Tag Archives: Gospel of John

Radical love…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 3:16

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


In addition to being in the Bible, you can find the above verse on billboards across the country. Its words are both simple and powerful as they encompass the heart of the Good News. God loves. Jesus saves. I don’t know what eternal life fully looks like, but my heart tells me that it is peaceful, joyful, and filled with the agape love that we strive to wrap our minds and hearts around during our earthly lives. Despite the fact that its exact description eludes me, I know that it is where I want to go.

But, I believe that there is more to it than that because eternal life (in my mind) begins today, not the day that God calls me home to heaven. Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes up the rest of the message. What is my role on earth? Then, last week my Pastor said the words that allowed it all to come together. He started with the verse from the Gospel of John, “For God so loved the world that He sent his son Jesus.” But then he went on, “Jesus so loved the world that He sent us.”  The dots connected and the line was bolded and strong. I cried as I sat there, my eyes with a new level of insight and my heart with a deeper understanding of how and why He calls us to love. Not just those who return our love, but also those who do not.

He asks us to be there with our hearts ready and our bodies prepared to act.


Ever since Joseph left twelve months ago, I’ve wondered time and time again why God sent him to be a part of our family. At the time that the Holy Spirit put the request to love him on my heart, I assumed God’s ask brought with it a promise. Why wouldn’t it? Surely an ask of that magnitude came with a multitude of blessings? Visions of happily ever after passed through my mind as I believed that what was once an awesome family of five would become a beautiful family of six. Joe spent more than a year with us. The day he walked out the door, he took a piece of both Matt’s and my heart with him. I’ve felt a range of emotions since then; defeat, sadness, anger, and bits of joy as I remember the memories that we built together. Most of the emotions I am okay with, but the one that has proved the heaviest to bear is rejection.

I think that I finally hung that one on the cross last week as our Pastor’s words sank into my heart.

Jesus so loved the world that He sent us 
     - to love anyone and everyone- 
with no expectations for anything in return. 

It changes your heart to learn to love among and through pain. Rejection is a powerful emotion, and it incites a myriad of reactions (most of which are not rooted in love). It hurts. But, attaining the ability to love through it creates a light in the dark, an unexpected goodness in a time of crisis. Love enables forgiveness. It brings salvation and eternal life, but it also allows grace to permeate our earthly lives. Jesus is the ultimate source of grace, but every one of us has the ability to share that gift as we walk through each day. The more we share, the more it spreads.

I may not ever truly understand why God asked me to love Joseph, but I can understand that it wasn’t about me. It was about sharing. It was about unselfishly loving someone in a time of need. If I’m truly blessed, I’ll get to do it again before my heavenly Father calls me home. If I’m a good student, next time I’ll do it better – more like Jesus. I’ll leave the strings and the expectations out, and just focus on sharing radical love with the courageous boldness of grace.

Joseph gave great hugs. In those moments, I felt the strength of Grace. I took that for granted, and perhaps that’s my greatest regret. As he left, I told him that our door was always open. I’m not sure that I truly meant it at the time, but that’s the beauty of the Holy Spirit. Today I do, as my heart has gained a better understanding of the radical love that we are called to share.

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The Height of the Basket…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 13:34-35

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”


We’re in the heart of winter across the rural prairie. This time of year, anyone affiliated with small town high school sports spends their free time cheering for the athletes either on the basketball court or the wrestling mat. I never competed in either sport so my knowledge of them is pretty limited, but my favorite blondes love to play basketball so I find myself sitting in the bleachers cheering on the Haymakers several nights a week.

