A Foe Turned Friend

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Rain, you’re a familiar foe.

You’ve ruined a lot of things for me … like my play and my plans.

I’ve never liked you much. Okay, maybe that’s not fully true. I’ve like you a little, especially on those lazy Sunday afternoons when golf is on the sports channel and I’m convinced God’s wired me for the couch.

Rain, I’ve got to let you know you’re growing on me a little.

You force me to hit pause when life is busy and I want to prioritize physical over spiritual training.

You are an instrument adding new sounds to creation’s song.

You refresh and revive weary and dry soil to bear life.

You relieve us Texans from the summer heat (can I get an “amen”).

You wash away earth’s dirt and grime, and you point me to the One who’s done the same for my soul.

Rain, you’re a foe turned friend.

“You heavens above, rain down my righteousness;
    let the clouds shower it down.
Let the earth open wide,
    let salvation spring up,
let righteousness flourish with it;
    I, the Lord, have created it.” -Isaiah 45:8

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What I learned rock climbing

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This week I went rock climbing.

Here are a few of my observations:

  • Rock climbing is for the long and light … a.k.a not me (but it was a blast!).
  • Scaling a wall is essentially a perpetual pull-up.
  • You either feel like a ninja, spider monkey, or fish out of water. I relate to the latter.
  • It’s a bit like golf … apparently you’re not supposed to loudly cheer on your fellow climbers. Whoops.
  • It builds trust. This seems like a “duh” because you’re responsible for making sure someone doesn’t plummet to the ground. I’ve decided it’s a great relationship building experience because of the teamwork it fosters. So dudes, take your ladies rock climbing. You’re welcome for the date night idea. 🙂
  • If you’re not use to rock climbing, it’s a giant leap out of your comfort zone … and that’s a good thing.

I want to camp out a bit on that last bullet.

Let’s be honest, we stick to our comfort zones too often. We fear failure, so we shy away from trying new things … but there’s a world waiting to be explored and an incredibly good God who holds it together (Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:17).

When we confine ourselves to a specific arena, we miss out on adventure and opportunities to experience God in new, exhilarating ways.

I think Peter gets this about our Maker. That’s why he was eager to walk on water.

“‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.”Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” -Matthew 14:28-29

Getting out of the boat was a bold move on Peter’s end and Jesus honored his action by allowing him to walk across the waters … until Peter lost sight of his Savior.

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!”Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” -Matthew 14:30-31

Peter failed the trust test in this moment, but Jesus still reached out in His abundant grace to save him from stormy waters.

Meanwhile, where the heck are the other disciples?! In the boat … watching … and missing out on the epic-ness of walking on water … lame. (Shout out to B. Yobo for this amazing point.)

Yes, Peter failed, but give the boy credit for trying.

I don’t know about you, but I take a lot of comfort in this story. It teaches me that we’re not meant to stay in the boat. We need to try something new, often … and sometimes it’ll end in failure.

That’s okay, too.

I need to be reminded of this daily. I’m not a fan of failure. As much as I want to be good at everything, I won’t be. But there’s grace in the trying.

When we fix our eyes on Jesus and courageously set out to try new things for His glory, His Hand is willing, able, and ready to reach out and save us.

So what will you do today to get out of the boat?

This journey with Jesus isn’t a spectator sport. Get out there and do something that’ll grow your trust in the One who commands the wind and the waves (Luke 8).

My (Re)birthday

Today I turn 24.

And as much fun as it is to celebrate birthdays with friends (I’m in San Fran!), I’ve concluded there’s a birthday more important than the one marking my first breath.

I like calling that day–May 3, 2015–my (re)birthday … the day I declared to the world that I am a follower of Jesus through baptism. Here’s the tale of that fateful day from the perspective of my sweet Momma Bard:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the

I’m incredibly humbled to share in this special day in my daughter’s life. Some may ask, “Wasn’t she already baptized?” Yes, Gary & I baptized her before God and our family in November 1991 when she was four months old. We vowed before God to raise her to know Jesus. Some may ask, “Wasn’t she confirmed?” Yes, in March 2005 I believed Meredith to be mature enough to understand the profession and commitment made in confirming her infant baptism and she was confirmed. But those decisions reflected my decisions.

On a glorious, sunny Sunday surrounded by friends and family who love and encourage her walk in faith, mentors and co-workers who teach her Biblical truth and stretch her God-given talents beyond the boundaries of her heart and mind, Meredith stepped into the baptismal waters and publicly professed her faith, giving her whole heart, her whole life, to God.

