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Archive for the ‘love’ Category

Guns, Games & Cold Love: What Happened to the Golden Rule?

In Children, hate, love, plots, terror on May 25, 2013 at 8:57 am

A booking photo of Colorado shooting suspect James Eagan Holmes is shown in this handout supplied by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office in Centennial, Colorado

The lights were off and people of all ages sat innocently in their seats, eyes riveted to a silver screen. Twelve of them did not leave the theater. Fifty-eight left in ambulances.

It was midnight and a mother and three of her children were sound asleep. They would never wake to greet the morning. By dawn, her husband, too, would be dead.

She was still asleep when her dreams ended. It was dark when four bullets sunk into her head; she will never know that her son used her own guns to murder her and 26 others at the elementary school nearby.

My heart aches for the victims and loved ones of these heinous crimes. James, Nehemiah and Adam, once young men with families, talents and promising futures, are now suspects in three of the most unconscionable murderous rampages in our nation’s history.

What made them do it? What were they thinking? Where was their love for others? What made their love grow so cold?

Many are weighing in with answers to all of these questions from every angle. Do a Google search and you will find a plethora of speculative articles that place the blame for these mass shootings on bad parenting, guns, parents with guns, inadequate gun control laws, illegal drug use, mental illness, psychotic breakdowns, lack of security in our schools, violent video games, bullying, and more.

If you read my column on a regular basis, however, you know that I prefer to do a Bible search. No, I do not find answers in my Bible to why specific people in my country are shooting each other, but I do find specific causes for the current condition of our society.

For instance, in Matthew 24, Jesus describes what the world will be like just before he returns. After delivering a mind-numbing list of cataclysmic natural disasters, international revolutions, economic collapse, religious persecution, deception and betrayal, he reveals the answer to my question above: “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Matthew 24:12 NKJV

Lawlessness, adjective. 1. contrary to or without regard for the law: lawless violence 2. Being without law; uncontrolled by a law; unbridled; unruly; unrestrained: lawless passion 3. Illegal:  bootleggers’ lawless activity

Notice this word, lawlessness, is an adjective. Pardon the English lesson, but that means that it modifies a noun or pronoun. People are nouns. People are modified by lawlessness; their behavior changes, and it isn’t pretty.

Forgive me if it sounds like I am over-simplifying the dark complexities behind the motives of mass murderers, only God is able to do a thorough root cause analysis on such heinous offenders. But knowing our human struggle with evil, he graciously established a legal system to govern societies – to keep the peace, foster goodwill and nurture love – all the things that reflect his myriad attributes.

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Again, my heart is broken for the traumatized survivors and victim’s families and loved ones of these terrible crimes. I don’t pretend to understand why young people find assault rifles glamorous or how they can aim them at their own parents, brothers, sisters, or grade school children and pull the trigger over and over. What I do understand is that love won’t grow cold when society collectively protects the laws of the land and we love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

Top Photo: "A booking photo of Colorado shooting suspect James Eagan Holmes is shown in this handout supplied by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office (Handout) (Handout/Reuters)"
Bottom Photo: Susan Montoya Bryan/AP Photo; "A bouquet of flowers adorns the entrance to a home on Jan. 21, 2013, where a couple and their three young children were found shot to death south of Albuquerque, N.M. The couple's 15-year-old son, Nehemiah Griego, is facing counts of murder and child abuse in connection with the shootings.
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The Unlived Life of Russell Stone, Part 10

In choices, divorce, fear, fiction, love, marriage, relationships, single on October 4, 2011 at 12:02 am

A Novelette

by Cheryl Courtney Semick

Rachel is absorbed in Mrs. Stone’s book of poetry amidst a restless sea of defendants and plaintiffs, all waiting for their day in court. It’s 9:45 AM.

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When lies are love and love is a lie

When truth is pain one can’t deny

How does a heart fulfill its vow

When fear refuses to allow

The lie to live within its walls

Or let grace heal us when it calls

“Rachel?” My attorney sits down next to me as if to wake me from a deep sleep; his voice sounds distant and muffled. I look at him and can see in his eyes that I have changed.

“Rachel, they’ve cancelled our hearing and they can’t give us a reschedule date so I’ll call you, okay?”

