The Other Side

When  my family took a trip to Israel a few months ago, one of the many highlights for me was taking a boat out on the Sea of Galilee. So many significant events took place here!

Jesus called his disciples from this area.

He walked on water.

The miraculous catch of fish.

But my favorite is when Jesus calmed the storm.

 

I’ve heard this story taught multiple times. But it’s what happened before and after this miracle that makes it even more powerful to me now that I know the whole context.

Let me lay the foundation of what was going on before Jesus gets in the boat with his disciples. They were all gathered in Capernaum, the headquarters of Jesus’s ministry. The people were flocking to him, bringing their sick to be healed. The crowd was getting a bit out of control and Jesus decides it’s time to move to another  location.

But not just any location.

He intentionally says to his disciples, “Let us go to the other side.”

When he says “the other side” he means the other side of the lake.

But the other side of the lake was pagan territory. They didn’t follow the ways of God. They were known for indulging in all kinds of sin. The Jewish people weren’t embraced there. And they couldn’t stay for very long because of restrictions with food and social requirements.

Jesus knew exactly where they were going. It wasn’t just a random decision.

They headed to the Decapolis region for a divine appointment with a demon-possessed man.

Everyone in Capernaum would’ve been able to hear this man screaming from across the lake.  He wandered aimlessly in the tombs by the shore because nobody could contain him. He was out of control.

Jesus is making a very bold move to take his disciples across the Sea of Galilee to the other side.

So this is what happens right before an unexpected storm threatens to drown his disciples. Waves of panic rushed through seasoned fishermen as they watched literal waves crash over their ready-to-sink boat.

But Jesus awakens from his sleep (asleep–really??) and calms the storm before their very eyes. The storm didn’t take him by surprise. He was on a mission to get to the other side.

Nothing was going to stop him.

At this point, I wouldn’t have blamed the disciples one bit if they’d turned that boat around and headed back home to Capernaum, to familiar territory.

But Jesus wasn’t finished yet! Someone was waiting for him. Desperately waiting on the other side.

Approaching the shore, the demon possessed man doesn’t skip a beat. He’s waiting for Jesus. He must have heard the buzz spreading about this supernatural man who could heal the sick. This was his only hope. He was at his wit’s end.

Jesus takes control of the situation and casts the demons out of this man. And he not only casts them out, but he ushers them into a herd of pigs, driving them over a cliff into the sea.

The man is immediately set free!

He begs Jesus to let him climb aboard the boat with his disciples. (Wouldn’t that be anyone’s first response?!)

But Jesus firmly and lovingly tells him to stay. To go and tell his own people what Jesus did for him.

This is huge.  A demon possessed man—bound up in a prison of despair—is now set free to proclaim the good news. He’s a missionary in the pagan region of Decapolis!

A region on the other side.

Here’s some powerful insights to take away from this and apply to our lives today:

Sometimes Jesus calls us out of our comfort zone and asks us to go to the other side.

While it’s comfortable with the crowd, we are sometimes called to take a risky move.

A move that will feel very uncomfortable. A move that will tempt us to panic.

And yes, a move that might even drive us to feel as if a storm is threatening to drown us.

But instead of getting focused on the storm, maybe we need to shift our focus on the other side.

 

Who or what is waiting on the other side? 

The neighbor across the street.

The co-worker everybody avoids.

That estranged family member who causes conflict.

Or it might be a place Jesus wants you to embrace.

Your child’s school.

A new ministry that needs volunteers.

Whatever the other side is for you, take that leap of faith and go forward. But be prepared for the enemy to attack. Because anytime we make a move toward pointing others to Jesus, the enemy will do whatever he can to stop us.

You might get opposition from others. You might be criticized. Your whole world could be shaken up.

But just like Jesus, may we keep our eyes fixed on the other side. When the waves of doubt and panic threaten to drown us, may we trust Jesus to calm the chaos.

Just like the demon possessed man was changed forever, there are souls who are desperately waiting for the love of Jesus to impact their lives. Waiting for hope. Waiting for good news. Waiting for someone to reach out.

But that isn’t going to happen unless we resolve to go to the other side.

Pray today for God to show you what the other side is for you!

Blessings to you,

Lisa

Check out my book Embracing The Race: 40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul 

Part of my proceeds are donated to WaterStep, a ministry that puts clean water in developing countries.

 

 

 

 

 

Facing the Giant of FEAR

A once-in-a-lifetime trip to Israel.

