Tag Archives: God

How do “doors” and “cups of water” merge?

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Matthew 10:42

“And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”


My family participates in a small group bible study once a week with some wonderful people from our church. Right now we are studying the Gospel of Matthew. This week we read Chapter 10. Tuesday late afternoon found me taking my first big trip since breaking my leg in January. Part of my job for the Beef Marketing Group is to service cattle feed yards, and I had a visit that was overdue. It was far enough away from home that I decided to stay overnight in a hotel.

I broke my leg on January 5th, and never would have dreamed that I would still be basically non-weight bearing and on crutches the 13th of March. But, with some nerve damage in my foot and a stubborn ankle, that is my reality. I packed carefully for the trip with two backpacks (one with my computer and the things that I would need for the feed yard visit, and the other with an extra change of clothes for the overnight stay).

Before I experienced life on crutches, I never realized how difficult it was to open doors and then pass through them. Most doors these days (at least those in Nebraska) have to be pulled open and physically held because they are designed to immediately close. The majority do not have that awesome handicap button to push to operate the door automatically. When you have two working arms and legs, it likely never enters your radar screen that this creates a challenge for some people. I’ve learned to balance myself on my one working leg and the crutches and pull on the door, but holding it open while I try to move in a forward motion is hard. Usually it results in the door banging into some part of my upper body. I’ve yet to truly master the process.

Please pardon the “selfie” – I don’t take them well 😉

Rural Nebraska hotels do not have “bell hops”, so when I arrived at the hotel I parked in the closest available place and put one back pack on my back and the other on my front. I pretty much made an “Anne sandwich”, and crutched my way toward the door. When I got there, I realized with a bit of a sinking heart that there was not only 1 outside door but a set of 2 outside doors (one followed by another) to help reduce energy use with the difficult Nebraska weather.

While I was getting together a game plan, I noticed the one lady sitting in the lobby. She was just on the other side of the second door, and scrolling through her smart phone. I made eye contact with her hoping that she would see my difficulty and come to my aid. After glancing at me briefly, she went back to scrolling on her phone. I faced the reality of the doors and began the tedious process of getting myself through one and then the other. I’d never tried it with two backpacks on before, but God was with me and I worked my way through.

As I awkwardly cleared the second door, the lady looked up – a little bit sheepishly – and said, “Oh, I guess I should have helped you.” I just smiled and told her that it was okay, and made my way to the front desk to sign for my room.


So, by now you may be asking yourself:

What does Anne’s “door story” have to do with a cup of cold water?

I think that the above statement from the Gospel of Matthew is designed to remind us that we are a community, a family. And, as such, we are called to offer a cold cup of water when someone is thirsty and in need of help. Sometimes it is a physical need, and sometimes it is an emotional or spiritual need. In any instance, Jesus asks us to take the time to notice the need and then to reach out in love to help.

I’ve learned many things over the past 9 and a half weeks, but I can promise that I will never look at a manual door the same way again. Additionally, I hope that I am learning to be more sensitive to others, to pay better attention to the needs that exist around me, and to reach out in agape love to help fill them. Sometimes it’s simply opening a door for someone who is physically struggling, but other times it might be offering comfort to someone who has pain in their heart.

There is a saying that everyone has a story of need. Perhaps if we all tried a little bit harder to help others, the world would be a more loving place. I am confident that many would have rushed to help me with the doors, but the truth is that not everyone does. What if one of the ways that Jesus heals others is through us? If that is the case, what happens when we ignore His call?

I’m going to try harder to be one who responds instead of one who doesn’t.

 

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God’s part, My part, Other’s part…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 8:12

“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”


One of my greatest personal challenges is “refilling my cup”. God has filled me with a lot of passionate energy, and working to make a difference sits close to the top of Anne’s priority list. The cup stays nice and full when I can see the positive impact of my efforts, but it steadily empties when I do not get to experience a tangible part of God’s evolution.

There are lots of places in the New Testament where the Bible talks about the “water of life” and the role of the Holy Spirit in the daily renewal of our faith. There are also lots of places in the New Testament where Jesus talks about following him in order to live in the light. I get that. Where I stumble is the additional internalization of the core teaching that there are three parts to a life filled with faith:

  1. God’s part
  2. My part
  3. Other’s part

I get too hung up on the outcome and feel personally responsible for it.  As a result, I feel an acute sense of failure when others do not chose to respond in the way that I would like when I offer help and support.

