Category: thoughts by Mike Woodard

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Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.Ephesians 5:17-19

On the Friday night before my final exams, I got drunk. As a first-year university student, I had avoided alcohol. But my roommate picked up some bottles of wine and we started drinking. Very quickly, the alcohol in my blood changed the way I talked, the way I walked, and my perception of the world around me. It controlled me.

It is interesting that God’s Word contrasts “drunk with wine” and “filled with God’s Spirit.” The issue is control. It’s clear that being controlled by alcohol is unwise and, many times, leads to foolish destructive actions. Being filled, directed and empowered by God’s Spirit, on the other hand, allows God to change the way we respond to the world around us. The Bible describes these changes as fruit: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

As a student, I gladly invited God into my academic world but was more resistant to his involvement in my social life. I soon realized God is better at every area of life than I am. If I really wanted the best in life, it meant allowing God’s Spirit to be in control so he could direct and empower each area of my life.

From the moment of our spiritual birth, God’s Spirit lives in us, but we can limit his work in and through us. The key is to allow God to direct and empower each area of our lives by allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us. What are you being filled with?

Father, I realize that I have been attempting to be in control and my self-effort has robbed me of your wisdom and power. I confess my need for your Spirit to direct and empower each area of my life. I long to see the fruit of your Spirit produced in my life. Thank you for your love and forgiveness. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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Domonic, our two and a half year old grandson was “helping” Papa (Grandpa) do some much needed spring cleanup in the back yard. Our backyard is terraced, so when we went to the second layer he started to cry. I asked him why he was crying, and he said, “Me Scared”.  It turned out he was scared because he had seen the wild deer wander across that part of the yard in the past, and he was afraid that they might come while we were there. I sat down and enfolded him in my arms, then asked, “Do you think Papa can take care of you? Do you think your Papa can chase the deer away?” He calmed down and seemed to like the idea that Papa could chase the “scary” deer away.

I realized I am not so different than Domonic. I have fears, too. I attempt to deal with fears in a variety of ways. I don’t tend to cry like Domonic did, but I get mad, worried, withdrawn, defensive, over analytical or immobilized, just to mention a few. In the same way that I enfolded Domonic in my arms and assured him I could take care of him, I need to experience God’s embrace in moments of fear and be reassured.

I remember one dark star-filled night walking alone, perplexed and with tears running down my face, crying out to God for help. His response was not verbal but it was so clear. It was as if God was saying to me, His child, “Who made these stars and put them in place? Do you think I’m big enough to handle your problems and fears?” In that moment my fears seemed to shrink, and in a fresh way I understood God’s presence and power. The problem did not go away but I had confidence to move forward knowing God would take care of me.

In a world that has many uncertainties the words from Psalm 147 can bring comfort. God is big enough to comfort His child in the midst of all possible fears!

1 Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant and praise is becoming. 2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.
4 He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.
5 Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite. 6 The LORD supports the afflicted;
He brings down the wicked to the ground.
Psalm 147:1-6 (NIV)

Questions: How do you respond in the face of fear? What steps can you start to take to help you face the future positively and without fear?

by Mike Woodard
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“This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.”  Jeremiah 9:23-24

He squealed with delight, “Papa thank you! These are perfect, thank you!” Who would have guessed a pair of super hero pyjamas would generate such appreciation and delight? It warmed my heart.

Isn’t it a special treat to bring joy into the lives of others we love?

Sometimes it is so simple, like knowing my grandson was into super heroes. At other times, knowing how to bring happiness to someone’s life is a little more complicated. It’s really helpful when they simply let you know what gives them pleasure.

As satisfying as it was to see my grandson’s pleasure at my choice of a birthday gift, I know pleasing God as an act of love is even more rewarding. God states very clearly in the passage above what gives him pleasure. He delights in seeing the people, who love him, mirror his character through kindness, justice, and righteousness to others. It brings God pleasure to see us live a life that reflects his Spirit to our world, which desperately needs to experience the aroma of God’s love and justice in their lives.

When we strive to act as God would, we fulfill the exhortation,

Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God  1 Corinthians 10:31

Then our lives point other people to God and they find the true source for all their deep longings. The bonus is we have that special treat of seeing people transformed as they come to know God’s loving kindness, justice, and righteousness on the earth through us. It’s truly just what they wanted in the first place.

