The Gift of Love

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. John 13:34 NLT

We were created with the ability to love, and as Believers, we have the ability to love as Christ loves us.

With God’s love, we are able to pity the weaknesses of others and forgive as we wish to be forgiven.

God’s wonderful gift of love includes the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives love, joy, peace, strength, and comfort.

With the human effort of total surrender and faith, we can receive an effective helper–the Holy Spirit, who leads us to see our own character defects as opposed to seeing the character defects of others.

When we begin to focus on our own shortcomings, we open the door for the Holy Spirit to guide us toward a transformation of our character. It is only then that we possess the ability to obey and understand the commandment of loving each other.

Challenge for today: Pray for transformation.

Verse for today: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Prayer for today: Dear God: Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. I need a makeover of my mind and my heart. God, I surrender myself to you and ask you to transform me according to your will. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Photo: M.V.

The Way of Love

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NLT

Does your love measure up to the standards in 1 Corinthians 13? I am certain that my understanding of love has never fully equaled agape love. It is also obvious that I have frequently placed boundaries on how far I was willing to extend my love to others. A zero tolerance level has led me down the path of letting go, throwing in the towel, and living by the adage: “Enough is Enough.”

So now that the “Love Chapter” of the Bible has exposed my watered-down version of love, I have to take this opportunity to grow spiritually by striving to attain agape love. I purposely chose the word, attain because of its definition: “to succeed in achieving something that one desires and has worked for.” It will take action on my part to possess agape love: Strong desire, Hard work, and Praying without ceasing!

I am certain that I will have many opportunities to learn agape love. Life has a way of presenting the challenges that are required to prove whether we stand behind our commitments.

I invite you to make the journey along with me for change. We must make a conscious effort and persevere to achieve what we really desire. Consider the pursuit of God’s definition of love an opportunity for spiritual growth; a time for total transformation of your interpretation of love–to the love that God requires.

Remember Agape love causes us to extend ourselves to those who have wronged us without ever reflecting on their wrongdoing!

Challenge for today: Make the commitment to love others by God’s standards.

Verse for today: But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44 ESV

Prayer for today: Dear God, Please teach me to see and love others through spiritual eyes. My love does not measure up to what you require. I desire agape love in my life. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Sonya Johnson Ruiz

True Love

Love takes no pleasure in evil, but rejoices in the truth. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always helpful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:6 BSB, verse 7 NLT

1 Corinthians 13 provides us with a complete definition along with the qualities of Unconditional love.

Believer Alert: There are no gray areas…we must raise our standards and love as God requires us to love!

Love produces change: It softens us from the inside out and produces character traits that extend graciousness to others.

Challenge for today: Identify the changes you must make to love others unconditionally.

Prayer for today: Dear God, Please reveal to me the changes I must make to accept and love others. God, I need your help to view life through spiritual eyes and to always focus on extending loving-kindness to others. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Sonya Johnson Ruiz

Reaching your Fullest Potential

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the Earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” Genesis 1:26 NLT

What does it mean to you to be created in the image of God?

King David said, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well. Psalm 139:14 BSB

In the 1950s a poem was written: “I Am–Somebody” in the 1950s by William Holmes Borders, Sr., who was Senior Pastor at Wheat Street Baptist Church and civil rights activist in Atlanta, Georgia. Although this poem was written in response to overt racism against African-Americans when one reads the poem, the reality is that Pastor Borders addressed injustices against all individuals based on socioeconomic status, regardless of the ethnicity or color of skin.

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Psalm 8:4 NIV

Again I ask the question: “What does it mean to you to be created in the image of God?”

In my fragile state of being human, I can never possess the Divine love that God has for us; His love never fails, and His love is unconditional.

God’s love is so great, that He not only created us in His image, He gave us the ability to reach our fullest potential in life. If you are unaware of your talents and spiritual gifts or have chosen to do nothing, then you are responsible for making an immediate decision to turn your life around.

I know that we were blessed with a measure of faith, and yes, it is our responsibility to believe and trust in God at all times, in order for our faith to grow.

I know that each of us was blessed with unique creative gifts, and yes, it is our responsibility to identify and develop those gifts from God, so that we may reach our fullest potential.