I nod my head, unconnected from the news that my dissolution was again delayed. Steve had still not arrived and for some odd reason that bothered me, not in a disgust sort of way but more like a longing—like I wished he were there.

“Are you okay?” Jeff’s face was closer now, his look tense.

“Yeah—yes, I’m okay.”

“I don’t believe you,” he said, standing up and straightening his tie. “Let’s stop by Sully’s for a drink, my treat.”

Normally, I would have relished such an offer—especially from him—but this wasn’t an offer; he sensed something had changed in me and it unsettled him. Something had changed, but neither of us knew what it was.

“No thanks,” I said as I stuffed Mrs. Stone’s journal in my briefcase. “I need to get back to work. There are some issues that need my attention and a pile on my desk that won’t go away unless I show up …”

“You dodging,” he interjected. “What’s going on Rachel?”

We board the elevator with another attorney and client pair, orbiting some crucial strategy for their case and I clam up. The lines from that last poem have me paralyzed. I wrestle under its tethers—its voice screaming at my soul in a faint whisper: When fear refuses to allow

My mind butts into the conversation and attempts to apply logic: Is that what is wrong with me? Did I drive Steve away because I was afraid his love for me was a lie? Have I not extended years of grace to him already? When is it time to move on?

“Rachel, I insist, let me buy you a drink, we can take my car,” Jeff takes me by the elbow and escorts me off the elevator. I’m in such a trance I don’t resist and now we’re in his Jaguar heading to Sully’s.

“No,” I say.

“No? No what?” Jeff swings into a space in the parking deck and puts the car in park.

“No, I can’t be here—with you—I can’t do this.”

He laughs, “It’s a drink, Rachel, not a date. C’mon.” I don’t move and he lets a few seconds pass to see if my decision wavers. It doesn’t. He starts his car back up and pulls onto Main Street. Nothing more is said between us and by 10:10 AM I’m back in the parking lot at the Afterglow Journey Center. I don’t look back as Jeff pulls away; I sit on the bench outside the front door, numb and captive to words I’ve never heard. They are foreign and faint, yet strong and powerful—and I’m listening.

To be continued….

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Read from the beginning…

The Unlived Life of Russell Stone, Part 7

In choices, death, divorce, fear, fiction, help, judging, love, marriage, obedience, relationships on October 3, 2011 at 9:41 pm

A Novelette

 by Cheryl Courtney Semick

Mrs. Stone’s story of the late Russell Stone hit a nerve in Rachel. It is 8:30 AM.

The anger rising in me was shocking. I wanted to run like villagers do when the volcano they live by day-in-and-day out starts rumbling. Mrs. Stone could see the eruption forming on my face. Still, she calmly continued.

“People judge these unlived lives as actors, manipulators or lazy bums, having no idea that they are starving for an ounce of acceptance and love in any form. They remain children in their mind with no definition for what drives them or what was stolen from them; they just know they are different from everyone else.”

I felt punched in the stomach and filled with shame. I held her gaze so she couldn’t see that I am one of those judges; that I am only an hour away from dumping such a soul.

“But why did you marry him, knowing he could never be a real husband to you?” I asked. She took in a deep breath; a strange peace engulfed me as she exhaled, something I still can’t explain, though I’ve rolled it over and over in my mind ever since.

“I didn’t know all this when I married him. He seemed as normal as any man,” said Mrs. Stone through tears. “At first I felt deceived, but to honor my vows, I had to love him unconditionally as I am loved by my Creator; that is only fair, don’t you think?”

I shrugged, non-committed. I wasn’t a religious person, but I had to agree that if the Creator loves me unconditionally, I should give my fellow man the same courtesy. I mean, that made sense, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a moral, good, considerate person. I obey the law and all, but her take on it seemed unrealistic.

“But how could you play along with it all? It doesn’t seem fair to you,” I said, my voice now pleading, my mind oblivious to the clock.

“Over time I learned that his feigned normalcy was more than just an act—it was a desperate cry for help,” she said. “I knew that my love for Russell had to be bigger than me. It had to reach beyond my romantic dreams, beyond my rights as a woman, as a wife. I had to love him more than he could ever love me.”

