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All posts for the month March, 2014

Coach

Published March 26, 2014 by Dawn

I made a bunch of fifth-grade girls cry last night and it was absolutely on purpose.

My daughter is a volleyball player, through and through. I’ve never seen her more in her element than when she’s on that court (unless we’re counting the arguments she conjures up … she was totally born to be a lawyer). The girl’s got some mad game. The problem is, she and her teammates don’t push themselves to play well. They have settled right at the edge of “good enough” and have thus far refused to move. Lucky for them, I was asked to help with practice last night, and I decided to show them their own abilities …

Ten minutes into practice, two of the ten were in tears. One appeared to have hurt herself running a drill. The other was sick of running suicides. The simple rule of the night was this: you hit something. You either hit the ball, or you hit the floor trying. My goal was to get them moving. They tend to think that the ball has to come into their bubble and asked to be hit before anyone makes a move. Very few of them move to get the ball, and several of them have nice, clean knee pads that met the floor for the first time yesterday. We’ve been playing for over a year …

By the end of the night, most of them had cried, several went home sore, and one went home limping. It wasn’t my intention that anyone get hurt, but I definitely meant for them to push themselves. And you know what? All of them went home feeling victorious because for the first time in practice, they felt they had improved immensely in one night. And they had. By the end of the night, they looked great! Everyone’s knee pads were dirty, everyone was sweating, and everyone was smiling because they saw something in their game they had never seen before. They saw untapped potential become a fighting chance!

It occurred to me that this is the purpose of trials in our lives: So we can see ourselves living up to all the potential God placed inside of us. He wants us to press in, to not give up, to keep fighting until we have grown into Christ’s likeness. He knows what we are capable of, and He wants to see us living in it! So we are “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed … (2 Cor. 4:8)” And His Spirit is in us, empowering us, strengthening us, giving us wisdom and discernment. Like an internal coach, the Spirit of God is living on the inside showing us how to live above where we’d settle on our own. He fills us with determination when we’d rather quit, and allows us to be victorious in Him.

Our lives will always demand more than we feel capable of. We must choose to either meet it head on or run away. If we face it, we do so with God strengthening us and fighting for us. We are guaranteed to win! If we run, we automatically lose. How might our Coach be preparing you?

 

Do you love me?

Published March 21, 2014 by Dawn

“Do you love me?”

Jesus’ first recorded words to Peter after the resurrection must have cut Peter like a knife. After all, Peter had followed Christ from the first day of His ministry. Peter knew, before anyone else confidently accepted the truth, that Jesus was the Son of God. Peter was transformed from an impulsive, emotionally reactive fisherman to a Rock. But when Jesus’ worst hour came, Peter had wavered in his faith and convictions. He denied even knowing Christ.

After the crucifixion, Peter decided to go back to fishing. His zeal was gone, his hopes dashed. He was done. He stood and declared to the others, “I am going fishing.” And he took off with them trailing behind him. Obviously, he was a leader even then, but he was headed in the wrong direction. And in that direction, they all met with failure and fatigue. They fished all night and got nothing. They couldn’t even successfully do what they had done their entire lives before Christ. Their efforts were useless.

Then, a man called to them from the shore, “Cast your nets over the right side!” When they obeyed, they brought in so many fish, they could hardly manage the nets or the boat. While the others pulled in the net, Peter stood staring. He was taking a hard look at the man on the shore. Something about His voice, His mannerisms … something caught Peter’s attention and he just knew: it was Christ!

Peter abandoned it all. He jumped over the side of the boat, splashing his bewildered friends and started swimming, leaving their indignation behind to get to Christ. Peter needed to be with Him.

When he got to the shore, Jesus had already started a fire and was working up a meal. Jesus stood, motioned to Peter and they began to walk. Relief must have flooded Peter that Jesus did not accuse Him  or even bring up the betrayal. But when Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” Peter was hurt. “Of course, Lord. You know I do.” As if once were not enough, Jesus asked a second and third time, “Do you love me?” And Peter must have paused to wonder at Jesus’ persistent question.  Why is He asking me over and over?

It is one thing to say we love Jesus. It is quite another to love Him. Jesus was asking Peter to examine himself, to ask that painful question: do I really love Him? Do I love Him, or what He does? Do I love Him, or the crowd that surrounds me when I follow Him? Do I love Him or do I love the opportunity to speak on His behalf? Do I want to be His friend or His heir? His heir receives simply by terms of His Will, but His friend … there’s a close personal connection going on there, where receiving becomes a joy, but not a requirement of the relationship. Do I love Him, or do I just love myself so much I want as much as I can get from Him?

“Do you love me?”