My husband, daughter and I stood in awe on the top of Mt. Azekah overlooking the valley of Elah. This was the place where David killed Goliath! Trying to wrap my head around what took place here, I tried to envision David coming face-to-face with the one who taunted him. Threatened him. Dared him to come one step closer.

Ted, one of our teaching pastors had just walked us through this historical event.  Pulling nuggets of truth from scripture, he took us back in time to what played out that day. He finally challenged us to identify the giants in our own lives. 

The things that taunt us. The things that ignite fear, leaving us paralyzed.

How will we respond when we come face-to-face with these giants?

Just four hours after our group hiked back down Mt. Azekah, I’d be forced to answer that question.

We’d just finished eating dinner at our hotel’s dining room. My daughter, Breanna, smiled as she began to dig into a piece of chocolate cake. The chef had just informed us the dessert was nut free.

She’s severely allergic to nuts. We have to take extreme caution with anything she eats. The slightest amount of nuts ushers in a dangerous reaction.

After three bites, Breanna’s smile turned to shock. She spit out what looked like a tiny piece of nut.

“Mom, I think this has nuts in it and I’ve already eaten some!”

In that moment, fear ignited in my heart. Grabbing the plate of cake, I gasped and held my breath as we quickly made our way to the chef on the other side of the room. Showing him what we’d discovered, the frown on his face confirmed my fear.

“I didn’t realize this cake had walnuts in it.”

This is when the spark of fear engulfed into horrendous flames in every part of my being.

It had been six years since Breanna had accidentally ingested nuts. She’d broken out in hives all over her body. I remember distinctly what the doctor had said in that moment.

With each incident, the reaction gets worse. Just because ingestion doesn’t affect one’s breathing in a given moment doesn’t mean it won’t the next time.

This was her next time. Would she experience anaphylactic shock?

Anaphylactic shock shuts down the respiratory system. In some extreme cases, people die.

My husband, Jim, and I looked at each other in total disbelief. Is this really happening?

Just minutes after Breanna ingested the nuts, her lips and left eye swelled up. Panic washed all over my daughter’s face and in that moment I came face-to-face with my giant.

The giant that all parents face…

The fear of something tragic happening to one of your kids.

When others in the dining room realized what was happening, Roy, a doctor in our group, offered his assistance. Not only was he a doctor, but he understood our fear. One of his grown daughters also had a severe nut allergy. Looking back now, I realize in that moment God began to slowly extinguish the flames of fear with His comfort.

Fear of the unknown is another giant we all face.

And in this moment, we just didn’t know what was going to happen. Breanna didn’t have trouble breathing. She hadn’t broken out in hives either. Would her lips continue to swell? Could it eventually affect her breathing? Should we wait it out and see what else happened?

Based on Dr. Roy’s experience with his own daughter, he urged us to get Breanna to the hospital.

Other giants stomped onto the scene, shaking the core of my heart.

We’re in a foreign country!

We know nothing about hospitals in Israel!

Will our insurance cover us out of the country?

How far away do we have to go?

If she goes into shock, are they equipped to treat her?

An ambulance pulled up outside the hotel. We made our way through the crowd that had gathered in the lobby. Four Israeli medics (yes, four!) greeted us and immediately got Breanna hooked up in the back of the ambulance. Jim sat up front with the driver. Was there room for me?

“You, get in here with us!”  I squeezed in next to the other three medics and hung on tightly, trying to stay strong for Breanna.

The tires of the ambulance screeched in reverse, making our way down extremely narrow streets.

This is when I began to pray like crazy!

God, please help us. We need you now. I beg you to protect Breanna. 

 

The medics continued to monitor Breanna’s vital signs. They assured me we were getting closer to the hospital. At this point she was breathing fine.

The ambulance continued speeding to our destination, at some points driving up on sidewalks to get around stopped traffic.

God, please get us there safe. 

Breanna suddenly bolted up from her reclined position, fear all over her face and yelled, “My throat feels strange, I can’t breathe!”

Just seconds later, she threw up. (Sorry to be so graphic here!)

“Please help her!” I pleaded with the medic next to me. The one in charge immediately gave her an injection of epinephrine.

Immediately she announced to us that she could breathe okay now. (It turned out that she had not experienced anaphylactic shock, but because her throat felt strange before vomiting she thought it was affecting her ability to breathe.)

Finally, we arrived at the hospital and they took her right in. No waiting.

