What is Love? A Christian’s Response to Today’s Supreme Court Ruling May Surprise You

Supreme Court Ruling

To me [a Christian] the supreme court decision made today does have everything to do with love, but perhaps not in the way one might initially suppose.

#Loveislove, but… what is love? (“Baby don’t hurt me” …sorry, I had to…)

Really, when it comes down to it, love is a verb, not a noun. Love is not defined or established through a title, a certificate, or legal benefits (just look at the current divorce rate if you need proof of the validity of this statement). Marriage may be one way of expressing love, but what this ruling really comes down to is the fact that in the United States of America, we have the right to choose our destiny. And that is a beautiful thing. It also means that our choices may very well offend other people, and that there’s not a whole lot they can do about it.

marriage certificate
Now, I may not agree with everything that people choose and that this country allows, but I do agree that as humans we have a right to choose. That right to choose is the very thing our God and King, in the form of his son Jesus Christ, lived and died for. He died once for all (see Hebrews chapters 7-10). Even for those who spit in his face and gambled for his clothing as they watched him die. Even for you. Even for me. Without a right to choose, we would never know His true Love, for how could we as His creation ever truly love him, if we had no choice in the matter? Blind obedience is not love. So in order to know this kind of Love, this beautiful Love that cannot be restrained, we must first be able to choose–to choose right, and to choose wrong. And it is impossible to discern between right and wrong if you don’t have the Ultimate Judge behind you, teaching you as you go along.

once for all

Now, I am not suggesting we should bend our values or allow anarchy to reign in the world. Not at all. What I am suggesting is that the people of the world will continue to do what they want to do unless you can first affect their hearts, and that there is no sense trying to control everyone’s choices, because choice is what makes us human. If this is confusing, just take the irrationality of gun control, for example. People will still find some object to help them kill another person if that is what they have so determined to do in their hearts, regardless of how readily available a gun may be. And we can still fight strongly against issues in the world without trying to get the government to play God – because that is not the government’s job. The real battlefield is not in courts or in the making of laws – it is in the hearts of those affected by them.

Love like Jesus

Thus, in the meantime, I propose we [Christians] stop worrying so much about “the Law” and get busy helping others know “the Love.” I, for one, refuse to sit in judgment on those who nothing of either “the Law” OR “the Love” without first having introduced them to that Love. Shouldn’t THAT be our real goal?

And the answer to the question, “What is love?” Well, #GODislove.


A Glimpse of Grace

A young girl grows up on a cherry orchard just above Traverse City, Michigan. Her parents, a bit old-fashioned, tend to overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, and the length of her skirts. They ground her a few times, and she seethes in side. “I hate you!” she screams at her father when he knocks on the door of her room after an argument, and that night she acts on a plan she has mentally rehearsed scores of times. She runs away.

She has visited Detroit only once before, on a bus trip with her church youth group to watch the Tigers play. Because newspapers in Traverse City report in lurid detail the gangs, the drugs, and the violence in downtown Detroit, she concludes that is probably the last place her parents will look for her. California, maybe, or Florida, but not Detroit.

Her second day there she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. He offers her a ride, buys her lunch, arranges a place for her to stay. He gives her some pills that make her feel better than she’s ever felt before. She was right all along, she decides: her parents were keeping her from all the fun.

The good life continues for a month, two months, a year. The man with the big car — she calls him “Boss” — teaches her a few things that men like. Since she’s underage, men pay a premium for her. She lives in a penthouse, and orders room service whenever she wants. Occasionally she thinks about the folks back home, but their lives now seem so boring and provincial that she can hardly believe she grew up there.

girl - looking out

She has a brief scare when she sees her picture printed on the back of a milk carton with the headline “Have you seen this child?” But by now she has blond hair, and with all the makeup and body-piercing jewelry she wears, nobody would mistake her for a child. Besides, most of her friends are runaways, and nobody squeals in Detroit.

After a year the first sallow signs of illness appear, and it amazes her how fast the boss turns mean. “These days, we can’t mess around,” he growls, and before she knows it she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, but they don’t pay much, and all the money goes to support her habit. When winter blows in she finds herself sleeping on metal grates outside the big department stores. “Sleeping” is the wrong word — a teenage girl at night in downtown Detroit can never relax her guard. Dark bands circle her eyes. Her cough worsens.
Girl curb big city
One night as she lies awake listening for footsteps, all of a sudden everything about her life looks different. She no longer feels like a woman of the world. She feels like a little girl, lost in a cold and frightening city. She begins to whimper. Her pockets are empty and she’s hungry. She needs a fix. She pulls her legs tight underneath her and shivers under the newspapers she’s piled atop her coat. Something jolts a synapse of memory and a single image fills her mind: of May in Traverse City, when a million cherry trees bloom at once, with her golden retriever dashing through the rows and rows of blossomy trees in chase of a tennis ball.

