Archives: Life with God

Are you smelly for Jesus?

Which scents do you love?

I’ve been burning a candle this winter called “Alpine Frost.” It’s green and it smells deliciously like pine-covered mountains (big surprise!). The only downside: I want to drop everything and head for the hills each time I fire it up. It draws me in, and not only because I’m a closet pyro.

photo by Nicolas A. Tonelli

photo by Nicolas A. Tonelli

Not only can we enjoy certain aromas around us, but if you’re a Christian (meaning you’ve given your life to Jesus), you are a fragrance. Do you remember this passage, written by Paul in 2 Corinthians 2 (NLT)?

14 But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.

This unique picture encourages three reminders about carrying the aroma of Christ.

1. It’s powerful. We’ve all noticed good smells. Friends and family laugh when I insist that one of my favorite memories from traveling to England was the heavenly smell of the potatoes there. I’m not kidding. They’re amazing. The aroma of potatoes baking filled one entire little town that we visited before lunch. And all from a small handful of pubs and tea houses.

Scents can be powerful, and so is the Jesus who fills our hearts. Simply by having Christ in us, His powerful presence magnifies His message like an earthquake ricocheting from its epicenter…far and wide. We may feel small, but each step of our feet lands with the might of heaven. The message of Jesus travels farther than we ever imagine, farther than our days take us. His aroma flows through us and beyond.

2. It sticks with a person.  Have you noticed that you still smell like places you’ve been after you’ve left? Sometimes that’s welcome, sometimes it’s not. There’s a chain of convenience stores that fills each town in the region where I live. Spend twenty seconds in one of them, and–no lie–you’ll smell like it the rest of your day. It’s a major commitment to buy a Coke there. That aroma has staying power.

We can affect people the same (but hopefully more pleasant) way. We can share the fragrance of Christ during the briefest of interactions. A kind word, a smile, a door held open…it has staying power. Given more time, people can’t help but take notice that something is different about us. We can point them to Christ more easily than we realize. And it’ll stick with them.

3. Not everyone likes it. Did you notice the u-turn that verse 16a takes? We meander the previous verses like a kid skipping through a lovely flower garden, then…bam! We smell like the grim reaper. “To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom.” What a downer.

But what reality. Not everyone will choose Jesus. Many reject Him. We know this all too well. After someone turns away from the Good News, do you think they want reminders of Him? We Christians come around, and it’s not a pleasant smell to them. We’re like a tuna sandwich left abandoned in a car during a Texas summer day.

But it doesn’t have to send there. We can continue to humbly pester them by showing God’s love, praying that they’ll have a change of heart.

And, as verse 15 shows us, we always smell good to God. And that’s good enough for me.

What do you think? Is it hard or easy to remember that we always “smell like” Jesus wherever we go? Have you ever met someone who didn’t tell you that they were a Christian, but you could sense it in their demeanor?




Life with God: Today, I hope…

What do you hope for? In what do you put your hope, your trust, your life?

That’s different for everyone. For Christians, we say that Jesus is our hope. And that’s true. He paid the ultimate price, His life, to give us eternal life.

photo by Zbyslu

photo by Zbyslu

Day to day it’s easy to say that we don’t place our hope in anything else but God. But let’s be honest: when the challenges of life creep in, it can be easy to slide our trust and hope to whatever’s closer and, well, tangible.

Financial challenges today? We can catch ourselves trusting in our credit cards or extra hours at work.

Family troubles? Oprah or other self-help gurus seem to hold all the answers.

Health issues? It’s easy to retreat into ourselves instead of asking the Great Physician.

The list goes on and on. Before we know it, our hope can be in anything else but God.

Let’s take a moment for a breather. Listen to the words of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV) and release your problems to God:

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

Right now we can take stock. Where are the weeds of fear and lack of hope in God sneaking into our hearts? Let God pick up the weed eater. Ask Him to focus your hope in Him… for today, for always.

Life with God: 3 Ways You Might Be Making a Difference (But Don’t Realize It)

I sat across the tiny table from her as we talked, hot coffee cups warming our hands. The scents of the full-to-capacity coffee house were delicious, and Saturday morning chatter filled our ears. The background noise gave us a surprising amount of privacy as we talked. Her brow furrowed as she expressed sadness. She would move away soon.

“And I wish I had been able to get more involved while I lived here,” she said. Life had thrown her unpleasant curve balls. She’d wanted to do so much more at her church, in our community. She thought she’d missed her chance to make a difference.

I sat stunned. True, tough challenges out of her control had held her back. Yet my friend had made a big impact while she was here, and I told her so. She remained sincerely unconvinced, but I hope that some of my reassurances hit their target. She would be missed.

After we said goodbye, I thought of some of the ways that she (and we as well) make a difference, even if we don’t recognize them day-to-day.

photo: Gian Luigi Perrella

photo: Gian Luigi Perrella

1. Persistence  When things are hard, just getting through the day or the week proves a struggle. We show up, but that’s about it. It’s easy to feel defeated in our daily life, at worst, or ineffective, at best.

But people notice. They notice if we’re struggling, even if they don’t know the reason. And they notice that we show up.  We’re still in the fight, even if our fight isn’t so punchy for now. That alone speaks volumes of encouragement to others.

2. Transparency It feels counterintuitive, I know. Risk through transparency about our challenges and weaknesses is the opposite of what the world tells us. And who’s chomping at the bit to make ourselves vulnerable? (You don’t see my hand raised.) It puts a lot on the line.

Yet that’s precisely why it can be effective. My friend is good at this, and her courage floors me. When asked, she’s upfront and humble. She’s honest about what she’s facing. You won’t find martyrdom or self-pity, only simple requests for prayer. We inspire courage in those around us by speaking with honesty and transparency.  Some situations call for wisdom and restraint about what to tell, but don’t we too often avoid sharing?

3. The Choice of Joy I saved my favorite for last. We impact people around us when we commit to joy in the midst of difficulties. My friend never fails to point people back to God and His goodness. Yes, it’s a choice, rarely an easy one. No question: It requires God’s love and strength. And strength results when we choose to focus on the joy that God gives us. Think about what James asks of you and me… “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3, NIV)

Now, if we’re being honest and transparent (ha ha…See what I did there?), we don’t like this verse. It’s hard to choose joy when it’s hard to deal with life. But yet again, people will see it and be challenged to do the same. We won’t realize the impact we make, probably, but there’s joy even in knowing that God uses our simple faithfulness for good in people’s lives.

And that, in turn, makes a difference in our own life.

What about you? Consider your daily routine. What’s one thing you can do deliberately today to encourage someone else?





Madera Canyon

The trail led us up rocky switchbacks and through mountainside meadows. The morning breeze brought a welcome chill. Petite wildflowers, yellow and sometimes purple, decorated the way.

It was hard to tell that wildfire had violated this high desert oasis just over a year ago. Hard, except for a handful of trail-side scenes we stumbled upon. One rested ten feet from the trail, tucked behind a gnarled mesquite tree on top of the hill.

It hid itself in the tall grass. Easy to miss. A circle of wildflowers hugged the patch occupied by a lump of charred wood –  a small victim among the thousands of acres the fires ravaged. It lay there black and dead and quiet. The flowers held vigil with dainty, stubborn dignity. Life was their testimony; beauty rebuked the haphazard destruction. Wordless tribute sprung from the nourishment the wood sacrificed, defying the past to all who cared to pass by and take note.

Let’s talk: When, lately, have you noticed a small miracle? Was it easy to spot or easy to miss?