Tag Archives: faith

What’s in a name?

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Luke chapter 9: Jesus and Zacchaeus. Specifically, verse 5:

“When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. ‘Zacchaeus!’ he said, ‘Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.'”


We learn to understand our names as babies before we can even speak ourselves. Each of us has one, and it makes us unique. Have you ever spent time thinking of the importance of getting personal enough to call someone by name? I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot recently as I began my tenure as a substitute in our local middle school. There are a lot of kids (a sea of movement down the hallways with faces partially disguised by masks) but each one has a name and a unique blend of traits that makes them special.

The critical question for me becomes: How does each student know that I consider them valuable and special?

It starts when I call them by name – by the right name, pronounced correctly, and with a smile on my face. I’m masked up too, but I know in my heart that the kids can sense my smile. With about 200 students in the school, knowing each one’s name is not a simple goal. I’m lucky to have coached about a quarter of them, but that still leaves a large number of masked faces looking at me with expectation.

As if to put an exclamation point on the importance of this goal, the Holy Spirit inspired our Youth Pastor to ask me recently to read a book entitled, “It’s Personal”. The book, by Virginia Ward, Reggie Joiner, and Kristen Ivy covers how hope is intrinsically tied to getting personal with the kids that God brings into our lives. Getting personal starts with caring enough to call them by name.


How many people in your life have both a name and a story to tell?


How does it make you feel when someone you barely know calls you by name? How does it make you feel when someone you know fairly well mispronounces or forgets your name? While the book discusses the importance of getting personal with adolescents and teenagers, I would argue that our ability to intentionally take the time to notice and to care impacts the adults in our lives just as much as the kids. The best way to love authentically is to go deep. There is a vulnerability that comes from opening your heart to each person that God brings into your life, but there is also a deep sense of purpose that stems from choosing to take the risk.

The story of Jesus and Zacchaeus illustrates how Jesus felt about heart-felt relationships. Zacchaeus is one example of how Jesus modeled genuine friendship by taking the time to both notice and move in to understand the people around him. Zacchaeus was a loner, an unpopular tax collector struggling with greed and loneliness. When he heard that Jesus was to pass by, he climbed up in a tree to try and see the Messiah. Imagine how he felt when Jesus noticed him, called him by name, and invited him into fellowship?  When Jesus called him by name, I bet that he felt worth. When Jesus invited him into fellowship, I imagine that he felt hope. It’s so simple, but yet so awesomely beautiful.

What if each day there is someone that God intentionally places on your path?

Take the time to stop and look around.

There’s someone who needs you to see them.

It isn’t often convenient and it takes a unique blend of compassion, awareness and courage. Honestly, it’s hard. But it is so, so very important. I pray each day that I slow down to notice, accept, love and value the kids that God brings into my life. It starts by simply learning a name, but it leads to a promise of shared grace.

Who is your Zacchaeus today?

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Coaching through Covid-19…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Romans chapters 14 and 15: I really encourage reading both chapters in their entirety. I found clear discernment in them as I served and coached through the past six months. Here is the first part of chapter 15…

“We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.


Every moment of every day we all make a choice: Am I going to build people up or tear them down? Another way to think about this is to ask the question, “Do I exist simply to please myself or does God put breath in my lungs so that I can serve others as I share His love?

I’ve been a “part time” coach for the past 24 years. I was an athlete for more than a decade before that. Picture the high school kid who trained four hours a day and went to nationals instead of prom 🙂 That was me! Swimming and running were my refuge during my teenage years. Looking back, I can see how God placed the sports in my life to help me grow and refine the sense of integrity and discipline that He placed deep within my soul. Today, God continues to use athletics to shape my heart. I love the kids that He brings to me. I love them in a genuine way that teaches me about compassion, mercy, and sacrifice. My athletes are a critical part of my faith journey, and God just keeps bringing on the blessings with each season that passes.

In my mind, Jesus is the ultimate coach. He came to seek, to serve, and to save. No one was insignificant in his eyes. Everyone was worthy of love. During his time on earth, He never ran out of patience and always took the time to pour into the people in his life. His unselfish consideration of others provides a lofty goal that drives me to try to love better and ultimately to coach better. There is not a day that passes that I don’t ask myself, “am I being considerate in order to build others up?” In all honesty, the answer to that question sometimes slaps me in the face as I realize that I have stumbled. But, when I think about what has helped me the most as I coached through covid, it is being intentional about making the choice to build others up.

I remember our preacher saying years ago, “What comes out of you during stressful times shows what exists in your heart.”

