Loving My Neighbor

When I sold my old house the one thing I missed was my old neighborhood. I knew every family on my block and we frequently would have impromptu potlucks in the cul-de-sac at the end of the street. One person would send out the call, and we would all show up with whatever we had decided to fix for dinner that evening. Two of the families would pull out tables and chairs between their houses. Sometimes the grills would be fired up and we would gather around. There was always a good assortment of foods. We had a variety of ethnicities on the street and one of them made the best potstickers I have ever had. One of the neighbors was a food critic (he has articles published routinely in the St. Louis Magazine) and you never knew what he was going to cook. One time it was fish with the head on. In some cultures eating the head is common and considered a delicacy. My husband was game to try anything, but I think he may have been the only one to eat it!!

It has been slower to get to know my neighbors in my new subdivision. It is mostly older adults. I have gotten to know the neighbors on both sides of my villa and there are four of us who routinely get together in the warm weather, sit on our decks, and have snacks and beverages. I live in an attached villa, where I have a neighbor on the east side of my house. She is delightful and I have gotten to know her well. She just lost her husband a few months ago, and it has been a difficult adjustment for her. I was glad that I could share with her my experiences of losing a spouse and some of the resources that are available to her.

The things is, loving your neighbor is easy when your neighbor is a delightful widow. It is more difficult when your neighbor is belligerent, plays loud music into the wee hours of the morning, or just downright rude. But this is the thing about neighbors–Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Wow. That is a a direct command coming right after “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.”

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

A young man who graduated from the same college I did, decided he was going to take the task of loving his neighbor to heart. He and his wife and children moved to one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city of St. Louis. Their children go to the public schools. They have made a point of getting to know everyone in their block. They have hosted block parties, babysat, and helped their neighbors. It has made an impact on their street. Suddenly, people were taking more pride in their properties. Programs were started to help young men and women learn skills, and educational tutoring was provided. The resulting ministry called “Love the Lou” has made an impact in the community and they have received publicity for the difference they are making in an area many people have written off..

But the young man would tell you out of all the lives changed, his has changed the most. The world looks different to him now and he recognizes that by loving his neighbors, his life has been enriched. It hasn’t all been sunshine and roses, but the lessons he has learned about loving others with God’s eyes has been invaluable.

What about you? Have you learned to love your neighbor in such as way as to enrich the lives of the people around you? If you are like me, getting out of my comfort zone is difficult, and yet my life becomes blessed when I take God’s words to heart. Think about ways you can show love to your neighbors today. You will be glad you did.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” — Mark 12:30-31 (NIV)

Confessions of the Weak

In June of 2011, I wrote the following blog post. I cannot help but look back and see how faithful God has been in my life—time and time again. Not only did he enable me to find a job and sell my money pit of a house, but through my mom, a way was provided to build a villa that more than meets my needs. I did, indeed, need to use some of my IRA to live off of for the three years it took me to find a full-time job after my husband died. But I truly can look back to this difficult time and know that God was present every step of the way.

I am still weak in many ways. But it is in that weakness that God does his best work. It is in that weakness that I see God the most as he works in my life. So if you are struggling, keep holding on tight to God, because he can do his best work when you are at your weakest.

June 2011

Last night I poured out my woes to my sister and a friend, giving in to the discouragement that hit me squarely in the heart last evening. As I looked at the fact that I didn’t have a full-time job since June of 2009, lost my husband in October of 2009, have a house that needs some major repairs, and have expenses that far exceed my small income, I gave in to my woes and worry.  Until this point in the journey, I have stayed fairly upbeat and positive, relying on God to see me through.  I confess, I am weak.

Do you ever have times in your life when you wonder if you can just go on?  Is it hard to get up and face the day with a positive attitude?  Do you think . . . if I just had more time, or more money, or more of whatever it is that you need?  It is easy to give in to doubt and discouragement.  And I confess, I am weak.

As I got online and looked at the zero balance in my checking account, I felt myself doubting.  Will God really see me through?  What will happen to me if I don’t find a full-time job soon?  How will I keep paying the bills that exceed my income? How will I keep a roof over our heads?  Will I need to cash my IRA and take a chance on not having retirement income?  All these thoughts and more ran through my head and I became disheartened. I confess, I am weak.

And as always, and just when I need, God showed up in a marvelous way.  I am studying the book of Hebrews and today, I came to chapter 11–just what I needed to hear.  This is the famous faith chapter in Hebrews, outlining those of the faith who have gone before. As I read this chapter I was once again reminded of the value of a faith in a God who delivers time and again.  Whether it is from oppression (as with the Israelites leaving the nation of Egypt), or from sin (as in delivering the prostitute Rahab from death because she welcomed the spies), or from persecution, God has a reward for those who remain faithful to Him.  It may not be seen while in this journey here on earth, but it will be in his glorious presence someday.

