I Coulda Been a Contender

Boxing great Muhammad Ali died last week. His death reminded me how, as a young girl, I loved to watch boxing matches. I am not sure what about boxing I enjoyed so much. As an adult I can’t seem to stomach it.

Perhaps the idea of vieing for the ultimate title of Champion of the World was appealing. I did like the whole idea of winning and being the center of attention. Or perhaps it was the way the opponents would pound one another and somehow withstand the blows. They would knock each other senseless and after a brief respite between rounds bounce back ready to go again.

Something within me responded positively to this battle, this ability of a human being to fight on when most dare not even get into the ring. I think the fierce tenacity of these boxers inspired me. They were contenders; warriors battling in the physical for the ultimate prize. What a visual of one thing we all have needed to do at some point in our lives; contend.

I don’t often hear or use the word contend. Maybe the words, argue, battle, struggle or fight get better play these days. But I like the word contend because sometimes life can feel like a boxing match. We hit and get hit. We battle back only to get hit again. We are contenders, often contending for relationships, health, faith, justice, love, truth or peace of mind.

So, what are you contending for today?

You may feel like you have suffered a blow you can’t recover from. Life is difficult and you may be exhausted. But the good news is, unlike boxing, you do not need to be in the ring alone. The World Champion has our back and is contending for us. And what’s more, when we align ourselves with Him, He contends with us. We can battle and fight on because of Him.

So, contend dear one.  Contend!

Unhindered…live the masterpiece!

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the LORD.” Zechariah 4:6

 

Resolutions

Happy New Year!  Yes, it is the beginning of a new year and the time when many of us set goals and resolutions for ourselves.

Some of us are fairly disciplined and can maintain action beyond the 30-40 day mark to actually form a positive habit in our lives. Others are not so disciplined and will have abandoned our goals in a couple of weeks. Still others of us are so disillusioned and disheartened by our past inability to stick to a resolution, that all goal setting, dreaming and vision casting are simply abandoned.

Certainly there a number of reasons why goals are discarded.  But what if one reason we fail to stick with our goal and resolution is because it really isn’t ours to begin with?  We just think it is a good idea because everyone else is doing it. But maybe your admirable resolution isn’t something I am physically, financially or emotionally capable of achieving at the moment. Guess what…that’s ok!

Or, what if the goal is for us but the manner we try to achieve it doesn’t fit? What if we are adopting an execution plan of another instead of seeking and implementing one tailored made for us? We may have similar goals, but the way I achieve mine may differ than yours. The action plan of someone who thrives on solitude and structure to accomplish a goal looks vastly different than the one who needs people and variety. And that’s ok!

And what if sometimes it just takes awhile to figure out what works well for us. That’s ok too.

Maybe this year it is time to have a bit of Grace for ourselves and others. Grace to grow and learn. Grace to develop our Divine gifts and talents uniquely. Grace to know that each is fearfully and wonderfully made and Grace to call that forth from one another.

Unhindered…live the masterpiece!

” Let us consider how we may spur one another to love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

 

Living Loved

Recently a friend of mine felt impressed by God to, “Live as a loved woman!” It’s easy to gloss over the depth and magnitude of what these words mean. Yes, I am loved. Jesus loves me this I know. God loves everyone. Kumbaya.

However, I must confess that many times I do not approach life from this place of ‘loved’. Sadly, I often live from the place of trying to ‘earn love’. Subtle as it may be, they are very different places.

Earning love is on-going, insecure and constantly shifting because it’s dependent on my behavior and circumstances which can be extremely inconsistent. On the other hand, loved is a gift which is secure, final, complete; a God centered place of grace that motivates and gives meaning to my life as I receive it.

So, how would our world change if we stopped trying to earn love and instead received and embraced the gift of true Love? What would life look like if you and I lived in this place of security and grace? What if we lived as loved people?

The Apostle John writes in 1 John 4:19, ” We love because He first loved us!” God loves you. He loves me. We are loved. And He calls out, “Live as loved people!”

Oh that it would be the most natural thing to do!

Unhindered…live the masterpiece!

