Tag Archives: Gospel of Matthew

The Facade…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Mark 4: 21-22

Parable of the Lamp

“Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light.”


I recently heard Coach Ron Brown speak. Coach Brown is a successful football coach and Christian mentor, and currently serves as Director of Player Development under Scott Frost and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. He returned to the Big Red last year after a few years away from the program. There’s something special about Coach Brown – he wears his faith well – and genuinely reflects Jesus’ love to the athletes that he serves. In short, he’s real.

That night, I bought a copy of his new book, Sports Parables. It’s left me thinking about the value of “the story”. Jesus often taught using parables. The Greek prefix “para” means to come alongside something in order to magnify truth. The Gospels are full of Jesus’ parables as he lived to clarify and define what a life of faith looks like. To me, using stories to teach inspires reflection — I know that as I read them, they stick in my mind as I work to figure them out 🙂


I love the Parable of the Lamp. Forms of it appear in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Jesus is all about the light. He’s it! When we walk with Him, we live in His light and are able to reflect that light to others. It’s like placing a lamp on a table so that everyone can share it. Light allows discernment and opens the door to unconditional love. As it glows, it highlights each one of our stories and declares us children of God.

In my mind, the most beautiful thing about Jesus’ light is that it has no facade. It’s real – it’s genuine – and it is just as awesome on the inside as it is on the outside. It warms my heart like a beautiful sunny fall day. Despite the loving warmth of Jesus’ light, the transparency of the light causes some to shy away instead of drawing near. It brings all that is hidden into the open, which can be a bit unsettling if you’re short on confidence or think you have something to hide.

We can’t fool God. He can see through any facade that we build. And, he loves us anyway. He uses us – and our stories – to share His love and His light with others. He doesn’t expect perfection, he simply asks for our hearts and an earnest faith that inspires us to live for Him. This reminds me that I don’t need to worry about a facade – I simply need to draw near to Jesus as I live my life so that He can use me to make Holy Moments with Him 🙂

I started coaching out of love for athletics. Twenty + years later, I coach because sharing the love that Jesus puts in my heart brings my life joy and purpose. In Matthew’s version of the Parable of the Lamp (Matt 5:14-16), Jesus reminds us that when we serve others by sharing love, then we enable His light to shine . I pray that the athletes that God brings into my path can feel the love of Jesus and the warmth of His light as we travel the journey together.

*You can learn more about Coach Ron Brown by visiting http://www.kingdomsports.online.

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Flexion…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Jesus’ word in the Gospel of Matthew 10:39

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”


I’d never paid much attention to the concept of flexion until I tore ligaments and broke my leg. The bone that I broke (the fibula) is actually the “non-weight bearing” bone in the lower leg, but it – and the ligaments near it – play a critical role in ankle mobility.  As a lifelong runner, I’d enjoyed really good flexion in my ankles which allowed my foot to bridge up and back down in a harmonious running step. Like many things in life, I never truly appreciated my ankle flexion until I no longer had it.

It has taken many, many painful hours of intentional physical therapy to work to gain back the ability to bend my right ankle. It’s still not what it used to be, but last week I made a new stride as my therapist was able to push it to 29 degrees past neutral. To help put that victory into perspective, in between my first and second surgery, I scored in at only 3 degrees past neutral. I’m not sure that I can put into words how hard it has been to gain the ability to bend those additional 26 degrees, but my body has given my heart an entirely new outlook on the concept of shaping.

I recently completed my first 5k post leg break – it is the first race in my life that I have walked and it took me longer to walk the 5k than it took for me to run the 10k last year. But, this race is likely more meaningful as I honored the medal God placed on my heart instead of the one that I might have earned had I been able to run…


I think that God finds creative ways to grow us. My leg experience is one of those. Outside of my ankles, I have spent most of my life not being a particularly “flexible person”. My stubbornness can outweigh my ability to bend. It stands in the way of God’s ability to shape and refine me; and can provide a significant hurdle as I strive to hold Jesus’ hand on my daily faith journey.

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

That scripture verse used to confuse me. I couldn’t fathom why God would want me to give up who I am in order to find myself. It frightened me to think about releasing control in order to allow God to guide my path. It took a lot of prayer and deep reflection for me to realize that walking with Jesus – responding to the Holy Spirit – and honoring God’s calls actually allowed me to find myself.  It freed me to be the person that my brain feared but my heart desired.

Being shaped by God is not always an easy process. When I am stubborn, it can look like my ankle refusing to move as the physical therapist breaks into a sweat trying to cram it into the proper bending shape. My therapist describes me as “guarded” because I don’t trust him as he bends, twists, and yanks on my leg. A truthful introspection shows me that God might also describe me as guarded when He asks me to truly give him my heart.