A Loveless Marriage

Published March 19, 2014 by Dawn

When we first met, He swept me off my feet and I fell hard. Right into His strong arms. He was all I’d ever wanted. I took Him in in every possible way, allowing Him to consume me as well, and we were one. The love of my life.

As time  went on, though, I lost sight of the simplicity of our love. The acceptance that used to come so easily now became a battle between the two of us. All my insecurities created an atmosphere of hostility and familiarity bred it’s own contempt until finally, I woke up to the face of a loveless marriage. Bitterness, distrust, and disillusionment replaced every trace of our all-consuming fire. I don’t want to be here anymore.

I don’t want to be here, in this place where I look at the One I used to love and feel next to nothing. I remember passion and fire between us. Now it’s just cold. It’s not Him, it’s me. But I can’t help how I feel … right?

No. No, that’s not right. There was something there before. Something real, something fierce. And if I remember nothing else, I remember this: it was the best thing to ever happen in my life. I was happy, and whole. I was full. I was satisfied. It was amazing. He was amazing.

Dear Lover,

Whatever gap is between us, let’s overcome it. Love covers over. Love covers over. Let’s talk again. Let’s reveal ourselves. Let’s be vulnerable and real. Let’s walk together and share our hearts with one another. Let’s laugh together again. Let’s touch. Let’s look at each other again, and blow on the embers between us. Let’s start a fire together. Let’s let passion burn again, molding us together again. Be with me. I want you. I need you. You are my everything, Jesus. Be with me.

Silent Works

Published March 11, 2014 by Dawn

I took my kids to the park the other day to enjoy some beautiful weather. It was a nice, albeit short, reprieve from the abnormally cold winter we’ve had this year (it’s supposed to snow tomorrow … good ole’ Missouri weather). And of course, my kids were magnetically drawn to the little stream running through the park. Both had their shoes off before I could blink, and were really disappointed when I made them put them back on. We’re not shoes people, obviously.

Anyway, we spent time playing baseball and they rode their bikes some, and eventually, they were both flirting with the edge of the creek. When I made it abundantly clear that I did not want them wet, they took to sitting on the bank and dropping rocks and dragging sticks in the water. Then they made a sport of reaching for the trash that was in the middle of the stream and pulling it out. Thirty minutes later, the stream was completely clean and all the trash had been put in a large discarded salt bag they picked up. They were offended by the laziness of people and very happy to see the water free of debris. I was so proud of them. Because they did all of that without expecting to be acknowledged or paid for it. They did it out of the kindness of their heart and the drive to better their little corner of the world.

I think this is the way all of our “works” should be. A silent gift into the lives of others that doesn’t demand a return or a pat on the back. Matthew 6:1-3 tells us this is the desire of our Father:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,…”

Undercover Christians

Published March 10, 2014 by Dawn

I heard some pretty horrific terminology the other day, and it wasn’t because I have an English degree. I heard the term “undercover Christians” used to describe coworkers on my local radio station, and I nearly died of heart failure. Undercover Christians?! We should be the most easily recognizable people on the face of the earth. After all, we are called to be “peculiar.” Truthfully, it hurt my heart. Why are there so many people hiding their identity in Christ? Why can’t the world tell us apart? What happened to being “in the world but not of it”? The answer, I found, is scattered throughout the scriptures. The first of which is in 2 Kings 2:19-25:

“The people of the city said to Elisha, ‘Look, our lord, this town is well-situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.’

‘Bring me a new bowl,’ he said, ‘and put salt in it.’ So they brought it to him.

Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it saying, ‘This is what the Lord says, “I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.” And the land has remained pure to this day, according to the word of the Lord.”

The land is unproductive and the culprit is some very impure water. Rarely do we ever realize how important good water is until we no longer have it. But the effects of bad water will make you look up and take notice, huh? Nothing fruitful grows if the water isn’t pure because tainted water, or water with chemical contaminations, will kill vegetation instead of helping it to thrive.

The water signifies the Word of God, the purifying quality of the Word that washes through us and cleanses us, according to Ephesians 5:26. We wonder why America is in a state of moral decline and we are facing all out war against the Christian faith … Take a look at the story. The land was unproductive because the water was bad.

The truth is, there is a false word being deliberately fed into the church, which is producing wishy-washy Christians. Christians who seem “undercover” because they aren’t serious about rejecting the world and becoming a part of the body of Christ. The world can’t tell most Christians from a hole in the wall because instead of resisting the devil, Christians have begun to compromise in the name of “grace” which has become a false teaching that asserts that Jesus died so we don’t have to worry about our sin. There is no more working out our salvation with fear and trembling anymore. People are no longer worried about their sin, no longer repentant before the Lord because they’ve been told there’s nothing to be sorry for. After all, God expects us to screw up everyday, right? So why let Him down? This kind of twisted logic has effectively rendered the church ineffective in America. And the result is, the land is unproductive. Why do we no longer teach  that “… if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment. (Hebrews 10:26)” We’ve polarized the topic of grace to the detriment of our eternal salvation.

