Tag Archives: Gospel of John

Falling in Love…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Luke 10: 27

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and with all your mind. And, Love your neighbor as yourself.”

and

John 21: 18

“I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.”


Do you remember “falling in love”? I do. It was the fall of my freshman year of college when I met my favorite farmer. I had many things going on in my life: classes, swim team, friends but he quickly rose to the top of the list. My perspective altered as “I” became “we” and we began our journey together. Twenty seven years later, I still can say with confidence that he is the best thing that Dartmouth College gifted to me 🙂

When we fall in love our priorities change, but perhaps more importantly our hearts change. We discover that others are more important than ourselves. We find the joy of finding joy together. Many of us are also stretched (and blessed) even further as God gives us children to love. As we navigate the years, God uses our families to help us to learn the beauty of unconditional and unselfish love.


I have found love to be the only truly meaningful inspiration in my life. It is the one thing that leads me to places that I have not chosen myself. Sometimes those places are happy places but as I get older I am finding that they can be uncomfortable or even painful places. I allow myself to be guided to them and through them because I love. I think that sometimes we are tempted to let fear inspire us, but I believe that our God is a God of love.

Just as my heart changed when I met and fell in love with my favorite farmer, so it did again when I fell in love with Jesus. I learned that when I love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength, and all my mind; then I am called to love my neighbor in a new way. This new way of loving is a love without expectation of anything in return. It is a love that takes me to places that I don’t always want to go to.

The first time that I read the above passage from John 21:18, I thought of being old and going to a nursing home. I thought of people taking care of me because I could no longer take care of myself. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I hate the thought of leaving the farm and being moved into a nursing home! However, as I read Henri Nouwen’s book, Following Jesus, the passage took on an entirely new meaning for me. When I placed it together with the Golden Rule and really analyzed the entire chapter, my eyes were opened.

Just as our bodies and our minds mature over time, so do our spiritual hearts. When I was spiritually young, I did whatever I liked and went wherever I wanted to go. As I have fallen in love with Jesus, my heart changed and now I find myself stretching out my hands and submitting to where the Holy Spirit tells me to go — even if it is somewhere hard. As Nouwen analyzes the passage from the Gospel of John he says, “When you are in love, when you are really in love, you can be guided to places that you have not chosen yourself. The person who loves can go to places where she or he would rather not go.” Not only that, but “If we are truly in love, our eyes are not focused on what hurts. Our eyes are focused on the person we love.”


In the last 3 weeks, I’ve traveled across the country to deliver my two older girls to college, and also begun my fall coaching tenure. During this time, I have been repeatedly reminded that fear does not spark meaningful change. Fear brings shame, hurt, guilt, anger, loneliness and frustration. Our country is filled with fear, but it needs love. Love is what changes hearts and moves us into meaningful and purposeful places.

We all need to fall in love again with the One who first loved and will continually fill us with the perfect love that casts out fear.

Please join me in prayer for this 🙂

4 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

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 😊

6 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

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.

2 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

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 🙂

 

2 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

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 🙂

4 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

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 🙂

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

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.

 

7 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom

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.

2 Comments

Filed under General, Wednesday Wisdom