Tag Archives: love

25 Years…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from 1 Corinthians 13: 1-7

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it, but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”


A good friend read this scripture passage 25 years ago at our wedding. Back then, I think the words in the reading were an “ideal” that I strived for, but did not really understand. I knew in my heart that I loved Matt and he loved me. However,ย  I’m pretty sure that neither of us truly realized the value of a love like what is described above. I’m certain that I had no real idea how toย live it out.

I believe that God brings people into our lives to help us grow. I was 18 when I met Matt, and we’ve spent more than a quarter of a century growing together. We’ve got a lot of stories – some that make us laugh and some that make us cry. But, we’ve embraced it all together and I cannot think of a greater blessing than getting to “do life” with him.

I could say a lot of things, but I think the Apostle Paul said it best. Love is the cornerstone, the evidence, the essence of God’s purpose for our lives. It is sometimes hard, but so are all things that hold meaning in life. Love makes the difference. It allows us to faithfully endure together.ย  There is abundant hope to be found in that. The kind of hope that inspires perseverance โค๏ธ

Today, I am simply thankful for the love that Jesus puts in our hearts each morning to share. And, I pray that God will bring each of my girls a soulmate who will complete them and inspire them to start each day by looking up to receive the Grace that enables precious love to bloom ๐Ÿ™‚

6 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

Time and Love…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from the Gospel of John 21:18-19

Jesus says to Peter: “‘I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked, you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and other’s will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.’ Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, ‘Follow me’.”


This scripture reading provides a foundational basis for me as I deepen in my walk with Jesus. In all honestly, I read this passage many times before I understood it and I’m still digging in to comprehend it more fully. I blogged about it almost a year ago when I did a deep dive of study into it, and the words came back to me last spring when I was able to listen to Davidson College Men’s basketball coach Bob McKillop speak. Coach McKillop was addressing a group of Christian athletes and sharing “his most important life lesson”. Interestingly enough, his “most important life lesson” was not wrapped up in coaching Steph Curry, rather it was about the value of giving the gift ofย  “time” and “love”.

** I intended to write this blog post right after I heard Coach McKillop, but I got drafted to finish the school year for a middle school English teacher who was on maternity leave so the blog got put on hold as God placed one hundred and twenty five 6th and 8th graders into my daily life. Instead of writing myself, I got to help them hone their writing and their “life skills” ๐Ÿ™‚


I believe that God desires our hearts and our time. In fact, I think that as humans it is almost impossible to fully separate the two. Our hearts tend to determine how we spend our time. And, as a result, how we spend our time reflects what or whom we love. Coach McKillop could have visited about many things, but he choose to talk about the value of sharing time and love – with our Creator and Redeemer – and how that “shared time” works to fulfill God’s purpose and brings meaning to our lives. Prayer, reading the Bible, and serving all glorify our heavenly Father because He desires to walk our earthly journey with us and through us. When we submit our hearts to Him, we are inspired to give the gift of time and love.

It’s been more than a year since I left my full-time job in the beef industry. For several years prior to that, I had been internally battling with whether working to improve cattle welfare was the continued life path that God asked of me. I felt him pulling my heart other directions, and asking me to yield that career in order to better give the gift of time and love. It’s hard to give up something that you worked tirelessly for over the span of more than two decades, but I repeatedly felt the Holy Spirit telling me to let it go. Some days it felt as though I was uncomfortably stretching out my hands as I gave up control. But, I promised Jesus that I would continue to follow as long as He guided me, so I left my routine and ventured further into the realm of the unknown.

Leaving my job was the not the first time that the Holy Spirit clearly directed me away from what was comfortable. Our family’s adoption of Joseph into our hearts and our lives provided that inaugural moment. Today, I still am actively engaged in both of these “Jesus journeys” as well as coaching and working with kids. And, God continues to use them to deepen my faith and bring purpose to my life. I’m not the Apostle Peter. But, as I journey, I better understand that I am a valued and inspired child of God.

