Equipped to Finish

It was a hot day in the saddle of my bike…strong headwind, Ozarkian hills, and the heat of summer.  I rode in a training ride for the upcoming MS 150.  The MS 150 is an annual charity ride to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society.  This is my fifth year riding in the event, and at age forty-two, three kids, a full-time job, a husband, and a household to maintain, I do my best to squeeze in training time when I can.

Today, as riders passed me by, I thought, “Why can’t I keep up with them?  I’m trying just has hard.  My legs are burning.  My heart rate is up, and I’m eager, just like them, to finish this ride with a personal best time.”  

photo (73)I get “lost” in my head sometimes when out riding my bike on long distance rides.  If you ever need time to clear your head a bit, get a bike, pick a route, and take off. On my bike, I am able to work through so many challenges; physical, emotional, and spiritual.

As other riders passed me by, I started to think about life outside of my journeys on two wheels in the country.  I thought about the times when I have wondered, “I work just as hard as this person does.  I have more experience, and more time spent in the field.  I have just as much passion about the work at hand. Why do I seem to be passed by?”

As the miles clicked on, I found myself alone on the road with the sweltering heat and the odometer on my bike declaring how many miles I had yet to finish.  And then, I recalled Scripture:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” -2 Timothy 4:7

Now, I am not at all comparing the trials and imprisonment of Paul to my own traveling down the hilly roads on my bike.  Of course, not.

However, when out there today, on the road with the blazing hot sun glaring at me, and riders passing me by, I started to meditate and speak to God about life, and challenges both off and on the bike.  While doing this, I felt the Lord speaking back to me,

“I equipped you to finish the race…not best, not first, not fastest, and not necessarily with top honors.  I equipped you to finish it with faith, endurance, and courage.”

As the fifty mile training ride drew to a close, and I rode my weary body to my car, I continued to think on these things.  To finish the race; this race of life, with faith, endurance, and courage is by far, the most sacred of all finales as we make our way to our Home.

Whatever road you are traversing, hill you are climbing, or number of miles ahead of you, remember this,

God loves you.  Jesus died for you.  You have been equipped to finish the race; not first, not best, and possibly not with top honors.  Instead, you have been dressed in the fullness of faith, endurance, and courage.

…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:31

Shut the Door!

DoorLately, I have found myself praying fervently for open doors in my life.  I have asked for open doors that will lead to both personal and professional opportunities.  What I have failed to do is pray for closed doors.  Yes, I said closed doors.

Maybe prayer should go something like this,

God, shut that green door of envy that I’ve been walking through lately.” 

“Shut that door of my temper that tends to crack open on those I love the most.” 

“Shut the door to my yearning for things to go my way, and not Yours.”  

“Close that far too comfortable door that is always ajar to the feelings of resentment towards the actions of others…even towards Your children.”  

“Father, shut that door that leads to impulsive decisions that end up causing regret.”

“God, close the ugly door of hypocrisy that is present in my life.” 

“Hammer that door of self-doubt shut.  Seal my worries, and sense of inferiority away.”  

“God, shut the door that opens up old wounds once healed over.  Close that door to my own vision of my imperfections.”

“God, please seal that door that leads me down a road in which I lean less on my faith in You.”  

“Loving Father, please, forever close that door where the pain of the past keeps creeping through.  You, Father, You are the healer of my past, present, and future. You are more than able to put away the things that tear me down.”

“Close that door that allows my own insecurities to persuade me into believing that I do not deserve anything better; especially forgiveness.”

I wonder how my life, and maybe yours, would be changed if we all started praying for shut doors, instead of open ones.  An unbeliever might think that Christians are supposed to be perfect, or that our lives are easy, or naive, or whatever one might think.  The truth is that all of us, Christian or not, struggle with choosing to walk into situations that negatively affect our lives.

As a Christian, I still struggle with self-doubt, a quick temper, envy, resentment, selfishness, regret, hypocrisy, painful memories, lack of true reliance on the One I believe in, and insecurities.  If I were to tell anyone otherwise, it would not be the truth.

So, my hope is that instead of praying for open doors to which my will would happen, I will start praying for the closing of doors that distract me from the faith to which I stand on.  How about you?

Psalm 62:6-7 (The Message) – He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, An impregnable castle: I’m set for life.7 My help and glory are in God.

