, ,

You Won’t Forget Me?

20120829-184437-3“You’re coming back tomorrow, aren’t you?” Miranda looked at me anxiously, almost daring me to say no.

“Yes, I’m coming back tomorrow,” I reassured her.

“You promise? You won’t forget me?” My heart stopped as I caught a glimpse of vulnerability in her face for just a brief moment.

How could I forget this independent and willful twelve-year-old girl with the flashing dark eyes? Though I had only just met Miranda that day at the Christian children’s home in southeast Asia, my heart was already connected with her.

Miranda had lived at this home for abused and neglected children for a few years already, with her older brother and sister. She tried to give a tough image, boasting about fights she got into with her friends when they made her mad. But in my brief time with her on that first day, as we played Scrabble in the library of the children’s home, Miranda began to let down her guard a bit. Each time she spelled out a new word on the board, she grew in confidence. She even smiled a few times!

But when she asked me to promise that I would come back, I hesitated. I didn’t know how to respond. Though I don’t know Miranda’s whole story, I know that these children at the home have experienced much rejection, disappointment, and hurt in their young lives. The last thing a girl like Miranda needs is more broken promises.

I was planning to come back the next day, but what if something happened and I couldn’t keep my promise? Though I wanted to assure Miranda that I would never disappoint her, that would be unfair to her. The fact is, I’m human. Even with the best of intentions, at some point I probably WILL disappoint others.

The best thing I can do for Miranda is to point her to the One who will never disappoint her. Only God will never break His promises. Even when others fail, He will never let her down. Psalm 105:8 says “He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations” (NIV).

“You won’t forget me?” Miranda was still waiting.

“I won’t forget you,” I smiled. “I will see you tomorrow.” And I prayed silently that the Lord would give me the words to communicate with this precious girl of the faithfulness and love of her Heavenly Father – the One who will never forget her.

, ,

Hope Deferred

img_3602-2“What’s wrong with your hand, Miss J?”

It’s the beginning of the school week, and this four-year-old with the platinum blonde curls and intensely serious blue eyes is very concerned about the stiff black brace strapped on my right hand.

“My wrist hurts me sometimes,” I explain as I kneel down to her eye level. “This brace keeps it still so it doesn’t hurt as much.”

She takes this bit of information in solemnly, then pronounces with confidence, “It will be better tomorrow. I’ll pray for you, and Jesus will make it better.” And she turns and trots off down the hall to her classroom.

As I straighten up and return to my work at the photocopier in the teachers’ lounge, I massage my right thumb absently, letting out my breath in a long sigh.

“Tendonitis,” the hand and wrist specialist had said. Inflamed tendons in the thumb and wrist, leading all the way up to the elbow, caused by “repetitive movement strain.”

“This is not just going to go away,” he pronounced. “A simple surgery is your best option…”

Surgery is the last thing I want to do. So I ask my students for volunteers to write on the board for me. I try to remember to open doorknobs with my left hand.

Sometimes it doesn’t bother me for days or weeks. But then I pick up a pencil I dropped on the floor, and a shooting pain stops me in my tracks for a few agonizing seconds. And with the pain comes the all-too familiar discouragement.

“It’s never going to heal,” I think glumly. “It’s been a year and a half already, and so many people have prayed for me, but nothing’s changed. This is my reality now.”

The next time I see my bold little prayer warrior, her eyes hone in on my black wrist brace. “I prayed for your hand – is it better now?” she asks eagerly.

What can I say? How can I tell her that I’ve stopped praying? How can I tell her that I’ve stopped believing God will heal me?

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” says Proverbs 13:12. That’s me. I’ve given up hope. I can’t handle more disappointment.

I feel like the father of the boy with seizures in Mark 9, who brings his son to Jesus for healing. “If you are able to do anything…” When Jesus confronts the man’s lack of faith, immediately he calls out “I believe – help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24, NRSV).

Even if my wrist is never healed on this earth, even if I have to wear this wrist brace my whole life, even if I never understand it all until I get to heaven, I can still choose to put my hope in God. I can choose to trust Him. He cares about my wrist. But even more than that, He cares about my heart. And that’s what needs healing.

Those big blue eyes of my four-year-old prayer warrior are still looking up at me, expectantly. “Did Jesus heal it?”