I pray each day that what comes out of me is love.


Together we are stronger!

I have a list of ideas that God placed on my heart while coaching in 2020. Today, I share them in the hopes that they will inspire and help you as you serve.

  • Certainty is scarce, and fear is abundant. I must be steadfast and rooted in Jesus’ love so that my athletes can find strength and confidence in our relationship.
  • When hope and love come alive, fear falls apart. Community and team provide a support structure that breeds positive energy. As the athletes look around them in the huddle, they have hope and they sense love. They know that they matter and that they belong.
  • Living is important. That means showing up, giving your all, and leading with your heart. Every practice counts. Every race or game is a blessing. Choose to live, be a contributor!
  • Patience and perseverance go hand in hand. Am I tough enough to love first? Am I gentle enough to inspire consideration within the team? Am I humble and strong enough to sacrifice repeatedly for my brothers and sisters?
  • Knowledge makes us feel important, but it is love that builds strength (1Corinthians 8:1). In 2020, more than any time in my coaching career, love mattered. God brought me athletes in a myriad of different emotional states, but they all needed love. There was a deep need in the kids to realize that receiving and sharing love drives hope.
  • Courage is contagious. And, it starts with heart-felt leadership. Working hard together means more because it builds a culture of sacrifice and consideration of others.

When we choose to love, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to build each other up. This is the basis of TEAM (together everyone achieves more). My daily prayer is that our kids will continue to have the ability to engage in church, school, sports, and a variety of team activities that teach them the importance of Jesus’ call to love in community 🙂

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The difference between a good day and a bad day…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Philippians 4: 12-13

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”


I always seem to have a “one liner” that I try to intentionally live by and share with others. Over time, the words shift and change but I hold onto the old ones even as I transition into the new ones. The girls laugh that I don’t need to keep a written list as they are all tucked safely in between our ears 😊 My mantra for the fall season this year is, “the difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude”. My runners may not remember everything that I share with them, but they’ve got this one down. If I start the statement, they all chorus in to finish it for me. I believe it to be incredibly important. As we live in a world full of uncertainty, the one thing that we can control daily is our attitude.

There are a number of people who have come before me who get credit for the creation of this statement, and as I read through Paul’s epistles I see the message over and over again. We can control our attitude, how we approach each day, by making a choice to trust in the love of Jesus and being grateful for the joy that comes from that love. We live in a world of scarcity, but we worship a God of abundance. Love, hope, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, patience, perseverance, faithfulness, gentleness and self control – God makes those available to us daily, we simply need to choose to accept them. When my heart is soft and I pack my faith well, then I am filled with these gifts of the Spirit and able to see, experience, and share all of the rainbows that God places on my daily path.


Paul wrote the above words from Philippians while he was living in a jail cell. He couldn’t control his physical freedom, but he could control his attitude. He demonstrated how to be “full of joy in the Lord” regardless of circumstance. His secret weapon was Jesus’ love. On a day when he could not celebrate physical freedom, he could celebrate spiritual freedom and the ability to walk in love — not just any love, but Christ’s love. This love allowed him to speak of thankfulness, to find joy, and to focus on the rainbow instead of the storm. Paul could have been bitter, but he chose to walk in the joyous freedom of love.

It’s seems crazy, and yet it makes perfect sense. We can live in the world but not be of the world. We do this as we remember that God is the audience that matters and that His love is unconditional and omnipotent. We can choose the freedom to be found there, in an identity rooted in forgiveness and grace. When I draw strength from the big picture of God’s love, then I can find joys to celebrate and meaningful purpose amidst the hard things. My cup doesn’t run empty because I turn to Jesus to fill it. As my faith grows, I realize that it isn’t just full, it is running over. As it runs over, it blesses others and the cycle of love prevails. Even in the midst of hard times, that makes for a good day 🙂

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The Three P’s…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to Philippians 3: 12-14


“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”


We are deeply in the midst of the Cross Country season. Like many coaches, I am searching for inspiring words to keep my athletes working hard and moving forward. This is a difficult time: bodies are tired, legs hurt, brains struggle to focus, and the temptation to settle is very real. We get trapped by thinking about how hard practice was yesterday instead of concentrating on the gift of being able to practice today. It is a time when success is found as we look outside of ourselves to be inspired by those around us. It is a series of moments when we can choose to press on in love.