Somewhere along the way, I’ve realized the importance of who I “worked for”. And, as my faith continues to mature, I better comprehend Jesus’s ask for me to joyfully share my time and the love that He places in my heart. I used to “work for Anne”. Today, I “work for God”. There are moments that He dresses me and takes me to places that I am not sure that I want to go, but I am finding that deep meaning and fulfillment exists in the midst of those times. As I continue to obey the command to follow me, Jesus leads me to greener pastures where He is able to use my gift of time to share His grace and love.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

Forgiveness is our Super-Power…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: 4: 1-3

“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”


It’s been many years since the first time that I walked into Parkview Baptist Church. Ashley Grace attended Youth Group and Bible study there with a friend, and had recently begun to attend Sunday morning worship there as well. I was in the midst of a “rut” in terms of my own faith, and feeling a bit lost. My fourth decade on the earth was teaching me all of the things that I didn’t know, thereby eroding the confidence with which I was used to facing life. Amidst all of the unanswered questions, I knew in my heart that God was calling me to share faith with my girls. So, I followed the request of my oldest child and drove 15 miles down the road to Lexington, NE to see what she was inviting me into.

That first Sunday, I walked in the door with quite a lot of trepidation and absolutely no idea what to expect. My background in the Episcopal and Catholic churches did not offer me much of a window into the community of a Baptist church. Two very friendly and earnest gentlemen named George and Randy welcomed Matt and I at the door, and we found seats in the back of the church. I held Matt’s hand as we stood to worship and I spent some time wrapping my brain around a different type of church service. And then, a soft-spoken preacher named John Shields opened his Bible and started to read and share.

I had not spent significant time in my adulthood reading my Bible. It would be accurate to say that I’d done more wandering than journeying in terms of faith. I had gotten *stuck* dedicatedly working to try to earn my way instead of seeking to be in relationship with the Savior that humbly and steadfastly loved me. But, that day Jesus used Pastor John to begin to inspire me to dig into God’s Word to get to personally know the Trinity that was the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And, praying over and thinking about the message shared each week on Sunday morning began to bring me back regularly until Parkview was not just Ashley Grace’s “home church” but it became mine and our entire family’s as well. For the first time in my life, I intentionally joined Jesus’ church and it changed my heart and my perspective.

I was blessed to be a part of more than five years of Pastor John’s ministry. I have many favorite sermons and hundreds of pages of notes. But, I think perhaps what I hold the most value in are the times spent watching John lead with a heart full of Jesus and a resulting agape love that marks him as Christ’s own. He is what Paul describes above in the passage from Ephesians: humble, gentle, patient, and compassionate. His actions initiate an inspired call for us to unite in the Spirit. One of my favorite “Pastor John” sayings is that forgiveness is our super-power.ย 


On Sunday, John preached his last sermon as head pastor of Parkview Baptist Church. He reminded us that Jesus is the cornerstone, and called us to steadfastly radiate His love as we share the Gospel. Our church family has shed many tears over the past month as we’ve prepared for John and his wife Julie’s 25-year ministry to draw to a close. Honestly, that kind of loving leadership is hard to let go. John now answers a new call to serve and mentor pastors all across Nebraska and Kansas. He and Julie leave a legacy of love, passion, and faithful obedience to Jesus for all of us in the Parkview family to tend and grow on into the future.

I will always carry with me John’s reminder to harness my super-power of forgiveness in order to honor the invitation that I accepted when I joined Team Jesus ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you, John and Julie, for loving, guiding, and supporting our family as we journey in faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

The Refuge…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from the book of Revelation 22: 17

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come’. Let anyone who hears this say, ‘Come’. Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.”


During the school year, I volunteer at “The Refuge” on Wednesday nights as a small group leader for middle school girls. This is my third year discipling and loving the kids that God brings us. It is difficult to describe the experience of this weekly ministry. If I were to create a “word mosiac” to describe our time together, it would be a unique blend of words.

I don’t know what I thought it was going to be like when I volunteered to join the team, but after three years of serving I can say that it is MORE than I ever could have comprehended. The first year that I helped was the year that Joseph joined our family. I think that year was the first time in my life that I deeply understood that Jesus loves through me. My eyes were opened, as this kind of blind love knows no boundaries and it brings with it a different kind of raw vulnerability. When Jesus moves in your heart to allow you to see through His eyes, it is impossible to ignore the needs of others. As you look in their eyes, you feel what they feel. Sharing someone else’s emotions while you help them to find light is a different kind of hard.

Psalm 62:8 says, “O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge.” Before I said “yes” to this call to serve, when I was on the outside peering in, I felt fear and doubt. My mind was full of questions: Can I handle this? Will I empathize and see the world through their eyes? Do I trust that Jesus will be there so that they can see him through me? As I worried over all of these things, I realized that this was God asking me to live in faith — to not immediately have the answer, yet to trust in his leading. I discovered that finding refuge is not necessarily about finding answers. It’s about developing trust. I have a mantra. It is something that I often tell myself as well as the kids that God brings into my life. It is simply, “Pack your faith”.