Let’s move on, now, to Elisha’s response. He asked for a new bowl full of salt. A new bowl. A new, pure vessel. And full of salt. Jesus tells us we are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). When we accept Christ, we become a new vessel, full of salt. Elisha took that new bowl and flung it out over the water, and it revived the land. This is what the Lord intends to do with us when we are first saved. He intends to take this new vessel that we become, full of salt, with the knowledge of a pure Word, to revive the land. How, then, can we ever be okay with being “undercover Christians”? Jesus went on in his narrative to talk about the worth of salt that’s lost it’s flavor. That is, to say it’s worth nothing but must be thrown out. That’s a terrifying prospect, now, isn’t it?

We are warned in the Bible about the broad and the narrow way. To paraphrase Matthew 7:13, broad is the path that leads to destruction and many find it. I feel like, if as a Christian, you are indistinguishable from the world around you, you might very well be on the wrong road. Narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it. Therefore, if you tend to be  one of those people on a road that leads to loneliness and isolation because people deem you too “churchy” for their circle, you could be on the right track.

We are still here because the Lord desires to use us to reach others. His plan does not involve us getting our kicks because honestly, if we are in Christ, we should be repulsed by the things that tempt our flesh. We shouldn’t be trampling grace, we should be living it as an example for others. And Paul specifically addresses sinning so that grace may abound by basically saying, “God doesn’t need that kind of help.”

How do we help, then? By being peculiar. By making decisions that illuminate Christ. Are we a city on a hill or aren’t we? We can’t be undercover and be the light of the world. Our lives should make the world breathless in awe and wonder. Like Jesus, at the hands of the murderous crowd, who kept his peace and made the people marvel. Like Jesus, who supped with sinners and walked away having changed them. That’s what salt does. Salt preserves and revives. Salt doesn’t change to the environment around it. It changes the environment. We should be like that, for the sake of the call of Christ. I didn’t become a Christian so I could get my grace card punched and keep living like the world around me. I became a Christian because something about the love of God penetrated me so deeply I couldn’t stand myself any other way but dead to sin and alive in Him. I pray there are others who will say the same thing, and we can begin to live in such a way that America takes notice of Christ again.

Father, I want to be a vessel you can use. Purify me and add the salt so I may speak a Word that is undefiled. Then pour me out in your time. I love you.

Troublesome Trio

Published March 10, 2014 by Dawn

My family has collectively decided on a new hobby: skating. And I’m not just talking about me and the kids. It’s been a month or more of skating every Saturday night for myself and my kids, my siblings and their spouses and kids, and my mom and step dad. I’m wondering when the management is going to offer us frequent skater miles.

We were skating last weekend and I was people watching, per the norm. I love to watch people. Partly because I love to study people, and partly for my own amusement. People crack me up sometimes. I happened to notice a trio skating around the rink: a girl holding hands with two boys, one on each side. I thought, “that’s really awkward, I’m sure.” We’re talking teens here, not little kids. And suddenly, I thought about our relationship with God and the world. We’re kind of like that girl in the middle.

These guys seemed to be enjoying themselves. And they might, for a while, both enjoy basking in the attentions of this adoring female. But you know, inevitably, one or the other is going to want her to make a choice. One of them, or both of them, is going to expect her to choose between the two of them.

As I recall, our God is a jealous God. He’s not too happy being on one hand while the world holds the other. He’s not okay being the third wheel and He definitely does not want to frolic with us holding the hand of the world. He wants us all to Himself. James 4:4 very bluntly tells us how God feels about this strange threesome: “… don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

Eventually, in our walk with God, His patience with our worldliness flatlines. He grows us to a point where it is no longer a matter of overcoming habitual living, and then He looks us square in the eye and says, “Well, are we moving on together? You coming with me, or what?” God eventually brings us to a place where we have to decide who’s hand we want to hold. Do we want to continue on with the things of this world or do we want Him completely?

The truth is, a lot of what we know about grace is a lie. Jesus didn’t die for our sins so we could live in worldliness. He died to renew our fellowship with the God. So we could walk away from sin and not be bound by it any more. Jesus had power over sin, and he filled us with the fullness of his spirit so we could also have dominion over our carnal flesh. Our failures highlight our need for Christ. We aren’t supposed to accept them and act like nothing is wrong. We are told to resist the devil. If we are holding hands with the world, we are holding hands with the devil. That hardly sounds like resisting him.

“Choose you this day whom you will serve  … As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)” From now on, I’m skating with my hand in His, holding tightly and rejecting the advances of the world and Satan. Yes, Lord, you’re the only one for me. I am completely yours.