Tag Archives: love

Hands and Feet…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s Epistle to Romans 12: 4-5

“Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body and we all belong to each other.”


It’s college football season. My favorite farmer played both high school and college football, so my girls have grown up in a house that understands and celebrates the game. The other night at dinner, Karyn mentioned Army’s football uniforms. She loves the fact that instead of having the last name of the player on the back of the jersey, each team member’s jersey has “Army” printed where their name might be.

My dad was in the Army and I went on a college recruiting trip for swimming to West Point my senior year in high school. Although my heart led me somewhere else for college, I remember the feeling of “team” that permeated the campus. There wasn’t hardly an “I” to be found –  instead it was about “we” and the power of teamwork. As Karyn, Matt and I talked about Army’s philosophy, it reminded me of our call to be on Team Jesus.


The New Testament is filled with verses where Jesus asks us to do two things: Believe and Love. Intermixed with these callings is a clear message of service. I used to think of service as something that I needed to do in order to prove that I was worthy – to become eligible for God’s love and the ability to spend eternal life in heaven. During this time of my life, I did a lot of things that helped others. But, over time, my heart grew weary. I lost sight of the joy of giving as it became more like an obligation than a gift.

I’ve always viewed Jesus as my innate source of goodness, but it has taken time for me to fully understand what it means to be Jesus’ hand and feet. It’s not about an obligation to serve, rather it’s about taking His love into your heart in order to share it with others. It’s about abiding in Him. After all, you can’t be someone’s hands and feet without being a part of them. It is this intentional choice that brings us together as Christ’s body. It inspires us to belong to each other – to look outside of ourselves to share – to work toward the mission – to find the peaceful and joyous victory that our hearts seek.

We could call it by lots of fancy terms, but to me it’s walking with Jesus. He’s the coach and we’re the team. As his Holy Spirit guides us, we follow.  Together we make Holy Moments. 2Corinthians 9:7 reminds us that “God loves a cheerful giver”. Perhaps God loves a cheerful giver not just because He likes to see us smile, but because that is a sure sign that we’ve given our hearts to the One who asks us to be his hands and feet.

Last week I watched one of our Haymaker Cross Country teammates circle back during the “recovery” part of our interval workout to help someone who was struggling. This isn’t an unusual occurrence. Our athletes do a good job looking outside of themselves to be good teammates.  The concept of stronger together holds meaning for them. As I spend the fall season with the runners, I’m reminded of how simple it is to serve others with a joyful heart.

When Jesus takes up residence in our hearts, then our hands become His hands and our feet become His feet. Together we make the Holy Moments that help to keep the light burning.

 

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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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When things get tough, Look Up!

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Hebrews 10: 23-24

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”


I spend my falls helping to coach the local high school and junior high cross country teams. It works out just about perfectly as we finish up swim team season – have a few weeks to refuel – and then Haymaker Cross Country begins. We have a great set of athletes and coaches who bless my fall days.

Part of the training routine for the runners is to run intervals or repeats of certain distances at specific paces. This not only physically prepares them to race, but it also teaches their brains what it feels like to persevere. Some afternoons in Central Nebraska provide nice, cool running weather and some bring on summer heat with a heavy dose of humidity that provides added challenge to the workouts. I remember doing repeats in the Florida heat when I was in high school, and a few decades later it provides a different perspective to coach the kids as they persevere through them on the plains of Nebraska 🙂

The other day during practice, God put the following phrase on my heart: when things get tough, look up.  The runners were hot, tired and only about halfway through the interval workout, and I could see some of them begin to struggle mentally as the physical exertion began to weigh heavily on them. Trials tend to remove any filter that might normally impact our behavior causing a clear picture of our hearts to shine through. It may be the physical test of a difficult athletic practice, or a mental or emotional challenge that leaves us shaken.


What happens to you when trials come your way? Are you able to pack your faith to hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm? Or, do you struggle to trust that God will keep his promise and that Jesus will steadfastly hold your heart?

Do you LOOK UP so that you can persevere with grace?

I think that hope provides the key to perseverance. When you are tired, when you begin to doubt your abilities, when quitting (or settling) appears more attractive than finishing strong — it is the hope that Jesus places in your heart that leads to victory. Hope inspires selfless love and good works. There is both strength and freedom to be found in the realization that IT IS BIGGER THAN YOU.

