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Coming Soon

Compassion, Week 1

God Loves the World

John 3:16

God did something about our greatest need.

Leigh loved the feeling of wind in her face as she sped down the mountain on her bicycle. Her mother, Julia, had offered to drive her to school when they had moved into the house on the edge of town that summer.

“It’s only a few miles!” Leigh had protested.

“You still have to come back up the mountain at the end of the day,” Julia pointed out.

It was true that Leigh did end up walking her bike back up the mountain many afternoons, but she enjoyed getting to see all her neighbors as she passed their homes.

She waved to Mr. Pak, whose garden and greenhouse took up the entire front yard. “You decorated the greenhouse with holly!” she exclaimed.

Mr. Pak held up a basket of newly-picked vegetables. “You would like some tomatoes to take home?”

Leigh grinned. “Fresh tomatoes in December? Sure thing.”

Next, she passed the Rudolph’s home, where Jinn was usually trying to unload her five kids from the minivan after school. The baby was fussing and wriggling.

“Hey!” Leigh called out. “Let me hold Cora while you get everyone out.”

“Thank you!” Jinn told her as she handed over the squirming baby. “I need at least five extra hands here.”

Then there was Eric Sutton, who had been putting up some new Christmas decoration every single day since Thanksgiving.

“I hope the electrical grid can handle all that,” Leigh exclaimed as she stared at the massive light display.

“We’ll all find out if it can’t!” Eric grinned.

But there was one person who never waved or spoke to Leigh. Maeve Simpson lived just across the road from the Suttons in a neat home with a wide front porch. She often sat there, now bundled up against the cold.

“Hey there! Merry Christmas!” Leigh called out.

Maeve would simply look away, or even get up and stalk into her house. “Why does she do that?” Leigh wondered.

All the neighbors had an opinion.

“She just needs to loosen up and have some fun,” suggested Eric.

“I think she needs something to do,” Jinn decided.

“She has lived very long,” Mr. Pak declared. “Her soul is all dried up, like last year’s cornstalks.”

Leigh considered their silent neighbor as she and her mom made cookies that evening. “It’s just rude, the way she ignores people like that.”

“You don’t know what’s going on inside of her,” Leigh’s mother pointed out. “Everyone has a story.”

“Yeah, but not everyone has an attitude about it,” grumbled Leigh. “Hey, do we have a holly cookie cutter?”

“Right here,” her mom said, pulling one out of the tin. Then she added, “There’s only one person who knows Maeve’s whole story and what she really needs.”

“You mean God,” said Leigh, automatically.

“When God gave us His Son, it was a gift for each one of us,” her mom reminded her.

“To meet our greatest need. ‘God so loved the world . . .’”

Leigh nodded and pressed out a holly leaf. She’d known the familiar verse since she was a little kid. “‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,’” she recited. “‘Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.’”

“That’s right,” her mom nodded.

“So . . . I should just go tell her that?” Leigh asked.

“Do you think she’d listen to you right now?”

Leigh thought about it for a moment. “I don’t know. Probably not.”

“We listen to the people we know care about us,” her mom said gently.

As Leigh frosted cookies and stuck on cinnamon red hots for holly berries, she thought hard. “Can I have a dozen of these?” she asked.

Her mom raised an eyebrow. “You’re gonna eat that many cookies?”

“Nope, but I could!” Leigh grinned and shared her idea with her mom.

The next morning on her way to school, Leigh spotted Maeve on her porch. She waved and stopped at the mailbox. The older lady immediately stood and went inside.

“Hoo boy,” Leigh said. But she took a festive tin of cookies out of her bag, trotted up to the porch, and left them on the front steps. She could see Maeve peeking through the blinds.

The next morning, Maeve’s porch was empty, but Leigh stopped anyway. She took the wreath she’d made from fir tree scraps and left it by the front door.

