Tag Archives: love

The Height of the Basket…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

We find joy when we look to:

J esus

O thers

Y ourself

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

 

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Beautiful, Awkward Grace…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from Hebrews 4:16

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”


The Holy Spirit sometimes has to say the same thing to me multiple times before I figure out His message. Whether I miss it the first time, or don’t listen to understand, the Spirit does eventually get my attention 😉 This week we celebrated my favorite brunette’s 20th birthday. As I sit and think about all of things that I am grateful for, being a mom tops the list. Not just because my children bring me great joy, but also because God uses them to teach me so very much.

Ashley Grace played a huge role in bringing me back to Christ during a time in my life when I faltered and got *stuck*. The work of the Holy Spirit through her opened my eyes to the vastness of God’s grace. It is humbling and beautiful to watch Jesus move through the Spirit in the life of a teenager. It can be life-altering when that teenager is your’s. I had always thought that my faith needed to be perfect in order to honor God. As a result, I worked really hard but constantly fell short. I ended up tired and discouraged. My daughter taught me that grace fills the gap. It is perfectly and beautifully awkward because Jesus promises to always meet me where I am – not where I should be. Grace is what helps me to move toward where I should be, and it’s a good thing that I need divine interference to get there!

When we give our hearts to Christ, we never walk alone. Life becomes a beautiful, awkward journey full of grace.


As we move through the season of Advent, I pray that each of us remembers the gift of grace. It’s available to everyone, and it’s given freely to all those who believe. It never runs out and comes in the form of peace, hope, love, and forgiveness. We can look for it in a variety of places, but we’ll only find it in One.

Our earthly days are sometimes hard, but they are better when we walk in faith. And, (best of all) we are guaranteed a good ending! Jesus did that for us and nothing and no one can take that away. We live as awkward people in an awkward world. The Good News is that we have a gracious God with an unending supply of awkward grace that meets each and every one of us just where we are. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews reminds us to come boldly to the throne of God. There we will find mercy and grace when we need it most – complete with free delivery to wherever we are at the moment!

This year, celebrate the Christmas season with defiant hope because Christ came for us and will never leave us lonely – we simply need to accept that joy comes from what is happening inside of our hearts through Jesus rather than being contingent on the circumstances that we face on earth. That’s the beauty of grace.

As I look back twenty years ago, it seems fitting that my favorite farmer and I gave her “grace” as her middle name 🙂 Happy Birthday to my beautiful girl whose heart overflows with Jesus’ beautiful, awkward grace!

 

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WayMakers…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Proverbs 3: 27

“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them.”


I draw on the above verse often. I believe that we are called to be Jesus’ hands and feet to others, to share His love and light as we go through each day. There’s a part of that calling that is very uncomfortable, and yet a larger piece that is just plain beautiful. The kind of heart-pulling beauty that promises an overriding purpose regardless of daily circumstance. It inspires me to want to do my part while also trusting that God has always and will always do His part.

Although it is closing in on two years ago, I remember very clearly when the Holy Spirit asked me to bring Joseph home. Our family wrestled for days with the uncertainty that revolved around stepping in to help him. Proverbs 3:27 is the verse that led me to follow the call despite our fear of the enormity of it. What right did I have to say “no” when a young man so very clearly needed the love of our family? We had the power to give, it simply involved opening up our hearts to share God’s grace. I don’t know exactly what Joseph learned during our time together, but I learned to trust Jesus to fill my heart each day with love to share. For fifteen months I loved Joseph like he was my son. And, every morning Jesus showed up to help wipe away the challenges of yesterday in order to love today and have hope for tomorrow.

While my heart wishes that Joseph’s story with our family had worked out differently, I am truly thankful that I got to love him. I think that if you asked my favorite farmer and our girls, they would respond the same. The girls hung their Christmas stockings on the mantle Saturday night, and they carefully hung Joseph’s next to theirs. Each one of us clings to the hope that someday he will enter our lives again. We are continuing to learn to trust in God’s plan and timing in addition to Jesus’ steadfast love.

Joseph was a WayMaker for me. As I loved him, I realized that I was not called to walk alone. Just as the Holy Spirit led me to share life with Joseph, Jesus promised to hold my hand as I took each step. As I took those steps, my faith deepened in ways that I could never have imagined. I pray that we were also WayMakers for Joseph. A light during a dark time, and a source of love through a season of loneliness.


A legacy is something that a person leaves behind. Legacies create pathways that guide others as they move through life. Joseph’s presence in our family opened not only our hearts but also our eyes to a need that exists in our community (and likely in every community). In a very real way, he created a legacy that changed our hearts. I’ve always known the importance of love, but I now have a new understanding of just how important it is to love as Jesus loves – without any strings and with an unlimited reservoir.

Every child has a story. Every child matters. Every child deserves to receive love, to be taught to love, and to understand that they never walk alone. This week a new group will begin at our local middle school. A friend and I are starting a Friday morning -before school- student prayer group called the WayMakers. It will be similar to the daily devotions and character lessons that our swim team kids share on the pool deck each summer, but with an additional overriding theme: 

Understanding that as we are called to walk with Jesus, we never walk alone. His love, felt and shared through each of us, unites us in goodness and fills the gaps for those in need.

Please pray for us as we begin this new journey – That God will fill our hearts with Jesus’ love and bring the students that most need to understand just “how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” Ephesians 3:18

For those FYF readers with middle school students in Cozad, WayMakers will meet in Mrs. Kostrunek’s room at 7:30 every Friday morning for the remainder of the school year 🙂

 

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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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