And so, my encouraging word for today is found in Hebrews 12:1-3, ” Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with the perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. “

I confess I am weak– and weary and have lost heart, but God, through His Word, has encouraged me and reminded me to remain faithful.  I don’t know where my next dollar will come from or how my next bill will be paid, but when I look back on this journey so far, God has been faithful and met all my needs.  I just needed to be reminded of that.

I don’t know where God is leading and what he has in store for me.  I confess. I am weak. But I know in my weakness, he shows HIS strength and I will take joy and comfort in that thought today.

Building Roots for the Future

I remember when I was little and wanted to be big enough to go to school with my sisters.  When I was 12, I longed to be 13 so I could be a teen. When I was 15, I yearned to be 16 so I could drive, and when I was 17, wanted to be 18 so I could be in college.  So my life went, always wanting to rush the future to get to the next step in my life. Now I look back and wish I could slow life down a little!

Years ago I read a post on Jon Gordon’s weekly blog that was based on his book The Seed and one of his points really struck home for me.

He notes, “Don’t rush the future. There is a process that seeds must go through in order to become all they are destined to become, and you must go through this same process to become the person you are meant to be and do the work you are meant to do. You may want things to happen NOW but more than likely if you got what you wanted NOW you wouldn’t be ready for it. The purpose process prepares you, strengthens you, shapes you and grows you to be successful, not in your time, but in the right time.”

The point Jon Gordon was making is we are like a seed that won’t grow unless it has the right environment–the right soil, water, sunshine, and time.  A seed has to go through a metamorphosis to become a plant that serves a purpose. It doesn’t happen instantaneously and is a process that takes an environment conducive to growth.

I think about my spiritual journey and how that applies.  I will never become a mature Christian unless I experience things that encourage my growth.

Credit to David Brooke-Martin- from-unsplash.jpg

Just as a seed dies and takes on a new nature, I die to my old self and become my new self in the Lord.  I must experience the elements in the world around me.  As a tender young shoot I need the nurture and care of someone older and wiser.  As I grow and develop I need pruning to make me strong and purposeful; as a mature person I need to develop and grow fruit to serve my purpose.  As I am exposed the elements over the years I need to grow deep roots to stay strong and gather nourishment.  And when the winds howl and buffet around me, I need to be flexible enough to bend so that I don’t break in the storm.

Thanks, Jon, for the reminder that in order to fulfill our purpose in life, we need to be like a seed, ready for planting, for dying, for changing, for growing, for bearing fruit, and starting the process all over again with new seeds.

And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all he has done. Colossians 2:6-7

To check out Jon’s website go to: http://www.jongordon.com

I Love You a Bushel and a Peck

I don’t have many memories of my mom singing to me (probably for a reason—let’s just say she wasn’t a gifted singer– but I do have memories of her on the rare occasion singing “I love you a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck!” Just in case you are wondering, a bushel is 32 dry quarts, and a peck is 8 dry quarts. If you are not aware, the song comes from the musical Guys and Dolls and was sung by Doris Day in 1950.

For some reason that simple refrain brings back one of the few fuzzy, warm memories of my mom during childhood. I can still see her singing that song to me when I was little. In some ways it eases the more frequent memories of her criticisms when I was growing up. (Just for the record, in her late thirties my mom went to nursing school and once she had a career, she was a much happier woman and it showed in her parenting.) I found a picture with the saying, “I love you a bushel and a peck” on it and I gave it to my mom for Christmas one year. Since Mom’s death it has hung in my home, a constant reminder to me of a happy occasion.

February is a month when many people focus on love. With Valentine’s Day coming up on February 14, many individuals will have mixed emotions. There will be those who just think this day is all about retailer’s making a profit (and they do), or this is a stressful day when you buy valentine cards for your child’s classroom (how annoying is that?). Or it is a day when some will experience profound sadness because they lost their spouse, or they never had one to begin with, and they experience more loneliness on that day.

Whatever the reason, the focus of Valentine’s day, and mostly the month of February, is on love. So, let’s talk a little about love. In the Greek language there are four types of love that are mentioned in the Bible. You may already know these, but just in case, here they are:

Storge- Familial love (the love a brother has for a brother or a mother for a child)

Eros – sensual or romantic love (as mentioned in the Song of Songs book in the Bible)

Phileo – Brotherly love (church sisters and brothers, friends. It is the root for Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love).

Agape – God’s love, unconditional and sacrificial love.