I choked. Shaking my head I pushed all these super woman ideals as far away from me as I could. She had no idea that Steve and Mr. Stone were one and the same and I wasn’t about to tell her. I needed to extricate myself from the Stone’s upside-down world and focus on my court date. I glanced up at the clock. It’s 8:40 AM.

“I’m sorry Mrs. Stone. With all due respect, I have a 9AM meeting I can’t miss. Please forgive me for rushing off like this. The staff will help you with the paperwork we need you to complete before Mr. Stone’s burial. I will call you later today.”

Mrs. Stone smiled serenely and looked down at the journal in her hands. My hand was on the door handle when she called my name. I turned around.

“Please take this and read it before you go to court.”

I gave her a sideways look as I took the journal from her trembling hand. How did she know my ‘meeting’ was in court?

To be continued….

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Read from the beginning…

The Unlived Life of Russell Stone, Part 5

In death, divorce, fear, fiction, love, memorial on October 3, 2011 at 9:02 pm

A Novelette

by Cheryl Courtney Semick

At 8 AM, Rachel ushers Mrs. Stone into the Afterglow Room where her staff laid the body of Russell Stone. Candlelight cast a reverent halo around the deceased; soft, ethereal music welcomed the grieving widow. The scene changed quickly.

I’m still in shock. How can I explain this? We walked into the room. Mrs. Stone stood right beside me and stared at her husband’s body. Now understand that at this point, most widows gasp, choke on their tears and convulse as a fountain of emotion begins to erupt. They walk or run to the body. Some will kneel and gently caress the corpse’s cold hand, pat it and whisper loving words. Most spend a few moments of private good-bye, then express their gratitude for our respectful treatment of their loved one’s remains and leave.

Not Mrs. Stone. She laughed! That woman stood there and laughed! But it wasn’t a funny, ha, ha, type of laugh. It was maniacal. It was borderline evil. It was extremely bizarre; goose bumps scurried over my skin. She lifted her arm and stretched it out like a sword; it was fully extended all the way to the tip of her accusing index finger.

“You lost!” she screamed. “You lost!” Her laugh deepened into a sneering mock. “You stole my life and now I am free and you can never, ever, ever steal from me again!”

I grabbed her arm and tried to push it down, thinking she was out of control. “Mrs. Stone, why don’t we go into another room?” I whispered. I thought I would just usher her out of the room, give her a glass of water and bring her back into her right mind, but her arm was as hard as steel.

“You liar!” She shrieked, still pointing her sword at poor Mr. Stone’s body. “You thought I didn’t know your game, didn’t you! Oh, but I did, the whole time. And now you lose.”

“Mrs. Stone, please,” I insisted, “Let’s go sit down in the other room.” She lowered her arm and I thought she was going to turn and follow me when I heard—no, I felt a swish. I jumped at it; the hairs on my neck stood at attention.

Mrs. Stone was lying on top of Mr. Stone’s body, kissing it, caressing it! It was morbid, disgusting!

I freaked.

I ran from the room and in no particular direction. I was nauseous. I couldn’t accept the sight of that woman getting passionate with her husband’s corpse. When I left the bathroom, I realized I was in Mr. Stone’s former room on Angie’s unit. I don’t know how long I was there or why.

I collapsed on a chair, my heart racing, mind spinning. I don’t really recall much about that moment except the leather journal on his nightstand. It was open, Mrs. Stone’s pen, uncapped, lay across its pages.

What drew me to it is still unclear, but the poem appeared penned just moments before I arrived, as I smeared a stroke with my thumb as I lifted it off the table. Its lines capture and confuse me; its mystery clouds my mind and I soon forgot about my nine o’clock court date.

To be continued…

__________

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

Read Part 3

Read Part 4

Why Travel this Christmas?

In Bible, Christ, Christmas, faith, Jesus, love, plots, Scripture on November 27, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Thanks to the underwear bomber who ruined Christmas, the friendly skies have turned dark. Travelers over this past Thanksgiving took to the highways in record numbers in order to avoid scanners and strips searches at airports. But travel they did and, regardless of the obstacles and inconveniences, nothing stops travelers at Christmas.