We don’t travel alone.

The ask may be hard. Just like our Cross Country interval workouts, sometimes hard work and discomfort mark the journey. But, our hearts gain limitless fuel when we hold tightly to our faith. Where our heart goes, our body will follow. It’s like that awesome runner’s high in those moments when your feet seem weightless and your lungs become invincible.

Have you ever noticed that your own challenges seem to get smaller when you look outside of yourself to help someone else? Something almost magical happens when we shift our focus to How can I serve? God keeps his promises. He uses each one of us to bring hope, purpose and love to each other. He heals the broken by inspiring the broken to help mend others.

That’s just awesome.

And, the best part of all is the promise of the Eternal High Five that waits for us on the other side. So, the next time that things get hard – LOOK UP – so that God can redirect your focus to one of serving others. There is a special healing beauty that is found in sharing Jesus’ hope and love with your neighbors 🙂

 

 

 

 

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A Grateful, Hopeful and Joyful Heart…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Luke 6: 27-28

“But to you who are willing to listen. I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.”


I went back to the doctor last week for a check up on my leg. I’ve still got a lot of stiffness and discomfort from it, but my strength and mobility improve each day. The doctor’s parting words were, “Anne, you’ve gotten to the point that you won’t hurt your leg. It’ll just hurt you. Healing takes time and you’ve had a significant trauma.”

There’s an old expression that says “time heals”. While I think that patience plays a huge role in rehabilitation, it doesn’t work alone. Healing takes an intentional effort that requires us to move through the pain – to forgive – and to let go of it. If we don’t do that, we become a slave to it. Doc was very clearly telling me to be patient, but he had just gotten finished instructing me on how important it was to put in the work to build back the leg in spite of the pain.

Human nature directs us to move away from physical pain. Our brains do an excellent job of letting us know when something hurts and our instant reflex is to distance ourselves from it. Sometimes, despite the fact that it seems the best thing to do in the short term – shying away precludes us from moving forward in a meaningful way in the long term.


Mental and emotional pain affect our daily choices just as much as physical pain. They are very real and they will own us if we do not intentionally choose to lean into the hope and the peace that Jesus brings.

  • A grateful heart focuses on what we have rather than getting fixated on what we do not have.
  • A hopeful heart revels in the promise of today instead of living in the disappointments of yesterday.
  • A joyful heart learns from all experiences (even painful ones) and looks with optimism to the possibilities that tomorrow brings.

Jesus was big on healing. It seems to me that most of his life on earth was spent healing people and teaching his disciples how to heal. I used to think that Jesus called us to love one another – even and especially our enemies – because we should always be kind. Love your neighbor as yourself is an instruction that many of us give to ourselves on a daily basis. It provides a cornerstone to living in fellowship with others.

But what if Jesus calls us to love those who hurt us not just to be kind, but because that intentional act of loving forgiveness allows our pain to be released and ultimately our hearts to heal?

While pain and hurt are difficult to deal with, they offer the opportunity to shape our hearts and can ultimately help to set us free. Jesus didn’t shy away from pain. He walked into it – with a faith that overcame fear and a hope that led to healing. He hated the sin, but he loved the sinner. His heart was free regardless of physical circumstance or the behavior of others. That gives a whole new meaning to the term amazing grace.

Joseph lived with our family for 383 days before leaving on May 6th. Someday I am going to write about the time that we spent together. He played a big role in bringing alive many of Jesus’ teachings including this one. Much like my leg, the healing of my heart is a slow process. But, each day I intentionally lean into my faith in order to move through the pain. This offers a release that leads to healing and allows me to love with a grateful, hopeful, and joyful heart.

As I read the Gospels, one thing is certain to me. Jesus loves each one of us. He cares about our hearts and will lead us to healing if we follow His guidance. He doesn’t take away the pain, but He teaches us how to find a joy and peace that fills our hearts regardless of circumstance.

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From the inside out…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Job 4:3-6

Eliphaz (a friend of Job) says to him, “In the past you have encouraged many people; you have strengthened those who were weak. Your words have supported those who were falling; you encouraged those with shaky knees. But now when trouble strikes, you lose heart. You are terrified when it touches you. Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence? Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope?”