“Thank you so much for praying for me!” I tell her, giving her a hug. “I know Jesus is healing it.”

With a satisfied smile, she runs off. And a tiny spark of hope is growing in my heart. Because Jesus IS healing me – starting with my heart.

What about you? Has your heart been disappointed? Have you felt that God isn’t answering your prayers? Have you given up hope? Ask God to begin healing your heart today. He will. But you have to make that choice.

Going Vertical!

MJ

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm 130:5

,

Grace for Today

20121105-133449“You know how people say that you forget the pain of childbirth? Well, it’s not true!” Jennifer laughed. “I definitely remember it! And I didn’t think I would be able to bear it.”

Baby Libby cooed, and Jennifer continued, a smile in her voice. “But you know, I didn’t have the grace to go through labor the day before Libby was born. I didn’t even have the grace for it ten minutes before the labor started. But when the moment came, God gave me the strength to get through it. It was hard. It was painful. But I had the grace when I needed it.”

This secret of God’s dispensation of grace at just the right moment is something my friend Jennifer has experienced over and over again the last several years. Her first child, little Libby Anne Hope, was named in honor of Jennifer’s sister, who had died tragically in a car accident seven months earlier. Since then, Jennifer’s had four more children, some with special needs and medical complications. She’s walked through a young son’s chemotherapy treatments for cancer. She’s spent many many nights and days in the emergency room and intensive care unit of hospitals.

And she’ll be the first to say it hasn’t been easy. There have been times of anger, fear, hopelessness, feeling abandoned and forgotten by God. But through it all, she’s clung to God’s promise – “My grace is sufficient for you” (II Cor 12:8).

When I look at my future and start worrying about how I’ll be able to handle the hard things that are surely ahead, Jennifer’s words echo in my head. No, I don’t have the grace for the pain of childbirth yet. I don’t have the strength for caring for a sick child, or the fortitude to deal with the grief of a painful loss. Because I’m not there yet. I don’t have grace for tomorrow. I don’t have grace for next week. I don’t have grace for 5 minutes from now. Not yet. But I will. When I get there. And not before.

Whatever it is you’re facing, or worrying about, and wondering how on earth you can possibly get through, just know that when you get to that point, the grace will be there. Trust Him for TODAY. And leave tomorrow to His care.

Going Vertical!
MJ

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Matthew 6:34, NIV

, ,

The Cat Whisperer

20121203-113517“That will never work,” Hanna declared decisively. Before her husband Jeremy could even finish the explanation of his newest dream for their business, practical Hanna proceeded to expound upon why it was a foolish plan.

“Could you just listen to my idea?” Jeremy pleaded, looking crushed. “But I know it won’t work,” she said simply. “You always have crazy plans, and you don’t think about the potential problems. That’s what I’m here for.”

Sharp-tongued and critical, Hanna was constantly berating her husband, squelching his excitement with her “realism.” Where Jeremy was all enthusiasm and passion, Hanna seemed to be all prickles and spines.

But below the surface of Hanna’s “porcupine personality” were deep hurts. Rejected by her mother for not being as pretty as her sister, she’d always felt unwanted, unloved, and not valued. It was hard for her to believe that anyone could really care about her. The pain of childhood wounds that had never healed caused her to bristle when anyone got too close, unknowingly sabotaging her relationships.

Hanna came to mind this weekend as I chatted with a woman who calls herself a “Cat Whisperer.” She’s a volunteer “foster parent” for abandoned and traumatized animals from the SPCA. Many of the cats who come to her are aggressive, hissing and clawing when she brings them food or tries to pet them.

“I have to ask myself, ‘Why did this cat scratch me? Is it scared? Does it feel threatened?” the “Cat Whisperer” explained. “Then I have to get down on his level and show him that I’m not going to hurt him.” Eventually she builds trust with the skittish felines, overcoming their fear through gentle persistence.

In the case of my friend Hanna, the persistent love and affirmation of friends began to break down the walls of defense around her heart. She was finally able to identify those deep childhood wounds, and to forgive those who had hurt her. The prickles and spines began to fade away, and a softer side was revealed – more of the true Hanna, gentle and loving and compassionate.