By the Grace

“Don’t grieve your blessings.”  This is something I told a friend several weeks ago following our lengthy discussion of the sorrow seen through the eyes of those of us involved in the welfare of others.  Something as simple as a bite of a bagel brought my friend to the full awareness of how little she allowed herself to enjoy food since feeding the homeless.  It is easy when one works with the forgotten in our society to carry a small measure of guilt about the gifts we have been given, or the benefits we have worked hard for.

After spending many years now in human services and child welfare, I am keenly aware of the good things I have had in life.  Things like a stable home environment where I knew that, no matter what, there would be food on the table, a bed to sleep in, and a mother and father who greeted me each day, are just a small portion of the blessings that touched my childhood.  These are the things that are good, of worth, and that securely shape a child’s life.  These are the things that often go unnoticed when they are present every day; and yet, these are the things that are grieved so much when absent.

I grew up in what I consider a fairly liberal Christian home.  My mother was never one to judge others on the scale of how “Christian” they were.  I learned through her that passing up a homeless person because of “what they might do with the money” is something that I should not do.  Whether or not they are going to spend it on alcohol or whatever vice they cling to, is something that should not prevent giving.  Instead, I learned that the same Father in Heaven watching me is also watching over the dirty, restless person asking for help.

After all, it was not too long ago that I was that dirty, restless person.

Mom also used to say, “But by the grace of God, go I.”  This statement often crosses my mind in so many situations in life.  Sometimes, Christians like myself, forget just how close we may have come to an addiction, an abusive relationship, a life lived in darkness, or one that is painted with tragedy time and again. Sometimes, Christians like myself, forget that it is by GRACE that we have the blessings in life that we have.

My fear, especially during times of hot-button issues and busy seasons of life, is that we do not do a good job of showing others just how intentional our Lord was, and is, and forever will be, in declaring His works through our actions.  I wonder if we are so busy saying we are Christians that we fail to show it through our actions and reactions to others who feel that the God we believe in has forgotten about them.

During this Christmas season that often becomes full of fret over gifts, and hurried schedules, my hope is that we remember Jesus.  We remember His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection.  My hope is that we remember He came to save all of us.  ALL of us.  I also hope that we never fail to remember,

“By the grace of God, go I.”

Waiting on God

photo (32)I prayed today for concrete answers to multiple situations going on in my life of which I’m trying to keep my anxiety level to a minimal.  I asked told the Lord to let today be the day that I got ALL of the answers I needed to hear.  Quite selfish, I know, but I’ve been a little overwhelmed lately with all of the “stuff” going on in life.

The stuff I’m referring to consists of (1) wanting an answer for something I’ve been working on for years, and feeling so close to getting, and, (2) needing to hear with clarity what the Lord intends to do with a situation involving a family member.  In the middle of these things lies my normally busy life consisting of children, work, and a home to tend to.  If the truth were told, I would eliminate the work part and focus on the home and family; thus, leading me back to wanting answers!

Even as I write this, I’m daydreaming a little about it all.  As the day grew into evening, I did not receive that phone call or that email with an answer.  I did not receive a letter or phone call telling me what the next steps will be regarding a family member.  The Lord did not break through the clouds declaring the answers I am yearning to hear.  However, as the day went on, I started to realize that He has waited on me multiple times throughout my life, and will continue to as long as I am breathing Earthly air.

He’s waited on me to open the Word instead of opening my Facebook page. He’s waited on me to have a heart pursuing Him with the same passion that I have pursued others and things of this world.  He’s waited on me to write that check in full faith the He will use it for good; instead of writing a check for something temporary that I desired.

He’s waited on me to relinquish my fear of the unknown, and let Him lead my life. He’s waited on me to understand infertility as a part of my life story, so that He could unfold the script.  He’s waited on me to give the same amount of grace for the indiscretions of others that He’s given me.  He still waits on me to let His peace be the answer I need until He moves the mountain that seems insurmountable, or opens the door to the next step in my life.

Today I found myself thinking, “I’m just waiting on God for answers.”  In essence, though, the Lord answered my prayer today.  He answered it with the vision of those times where I’m sure He stood quietly waiting.  He answered it with the sobering remembrance of those moments in my life where I refused to listen.  He answered it with the knowledge that I know is true – He is the keeper of my past, the shepherd of my present, and the lantern for my future.