Our loving Father had set up residence in Meredith’s heart many years ago. Privately, she had given her heart to Him a number of years ago as she experienced the fullness of His grace, His loving mercies, the overwhelming depth of His love as a 6th grader attending her first FCA Camp. On this glorious Sabbath, as a mature young adult, fully capable and cognizant of her decision, she gave her heart to Him publicly.

As I stood in line waiting to enter those baptismal waters with her, I was honored to be a part of this day as I fully understood the supreme importance of this moment in Meredith’s life, her earnest commitment to live her life fully walking with God. When she arose from the waters, a smile erupted on her face radiating the deepest joy of her heart…she is a beloved, redeemed child of God. I was humbled, grateful, and thankful to witness and share this moment.  

Sometimes it’s a challenge to parent a child like Meredith (and I’ve regularly prayed for the strength to be the parent she needs!), so for a number of years now, I’ve often admitted I have no idea where God will lead Meredith, but I have the full assurance that He’s got His protective arms wrapped around her…

and I trust that.

Have you publicly identified with Jesus through baptism? I’d love to hear about your experience getting “dunked” in the comment section below!

3 Reasons Why I Love Leviticus

Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetAlright … I love Leviticus.

Bet you weren’t expecting that first line in a blog post from this cup-is-always-half-full girl.

Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment, or maybe—more than ever before—God’s living and active word is making what used to be the most unappetizing pieces of Scripture vibrant and life giving. I’m going to camp out on the latter.

It’s true. I love Leviticus. And here are three reasons why.

It teaches me about God’s holiness

I have no idea how many times I underlined the words “holy,” “unblemished,” “fine,” and “pure” in the last few months … but I can guarantee you it was a ton (and I’m sure there’s some sweet seminary-savvy technology that can tell you just how many times you can find these words in the 27 chapters of this book).

The point is that God is perfectly holy, and nothing but holiness can be in His presence. Take it from Aaron’s sons who learned this the hard way.

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: “‘Among those who approach me, I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’” –Leviticus 10:1-3

It teaches me about God’s right rule

Although I’m not smart enough to understand or remember the historical significance of the sacrifices and commands in Leviticus, these texts certainly tuned me to a greater understand of God’s right rule.

The things He asks of us are meant to give life, not burden.

When we follow God’s right rule, it goes well with us.

“For I am commanding you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and multiply, and the Lord your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” –Deuteronomy 30:16

And throughout Leviticus, God reminds the Israelites of His goodness when He gives them a command. We can trust Him because of His spotless resume.

“Do not make idols for yourselves, set up a carved image or sacred pillar for yourselves, or place a sculpted stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am Yahweh your God. You must keep My Sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am Yahweh. If you follow My statutes and faithfully observe My commands […] I will turn to you, make you fruitful and multiply you, and confirm My covenant with you. You will eat the old grain of the previous year and will clear out the old to make room for the new. I will place My residence among you, and I will not reject you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people. I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, so that you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to live in freedom.” –Leviticus 26:1-3, 9-13

It teaches me about God’s mercy

I think this one is my favorite.

Right after God declares the incredible benefits of walking in His ways, He warns the Israelites of the outcome of disobedience. And y’all, it’s pretty gnarly.

Then God plants a great big but in the middle of the chapter.

But if they will confess their sin and the sin of their fathers—their unfaithfulness that they practiced against Me, and how they acted with hostility toward Me, and I acted with hostility toward them and brought them into the land of their enemies—and if their uncircumcised hearts will be humbled, and if they will pay the penalty for their sin, then I will remember My covenant with Jacob. I will also remember My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham […] I will not reject or abhor them so as to destroy them and break My covenant with them, since I am Yahweh their God. For their sake I will remember the covenant with their fathers, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God; I am Yahweh.” –Leviticus 26:40-42, 44-46

Man, the Israelites certainly don’t deserve this measure of mercy. And neither do I … but God keeps His promises. In His goodness He grants each of us mercy despite our failures when we humbly confess our disobedience.

Here’s what Leviticus—and the entire Bible—is pointing to: Jesus.

The sacrifices and extreme demands of righteousness before the Father can only be fulfilled by One who remains untarnished by the world. And that’s Jesus.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Paid in Full

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It’s been two months since we moved, but my roommate and I just got a bill from our old apartment for utilities.

And for a few minutes we were pretty frustrated … especially since it was due on February 1. Yep, it’s definitely April 6.

Short story short, Roomz called the complex today and got good news.

Our debt is paid in full.

I can’t help but think of my sins, her sins, and the sins of the world that were paid in full on a dreadful morning long ago.

Because of Jesus neither one of us will receive a “sin bill” (those would be some ridiculously large packages). Instead, our accounts are marked “PAID IN FULL” and we’re cloaked in the robes of Jesus.