Father in Heaven, I long to know you deeply and that you are delighted in me because I know you and reflect your kindness, justice and righteousness to the world around me. I desire that more and more people would find their deep longings met in you! Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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“And he said to me, ‘Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you.’”   Ezekiel 3:10

He had all the answers to every question, and he had the right answers. At least he thought he did, and even when there was no question he still had the right opinion. I didn’t like his “know it all” attitude and didn’t want to listen to him. This annoying city boy was visiting our family farm. He was 13 years old and I was 12.

But what if there was someone who really did have all the answers? Would I listen? After all, I go to a mechanic to get my car fixed. I visit a doctor with my health questions. I ask an architect for design plans. So, yes, I do seek and listen to the opinions of experts. Why? Because I realize I need help in these areas.

Wouldn’t it be superb if there was an expert on life, someone who knew all the secrets that we don’t? It would only make sense to seek out this person for answers.

These very thoughts have pushed me into the spiritual realm to seek the creator God who knows the very secrets of the universe. He not only knows me, but he has declared his love for me. He’s truly the benevolent expert, but the question is, “Am I listening to him?”

Ask yourself that question. Do you seek the answers from the Source of everything, or try to figure it all out on your own? And when he responds, be it through examples in nature, Scripture, sermons, hymns or whatever, are you listening?

Father God, I find it hard to listen because of my pride, self-reliance, busyness, and doubt. You truly are the expert on life, and you know me. You know everything about my life. I confess my foolishness when I attempt to fix things on my own. Your wisdom is far superior to my best ideas. I’m listening. Guide me! Amen.

Go Deeper — What do you worry about the most? God can bring wisdom and resources beyond your own to these situations if you trust him.

By Mike Woodard
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“God is the one who began this good work in you, and I am certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns.”  Philippians 1:6 (CEV)

Saint John the Divine, now nicknamed Saint John the Unfinished, is one of the largest churches in the world and an iconic feature in Manhattan. Construction began in 1892, but surprisingly, it has remained unfinished, prompting its nickname. For over a century, the cathedral has been plagued by financial woes, labor disputes, engineering problems, wars, and fires.

Differences of opinion between management and the workforce can slow transformation. In my spiritual journey, the issues of disagreement or discouragement bring work to a stop. Disagreement happens when I look at the plan and refuse to cooperate either because of mistrust or unmet desires. I ultimately think my plan is better. Discouragement also hits when I consider my failures or what seems to be the slow pace of change. Sometimes I want to give up and quit. But God’s response is always, “Be patient, I’m not finished yet.”

As followers of Christ, we are still under construction. It should bring a great deal of comfort knowing that although we are not yet finished, our Architect is all-wise, all-powerful, has no lack of resources, and has good plans for us. His promise is to continue the work and to complete it on the day we see him.

God’s ultimate goal is that we would be conformed to the image of his Son (Roman 8:29), that we would look like Jesus! He has given us the mind of Christ and the Spirit of Christ. So why is it that so often I do not look or act like Christ? Could it be a labor dispute on my part?

Father, thank you for your work in my life. You are good and I know in my heart that you love me and have the best plan, yet at times you know I doubt and become fearful, discouraged, or angry. I confess my failure to trust you. Thank you for being faithful to the plan and your commitment to conform me to the image of your son. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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The summer between my 3rd and 4th year of university I worked at Yellowstone National Park.

It was a great summer, full of adventures and new experiences.

On a day off, I had signed up for a day long class in rock climbing. I was successfully making my way up the side of a mountain when the instructor surprised me with an unexpected challenge, when he said,

I want you to push yourself off and fall on the rope!”

Questioning why he would ask me to do this, I hesitated, and he wisely pointed out that,

You will never be a good rock climber until you can trust that the rope will hold you. Push yourself off and fall on the rope.”

I was afraid.

Obviously, my trust was in my ability to use my hands and feet to scale the mountain. The rope was a secondary source of security, in case I slipped (which I did not plan to do!). I eventually did let go my hand holds, and I’m here to tell you that the rope held!

There are times when God seems to say the same thing to me as my instructor did that day. “Take the step, release your hands on what you are holding and see that I’m trustworthy.” The writer of the Psalms wrote,

O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the person who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)

Just as I would never be a good rock climber without experiencing that the rope will hold. The same is true of my spiritual life. I will never be a responsive Christ follower if I am unwilling to let go of whatever I am grasping when God says, “Let go, trust me.”

Are you willing to let go of the things that give you security?