 

Square Peg Round Hole

Ever try to put a square peg in a round hole? Doesn’t work. A round hole is for a round peg. Seems pretty logical and basic, doesn’t it? It’s something a toddler can learn playing with any shape sorter toy.

Then, why as adults do we often live frustrated, aimless or stuck? Could it be that we have been trying to put a square peg in a round hole?

The goal of a shape sorter toy is to place all the varying shaped pieces into a box through a corresponding shaped opening. Similarly, there is a common goal and purpose for our lives; to glorify Love. Yet, we are each shaped uniquely and, therefore, how we each go about fulfilling our purpose will be unique. I can only live as me and you can only live as you. To live exactly as another is not possible. When we neglect to see this uniqueness and attempt to create carbon copies of each other we will live frustrated. It is like trying to place a square peg in a round hole.

Certainly there are basic principles that should guide and direct all of our paths. (The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gal.5:22)  Yes, we can learn important things from one another. (As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Prov.27:17) However, even Jesus’ ministry, whose purpose is always constant and consistent, chose to manifest Divine Life in a variety of  ways; from placing spit-filled mud on eyes to speaking just a word, from over throwing money changing tables to touching the untouchables. Consistent in purpose but varied in outward manifestation.

Today may we remember that we are not a copy but an original. May we be bold and brave to live as ourselves and not someone else. And may we be free to be consistent in the purpose of Love but varied in its outward manifestation.

Unhindered…live the masterpiece!

 

 

 

There’s Just Something About a Name

A dear friend of mine was out for a run one morning and passed a ragged looking woman dragging a small suitcase.  LOVE spoke to her heart as she ran by and said, “She has a name.”  Faced with the choice to continue or turn around and acknowledge the woman, my friend chose the latter.  The woman lifted her downcast eyes in surprise as my friend approached.  Eyes now locked on each other, my friend was struck by how beautiful the woman was and said, “Hi, I am Susie. What’s your name?”  The woman’s name was Jane. “You are beautiful Jane. I have two dollars with me. Would that help you buy a burger or something?”  The woman’s eyes filled with tears as she accepted the money and the compliment. She was not invisible. She was not insignificant. She had a name.

There is just something about a name. A connection happens when someone knows our name. We are no longer just part of the crowd. We are identified and given uniqueness. For some this need of significance can be so strong that great extremes of good and, sadly, evil are done to make their names known.

So then, what if you and I sought to purposely ask people their names? What affect could that have; to know and be known even just a little?

We don’t have to go far to find those who long to be seen and known. Perhaps that person is staring back at you in the mirror. Well, LOVE is not a respecter of persons. He knows Jane’s name and you can be confident that He knows yours as well.

Today may we see ourselves and others with the eyes of the ONE who intimately knows us. May this knowing emboldened us to action; to recognize and give Divine significance to those so desperately in need. It cost my friend two dollars and 30 seconds of her time to pause and be a light under that bridge. A seemingly small act of kindness, but to LOVE, absolutely beautiful.

Unhindered…live the masterpiece!

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are mine.” Isaiah 43:2

Intimidation

Fifth grade.  Middle school.  A building full of 5th-8th graders, 10-year-old children to 14-year-old puberty stricken adolescents. Whose bright idea was this?

It wasn’t so bad at first.  I wasn’t the only ‘child’ in the school.   There were other short, skinny, knock kneed, flat chested girls.  The problem was I didn’t know them yet.  My friends were the woman childs and apparently I wasn’t fitting into the image they wanted to present to the rest of the school.

Ignore the child.  That was their first line of attack.  I was a bit naive I guess because that didn’t work.  Stand at the door and when the child enters stare at her and tell her you’re gonna beat her up.  Now that got my attention!  I stayed away.  However, just to make sure I received the message and didn’t wander my skinny behind back onto their path, they met me at the entrance to school many mornings and reminded me.

Intimidation – to force into or deter from action by inducing fear.