God doesn’t necessarily call the qualified.

Rather, he qualifies those whom he calls.ย 


The book of Revelation ends the Bible with a look at heaven, and the urgent message that all are invited to “come”. God has a variety of ways of delivering this message, and one of them is through us. Do we value the invitation enough to respond? Do we trust that Jesus will lead us through the journey? The work that we do on earth has eternal consequences. Heaven is intended to be a very crowded place. Crowded in the sense that it is designed to welcome anyone, with enough room for everyone ๐Ÿ™‚

We don’t need to worry if we are qualified. Christ is bigger than any crisis. When He calls us, He will lead us. And, it will change our hearts. It’s hard to describe, but it is the beginning of a beautiful life.

Leave a comment

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

A Heart To Serve…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Matthew 20: 25-28 (also found in Mark 10),

Jesus called his disciples together and said to them, “You know that the rulers of this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

And also, 1John 3:11,

“This is the message that you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.”


2020 provided a strange year. A time when community, service, and safety all came together in a way that caused tremendous confusion for me. Amidst the Covid pandemic, I felt the conflict between “stay home/stay safe” and Jesus’ persistent call to serve others in love. What did God want me to do in this strange, new environment? It was clear to me that I was called to continue to serve, but what did that really mean?

My brain batted this question around repeatedly during the spring months as schools canceled and the overriding cultural message was stay home to flatten the curve.ย I prayed for wisdom, and I prayed for patience. I postponed swim team practice, and I worshiped via the internet on Sunday mornings. And, my heart cried as I watched our country disconnect from each other and our kids flounder as their daily support structure crumbled away. Our community felt the wrath of the disease in a multitude of different ways as those we loved were sickened or lost, and possibly all of us in some way struggled to gain insight as to how to love as a servant loves.

Summer came and God made it possible to have local swim team practice. We also were able to meet again as a church family to worship each week and this brought a sense of community back that became a lifeline for me. In the fall, school reopened and Youth Group began again, and I learned to wear a mask. It felt strange, but God told me that above all else I needed to be a servant and to be a good neighbor. Leading in love meant sacrificing for others. When the kids that I coached asked me to mask up to protect them and to protect their season, I found clarity in God’s Word (Romans Chapters 12-15:6) and learned to make it work. As I wrote last week, in Our Covid Story, I still have more questions than answers. But, winter has brought some important revelations that have shaped my heart, my thoughts and my actions as we finished up 2020 and moved into 2021.


The first revelation is it is okay to have a servant heart. This is a core part of who I am, and it is directly aligned with my heart for Jesus. I love our church dearly because being surrounded by a church family who is dedicated to serving provided a light to me as I stumbled around in the darkness of 2020. Our pastors reminded me weekly of Jesus’ call to disciple, and inspired me to find ways to intentionally respond to that call. I learned that although details were important, when your core is in Christ that it is okay to lessen your grip and just trust and follow.

The second revelation is that a pandemic does not lesson the need for service, it amplifies it. I’ve seen a loneliness, a sense of “being lost” in the eyes of many (myself included) over the last ten months. Some looked lost because they stopped looking for ways to serve, and some because their need to be served was so great. There is a tremendous physical, mental, and spiritual need as we move into 2021 and I pray that we will all respond when God asks us to move.

The third revelation is something that I’ve learned to cling to. Love is what “moves mountains”. It saves and it binds us together as a family. Goodness is rooted in love, and God is love. We can come up with impressive and detailed theories, but it really is simple. When we serve in love, then Jesus is able to move in and bring change because He is the ultimate display of God’s love. He is Grace, a Grace that is meant to be shared.

I don’t know what all 2021 will bring, but I pray that each of us will reconnect with community and obey Jesus’ command to love one another in service.

2 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

What’s in a name?

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Luke chapter 9: Jesus and Zacchaeus. Specifically, verse 5:

“When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. ‘Zacchaeus!’ he said, ‘Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.'”


We learn to understand our names as babies before we can even speak ourselves. Each of us has one, and it makes us unique. Have you ever spent time thinking of the importance of getting personal enough to call someone by name? I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot recently as I began my tenure as a substitute in our local middle school. There are a lot of kids (a sea of movement down the hallways with faces partially disguised by masks) but each one has a name and a unique blend of traits that makes them special.