It’s Monday and the tomb is still empty. Amen!

“The resurrection is God’s way of stamping PAID IN FULL right across history so that nobody could miss it.” –Tim Keller

What I’ve learned from Crossfit

So … I joined a Crossfit box.

Honestly it kind of pains me to admit that because I was once radically opposed to partaking in voluntary torture.

But a little over a month into membership I’m humbled by my lack of strength and endurance, and have been repeatedly reminded that this life is much more about progress than perfection.

There’s always going to be someone stronger, faster, and fitter than me. There’s always going to be more weight or reps to add to a personal record.

Crossfit reminds me a lot of the one degree of sanctification Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…” -2 Corinthians 3:18

Today I have to admit I actually like going to the box for a WOD—aka workout of the day. By the way, Crossfitters are all about their acronyms.

I’ve come to realize the seemingly endless burpees and failed attempts at pull ups are for my ultimate good despite the pain and shortness of breathe that accompanies them.

And I’ve learned a lot about Jesus and how God has wired us.

It’s Maundy Thursday – the day we remember the Last Supper and Jesus’ prayer … Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done (Luke 22:42).

His life wasn’t taken; Jesus chose to lay it down knowing that ultimate good would come from His perfect sacrifice (John 10:18).

I think God has designed each of us with a similar mindset.

We are His image bearers, so we imperfectly mirror the fullness of God manifested in Christ (Genesis 1:27, Colossians 1:15). Which means to some degree we are hardwired to lay ourselves down for things that are good.

At Crossfit, I’m willing to subject myself to a challenging workout knowing that the end result is a healthy body and lifestyle. I know that’s an incredibly selfish and small illustration, but through it I’m learning more about Christ’s heart and willingness to go through pain to show the world God’s infinite goodness … because if He hadn’t taken the agony of the cross we wouldn’t be able to say we stand in His grace (Romans 5:1-2).

And that little bit of insight into the passion of Jesus makes the WOD worth it.


Just in case you’re wondering if I’m “all in” with the whole Crossfit/paleo combo…I’m not. And here’s a picture of my In-N-Out Burger outside the box as proof. Oops.

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[Reflection] A lot like Heaven

I think Heaven is going to be a lot like putting on these glasses.

Suddenly the Caribbean blues, sunset oranges, sunflower yellows, and Spring greens will pale in comparison to Heaven’s glorious vibrancy … and that’s not even the best part.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” -Revelation 21:3-5

Happy Tuesday!

[Reflection] That they may know Jesus

A few weeks ago, I sat in on a creative breakout session with Greg Garrett, an author, professor, and pastor. Mr./Dr./Pr. Garrett closed his presentation with the following statement: IMG_0893 I write for a living. And if I’m honest, there are days the writing is hard and I lack inspiration. This short, yet profound closing statement has reinvigorated the way I craft sentences and has pointed me back to the scriptures I held dear during my stint as an athlete.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” –Colossians 3:23-24

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” -1 Corinthians 10:31

Since braving—more like being forced into—the realm of adulthood, I’ve struggled to connect the mundane to God’s glory.

For some reason, it seemed easier and more significant to illuminate Him during rehab, practice, and games. Maybe it was the fleetingness of the moment that made it sexier to be faithful in the little things (yep, just said sexy in a blog about the Lord). Working life seems so permanent in comparison to the foreseen expiration date of college athletics.

Despite my failed attempts at justifying my moments of laziness and lack of zeal, I am called to higher … and so are you.

So here’s my encouragement for today:

   (fill in the blank)    for the world, that they may know Jesus.

The purpose of the breath filling your lungs this instant is solely for His glory. Don’t waste the gift.


P.S. Do you like the art piece photographed above? My incredibly talented roommate handcrafted it for me! Email jleighb2@yahoo.com for custom calligraphy and watercolor designs. You can check out more of her work here.

[Reflection] Lessons from a man in white

Today marks eight years since my first dive into the pool at Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center for the UIL State Swim Meet and six years since my last. This story is about the bumpy journey to that initial plunge. 

Disbelief. Anger. Tears.171371_10150153496860049_797308_o

The emotions and side effects of a medal lost and accomplishment gone unnoticed at the twitch of my right shoulder.

It was the regional swim meet and I’d swam a personal best in the 200 free when a man in white slowly approached my lane … threatening to crush a goal I’d trained my tail off to achieve.

And he did.

Sorry ma’am your shoulders flinched before the whistle and we have to disqualify you.

Those words sparked a firestorm of emotions that were the farthest thing from godly.

I threw stuff. I yelled. I cried … because that’s what teenagers do when they’re self-absorbed and frustrated. I’m not proud of how I conducted myself, but it happened and I’ve learned a lot about God’s abounding grace through this bout of rage.