As I write this today, I’m still stubborn. I’ll likely always carry a bit of that trait with me. But, I’m learning to be more flexible — to submit my heart to the One who calls me by name with an unconditional love that fuels me despite the circumstances of my earthly life. I am finding that the more of my heart that I surrender to Jesus, the more that I can find the peaceful hope that transcends human ability or explanation. It doesn’t always make intellectual sense, but it frees me with a flexion that lends purposeful meaning to my life.

 

 

 

 

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Shared Courage…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Matthew 18: 20

“For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”


The 2019 swim team season kicked off last week. The first morning practice with the high school swimmers began with an air temperature of 38 degrees, and we were very glad for a heated pool! It was 55 degrees by the time the younger swimmers practiced in the middle of the day, but the air still carried a bit of a bite to it…The weather might not think it is summer, but we have more than 40 young athletes that are excited to be in the water!

This year’s theme for the season is courage. In particular our quote to live by is, “Courageous faith calls us to finish strong!”. We spent our weekly off-season winter practices talking about what it takes to be a good teammate. That provides a great lead-up to a summer of courageous fellowship 🙂

Just as being an athlete takes courage, so does life.

  • It takes courage to be grateful regardless of your circumstance.
  • It takes courage to persevere with steadfast grace.
  • It takes courage to continue to put in the work even when you can’t see a victorious outcome.
  • It takes courage to stand firm and cling to your faith.

My hope is that our team will build meaningful habits to help us be courageous while simultaneously building fitness and strength in the water. I opened up the first practice asking the swimmers what it means to have courage. A ten year old boy on the team immediately responded, “courage is keeping going and working hard even when you are scared.” A second swimmer followed that statement with, “when we have courage we don’t settle even when it gets hard.” By the end of the week, we all decided that it was easier to be courageous and to make courageous choices when we came together to support each other as a team.


I believe that God calls us to be all in – To live with heartfelt passion in order to share his love with others. The athletic team is an awesome place to learn this. It provides a fun and engaging way to introduce many of the challenges that we experience throughout life. When done correctly, athletics teach the value of hard work and unselfish fellowship. At the Cozad Swim Team, we start each practice with a character lesson, a bible verse, and a daily devotional. I do this because I believe that the first thing that my swimmers need to learn is that God is always with them. He is the ultimate source of courage and he uses each one of us to help build a fellowship of strength. That is the purpose of TEAM.

For where two or three gather, God is among them.

I think that all of my swimmers know how important my faith is to me. I hope that it provides a light to them as they travel the journey of building a meaningful relationship with our Lord. What they might not know is that sharing faith with them brings me courage. My swimmers inspire me to live with grace – to be brave – to have a grateful attitude – and to work with purpose each and every day.

2019 has been a year of challenge for me. During the various times of trial, I have thought of my athletes and how I would counsel them. This keeps me centered on my faith and reminds me of the importance of practicing what I preach. In about a month, I will undergo a third surgery on my leg. As I fight the fear of another invasive procedure, the reality that today I am unable to walk without pain, and the knowledge that the future is unknown, I draw on the shared courage that we build together in fellowship on the pool deck.

I pray that I will walk this path with grace so that my swimmers can see Jesus carry me with the courageous faith that I need to finish strong 🙂

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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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Building A Solid Foundation…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Matthew 7: 24-27

Jesus says, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rains come in torrents and the flood waters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But, anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”


Do you ever have moments where your faith falters?

Something or a combination of things happen that just shake your core. Misunderstanding and incomprehension combine with an inward pull of sadness that just plain pulls you in. As self-pity takes over – faith, joy, hope and peace all temporarily find themselves sitting in the background. When this happens, tunnel vision threatens to cloud up the faithful perspective that guides. It leaves you with an unabashed picture of how solid your foundation is.

Over the past thirty days, I’ve had several things shake me. While they’ve all come at me independently of each other, the combination of them created a powerful force. My habit during hard times is to run. Running clears my head, helps me to work through my energy in a positive way, and it brings me to God. I pray when I run. While I also pray outside of running, running is my place that I go when I need to just open my heart and let Jesus fill it. As I log in the miles, I find a sense of complete peace that very simply centers me.

My children tell me that I am unique, but I would suggest that each of us likely has a “crutch” in our faith journey (like my running is for me).

Today marks 33 days since I broke my leg. On January 5th I traded one crutch for another. I guess that it was time to see how strong my foundation was. Perhaps a test to determine whether I could lean and carry Jesus constantly in my heart without my blessed time “in the wilderness” — running with God across the gravel roads near our farm.