A friend of mine sent me this comic a couple of weeks ago. It inspired me to pause and think a bit. While I’m not sure that walking away is always the correct answer, having enough faith in God to recognize that I am only called to do my part helps me to not lose hope.


I suspect that I am not the only one to struggle with this. It’s a hard lesson to realize that we cannot be responsible for other people’s hearts and actions. I struggle with this daily. I want to fix, but really all that I can do is love. Each person is responsible for their own decisions and actions. And, God is truly the only one that can heal the broken. While he can use us as vessels to guide and share his love, we have no control over another person’s response when we share.

I’ve been coaching and working with kids for almost 20 years now. I remember the first time that I truly realized that I couldn’t do it for them. I was 24 years old and the assistant high school Cross Country coach. We had a good group of boys on the team that year. While none of them would have told you that Cross Country was their primary sport, they had a lot of potential. I learned something at the district meet that fall. I learned that my passion couldn’t carry them in their race. I could teach them the proper technique and help them to gain the needed fitness to find success. I could do my best to inspire their devotion. But, when it came to the race, I couldn’t do it for them. Finding success required a choice on their part which was out of my control.

Our faith journeys aren’t really any different than that race.

Faith is an individual decision that each person makes – every single day. No one else can make it for them. It’s the difference between living in the light and living in the darkness. I can control how I respond to others, but I cannot control how they respond to me.

  • God’s job is to love and guide.
  • My job is to reflect that love and guidance.
  • How other people chose to respond to that is their part.

I’ll let you all know when I’ve truly mastered that process, as there is a difference in knowing it and truly believing it. That difference influences the quality of the light that Jesus talks about in the above passage from John. My heart clearly tells me when I lack the trust required to let go, as then I loose sight of the light and the cup seems to systematically empty.

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Leave the Light On…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Matthew 5: 14-16

“You are the light of the world — like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”


Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had about 24 hours of “windshield time”. I do not usually travel that often but my trip to OSU was followed immediately with another work trip to Kansas. The good part of driving time (especially in rural America where the traffic is light) is long periods of relative quiet. I am an avid Christian music listener so I fill that time with spiritual reflection.

Matthew West has a song out entitled Do Something that strikes a cord deep inside of me. It came on the radio on my way to Stillwater, and I thought about it often during my journeys. If you have never listened to it, I highly recommend spending a few moments of reflection letting the lyrics sink into your soul. The first stanza goes something like this:

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now, thought
How’d we ever get so far down, and
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

How many times have you watched the news, read articles on the internet, or listened to the radio and thought, “Our country – our world – is just such a mess”? Are those thoughts followed by feelings of anger or hopelessness?

Do you shake your head and go about your daily life or do you “do something”?


I believe in the trilogy:

  • God the Father
  • God the Son
  • God the Holy Spirit

As I accept God the Father’s gift of Jesus in my heart, the Holy Spirit guides my journey and lights my path. Quite simply, it’s the way that God is able to leave the light on  — through each and every one of us. As we reflect His love, it creates a light for the world.

My favorite farmer and I have had hundreds of intellectual discussions over the years about the increase in violence and judgement (finger pointing) that currently exists in our country. We’ve debated politics, government regulations, morality, parenting techniques and a huge variety of topics trying to find a reasonable solution to take our country out of it’s current state of darkness and into a place filled with the light of love.

Each time, I found myself coming back to God.

For a while, I was like the song — shaking my fist at heaven and asking, “God why don’t you do something?

But then I met Joseph.

And God used him to answer my question. He said, “I did, I created you. Go and share my love.”

I learned that the recipe for healing is love. It is a universal display of loving actions that help to heal — one child, one person at a time. When we all take up that mission, the acts of daily love become countless and God’s light (expressed by each of us) overshadows the darkness. Only then can love trump violence and hatred to create a new culture of freedom.

God lights our path through Jesus’s gift of guidance through the Holy Spirit. But, we cannot reflect that light if we don’t move our feet down the path. Each and every one of us is God’s answer. Together we heal our world – one reflection of love at a time. It isn’t complicated, but sometimes it is hard.

Faith carries us forward.

I pray that together we will enable God’s grace to leave the light on.

 

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Reach for it…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week’s post comes from the Gospel of John 4: 14

But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.