Intimidation can take on many forms.  It can be extremely harsh like bullying or sly and subtle like being tongue tied by someone’s status or gifts.  The goal is always the same;  to make us timid and discourage us from action. It is a major weapon in the war against Love and an obstacle to living the fullness of our masterpiece.

Unfortunately our world is full of intimidating forces.  Everyday we see and hear the most devastating consequences of those who do not comply.  Often that alone has the power to silence and suppress our gifts and voice.  It is about survival.  Who in their right mind would choose to suffer such great lose?  Keep quiet, comply and stay under the radar.  But is that how we are created to live?

In fifth grade the intimidation finally stopped.  In reflecting back to the reason, it is clear that I chose to believe I had value and something to offer. That belief was affirmed by a beautiful vocal music teacher. She saw the natural gifts and talent fashioned and birthed in my DNA and she validated and called those gifts forth.

In what ways are you being intimidated today?  Are  you are feeling timid and fearful?  Are you are being intimidated into not expressing the gifts and calling you have been bestowed?

You may never have a music teacher by your side, but you do have Someone more powerful.  He is the Lion of Judah and when you and I choose to live this masterpiece He has created HE roars and all that seeks to suppress and silence, even death itself, will never prevail.

To Him be the glory forever and ever!

Unhindered…live the masterpiece!

“They were stoned,: they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword….The world was not worthy of them.”  Hebrews 11:37-38

How much longer? No really, how much longer?

Have you ever been on an airplane with someone who forgot a nicotine patch?  It isn’t pretty.  One woman I had the pleasure of traveling with literally asked “How much longer?” every 20 minutes during the 7 hour flight!  Twenty minutes was all the time she could handle before needing reassurance once again that we were indeed getting closer to our destination.  How about you? Are you wondering how much longer? Do you need some reassurance today?

You are stronger than you think.  You are smarter than you think.  You are capable of more than you think.  The burden may be incredible at the moment.  What’s in front of you may seem insurmountable.  One obstacle may have been hurdled just to face another and another.  You may have a thousand questions.  You may be just plain tired.

There may be a multitude of voices telling you to quit, that what you are doing is useless.  No one would blame you for quitting or going another way. This path is difficult and sometimes it feels like you are walking through quick sand.

Remember.   You hear the faint whisper in you spirit.  Remember the purpose for what you are doing.  Remember the need is it fulfilling.  Remember who or what is on the other side of your effort.

You can endure and persevere.  You can because of the One who endured and persevered before you.  For the joy set before Him, you, He endured the cross and disregarded its shame.  He arose from the dead and as He ascended to heaven said, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Remember.  You are strong, smart, capable and able to keep going because Jesus, the ascended one, is with you.  Remember!

Unhindered…live the masterpiece!

Fear

Fear.  It is a strange emotion isn’t it?  When my son was a high schooler, he and my now daughter-in-love and some friends went to a Halloween haunted forest.  They all agreed that it was scary but what was so interesting was how each reacted to being frightened.  One stood paralyzed and screamed for a long minute, while one stood his ground trying to be logical and a bit intimidating himself.  Another put up her fists ready to fight and another turned and started running in the opposite direction.  All experienced the exact same event but each reacted entirely different!

It has been said that fear really means, False Evidence Appearing Real.  Not sure if that is completely accurate. Heights, public speaking and bugs might fit into this category, but some evidence  is real and serious.  Cancer, bankruptcy, abandonment, abuse, terrorism are just a few that come to mind.  The scope of what we are frightened by is as unique as each person.  However, whether the fear is real or imagined the purpose is the same; to intimidate and keep us from advancing.

So what about you?  What are you afraid of?  How do you react when you are frightened?  What do you typically do?  Could fear be playing a major role in keeping you stuck and unable to advance in your God ordained life?

It would be nice if there was a one solution fits all process for dispelling fear.  The truth is that we are all different and process things our own ways.  Some need a hand held, others need space.  However, in the end what gets us all to the point of pressing through the fear and advancing is the belief that what is ahead is more valuable and true than the fear itself.  It’s called faith and it is worth the cost!

Press on dear one!  Press on!!

Unhindered…live the masterpiece!