Little is known about the Wise Men who traveled from the east to find the Christ Child. Their appearance, barely a few sentences on the pages of Scripture, dissolves so quickly, it begs the question as to why they have commanded such prominence in the telling of the Christmas story.

Like a side plot, the Wise Men weave into the narrative, unwittingly stir up trouble, present their gifts then sneak out of the country in fear of their lives. That’s it. But why? They were astrologers! Sure, there was one star that was brighter than the others, but what drove them to lay extravagant gifts at the feet of a two-year-old in a faraway land? Why travel if the star was the prize? They could study the sky and its heavenly bodies from their own rooftop.

Clearly, it wasn’t about the star. If that’s all they were seeking, why bring gifts? No, it was the One the star pointed to that drew them to Judea. They knew from their studies of ancient Hebrew writings that this star heralded the birth of a king—a very special king—and they were driven to worship Him no matter what that journey entailed.

Their quest, hardly a passing curiosity, undoubtedly absorbed years of their attention prior to the arduous journey. It was a quest that has inspired millions, including me—souls who will not rest until they find the Christ Child of Christmas.

Fortunately, we don’t need to travel to a physical location to find Him. Our pursuit is one of faith. Believing that God is Who He says He is, that Jesus is Who He said He was, that the Bible is God’s inspired Word and that the story is not over until He says it’s over.

Yes, finding the Christ Child involves travel, but the land we must traverse to reach Him is that of our own heart: the mountains of lies and false doctrines, the valleys of pain and past hurts; the rivers of tears and misunderstandings and the deserts of loneliness and discouragement.

Why travel through such horrible conditions? Why leave the comfort of our habits and familiar surroundings to pay homage to an ancient character in a story that could possibly just be a fable perpetuated by religious fanatics? There is only one reason, and it throbs ceaselessly in every human heart from birth to deathbed: Love.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

That verse, John 3:16, like the Christmas story itself, is still to this day, the simple, uncomplicated reason why millions still travel to places of worship on a silent night in December.

It is the reason we stand in long lines of impatient shoppers to possess gifts for our loved ones—a reenactment of the extraordinary lengths to which God went when He wrapped His precious Son in human flesh—the perfect gift.

Love and hope, and the promise of an eternity of peace and goodwill, is that not the quest that calls to your heart every day of the year?

Travel to see the King this Christmas, He is worthy of your most extravagant gifts.

Lost for Good

In believe, fear, focus, God, lessons, love, trust on September 26, 2009 at 11:46 am

They are quite a pair – deep red rubies nestled with shimmering diamond marquises in golden snowflakes.  The earrings were a special gift of love from my Mother, but soon became an object lesson of my Heavenly Father’s love.

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One morning, a few weeks after I received them, I woke to a nagging alarm clock and pushed myself through another morning routine.  Rattling off my mental list – lipstick, heels, lunch, jewelry – I grabbed the new earrings, tossed them into my suit jacket pocket and bolted down the 21 stairs from my apartment atop a restaurant in an old building.

I had managed to put one of the earrings in my left ear as I descended, but when I got out to the gravel parking lot, I reached in for the other and my finger slipped through a hole.

My racing heart smacked into a wall of fear. No way! I did not just lose that earring!  Where is it?! Is it in the gravel? I’ll never find it there!  Maybe on the staircase, I’ll go back…how stupid I am! Why did I put them in my pocket before checking for holes?! I have got to find that earring – I’ll break my Mother’s heart!

Hyperventilating, I ran to my car, stuffed my bags inside and quickly retraced my steps. Like a crazed madwoman I hunted for the missing jewels, scouring all 21 steps three times over. I went all the way back to the beginning of my day, mimicking my every move prior to the realization that my precious earring was gone.  Between screams at myself for being so foolish, I choked out, God! You can see it!  You can see everything! Please show me where it is! You know where it is God, please, please show me!

Every day for the next three months I begged and pleaded with God for its return. I even went so far as to suggest that He dispatch an angel for a swifter delivery!

The summer of ’94 cooled into a painful winter and my prayers became focused on a much bigger loss; another divorce. Crying myself to sleep one night I asked,  God, do You hear my prayers? Do you hear me? Do you care that my life is falling apart again?