I don’t know why the accident happened, but I do know that faith calls us to believe during times when we cannot see.


Both Matthew and Luke hold versions of Jesus’s teaching on how to build a solid foundation of faith. When I read them this weekend, it occurred to me that we can’t just build our house on a rock and then assume that it will always be there and able to withstand life’s challenges. We are called to do daily maintenance on the rock to keep it strong – even and especially during those times of storm.

While it is foolish to build your house on the sand, it is also foolish to take for granted that the rock will never chip away and become sand during the barrage of hard times. If we are always called to be faithful, then we must do the daily work that ensures that our faith will persevere during times of trial.

Monday morning, I wrote the words “patient endurance” on the toe of my rainbow cast. I found the guidance last weekend in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews 10:36. Patient endurance allows for us to diligently work to build back what those storms may chip apart. Piece by piece, Jesus fuses the worn sand back together into a rock when we bring it to Him. I think that there is honor in that process.

Someday I will wake up and my leg won’t hurt.

Someday I will put on my running shoes and take a step.

Perhaps this summer, I will even be able to log in a mile or two running in my “wilderness”.

I don’t know. But, I do believe that Jesus carries me when I let Him. That gives me hope when my faith starts to falter. God uses creative ways to grow us. I used to think that running was something that I needed for my spirit to remain whole. Today, I know that whenever I get the privilege of taking those quick and harmonious steps once again, I won’t be driven by a sense of need as much as I will be driven by a feeling of great freedom and joy.

Perhaps faith is about finding the privilege in the midst of the need…

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Love Wins…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week comes from Matthew 18: 10-14 and the Parable of the Lost Sheep.

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”


I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this parable over the past year. When Joseph’s life fell apart early last spring, I read this passage. I prayed. I ran. I asked God lots of questions. I received a very clear answer from the Holy Spirit, and I clung to it.

Go and love him.

So, I did.

I made my first visit to a jail and I ached for the scared and broken young man that looked back at me. I prayed with him and I cried with him. Ten days later, I brought him home. It was likely the most reckless thing that I have ever done in my life. It is very clearly the first time that I have lived entirely through faith.

I remember our pastor saying one Sunday last spring in a sermon, “God will give you just enough information so that you can follow His call. He doesn’t often show you everything because that might bring you unnecessary fear in the moment.” Trading fear for faith depends on this delicate balance, and I am very thankful for God’s transparency time table.

Corey Asbury has a song out on Christian Radio called  “Reckless Love” that I feel like sums up my feelings quite accurately. It brings to my mind the following questions that I ponder daily:

  • How does God recklessly pursue us?
  • What does it mean to love so recklessly that we are willing to leave what is comfortable in order to do what is right?
  • What is our role in Jesus’ mission?

I believe that there are many ways that God pursues us. I can personally attest to the fact that the pursuit is, in fact, reckless. Honestly, it’s the component of reckless abandon that provides the truest beauty of it. God never gives up on us. We are all worthy and we are all loved. Whether it is through Jesus’s love, the work of the Holy Spirit, the Bible, or the actions of other people — or some combination of them — God is steadfast and tenacious in pursuit of our hearts and our lives.

God used Joseph to teach me how to live by faith. I learned to abide in Jesus’ love so that I could share it recklessly. I left what was comfortable to embrace something better. My perspective shifted so that I could let earthly things go in order to remain true to my heavenly call. It’s changed me, and it continues to change me each and every day.

God used me to show Joseph that he was loved – worthy – and cherished. I’ve watched him intentionally work to leave what was comfortable to embrace something better. It’s a daily choice. It’s hard. But it is good. Neither one of us travels the journey alone because God created a community to support us. Our family has learned to make a new team which allows us to be successful as we work to share in Jesus’ mission to love.

I think sometimes, as humans, we like to make things complicated. I struggled for many years trying to figure out what my role in Jesus’ mission was. I thought too much instead of leading with my heart. I looked past the simple, yet potent answer:

Love Wins.

Every time.

Every one matters. Just ask the lost sheep.

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It’s about how you play the game…

Inspiration for this week comes from the Parable of the Three Servants (Talents) in Matthew 25: 14-30. I am going to focus on verse 29, but encourage you to read the parable in its entirety.

“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.”


I just finished reading the book Why I didn’t rebel by Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach. It is a “reality based parenting book” written by a 22 year old. She’s not yet a parent, but she’s passed the teenage years that tend to challenge us as families. I found it incredibly interesting to read her perspective.