Last Sunday, our pastor told a story that caught my attention. He shared with us a memory from his junior high school years and it went something like this:

One year in junior high, I decided to try out for basketball. I was short and not very good, so you can probably imagine how it went. After several days of try-outs, the coach called me aside and said: “John, I see you struggling and I know it’s hard for a boy your height to make a basket so I’m just going to lower the hoop four feet to help you out.” Well, maybe that’s not really what coach said…

The standards of the game of basketball don’t change to match our individual heights and abilities. All those years ago, the basketball hoop didn’t get lowered for our pastor and today it still doesn’t for any of the rest of us. Some nights I watch my girls and their teammates struggle to put the basketball into the hoop. They’ve got the right idea, but they fall short in execution. Basketball is a moving game with many variables, and it requires teamwork and collective effort to get that ball into the basket. The standards are set, leaving the athletes to figure out how to meet them successfully.

Pastor John’s point was that the game of basketball really isn’t much different than Christian life. It’s hard. It takes intentional focus and work. It requires unselfish dedication to something bigger than just ourselves…When my girls falter, I remind them to look up. The standards may be hard, but Jesus helps us to attain them if we keep our eyes on Him.


The Gospels remind us repeatedly of the new commandment issued by Jesus during his time on earth.

All those who choose to be on #TeamJesus must love others according to the standard of how Jesus loved.

That’s a tall basket. It’s a big ask during the good times and sometimes seems impossible during the hard times. Regardless of our personal feelings at any given moment, the standard isn’t going to change. We are called to love unconditionally, patiently, and with unselfish gentleness and hope. In fact, Jesus goes on to tell us in the Gospel of John that it is our reflection of His love to others that serves as proof of His existence. By sharing Jesus’ love and meeting the gold standard of the new commandment, we actually allow others to experience God through our actions.

Quite honestly, I believe that to be a game changer. During the tough games, the times that our hearts hurt and our minds want to either lash out or give up, Jesus’ message is clear. We are to love our teammates with an agape love. We can do that if we lean into our faith to fuel us for the journey. One of the awesome young ladies that I have the privilege of mentoring mentioned something recently that is worthy of sharing:

We find joy when we look to:

J esus

O thers

Y ourself

Jesus fills our hearts with His love to share with others. We maintain hope when we trust in our hearts. The height of the basket becomes less intimidating when we remember the perk of being on #TeamJesus: We can jump higher than we ever thought possible when we allow the heavenly coach to guide our actions and guard our hearts 🙂

 

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Gentleness…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Luke 22: 47-51

“But even as Jesus said this, a crowd approached, led by Judas (one of the twelve disciples). Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss. But Jesus said, ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’ When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, ‘Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!’ And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this.’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.”


My favorite blonde cowgirl attends an FCA group in a neighboring town. The FCA leader (Zach) goes to church with us and I have the privilege of watching him pour his heart into the kids that God brings into his life as he teaches, coaches, and mentors. Although he is much younger than me, I’ve learned a lot from him as he has mentored my girls. That’s one of the awesome things about the way that God works through the Holy Spirit 🙂

Meg came home Sunday night talking about the lesson that they studied at FCA. She was pretty pumped about it. “Mom, guess what Zach shared tonight! He said, ‘Jesus shows us that gentleness is strength under control.’ Rather than a weakness, gentleness actually is a strength that we show when we maintain control.” Wow – that’s really great discernment and food for thought. I’ve found myself thinking about it repeatedly over the past couple of days.


Each day God reminds us of his strength and the beauty that comes from it.

If you look at how Webster (or our culture) defines gentleness, strength does not likely rise to the top of the Thesaurus list. Instead you might find placidness, tenderness, calmness, or softness. But when you look in the Gospels, Jesus often demonstrates gentleness through strength while maintaining control of both himself and the situation. All four Gospels describe the events when Judas betrays Jesus and he is taken into custody, put on trial and ultimately put to death on the cross. The recordings all demonstrate that gentleness is strength under control.

