A Gift That Can’t Be Wrapped

Stress. Angst. Dread.

What am I going to get them for Christmas this year? 

They don’t really need anything.

Didn’t we get them a gift card last year? 

Isn’t there something better we can give? 

And finally it hit me. Something that can’t be wrapped. Something that everyone wants. Something we never seem to have enough of.

OUR TIME

Instead of buying another toy for that niece or nephew, how about going out with them to pick out a toy or take them to one of their favorite places?

Instead of mindlessly purchasing another gift card for your loved one, why not take them out to lunch or dinner and spend time with them?

Instead of buying another coffee cup they don’t need, how about taking them out for coffee and just visiting with them. Listening to them.

This isn’t easy. It takes time. Time we could be doing other things. But if people truly matter to us and our relationships are important to us, then why not give them our time?

The toys and stuff we buy will at some point break, be outgrown or thrown away.

The gift cards will be spent all too soon.

But the memories created by investing time in others will last forever. Spending time with people is priceless.

Now this may be challenging for those with loved ones who live out of town and your time is limited. But I challenge you to at least start with the people you do have the opportunity to do this with.

Who can you give the gift of your time?

Merry Christmas dear friends! May the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and in your families.

present

Who’s Ahead of You?

Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Just when you think you’ve arrived at your fastest pace, whoosh! Another runner speeds past you like a bolt of lightning. You can almost feel a breeze from the force of their speed. You see them quickly disappear from your view and before you know it, they’re long gone. How in the world does she keep up that pace? I’ll never be able to catch up!

Unless you’re the first one to cross the finish line in a race, there’s always going to be someone running ahead of you.  We are definitely called to run at our own pace, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from others who are ahead of us. Beginning runners seek out training tips from veteran runners. Runners who’ve sustained their first injuries could gain valuable wisdom from others who survived those same injuries. The first race ushers in a wave of anxious nerves. What should I expect? What should I wear for this kind of weather? Who else out there would know answers to these questions? Runners ahead of you! Their pace may not necessarily be faster than you, but they’ve pounded the pavement far longer than you have. Instead of putting them in an unreachable category, those of us who are behind them could instead reach out and ask for guidance and insight.

Dear friend, if you’re a follower of Christ, there’s always going to be someone ahead of you—further up the path of life. People who have been following Christ for many years longer. People who have long ago passed through the very same season you may be walking through now. People who have much wisdom and insight to offer if only we will ask. As you enter into a difficult season, perhaps a wave of anxiety is rushing into the depth of your weary soul. How will I ever get through this? Will I ever make it to the other side? And then you may wonder with great curiosity. WHO do I know that perhaps has ventured through this same kind of challenge?

Let me tell you without a doubt that someone is ahead of you that can gently and lovingly guide you. Maybe it’s an older mom who survived the season of raising teenagers. Maybe it’s the woman you’ve heard about who survived her nasty divorce and is on the other side now. Whatever challenge you may be facing, you’re more likely to gain peace and strength with someone else helping you through. So go ahead. Reach out. Ask. Humbly wave the white flag of your soul and courageously say, “I need your help!”

In the Bible we meet a young man named Timothy, a new believer who needed some guidance and direction. The apostle Paul was running his race ahead of Timothy. Paul poured his very life into this young man! Without Paul, Timothy would’ve floundered in his faith. Grown weary. Lost his hope. But instead he clung to Paul. He humbled himself and listened with a teachable heart. And then he flourished into a bold teacher of the gospel. He could keep running his race at a fierce pace because he walked in the footsteps of Paul. Who’s ahead of you?

READY?  Identify an area of your life where you feel challenged and could use some guidance. Ask God to show you someone who has walked through a similar challenge. Are you willing to reach out and ask for help? Pray and ask God for strength and wisdom to take the next step.

GET SET.  Proverbs 1:5 “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” Proverbs 11:14 “Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.”

GO!  Heavenly Father, this life can feel so difficult at times! I feel weary trying to navigate through the hard times on my own. You’ve called us to carry each other’s burdens, so I humbly ask you to show me someone who’s ahead of me who can walk alongside me during this season of my life. Help me set aside any pride that may stand in the way. Amen.

womenrunningindesert

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Life is Like a Tough Mudder Obstacle Course!