When I look at the beauty of nature, I am filled with amazement. I am humbled to know that human beings were so important to our Creator that He gave us beauty beyond all we can ever imagine.

And if that is not enough, God took on the never-ending responsibility of caring for us on a daily basis. And, lo, I Am With You Always, even until the end of the world. (last part) Matthew 28:20

I have saved the most phenomenal aspect of God’s love as my last point of reference: The gift of His only Son- Jesus Christ-who willingly gave His life for every one of us. We were not an afterthought; God was fully aware that humans would fail, and the Plan of Redemption was set in place prior to us being created in His image.

I am Somebody! You are Somebody! Always strive to achieve your best in life!

I praise God! I must give my Utmost to the Highest.

Challenge for today: “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” Leo Buscaglia

Prayer for today: Dear God, Thank you for your Divine love. I realize that I belong to you, and I will honor you by using my many gifts and talents to glorify your name and to reach my fullest potential. Thank you for always taking care of me, and most of all, thank you for the gift of the life of your Son. I finally realize that because I belong to you that I am Somebody-a Child of the King. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen!

Sonya Johnson Ruiz

Woodland Wonders

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who searched for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. Lamentations 3:22-26 NLT

Good Morning!

It is a cold and rainy Sunday, even so, we have been blessed with another day of life.

In 2001, I was searching for a new job and had sent out several resumes. I can recall interviewing for the position as a Home Health Nurse. I excitedly thought about the autonomy of developing my daily schedule, and the freedom of traveling as opposed to working in the confinement of an office setting for 8 hours a day.

While I was waiting for the completion of the Agency background check, I received a call from a Camp Administrator in New York City who relayed that she had received my resume and was interested in hiring me for the summer. As she explained the responsibilities of the position, I mentally laughed at the thought of a “New Jersey City Girl” working in the Catskill mountains of Upstate NY. I half-heartedly listened to the duties of the position, realizing that I had never been camping, and really was not interested at the age of 43 in new beginnings. My thoughts took a 360 spin when she spoke about the compensation-the salary was based on the NYC wage scale for nurses. With the salary I would receive for the summer, it would be possible to be selective in choosing a permanent job with the right fit when I returned home.

I had a decision to make; based on the completion of a successful background check, the position was mine, if interested. Honestly, my affirmative decision was influenced solely by the money. The next day, I received a Fed-Ex package with New Hire documents, pictures of the camp, and a very lengthy list of the required clothing, shoes, and supplies. There were three modules with a one-week away from camp break, which equated to 12 weeks of rendering care to girls ages 7-17, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including the On-Call duties.

Although my motives for accepting the position were not the best, my life experience expanded in a way that I never thought possible. The unadulterated beauty and peaceful environment of the land with it’s serene lake and majestic trees were simply breath-taking. I became Nurse-mother to 325 girls during that summer who often visited the infirmary (in tears) for various reasons.

It was hard work! The temperatures plummeted to 30 degrees at night, and my cabin had the only indoor shower in the camp with a reservoir of 5 gallons of hot water that was only to be utilized for the nursing staff. I received many offers of money and gifts from staff to take a hot shower; nonetheless, I adhered to the rules.

The most daunting thoughts were fueled by a history of watching too many horror movies (a habit that has ceased). During orientation week, we were taught to make Honey pots that were set out every night at the entrance of the campsite to deter the bears from entering. I must admit that my prayer life increased during that summer. God is awesome! Nightly, we could hear the bear eating from the pot; however, never once did the bears enter the campsite.

For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear Him. Psalm 34:7 NLT

With God all things are possible, I have come to appreciate the beauty of nature, and know that only a loving God could provide an earth filled with such magnificent splendor for our enjoyment.

Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It may even reduce mortality, according to scientists such as public health researchers Stamatakis and Mitchell.

Challenge for today: Reach beyond your comfort zone…enjoy a day spent in a natural habitat.

Verse for today: The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the LORD; Psalm 24:1 NLT

Prayer for today: Dear God, Thank you for blessing us with the beauty of nature. Thank you for the elements that enhance our lives and total well-being. Please give us the desire to seek out your wonders. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen!

Sonya Johnson Ruiz