I believe that Jesus came both to offer us salvation, and also to show us how God desires that we live. I can’t imagine what it was like to be betrayed by a friend, treated as a criminal, physically and mentally abused and ultimately put to death. That takes the coaching phrase, “take one for the team” to a whole new level. What amazes me is how Jesus suffered with both grace and strength. He never lost his cool. He knew his job, and he did it. He calmly and gently shared the Last Supper with Judas knowing that his friend would betray him. He accepted that the disciples fell asleep instead of praying with him in the Garden of Gethsemane, and turned instead to God for strength and companionship. He healed one of his captors when Simon Peter lost his control and sliced his ear off with a sword in a bout of fear. While on trial, he maintained great composure rather than arguing. The Gospel of John helps us to understand that even while hanging on the cross, Jesus reached out in compassion to his mother when he saw her in the crowd.

Zach’s comment to the FCA students inspired me to go back and read all four accounts of Jesus’ final days. I am left in awe at the beauty of the unselfish gentleness and control that Jesus displayed. My heart is changed as I now look at the word gentleness under a new light of discernment. I realize how much work I have left to do in my own life searching for the controlled strength that Jesus displayed. Four years ago, I intentionally went to work on gaining control of my temper. Today, I live determined to continue to work on it as deep in my heart there is a piece of Jesus that leads me away from tirades and into a world of gentle strength 🙂

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The Holy Spirit and His Play Calling…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 16: 13-15

“When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, “The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.”


I believed in the Trinity long before I understood it. It’s taken me a while to figure out the particulars, but I’ve had a lifelong relationship with the Holy Spirit. I used to tell my girls when they were little that the Holy Spirit “sits on your shoulder” and gives you direction as you go through the day. Some days I wonder at the Spirit’s perseverance and patience, as I’m not always a very good listener. But then I remember that the Spirit is a part of Jesus – a gift that He left us – so that we could communicate with Him after his resurrection. Jesus is the personification of perseverance and patience, so it’s a natural fit for the Spirit to also have these qualities 🙂

This summer, I participated in a Bible study with a group of middle school and high school girls. Over the course of the months, we read the Gospel of John together. John is my favorite Gospel, likely because of the very clear language regarding the Holy Spirit. I cling tightly to the knowledge that when Jesus is in my heart, the Spirit brings us together in communication as we travel the journey. He’s the messenger that links me to God and Jesus. It was truly awesome to share in the girls’ discussions as they identified with the Holy Spirit through John’s words.


Notre Dame vs Navy with my favorite farmer and our favorite brunette 🙂

If you’re a college football fan, you’ve likely noticed the couple of guys on the sidelines doing all kinds of goofy hand and arm signals as the coach calls in the plays to the team on the field. It’s a silent communication, and one that leaves the rest of us baffled (and perhaps entertained) but we get to see the result of it as the next play unfolds.

The quarterback knows that one of his jobs is to interpret, understand, and execute the play called by those important guys waving their arms on the sidelines. As he interprets the message, he shares it with his teammates and they come together to move the ball down the field. When it works, it’s a thing of beauty.

What if the Holy Spirit talks to us in a similar way?

What if we are the quarterbacks for Team Jesus?

It doesn’t matter if you envision the Holy Spirit sitting on your shoulder, walking beside you, or standing on the sidelines of a football field. What matters is whether you pay close attention to hear the play and are then able to communicate and execute it in love.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a few things that help me to hear and receive the Holy Spirit’s message:

  1. Starting the day with quiet prayer and intentionally asking the Spirit to be with me and guide me.
  2. Keeping my mind focused on the messages that I find in God’s Word as I study the Bible.
  3. Intentionally developing a grateful heart that looks outward to help others.
  4. Looking for the handiwork of the Spirit not just in my life but in the lives of those I love.
  5. Crediting the Spirit for the harmony and blessings that follow my obedience.

Next week as we head into Thanksgiving, I pray that as you gather with your family and friends that the Holy Spirit will take a seat next to you at the table. I guarantee that it will help you to have the attitude of gratitude that brings blessings of joy!

Happy Thanksgiving from the football loving prairie 🙂

 

 

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Steadfast…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 18: 1-4

“After saying these things, Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. Judas, the betrayer, knew this place because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples. The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?”


