What conversations will you start today that truly matter?
What conversations will you start today that truly matter?
Sandies – my own little piece of Heaven on earth where I spent much of my childhood.
This is the place I learned it’s okay for girls to play in the mud, climb trees, and race four wheelers. But most of all it’s the place the leading men in my life taught me to respect and care for the great outdoors.
Six miles from electricity and cell phone service, Sandies has become a place of solitude … a retreat from the hustle and bustle of life in the Metroplex to be still and know.
Yes, places like this still exist. You just have to turn down a dead end road and hope your vehicle makes it through the ruts to get there.
Here the vastness of the sky reminds me of my insignificance. Here the infinite beauty of God’s masterpiece leaves me in wonder. Here I find rest.
My family spent Easter weekend here … where the lush greens of spring serve as reminders of the Hope that bloomed after a long, cold winter.
Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime. -Martin Luther
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
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.
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
We may be some of the most unlikely of friends.
You see, our countries are far from civil. For over 50 years all relations have been cut off, but this picture is evidence that government restrictions can’t sever friendships founded on the Gospel.
There’s reconciling power found at the Cross that makes the unfathomable fathomable … including unifying a team of three from nations with a history of conflict.
God has a lot to say about unity. In fact, when Jesus prayed for us, He prayed that we’d be unified as a testament to His work at Calvary.
“…I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” –John 17:20-23
And that’s what I experience with these friends … a divine gift of unity that witnessed to the goodness of the Gospel and the greatness of God’s glory.
I’m a fixer … so naturally I like to fix things. And when I can’t, I go bonkers.
In January, I came face-to-face with this problematic character trait on a dusty city street outside of a hard-hearted atheist’s home.
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. –Matthew 10:14
Honestly, I don’t like these words.
They remind me there will be times the Message of redemption and forgiveness rushing from my lips won’t “fix” someone for eternity.
And I’m hit with the truth that no fruit produced from my labor is on account of my efforts. Fruit bursts forth only through the timely nourishment of the Vine … apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5).
These moments are sobering reminders of my own dependance on Christ to reap any measure of harvest. I’m reminded that I’m not the fixer of souls … only God has the power to breathe life into dry bones.
My American self wanted to witness this man’s calloused soul melt like a stick of butter at the revelation at God’s great love.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, he graciously welcomed me into his home, listened to the Story I shared, and respectfully discredited it as true.
To paraphrase his response: I respect that you believe in God, but I’m an atheists. I don’t need this faith in my life.
I so desperately wanted to shake him and make him understand the depth of his depravity and need for Jesus. But my translator nudged me, indicating it was time to move on to the next home.
Sensing my disappointment, the words of Jesus dripped from the lips of my translator and church worker … shake the dust off your feet.
Sometimes that’s what we’re called to … simple contentment in faithfully sharing the life-giving message of Christ and the willingness to move forward without reaping the joyful harvest.
I can’t fix this man, or any man for that matter. Fortunately, there’s One who is patient and more than able to fix the stoniest of people.
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: 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 email@example.com for custom calligraphy and watercolor designs. You can check out more of her work here.
The task was clear: visit four homes in two hours.
It was our final ministry day on the island of old cars and there was a lot of work left to do.
Miraculously, it didn’t take long for my team of three to complete our assignment for the day. With 45 minutes left until we needed to be back at the church, we asked the Spirit to guide our steps to someone who needed to hear the message we came to proclaim.
Friends, meet Camila.*
She stood on the porch of her humble home with curiosity looming in her eyes. After all, it’s not every day a stark white, abnormally tall American woman strolls the gravel streets of her town.
We approached her and asked if she knew Jesus. Immediately she made the connection to the faith of her son. He was a believer and Camila shared that he desperately wanted his family to know Christ … but she didn’t have the faith to believe.
We asked if we could talk to her about Jesus. She said yes and invited us into her home. That’s one of the many things I love about the people on this island … they can disagree with you and still make you feel like family.
Once in her living room, we shared the story that changed our lives forever.
We told her God made her special. In fact, He crafted her uniquely in His image.
We told her all people had missed the mark and fallen short of God’s glory.
We told her God loves us – and her – too much to let our stories end in tragedy.
We told her He made a way for us to know Him through Jesus.
We told her Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life … no one gets to God except through Him.
We told her she could know God intimately right now.
And – in the Lord’s kindness – she believed the words pouring from our mouths.
That day a woman who’d been lost in a desert of disturbance, found a well of peace.
That day a mom’s faith aligned with that of her son.
That day a child was adopted into the Holy Family.
I love you deeply, Camila, and eagerly anticipate the day we’ll be united once again in the presence of the Holy One.
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.
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 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!