The critical question for me becomes: How does each student know that I consider them valuable and special?

It starts when I call them by name – by the right name, pronounced correctly, and with a smile on my face. I’m masked up too, but I know in my heart that the kids can sense my smile. With about 200 students in the school, knowing each one’s name is not a simple goal. I’m lucky to have coached about a quarter of them, but that still leaves a large number of masked faces looking at me with expectation.

As if to put an exclamation point on the importance of this goal, the Holy Spirit inspired our Youth Pastor to ask me recently to read a book entitled, “It’s Personal”. The book, by Virginia Ward, Reggie Joiner, and Kristen Ivy covers how hope is intrinsically tied to getting personal with the kids that God brings into our lives. Getting personal starts with caring enough to call them by name.


How many people in your life have both a name and a story to tell?


How does it make you feel when someone you barely know calls you by name? How does it make you feel when someone you know fairly well mispronounces or forgets your name? While the book discusses the importance of getting personalย with adolescents and teenagers, I would argue that our ability to intentionally take the time to notice and to care impacts the adults in our lives just as much as the kids. The best way to love authentically is to go deep. There is a vulnerability that comes from opening your heart to each person that God brings into your life, but there is also a deep sense of purpose that stems from choosing to take the risk.

The story of Jesus and Zacchaeus illustrates how Jesus felt about heart-felt relationships. Zacchaeus is one example of how Jesusย modeled genuine friendship by taking the time to both notice and move in to understand the people around him. Zacchaeus was a loner, an unpopular tax collector struggling with greed and loneliness. When he heard that Jesus was to pass by, he climbed up in a tree to try and see the Messiah. Imagine how he felt when Jesus noticed him, called him by name, and invited him into fellowship?ย  When Jesus called him by name, I bet that he felt worth. When Jesus invited him into fellowship, I imagine that he felt hope. It’s so simple, but yet so awesomely beautiful.

What if each day there is someone that God intentionally places on your path?

Take the time to stop and look around.

There’s someone who needs you to see them.

It isn’t often convenient and it takes a unique blend of compassion, awareness and courage. Honestly, it’s hard. But it is so, so very important. I pray each day that I slow down to notice, accept, love and value the kids that God brings into my life. It starts by simply learning a name, but it leads to a promise of shared grace.

Who is your Zacchaeus today?

7 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

Coaching through Covid-19…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Romans chapters 14 and 15: I really encourage reading both chapters in their entirety. I found clear discernment in them as I served and coached through the past six months. Here is the first part of chapter 15…

“We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.


Every moment of every day we all make a choice: Am I going to build people up or tear them down? Another way to think about this is to ask the question, “Do I exist simply to please myself or does God put breath in my lungs so that I can serve others as I share His love?

I’ve been a “part time” coach for the past 24 years. I was an athlete for more than a decade before that. Picture the high school kid who trained four hours a day and went to nationals instead of prom ๐Ÿ™‚ That was me! Swimming and running were my refuge during my teenage years. Looking back, I can see how God placed the sports in my life to help me grow and refine the sense of integrity and discipline that He placed deep within my soul. Today, God continues to use athletics to shape my heart. I love the kids that He brings to me. I love them in a genuine way that teaches me about compassion, mercy, and sacrifice. My athletes are a critical part of my faith journey, and God just keeps bringing on the blessings with each season that passes.

In my mind, Jesus is the ultimate coach. He came to seek, to serve, and to save. No one was insignificant in his eyes. Everyone was worthy of love. During his time on earth, He never ran out of patience and always took the time to pour into the people in his life. His unselfish consideration of others provides a lofty goal that drives me to try to love better and ultimately to coach better. There is not a day that passes that I don’t ask myself, “am I being considerate in order to build others up?” In all honesty, the answer to that question sometimes slaps me in the face as I realize that I have stumbled. But, when I think about what has helped me the most as I coached through covid, it is being intentional about making the choice to build others up.

I remember our preacher saying years ago, “What comes out of you during stressful times shows what exists in your heart.”

I pray each day that what comes out of me is love.


Together we are stronger!

I have a list of ideas that God placed on my heart while coaching in 2020. Today, I share them in the hopes that they will inspire and help you as you serve.

