No Greater Love

"Greater love has no man than this . . . "

Port Royal, Jamaica, 1682

Chilling gusts of wind sent ocean sprays across the harbor, sprinkling the city's auction square as if to forewarn of a coming storm. The sky was overcast with gray, the sea dark and agitated. Not a speck of sunlight hinted at scattering the gloom that hovered over the city. A tall man strode from a nearby warehouse and across the square. He stepped onto the auction platform and slowly rotated to pierce the crowd with his gaze. If his countenance were not so dark and foreboding, he would have been considered handsome. But his features were too contorted with greed and cruelty to be worthy of such a compliment.

Not waiting for an introduction, he spun suddenly and clapped his hands toward the warehouse. "Bring her!"

Collectively the waiting crowd took a step backward as a girl was shoved across the threshold of the warehouse building. The girl staggered up the steps to the platform, and was jerked upright by the firm grip of her master. She was dressed in a ridiculously frilly gown meant to distract from her mass of tangled hair, bare feet, and thin figure. Here face was as pale as the whitecaps along the coastline, and her hands trembled with fever.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the slave owner bellowed, "I have here a young lass quite accustomed to hard labor. Now, who will give me fifty - and no less!"

The bid began to rise little by little until it reached one hundred and twenty-five. "You won't stop there, will you, folks?" he hollered again. "What's a mere one-fifty for the work you'll get in return, hey?"

One timid hand raised from the center of the crowd. But when the auctioneer tried to push it to one hundred and seventy-five, he was met with blank stares. Trying to keep his irritation from showing, he pushed the girl forward, nearly sending her toppling from the platform. He opened his mouth to shout, "Sold!" but the words didn't have time to escape his mouth.

"I will give you two-fifty, Hulin," came a voice near him.

There was such authority in his voice that even the slave girl was prompted to lift her aching head to peer at him from beneath her ratty crown of hair. Several feet from her master stood two well-dressed men, looking quite like father and son.

Hulin began to shake with rage as he faced him. This man of integrity had never ceased to be thorn in his side. "Who will oppose this man's bid and give me two-seventy-five?"

But no one made a move to raise the bid. The price was far too unreasonable.
Hulin, his face now purple with frustration and anger, leaned forward and shouted at his opponent, "I will not give her to you, you dirty--"

"I will give you four hundred," the man said calmly, yet with the same intensity.
Hulin spat on the ground. "Never, you conniving fool!"




"I will never--"


"Enough!" Hulin grabbed the girl and tossed her like a rag doll toward several more downcast slaves. "Take her away!"

Suddenly the second man, almost forgotten, stepped forward to talk quietly in his father's ear. The older gentleman's face turned pale. "Are you certain, Joshua?"

"I'm certain, Father."

The father's jaw worked with the struggle that lay before him. "I will come for you," he promised. "He will not have you forever."

"You will care for her?" his son pressed.

"Just as I'd care for you."

The two exchanged a long, binding look. Then Joshua ran forward and cried, "Stop!" He snatched the girl up and swiftly carried her to his father. He faced Hulin with his chin high and his eyes darkened with the mission that beckoned him. "I will take her place."

Hulin's unyielding demeanor relaxed as his mouth dropped in astonishment. Finally he recollected himself and smiled maliciously at the thought of separating his rival from his very flesh and bone. "Well, my boy, I think we have a deal. Take him away!"

Before Hulin's man could reach him, Joshua stooped down where the girl had fallen in a heap. Gently he lifted her and placed her in his father's arms. Again the two shared a look of which they alone knew the meaning. The next moment he was dragged away to a fate the crowd could only imagine.

". . . than a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

He did it for you!


(Excerpt taken from a short story, "Bound by Love." Copyright 2001 by Christa Heider.)


The Ultimate Date

People think it strange that I've never been on a date with a guy (I'm waiting to share that event with that "special one"). But when I think about it, I've been on thousands of dates . . . with the #1 love of my life, Father God.

If you've ever been on a date, or ever intend to, the logical assumption is that you'll be giving that person your 100% attention. Just you and him with (preferably) no interruptions. It's a time of getting to know each other, and sharing what's most important to you. That's what we want, right? But what if this happened: You planned the date and for a week you looked forward to it. You couldn't stop talking about it with your friends. Your heart started beating faster any time that special someone was mentioned. Then, excitement rising, the night arrives. You get dressed up and meet him at your decided date location. But to your confusion and chagrin, you find him distracted and disinterested. He won't respond much to your attempted conversation topics. His eyes stray from yours and off in the corner somewhere. He doesn't seem to be focused on the date at all - like he wishes he could be somewhere else. You ask him what is wrong, but he simply shrugs it off with, "Oh, nothing, nothing."

If you ask me, that's not a date! More like a waste of time. But you know what? We often do the same thing to God in our prayer times with Him (assuming you have one on a daily basis!). I don't know how many times I've set aside time in the morning to spend time with Him, only to find my mind wandering off in a million directions. The result? A very unfocused conversation. (Aren't you glad God doesn't do that to you?)

Our times in the Secret Place with our Abba Father should be no different than a date we have arranged with our boyfriend. If we are to expect our guy to pay attention to us, how much more should God expect us to pay attention to Him? Our relationship with Him is infinitely more important. Psalm 27:8 says, "When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face, Lord, I will seek.'" When you seek someone, you focus on them. You look them in the eye and study them. You want to know and understand what they're saying. Absorb everything you can. Wow! If we gave God that kind of attention, could you imagine what kind of things He could communicate to us? It would be life-changing!

I look forward to my first date with my potential husband to be. But until then, I'm going to keep seeking God's face. I'm going to strive to give Him the focus He deserves. I want to know everything about Him as He knows everything about me. And one day, my guy is going to appreciate my honed listening skills!



Cuddle Me

I'm not an extremely emotional person, but when I get really tired, I get cranky and/or far more emotional than I normally am (hey, don't tell me you've never been there!). Then there are times when things seem to be more than I want to handle, and I want to give up. Those are times when I wish I could be a kid again and have someone sit down and cuddle me. Twenty-five or not, a little comfort just seems to be in order! Friends and family aren't an "ever present help in time of trouble," however. But God is.

I've had conversations with God that go something like this:

"God, I just don't want to do this anymore!" (in utter exasperation)

"I know." (tenderly)

"It's too hard!" (with a heavy sigh)

"I know you feel that way." (with strength and confidence)

"What am I going to do?" (a whine turned to tears)

Then it's like God tips my chin, looks me squarely in the eye, and says, "Christa, I love you. I'll always be here for you - in every situation. And because of this, you can do it. I've given you everything you need. You've got everything it takes. Now be strong in Me."

There's a whole lot of love, and a whole lot of correction in that cuddle! In essence He's saying, "Nothing can separate you from My love!" And then He gives me the strength I need by means of a little reminder to trust Him completely.

Now don't get the idea that God is unsympathetic with with our needs. On the contrary, the Bible says that He cares about the birds' next meal, so how much more will He take care of us? But a cuddle that simply makes us feel good doesn't necessarily fix the problem - any more than a mother's kiss will get rid of a cut's sting. That's what's so awesome about God! He can wrap us up in the most pure, gentle love in one moment, and be firm in His answer to our problem in the next. He does it in such a way that you always sense His constant, tender mercies. Yet there is strength in His confidence that you can depend on. What better cuddle could you ask for?

". . . He will quiet you with His love . . ." Zephaniah 3:17