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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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No Short Cuts…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Leviticus. Instead of pulling specific scripture out of the book, I’d like to share three very timely lessons that I learned from my study of the book.

  1. Offer your best to God. It should come from pure intentions and from the heart.
  2. Follow directions! There is honor to be found in doing the little things right. God’s calls do not come with the ability to find a short cut. Faith requires loyalty and steadfastness to travel the entire journey.
  3. God has high standards for us. It takes a combination of God’s grace and individual commitment to travel the journey to holiness.

As most of you are aware, I broke my fibula in early January. It’s rocked my world. Instead of leading my regular active life for the last 7 and 1/2 weeks, I’ve lived in a world of limited movement and physical discomfort. I traded logging 20 miles a week of soul-freeing running for the simple wish that one day I’d wake up and my leg didn’t hurt.

I got my plaster cast off last week, and traded it for a rehabilitation boot to begin the physical therapy process. The good news is that I have a lot of work to do! I will need to build strength to regain ankle motion as well as muscle regrowth in the foot and entire right leg. It’s a healing process that will span months, and my goal is to find complete well being by the end of the summer.

The reality of the rehabilitation process left me a bit shaken. I spent a few days being overwhelmed by the shear number of little things that I needed to accomplish before I could regain total leg health. God seems to always have a hand in things, and these days also found me finishing up the book of Exodus and beginning to read the book of Leviticus. The Holy Spirit grabbed me several times as I read the passages and gave me a much needed kick in the tail with these three lessons.

  1. God meets us where we are in any given moment. He does that because he loves us. He asks us to give Him our best, whatever that is, in all of those moments. Our best may change over time due to circumstances, but our attitude and the state of our heart when we bring it to Him should be marked by devotion.
  2. God’s call to holiness does not include a short cut. I was reminded that I need to quit looking for one, and instead focus on finding joy in the daily work that His call brings to me. I can work stubborn or I can work smart. I think working smart by packing Jesus in my heart is a better choice 🙂
  3. God is holy. He has high standards. There is honor to be found in aspiring to meet those standards. Changing the standards does not lead to success. There is both joy and victory to be found in the challenge of trying to meet them!

One of my first physical therapy exercises aims at trying to get the toes on my right foot to begin working again. I practice picking up a crumpled kleenex off the floor with my toes. My big toe was the first to wake up. By day 4, I excitedly showed my favorite farmer that all of my toes had joined the team and I could move my little toe again! It might seem silly, but to me it was a huge deal. I couldn’t even feel my little toe when they took my cast off – to be able to move it was tremendous progress.

My toes didn’t start working because I sat in a chair crying that my leg hurt. They started working because I packed my faith and started the new journey to rehabilitation. God met me where I was. I brought an honorable effort and accepted that there was no short cut. When I did, I found joy in an unforeseen place and a small victory that will surely lead to others.

Perhaps that is what this path to holiness written about in Leviticus is all about. When we combine devotion with careful work, then we find the grace that leads us to healing.

What if there’s no short cut because the learning happens when you take the long way around?

 

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AOTA…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Hebrews 12: 11

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.”


Our family entered the world of Haymaker Wrestling this year. About a month after Joseph came to live with us, he decided that he wanted to learn to wrestle. Two of the Haymaker Wrestling coaches have kids that swim for me, and my favorite farmer was a wrestler in high school so it seemed a good fit.

As a swimmer and a runner (with a brother who played baseball), I was a newbie to the sport of wrestling. The discipline and fitness intrigued me, while the culture of the sport just plain pulled at my heart. Over the course of the season, I watched a small group of young men band together to create a brotherhood. A brotherhood that inspired loyalty and leadership.

Photo Credit: Brian Bazata

The mantra of the Haymaker Wrestling team is AOTA. A-always, O-on, T-the, A-ttack. I questioned it a bit going into the season, but it didn’t take long for me to understand the meaning and the purpose. In a wrestling match, you are either in control of the match and earning points or you are getting beat by an opponent who is. Leadership on the mat requires a high level of engagement and a willingness to take chances in the moment in order to claim victory at the end.

There is no room for laziness.

Rather, the wrestling culture inspires enthusiastic and proactive “headmanship”. Our Youth Ministry Pastor defines “headmanship” as the leadership that men demonstrate as they intentionally work to serve and protect. It comes from active and selfless engagement as mental and physical strength merge to create honor.


There’s a lot of spirituality that happens on the wrestling mat. I don’t know if the Haymaker wrestlers would intentionally call it that, but I clearly saw it as I watched them come together as a team this season. Paul reminds us in Hebrews 12:11 that God calls us to never be lazy – rather – we are called to work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.