In my almost 46 years, love is the only thing I’ve found that inspires me to sacrifice and to move into hard places. For me, love inspires the three P’s. When my heart chooses to love, I am driven with passion, perseverance, and patience. Those that know me well understand that passion to put in the work and to persevere are things that come naturally to me. I am a work horse with a belly full of oats who always sees and moves toward the home barn on the horizon. I’m one of those goofy people that lives to sweat and to push the envelop of the impossible. The one of the three P’s that causes me to struggle is patience. When the Holy Spirit blessed me with gifts, patience fell somewhere at the bottom of the list 😉

Being a mom and working as a coach has taught me to develop patience. I love the kids and that inspires me to work to become a better version of myself. Patience is still #3 on the list, but God is using love for those around me to inspire me to do it better. My leg has played an important role in that process. Those of you that have read FYF faithfully over the years, realize that I am almost two years into a struggle to gain full use of my right leg. A crazy ice-induced accident left the bottom of my leg shattered. Three surgeries and 19 months later, the three P’s – fueled by love – are bringing me traction.


I started trying to run again last spring about 15 months after the accident. My leg did not handle it well and I prayed for trust, for hope, for discernment. I stopped running and continued to rehab in the pool because I knew that I needed to put in patient work. I knew that I needed to press on in trust. I knew that Jesus struggled with me, and cried those same tears of frustration each time the pain left me limping.

I made a goal of running with the Junior High Cross Country team this fall because I knew that God had strategically planted me as an XC coach. I knew that the kids were going to need me as they embarked on their running journey. There is just something really special about a coach who sweats, hurts, and works with the team. It doesn’t just build good athletes, it creates good humans 🙂 That’s the coach that I believe God made me to be, so I believed that He would answer my prayer.

And He did.

We are thirty days into the season and I’m running. From 800 repeats to longer aerobic runs, God carries me daily. It’s not without work, sacrifice, and pain. But, it’s there. And, it fills my heart because I know that it is fueled by a God who shows up for me and for the kids that he brings into my life. He loves in a way that leaves me inspired – with passion, perseverance and patience.

Together, I pray that God will help all of us to more fully understand the beauty of running the race all of the way to the finish line!

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Today Matters…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Psalms 118:24 and 29

“This is the day the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

and

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.”


Monday we celebrated my favorite farmer’s birthday. That, along with several other things that God has recently put on my heart, reminded me of the need to realize that today matters. I have a bad habit of trying to “be ahead of the game” – of thinking and doing all of the things today that do not need to be thought about or done until tomorrow. I have a related but additional tendency of wanting to “fix” things. I habitually struggle to trust and have patience. This combines with my farming philosophy of never wanting to let my animals or those whom I care about down to create a desire to get ahead of where I am meant to be. In short, I am so focused on tomorrow that I miss out on today.

This is something that I have been very intentional in thinking about over the past several months. I’ve begun noticing the repetition in God’s Word that asks me to trust and be patient. I have heard the whisperings of the Holy Spirit reminding me that our God is a God of the present and that He loves me and is with me. Jesus reiterates over and over again to be patient, to not worry about tomorrow. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously and He will give you everything that you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Jesus’ words written in Matthew 6: 33-34) Sometimes, I just need to sit and let those words sink into my heart.

Henri Nouwen in his book Following Jesus defines patience as “remaining close to the moment to fully taste where you are so that the seeds that are sown in the moment can grow and lead you to the future.” Have you ever considered ripping a growing seed out of the ground in order to make sure that its roots are okay? That seems like a silly question, but when I examine my heart I see times when I do that very thing. Impatience gets the best of me, and instead of nurturing the soil and allowing the plant to grow, my worry over the future causes me to inappropriately interfere. I forget to trust in the promise of the Holy Spirit. I forget “God’s part, my part, others part” and figure that it’s just better to do it all myself. Nouwen asks an important question,

“What if the future is hidden in the present as a seed in fertile ground?”


The book of Psalms reminds us, “This is the day the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” It also reminds us that our God is a faithful God whose love endures forever. There is freedom to be found in rejoicing for today, in living for today, and in knowing that you are right where your loving God means for you to be. I am coming to realize that one of the biggest differences between earthly life and spiritual life is that when I trust that I am where God means for me to be, I don’t have to be anywhere else. I can be still, I can pray, I can be aware (in the moment) of God’s call to love those that He places right in front of me. Most importantly, I can trust that the same thing will happen tomorrow – and the next day – and the next day, until the day that God calls me home to heaven. There’s a lot to be grateful for in the midst of that promise.

