Two Points..

Last week I had the privilege of sharing a worship thought with my daughter’s middle school basketball team. I’d love to also share here…

Fouls are part of the game in basketball. More than likely, you won’t play the season or even a game without getting fouled or fouling someone else. Sometimes they are intentional, you know that player. But most of the time they are accidental. Nonetheless, fouls will get called and a free throw will be given because of it. Two free points available…

In life, we also foul each other and get fouled. To forgive these fouls keeps us moving forward in peace and love. Don’t be that person who fouls on purpose, you just gave your opponent two possible free points. But, know that when you’re fouled, you’ll get those two free points too. We can’t out foul God’s grace. Scripture says it is sufficient. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Sometimes the free points are received and sometimes they are not, but they are always offered. Isn’t this also so much like the grace of God? We are allowed a swish of grace each and every time we foul. But, this grace isn’t cheap. It was bought by His death. His grace was given when He walked this earth and died for us. I am SO thankful for this gift! Because as long as I’m on this earth, I know I’ll foul others. May they receive His grace. May I. May we know that even if the two points are not scored, it was still offered.

What about those fouls that happen and don’t get called? No free throw doesn’t equal no grace. God still sees. And, His grace is still there. Trust Him in that and offer forgiveness anyway. He sees that too. Even if the referee doesn’t. Offer him grace too. Us humans miss things. We just do.

No harm, no foul takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to life. But, just like in the game of basketball, fouls are a part of life. May we give and receive grace as often as those fouls are given and received. This is God’s will for us.

Jesus said: “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)

When we see a free throw taken in the game of basketball, may we always think of the grace God offers after a foul. And may we offer it to others as freely as He offers it to us. So that ours will also be forgiven.

The ball may miss the basket, but His grace never does and we all need it.

 

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Worth the Risk

I perform a test that requires my patients sign a consent form. In order to walk the treadmill, they must be willing to assume the risk.

They might fall, they might have a heart attack, they might die for pete’s sake. It’s right there on the consent form. Still, in eighteen years of doing what I do, I’ve never had anyone refuse to sign. I’ve had some refuse to pay or refuse the test for different reasons, but never because of the consent. That means that they are willing to assume the risk to get the answers they are there to receive. Peace of mind is worth it. It would be for me too. They want to know if their hearts are all right.

Truth is, they could also suffer any of these effects walking up stairs or to their car or in the mall. If I was going to have a heart attack doing any of these, I’d much rather it be in a doctor’s office…

What are you willing to try, even if it kills you (fails)? We drive every day, we fly often, we get on boats and rollercoasters. Most of us have gone swimming in the ocean and dove head first into a pool. Somewhere this has killed others, yet we still do it. We don’t want to live in fear. Life is made to enjoy. But still…

How about attempting a new friendship, or revisiting an old one, getting married again, going back to school, applying for a better job, writing the book, or starting that business? Are we willing, even if it fails?

Many people are encouraged to write in a journal to help them sort out their feelings. And, it does…But, how much more does it help for a brave soul to share theirs? Maybe they are feeling the exact same thing. Knowing you aren’t alone could help even more, but someone has to be willing to share. Risk.

Just like you have to play the lottery to win, you have to try, to succeed…Failure doesn’t mean it will never come. And, never trying could lead to the most regret.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” — Michael Jordan

What’s worth the risk to you?

FREEDOM!

When we hear the word “slave”, the opposite of freedom comes to mind…

Nonetheless, we are FREE to choose (God doesn’t force). We are FREE to love (God made us to). We are FREE to worship (God delights in it). We are FREE to live (Make choices). Thank GOD we live in a country with so many freedoms.

Paul calls himself a slave to Christ many places in the scripture. This is because He was sold out to the gospel. He came from a place of strict Jewish upbringing. He knew the law and followed the rules, better than anyone else in his expert opinion. He condemned and even killed those who didn’t.

Until Jesus Christ Himself shut Saul down (put scales over his eyes) and opened his heart (reopened his eyes) to the truth of who He was and why He died, he persecuted others for believing it. It was then, that Jesus revealed that He died for Saul (the one who thought he lived perfectly), for all of us. No one else could have convinced him, he would have spit on anyone who even tried.