The following morning, Maeve’s porch was empty once again. But the wreath was hanging proudly on the front door. “Yes!” Leigh whispered.

n the fourth day, Leigh left for school early. She carefully fit a thermos of hot cocoa into her bike carrier. The icy wind whipped in her face as she picked up speed down the mountain. Just ahead, she could see Maeve’s house—and Maeve was out on the porch.

“Hey there!” Leigh called.

Maeve stood. Leigh could sense her hesitation.

“Wait!” said Leigh. “Stop. I don’t want to leave this on the porch.” She hopped off her bike and held up the thermos. “Hot cocoa. I don’t want it to get cold.”

“Oh,” said Maeve.

Leigh handed the thermos to Maeve, who didn’t say anything. “It’s from scratch,” Leigh added. “Not the packet kind.”

Maeve nodded briefly and Leigh turned to go. But as she reached her bike, Maeve said:

“Wait!”

Leigh paused, surprised.

“There’s a lot here,” Maeve said. “Why don’t you come in and warm up for a moment?”

“Well . . . sure!” Leigh answered.

Inside, Leigh was surprised when Maeve offered her sweet bread to go with the hot cocoa. “This is amazing!” Leigh said after her first bite. “Where did you get it?”

“It’s called stollen,” Maeve replied. “I baked it.”

They sat in silence for a moment. Leigh wasn’t sure what else to say. At last, Maeve said, “I miss having people to bake for.”

Leigh grinned. “Oh! We’re having a Christmas party for everyone on the street. You could definitely bring this.”

Maeve shrugged. “I don’t know. People . . . they talk about me.” “They’re only curious,” Leigh explained. “Really. Please come.” “Well . . .” Maeve said. “Maybe.”

Leigh smiled. If Maeve came to the party, that would be a start. If people took the time to be kind and show they cared, then maybe she would start to see God’s love at work—and discover God’s most amazing Gift.

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What’s the best gift you’ve ever been given?

Share your stories with each other. Did you know God is the most amazing gift giver ever? And His greatest gift to us never gets old or outdated. When God sent His Son, Jesus, He met our greatest need. Every single one of us has made wrong choices and broken our friendship with God. Jesus made a way for us to be right with God and live with Him forever! If you’ve chosen to follow Jesus, thank God for His amazing gift together. Ask that He would show you ways to share that gift with others. If you aren’t sure yet about accepting God’s gift, pray together and ask that God would show you more about who Jesus is.

Coming Soon

Compassion, Week 2

Gabriel Appears to Mary

Luke 1:26-56

God can use anyone to meet others' needs.

Mary picked up the empty water jar and stepped out the front door of her home. The sun was setting, but there was still enough light to see the whole town of Nazareth, surrounded by terraces and

steep ravines. Between the small houses, sheep and goats settled down in their pens for the night.

As Mary made her way along the path, she may have spotted a neighbor lighting a cooking fire.

“Good evening, Lydia!” she might have called.

“Bit late for fetching water,” pointed out her neighbor.

“I promised I’d do it after the bread finished baking,” Mary explained.

Only a few hundred people lived in Nazareth, and Mary knew each one. Near the edge of the village, she may have passed the home of Joseph, the carpenter she was engaged to marry. Perhaps he had traveled to the nearby capital city of Sephoris to help with a new building project.

The sun slipped behind the hills and the dusk gathered as Mary reached the spring. She set down the water jar and pulled out the small leather bucket she’d use to draw water from the well. But as Mary stepped forward, she was nearly blinded by a shock of light.

As her eyes adjusted, she could see a tall, shining figure rising before her. “Mary!” the angel, Gabriel, greeted her. “The Lord has blessed in you in a special way. He is with you.”

“Who are you?” Mary gasped. “Why are you saying this?” She tightened her grip on the bucket as she tried to make sense of it all.

“Do not be afraid, Mary,” said Gabriel. “God is very pleased with you.”

“Me?”

Mary glanced around, certain there must be some mistake. She was only a young girl. She knew the stories of her people, that God had sent messengers in the past—but she didn’t come from an important family and had never traveled far from her village.

“You will become pregnant and give birth to a son,” proclaimed the angel. “You must call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king like his father David of long ago. The Son of the Most High God will rule forever over his people.”