Shortly after my seventeenth birthday, I traveled to Buffalo, NY to compete in the 18 and Under USA Swimming National Championships. I think that I made the finals — honestly I don’t recall — but I clearly remember that my swim missed the qualifying time for Senior Nationals by 0.04sec. Four hundredths of a second doesn’t seem like very much, but that swim helped to define the way that I look at life.

My swimming career went on for four more years, but the majority of my success came during that year and the following year as I closed out my high school swimming journey. Throughout that time, I learned to believe in myself and reach for it. 

During my adult life, I have learned to use those athletic experiences and apply them to my faith journey. To me, active faith — one that is alive and strengthening — begins with:

  • Reaching for it
  • Grabbing it
  • Owning it

Photo credits to Corbey Dorsey 🙂

While I learned to reach for it as an athlete in the swimming pool and on the cross country course, I learned to grab it and own it after I became a mom, a coach, and a heart-felt Christian.


The words living water appear often in the Bible. It’s a term that I gave little thought to until a couple of years ago. To me, living water is:

  • The peace that passes beyond understanding.
  • The love that inspires you to give.
  • The faith that, although you can never see it, fills your life and drives an intentional God-filled journey.

The living water comes from letting Jesus into your heart and accepting the Holy Spirit as your guide.

Sometimes I fall short – not just in the swimming pool, but in life. I make mistakes and temporarily lose sight of God’s guidance. But, the living water of the Holy Spirit centers me and brings me back after I stray. Although I don’t always get it right, I am inspired to persevere and continue the journey.

God uses broken people. His mission involves inspiring broken people to come together to make something of beauty. That is why Joseph is now a part of our family. Together we all find God’s peace and learn to heal through faith. It isn’t always a happy journey, but it is a meaningful one that brings a peaceful purpose to our days. I have found that the more that I answer God’s calls, the more that I need the inspiration, confidence and direction of the Holy Spirit.

The living water of the Holy Spirit is a very different water than what I used to compete in during my swimming career! But, it builds on my athletic experiences and inspires me daily to pack my faith to live with grace. It offers the promise of eternal life in heaven with the bonus of an incredible journey on the earth.

I don’t just reach for it.

I grab it.

I own it.

And I give it to God.

 

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The Power of One…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week’s Wednesday Wisdom comes from Hebrews 10:23-24.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.


I think that this picture personifies the above scripture verse from Hebrews. Three very special people in my life who encourage each other to hold strongly to their faith — trusting God while also motivating each other to acts of love. They don’t always get it exactly right but watching them persevere inspires me.

Being a mother to them both humbles and honors me.

My heart wishes that my favorite brunette could have been in the above picture, but her presence is there — reflected in the love of her siblings — as we travel the journey together as a family.

We are closing in on six months of Joseph joining our family. It has been a time of great joy and also one of great challenge. Both hills and valleys have marked the adventure, but we are discovering the power of one. Interestingly, this is the motto of the Haymaker 2018 Football Team. Just as the team discovers how powerful one unified team is on the field, our family also discovers it off of the field.

It is very different to welcome a 17 year old as a son. Joseph was virtually a stranger to my family when I brought him home. We shared almost no common experiences, had made no “childhood memories” together, and brought very different life experiences to our perspectives.

  • He spent his formative years in a war-ridden country on another continent, fleeing by traveling on foot more than a thousand miles in search of safety.
  • My girls spent their formative years in a small rural town in peaceful Nebraska where “scary” meant watching Curious George be captured by the man with the yellow hat.
  • English is his 4th language and the culture of his home people holds very little in common with the traditions that we practice in the United States. Despite that, he speaks with fluency and is currently completing Honors English and American Government in the classroom.
  • My girls (and Matt and I) struggle to even pronounce his last name correctly — being unable to make our tongues create the gutteral sounds of the Zophei dialect of Chin. I encourage him to lead our nightly dinner prayer in his native language and regret that I am not savvy enough to truly understand his words.

We share a common christian faith, but our customs are as different as our skin color.

Why are we together as one? God called us to be a family.


Just as God is a relational God — always seeking a closeness to us in our daily lives — we are meant to exist in community. We are all made in His image, yet we are all unique. It takes patience and empathy to truly celebrate that diversity. He calls us to be a family — reflecting His love with our actions and searching for that same love in others.

I’ve learned many things since Joseph joined our family, but likely the most important lesson is that love trumps all.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

1Corinthians 13:7

It allows us to experience “The Power of One” as we come together to create a community that radiates God’s love. It is possible for people of different cultures – different visions – different perspectives to come together and join as a family.