Girl - cherry blossom orchard

God, why did I leave, she says to herself, and pain stabs at her heart. My dog back home eats better than I do now. She’s sobbing, and she knows in a flash that more than anything else in the world she wants to go home.

Three straight phone calls, three straight connections with the answering machine. She hangs up without leaving a message the first two times, but the third time she says, “Dad, Mom, it’s me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, well, I guess I’ll just stay on the bus until it hits Canada.”

It takes about seven hours for a bus to make all the stops between Detroit and Traverse City, and during that time she realizes the flaws in her plan. What if her parents are out of town and miss the message? Shouldn’t she have waited another day or so until she could talk to them? And even if they are home, they probably wrote her off as dead long ago. She should have given them some time to overcome the shock.

Her thoughts bounce back and forth between those worries and the speech she is preparing for her father. “Dad, I’m sorry. I know I was wrong. It’s not your fault; it’s all mine. Dad, can you forgive me?” She says the words over and over, her throat tightening even as she rehearses them. She hasn’t apologized to anyone in years.

bus window

The bus has been driving with lights on since Bay City. Tiny snowflakes hit the pavement rubbed worn by thousands of tires, and the asphalt steams. She’s forgotten how dark it gets at night out here. A deer darts across the road and the bus swerves. Every so often, a billboard. A sign posting the mileage to Traverse City. Oh, God!

When the bus finally rolls into the station, its air brakes hissing in protest, the driver announces in a crackly voice over the microphone, “Fifteen minutes, folks.” That’s all we have here.” Fifteen minutes to decide her life. She checks herself in a compact mirror, smooths her hair, and licks the lipstick off her teeth. She looks at the tobacco stains on her fingertips, and wonders if her parents will notice. If they’re there.
Girl - station
She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. Not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepare her for what she sees. There, in the concrete-walls-and-plastic-chairs bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and great-grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing noise-makers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner that reads “Welcome home!”

Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her Dad. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes like hot mercury and begins the memorized speech, “Dad, I’m sorry. I know …”

He interrupts her. “Hush, child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. You’ll be late for the party. A banquet’s waiting for you at home.”

I just had to share this great contemporization of the account Jesus tells of in Luke 15:11-24. It’s by Philip Yancey (What’s So Amazing About Grace? – Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997, 49-51).

The rendition of this classic tale brought tears to my eyes. I think we can all empathize with the girl in this story. We’ve all done some pretty stupid things and found ourselves “in the streets,” so to speak, knowing there’s more to life than this. Because there is. Grace certainly is a beautiful thing. And God is always offering it to us. If we will just home to the Lord today, we can count on the fact that he’s waiting for us with open arms. And a banquet to boot.

The Strength of My Heart and My Portion Forever: How God Spoke Through Psalm 73


My lovely friend Katharyn Jones asked me to share a favorite Bible verse with you all. I had to take a few days to think about it, but I suppose this one truly is one of my favorites.

It is a verse that God brought before me in my hour of greatest transformation, and it is a verse that leads me still.

That summer I graduated (three years ago now), many things were different. Many things had changed. I was becoming a bit of a crazy person… I was desperately seeking to find someone I could “do life” with and had ventured down the wrong avenues to do so, hurting others, and hurting myself in the process. The verses before this passage tell the tale of my own “grieved” heart and “embittered” spirit. They reveal my senselessness and my ignorance toward what God was trying to reveal to me in that time, and the true nature of my attitude toward Him as I angrily searched without His guidance. I indeed was a “brute beast” before Him, and for that I had to repent, and seek forgiveness.



The fall before graduation is when all the changes started getting set in motion. God had whispered many things in my ear (actually, He more shouted, but who am I kidding–I wasn’t listening), and I had had to make the toughest decision of my life up until that point. It was a decision that cost me my friends and my lifestyle, and a decision that hurt many others. But it was a decision that needed to be made, and one that could not be drawn out any longer. God asked me to give it all up. He asked me to stop ignoring Him and start living for Him. And to do that, everything had to change.

And so it did.

That fall, my youth pastor, mentor, now-boss, and good friend lost his sister in her battle with cancer. Her passing had made him re-evaluate life as well, and that fall he and the older kids at our youth group decided this was going to be a “Summer Of No Regrets,” or SONR (pronounced “schnarr;” don’t ask me why) for short.