Are you a “porcupine person”? Have past wounds made you prickly and spiny? Like those traumatized and abandoned cats, do you claw and scratch people who get too close? Stop and think about why you are responding this way, and ask the Lord to help you identify those wounds that need to be healed. He’s a true “Heart Whisperer” and He’s whispering His love to you right now!

Going Vertical!
MJ

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”
Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)

, ,

Please Understand Me!

20121218-004030Abuela! She’s alone – what if something happens to her? It was my responsibility to care for my 101-year-old grandmother, who I call “Abuela” (grandma in Spanish). But in a moment of distraction, I’d left her unattended. And now an inexplicable sudden fear makes me rush back to the room, just in time to see her trying to get up from the wheelchair on frail, weak legs. As she wavers and starts to fall, I realize I won’t reach her in time. I try to call to her, but the words get stuck in my throat. “Abue-”

I wake myself up with the strangled cry. Sitting up in bed, I stare into the darkness, still shaking. It was just a dream, I whisper into the empty room. Just a dream.

My family recently made the very difficult and emotional decision to move my 101-yr-old grandmother into a Christian nursing home in another state, closer to more of the family. Debilitating strokes had left Abuela unable to dress herself or use the restroom unaided. A simple transfer from the bed to the wheelchair could take two or three people on an especially weak day. And the memory loss and confusion of developing dementia meant she had to be monitored constantly. We loved having her with us. But after four and a half years of caring for her daily needs, it got to be too much. It was time for a change.

Though all the extended family agree this is the best decision, I still struggle with feeling guilty. It feels like we are abandoning Abuela. Every concerned look from friends, every sympathizing smile, every “how are you doing – really?” seems to confirm my underlying fear of being judged and misunderstood.

Jesus knows what it’s like to be judged and misunderstood. Even His closest friends couldn’t see what His true purpose was. They were waiting for Him to overthrow the Roman government and establish His reign on earth. Many times Jesus asked them, “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?” (Mark 16:17-18, NIV).

Yet Jesus never lost sight of His purpose. John tells us that He “knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” Even faced with the judgement, betrayal and abandonment of His friends, Christ drew strength from knowing He had the approval and acceptance of His heavenly Father.

Am I willing to be misunderstood? With vivid images of the traumatic dream still before me, I struggle with my condemning thoughts in the wee hours of the morning. Even if others don’t agree with the decision my family made to move Abuela to a nursing home, can I let it go? Once again, there alone in the dark, I decide to release my feelings of guilt, self-condemnation, judgement, and fear of others’ opinions. I give it all to the One who sees all, knows all, and does not judge me. He is the only One who truly understands me.

Going vertical!
MJ

, ,

Get out of the Boat

20130205-003002“I will go, I will go, I will go, Lord send me…” Sixteen thousand passionate college students sing in unison, arms outstretched. Individual faces are highlighted by the sweeping spotlights – some streaked with tears, some exuberant in worship, some quiet and reflective. As I stand in the midst of the massive crowd at the Urbana 2012 student missions conference, I’m struggling with an internal battle. Something inside me is holding me back.

“I’ve been here before, Lord,” I remind Him, as if He needs reminding. “And I remember what happened last time. I don’t think I’m ready to go there again.”

At Urbana 2000 I was a passionate and idealistic college student, ready to change the world. On the last day of the conference, I knelt down by my seat and told the Lord I was willing to go wherever He sent me. Within days after I returned home from Urbana 2000, I received an invitation to teach at a summer English camp in Shanghai, China. And that was the beginning of a new direction in my life. After graduate school I moved to East Asia for four years, where I taught English, learned some Mandarin, and made wonderful friends.

But I didn’t know some of the challenges I was signing up for. Missing engagements and weddings. Not being there for the births of my friends’ kids, or being able to watch them grow up. Unable to attend my grandfather’s funeral. I was surprised at how hard-hit I was at times by loneliness, isolation, and the waves of homesickness that hit me at unexpected times. The long hours of teaching English, the cultural and language barriers with teammates, the conflicts with roommates, and the constant turnover of coworkers over four years left me physically and emotionally dry. Eventually I reached a point of burnout and had to return to the US.