Mary could feel her heart pounding. She knew that her life—and the lives of God’s people—was about to be changed forever.

“How can this happen?” she wondered. “I’m not married.”

“The Holy Spirit will do this through the power of God,” Gabriel told her.

Mary nodded, even though it still seemed so unlikely that God would choose her. But the angel wasn’t finished yet.

“Your relative Elizabeth will have a child even though she is old. People thought she could not have children. But she has been pregnant for six months now. That’s because what God says will always come true.”

Mary’s mind raced. Elizabeth and Zechariah had longed for a child for so many years. And now it seemed that God had answered their prayers.

Mary swallowed hard and found her voice: “I serve the Lord. May it happen to me just as you said it would.”

Immediately, the light began to dim. Mary blinked, and the angel was gone, leaving only the fading twilight. Without even pausing to fill her water jar, Mary hurried back home.

“Elizabeth is going to have a baby,” she exclaimed. “I have to see her!”

Mary set out at once to visit Elizabeth, who lived nearly 100 miles away. She likely joined a caravan that was headed to their town near Hebron, and for several days, she hiked the rough roads until at last she arrived at Elizabeth’s home and knocked on the door.

When Elizabeth answered, she stared in amazement. “Mary!? What are you doing—”

“You won’t believe what I have to tell you!” said Mary.

Elizabeth’s hands quickly touched her rounded stomach. “The baby just kicked!” she cried.

Mary laughed in delight. “So you are going to have a baby!”

Elizabeth nodded and looked Mary straight in the eyes. “God has blessed you more than other women. And blessed is the child you will have!”

“You know about my baby already?” wondered Mary.

“Why is God so kind to me?” asked Elizabeth. “Why has the mother of my Lord come to me? As soon as I heard the sound of your voice, the baby inside me jumped for joy. You are a woman God has blessed. You have believed that the Lord would keep his promises to you!”

“I . . . I don’t know what to say,” Mary told her.

“Sit down!” Elizabeth ordered. “You need a rest. Some cold water. We can talk later.”

Mary’s heart was filled to overflowing. She poured out her thoughts

in a poem: “My soul gives glory to the Lord. My spirit delights in God my Savior. He has taken note of me even though I am not considered important. . . . He has helped the people of Israel, who serve him. . . . He has done it just as he promised to our people of long ago.”

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months, delighted to see how God was at work in Elizabeth’s life. Then Mary returned home, ready to see how God would use her and the Baby He was sending to save His people.

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Do you feel like you’re an important person?

Tell each other why or why not. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like you don’t matter a lot or that you don’t have much to give. But Mary wasn’t anyone important. She wasn’t much older than you. She lived in a tiny little town, and she probably hadn’t even been to school. But God chose her to be Jesus’ mom! And because Mary obeyed God, He showed His love to the whole world through her. How amazing is that? If God could use someone like Mary for something so big, He can definitely use you to do something big too! Ask God to give you the eyes to see what others need and the courage and confidence to do something about it.

Coming Soon

Compassion, Week 3

Jesus is Born

Luke 2:1-7

God gave us the greatest gift.

Mary lifted the empty water jar and carefully opened the door. In the small courtyard, Mary found her new husband, Joseph, polishing the rockers on a beautiful cradle.

“If this doesn’t put the baby to sleep, I can always take Him out for a ride on the donkey,” Joseph suggested.

“It’s perfect, Joseph!” Mary told him, running a hand over the smooth wood. “Wait, what are you doing?” exclaimed Joseph. “You should be resting!”

“I can carry a jar of water,” Mary pointed out.

“I’m coming with you,” Joseph decided.

“You know everyone will laugh if they see you carrying water,” said Mary.

Fetching water was a job only women did. But Joseph took the jar anyway. “Fine,” he said. “Let them laugh.”