We can only experience God’s goodness when we take those, sometimes scary steps that take faith. Do you trust God is able to hold you securely when you let go of the things that provide comfort or security? What step is God asking you to take? Could it be he is asking you to let go of a relationship, finances or a position … A thought that comforts me is God holds the universe together it is likely he can provide all I need to hold life together … Enjoy the adventure!

Question: Do you believe your rope, God, will hold you during tough times?

By Mike Woodard
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“You (God) will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”  Isaiah 26:3

I was in total darkness! It was a thick, complete blackness that swallowed up all markers of my world. I could see absolutely nothing deep inside the cave I was exploring. But one thing kept me from panic — the flashlight in my pocket. As I rested my hand on it, I knew that with one slight touch, I would have light again. That brought me peace.

Life sometimes presents dark moments when all the normal markers that guide us seem to disappear. In those moments, what is it that will provide an unshakable grounding? What will pierce the darkness? If only there was a flashlight for these moments….

God is the source of light in these dark moments. God, who is good, wise and all-powerful, invites us to steady ourselves in his trustworthy embrace. In the shadowy moments, the sureness of his presence and love provides a peace not based on our circumstances.

American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had such moments. He wrote,

“And in despair I bowed my head;

‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said.

‘For hate is strong,

and mocks the song

of peace on earth, good-will to men!’

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

‘God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!

The Wrong shall fail,

the Right prevail,

with peace on earth, good-will to men!’”

Let God be your flashlight of peace. Trust in his good and perfect plan, even in darkness where the reality of that plan seems fleeting.

God, thank you for the light of your presence and the perfect peace that comes as I trust in you. As my mind lingers on the truth of your love, wisdom and power, may I be released from the grip of any darkness and move into the realm of your light and peace. Thank you. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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“‘Father,” he prayed, ‘my Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want.’ Mark 14:36 (GMT)

Recently I arranged an overnight visit with a longtime friend. Our lives had gone in two very different directions. He went down a road of addiction and broken relationships, yet we have kept in touch.

Clutter and the odour of cigarette smoke greeted me as I stepped into his home. It made me feel very uncomfortable. After reminiscing about our shared history, it was time for bed. My lodging was a dishevelled bedroom. Piles of boxes and clothing surrounded a bed with a broken leg. The stained mattress had no sheets and a well-used pillow had no case. I did not want to sleep in this room, but in that moment, I decided I valued the relationship more than I valued comfort. It was not one of my most restful nights. The tilt of the bed landed me on the floor in the middle of the night. Yet, I knew I had made the right decision.

Comfort is of high value! For some, comfort is the determining factor for decisions. Jesus did not live in that world. It is clear from today’s verse that he wanted discomfort removed but he had a higher priority — to do the will of his Father. This value caused him to step from heaven to earth, to be mocked, beaten, and die on a cross. His motivating desire was obedience to his Father and a desire for a relationship with us. His death on the cross declares his love for God and for us even though it was extremely uncomfortable!

Father, I surrender my desire for comfort. May the beauty of your plan and purpose be reflected in and through my life. Jesus thank you; your love and obedience have given me the gift of forgiveness and a relationship with God. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

It was winter and the buses were on strike. I picked up a student who wanted a ride on this cold day. He was from Africa and this was his first experience with a Canadian winter. As we talked, I noticed he didn’t have gloves. In that moment, it seemed that God prompted me, “Give him your gloves and tell him I love him.” I hesitated, not because I had a special attachment to my gloves, but what would the student think? How would he respond? As we approached his destination, I surrendered my fears and gave him my gloves. I told him I was doing this because God loves him. He thanked me, took my gloves and got out of the car.

Shortly after I got home, the phone rang. A friend was phoning with a question. “Do you need a pair of gloves?” Before I could answer, she explained she had purchased a pair of gloves for her son but they didn’t fit. For some reason she thought of me. Amazing.

God knows all things — the number of stars, the hairs on our heads and even when a sparrow falls to the ground (Luke 12:6-8). In his knowledge, he can guide us to special places in order to touch lives if we will listen and act on his direction! We may never know the results. I never saw that student again. But we can know our simple obedience will fit in God’s good plan!

Lord, I confess that so often I trust in my own thoughts and perceptions. I want your spirit to guide me in each area of my life. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is — what is good and pleasing and mature.” Romans 12:1-2 (CEV)

Yes.

The answer was not someone yelling or even speaking loudly. In fact, it was not even audible. But it was clear and my answer in response was “Yes.”