This summer, I’ve been blessed to take part in a middle school / high school girls Bible study. Reading God’s word takes on a new significance when you are blessed to be able to share it with a group of intelligent and faithful young women. We have learned a lot of things about Jesus during our study of the Gospel of John, but what has jumped off the page at me over the last couple of weeks is a greater understanding of how steadfast Jesus is.

He believes.

He loves.

And, he leads with a gentle heart and nerves of steel.

Whether he is healing the sick, sharing parables of wisdom, visiting with a troubled woman at the well, or facing death at the hands of his own people, the same Jesus shows up every single day. Regardless of circumstance – He is steadfast because he trusts in God. He shows us what happens when you live with wholehearted faith, and holds out his hand to help us travel that same journey.


My girls have a family joke that I am like Old Faithful — I have things that yank my chain and inspire a flair of temper with relative frequency. In fact, there was a rumor that my hair used to turn red as my temper built signaling a coming eruption 😉 A couple of years ago, I figured out that as God continued to call me to work with young athletes that I needed to change this habit in order to be faithful.

I needed the steadfastness of Jesus.

Jesus spent his life intentionally stepping into God’s call – regardless of circumstance with a quiet confidence and selfless heart. Even when his crucifixion is eminent and Peter lashes out in fear induced temper and cuts off the ear of a soldier, Jesus calms the situation and heals the man. He is steadfast, with his eyes and heart completely focused on God’s call.

What is your response when you are challenged or someone yanks your chain?

I’d like to report that I act like Jesus, but the truth is that I likely fail as often as I succeed. I’ve got a bit of Peter in me – despite the fact that I love Jesus, sometimes my emotions get the best of me and I make mistakes. Jesus loved Peter through those moments of failure, and my heart tells me that Jesus loves me through those times as well. My faith calls me to lean into Jesus, to draw from his peaceful confidence.

That gives me hope.

I’ve come to realize that hope allows for peace and love to prevail – even when circumstances are grim. I am thankful that my source of hope is steadfast, and each time He steps toward me to ask, “Who are you looking for?”, I pray that I will reach out to take a hold of his hand with the same quiet confidence and trust with which it is offered.

 

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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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Worthy…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from John 14: 27

“I am leaving you with a gift — peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.


I love the life lessons that athletics teach. That is what fuels me on a daily basis to keep coaching. Sometime during my coaching tenure, I learned the hard lesson that a good coach loves their athletes more than they love the sport or the win. I don’t think that it was a passionate “aha” moment, but rather an on-going personal development in my leadership skills that led me to this realization. I know that it is something that I remind myself often as I wear the “coaching hat”.

Over the decades, I have noticed a recurring challenge that appears most often in my female athletes. Interestingly enough, it is also something that I struggled with during my own athletic career. It is a simple question that carries huge implications (both in athletic performance and in life).

Am I worthy of the win?

An innate sense of worth is critical to athletic performance. Google defines worth as “sufficiently good, important or interesting enough to justify a specific action.” I see it determine the way that the athlete perceives him/herself as well as how he/she internally formulates their role on the team. It dictates whether an athlete is all in and able to own the game. What the fans notice most is athletic performance — what I see as a coach goes much deeper than that.

Am I good enough to deserve to win sets the stage for the athletic performance. It can be both transient and permanent — it depends on the athlete and it depends on the day! While the status within each player’s mind might fluctuate, the effects of the answer are steadfast.

  • A worthy athlete plays with confidence
  • A worthy athlete plays with resilience
  • A worthy athlete is better able to look outside of themselves to play a leadership role on the team

Why girls?

I think that girls struggle with this challenge more than boys because they live in a world that constantly compares them and often expects perfection in order to grant value. As a result, girls are cautious. If they do not have 100% confidence that they can do it right, then they chose to hold back. In a teenage girl’s mind, there are different levels of failure. And, while none of them are appealing some hurt more than others. They believe that:

it is better to hold a piece of themselves back and fall short than it is to give it everything that they have and still not win.