Together, they stepped out onto the path in front of their home. From here they could see nearly the whole town of Nazareth, perched on the rocky hillside. Their neighbors and families worked hard to grow crops in the dry ground and tend to small flocks of animals. But no one had much to live on, especially after taxes were paid to their Roman rulers.

Suddenly, shouts broke the morning still of the small village. People poured from their homes as a messenger galloped up the dusty path, his bright, red cape flying behind him.

“Hear ye! Hear ye!” cried the messenger as he reined in his horse. Then he sniffed, as if smelling something bad. “Is this really all there is to this pathetic, provincial town?”

“Hey, fella. We like it here,” warned an old man with a long beard.

“It’s our home!” agreed Joseph.

“Shh, Joseph,” Mary whispered. “Don’t give him a reason to single you out.”

The Romans ruled over God’s people, the Jews, and would be quick to punish anyone they viewed as a troublemaker.

“Caesar Augustus has ordered a census,” announced the messenger. “Do you peasants know what a census is?”

No one dared to answer.

“Simpletons!” sneered the messenger. “Caesar commands that you travel to the town from whence your family originates in order to be counted. Do you addlepates understand?”

“Yeah,” muttered the old man. “Caesar’s gonna make us pay more taxes.”

The messenger narrowed his eyes. “Fools. You should be grateful that Caesar owns your wretched lives!” With that, he charged off, leaving only a cloud of dust behind.

Mary coughed and waved dust away from her face. “Your family’s hometown, Joseph. That’s Bethlehem.”

Joseph frowned. “It’s terrible timing. Maybe if I hurry, I can be back before the baby comes.”

“Back? I’m coming with you to Bethlehem!” exclaimed Mary. “We’ll stay with your family.”

“It’s nearly a week of walking,” protested Joseph. “And you’re going to have a baby!”

“I can do that in Bethlehem,” Mary pointed out.

Joseph sighed. “I’m not going to talk you out of this, am I?”

Within a short time, Mary and Joseph set out on the road to Bethlehem.

The trail grew rocky and often steep as they climbed into the hills. Mary kept a steady pace, but by the time they finally reached Bethlehem, she was exhausted.

“My relatives will have a room for us,” Joseph assured her.

There was just one problem: everyone who came from Bethlehem had returned home to be counted. Every family home was filled to capacity.

Joseph tried to smile as he knocked on yet another door. “Hi, I’m Joseph . . . your fourth cousin twice removed? Jacob’s son?”

The old lady in the doorway brushed her flyaway white hair out of her eyes. “Bless your heart, I remember when you were just an itty-bitty thing trailing around after your daddy, picking up crickets to chew on!”

“We’re here for the census and we need a place to stay,” explained Joseph.

“Goodness knows I’d give you a spot!” exclaimed the old woman. “But we’ve got great-uncle Moshe in one room, and Cousin Simon and his three sets of twins in another room, and all Ezra’s boys and their families packed in the upper room.”

“We really aren’t picky,” said Joseph. “But you can see . . . my wife . . . we need a place to stay!”

“Oi vey!” noted the woman as she took a good look at Mary. “That I do see. Well, there’s a bit of space where the animals stay. Can’t say it’s clean, but it’ll be warm enough.”

Joseph hesitated, but Mary said quickly: “We’ll take it!”

Mary and Joseph settled into their room and met their unconventional roommates. The cows and goats and chickens ignored the intruders.

“I’ll just pile up the hay over here,” said Joseph, gathering armfuls of the scratchy stuff.

Then late one night, Mary gave birth to a brand-new baby Boy: God’s Son, Jesus. She wrapped her Son tightly in strips of cloth and laid Him in a manger—the animal’s food trough. Then Mary and Joseph watched as God’s Son, the King of the whole world, took a nap. God’s greatest gift to His people had arrived in the most unexpected package.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

What do you think you need? Take a few minutes and share with each other.