What a stark difference to what he writes here…

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. — Paul (1 Timothy 1:15)

On the road to Damascus, Paul’s name and life was forever changed. He was set free and became a slave (servant) at the same time.

As Jesus followers today, we are freed from the bondage of all kinds of things as we learn what it means to be in personal relationship with Him. He reveals more and more each step of the journey with Him. To live as a slave to Christ is freedom from other people’s opinions, agendas….desires for you. Whatever He speaks to your heart and through His Word is the direction you find yourself starting to move.

To follow Jesus may look differently to people. He calls us to different ministries and mission fields as distinctly as He entrusts us with different gifts. Going His direction is the freedom He calls us to. He breaks the chains of the direction our ultimate enemy wants us to go.

Satan plants circumstances and earthly enemies in our paths to deter us. But, Jesus tells us how to deal with both of these. (Give thanks in all circumstances and forgive and pray for our enemies). They are only pawns in our ultimate enemy’s plan for us.

Personal relationship with Jesus breaks those chains and we start to follow Him…We want to when our eyes and hearts are opened to His love for us.

Paul went from persecuting those who followed Jesus to preaching why we all should. Because He is the answer. His grace saves us. This is what it means to be a slave to Christ instead of the world or to people. To think there is anything other than the blood of Jesus that can save us or anything that could keep Him from loving us is to live in bondage rather than the freedom of Christ. He never stops loving us. He’s already chosen us, but He also allows us to choose. A forced love is not true loyalty or love in return.

I am both humbled and honored to use my gift to proclaim His name and my 100% dependency on Him. I know there is no other way to do it. I pray my kids do the same, but even if they do not, may my heart’s cry never change. That He loves us better than anyone ever has or will. That what the enemy throws at us can and will be used for the good of those who love Him. And that God is good no matter what Satan wants us to think.

We take every thought captive and make it obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (GNT)

His love is the freedom we’ve been looking for. He loves you. Learn it. Live it. Become a slave to it…Ironically, as a slave to Christ, more freedom than you’ve ever experienced will come from it.

If we are free to choose, so are others. Respect yourself and respect other people’s choices. We are called to share His love with others, but there is also a whole lot only the Holy Spirit can do. Release yourself from the Holy Spirit’s roll in people’s lives. Share His love and release.

This is another way the Kingdom of God is polar opposite from the world’s…In slavery, there is freedom. Who/what are you a slave to?

 

Crickets….

I shared with a few of my girlfriends that one of my prayers entering the dating scene was that I’d rather hear “crickets” than have another broken heart. But, I see now, that it’s  been in the broken hearts and relationships that I’ve learned the most about myself, what I need, what I can give, and what real love is and is not.

I don’t think dating has ever been easy for me, but with social media, texting, dating sites, kids, and the divorced baggage, dating is HARD! As much as I wanted to remarry one day, I got to the point that I was willing to skip it altogether if it led to more pain, confusion, betrayal, or mistreatment. I wanted the girls to see healthy and if that meant mommy stayed single for the rest of my days, so be it.

It’s not what I wanted, I got very lonely. I wanted to be held by physical arms. I cried out in this loneliness, similar to how I did in the loneliness of my marriage but this time without a ring or any potential prospects. The prospects that did come along left more of the same. No lasting connection or commitment. I believed their words, but they fell flat, unable to truly love through good and bad. Once again, try, split, work on forgiveness, and try again. Or should I?

I craved companionship, intimacy, honesty, and reciprocal love. But, this time it wasn’t just about what I wanted, it’s about what the girls and I needed and the example I wanted to set as their mom for their upcoming dating years. I needed a man to set a good example as their stepdad. This definitely raised the ante.

I couldn’t risk falling for just anyone. Even though I still did in the process. God knows I’m prone to fall……..

We needed a patient man. A gentle man. A family man. A man who knows the meaning of and Supplier of biblical love. A man ready to love us all. For the long haul. Through thick and then. These would all take a strong man. If these characteristics weren’t there, then we would be healthier and better off without. And, ultimately, I’d wish the same for them when they consider a husband. So, I asked God to remove if he didn’t fit these qualities.

Crickets.