The summer lived up to its name: we did everything on our “SONR” list and more — jet skiing, four-wheeling, lots of swimming and jumping at our local hotspots, camping, “mountain” biking (we don’t have mountains here, but the trails are still nice), Sun Stalking (where we watched the sun rise in the East on Lake Huron, drove over and biked in the West side of the state and then watched it set on Lake Michigan–an amazing experience), skeet shooting, and much more (oh yeah, I also went to NYC for the first time that summer). The summer culminated with our trip to Algonquin Provincial Park, where we were challenged beyond belief, immersed in God’s creation, and taught many lessons by God himself in the quiet of the wilderness.



It was this trip God used to begin transforming me. It was here I cried almost every day from the pain, yet loved every minute of camp time and fellowship and singing late-night worship around the campfire as Mr. Tracey made Jiffy Pop. It was the midnight potty breaks, the “treasure chests,” the logs that Wade (our youth pastor) wanted to for some unknown reason someday be buried in, the boiled pineapple cake, the weirdest conversations in the canoes, the screaming of Bible verses as we trudged down those wretched paths with a thirty pound backpack and a fifty pound canoe resting its weight solely on your arms and neck (OUCH!), the times someone got hurt or left behind and the team really became a team… it was amazing. It was the trip of a lifetime. It was where I “met” my husband, and it was where I finally stopped ignoring God.

Like I said, we liked to scream out Bible verses while in pain… I know it sounds weird but it really helped keep your mind off of what was going on around you (namely the excruciating pain in your neck, the great weight on your shoulders, the rocks, mud, mire, etc. which you had to skillfully navigate through, the bumps, bends, etc. in which you had to make sure your canoe did not hit the ground or trees around you, and of course the many blisters on your feet… compiled with the fact that you couldn’t really breathe…). We would “scream” them (more grunt them, really) out on exhales. For example, we would puff out: “The Lord is my shepherd (INHALE), I shall not want (INHALE)…” So anyways, one evening we got this amazingly beautiful campsite; it was like those “rustic cabins” you see in magazines where millionaires live… they have those amazing views and stunning landscape, and the water is as clear as can be… yep, that was it. Amazing. So anyways, after staying there one evening (it was also the night we had pineapple cake made by my now-husband… hm, maybe that’s why I married you honey?), I awoke to do my morning devos as usual and asked God to speak to me. He sent me to this verse that I am sharing with you now. It says:


“Yet I am always with you;

you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,

and afterward you will take me into glory.


Whom have I in heaven but you?

And earth has nothing I desire besides you.


My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”


–Psalm 73:23-26


And that was just it. God had never left me alone to make the most important decisions of my life. He was right there, waiting for me to ask for His advice. He was trying to take my hand and lead me to the best outcome. Yet I was looking everywhere but to Him, seeking my own counsel, and seeking the company of others before His. There is never anything greater, on heaven or on earth, than Him, and He needed to remind me of that (and still graciously does to this day). Instead of seeking others with my own wounded, frail, and fragile humanness, I needed to look to God, who is my provider, protector, and my strength, and He would lead me in the best way imaginable. Because while my human flesh and my stubborn heart may get in the way, God will never fail. He IS the strength of my heart, and He will be my portion forever.


So may I encourage you today–whatever it is you’re facing… whatever it is God’s whispered in your ear that you’ve been ignoring… say yes to Him today. You may lose some of these earthly things you care about so much, but really, what good are they in the grand scheme of things? As my hubby always says, “Your good is the enemy of God’s best for your life,” so what do you know? Let Him lead you, and you’ll be amazed at where you end up.

God bless.

(^ The man I one day found I could really “do life” with)

A Hallelujah


Do you ever get those moments in life where the glory of God just pours down on you like a torrential flood and you can’t breathe, in a good way, and all those beautiful little pieces of Him are just raining down on you and you’re soaked to the core, laughing and crying and throwing your arms in the air, dancing, falling on the ground, screaming, all at the same time? Maybe you haven’t. But if you have, you KNOW, as I do, that there is NOTHING you can do in those moments but praise Him with all of your inmost being. Your soul longs to reach out and touch His face, and your body can hardly contain the presence of His Spirit within you. Your chest burns, your eyes feel heavy, but your head feels light as a feather. In that moment, He is Father, Lord, God, Rescuer, Faithful to the Faithless. He is Yahweh…

He is yours. And you are His.

I cannot describe to you the beauty that rests in those moments, but I can only do now what my whole self longs so deeply to do: to praise Him in the Highest way possible. That is, after all, why I am here.