A couple of years ago, I coined the phrase pack your faith to compete with grace. There are many implications to this mantra, but I thought of the young women that I coach when I put the words together. As a coach, I can run drills and practice so that my girls internalize what they are supposed to do and gain confidence that they can perform the tasks necessary to bring home the win. As a coach, I can also love them and encourage them to believe. But, I cannot fill their hearts with the peace of Jesus that will carry them in the moment of competition when they need it most.

I cannot. But, God can.

The apostle John reminds us in the above passage that Jesus leaves us on earth with a heavenly gift. The gift is peace of mind and heart. It is available for all those that reach for it. While it is offered to everyone, it is not forced on anyone. We each have the choice to say “Yes”. When we do, Jesus fills our hearts and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our minds. The combination creates a new level of worthiness.

I wish that I had figured that out during my own athletic tenure.

I feel incredibly blessed that I figured it out during my coaching tenure.

God’s time isn’t always our time, and learning to trade fear for faith is a life skill. When we make this intentional choice, the results on the athletic field are tangible. But, more importantly, the impact on the confidence with which we live our lives is nothing short of amazing grace 🙂

 

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Celebrating 14 Years!

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from the Gospel of John 3:21

“But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”


Today my favorite “fish” turns 14! While it’s hard to believe that my baby could be that old, it is one of my greatest joys to travel with her on the journey of life. There are many things that make Karyn beautiful, but it is her kind heart that constantly draws me in. Karyn loves deeply and quietly — with all of the joy and none of the drama. Her sensitive intuition allows her to radiate kindness and to help others when they need it most.

One of the most beautiful things for me to watch is how love makes Karyn bold. It turns the quiet and shy girl into a strong and courageous young woman. In honor of her birthday, I’d like to share a Karyn story 🙂

About a week ago, the Young Americans touring musical group did a workshop for students in our town of Cozad. Karyn and Joseph both enjoy music and decided to participate. After two days of practice, the Young Americans group performed along with close to 100 Cozad elementary, junior high and high school students. It’s a big deal for Karyn to get up in front of a group of people — that type of thing is not in her natural comfort zone, even in a group setting. The high school gymnasium was full that night with students, parents, and friends attending the performance.

Part way through the performance, one of the Young American actors announced that a few students were going to move forward to the microphones to share their stories of inspiration. The last thing that I expected was for Karyn to make her way to the front of the stage. I wish that I had thought to record her testimony, but I was so enthralled with the quietly brave young woman on the stage that I didn’t think of it.

Karyn spoke of how her family inspired her to always want to make a difference. She talked of each of her older siblings with the sweetness and genuine love that is so truly Karyn. She ended by publicly declaring her love for her new brother Joseph.

  • How she never expected to have a brother, but that God had brought him into our lives last April.
  • How the struggles of his life inspired her to live bravely.

Tears rolled down my face by the time that she finished. The simplicity of her message — spoken in that quiet yet confident voice – left me shaken. In a world that likes to make things complicated, sometimes it takes a reminder from the soft, God-inspired voice of a 14 year old to remind us how powerful love and acceptance can be in our lives.

 


Last night, Karyn – Joseph – and I read together from the 3rd chapter of John. It occurred to me that Karyn lived John 3:21 during the Young Americans performance. This quietly private young woman who prefers to avoid the spotlight stepped forward to publicly share the love in her heart for a young man that God called her to care for as a brother. Her unabashed acceptance of Joseph sent a powerful signal of faith to everyone in attendance. It was a vibrant moment filled with God’s grace.

There are very few things in my life that have touched me that deeply. Our journey as a new family with Joseph has not been easy, but it has been right. Blessings follow obedience and I thank God every day for the blessings that He bestows on my family. Sometimes as humans we make “God’s ask” complicated — Jesus asks us to love, not to be complicated.

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

Love Does.

Happy Happy Birthday to my beautiful Karyn who lights up my life and reminds me that patience, kindness and love trump all!

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