He answered it with, “Be still and know that I am God.”


The picture on the right is of a ring I wear nearly every day.  Besides my wedding ring and a necklace with the names of my children engraved on it, this ring is about the only consistent piece of jewelry I wear.  The word forgiven is engraved into the ring and serves as a gentle reminder to me that nothing else matters really except for the forgiveness and life I have in Christ.

On the inside of the ring, Eph. 1:7 is engraved.

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.  Ephesians 1:7

Sometimes, I think about things I have done in the past and the struggle even now to live a life that models Christ to others.  I get caught up in wondering whether or not I’m “good enough” for the Lord.  Truthfully, I’m not good enough for Him.  No one is.

Often, my human desires get in the way of keeping my eyes, mind, and heart focused on Heavenly intentions.  I set goals that will enhance my walk with the Lord, but then fall short of completing them.  I get up every day saying and praying that I would act in ways pleasing to Him and that the love of Christ would show through my actions.  Then….life happens.  I get upset about something, or make a snap judgement about a situation, or not offer the same amount of grace that the Lord has given me over and over again, and that feeling of failing the Lord sinks in.

During these moments, I look down at my ring and see FORGIVEN.  It serves as a quiet reminder to me that He has already chosen His grace over my flaws.  He loves me despite all the messes I have made and will make until the day my eyes look upon Him.  I am already forgiven for things of the past and the times I acted as if I did not know Him.  Nothing will change the mighty forgiveness of the Lord.

His love is unfailing, His blood is redeeming, His mercy is miraculous, and His forgiveness is forever.


My children have plenty of masks they like to wear around the house.  Their imaginations soar as they defeat the bad guys, sneak around like ninjas, or hide out like burglars.  Their masks bring a little more tangibility to their ideas, and for brief moments, they get to be someone different.

Christians (well, not only Christians) often wear “masks” too.  Some may be wearing the mask of wealth when, if truth were told, they are actually deep in debt.  Others may wear the mask of happiness although they are suffering through great sadness.  There’s the mask of strength that is worn by those trembling from weakness.  And, there’s the mask of contentment; although, one’s desires tend to chase him or her around.

The mask of popularity is one that is worn frequently; although, the person may actually be crumbling from poor self-esteem, low self-worth, and loneliness.  The “everything is fine” mask is one I wore often growing up.  I even topped it off with a great big smile.  The fact is that not everything was fine during my adolescents and young adulthood.  I struggled with thoughts and feelings of inadequacy, but no one knew it.  I was semi-popular, active, and out-going.  Even now, I pull out this mask to help get me through rough times.

For moms, we often wear the mask of “Super Mom” even though we barely have strength left in the day to kiss the little ones goodnight.  Our images on blogs, Facebook, Pinterest and any other social networking sites may really just cover up the day-to-day struggles we have as parents.  It is hard raising children in this fast paced world where reality show stars earn more of an income for getting drunk and acting foolish than those who storm through the trenches to save others, those who teach children, rebuild families, or compassionately love on people every day.  It is a struggle to raise children to be selfless and compassionate when the world expects them to be driven, number one, and egocentric.

I would much rather see an unveiled, unmasked version of someone’s strife than to walk by and not even notice because of the amazing job he or she is doing at covering up the pain.  Deep longing, jilted despair, and confusion are hidden from the rest of the world when those mighty masks are put on.  As a Christian, I too struggle at times making sense of the world around me, and the reason why things happen the way they do.  I even admit that I wear a mask that covers this doubt up a lot of the times.

I was reading in Luke Chapter 5 today and verses 29-32 jumped out at me.  This blog topic has been on my mind for the past few days, so it did not surprise me that the Lord led me to these verses.

2Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

It makes more sense to me for non-believers to see Christians for what we are; broken and imperfect sinners who know we are our strongest when we declare our weakness.  Instead, I fear what they see is what our masks represent; wealth, power, judgment, popularity, political motivation, and self-righteousness.

Imagine if we gathered the various masks we wear, threw them to the side, and showed ourselves as we really are.  Imagine the difference our actions, not our agendas, would make in the lives of others if we let love lead the way.

Imagine the reaction of others when our masks come off and we show Him to the world.  He is the healer.  He is the lifter of our heads.  His love and His sacrifice is the only “mask” we should be wearing.