Truth is, a lot of our needs are really wants. We do need food and clothes and a place to stay—but our biggest need is something deeper. Each one of us has made wrong choices. We’ve turned our backs on God. But instead of leaving us lost and alone, God sent His very own Son to live here on Earth among us. Jesus faced everything that we do, and then gave up His life for us. If we believe God brought Jesus back to life and we choose to follow Him, then we can be God’s friends forever! It’s an amazing gift—the best ever! All we have to do is accept it. If that’s a choice you’ve made, pray for each other, that God will remind you often of His gift and help you follow Him each day. If you aren’t sure yet about God’s amazing gift, ask God to show you more about who Jesus is.

Coming Soon

Compassion, Week 4

Shepherds Visit

Luke 2:8-20

Share the good news about Jesus

The sheep that wandered the rocky fields near Bethlehem were raised for a special purpose: many would be chosen for sacrifice in God’s Temple, to cover over the sins of the people. The shepherds who watched over them kept a sharp eye to make sure no sheep stumbled into a ravine or was picked off by wild animals.

Late one evening, a young man we’ll call Levi may have huddled near a small fire with his older cousin Ravi and Great Uncle Benjamin.

“Everything looks so . . . different at night,” Levi confessed.

Benjamin and Ravi were seasoned shepherds, used to long, cold nights caring for the sheep. But Levi had never before stayed in the fields after dark. The slopes seemed rocky and higher, the ravines steep and hidden.

“You’ll get used to it in no time,” Ravi told him.

“Are there bears?” wondered Levi.

“Lions too,” warned old Benjamin.

Levi gripped his new staff more tightly, but Ravi laughed. “Not that I’ve ever seen,” he said.

“Eh. You’re just a spring chick . . .” muttered Benjamin, before his head dropped forward in mid-sentence and he began to snore.

“Is he asleep?” asked Levi.

Ravi sighed. “Yeah, he does that. And then I’m stuck all night with no company.”

“Do you have to fight the bears by yourself?” Levi wanted to know.

“I did scare off a bear once,” Ravi said. “And I haul one of those mindless sheep out of the ravine every few weeks. Other than that, nothing happens.”

“Nothing?”

“There’s not a more worthless job on the planet,” Ravi said, rolling his eyes.

Levi frowned. “But keeping the sheep safe . . . for the Temple. That’s important.”

“For making sacrifices to a God who hasn’t bothered to say anything back in, what, 400 years?” scoffed Ravi.

“Great Uncle Benjamin says God will send someone to rescue us,” Levi pointed out. “Rescue, huh?”

“From the Romans, I guess.”

“Uncle Ben thinks too much,” grumbled Ravi.

Uncle Benjamin snorted. “What? Huh?

“Go back to sleep,” Ravi told him.

“I wasn’t sleeping. I was thinking—” protested Benjamin, before dipping right back into sleep.

The sheep had settled down, and Levi felt his own eyes growing heavy.

His eyelids flickered shut, when suddenly he heard the sheep bleating. Adrenaline pounded through his veins as his eyes flashed open.

It was so bright, Levi thought Ravi must have thrown a fresh log on the fire. The entire sky seemed to be ablaze. And in the brilliance, a tall being rose high above them.

“I’m awake! I’m awake!” shouted Uncle Benjamin.

“Wow,” murmured Levi, awestruck.

“Whatever you are . . . get back!” warned Ravi.

A voice rang out from the heart of the light: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news. It will bring great joy for all the people.”

“What is it?” whispered Levi.

“Shush, boy,” grunted Uncle Benjamin. “I do believe . . . we are witness to a messenger from God!”

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you,” the angel cried out. “He is the Messiah, the Lord. Here is how you will know I am telling you the truth. You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.”

The three men stared in awe at the towering angel. Questions raced through Levi’s mind, but before he could shape them into words, another angel appeared. And then another, and another, and still more until the entire sky was flooded with shining beings.

Their voices wove together as they sang, “May glory be given to God in the highest heaven! And may peace be given to those he is pleased with on earth!”

Then suddenly, as quickly as they had arrived, the angels disappeared. The three shepherds were left blinking.

“Was that . . . really . . . an angel?” gasped Levi.