There is a section in her book entitled “It’s not about winning — it’s how you play the game.” Rebecca references the Parable of the Three Servants (Talents) in this part of the book.  She writes, “We spend a lot of time focusing on the man with one talent and the man with five talents, but in my experience we don’t talk a lot about the man with two talents. But something I’ve realized is this: the master was equally pleased with the man with two talents and the man with five. He gave them both the same praise…It wasn’t about how much they made — it was about how they used what they were given.

Talents are gifts. We often have little control over how much or which ones are given to us. Perhaps the value does not intrinsically exist in the gift. Rather, the value exists in the intentional effort that we chose to place with the talent to use it to further God’s purpose.


I have four teenagers that bless my life and fill my days. Each one is different. Not only do they have different talents, but they also have different levels of talent. I love each one of them in their God-given uniqueness. They are my greatest gift and together we make a family team. As their mom, it’s my job to teach and inspire them to BEST USE WHAT THEY WERE GIVEN.

As a Christian, I find honor and purpose in my life when I live with effort, tenacity, passionate boldness, and an unselfish heart filled with grace. Somewhere along the way, I discovered that authentic faith is contagious as we trust God to provide the initial talents and control the final outcome. Our job is to focus on how we play the game.

Nine months ago, Joseph joined our family. Before I brought him home, neither Matt nor the girls knew him. The day that I had been working out the logistics of his move to us, Megan was competing in a track meet about an hour and a half away. I’ll never forget when Matt got home and shared their story:

My favorite blonde cowgirl won the pole vault and set a new school record that day. The first thing that she did after completing her final vault was to walk over to Matt and ask: “Was mom able to get Joe? Do I have a new brother?”

Anyone that knows Meg, knows how competitive she is. She’s an athlete with a capital “A” 🙂 But, she carries Jesus in her heart and recognizes that playing the game is so much bigger than setting records. It is honoring your sport with focus, passion and effort, but also remembering that opening your heart to a stranger who needs someone to love him trumps any medal that we receive on earth.

In the months that have followed, our family has learned the true meaning of abundance.

We found it by taking our talent and using that gift to embrace His call. It didn’t come with a medal that hangs around our necks, rather it came in our hearts as we truly learned how to share Jesus’ love 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Choose Your Experience…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Matthew 11: 28-30

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


I walked out of my house into the garage Sunday afternoon to find a piece of paper that read in big letters Choose Your Experience. It was a college flyer that must have missed the trash can and landed on the ground. I’d been praying for guidance as I pondered something difficult. It’s always interesting to see the unique ways that God responds to my prayers 🙂

Choose Your Experience

When I was a child, I used to pray for outcomes — a win in the swimming pool or help on a test, or sometimes I prayed that I wouldn’t have to do something that I didn’t want to do. As an adult, my prayers have changed. Today, it is rare for me to pray for a specific outcome. Instead, my prayers are more like a conversation where I search for guidance, love, and peace.

This change occurred when I realized that we are all meant to walk through challenges during our time on earth. It isn’t about the challenge – it’s about the experience.

Life isn’t easy. Sometimes it hurts. That’s okay. I don’t pray for “outcomes” anymore because I know that I am meant to experience it all. Instead, I pray for Jesus to be with me on the journey because I know that my attitude determines the love, peace, hope and joy that I carry in my heart as I walk through each challenge.

It isn’t about the what. It’s about the how.

Choose your experience.

If we are meant to experience everything, then that phrase says to me that my choice determines not what happens, but rather how I respond and react to what happens. My experience changes when I choose to ask Jesus to walk the journey with me.


I’ve pondered the above scripture from the Gospel of Matthew often over the past year.

How can a yoke be easy to bear?

I live on a farm. While we do not use yokes and oxen in 2018, I’ve seen a horse pull a plow. It isn’t easy and it does not take long for the animal to break out into a sweat from the exertion necessary to pull the plow and work the ground. The yoke provides the connection. It doesn’t stop the work – rather – it orchestrates it.

It came to me on Sunday afternoon that when I put on Jesus’ yoke, the work load does not lesson. In fact, if I truly answer the call, it often increases. But, the burden becomes easy to bear as I open my heart in faith to Jesus’ love- peace – hope – joy.

It is possible to experience difficult times with the peace that enables a purposeful joy. It happens when we choose to experience life on earth with God’s grace in our hearts. When we take Jesus’ yoke upon ourselves, it brings the strength that lightens the burden. The burden may not change, but our ability to bear it does.

Next week we celebrate Christmas. Many will celebrate it with the joy of family – Some will celebrate it in the midst of difficult times. We all are invited to celebrate it with the peace that passes all understanding and creates rest for the soul. This peace comes in the form of the Emmanuel – the Christ child – who yokes us to our Heavenly Father during our earthly journey.

 

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