. Greeting cards, dictionaries, and biology texts fail to define the spirit of motherhood. Giving birth or adopting fall short as qualifying requirements or guarantees for the noble role.  A true mother nurtures the spirit of another. To become such a leader, it is she who must be reborn.

Surrender to Christ plunges her into the baptism of the Holy Spirit’s anointing. A newborn mother arises with supernatural gifts. Whether she has cradled an infant, guided adult children, or has no biological offspring, her family now expands to the edges of God’s Kingdom. Empowered and inspired by the indwelling Lord, her spirit reaches out to nurture the faith of others.

Nurturing spirits combine their gifts to nurture, guide, and protect the Lord’s darlings. Children in the family of God have a network of mothers to speak important truths into their hearts.

“You are unique and precious.”

“God crafted delightful things into your personality, and they’re worth celebrating.”

“I love and care about you.”

“God cherishes you even more than I do. And that’s saying a lot.”

“You have worth and purpose.”

A new mother’s work is never done. A season of mentoring one disciple ends, but others need guidance. While sleeplessness exhausts a biological mom, newborn mothers rest in the Father’s arms. When she feels her energy draining, the Lord will renew her strength. Though her service persists for years, she retains a beautiful glow in His eyes. Life continues to wriggle its way from within her to the expectant world around her.

Though my sons now tower over me, I aspire to remain a newborn mother for the rest of my life. Whether you’ve cradled an infant or held a brokenhearted child of God, you can accept the nurturing role in Christ’s family.

“speaking the truth in love,we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” – Ephesians 4:15-16

“whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” – Galatians 6:8-10

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families” – Psalm 68:5-6

Hedonism flooded our nation. It surged from the eastern and western shores, with cyber-rivulets stretching inland across the plains. The moral decay reeks more of death’s stench with each passing day. Its mire snares billions of citizens who sojourn through life with inadequate protection for their souls. Many have grown so accustomed to the devastation that their senses don’t recognize it as a disaster zone. 

A remnant crowd of disciples can still smell the rancor. We sift through the rubble, grieving over lost treasures. Sanctity of marriage, childhood innocence, religious freedom for Christians–the list of our tragic losses seems endless. A nation founded upon divine truths now worships pleasure. Some pause to leverage blame or question how such a thing could have happened. As if the tsunami crashed through overnight. 

These decades of apostasy began, as such things tend to do, with small concessions. A pathway of brick-sized allowances paved the way for our country to believe Hugh Heffner’s revolution offered freedom. Long before schools forbade prayer, we stood by and let other things distract us from the significance of God’s protection. Culture denies scientific evidence of cannabis-related brain damage and encourages us to legalize gambling in order to fund our schools.

“‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said…” (Genesis 3:4).

Despite America’s widespread deception, hope remains. We can pray. Not as a last resort, or the one small effort available to us. Prayer offers access to world-changing power and stands alone as our wisest first response. America thirsts for darkness-shattering light and fear-conquering love, but these can only be obtained by reaching for the Light and Love Himself. In the midst of these ominous shadows, Christ is never far away.

We need not believe the slithering lie that God has forgotten us. Our Heavenly Father waits, with eager heart and searching eyes, to hear us call upon Him. The Lord longs to restore our relationship with Him, as has always been His nature. 

As the Lord advised His people long ago, our united prayers can affect transformation throughout the country. May each day become a national day of prayer. Will you join me to pray for America? 

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land... my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place” (2 Chronicles 7:14-15).