It important that we have a deep recognition that God loves us. In internalizing that love, we can more easily love others. Did you know that in the NIV version of the Bible, the word love appears 551 times. That’s a lot of love.

Love is at the very core of the essence of God and God is constant in his love. Isaiah 54:10 says, “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

Of course, most of us are familiar with John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

God’s love for us is so great he sent Christ to earth so that he could not only show us the way we should be living, but also become the sacrifice for our sins. The power of that love cannot be underestimated. In Romans 5:8 we read, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

If we study scripture, we know that God loves us. However, love needs to be a two-way street if we are his children. Jesus states that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 34:37-40) and the second greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself (which I will address in an upcoming post).

You would think it would be easy to love God in return for all he has given us. The very idea that he sent us his son as a sacrifice for our sins demands our attention. The question is, how do we show God our love?

Here are four ways I think we can show our love for God.

Abide in him.

The apostle John talks about abiding in Christ. And he is a man who knows what it takes to abide. Not only did he walk with Jesus and was intimate friends with him, but he also changed his whole life after his encounters with the son of God. It is interesting that Jesus called James and John “sons of thunder,” probably for their tempers and boldness. John is the only disciple who died a natural death, but he had plenty of trials while he was witnessing for the Lord. And yet, he abided.

In John 15:5 Jesus says, ”I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

1 John 4: 15-16 “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

If we abide in Christ and stayed connected to him, we will thrive and grow. The more intimate we become with the Lord, the more our love for him will flourish.

Obey his commands.

In 1 John 4:19 it says, “We love because he first loved us.” If we love God, then we need to obey his commands. In fact, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

While it sounds simple, sometimes we have difficulty obeying his commands. But the more we do, the closer we will become to being Christ-like in our attitudes and actions.

Develop gratitude.

Don’t forget what he has done for us and praise God for his many blessings. Write a gratitude journal. Take a walk and just look at nature. It is a well-known fact that people who are grateful are also happier and more content.

Practice spiritual disciplines.

We need to continually seek God. We can do that through Bible study and practicing spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, meditation, fasting, solitude, and confession, among other things. Practicing these disciplines in our lives leads us to be closer to God. God promises that he is near when we call on him. “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalm 145:15 ESV)

Loving God. While we celebrate loving others, celebrating loving God is the best Valentine’s Day gift ever!

Feeling Less Than, Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about my personal struggle of feeling less than others throughout most of my life. The truth of the matter is many people grapple with the same thing. I do not always consciously think about how my less than mentality has surfaced in many ways in my life. However, in part it has shown in my lack of self-confidence, my reluctance to try new things, and my hesitation to believe my opinions and thoughts are valid. I bet if you are struggling with feeling less than, you may be experiencing some of the things I just listed.

But do not despair. There is hope for those of us who have bought into the lies that we are less than others. So let’s start right here.

We have bought into the lies. Satan is a liar and he delights in convincing us we are unworthy, unlovable, and not significant. Every time we hear that insidious voice that tells we are not good enough, we are not accomplished enough, or we are not attractive enough, we are listening to lies. Those lies can lead us to fear, anger, resentment, jealousy, envy, depression, eating disorders, and more.

Do not listen to your negative inner voice. Most of the time it is lying. Every time you start to hear the lies in your head, substitute them with truth, and not the truth as you may see it, but the truth as God sees it. The fact is YOU and I are important to God. He loves us so much and he can renew us and make us into people he can use to do extraordinary things.

I saw this information adapted from “The Sensation of Being Somebody” by Maurice Wagner.

I won’t buy the LIE that . . .

Superstar Performance
+ Great Accomplishments will make me feel ACCEPTED and valued

Good Looks + Admiration
of others will make me feel SECURE

Status + Popularity
Recognition by others will make me feel SIGNIFICANT

I’ll believe the TRUTH that . . .

I am ACCEPTED in Christ

I Am SECURE in Christ


Jn 1: 12 – I am God’s child

Rom. 8:1-2 – I am
free forever from condemnation

Matt. 5:13-14 – I am
the salt and light of the earth

Jn 15:15 – I am Christ’s friend

Rom. 8:28 – I am
assured all works together for good

Jn 15:1-5 – I am a
branch of the true vine, a channel of his life.