I was in my last year of university. Like most forth year students, I was asking, “Now what?” I had my list: grad school, seminary, teacher, student ministry, naturalist…. I prayed and went through a list of pros and cons, considering the options as they related to my passions, desires, and giftedness. I attempted to hold all the options with an open hand: “God I trust You. I know You love me and have the best plan for my life.

The discernment process involved talking to friends, reading the Bible, seeking wisdom from others, and asking God for direction. After a few months, I was alone in a prayer room:

God it seems You want me to be in ministry; is that what You want?

The answer came clear and simple, with deep conviction:

“Yes.”

But more than a call to a specific ministry assignment, God’s call was an invitation to surrender to His love and plan, and to have a deep, intimate, moment-by-moment relationship with Him.

This close relational connection is the secret to direction. Our surrender will be the soil from which God directs. His direction becomes clear as we gain a deep wisdom and understanding of who He created us to be.

Since God’s call is primarily to have a relationship with Him characterized by daily surrender, what we do vocationally or ministry-related is an expression and over flow of God in us.

Father, I surrender. I rest in Your perfect love, wisdom, and plan for my life. I present myself as a living sacrifice. I hold this day and all I desire before You with an open hand. I trust you. Amen

By Mike Woodard
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Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
Psalm 139:7-10

We were on a walk along the edge of the ocean. The trail was rough but my grandson enjoyed the challenge of climbing over rocks, up steep banks, and over trees. The trail went up along the edge of a cliff. At one point, I looked back, just for a moment, and saw my grandson hanging by a root over the ocean and the rocks below. I’m sure my heart skipped a beat! He didn’t say a word. I grabbed his wrists and lifted him back on the trail. He simply said, “Thanks Papa.” And off he went along the trail.

That moment played over and over in my thoughts for days. I had been with him every step along the way, many times saying, “Let me help you.” To which he replied, “Me do it, Papa.” When it came to a need, he seemed confident I was there. He did not understand the danger but his “Thanks Papa” communicated his appreciation of unrequested help.

God promises to be with us always. In fact, we cannot escape his presence. God’s commitment is to journey with us each step along the path we are on. He seeks to provide for us and protect us. We can resist. Apart from his grace, the consequences could be grave and life altering.

Each day we have a choice. We can walk under the guidance of his direction or independent of it. How will you respond to his presence with you today?

Dear Father, thank you for your presence in my life today. Show me any areas that I’m walking independent of your guidance. I confess my predisposition toward self-reliance. I desire your leadership and am so thankful that your right hand will hold me fast. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” Jonah 2:2

Dad, why are you different?”

This was the question my daughter asked on a family vacation to the farming community where I was raised. She noticed how different my life was from that of my siblings. Broken relationships, addiction, and poverty characterized my roots.

Why the difference? There could have been a few answers. I had some good friends growing up that were good influences. I’m the only family member that went to university. None of these came to mind. Just one word seemed to be the right answer. God.

My early years were marked by alcoholic parents — anger, physical violence and neglect. A cloud of despair moved into my life. I began to wonder if life was worth living. Through a simple question from a friend, “Have you ever invited Christ into your life?”, I began a spiritual journey that gave me an unshakable foundation to stand upon. I discovered God’s love and forgiveness.

At first I didn’t understand the question. Fortunately, they explained that God loved me and as proof of that love sent his Son to give his life as a payment for my debt of sin. No one had ever told me they loved me; now someone was telling me that God loved me! Plus I could invite God to forgive my sins, to be a constant companion. I would also receive the gift of eternal life. This was good news! That day, just like Jonah, I called for help.

That choice is what makes me different! It can make you different, too — in the best way.

God, thank you for your love and forgiveness. Thank you for the gift of eternal life. Today I invite you to work in my life and in my heart to make me different and more like you. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked? Or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.” Psalm 1

In our living room we have a blue recliner. We’ve had it for years, and it’s my favorite place of contemplation, naps and relaxation. One day I sat on my chair and something felt off. Upon investigation, I discovered a bolt had gradually come unscrewed over time. Fortunately, with merely a few adjustments, it was back in its full glory.

If only life was that simple.

I asked myself: are there areas of my life that are gradually slipping? No one wakes up and says, “I think I’ll become unhealthy… go into debt… destroy my relationships … or grow distant from God”. Yet, it happens; and unlike my chair, often it is not a simple fix.

Just as regular maintenance keeps machines working, regular spiritual self-assessments would keep you aware of “loose bolts”.