  • Certainty is scarce, and fear is abundant. I must be steadfast and rooted in Jesus’ love so that my athletes can find strength and confidence in our relationship.
  • When hope and love come alive, fear falls apart. Community and team provide a support structure that breeds positive energy. As the athletes look around them in the huddle, they have hope and they sense love. They know that they matter and that they belong.
  • Living is important. That means showing up, giving your all, and leading with your heart. Every practice counts. Every race or game is a blessing. Choose to live, be a contributor!
  • Patience and perseverance go hand in hand. Am I tough enough to love first? Am I gentle enough to inspire consideration within the team? Am I humble and strong enough to sacrifice repeatedly for my brothers and sisters?
  • Knowledge makes us feel important, but it is love that builds strength (1Corinthians 8:1). In 2020, more than any time in my coaching career, love mattered. God brought me athletes in a myriad of different emotional states, but they all needed love. There was a deep need in the kids to realize that receiving and sharing love drives hope.
  • Courage is contagious. And, it starts with heart-felt leadership. Working hard together means more because it builds a culture of sacrifice and consideration of others.

When we choose to love, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to build each other up. This is the basis of TEAM (together everyone achieves more). My daily prayer is that our kids will continue to have the ability to engage in church, school, sports, and a variety of team activities that teach them the importance of Jesus’ call to love in community ๐Ÿ™‚

4 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom

Genuine hearts…

Wednesday Wisdom ๐Ÿ™‚


Inspiration this week comes from Paul’s epistle to the Romans 12: 9-13

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”


Sometimes, I read the Bible and I struggle to figure out what God is trying to tell me. Other times, I read the Bible and the message is so obvious that it’s like a friendly smack on the face! I’ve experienced both of those feelings as I studied Paul’s letter to the Romans. Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, I’ve been mainly reading in the New Testament spending time in the Gospels of Luke and John in addition to studying Paul’s epistles. In all honesty, as I read God’s Word, I am searching for a daily roadmap. I need it as I strive to love and serve my family, my community, and the young people that God brings across my path. 2020 has been a year of challenge, and I have tried to be careful to remind myself each day “to look up to the audience that matters” in order to find discernment to lead me through it.

Some days I do a better job of that than others, but I pray that each day God sees my “try” and creates in me a merciful, servant heart.

I spent last week teaching 6th and 7th grade math as a substitute. I am still in the midst of the Cross Country season, so that meant 10+ hour days surrounded by kids. I was pretty well “immersed” ๐Ÿ˜‰ One thing that God placed on my heart over and over again throughout the week was the need to be genuine. I remember an old horse trainer telling me decades ago – “Anne, that horse doesn’t care how much you know until he understands how much you care.” That day, the trainer was reminding me that “cranial knowledge” sometimes needs to take a backseat to the heart and its discernment of right and wrong. I thought about that repeatedly last week as I tried to remember middle school math and keep the kids moving forward in a disciplined fashion. I hope that they figured out over our five days together how much I care about them and the work that we were asked to do together.ย 


I don’t know why we are sometimes tempted to “pretend”, or to create a farce as we live our lives. But, I think that Paul’s reminder up above speaks clearly and boldly about God’s expectation of our hearts. We are called to be genuine, to love without reservation and with great affection. As we love with true hearts, we are also asked to work hard, to serve enthusiastically, to rejoice with hope, and to be patient in times of challenge. Perhaps most importantly, we are asked to be steadfast in our prayers in order to give Jesus the ability to replenish our hearts so that they continue to bless others as they run over with love. The expectation is that we lead with our hearts, always eager to help those in need.ย 

“God loves a cheerful giver” (2Corinthians 9:7).

For years, I thought that God cared most about my actions – for the work that I accomplished. The more time that I spend in His Word and around the kids that He places in my life, the more I realize that what God cares most about is my heart. I’ve decided that I don’t need a “task list” to give me a report card at the end of my day. Instead, I need a “genuine meter” that assesses the sincerity of my heart. Good work can’t help but spill out from a heart that loves with Grace. The works are the fruit of the heart and a demonstration of the love that lives there. This is the evidence of God’s presence in our earthly world. This is how the Good News is shared.

It’s okay to be different. It is good to be genuine. God asks us to be real. It honors and points to our heavenly Father when the sincerity and compassion of our hearts provides the roadmap to our days ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

8 Comments

Filed under Wednesday Wisdom