As a runner, I’m ingrained with a natural instinct to do two things:

1. Avoid puddles (You’re supposed to go around them, not through them!)

2. Steer clear of anything blocking my path. (You gotta keep up your pace without having to stop!)

While tackling my first Tough Mudder recently, both those instincts went out the window.

I’m wired to write about the parallels between running and our Christian faith journey. Yet after completing a 10 mile muddy course with military-style obstacles, my eyes were opened with new insight.

Life is really more like a muddy obstacle course!

PITFALL:   30 yards of wading through a murky-muddy wetland with sudden drop offs.  The first few steps you’re sloshing in shin-level water.  But looks can be deceiving. Suddenly you plunge into deeper water, almost to your waist.  You have no idea if the next step will be on firm ground or sinking deeper into the unknown.

Ever feel like this in your life? From your human perspective, all seems well. You think you’re on level ground, but then out of no where….you plunge into the unknown, your feet no longer on firm ground.

pitfall

 

But here’s our hope…

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2

 

BIRTH CANAL: This obstacle forces you to crawl under a deceptively heavy water-filled plastic liner.  The pressure weighing down on me felt so overwhelming!  It forced you to push back up and slowly inch your way to the light at the other side.

Ever feel like the weight of stress is pinning you down? Like you can’t even breathe? The pressures of this life feel overwhelming at times and the only way to get through them is to humble yourself. In your humility you crawl one step at a time until you get on the other side.

BirthCanal

Here’s our hope….

2 Corinthians 4:8 “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but never destroyed.”

 

BERLIN WALLS: These were 10-foot walls you had to climb over. One of the toughest obstacles for me, every time I came face-to-face with one I muttered, I can’t do this one. There’s no way I’m gonna climb over this wall!  And the truth was that I could NOT climb those walls.

Not alone.

But with the help of other people, I could–and did–get over those walls! I had to be lifted up by stronger bodies.  Once I was at the top of the wall, I felt fear grip me. I’m gonna fall! I don’t know what to do next!  But other people at the top of the wall reassured me I was safe. Once my legs were over the top of the wall and I felt myself being lowered to the ground, my fear subsided.

Ever feel like you’ve hit a wall in your life? Something stops you abruptly in your tracks. It stares you in the face, screaming full force:

Impossible! Insurmountable! Never! There’s no way!

Many challenges we face in this life are too difficult to face alone. Without support from others, we simply wouldn’t make it. But you have to be willing to ask. You have to hold out your hand and admit you’re struggling. God uses other people to carry us through our difficult times!

TMberlinwall4 TMberlinwall5

Here’s our hope…

Psalm 18:29 “…with my God I can scale a wall.”

 

ARCTIC ENEMA: This is Tough Mudder’s signature ice bath obstacle! You plunge down a slippery slide into ice-cold water. When I say cold, I’m talking like 34 degrees cold. This is one of the obstacles I feared the most.

You don’t train for this. You just do it.

It’s more mental than physical. I can honestly say that thinking about this one and imagining what it would be like was more gripping than actually experiencing it. 

It literally takes your breath away. You come up out of the ice-cold water almost paralyzed. Every part of your body is shaking and it takes every ounce of energy you have to get out. My brother’s advice to me on this rang true in my mind:

Whatever you do, don’t stop and scream about how cold it is. Just keep moving and get out as quick as you can.

There are many challenges in life we can prepare for. We can seek advice on marriage, parenting and serving others. We can attend classes, read books and talk to people in order to equip ourselves for something that lies ahead.

But some things in life we simply can’t prepare for. Things that literally knock the breath out of us. Things that leave us feeling paralyzed all over. Things that bring shivers to every fiber of our soul.

The nugget of wisdom is this:

KEEP MOVING.

DON’T STOP.

JUST KEEP GOING UNTIL YOU’RE ON THE OTHER SIDE.

arcticenema iceArcticPic

Here’s our hope…

Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

 

 

MUD MILE: This obstacle was the muddiest! You had to crawl over multiple mounds of mud and wade through waist-deep water in between each one. The most difficult thing about this was getting out of the water. In some places there were no footholds to climb up on. With no way to pull yourself up out of the murky mess, someone else had to lend a hand and pull you out.