Hearing crickets on the dating scene isn’t easy. It feels like a big bucket of rejection, but that’s where my faith was tested. I bravely asked God to get all up in my business, so I trust that He did. Even when it hurt. Even when I didn’t like it. Even when the text wasn’t replied to. Even when they didn’t call. Even when the ones I was warned about wouldn’t stop texting or calling. Even when and even then.

I prayed for strength to endure the loneliness and what seemed to be a lack of interest or undesired interest. I reached out to my friends, I asked for prayer, I asked advice, I talked to my kids, I cried, and I learned each time. Deep down I trusted that God had my very best interests at heart. Because I only desired His will.

It never came naturally to me in any way, shape, or form to date casually. My heart is programmed to love and that makes dating (to figure it out) even more difficult….I asked God to guard my heart during the process. Keeping an open and guarded heart is a tough balance.

As I type this article, I’m looking down at a beautiful ring on the fourth finger of my left hand. Engaged to a man that I’m thrilled to have around my girls. A man that I know is super hard to come by in today’s world.

I get to be a wife again. I loved being a wife. But, this time, it’s to my best friend. A man who I can talk about anything with and he does the same. A man with similar interests which is wonderful, but most of all, is sacrificial. He wants to love me all the days of his life. He sees that as a gift. And that makes him the best gift for us! This is how I’d want my girls loved.

Thank you, Jesus, for the crickets. It was then, in the silence and wonder, that I learned the most about You, who I am to You, and who You want for us.

Did You Know?

I look at hearts for a living. I assess their function, blood flow, sizes, and valves. All day long I get to watch them beating. Something we rarely think about and honestly take for granted.

Because I use an ultrasound machine to visualize them, I work in a dark room most the time. When the lights go off, the test begins. This morning, as the lights went out, my patient asked if this was also a sleep study. I laughed and said “You’re welcome to sleep through it if you want to, your heart beats the same awake or asleep. The results will be the same.” It was then, that the thought came to my mind of how we can take the love of God for granted in the same way. It’s present and consistent every bit as much as our physical hearts are beating in our chests. Awake or asleep.

We don’t think about the fact that our hearts beat all day and all night from the time we are conceived until we pass away…We don’t notice them unless they are racing or hurting or skipping. And then we get concerned and get them checked on…or should. Just like the love of our God who created them, we don’t notice or recognize His consistent and unfailing love. This is how the quote by C.S. Lewis rings so true to me…

Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

My ultrasound machine suddenly makes patients aware of their heart that has been working for them their whole lives.

Just like it’s in our physical pains and concerns that we get our bodies checked on and become more aware of what they’ve done for us all our lives or what they “should” be doing now that they aren’t, it’s in our pain where we usually wake up to His love. The love we crave. The love that has always been there and has never stopped. More than likely it’s because our pain causes us to cry out for Him. Just like we call an ambulance or a doctor in a physical emergency, we call out to our God. And, He is so thankful we do. I imagine Him saying “I’m here child, I’ve always been right here.”

As amazing as the human body is, it was created by an even more amazing God. A loving Father who didn’t put us on this earth to condemn us or to scowl at us, but to love us. He doesn’t need us, He chose us. He made us with eternity together in mind.

Even those who don’t choose Him, He lovingly lets go. He would never force our love and knows that if He did that wouldn’t be love at all. He chose us first. He loved us first. He loved us always. He loves us still.

Many of my patients watch their hearts beat on the screen in amazement, sometimes it grosses them out and they can’t watch at all, and sometimes they sleep through it. Oftentimes, I hear how amazing the technology and the organ itself is when it’s in their face and they are actually able to see it. It is truly amazing that we can visualize our hearts beating inside our chests with no cutting or surgery these days. Watching their hearts beat usually leaves them with a sense of awe and awareness they didn’t come in with. And, for those it doesn’t, I wish it would. It does for me too when I take the time to consider what I’m actually looking at.

Take a moment to think about how God’s love has never left you. It made you. It was with you in that situation, at that moment, when you were completely unaware. When you didn’t believe it, when you thought you didn’t need it, when you didn’t want it, when you walked away, when you felt completely alone. When they said that. When they did that. When you did. His love was there. Always beating for you.

Is your heart beating right now? Regardless of what you’re doing or what you’ve done. God loves you too.