Rom. 5:1 – I have been justified

Rom. 8:31-34 – I am free from any charge against me

Jn 15:16 – I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit

1 Cor 6:17 – I am united with the Lord (one Spirit)

Roman 8:35-39 – I cannot be separated from the love of God

Acts 1:8 – I am a personal witness of Christ’s

1 Cor 6:19-20 – I am bought with a price; I belong to God

2 Cor. 1:21-22 – I am established, anointed, sealed by God

1 Cor. 3:16 – I am God’s temple

1 Cor. 12:27 – I am a member of Christian’s body

Col. 3:3 – I am hidden with Christ in God

2 Cor 4:17-21 – I am a minister of reconciliation for God

Eph. 1:1 – I am a saint

Phil. 1:6 – I am confident that the good work God has begun in me will be perfected

2 Cor 6:1 – I am God’s co-worker (1 Cor 3:9)

Eph 1:5 – I have been adopted as God’s child

Phil 3:20 I am a citizen of heaven

Eph 2:6 –  I  am seated with Christ in the heavenly realm

Eph. 2:18 – I have access to God thru the Holy Spirit

2 Tim. 1:7 – I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind

Eph. 2:10 – I am God’s workmanship

Col. 1:14 – I have been redeemed and forgiven

Heb. 4:16 – I can find grace and mercy in time of need.

Eph. 3:12 – I may approach God with freedom and confidence

Col. 2:10 – I am complete in Christ

1 Jn. 5:18 – I am born of God; the evil one cannot touch me

Phil. 4:13 – I can do all things thru Christ who strengthen me

Wake up everyday and tell yourself “I am loved by the Creator of the world.” Tell yourself, “I am valuable.” Tell yourself, “I CAN do all things through Christ.”

Evaluate your past and things that have contributed to your feeling less than. Wow. That is a hard one. Sometimes it requires therapy to help us look at things differently. Sometimes we can confide in a trusted, wise friend and let them help us process our emotions. Sometimes bringing something into the light instead of keeping it buried, can be a healing process. I know for me personally, that happened when I finally disclosed my abuse to a trusted friend. A huge weight was lifted.

You cannot change your past. You can let it wreak havoc on your life, or you can determine to use it to help make you a better person. Lessons along the way can be painful but God can use the pain and your story for his glory. He can use all the messy details of your life and make you into someone who exhibits Godliness. Just look at Peter–Peter who was impulsive, emotional, a rough and tough fisherman, and who denied Christ during a crisis. God used him to help establish the church. You never know what God can do with your life and your past until you trust him with it.

Stop being your own worst critic. Hopefully, we would never talk to our friends and family the way we talk to ourselves. Be kind to yourself. Instead of criticizing yourself, find something good to say. In 1 Samuel 16:7, God apparently rejected some of David’s better looking brothers and told Samuel that David would be king. He said, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as a man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Instead of saying, I am dumb because I don’t understand this, flip the script and say, “I have an opportunity to learn something new and I will work on it.”

Write positive notes to yourself about the way you look and feel and post them around the house. Post scriptures like John 1:12, 2 Timothy 1:7, and Philippians 1:6 in different locations in your car and house. It is amazing what positivity can do to help get over the feeling that you are less than others.

List your accomplishments. Makes a list of the things your have accomplished and are proud of. List your talents, abilities and interests. List positive things about yourself. This is hard, but sit down and DO it. If you are not sure what they are, take an assessment that helps you identify strengths and gifts (there are plenty of them on the internet). Ask your friends and family about the positive things they see in you.

Stretch out of your comfort zone and try new things. When we think we are not enough, we fear stretching out of our comfort zone. God calls us to step out. Look at Noah, Moses, Esther, Ruth, Nehemiah, Mary and Joseph, Peter, John, and Paul. God called all of them to something they were not sure of, but he provided a way for them to do amazing things. Stepping out of comfort zones provides us with learning opportunities, new friends, and new outlooks.

Avoid the comparison trap. Limit your time on social media. A 2017 study found a whopping 88% of Americans fall into the comparison trap. Just one hour spent scrolling through Facebook can have a significant negative impact on your self-esteem. Comparing yourself to others rarely leads to anything good. It does, however, often lead to envy and jealously, as well as reinforce our negative feelings toward ourselves. Remember that much of what you see on social media is a sanitized version of someone’s life. You are unique and have your own areas of giftedness. Give up the comparisons.

Stay healthy. Believe it or not, your health has a large impact on your feelings of inadequacy. Eat healthy foods. Exercise regularly, even if it is just walking. Find things you like to do that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. It may be an exercise class, hiking, nature walks, growing a garden, or even raising chickens.

There are so many other areas I found during my research and could address for helping diminish those feelings of being less than. But that would require a Part 3. So here they are in a nutshell.

  • Have a positive attitude.
  • Set time aside for yourself (especially you introverts out there).
  • Set attainable goals for yourself.
  • Master a new skill.
  • Do something creative.
  • Help someone.
  • Volunteer.
  • Read something inspirational.
  • Learn from your failures.
  • Set boundaries.