It was probably the lowest point in my life. I felt like a failure. I was depressed. I cried whenever anyone asked me about my time in Asia. And I definitely did NOT want to ever go back. But through the ministry of Fresh Start and other godly counseling and prayer, the Lord began to heal the hurts in my heart and show me how He wanted to use it for good.

And now, 12 years after I first attended the conference as a college student, I’m at Urbana again. As I listen to the thousands of students singing “I will go, I will go,” I feel jaded and cynical.

“…To the world, to the lost, to the poor and hungry…”

“They have no idea what they’re in for,” I laugh to myself. “I KNOW how hard it is. I know the loneliness, and the frustration, and feeling like you wanna quit and go home every day…” I can’t fake it anymore. I sit down and cover my face with my hands to hide the tears.

“What are you so afraid of?” I feel the question more than hear it. No audible voice, but I know God is talking to me. “God, I don’t think I can go through all that again. The loneliness, the depression…”

“Don’t remember the former things…” a snippet of a verse pops into my head. “…I am going to do a new thing.” A new thing. I exhale slowly and rub my face. A new thing. What amazing words. It doesn’t have to be like it was before. I learned from those experiences. I’m thankful for how God used that time in my life. But it doesn’t have to be the same. He’s going to do a new thing.

“…Take everything I am, I’m clay within Your hands…”

“God, I want to trust You,” I pray silently. “Even if I go through times of loneliness or discouragement, I know You will be with me. Help me not to fear. I know You are working all things for Your good. I choose to believe that You’re doing a new thing IN me!”

The cloud of fear slowly dissipates. I know there will still be hard times ahead. But like Peter, I take the step of faith out of the boat. Raising my arms I stand and sing with the crowd, “…I will go, I will go, send me!”

Going Vertical!
MJ

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

, ,

Soak Your Stress Away

“I couldn’t wait to wrap your Christmas present,” my roommate says, handing me a heavy cylindrical object.

Soak your stress away…” the label proclaims. “Ooh! Bath salts!” I squeal.

“Please forgive her,” my roommate says, with a knowing smile.

Immediately I know what she’s referring to.

It was maybe three years ago. Maybe four. I had just received a Christmas gift from one of my students – aromatherapy peppermint oil bath salts – and I had been looking forward to using them over the holiday break.

But before I had a chance to open the jar, I loaned it to someone who said she’d had a hard week at work and needed to relax. Though she earnestly promised to return the bath salts, she never did, even after I asked several times.

Resigning myself to it being an unintentional “gift”, though disappointed, I soon forgot about it.

But every once in awhile, when I think of taking a relaxing soak in the bathtub, I remember the jar of bath salts I never got to try. “I hope she’s enjoying them,” I think darkly.

Now, examining this new gift, I realize that I haven’t forgiven for this incident. It seems like such an insignificant thing. But bitterness can be subtle. And unforgiveness can start small.

Laughing, I open the new jar of bath salts and sniff the “ocean breeze” scent. “Ok, ok,” I tell my roommate. “I give in. I’ll forgive her. It’s time to let it go.”

My roommate gave me the best gift this Christmas. The opportunity to forgive. The chance to start this new year with a lighter heart. A heart with a bit less bitterness and a bit more grace. What a gift.

Are there any “small things” that you may be holding on to, “little things” that you need to forgive? Start this new year with a clean slate, a FRESH START!

Going Vertical!
MJ

Work at getting along with each other and with God. …Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. (Hebrews 12:14-15, MSG)

 

,

Goal-Phobia

20130304-222533“So, what are your writing goals for this year?” My cousin Nathalie turns to me expectantly, pen poised to take notes. Jennifer looks up from her laptop and smiles encouragingly.

It’s a simple question. But I can already feel the rising anxiety.

We’re on a weekend writers’ retreat at the Outer Banks of North Carolina – brainstorming ideas, reading portions of our stories or articles aloud, critiquing each other’s work. It’s completely natural to talk about our writing goals for the upcoming year – this is why we’re here! So why in the world am I suddenly tongue-tied and nervous?

“Well, Michelle? Do you have any specific goals?” My cousin isn’t one to give up easily.

The whirring of the dishwasher seems unusually loud. My stomach twists in knots. All at once, I’m seven years old and standing in front of the blackboard, trying desperately to solve a difficult subtraction problem, feeling a dozen pair of eyes boring holes into my back. I wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans.