Perhaps it is God’s principal calling for us. I know that it has been a transformational experience for our family as we trust in God’s promise and motivate each other to acts of love in the spirit of togetherness.

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Resilience

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration today comes from the five daily devotionals that I shared last week with the athletes of the Cozad Swim Team.

Mark 6: 31 “Let’s go off by ourselves and rest awhile.”

John 4: 14 “Those that drink the water that I (Jesus) give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh bubbling spring within them, giving eternal life.”

Romans 1:12 “When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.”

Romans 5: 3 “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us to develop endurance.”

Romans 8: 31 “If God is for us, who could ever be against us?”


Resilience provided the team’s weekly character lesson. Our focus quote was: “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.” We asked some hard questions, but we also found strength in each other as we shared times of faith.

  • How do we keep going when things get hard?
  • How do we support others on the journey?
  • How do we let God be the coach of our team in order to bring honor to our efforts in the swimming pool?

Monday, Jesus reminded us in Mark 6:31 that it’s okay to take time to rest and recharge. Resilience requires both strength and patience. Prayer and reflection allow us to fill our hearts with God’s love and find strength and confidence in our faith relationship. Patience enables us to learn from our mistakes, but not let them define us. There is freedom to be found in giving it to God and focusing on the promise of the future.

Tuesday we learned of the living water that Jesus speaks of in John 4:14. It provides the foundation of our faith and stems from the eternal fountain of God’s love. It is the inspiration that leads to greatness. It is the motivation to face challenges with gratitude rather than with grievance. When our athletic actions are the result of God’s living water, then we bring honor to Him with our efforts.

Wednesday Paul reminded us in Romans 1: 12 that we are a family. We are brought together to create a cycle of encouragement. A quiet smile and word of kind support has the power to change our daily perspective: regardless of whether we are the one to give or to receive. God inspires us to have each others’ back and fills our hearts with His love to be shared. When we share love rather than judgement, then we strengthen the family (team). Building a cycle of encouragement amongst teammates allows everyone to share of themselves in a meaningful way.

Thursday we focused on creating a culture of positivity which allows us to rejoice in the face of trials (Romans 5:3).  We know that challenges make us stronger — build our endurance — and help us to learn how to persevere with grace. The challenge that an athlete faces in a difficult practice or competition helps him/her to prepare for life’s challenges. When we come together as a team to meet our challenges with positivity then we build the habit of living with grace.

Friday Paul (Romans 8:31) helped us to finish the week with the reminder that when we pack our faith to live with grace, that failure is not an option. God seeks us, supports us, and loves us through every experience. We persevere with resilience as we allow God to lead us and our team. We are defined by what is in our hearts — resilience comes from a heart filled with love and passion!


Here, I share week 6’s swim team journey in the hope that it brings meaning and inspiration to each of you. I have shared in the lives of many, many athletes over the past twenty years. However, this swim season will forever provide a turning point in my philosophy as a coach. I took a leap of faith as I made the decision this year to intentionally share my relationship with God. As our team begins each daily practice with a character lesson, a supporting bible verse, sharing time and a prayer,  I have learned that while loving God is so important, it is the act of sharing God that allows us to be the change that we wish to see in the world.

There is nothing more beautiful than seeing God’s hope spring eternal in the eyes of our children. What began as an effort to share my faith has evolved into a mutual sharing of faith as the athletes realize that we become #StrongerTogether as we reach for God. What an awesome lesson in resilience 🙂

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Greener Pastures…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from Psalm 23: 1-3

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.”


It is impossible to live in Central Nebraska in late spring without thinking of green pastures. Either we are blessed with an abundance of rain that brings strong and healthy grass to our native plains, or else we pray for the moisture that we need to turn our brown pastures into a verdant green. In either instance, the thought of green pastures dominates a rancher’s mind.

Nebraska is home to 24 million acres of rangeland and pastures (more than 1/2 of the state) where cattle turn grass into a human edible protein source (beef) and other needed products. Cattle are the great “up-cyclers” as they up-cycle grass into human nourishment. Leading cattle to greener pastures is relatively easy, especially after a little bit of classical conditioning where they learn that when we move them that they get to go to a place with better food!


The New Testament is filled with instances where Jesus is described as the good shepherd, but we also find references to our Father God as a shepherd in the Old Testament. The above verse in Psalms reminds me of two very important components of faith.