As I read these words in the book of Job last week, it reminded me of myself – how I inwardly struggle during times of challenge — how I lose confidence when I am faced with multiple hardships. My pastor reminded me on Sunday that there are two typical responses that a Christian can have during times of trial: lean into faith or reject/flee from God.

I think that the deciding factor for me when things get hard is my level of trust. Do I limit God or do I truly believe that He is both good and great? A related question that I find myself wondering is:

“Am I being punished and rejected by God, or is He walking through the struggles with me and shaping me out of love from the inside out?”


I fell on the ice and broke my leg about nine months after I brought Joe home to live with our family. There’s really not a good reason that I fell – it was a quirky winter-time accident that did far more damage than rational thought can explain. During the same time as my leg refused to heal, I was forced to face the reality that Joe was rejecting the values and love that our family was trying to share with him. That hit me hard, and I found myself trying to figure out what I’d done wrong.

I temporarily forgot about God’s part – my part – others part. And, I placed the blame squarely on myself. This filled me with sadness as I began to wonder if my leg was a punishment for not correctly answering God’s call to love Joe. I wasn’t sure where I’d messed up or what I should have done differently, but that did not take away the feeling of aloneness and failure that threatened my heart.

I have a good friend named Bev. Joe’s presence in our family brought us together. If I didn’t believe in God, then I might say that our friendship was a coincidence. But since I rely strongly on my faith, my heart knows that God brought her to me because I needed her on the journey. Bev’s faith is so strong and she reflects Jesus’ love better than anyone that I have ever known.

It’s hard for me to open up to others, but one day I asked Bev to help me understand. I was blessed, as she did not respond the same way that Job’s friends responded to his trials. Instead, she reminded me that Jesus always loves me – always walks with me – and uses experiences of all kinds in order to shape my heart from the inside out. My struggles were not a punishment, rather they were a chance for me to gain perspective and understanding. It was a pivotal time that allowed me to lean into my faith to find strength and hope instead of pulling away to wallow in self-pity and blame.

The book of Job helps me to understand that it’s okay to question God and to have feelings of doubt. But, during those times, it is important that I take those questions and doubts to God – to go to Him. We can’t see God, but faith can fill the gap so that we can experience God. We are emotional beings – created to be loved and to love. God loves us and often brings people into our lives when we need them the most. We find healing when we embrace that and give our emotions to Jesus. It is through Him that our hearts find peace.

Tomorrow I have a third surgery on my leg. I don’t know the details of what will happen, but I do know that Jesus will hold my hand and my heart as I travel the journey. It’s my job to take it to Him – trusting in love. He’ll be there – in my heart and in the hearts of those that love me. I don’t really agree with Eliphaz’s words up above that say “a life of integrity will bring me hope”. Rather, I think that Jesus brings me the hope that I need to fuel myself and to share with others — from the inside out.

 

 

 

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Courageous Faith…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week’s post comes from Galatians 2: 21

“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless…”


I wasn’t going to write a post to share this week as we are going through some difficult times at home, and I am not yet able to share about them. But, here I am writing at 9:00 on Tuesday night as God has placed something on my heart. I opened my bible to read out of Galatians and the above partial verse jumped off of the page at me.

I love it when the Holy Spirit does that!

The more that I realize the depth of God’s love, the more I understand the vastness of His grace. When we walk through hard times, it is easy to be angry – to accuse God of not being there – to let frustration steal the peace that should live in our hearts. I’ve been tempted to do this, but God just keeps pursuing me. His steadfastness draws me in. It inspires me to lean into my faith instead of walking away.

Why?

Because Jesus shows up everyday. He is the ultimate demonstration of God’s grace and He uses the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide. He fills my heart with the courageous faith that inspires hope and grants the peace that passes all understanding. Even on the hard days – especially on the hard days.

He is there.

I write myself bible verses, quotes and sayings on note cards. I scatter them around the house and seem to find them on the days that I need them. A couple of weeks ago, I sat down and wrote: “Courageous faith is continuing to work with hope even during times of trial — trusting that God’s grace will carry me.” When we treat the grace of God with reverence and devotion and truly trust in it, then we are able to feel the full power of courageous faith. Its value is limitless.