“Goals… Yeah, you know I’m not much of a goals person,” I respond slowly. “I don’t know why. I just hate making goals. Guess it’s because…”

Suddenly it hits me.

“…Because if I make a goal and I can’t meet it, that means I’ve failed.” The words tumble out before I can stop them, my voice trembling. “So it’s easier to not make goals than to risk failure.” Embarrassed at my tears, I wipe my nose on my sleeve and rub my eyes with the back of my hand.

Fear of failure can sneak up at the most unlikely times, in the most unexpected places. At the root of my fear of failure is the fear of disappointing others. It’s saying, “What everyone else thinks about me matters more than what God thinks about me.”

“You know, just because you make a goal doesn’t mean you HAVE to accomplish it,” my cousin is saying gently. “It’s just something to aim for.”

“Start small,” pipes in Jennifer. “Baby steps.”

I know they’re right. I can do this.

“Can I put, ‘drink 3 cups of coffee a day’ as one of my goals? I’m pretty sure I can meet that one!”

Laughing, the three of us are able to come up with reachable goals – for today, next week, this month, and this year. Once I’ve typed them up, I let out a sigh of relief. That wasn’t so bad.

“And even if you don’t accomplish all these goals, you’re NOT going to beat yourself up, are you?” asks Jennifer, cocking her head.

I grin and shake my head. It’s ok to fail sometimes. It’s ok to admit I’m not perfect. Because HE is perfect, and HE never fails. Taking a sip of my latte, I mentally mark ‘drink coffee’ off the list with a big check. Next on my list – trusting God to help me overcome my fear of failure, one small goal at a time – CHECK!

Going Vertical!
MJ

“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”
Deuteronomy 32:4 (NIV)

, , , , ,

Called by Name

20130709-162243“As I watched my father’s mistress put her suitcases in his car, an animal rage came over me. I felt I could tear her apart with my hands.” Yagmur, tall and elegant with perfectly styled blond hair, spoke evenly to the audience in the church, but the pain of that childhood memory was evident. “That day I made a decision to hate my father for the rest of my life.”

Yagmur’s mother was also angry, and took out her anger in the form of physical abuse toward her daughter. “As a young girl, I had scars and bruises all over my body from my mother’s beatings. I hated my father for his unfaithfulness. And I hated my mother for her helplessness.”

“Every day my mother told me I was ugly and stupid,” Yagmur continued. “Faith comes through hearing. And I started to believe in what I was hearing.” Escaping to her room and pulling the blankets over her head, Yagmur would dream of being a beautiful princess in a long, sparkling gown. And she would imagine her mother and father smiling at her, proudly. She longed for their love.

Immediately after college, she married a charming and passionate young man, desperate to escape the abuse and pain of her home life. But soon another nightmare began. Her husband began beating her too, accusing her of unfaithfulness, demanding to know why she was a few minutes late coming home from work.

Then one day her husband held a knife to her throat, insisting that she jump out of an eighth-story window. Yagmur clung to his ankles, sobbing and pleading for her life until he let her go.

In desperation, Yagmur fled to the U.S. to start a new life. But when her second husband’s drug abuse got out of control, she found herself becoming more and more hopeless, wanting to end her life. “There is hatred and pain everywhere I go,” she thought in despair. “I can’t escape.”

Eventually Yagmur found a job working for a Christian company. Wanting to impress the boss, she joined the early-morning Bible study at the office. They were reading the story of Jesus’ encounter with the adulterous woman. Yagmur couldn’t help blurting out, “Why did he forgive her? She was not worthy to be forgiven!”

“None of us are worthy,” a co-worker explained. “But Jesus forgives us because he loves us. Even if that woman had been the only person on the earth, Jesus still would have come to earth for her and died in her place, because he loves her.”

“I was that unworthy woman,” she recalled. All the shame of her childhood, the memories of being called ugly and stupid, the feeling of being worthless, the abuse of her marriages, the abandonment and emptiness and thoughts of suicide – it all culminated one day in a desperate cry in the office restroom. “Help me, God! Have mercy! I need You!” As she dried her eyes and walked to her desk, she wondered if He even heard her.