All of these things can help us become well-rounded individuals who do not dwell so much on our own feeling of being less than someone else. Dr. Monica Vermani, a clinical psychologist in Toronto, Ontario says, “High self-esteem allows you to develop strong coping skills, handle adversity, and keep the negative and challenging aspects of life in perspective.” When we see things from a view of less than, we often see life from a skewed angle. Having a positive self-image helps us see things more realistically.

Scripture says this,” I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14. Just remember you are fearfully and wonderfully made and you are never less than.

Seventy Lessons for 70 years

Today I will have reached another decade. When I was younger, I can remember thinking that 70 was ancient! And here I am. I have learned so much through my years and often think it is such a shame that it takes a lifetime to gain wisdom. If only I had known these things when I was younger. So, I want to share 70 lessons I have learned through the years (in no particular order). Not everything was learned from personal experience . . . well, maybe some of them were.

Find joy in life

1. Despite my brother thinking my mom had a hard time delivering me because I would not put the book away, I really did not come out reading. Learn to read.

Me and my chubby cheeks.

2. People say, “I could just squeeze those cute little cheeks,” DON’T.

3. Spiders are creepy, crawly, things.

4.  Volunteer to catch grasshoppers for your uncles to use as bait for fishing. They may pay you a penny each.

5. Every 5-year-old covers their face for pictures. Just roll with it.

6. See Dick and Jane run really was a thing. Just change the names and ask my siblings what happened when someone yelled, “Snake.”

7. Some people move a lot. Just learn to roll with it.

8. No, butter really does not make a sunburn better. Use sunscreen and avoid skin cancer.

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How Should We Love?

In the book of Acts we see the infancy of the church. As we read we find that as early as the third chapter of Acts, the body of believers was established after Peter addressed the crowd on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 3:42-47 we see the response of the believers, who devoted themselves to the teaching of Christ and to fellowship with one another. Some of the highlights of this passage: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship”, “selling their possession and goods, they gave to anyone who had need,” and “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

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Five Things to Remember When Life Becomes Overwhelming

One of my friends shared on facebook that she is really struggling with all the things that life is throwing at her right now. Unfortunately, I think we can ALL identify with that feeling of being overwhelmed on occasion! Women, who tend to be fixers, sometimes have difficulty admitting they need help when life becomes overwhelming for them. So how do we learn to swallow our pride and ask for help? How do we let our friends and family know that we have reached a point where we are ready to scream, or cry, or just hide, until we can face life with equanimity again?

Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash

For those of you who find yourself in this circumstance, here are five things I’ve found helpful.

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My Comfort Zone

Do you ever go out of your comfort zone when it comes to serving God? It seems that since I have gotten older I have gone out of my comfort zone more frequently than when I was younger. I think when I was younger I was more consumed with parenting, being a spouse, and serving at church, than I was concerned about being out of my comfort zone. I think I worried more about making it through the day without a melt-down–either my kids or mine– than I thought about challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone more!

Recently one of my fellow church members contacted me and asked if I would be willing to speak on a rotation basis at a nearby assistant living facility. That was a stretch for me. I had been asked to speak for their small worship service and believe me, that was way out of my comfort zone. I speak for workshops and retreats for women’s groups, but I had never spoken for a service with older people. I was not sure exactly what to speak about as I wracked my brain for the normal topics I speak on. I prayed about what these individuals would want and need to hear about God.

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The Alabaster Jar

Recently in my morning reading I arrived to Luke 7: 36-50. Before you read the rest of what I write, I would like you to read this passage (below). There is much speculation as to the identity of the woman. Some say it was Mary Magdalene, but any other time in Scripture where Mary Magdalene was involved, her name was given. It was speculated that it was Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Indeed, we do read in Matthew 26 of a woman anointing Jesus with costly oil while he was in Bethany and it is likely that it was Mary. But in this passage, the woman is not named, just her reputation was what defined her.

Here is a woman who has learned that Jesus would be at Simon’s house. I have to wonder, was she part of one of the crowds that listened to Jesus’ teaching? Did she stand at the back of the crowd, with her face mostly hidden, so that she could hear this man of whom she had heard so many tales? Did she know someone who had been healed by him or had she just heard the rumors and stories that were floating around? Whatever it was, it was obvious that Jesus’ words and actions had deeply touched her life.

The imagery of this woman standing behind the feet of Jesus while he is reclining at the table is powerful. She wets his feet with her copious tears and then wipes them with her hair. Not only does she wipe his feet with her hair, afterwards, she pours very expensive perfume on them. In many ways, the sheer magnitude of what she did is amazing.

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