 

I’ve experienced God’s grace often over the past several months. I’ve seen it in this goofy and loyal dog that has granted me company in the long days that I spent in the chair with a broken leg. I’ve seen it in my favorite farmer and our girls as they have circled in love and carried me when I failed. I’ve seen it in friends and those in our church family who have been there – waiting to fill whatever gap unfolds – supporting without question – and reflecting Jesus’ love with steadfast loyalty. I’ve seen it as I’ve continued to live, to coach, and to share my faith.

Sharing faith helps to create courageous faith. We are all meant to live in community. The more that I embrace that, the more I am able to experience God’s grace. Many times grace is found in giving – not in receiving. A grace-filled heart is a grateful heart. Grateful hearts make for cheerful givers. Cheerful givers spread God’s grace, even during times of trial.

Today I am thankful for God’s grace. I cherish the courageous faith that Jesus puts into my heart, and pray that in sharing it I can also help to spread His grace to others.

Thank you to all of you who have reached out in prayer and support for me over the past weeks. Please know how much I appreciate your kindness 🙂

 

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Suffering with holiness – Loving with grace…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of Luke 23:34

“Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”


Last week we experienced Holy Week and celebrated the Easter holiday. 2019 has been a time of great reflection for me, and our Good Friday church service brought me a great deal of clarity with something that I have been struggling with for months. Hours of prayer and reflection have resulted in the following three questions being in the forefront of my mind.

  1. Why does God allow us to suffer?
  2. What does Jesus teach us about suffering with holiness?
  3. What does Jesus teach us about loving with grace?

I believe that suffering occurs on many levels – physical as well as emotional. I’ve experienced both in 2019.

Health problems resulting from a fall on the ice where I shattered my fibula (leg bone) has led to four and a half months of physical pain – two surgeries – seven weeks in a cast – and nine weeks in a boot. 16 and a half weeks in, I am slowly transitioning out of the boot and into a pair of running shoes and have traded two crutches for one. I wake up everyday hoping that my leg won’t hurt. I’ve been told that day is far into the future as is the day that I will take a long awaited running step.

Almost two weeks ago, as I headed in for the second surgery hoping to gain the ankle flexion that I needed to walk, I gave it to God. The hours spent in physical therapy did not seem to be working, and I was left in a fog of chronic pain and very little hope. I needed grace as my suffering was not only painful but it was beginning to lack in holiness as anger kept my heart from feeling peace amidst my struggle.

Why does God allow us to suffer? To teach us lessons that enable us to reach out in love to help others. It’s a hard journey, but I am finally finding the grace that I need to be thankful for it. I no longer look at the world the same way. I am irrevocably changed. This actually is the second time a chronic health issue has crippled me – 14 years ago Graves Disease destroyed my health and led to a four year fight to regain it. Looking back, I can see how that time of suffering also shaped me.

Isn’t it interesting how God uses our experiences to help us to grow in faith?

As I sat in the Good Friday service thinking of the suffering that Jesus endured during his lifetime and particularly during the last few days of his earthly life, the phrase suffer with holiness kept running through my mind. There really is no other way to describe what Jesus went through — the ridicule, the betrayal, the physical pain of carrying the cross and then dying on it. Understanding what it means to suffer allows me to better understand how Jesus loved with grace.

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do. 

Jesus very clearly calls us to love our neighbors – to forgive them when they cause us pain – to offer supportive love when they need it. He says it in the Bible and he lived it during his time on earth. It sounds easy, but it is not. The months that I have spent physically crippled from the leg break have coincided with a very difficult time trying to mentor and love the young man that God called our family to help over a year ago. Emotional suffering is real and I believe it is possibly even more difficult to work through than physical suffering. The combination of it has shaken me to the core.

I’ve learned several things over the past four months, but likely the most important lesson is that I can cling to Jesus when things get hard. He suffers with me and he loves with the grace that allows me to find hope when I can’t find it on my own.  The Good News is that God’s love never falters and that Jesus exhibits a loving grace carried with the same strength and steadfastness with which he shouldered the cross.

He does it for each one of us.

He does it out of love, and it makes all of the difference.

 

 

 

 

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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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