God is SO, so good. When I look at my life, I can only praise Him. I HAVE to praise Him. I was made to worship Him, and He deserves every ounce of that worship that I have in me. He is so… Good, so Holy, so Glorious, so Perfect, so Wonderful, so Beautiful, so Amazing, so Indescribable… there are not words enough to pour from this foolish, feeble mouth to adequately declare His glory, and yet there is no greater pleasure than to scream this speechlessness from the rooftops… For I know nothing greater, better, more, than Him and His presence, and I refuse to deny my part in proclaiming Him until He comes.

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.

Psalm 95:1-7


He is SO good. Amen.

Refiner’s Fire: Being Proud of Our Scars

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were three men of great faith. They walked through a blazing furnace that was 100% real — so real, in fact, that the soldiers who threw them in died just from standing so close to it (Daniel 3:22). While these three men weren’t completely sure God would save them from the fire (v. 18), they knew He was more powerful than death, and that their future was secure in Him. So they respectfully denied the king’s decree to worship an idol and faced the consequences. As you may already know, their story didn’t end there. Jesus met those men of faith in the fire and kept them from harm. And when they came out, not a hair on their heads nor a scrap of clothing was singed or even smelled like fire! Imagine that! What’s more, they became an example of faith and a testament to not only the king, but the whole province, bringing the good news of God to them all.

The point of this story? NOTHING and NO ONE can become great or do great things without first going through the pressure and refinement of fire.

Even Jesus, Lord of all and Holiest of Holies, went through fire. After he was baptized, the Spirit came down upon him and the Father announced his pleasure, and almost immediately he was sent into the wilderness to be brought through the fire of temptation for forty days. It was a spiritual requirement for him to have gone through this refinement before he officially began his ministry.

So what is spiritual refinement? What is the fire? And who is the Refiner?

Refiner's Fire

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines refinement as, “the act or process of removing unwanted substances from something,” or “the act or process of making something pure”  (Refinement, 2014). So, spiritual refinement can loosely be described as the act or process of removing (undesirable) sin from a person, or the act or process of making a person more holy (pure).

This word did not enter the stage until about 1611 (Refinement, 2014), roughly when it began to be used as a process to purify metals for the making of weaponry. I can’t tell you a lot about the specific process of refinement (in fact it is so complicated that after searching for 20 minutes on the topic in online libraries, I could not find one article explaining it clearly or succinctly); however, I do know that it takes quite a high temperature to get to the point of melting so that one can refine metals. If you apply this spiritually, you may come to the realization (as I have) that you probably aren’t about to become more pure or holy in God’s eyes with “no sweat,” as they say. It’s about to get hot up in here.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire with no harm done to them. They went in saying to their king, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18, NIV). Even if he does not. These three men were willing to risk their lives rather than bow down to an idol in worship. They went into the furnace with faith, not knowing the outcome, but knowing in the end that God’s glory would prevail. Yes, sometimes the Lord does bring us through fire and it has no power–it can’t even touch a single hair on our heads. But sometimes, too, the fire we are called to walk through does not leave us unscathed. Sometimes, we are left with scars as proof of the trials. And those scars carry an awfully important purpose.

Do you remember “doubting Thomas,” Jesus’s disciple who had a hard time believing Jesus had risen from the dead? In John 20, Jesus appeared to the disciples, after having been crucified and brought back to life, when Thomas was not there. The disciples were so excited they began telling everyone what happened, to which Thomas rebutted, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (NIV). Later, Jesus appeared once again to the disciples and he made it a priority to turn to Thomas and say, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (NIV). Can you imagine feeling the wounds of Jesus Christ?? I am sure in that instant any fleeting traces of doubt instantly left Thomas’s mind and he felt insignificant and foolish for ever having questioned Jesus’s power. That must have been such an amazing ministry to Thomas, and the Lord must have been so real to all of them in that moment! Now if you think about it, Jesus was brought to the throne room of God; he could have asked for his body to be made perfect once again. He could have come back with all the glory and splendor of God, but chose instead to be real, human, wrought with holes in his flesh. It is because of those scars that Thomas believed, not in spite of them. Now they may not have been very pretty, but they sure were real, and they were most certainly important!

doubting Thomas

So what is your attitude about your scars? That they’re just ugly, useless reminders of the bad things in your life? Or that they are testaments to the glory and power of God in you?