“You got any doubts, son?” countered Benjamin and he heaved himself to his feet. “Where are you going?” asked Ravi.

“Where do you think?” shouted Benjamin.

Levi grabbed his staff and leapt up, too. “Bethlehem! But . . . what about the sheep?”

“They want to see the Savior of the world, they can come too,” said Benjamin.

Together, the three men hurried over the rough ground toward the darkened town.

“I see a light, off to the right . . .” said Levi, pointing.

In a short time, the shepherds reached the house on the edge of town where lamplight gleaned. They heard the soft cries of a baby.

“That’s Him!” exclaimed Levi. “What do we do?”

“Well, knock on the door!” Benjamin told him.

Levi took a deep breath and tapped on the door with his staff. After a few moments, a young man, Joseph, cautiously opened the door. Beyond him, the shepherds could see cows, goats, chickens . . . and a young woman kneeling beside the animal’s feeding trough.

“We saw angels!” Levi exclaimed.

“A whole army of angels,” added Ravi.

“Said we’d find the Messiah . . .” said Benjamin.

Levi peered into the dim room. “Right there. In the manger.”

The young woman, Mary, reached down and picked up a tiny, wrapped bundle. “Come and see,” she told them.

The three rough shepherds dropped down on their knees to see the tiny Baby who was the King of the whole world.

Just like a brand-new lamb,” murmured Levi. “God’s gift. For His people,” added Benjamin.

When the shepherds finally left, Levi grinned at Ravi. “You said nothing ever happens watching sheep!”

Ravi smiled sheepishly. “Well . . . you know . . . except when angels show up.”

“You two gonna stand there chatting all morning? We got news to share!” declared Benjamin. Then he shouted out, “Listen up! New King, right here!”

In the growing light of dawn, the three shepherds shouted out the news all over Bethlehem. They were overjoyed to share the good news God had given first to them.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Tell each other, in your own words, what the good news about Jesus is, and who He came for.

The truth is, God sent His Son for everyone! For you, for your mom and dad, for your whole family. For the kids at school and your teacher. For the lady in the checkout line at the grocery store and for your postman. Because of Jesus, we’re freed to love God and love others. So you can share the good news about Jesus with anyone you meet. That might be through your words, or it might just be through showing God’s love in your actions. Whatever the situation, you’ve got the best news ever to share! Pray for each other, that God will show you when and how to share the good news about Jesus with your words and through giving God’s love to others.

Coming Soon

Compassion, Week 5

God Showed His Love

1 John 4:9-12

Love others because God loved you first.

Alex ended the phone call with his mother and groaned. He had planned to go skiing that weekend, but Mom had made it clear that she expected him to be at the big family gathering instead. To make matters worse, she had asked him to bake Great Aunt Edna’s fruitcake, since Gea, as they called her, was hiking in Thailand this year. Mom had even texted the recipe.

Alex studied the list of ingredients. “Citron? Cardamom? I don’t even know what half this stuff is.”

He knew exactly how things would go at the family gathering. Aunt Lou would greet him at the door. She never spoke in anything below a shout. “How’s my favorite nephew?” she would bellow. “When are you gonna get married so I can get some great-nephews?”

Next, his cousin Elle would corner him with whatever she was trying to sell this year. “Are you into frivolous vinegars yet?” she would bubble. “They have so, like, changed my life! I can get you the starter set for just $299!”

Uncle Ben would rescue Alex, but that would be worse, because he always smelled like Icy Hot. “It’s a nice, crisp 22 degrees out there,” he’d exclaim, bouncing up and down. “Wanna go for a ten-mile run?”

Then Cousin Finn and his wife Li and what seemed like 57 kids would show up with shrieking preschoolers running everywhere. “Here,” Finn would say handing Alex a baby, who would promptly spit up all over him.

Even Alex’s mom would add to the stress. She was usually kind and patient, but when she was hosting a big gathering, she’d start barking out orders like a drill sergeant. “Baste that turkey! Move it! Now!”