I walked beside my courageous daughter to the room they pointed to. Jim filled out paperwork at the front desk and would join us later.

A nurse with beautiful long, black hair took Breanna’s vitals and smiled,assuring us we were in good hands.

In that moment, I felt the comforting hands of God holding us tight. Earlier I’d felt stricken with panic. But now felt saturated with peace.

I looked over at my precious daughter and a smile washed over her frail face.

“Mom, I had a six-year streak going and now I’ve gotta start all over!”

I thought back to where we’d stood earlier that day. On top of Mt. Azakeh, overlooking the valley of Elah. The place where David slayed the giant.

And here we both were–in a hospital emergency room. We’d just walked through our own valley, staring our giants face-to-face.

My daughter’s worst fear? Ingesting nuts…knowing it could be deadly. 

My worst fear? Something tragic taking the life of my child…and feeling out of control to fix it.

 I believe God sometimes allows us to experience our worst fears so we can experience the truth that He is more powerful than anything we fear.

 

We pray for the giants to stay away so we don’t have to face them.

But sometimes the giants march out right in front of us. A decision must be made.

Will we let them threaten us and leave us paralyzed? (This is what King Saul and his soldiers did when they looked at Goliath.)

Or will we look to God for strength and by faith let Him fight the giants for us?

God fought the giants for us and provided exactly what we needed that night:

*A doctor in our group who understood the urgency of the situation.

*A hospital close by, which I found out later was one of the best in Jerusalem.

*An amazing medical team who acted quickly and accordingly.

*Breanna experienced swelling and hives, but no anaphylactic shock.

*The hotel paid for our medical bill in full.

After four hours of observation,Breanna was released. We were all washed over with exhaustion. But we stepped out into the streets of Jerusalem praising God, knowing the situation could have been so much worse.

We’d come face-to-face with our giants that day. And just like David, we walked away victorious.

I don’t know what giants you are facing today, but I can promise you this:

If you look to God for strength and put your faith in Him, He will be your giant slayer. 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Check out my book Embracing The Race: 40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul!

Hope in a Hopeless World?

Hate. Racism. Senseless deaths. Cold-blooded murder. Unthinkable tragedy.

In the midst of a nation spiraling down quickly, our hearts are certainly weighed down with grief that fills the air.

Waves of fear engulf us, leaving us drowning with no seashore in sight.

Raging with a fierce, righteous anger, we demand justice. We rally together against the evil, making our voices known. Boldly we discuss the best solutions for fixing this wicked world.

But when all is silent and nobody is around, there’s a question I believe we all are asking.

Where is my hope?

Is it in the police force?

The political candidates running for president?

The guns hidden under the bed?

The promises of the government?

Where is your hope?

Who or what are you clinging to when everything familiar and what used to be stable comes crashing down?

If it’s anything in this world, you will come up empty. Even a hefty savings account isn’t going to hold you together when evil chokes the life out of anything promising.

As followers of Christ, we should not be surprised at the spiraling down of this world.

Jesus tells us very plainly in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart because I have overcome this world.”

I love the way Jesus tells us like it is. He doesn’t sugar coat the situation.

Doesn’t say you might have trouble. Doesn’t say if you just read your Bible and pray enough you’ll avoid trouble.

He says we WILL have trouble.

Sometimes I get stuck on the first part of this truth and camp out there for a while. I allow my troubles to define me and dictate how my life will be lived. I turn off the news in disbelief and let myself be overcome with fear and despair.

But the next part of this truth should awaken hope in the depth of my soul! He says to take heart because HE has overcome this world. 

The apostle Paul makes it plain for us in more detail about the kind of trouble we will see play out in this world. See if any of this sounds familiar:

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Timothy 3:1-4)

Yep. This passage covers just about everything we see playing out in our nation today.

So I ask you again…Where is your hope?

Even as Christians, we might say our hope is in Jesus–but we silently doubt.

Our lips may say our trust is in Him, but out of fear we attempt to control our future. We cling to our jobs, money and possessions a little too tightly.

But look at the truth of Romans 8:38 and let it sink in:

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. (NLT)

Death is all around us in a nation that doesn’t value life. But God’s love is stronger.

The enemy is on the prowl, deceiving many people. But God’s love is stronger. 

Fear grips us as we wonder what will happen to our children. But God’s love is stronger.

Worries of how to survive the aftermath of tragedy weigh us down. But God’s love is stronger.