Sometimes our lives are really messy. Dirty. Ugly.

We’re in over our head and there’s no way to pull ourselves out of the messes we’ve made. The man pulling the woman out of the muddy water is a powerful picture of how God reaches down and pulls us out of the mud and mire we’ve wallowed in.

mudMilemudmile2

Here’s our hope…

Psalm 69:1-2 “Save me, Oh God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.”

 

CARRY YOUR WOOD: As a team, we had to carry a heavy log on our shoulders through mud and over two separate walls. This was one of those challenges requiring a team effort. No matter how strong, you could never do this alone.

Sometimes we are faced with heavy burdens we simply can not carry on our own. As the body of Christ, we walk alongside each other and help to lift the burdens of those who are feeling weary and overwhelmed.

obstacle-holdyourwood

Here’s our hope…

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

 

ELECTRO-SHOCK: Approaching the final obstacle of the Tough Mudder, I braced myself. Live wires hung over a field of mud with hay bales blocking my way. Some people can run through this and barely get shocked while others get knocked to the ground.

This is another obstacle you can’t train for. You just have to get through it.

The next 40 seconds were a blur. Just 10 seconds in, I got jolted and knocked to the ground. My entire body went limp. My face plunged into the muddy water. Instead of standing up and traversing the rest of the way, I stayed low on the ground and swam the rest of the way through. My eyes dripping with mud, I could barely see. My burning eyes and blurred vision lasted another hour until I got them cleaned out by medical personnel. (I went out with a bang!)

Some trials in our lives utterly knock us to our feet. We may watch others go through similar challenges unaffected, but because we are uniquely created, our experience may look and feel very different.  Often times in the middle of a difficult challenge, our vision is cloudy. We can’t see in front of us. Painful circumstances sting our heart and we just HURT.

With time we begin to see more clearly. With prayer we continue to seek God. And with the love of others, we get on the other side.

electroshock

Here’s our hope…..

Isaiah 40:30 “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

With any of the obstacles I trudged through, the key was this:

Keep on going.

Don’t stop.

Someone’s got your back!

Whatever obstacle you find yourself in today, dear friends, let me encourage you to keep going. With your eyes fixed on Jesus, he’s got your back.

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s Your “One Another”?

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

In the above scripture, it’s easy to skip over the “one another” and “each other” and think positive thoughts.

Yep, I ought to be kind and compassionate to other people. It’s the Christian thing to do. 

But what if you replace the “one another” with the name of someone you’re in conflict with? It dramatically changes and makes it more powerful. More personal. And honestly, more challenging.

How about the name of your spouse? A co-worker? Your boss?

If I’m in the midst of a spat with my husband, this verse cuts to the core of my heart pretty quick:

Be kind and compassionate to Jim, forgiving Jim, just as in Christ God forgave you.

When I personalize this verse to my situation, it does something amazing.

It brings power. It serves a purpose. And it ushers in God’s peace.

Go ahead, try it yourself. Insert the name of your spouse. A family member. A co-worker. Or that difficult boss.

Be kind and compassionate to ________, forgiving _______, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Here’s another one that works for those conflicts with our kids:

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Feel like you can’t bear another day with your strong-willed child?

Got any grievances against them?

Feel worn down by their constant challenges?

When I read through this verse and come to the each other and the one another, if I truly want to personalize it to MY specific situation, then I might as well go ahead and put in the name of my child.

Instead of a generic verse for all believers, it becomes God’s gentle whisper to my weary soul…

Lisa, bear with Breanna and forgive whatever grievances you may have against her. Forgive Breanna as I have forgiven you.

Wow. The power of God’s word changes everything. It speaks to our soul like nothing else can. Even if it’s not what we want to hear, it humbly soothes us where we need it most.

I often skip over the one anothers and each others in scripture and think this truth only applies to acquaintances or those strangers who cut me off in traffic. (It DOES apply to them too, but we’re most likely going to be challenged most with those closest to us.)

So, dear friend, what about you? Whose name do you need to insert into these powerful verses?

Who are you in conflict with?

Who has hurt you?

Who has upset you?

Who has offended you?

Who do you need to forgive?

