John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

In every heart, there is a room for love and a room for hate, sharing a common wall. The wall between might be called focus. The door of choice swings both ways. Our exertion of thought and energy determine the direction the door swings most often.

Yesterday, a synagogue was attacked. Innocent people were killed. In the past, it’s been churches, mosques, temples, schools, offices, and the list goes on. The weapons have been guns, knives, automobiles, planes, and this list too goes on. The energy has always, always, always been hate. There is no love, there is no Divine, there is no God in these choices. Anyone who sees love here is looking through a distorted and twisted lens.

It’s tempting to become discouraged and exert our thoughts and energy on the hate. It’s tempting to swing that door toward hate and give it greater visibility. Like a great balloon, as we hold the door open, hate inflates with each breath of our fear.

Instead, let’s focus on the love in this world. While one man was making a poor choice to kill, caregivers around the world were helping others to live. While one man focused hate on a synagogue, many were showing love in the name of their faith. One rampaged in a house of worship up north, while entire houses of worship volunteered in Florida and North Carolina for hurricane survivors. Let’s give the breath of our praise to inflate love.

When we focus on the fear, hate grows. When we focus on faith, love grows. The choice of the swinging door is daily. Where will we exert our power?

Today, let’s remember the love we had for one another, the support we offered one another, the bravery we showed one another, the generosity we extended to one another, and the unity we felt with one another. Let’s recall the love we had for our country on this day seventeen years ago. Let’s relive how we sought God and His protection. 

Too often, we focus on the hate, the cowardice, the loneliness, the greed, and the disunity. We focus on who and what we can fear rather than on the lessons of love that come from every occurrence. We allow our vision to be blurred with the politics and philosophies of division and hatefulness. 

Today is a day when we remember the best parts of America shining through the tragedy of September 11, 2001. May God bless America.

When I feel rejected or judged, it’s because the judgment or rejection attached to a fear I hold about myself.

If someone calls me a “a space alien”, I find no offense in that because I hold no fear or shame that I am indeed an alien from space. If someone calls me “dumb”, I feel offense, because I hold a deep fear that I am indeed dumb and this person has revealed a truth to the world. There may be absolutely no truth in the statement, but it plays to a secret fear that triggers me to anger, shame, or self-reproach.

Triggers are signals. They are mile markers in the journey to true understanding and appreciation of myself. As long as I hold incorrect views of my true self, triggers will be sent to signal me. God is telling me that there is an issue that I must work on and giving me opportunities to do that work. Until the work is complete, I will continue to have such triggers brought by various people, places, and things in my life.

When I gain a true view of who I am, as I gain a right perspective on who I am in God, triggers disappear. When I understand my true value, guilt, shame, and fear dissipate. God will move on to a new area for self work. It’s only through the triggers as signals that we begin to see and improve the areas where our view of “self” is simply incorrect.

People see the sin easily in sexual perversions, evil words, hurtful deeds, and acts against one another. Yelling at our neighbor or stealing his lawnmower is not hard to identify as sin. We return the mower, apologize for the words, and repent. 

There’s sin in failure to use God’s gifts as well. When repenting, is there a sorrow and remorse for the time wasted, the talents not used, and the blessings squandered? 

People see sin as an act against another. Sin can be an act against ourselves as well! When we fail to use the talent God has given us and we deprive the world of the blessing He intended, we sin. When we reject our gifts before they ever see the light of day, we sin. When we use the blessings God has placed in our lives for selfish reasons and not for the benefit of others, we sin.

Have you repented for squandering God’s gift of time and talent? Have you repented for squandering the gift of God’s love? Recall that God called the servants to account for how they used their talents. The servants who used their talents and obtained more were blessed. The one that hid his talent and squandered it was called wicked. Wickedness requires repentance. 

Might it be that, by hiding talents and failing to act on your God given gifts, you’re sinning against the very Creator? It’s worth considering today.

You know that person who shows up when you’re having surgery, a family member dies, a child is in trouble, a spouse has left, a diagnosis is bad, life has turned dark? Yeah – that person who drives 200 miles to funeral for a family member because he loves you? Returns from vacation because of tragedy? That person standing by your bed when you wake from surgery at 2:00 am because he wanted to see you’re OK? That person who walks in the Emergency Room sometimes before family and you didn’t even know he knew you’d had an accident? The person who hears the criticisms and cutting remarks and still embraces you? That person who helps you fight the battles that the police can’t see, the doctors can’t diagnose, and the firemen can’t put out? That person who prays for you sometimes before you knew you needed the prayer. Yeah – the pastor… the shepherd – ever consider that his life didn’t just disappear and that he puts you first because that’s what Jesus would do? Ever think he’d like a good news text instead of a bad news? A good news phone call instead of a bad news? No, most people don’t consider him at all… until he’s needed. When he’s needed, he can’t get there quick enough. May be a good thing to value him before he’s needed. He has battles, family, and a life too.

God moves in the turbulent times in our lives. We may not like this. It may not be comfortable. It’s true. When the sea is glassy calm, the winds breezy, and the sun is warm on our face. No, God troubles the sea, causes the winds to howl, and covers the sun with clouds. We draw closer when trouble is near. We depend when our own strength fails. We pray deeply when our understanding is obscured. 

Our faith is revealed as we face the unknown. Our character is revealed as we face the unpleasant. Our integrity is revealed as we face the unwanted. Our love is revealed when we face hate. None of these come with calm and glassy seas. 

Jesus was asleep on a cushion in the bottom of the boat when the disciples cried out in terror. He rebuked the storm and it abated. We can do the same in our lives. We can rebuke the waves of emotions, the downpours of fear, and the clouds of doubt. We do this with faith that God has us in the storm for a reason. If He has us in it for a reason, He will bring us through it to fulfill that reason.