Before she could even get back to work, Yagmur’s boss called her urgently to his office. “I’ve never done this before,” he explained hesitantly. “But I feel Jesus prompting me strongly that I need to tell you something. He says that He has heard your prayer in the bathroom. He saw you when you were a little girl. He’s been with you all this time. And He loves you and forgives you.”

Yagmur crumpled to the carpet, weeping. “Do you want Jesus to be your Lord and Savior?” Her boss was asking kindly. “YES! YES! YES!” She sobbed. Finally she had found the love she had been searching for.

Eventually Yagmur was able to forgive her father and mother for all the pain they caused her for so many years. And today Yagmur has a ministry of bringing hope and healing to girls and women around the world, through TV programming and radio broadcasts. “You are loved. You are valued. You are beautiful,” she tells them. “God has a plan for your future. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a future and a hope.” She knows it is true – she is living proof.

Going Vertical!
MJ

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine.”
Isaiah 43:1b (NRSV)

, ,

Hard Things

running-1090940-m1I hate running. Sorry, but it’s the truth.

When I hear friends talk about the “adrenaline rush” of running a half-marathon, I’m convinced that they’re not fully human. What normal human being would willingly put themselves through the punishing physical torture of pounding the pavement mile after mile? It’s not right.

Now I consider myself to be in pretty good shape. I rarely eat fried food, desserts, or red meat. I enjoy biking, or walking forest trails, and I have even been known to jump “double-dutch” with my students at recess! But recently I was appalled that my favorite black dress pants have started getting a wee bit too snug. So with the motivation of fitting in my bridesmaid’s dress for a friend’s wedding next month, I drag myself out of bed this Saturday morning, put on my tennis shoes, and head outside for some exercise.

There’s a refreshing hint of fall in the air, and I fill my lungs deeply as I start off on a light jog. After just a few minutes, however, I’m already panting for breath. I tell myself, “I’ll only go to the next lamp-post, and then I can stop.” But at the next lamp-post, I decide that I’ll go to the lake. “I’m almost to the end of this street,” I think when I get to the lake. “I’ll just round the corner and go a bit more.”

By this point, old ladies walking their poodles could easily overtake my painfully slow pace. And I avoid eye contact with any serious runners I encounter, embarrassed at my wheezing and puffing. My lungs feel like they’re going to explode, and my legs feel like jello.

Around the bend, I finally see it – the river pier. Out of somewhere deep within me comes a sudden final burst of energy. I find myself picking up the pace. “I’m almost there! I’m actually going to make it!” It seems there should be a marching band and helium balloons in honor of my accomplishment. At the end of the pier, I pause for a moment to soak in the morning sun sparkling over the still water. For one who despises running, I’ve just proven that miracles do happen – I CAN run.

Now this isn’t one of those underdog stories where I suddenly am able to compete in the Ironman triathlon. I doubt I’ll ever really ENJOY running. It still seems like cruel and unusual punishment. And it’s definitely not in my nature to keep doing something that’s painful and uncomfortable.

But I hate to say it – running is actually biblical. Paul writes in I Corinthians about “running to get the prize”. He says he “beats” or “punishes” his body, because it’s all part of his training (I Cor. 9:27). I can relate to that. Multiple times during my short run, I came very close to stopping. I started to feel sorry for myself, and felt like I “deserved” a break. It would have been so much easier to just stop.

Don’t we often feel that way when we’re faced with hard things? That nasty co-worker who seems set to make your life miserable. The difficult child who tests every boundary you set. The family member who knows exactly which buttons to push to get you riled up. Jesus never promised us that life would be easy. In fact, He assures us the opposite – “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV).

Life is tough sometimes. But we can’t just sit it out because it’s too hard. So we press on. We forgive those who have offended us. We confront in love. We ask for grace in our difficult relationships, not responding out of anger or hurt, but out of a heart of forgiveness and freedom. Not because it’s easy. But because our Coach, our loving Heavenly Father, has already run the path ahead of us. He’s cheering us on. And it’s His whisper in our hearts that says, “Just a little bit more. You can do it. You’re almost Home.”

Going Vertical!
MJ

“Like an athlete I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to. Otherwise I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit and ordered to stand aside.”
1 Corinthians 9:27 (TLB)