On a more personal level, I’ll peel back the layers of my own heart.

Will another maniac show up in my town, randomly killing people I know? 

Will my loved ones fall prey to the enemy’s lies and turn away from God?

Will my 12-year-old daughter be safe in a world I can’t always protect her from?

How will we survive the next tragedy that strikes closer to home? 

While I might ponder these questions simply because I’m human, I choose not to linger there.

I will choose to cling to the truth of who Jesus is. I will choose to anchor my hope in the unfailing love of God. Yes, His love is stronger. He is sovereign. Even when I don’t fully understand all that will play out in this world, I will trust Him.

I live in a hopeless world. But my hope is in the unshakable love and power of my Heavenly Father.

Where is your hope?

hope

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

Taming the Waves of Fear

Standing on the edge of the shore, I peered out into the ocean as far as my eyes could see. Way out there, the waves appeared so huge and powerful.

Overwhelming. Unstoppable.

I sure wouldn’t want to be caught out there! Those waves would crash over me, taking me under to be drowned.

Caught up in anxious thoughts, the water suddenly splashed around my ankles. The bubbling water refreshed my tired feet, white foam tickling my toes. This felt invigorating and relaxing as my feet sunk into the wet sand. Soaking up the moment, I peered out once again at the huge waves in the distance. And that’s when it hit me.

The threatening waves that started out enormous, had gradually diminished into tame wavelets by the time they reached the shore. 

What was viewed from a distance invoked fear and anxiety. But when viewed up close, now tame and subdued.

This image paints a powerful picture of what we do with the fears and worries of our life. When we peer into the distant, unknown future, our minds get tangled up in waves of anxiety. Things that haven’t even touched us yet threaten to pull us under, drowning our faith with fear.

What will I do IF that happens?

How will I survive IF they do such-and-such?

I will surely crumble IF this comes true. 

While these enormous waves of fear build their power and momentum, we allow defeat to crash over us, drowning out every ounce of peace and joy.

Viewed from a distance, these fears lurk heavily in our mind. But if only we would wait…

Wait for those fears to lose their momentum. Wait for those threats to diminish. Wait for those worries to dissipate to wavelets.

By the time our “what ifs” reach the shore of reality, we will often realize that the very things that once threatened to drown us, are now tame ripples we splash with our feet!

The things that appear powerful are now powerless. The things that seemed overwhelming are now manageable. The things that looked impossible are now hopeful.

In past seasons of my life, I’ve allowed the waves of fear to pull me in. I’ve allowed my thoughts to run wild with worry instead of letting God’s peace soak up my parched soul. I’ve learned that when I live my life out in the distant waves, I can’t possibly enjoy the abundant life back on the shore.

On the shore there is solid ground. On the shore I can stand still. On the shore I can soak up the sunlight.

Just as the bubbling water foams around my feet from the broken waves, God’s presence and peace soothe my aching soul.

So how do we live on the shore when the waves threaten to drown us? I truly believe the secret is where we focus our eyes. 

I can glance at the waves in the distance, but I don’t stay there. I can get a glimpse of an approaching storm, but I don’t get caught up in it. Instead, I focus in the other direction.

The day I stood on the beach at the edge of the shore, I turned around and heard the laughter of children. Their shrieks of joy drew me in. They were picking up shells. They were running back and forth, splashing in the ripples. Some were flying kites, throwing balls and building sand castles.

They were too busy having fun to notice the huge waves in the distance. They lived in the moment, enjoying the blessings of life.

I didn’t see any child looking out and focusing on the waves that could swallow them up if they drifted out. I didn’t see any child paralyzed by fear, refusing to budge from their beach chair.

Maybe this is a picture of what it means when God tells us to become like a little child. A child playing on the shore, refusing to get pulled under by the waves of fear. A child trusting their father to take care of their every need.

Where are you today? Are you living in fear from the “what if’s”? Are you letting the waves of worry control your every move?

If that’s where you are, I urge you to turn around. Walk upon the shore.

Trust God with the things that seem to threaten you. Enjoy the abundant life He wants you to have. Surrender to Him your fears and worries you see in the distance.

I pray that the peace of His presence will refresh your tired and weary soul.

shore

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Darkness

Ever felt like darkness surrounded you? Like it completely engulfed your entire being?

You know what I mean, right? Those times when you just can’t see anything clearly. Your path is hidden. You have no idea what is ahead. Like a thick forest you can’t penetrate, darkness overtakes you.