  1. God’s love never waivers and his care for us is unconditional
  2. Because of his gift of free will, we must submit and lean on Him in order to understand the vast breath of his love and guidance

There is a necessary leap of faith for us to fully abide in God — we must actively accept Jesus’ gift and love in our hearts as well as embracing the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our minds. Questions often outnumber answers but, when we listen with care and intention, God always gives us enough guidance that we can follow his desired life path. It is there that we find the greenest pastures as our hearts fill with peace, strength and purpose.

I think that I never really understood the importance of a “good shepherd” until I became an animal caregiver in the late 1990’s. I’d read about it, but the full magnitude of what it meant did not become clear in my mind until I learned to be a cattle caregiver. My animals depend on me for their basic needs — they look to me for leadership — and they submit to my guidance in order to thrive.

How do they know that I will lead them to greener pastures? Because I consistently provide for their needs.

As humans, we ask a lot more questions than cattle do. We’re a lot smarter and it takes more than physical satisfaction for us to live a meaningful life. It is important for us to ask God questions, but it is equally important for us to trust that he will lead us to an honorable life. We don’t need to have all of the answers — that is why we have faith. We can look to many things to provide meaning in our lives, but there is only one source of living water that fills our hearts with joy and brings honor and purpose to our existence.

Faith is a verb. It requires patience as well as perseverance. It comes from a beautiful blend of submission and guidance, and comes wrapped up in a package of love. God is a good shepherd — and we bring honor to Him as we choose to live our lives embracing his purpose.

 

 

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Accepting the Call Through Active Faith…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from the book of Psalms 40: 1-3

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.”


As the mother of teenagers, I often think about what active faith means and how to best help my children to internalize the art of walking with God. Because each of us is different, I don’t really think that there is any set formula for the walk — rather there are tools that we can uniquely use in our journey as we abide in Christ.

I think of my faith journey like a succession of distance runs:

  • There is the beginning where excitement drives action
  • There is the middle where doubt takes root as discomfort and fatigue creep in
  • There is the end where challenge escalates and a full and changed heart creates needed perseverance

As one run ends, a new one begins.

I remember clearly the day that I figured out exactly what it meant to lean on God with active faith. I was out for a long run and I felt terrible. I don’t know what it was, but that day my legs appeared to have lead in them and each step hurt. I was right in the middle of a five month training plan for my first half marathon, and had a goal of getting in 9 miles that morning — running on the gravel road from our house to what used to be our cattle feed yard and then back.

I had my earphones on with my “God rock” christian music playing. I have a habit of talking to God while I run, so I lifted my eyes to the early morning sky and asked God if I could make a deal with him. I said:

God, if I keep my feet moving will you guide me on the journey?

I don’t wear a watch when I run, but I am certain that I negative split my 9 miles that morning. The more that I concentrated on feeling God’s guidance, the lighter my feet became. The lead went out of my legs as a sense of peace filled my heart. I still feel that peace in my heart — it provides a steady hand of support as I continue to move my legs each and every day. That day, I learned what it meant to abide in Christ.

 


The three verses from Psalms listed above speak to my heart. Meaningful prayer occurs when we open our hearts to God’s direction.

  • God turns to me and hears my cry. 
  • When it gets hard and it seems that I am in a pit of despair, I keep moving and God sets my feet on solid ground and steadies me as I walk along.  
  • He gives me a new song to sing as I am called to walk with Him. As I put my trust in God, He allows me to peacefully walk through the resistance by filling my heart with loving confidence.
  • I hope that my response as I follow not only brings joy to God, but also helps others to put their trust in Him.

A little over two weeks ago, I answered what is likely my most intentional call from God. It came during a run on a day when I was experiencing sadness and turmoil. As I moved my feet, I asked God for direction. I received a very direct response almost immediately. God asked me:

To reach out in love to a young man whom I had been tutoring.

Ten days later, my favorite farmer and I (together with our girls) welcomed that young man into our home. I do not know exactly what the future holds, but I know that as we share God’s love that we bring honor to our faith and meaning to our lives. Together, we make a new family — One that is moving with strength on a new journey. I am packing my faith to live with grace – letting go of the worries and celebrating the joy.

I fulfill my part of the bargain as I put one foot in front of the other, trusting that God will protect us as we use active faith to live out His call.

 

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