His answer arrived unmistakably the next morning as I placed my bags in my car.  There on the freshly vacuumed carpet behind the driver’s seat was the missing earring.  I have never doubted his love and attention again.

I knew my earring had been lost for good.

Alone

In Christ, Easter, Jesus, love on September 26, 2009 at 7:48 am

Love saw Hate and was unafraid.

Sin was great and now is paid.

God sees you through Love’s pure eyes,

He waits until you realize.

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If the human eyes who watched the broken, bleeding body of Jesus Christ hang on a cross could have seen what was actually happening around them, they would have dropped dead.

They would have seen billions of angels hovering behind that instrument of torture, millimeters from their Master’s torn flesh, fiery swords drawn, holy rage pulsating through their veins, awaiting his command to save him. One single word from their precious King’s lips would have released their fury and nothing would be left, not the people, not the planet, not the devil.

But he held them back with outstretched arms.

Those human witnesses would have seen the old dragon, Lucifer himself, parading around, hissing out his victory song off key; its non-melody paralyzing their hearts more than any Roman could. They would have seen him stirring up his recruits, those wicked imps who chose to follow him when God cast him out of heaven so long ago.

They would have seen something that startled even the spiritual host – a twist in the plan.

You see, Jesus died ALONE.

God turned His face away from His Son.  And in that horribly excruciatingly solitary moment all heaven gasped. Satan sauntered up to the cross, felt his enemy’s wrist, found no pulse and danced away; and hell went with him.

The Father and the Son had never been separated. Not once. The angel’s shock was indescribable. The earth itself erupted, sending shock waves through that hill of death outside Jerusalem. The sun ran and hid behind dark clouds.

It was over. To the devil, that meant he won. To God, it meant the devil lost.

In Christ alone.

Everything

In garden, God, healing, help, love, power, relationships on September 20, 2009 at 2:23 pm

With God I neiStock_000004551858XSmalled nothing.

He is my…

Father, Physician, Husband, Attorney, Confidant,  Travel Agent, Accountant and Concierge.

He is my Counselor, Mother, Financial Adviser, Interpreter, Professor, Gardener and Surgeon.

He’s my Nutritionist, Manager, Driver, Landlord, Planner, Negotiator, Mechanic, and Army.

He’s my Real Estate Agent, Defender, Carpenter, Banker, Insurance Agent, Creditor and Healer.

He is my Pastor, my Proxy, my Brother, my Judge.

He is my Safety Officer, Designer, Architect and Friend.

He makes me laugh.

He’s my Exterior Designer, decorating my life with sky paintings that shame the masters.

He accessorizes my landscapes with colors and shapes that fill my senses with pleasure.

He unscrambles my brain.

He calms my craziness.

He corrects me.

He is my Search Party when I get lost, kidnapped or wander away.

He collects my tears in a bottle.

He loves me.

He blows me away.

Without God, I am bankrupt.

F Words

In believe, choices, faith, fear, help, Jesus, love, power on September 13, 2009 at 9:27 am

No other letter in the English Alphabet begin words that are so extremely polarizing than “F.”

To be sure, two of those words are embattled to the bitter end of life itself: Fear and Faith.

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More acutely for students is the dreaded grade: F. No other letter can mark a child so deeply.  To receive one means we FAILED.

Such a connection to ‘F’ can drive us down untold paths of perpetual failure, locking us into a prison cell with all sorts of nasty inmates: self deprecation, disconnection, stigma, depression, discouragement, disenfranchisement, etc.

Failure has such potential to kill a human soul that those who are wise to its power can weaken it with another ‘F’ word: Funny!  Truly, laughing at our failures is a God-given weapon to combat this deadly word.

(BTW: the ‘FAIL BLOG’ has the corner on this right now, so if this post is too depressing, go there, laugh your head off, then come back and read the rest of my post!)

This battle has armies on both sides:

Fear – Faith

Fault – Forgiven

Fierce – Funny

Famine – Food

Filth – Finery

Forsaken – Friend

By no means is that an exhaustive list, but you get the point, ‘F Words’ are at war. I won’t even list the most infamous F word since it probably popped in your head when you read my title. So dirty is that particular word, that common reference to it is the ‘F-Bomb.’ How ironic, given the devastation a bomb has in today’s society, both physically and metaphorically.