I was sitting down with an old friend the other day. She and I ended up talking for over an hour and a half before I finally mustered up the courage to bring up what I had been dying to talk about all along. The conversation was almost over and I had to speak now, so I let out a quiet “There’s really no non-awkward way to say this,” and launched into a slightly less timid, “How are you doing… spiritually?” She proceeded (after a few moments of being unsure whether she should say anything at all) to tell me almost gushingly and with relief about a sin issue she had been dealing with secretly for a while now. I was surprised. She wasn’t the type to deal with this sort of issue, and I really didn’t expect her to want to talk about it with me. Looking back, I know it was a God thing she said anything at all.  I immediately tried to comfort her, knowing this sort of situation was not pleasant (firsthand), and referenced back to a time in my life that a similar sin overtook me. She replied to my story by saying, “Thank you; I never knew that about you.” My scars were able to be her comfort, knowing that she too could one day be healed from this sin in her life by the grace and power of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Refinement will likely not be an easy process. It will take a lot out of you — namely, the sin that God never wanted there in the first place. And in the process you may experience some pain and some scarring as the Lord separates YOU from the WORLD… but refinement is necessary. It it is what brings us to a place of humility and wisdom before the Lord. It is what prepares us to do His will and what sets us apart as His. Sometimes in life we will fall into the fire; sometimes we will be tossed into it. But no matter what way we enter the process of refinement, whether we come out with scars as proof, or no hint of fire on us, the point of the fire is to prove that our God is bigger than it. And He is. Immeasurably so.

Just two chapters after that moment where Jesus showed Thomas his scars, we read in Acts 1 that He instructed his disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they had received the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is the only reason we can walk in the fire. Without His power within us, we have no authority over that fire. We cannot be effective where we have been called until we invite Him into our lives to empower us to walk through the flames. And we cannot be effective until we have been refined by the flame and held in the grip of the Refiner. But with His Spirit and by His grace, we can do more than walk through the fire. We can be healed of our scars and we can heal others. We can help the lame to walk, the mute to speak, and the blind to see. We can be more than conquerors (see Romans 8), and we don’t have to be afraid of the fire, because the Lord will be right there with us.

I would encourage you all to embrace your scars for what they are — testaments to the grace God has given you, and to the power of the transformation He can do in the lives of others. So go out, by the power and grace of God, and be proud of the work He has done in you. Go, show off your scars, and help others’ scars find their purpose. After all, salvation really is about how He’s changed you, not how He needs to change others.

John 9:25 — “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”


God bless.





Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.. Retrieved  March 7, 2014, from: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Daniel%203%20&version=NIV.

Refinement. (n.d.). Retrieved March 7, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/refinement

The Key to the Treasure Hunt is Knowing What to Look For


This past month has been a tough one for me. I’m not going to tell you my life is perfect or impossible, but I have my own sorts of of ups and downs, and let me tell you, this month had its fair share. A lot of stress, a lot of worry. A lot of looking to myself to fix my problems when I should have been looking to Jesus. A lot of discouragement and embarrassment and refusal to look Him in the eye because I KNOW living life on my own is stupid, futile, and worthless.

Let me give you a specific example (one of many silly things that I’ve been allowing to rule my brain): homework. I have been slipping farther and farther behind in these classes, one of which is the most infuriating class I’ve ever attended: a class which makes me feel like I’m trying to read Portuguese via Chinese symbols (I know neither language)…

Well, last week, once again, I gave up the act. I acknowledged my foolishness and admitted that this massive pile of garbage I was allowing to amass in front of me would be impossible to scale without His help, and I sat down and worshiped in my heart, giving attention to my God instead of my mountain. And while I was worshiping, eyes closed to the world around me, he slipped into the multitude of self-inflicted cracks and healed my heart. When I had opened my eyes, the mountain was gone.

Tonight, for the first time, I understood Portuguese. (Figuratively speaking, of course.) I couldn’t tell you how I was able to do it, but that’s because it wasn’t from me. I couldn’t help but laugh with relief, all the while still knowing the homework was going to be late… oh well, AT LEAST I GOT IT!! But as you all well know, his mercies don’t ever end there.

As Blackboard was freezing up again, I had decided to hop on my Liberty Webmail. The first email that opened just so happened to announce–to my astonishment–that the provost had decided to extend the deadlines for this week and next by THREE DAYS! Not just one, or two, but THREE! Oh good glory God is good!!!

Listen, God ALWAYS wants you to come back to him. Romans 3:23 says that “WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS” He died in our place. So stop looking at the mess you are, and look for once at the the glorious perfection of your Creator, with which you have been covered. I promise you, you will NOT be disappointed. (:

Matthew 6 (NIV): Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money [or your own selfish interests].”

God bless you all in your endeavors to find the right treasure.

– Taylor