Thankfully I have a pretty great Mom. Seriously, she’s the bomb and loves me in my ugliest, most unlovable moments. She reminds me a lot of Jesus.

Momma Bard–as many of my friends affectionately call her–rushed down from spectator seating, wrapped her arms around me and took me on a “walk about” … something we’d do when I was upset about an athletic performance or my lack of recruiting prospects.

I still remember looking down at the red paw prints painted along the sidewalk as we prayed together and casted our cares to the One in control of life’s outcomes.

Overwhelmed with confidence and faith that things would work out exactly as they should, I returned to the pool deck. A few hours later, a medal hung around my neck along with a ticket to the state meet.

My 15-year-old self thought that punched ticket was the victory of the day, but looking back I’d have to say the victory came from the lesson learned through the interaction with the dream crusher dressed in white.

Let me explain…

My greatest fear is that many will spend their lives filling the pews of churches only to find out they’re disqualified because of a false start.

Just like I didn’t receive the prize at the conclusion of my race, I fear many will miss the reward of eternity in the presence of their Maker because they failed to get a clean start from the block.

In America (especially in the great state of Texas), many of us are born and bred in the church pew … but many people fail to experience a deep, personal relationship with Jesus. We attend church out of obligation and tradition, but there’s no heart for the One behind the worship.

That’s the catalyst of my own story.

For 12 years I attended Sunday school and sat in the back pew of a small town church, but I was completely blinded to God’s displayed love on the cross … in fact, I often prayed in hopes that my parents would sleep through their alarms.

Church was boring and I didn’t want to go.

By God’s grace alone, the blinders fell off at an FCA camp. That’s the first time I realized the truth behind the song I’d grown up singing…Jesus loves me. My life was forever changed.

So today I’m writing to the one who has never skipped a Sunday service.

The one who claims to know Jesus because that’s the cultural norm.

The one who owns a Bible, but rarely cracks it open.

The one who quotes Scripture, but doubts its promises (and just so you know, I have those days too).

The one who thinks they can earn salvation (been there, tried that … see Isaiah 64:6 and Romans 3:10).

The one who does what’s morally right, yet experiences no freedom.

There’s an abundant life to be lived in pursuit of Christ, and it doesn’t start in a church pew … it starts with belief in His love.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16

Pause for a moment.

You’ve probably heard these words countless times, but do you truly believe them? Do you believe the Creator of all things sent His only Son on a mission to die for your failed attempts at achieving His holiness?

Because He does, and my heart sure hopes you’re overwhelmed by the depth and height of God’s love.

So how’s your start? God is pursuing your heart and your life clock is still ticking … maybe this is your moment to confess and believe.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. -Romans 10:9


P.S. I’m super proud to be an El Campo Swimming alum today … the FIRST-EVER state-qualifying relay team is making history by competing in the finals this afternoon. Go ‘Birds!

[Reflection] The Perfect Package

A dear friend’s call last night led me to reflect on the perfectly packaged message in Matthew 6.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. –Matthew 6:25-34

It seems that anxiety creeps into my heart when I fear lack of provision … suddenly I forget God’s faithfulness in providing everything I need and Satan tempts me into worry.

Post-college I spent a year fumbling through adult life (and I’m still fumbling…I don’t think it’ll ever end), and the Lord was faithful through the doubts and fears that ensued in that season.

When I needed a place to stay, families from church and sweet friends opened their homes to me.

When minimum wage didn’t seem to add up to what I needed for the month, there was a miraculous abundance.

There’s never been a moment I’ve needed more than what was divinely given, yet in my sinfulness I still worry.10320519_10153010338145049_639198545787317458_n

But a mark of the believer is one of trust in the face of the unknown. We must combat the temptation to fret over the details of our days with the truth of God’s Word.

Matthew 6 resonates with me because God–in His infinite knowing–pairs the issue of finances with the cure for anxiety. He knew my sweet sister would need encouragement in His provision for days like yesterday. He knew I would need encouragement in His provision during the year I searched for work and shelter.

There are days we won’t know where the finances for (fill in the blank) will come from … but we serve a God who promises to nourish and clothe us.

When the cents don’t add up and worry begins to surface, cling to the prescribed antidote for anxiety …

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” –Philippians 4:6

Anxiety is never from the Lord. After all, He’s the Prince of Peace and meets the deepest of our needs.

There’s infinite proof of that at the Cross.

Our deepest need isn’t food or shelter, but the forgiveness of our sins. He rained down an abundance of forgiveness through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

If we can trust Him to provide for our salvation, we have every reason to trust Him in providing our daily bread.