Alex dreaded going so much that he didn’t even start packing until the day he needed to leave. First, his suitcase busted. And then he realized he’d forgotten to bake the fruitcake. After a quick trip to the grocery store, he desperately threw ingredients together.

“I hope salt is the same thing as citron,” he muttered, adding an extra tablespoon for good measure.

While the fruitcake baked, Alex tried to finish packing and missed the oven timer ding. Instead, he heard the smoke alarm blasting, and rushed into the kitchen to discover smoke billowing from the oven. His fruitcake had burned to a crisp.

Pulling the fruitcake out of the oven just added to the dense smoke. Alex shoved open the door to his balcony, slammed it shut to keep the cold outside, and dropped the charred cake onto the railing.

“It’s freezing out here,” he exclaimed, teeth chattering.

He turned to open the door—but it was locked.

“Nooooooooooo!” he wailed. Alex shivered and stared at his blackened fruitcake. He hadn’t even gotten to the family gathering yet, and it was already ruining his life.

A warm voice interrupted his icy complaints. “Now what are you doin’ out there, honey?”

Alex glanced up to see his neighbor, Cheyenne, standing just inside her cracked- open balcony door. She was the most comforting person he knew, almost like a second mother.

“I’m locked out!” Alex grumbled.

“Well, bless your heart,” said Cheyenne. “Climb on over.”

Awkwardly, Alex clambered over the railing, onto Cheyenne’s balcony, and then into her warm apartment.

“Sit down a minute and warm up while I get a cuppa tea,” she ordered.

Alex took a look at the clock and panicked. He should have left twenty minutes ago. “I can’t!” he exclaimed. “I have to go! I have to pack, I need a fruitcake—”

Cheyenne shook her head and smiled. “Slooooow down, child. You tell me what’s goin’ on.”

Alex gave up and collapsed onto the sofa. “Family reunion thing. I just . . . cannot . . . face these people right now! I’m already stressed out and they’re going to drive me nuts.”

“It’s the people we love most who will make us the craziest,” Cheyenne pointed out.

“Well, I can’t love any of them today!” said Alex, glowering.

Cheyenne nodded. “Sure enough. Not all worked up like that.”

“So I shouldn’t go,” Alex decided. “I won’t go.”

“I didn’t say that, honey,” Cheyenne said, pouring hot water into a mug. “These people need love. And God can sure enough use you to show them some love.”

“Oh,” said Alex. “Well, I guess.”

“There isn’t any love in this world that comes from anywhere else, whether we know it or not.”

Cheyenne handed Alex a cup of tea and pointed out the framed verse hanging over the little chair in the corner. Alex squinted and read what turned out to be a familiar verse: “Here is what love is. It is not that we loved God. It is that he loved us and sent his Son to give his life to pay for our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us this much, we should also love one another.”

Cheyenne sipped from her own mug of tea. “God loves you first, burnt fruitcake and all. So you can just sit back and let God help you love your crazy family, honey.”

Alex sighed.“Well…I guess…”

I got an extra chocolate chess pie you kin take with ya,” Cheyenne added.

“You’re taking away all my excuses,” said Alex.

“Your mama is not going to be a happy lady if you don’t show up,” Cheyenne joked.

At last Alex stood, with a rueful smile, and took the pie Cheyenne held out. “Okay, okay. I’m going. Thank you!”

Several hours later, Alex pulled into the driveway of his parents’ home. Light shone in every window, and he could already hear kids shrieking and a loud argument from out here. But he took a deep breath and grinned. It wasn’t up to him to get along with everyone in that house. It was his job to ask God for help—and trust that God would help him be patient and show love to each person.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

When do you find it difficult to love others?

Take a few minutes and share with each other one or two situations where it’s really tough for you to show love to someone else. Here’s the amazing thing: you don’t have to force yourself to show love. God showed His love for you first, before you were even born, by sending Jesus. He loves you now, no matter what you do or how you feel. And when you ask, God will help you use His love to show love to the people around you. Pray for each other, that the next time you feel you just can’t love someone, God will give you His love for them and practical ways to show it.