It’s in those times of darkness when we feel like God is not there. He’s abandoned us. He’s forgotten about us. Does he even care at all?

Our hearts may resonate with David in Psalms 139:11 when he says this:

Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me.

We usually try to avoid the darkness. We want to stay in the light as long as possible. We absolutely FEAR the dark places of our journey! Every thread of our soul unravels away at the mere thought of walking into darkness.

But I found a nugget today that I’d never seen before. A powerful nugget of truth that jumped off the page as I read it. May it encourage you today and give you HOPE if you are in a place of darkness.

Moses had just returned from the top of the mountain. Face-to-face with God, he received the ten commandments to take back to the people.

The people were trembling with fear. In fact, they stayed as far away from Moses as possible because of the thunder and lightning show at the base of the mountain. And here’s the nugget of truth….

Exodus 20:21 “The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.”

Did you catch the last three words of that verse??? Where. God. Was.

Huh?? You mean, God was IN the darkness? Seriously??

Yes. God was IN the thick darkness.

I don’t know about you, but that gives me hope! Those three words strengthen my soul! Those three words melt away the fearful thoughts of what darkness brings.

Those three words assure me that God is not only with me when my path is full of light, but he’s right there with me when darkness threatens to blind my eyes.

Just like the Israelites, we tremble when the lights start to flicker. We keep our distance from the approaching storm. Like a child afraid of the dark, we beg someone–anyone–to turn on a light.

Have you ever wondered why we’re afraid of the dark?

I think it boils down to this one truth: We can’t see anything!

We honestly believe that if we can’t see something, we can’t depend on it. What you can’t see is untouchable. What you can’t see is unknowable.

But our almighty God breaks down our human thinking with his all-powerful truth.

In him there is no darkness!

(2 Samuel 22:29) “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.”

(Psalm 112:4) “Even in darkness light dawns for the upright…”

(Isaiah 42:16) “I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.”

Maybe the very reason he can turn our darkness into light is because he’s there…in the midst of the darkness….with us.

Where are you today, dear friend? Are you trembling with fear because of an approaching storm? Are you keeping your distance from the darkness, paralyzed to take another step? Maybe you’re right smack in the middle of a dark valley and you can’t see one single thing.

Although your human eyes may not be able to see the path, his sovereign hands are wrapped tightly around your soul. He won’t leave you. He is with you in the darkness.

darknesspic

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

View From the Top

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to New York City for a fast-paced, adventurous get-away with my mom. A popular landmark constantly being pointed out to us was the Chrysler Building. This skyscraper stands strong at 1,046 feet tall with 77 floors. Straining your neck to look at it from the ground, it towers over you with its monstrous stance. Insurmountable. Overwhelming. You can’t even fathom how tall it is.

The_Chrysler_Building.2  2ndCB

 

But just a few days later we ventured up to the top of the Empire State Building. Once we finally arrived at the observation deck, we peered out at the magnificent view in front of us. We tried to point out the landmarks we’d previously seen. Suddenly it came into view. There it was!

The Chrysler Building….

empirestateview

Really? Was this the same building we observed earlier?

The same building that appeared monstrous, insurmountable and overwhelming now looked much smaller! From the view at the top, you could see the entire building without straining your neck. You could see for miles! The view was breathtaking and spectacular.

The difference between the ground view and the top view was PERSPECTIVE.

As I looked out over the magnificent view of New York City, a powerful truth hit me hard:

From our perspective, the challenges and trials we face appear to be insurmountable, monstrous and quite overwhelming. But from God’s perspective, our challenges and trials are part of a magnificent and spectacular plan that only He can see all at once!

As humans, we will never have the top-of-the-observation-deck view of our lives. We will not be able to see the whole picture but only one part at a time. But we can trust our faithful God because He always has the upper view of everything.

We can absolutely trust Him with the things we can’t see.

The challenges that seem overwhelming.

The trials that threaten to strain our souls.

Yes. That is what true faith is, dear friend! Trusting God with the things we can’t see, knowing that He sees it all.

Where are you today? Are you looking up at something that seems overwhelming? Is there a challenge smack in front of you, crowding your vision?

I encourage you to run to your Heavenly Father to the top of the observation deck. Take his hand and let him lead you out to a place of rest. Let your soul soar with peace as you gaze upon the spectacular purpose He has for you.

Proverbs 18:10 The name of the Lord is like a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe.

Blessings to you, dear friend!

Lisa Preuett