God’s wisdom can change every area of life! Wisdom is knowledge rightly applied. God gives us wisdom and knowledge but we need to take action. You might need someone to help you and keep you accountable. Ask God for his resources each day to stop the slippage!

How do you keep regular maintenance in your spiritual life? Is there something in your life right now that needs adjusting?

Holy Spirit, please help me to be more aware of areas in my life that need attention. Please bring to light specific areas where I am lacking in love, generosity, and patience. Please help me to become more aware of my spiritual well-being. By Your grace, help me to find the discipline to always be attentive to Your promptings and to Your guidance. I commit my life to You. Please forgive me of my shortcomings and all the ways that I have offended You. All this I ask in Jesus’ most precious Name, Amen.

Thought: During your time of prayer today, set aside a few minutes where you ask the Spirit to reveal to you an area in your life that is slowly slipping. Prayerfully decide how you will act on it. Write down your resolution and post it in a place where you can easily remind yourself.

By Mike Woodard
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Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.Isaiah 1:17

Think for a moment… who do you admire? On the top of the Gallup Poll list of the most admired people of the 20th century is Mother Teresa. We often admire people that have shaped the lives of others through a dedication that brings help to those most in need. Deep within, we know that a profound indicator of noble character is how someone treats those who can do nothing for that person in return.

God has this same view. In the opening words to the nation of Israel, God called His people to do right, seek justice, defend the oppressed, and care for orphans and widows. Isaiah then pronounced God’s displeasure and rejection of their religious observances because their actions were not consistent with their profession of faith. They were being hypocrites.

God’s longings for his followers have not changed since the days of Isaiah. James restated God’s perspective:

“What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world (James 1:27 GNT).

Jesus is the ultimate example of a person with a willingness to help the helpless.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6).

How do you respond to those in the greatest need near you? Is it consistent with your experience of God’s grace and compassion in your life? Or do you do it to be admired?

Father, may I reflect your grace and compassion to each person in my day. I want to see myself and each person as you see them, as loved, valued and uniquely made for your purposes. Thank you for your love and forgiveness in my life. Amen.

By Mike Woodard
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https://www.familylifecanada.com/

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Thoughts by All Thoughts by Men thoughts by Mike Woodard

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We all have special people in our lives. The question is, “Do they feel special?” Sadly too often the answer is, “No!”

Here are 7 things you can do to make the one you love feel special on Valentine’s Day or any day.

Hand Written Note: Write specific things you love and appreciate about him/her.

Act of Kindness: Do something that you know will say, “I’m doing this because I love you.” Maybe it’s something they don’t like doing or a special help around the house. Vacuuming or mopping the floors is the ticket at our house.

Thoughtful Gift: Emphasis on thoughtful. Ask yourself what is something special that would say, “I know you, and you will like this.” For my wife it would be Blackcurrant Tea and a jar of cashews. Not expensive but has thoughtful written all over it.

Special Dinner: This could be taking your spouse out to a nice restaurant but could also be a candlelight dinner at home. If you don’t usually cook the meals, take over the kitchen, and make dinner. Set the atmosphere with flowers, candles, good dishes or a table cloth.

Time: In the high paced world we live in, time has become a precious gift. Slow down. Linger over the meal and dessert. Sit and relax, talk, reflect on special moments in your relationship. Last week my wife was having a bad day. After dinner she started debriefing from her day. She talked for over an hour. I just sat and listened. Finally she said to me, “Are you okay, you have not gotten up to do anything this whole time.” I have this bad habit of thinking I can do little things while she’s talking to me. Later in the week she commented how much it meant that I just sat and listened.

Words: Think about what you would like to say if you knew it was the last time you were going to see them. If words come hard, great, think how special they will be, and write them out! If you need some help formulating your thoughts, finish the following sentences:

– Thank you for being…
– I appreciate you/your…
– I look forward to growing old with you because…

Intimacy: Make your spouse feel special.   Do what you know will satisfy. (If you don’t know, then ask, “How can I express how much I love you tonight?”.) Linger in the embrace of each others arms. Go for the best lover of the year award!

Thought:  Don’t feel like you have to do everything on this list.  Pick a couple ideas and make the one you love feel special, because they are!

Apostle Paul gives us a standard to follow:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
– Letter to the Ephesians 4:32

By Mike Woodard

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Comments: If you don’t see our response form, please go to https://thoughts-about-god.com/blog/mike-woodard_valentines-day/

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Thoughts by All Thoughts by Men thoughts by Mike Woodard