It allows me to truly understand that “today matters”. Then, my life becomes less of a list of worries and boxes to check off and more of an opportunity to be present and share love with the gentle strength and confidence that comes from walking with Jesus.

 

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accepting Comfort…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Matthew 11: 28-30

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.'”


Not a day passes when I do not need comfort. Whether small hurts build up to weigh down my heart, or a single large burden dominates my mind, I rarely go through a day when finding and accepting comfort is not important. In those moments of pain, my brain tempts me to look for logical answers despite the fact that my heart is very clearly needing the comfort of peace. The outcome of my daily experiences tends to be tied to which of two possible questions I choose to ask God: Do I ask “why” something is happening and get stuck at the very beginning, or do I accept the challenge and instead choose to ask “how” we can get through it together?

Jesus tells us repeatedly in the Gospels, “Take up your daily cross and follow me.” Often I find myself puzzled by that message, and trying to meld it together with the above passage from Matthew. What cross is my cross? And, what does it truly mean to take it up and follow him? Is the cross the yoke Jesus reverences in the above scripture? I found clarity on this as I read Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book, Following Jesus. Nouwen points out that Jesus says to “Take up your cross” – he doesn’t say, create a cross or to take up someone else’s. He suggests that our cross is our own pain, our own hurts, and that taking up our cross means that we have the courage to see that pain.

Perhaps as we answer Jesus’s call to pick up our pain, then we are able to yoke it to the healing presence of the cross. There we can accept the comfort and peace of a God that loves first and can sooth our hearts. 


As I think back on my life, I remember all of the times that I said – “I’m tough. I can do this. I don’t need any help. I can suffer through it.” Do you ever tell yourself that? I’m figuring out that when I do this, I hide my burden and honestly try to hide from it. That makes it become heavier and heavier because it surrounds me at the same time that I deny that it exists. Perhaps being tough isn’t the point…God doesn’t want us to just suffer through it. He wants us to pick up our cross so that He can compassionately comfort us as we travel the journey together. When I acknowledge my pain and share it, then I am able to shift my focus. The pain is still there, but it moves to the background because I am surrounded by comforting love that breaks through the fear.

“Perfect love casts out all fear” – my good days are the ones that I lean into that 🙂 Our God is a God of unconditional love, not of fear. At the cross, he accepts our fear and our hurts, and exchanges them for love. That’s where we find rest in Jesus’ yoke, and it is where we come to accept the comfort that lightens our burdens. The pain doesn’t go away, the challenge remains, but we ask “how” instead of asking “why”. As we lift our eyes and ask “how”, we accept our cross and lean into our humble and gentle God who leads us in love.

This week I am leaning in. I am in the process of moving my older two girls into college – one in Indiana and the other in North Carolina. I’m traveling cross-country and leaving pieces of my heart behind with each of the girls. It’s hard. It hurts. But, I know that they are where God called them to be and I am accepting comfort from the abundant love that awaits me as I pick up those hurts and bring them to the cross.

 

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A God of abundance…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 1: 16-18:

“From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.”


Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time praying and thinking about what it means to be loved by a God of abundance. Pondering this fuels me as our family navigates through the ever-changing world of 2020. Last spring I started asking God to help me to know Him better so that I could truly trust and believe that I am beloved by Him. Some deep part of my heart knew that I needed to better understand this and to cling to it as an anchor of faith. I asked, I prayed, and God moved. Over the past four months, God systematically supplied me with tools of discernment and moments of personal growth so that my heart could deepen in love. It’s allowed me to find peace regardless of circumstance.

I think it is interesting how God works – using a variety of people and bringing different facets of our lives together as a way to answer our prayers. He put a series of callings on my heart, and as I followed them I found the answers. From our girls Bible study on the book of Philippians, to our swim team family’s shared devotional lessons on the “fruits of the Spirit”, to the recommendation of two of Henri Nouwen’s books to read, to surrounding me with the love of family with all three of my girls home, to bringing Joseph back into our lives — God has clearly been moving in my heart and helping to answer my prayers to better understand His abundance.

People write books on how to follow Jesus in order to find peace. I suppose that maybe I could write one too 🙂 But today, what is on my heart finds its power in its simplicity. We may live in a world of scarcity, but our God is a God of abundance. His love never runs out, and it covers all of His children. We don’t have to worry that God does not have a place for us, Jesus took care of that. John 14: 1-2 recounts Jesus’ words, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?”


