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

 

Surrendering Understanding

Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? These are the questions that spark discovery and understanding. They illuminate and bring clarity and order to our world. This is the vocabulary of dreamers, inventors, explorers, indeed of anyone who desires progress and advancement in life. The need for answers is wonderful. Being curious and inquisitive about the beautiful and the ugly has led to incredible findings and progress in all areas of life. The world would be stagnant without them.

But what happens when the need and pursuit for answers and understanding outweighs the desire for all else?

Why did it happen? Why is it happening? Life has taken on a form that doesn’t make sense. The mind tries to comprehend but is unable. There is beauty and there is ugly it can not understand. But it continues to try. Again and again it questions, always seeking answers that never satisfy.

Surrender. What if the answer is surrender?

There are some things in life we are not going to understand. It is in these times we have a choice. We can either continue our quest for an understanding that we like and feels good to us, or we can surrender our need to lean on our own understanding. We can either wander further into the territory of believing that we have the capacity to know all things or we can accept that we are not the Creator but His beautiful intricate creation. We can be prideful or humble. We can continue to take a bite of the apple or toss the apple aside.

How do we know when it may be time to surrender understanding? A life that constantly asks ‘why’ over the same issue without the budding of joy, gratefulness and peace is a good indication. Feeling distant or cut off from Love could be another.

We will never understand everything that happens in life. This isn’t how we are created. We are, however, created for a relationship with the Creator. It is in this love relationship and in His understanding that all the who, what, when, where, how and why find there proper place. It is in this relationship, surrendering understanding, that we live by faith!

 

Unhindered…life the masterpiece!

 

 

 

 

Expect Delays

I have a love hate relationship with technology.  I love technology when it QUICKLY does what I want.  I hate technology when it doesn’t work or takes longer to accomplish a task than I deem necessary.  Why doesn’t my phone navigate the variety of apps with the ease of the one on the commercial? Where did the rough draft of my blog go?  All I did was touch the screen? And why do I constantly need to reboot my wireless internet?  Frustrating!!

I am not good with glitches or delays.  (Those closest to me might say that’s an understatement!)  But what if the glitches and delays aren’t really my problem.  What if sometimes the real problem is that I am not very good with perseverance?  

Perseverance steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

There will always be obstacles that slow down and impede progress this side of Heaven.  I choose how I respond.  I can play the victim, throw a hissy fit and give up or I can press in, re-adjust and continue on my journey.  Oh that I would press on!

So what are you facing today?  Is there an obstacle in your way that is slowing down your progress?  Are you close to throwing in the towel?  Is it difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel?

Now is not the time to give up but to press in and press on!  Remaining steadfast may be uncomfortable.  It may be the hardest thing you have ever done.  It may take every ounce of your energy.  Giving up control over timing is never easy but you can do this.  You can persevere because the One who formed and gave you all those crazy dreams is right there by your side and He is for, not against, you!

Unhindered…live the masterpiece!

 

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

Hanging it on the Wall

ArtPrize!  Downtown Grand Rapids is once again transformed into a city wide art gallery. The competition hosts 1500 artists in over 160 venues and brings 400,000+ visitors to the downtown area. It’s an incredible event that celebrates imagination, creativity and vulnerability. Art … Continue reading

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

Out on a Limb

This past weekend I received the craziest text from my sister-in-love. It was a picture of her dog Xander up in a tree!  Xander is a 75 pound cockapoo with a very adventurous and focused spirit. He obviously was chasing or on a scent of something. Before he knew it he found himself in danger on a tree limb high above the ground, unable to turn around and descend. He was one stuck pup! Somehow my sister and nephew coaxed Xander into a blanket /net which helped to break his fall. He landed unharmed and with a shake of his head was off on another adventure!!  Crazy dog!

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There’s Xander!

Xander’s tree climbing mishap is a perfect illustration of what can happen in our lives both personally and corporately when we are sidetracked from our original purpose and focus on the wrong things for too long. If we aren’t careful we can find ourselves in some pretty unnecessary, uncomfortable or destructive situations. We may not intentionally set out to be stuck high above the ground on a tree limb but if we don’t take inventory from time to time of what we are doing and the direction it is taking us the tree limb is certainly a possibility!

Where is your path leading you?  Is it taking you closer to your purpose or drawing you farther away?

Sometimes we can be so preoccupied by our own lives. We can get on a path that is motivated by self-interest, self-promation and self-preservation and that always leads to a dangerous place. Why? Because a life motivated in that way draws us away from our first and ultimate purpose in life; to bring glory to our Father.

Today may our lives be filled not with self but with Divine purpose. Today may our lives be focused and motivated by Love. Today may our paths lead to glory for the One who loves us beyond our wildest imagination!

Unhindered…live the masterpiece!