This war, as I mentioned above, has two captains: Fear and Faith. And, based on my studies of Holy Scripture and years of experience in both of these camps, I have concluded that the front lines of life are fought on the battlefield of the mind by these two foes. But by no means are they an end in themselves.  These captains war for two kings: Love and Hate.

The Bible teaches that Faith and Fear, to a human being, are the means by which we choose Love or Hate.  To live in fear is to vote for hate. To live by faith, is a choice for love.

Since these foes are not tangible on earth, like a gun or a kiss, they are often missed altogether. We search all our lives for answers to life’s questions and dilemmas, and yet, even when such a quest leads us straight to God’s Word our minds still can’t get our head around faith, how it ‘works’ (sorry about the puns, they just happen when I write).

The king of Hate works hard to disguise the simplicity of faith. By no means does he ever want you to get behind the power of faith.  If you do, you would be walking on oceans to feed nations with a loaf of bread. You’d be healing everything you touched and worse, casting him out everywhere you go!

No, wielding the sword of Faith is no easy task. Neither is Fear easy to flush out. So much of our lives are subject to its trickery we rarely view it as an enemy!

But I digress.

Why is Fear vs. Faith my topic today?

Early this morning my husband jostled me from a troubling dream. In it I was surrounded by demons. It was just me and one other person and I was screaming at the top of my lungs at them to ‘leave in the name of Jesus!’ but it wasn’t working. When I ‘came to’ I begged my husband to lay his hand on my mind and to pray God’s peace over me as I was filled with fear.

Only by knowing and understanding the power of faith was I able to know how to defeat the assault of fear in that nightmare.  The Truth set me free from its grip.

Do you want power over fear?

Know your enemy. Dig deep into a Bible as soon as possible. Find out who, what, when, where and why Fear is your enemy.  ‘be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.’ (1 Peter 5:8)

Know your weapon. As a soldier learns to use and respect his weapon before he goes to war, so must we learn how faith works and how to use it against our enemy. Knowledge will dismantle most of Fear’s power, but you must understand that nothing in you has power over fear.  No method, mantra or effort on your part – outside of a choice to walk by faith – will defeat fear.

Get serious. Make no mistake: if Jesus is your Savior, then Fear has power ‘over’ you and Faith has power ‘in’ you.  To allow both, and it is your choice, is sin.  ‘…for whatever is not from faith is sin.’ (Romans 14:23b) You can’t have it both ways.

Choose your F Word: Fear or Faith.

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How do you get more faith?  Read your Bible every day and get grounded in a church that teaches the Word of God without apology.  ‘…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.’ (Romans 10:17)

Little Ones to Him Belong

In Children, Christ, God, Jesus, kids, love, Moms on July 29, 2009 at 9:29 am

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Facebook is great for photos.  Scrolling through scores of baby and toddler pictures of my friend’s kids is so heartwarming, and now that I am a grandmother, it’s even more so.

Even though I now live only 15 minutes away from my grandson, I still find myself flipping through all the pictures I can find of him when I’m at home (and there are hundreds!).  You can’t blame me, have you seen his precious face?

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Sometimes when I look in his eyes I feel like I  can see the very face of God.  I see peace, love, grace, mercy and most of all – hope.  I see innocence in its purest form and I marvel.  How could any human being look into the eyes of a child and not see God?

I’m reading through the book of Matthew in my Bible this month and came to the part where Jesus pulled a child over to his side as a visual aid to teach his disciples on the value of human life.  He used story to illustrate how deep his Father’s love is for lost souls, it’s the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew 18:10 – 14.  I’ve read it many times, but what caught my attention this time was verse 10, which almost seems out of context.

“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”

I’ve been absorbing that verse for a week now and as it sinks into my spirit, I realize that I really do see God’s face when I look in the eyes of my grandbaby boy.  And, as sweet as it is to know that his personal angel whose job it is to guard his life looks directly into the face of his Creator, Jesus delivers a stern warning – be careful how you treat these precious ones!

Lord, help me to always watch the things I say, my body language and my actions toward Your little ones – not just babies or children, but those who belong to You no matter their age here on earth.