It takes an intentional individual choice to create a victorious community.

Joseph began his wrestling career as a senior with no prior experience. He faced the challenge of spending the season wrestling some of the Midwest’s finest who had more than 10 years of experience. I never worried that he would fail. I knew that God would carry him. What he lacked in learned skill, his teammates and coaches helped him to fill in with discipline, leadership, and love.

I cried when he won his first match. My heart swelled when he got his first victory by pin. I watched him lose more times than he won, but each match brought a sense of purpose, identity and worth to the young man that God had brought to me as a son. Joseph discovered the beauty of “team” as well as the pride found in working hard to honor the mission.

He learned that being on the attack can be something incredibly righteous.

Isn’t this what Jesus calls us to do?

The New Testament is full of passages where Jesus implores us to actively and passionately love community more than self. And, to keep giving even when it hurts because the mission holds unfathomable value. My heart filled with hope as the season went on and I realized that wrestling provided a tremendous battlefield to teach our young men to fight with righteousness.

When the battle is honorable, being on the attack is a good thing.

We are not called to be passive. We are called to fight with our whole hearts as we engage in Jesus’ mission.

To the 2019 Haymaker Wrestling Team, thank you for fighting the good fight. I pray that you will take these “life lessons” and apply them to the calls that God has for you during your life journey. You all earned many medals this season, but the greatest is the one that you carry in your heart as you honor your God and your team. Thank you for your efforts.

Respect is earned — you all have mine.

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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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Find the Rainbow…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Genesis 9: 12-14

Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is a sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.”


I am notorious amongst the young athletes that I coach for having “inspirational sayings”. They just seem to roll off my tongue. Some of them I borrow from others, and some just pop into my mind in the moment. I believe that the ones that simply “pop into my head” come from the Holy Spirit and I tend to cling to them with loyalty. Sometime, I should sit down and make a list of all of them. Better yet, I should ask my athletes to make a list of them 😉

I believe that attitude shapes experience. No matter where our journey takes us, the way that we perceive our daily experiences determines our ability to not only find joy in the moment but also to evolve and learn for the future. When we approach life determined to find the rainbow, then each day becomes an opportunity rather than an ordeal.

The difference between opportunity and ordeal may not seem that big a deal on the surface, but I believe it to be profound.

Let me share a story from last summer.

I have a group of junior high and high school athletes that gather on the pool deck at 6:00am every weekday during the summer for swimming practice before they go on to their days working jobs and practicing for other sports. In the moment — as we gather to begin each morning — I *may* be the only one of us truly excited for each morning workout 🙂 The words, find the rainbow, often pop out of my mouth during those times.

One morning, after a thunderstorm had blown through, we were in the water in the midst of a difficult set. One of the boys said, “hey look there’s a rainbow”. I suspect that he was trying to distract Coach Anne to get some extra rest at the wall, but I humored him by pausing and looking in the sky before we left for the next interval. While I did not immediately find a rainbow in the sky, about twenty minutes later — as we were finishing up the workout with some sprints — God brought us a beautiful one. On a regular day, we might have missed it because it was a small one in the shape of a vertical sundog. But, we were looking for it since the motto for the day had turned into different ways we could look for the rainbow.

As the summer progressed, we found many rainbows together — some in the sky and some in our hearts. In each instance, we found them because we were intentionally looking for them 🙂


God reminds us in the book of Genesis that a rainbow is a special sign from Him.

It is the sign of a covenant.

It is a beautiful physical image that depicts a promise.

To me, it is a reminder of eternal hope. I make the intentional choice to take the image with me every day as I pack my faith. The challenges will still come. However, my perspective – my attitude – allows those challenges to be opportunities rather than burdensome ordeals. Over time, I’ve figured out that it’s really not about the challenge itself. Rather, it’s about how I embrace God’s grace in my daily life to live with honor.

Last week, I transitioned from my post-surgery cast to a hard cast. As I looked at my pathetically bruised leg and it’s 8″ incision, I might have wanted to cry. But then I remembered my own advice. Find the rainbow. So, I covered the leg with a colorful reminder. Every time that I look at it, I remember God’s covenant. I remember that He loves me. I remember that it’s not my job worry about the “why”. It’s my job to focus on the “how”.

I honor God when I pack an attitude of love and positivity. Great things come out of hard times. Noah packed his faith to live with grace in a way that brings great perspective to my own challenges. He did his part and I can too.

How does God inspire you during times of challenge?

 

 

 

 

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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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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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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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