Regardless of what the earthly world tells you, it is not a competition. There is enough for everyone. God’s love never gives up, it never runs out, and it has the capacity to fill our hearts if only we would allow it. When love comes alive, fear falls apart. When we follow out of love, then our focus is that love and it outshines everything else. We may have times when we feel pain, but it is not our focus. Instead, divine love brings a wave of peace and a gentle strength that moves past worldly troubles to bring the hope of tomorrow. That love is available now – today – this minute. It is eternal, but it begins on this earth the moment that we say “yes” and move into the comforting embrace of the Father. The more that we nestle into that embrace, the more Jesus fills our hearts with His sustaining love, and the Holy Spirit brings peace amidst the storm.

Megan comes out of quarantine tonight. We’ve had a time of joy, of togetherness, and of faith during this journey. It’s reminded our family to be grateful for what we have instead of worrying about what we don’t have. God blessed us by keeping her safe and free of sickness. He also blessed us with moments and memories that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. Perhaps the list of what she “missed” is long, but there is a longer list of things that our family gained – medals that were placed on our hearts as we deepened in love and faith with each other and with our God of abundance.


For those of you who enjoy reading, The Return of the Prodigal Son and Following Jesus by Henri J.M. Nouwen are wonderfully insightful books that have blessed me this summer. Ashley Grace has studied Henri Nouwen in her theology classes at Notre Dame, and our discipleship pastor encouraged me to read them as well.

A big “thank you” to all of you who are keeping our family in your prayers – you bless us with your loving hearts 😊

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A Change of Plans…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Galatians 6: 9-10

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone – especially those in the family of faith.”


Our family had a change of plans this week. Saturday morning, we set out for Colorado to visit family. We hadn’t gotten very far down the road when Megan got a text from one of her pole vault coaches letting her know that someone whom she pole vaulted with had tested positive for COVID-19. The privilege of vaulting during the month of July has truly blessed Meg. Due to the cancellation of the track season, it had been almost a year since she had the chance to vault. We live in “small town” America where sports generally still have seasons, and many athletes participate in 3-4 different sports per year. For Meg, spring was for track – and this year, track essentially didn’t happen. It’s a little bit unnerving to set off to compete in college in an event that you haven’t been able to practice for a year, so being able to vault this summer was a beautiful gift 🙂

A series of phone calls after Meg received the text led us to the decision to abort the family vacation and return home. We were gone a grand total of 4 and 1/2 hours, and waved at the Colorado border as we turned back around to come home to Cozad. By later in the afternoon, Megan had received a request by the local health department to quarantine in an attempt to limit possible spread in our county. While Meg did not show any signs of disease, she had come in contact with someone who expressed symptoms and tested positive.

Quarantining on the farm really isn’t much of a big deal. We’ve got lots of space and enough chores to keep a person busy. The big “gut check” came from the realization that Meg would still be in quarantine during her high school graduation set for August 1st. After multiple conversations with our local medical staff, we were told that testing a young, healthy, symptom-free 18 year old held little validity so she did not have the option of “testing out of quarantine”.

Graduation will go on without Meg on Saturday and her valedictorian speech delivered via video. It’s a goofy way to finish a goofy year, but we feel that this is the appropriate decision. Not just because it follows what the medical community is asking us to do, but because God has placed peace on our hearts that it is the right thing to do.


During swim team this summer, we talked quite a bit about God’s call to be “humble”. I believe that humility is not thinking less of yourself but rather thinking MORE OF OTHERS. It is looking outside of yourself to notice and act on the needs of others. Quite simply, it is the act of serving – of having a more “Jesus perspective” – of working to create goodness by blessing others. Humility is a gift of the Spirit with which Megan is fully blessed. I believe that it is something that God specifically gave to her, and that He continues to shape within her. Megan naturally thinks of others and places their needs ahead of her own. As promised in the Bible, Jesus continues to place his peace and strength in her heart to fuel her on that journey.

I think that this is one of those times when God is using Megan to make a difference. We may never know what the difference is, and that is okay. It may be keeping someone else safe and healthy, it may be protecting Meg as she prepares to head off to college, or it may simply be that Jesus’ light will shine brighter as she gets to practice the art of being humble one last time as a Senior at Cozad High School. No matter what it is, I know that Megan is blessed. Our family is blessed. And, we are grateful to get to serve such an awesome God. Our hearts are filled with the hope that comes from the knowledge that we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up!

We would like to ask for your prayers over the next few weeks. Prayers for continued peace and good health as we travel this journey. Thank you all for loving us and being a part of our faith family 🙂

May God’s grace and peace fill your hearts!

 

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