I want to encourage and challenge you to take this a step further. Write out the verse, inserting the name of someone God brings to your mind, on a sticky note and place it where you can see it. Let it serve as a reminder to you.

A reminder of what God’s done for you.

A reminder of what he wants to do in you.

And what he can ultimately do through you.

ephesians_4_32_by_kcruss-d4ybzpk

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

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

 

The Truth About Telemarketers

I was right-smack in the middle of fixing dinner. I’d rushed in after a long afternoon of running errands. My daughter demanded something. My husband asked me a question. Feeling stressed to the max, the phone rang. Seriously? Who would think to call me now? At this moment? Didn’t they know this was the hour of chaos for all moms across the country?

I didn’t recognize the number and was tempted to just let it ring.

What if it’s a business call for my husband? What if it’s something urgent?  I picked up the phone. But when I heard the perky, unfamiliar voice on the other end immediately go into a  spiel for a security system on sale, I knew I’d made a mistake!

Another telemarketer. Another interruption. Something else to get on my nerves! I certainly didn’t have time for this. I cut her off quickly with a not-so-friendly tone of voice. She could probably feel the steam rising from my words boiling over.

“I’m NOT interested and I’m BUSY!” Click.

I abruptly hung up–letting out a groan for being interrupted. My time was valuable and I didn’t like to give it up. Returning to the mess in my kitchen, I sighed about how much I still needed to do.

But then I heard that familiar, gentle whisper from God. I didn’t want to listen. But I paused in the middle of my messed up kitchen and this is what I heard:

Lisa, that telemarketer has a name. You don’t know it, but I do. She is a real person, just like you. She is stressed out, just like you. She has a family, just like you. She is only doing her job the best she can.

Ouch. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, this was the truth.

This telemarketer (and all the other ones too) was only doing her job. This might be the only job she could get. Maybe she was limited to this inconvenient shift. Or maybe she was a single mom working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Here I was complaining about my dinner preparations being interrupted and she most likely would be eating dinner alone at her desk. Was this the norm for her? Did she ever get to eat dinner with her family?

As I put the final touches on dinner, I truly felt convicted for my thoughts and attitudes towards her.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbor. Yeah, I get that.

But I’ve always limited it to people I can physically see with my eyes. I’d much rather leave it at that and put telemarketers into a different category. But the more I ponder this command, I believe it also applies to the people I can’t see. To the people on the other end of my phone. (Whether it’s a feisty telemarketer or customer service rep who’s being difficult!)

This is a tough truth I’m having a hard time embracing! My flesh says it’s no big deal. My flesh says I’m taking this love thing way too far.

But my spirit calls me to love those who cross my path. Even if that path is a phone conversation with someone I’ll never see face-to-face. God made each human being in his own image. An eternal soul. And we are simply called to love. Period.

The next time I’m caught off guard with a telemarketer I pray I’ll respond differently. Before speaking harshly or hanging up in a fury, I could pause and pray. I don’t have to purchase something or make a donation, but it does mean I speak with respect. With dignity.

And just maybe, my words will be the only bright spot in their day. They’ll get plenty of ugly words from the rest of the world.

I don’t want to be like the rest of the world! I truly want to be characterized by loving others. Jesus said it was LOVE that would point others to him. It’s LOVE that will stand out above everything else.

Dear friend, I pray you too will let love shine through all your phone conversations. Especially the ones you least expect.

John 13:35 “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

telemarketer2

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

 

Who’s Behind You?

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Huffing and puffing to catch my breath, I came to a halt. Wiping sweat off my brow and looking at my watch, I felt a twinge of disappointment wash over me. My pace was slower than normal for our group’s weekly long run. Seven miles done. Trying to figure out what had slowed me down, I began walking toward my car.

Hey! Wait up!” I heard an unfamiliar voice calling out to me.

Turning around, a woman approached me with a smile on her face. “I was following you the whole time. You’ve got a pretty consistent pace.”

Huh? Someone was following me?

I’m training for my first half-marathon. I’m excited but very nervous too!”

After introductions, we struck up a conversation and I gave her some tips for training. With five half-marathons under my belt, I felt confident in guiding my new friend on her unfamiliar journey.

No matter what your pace is, there’s always going to be someone running behind you. Brand new runners venturing out for the very first time. Runners lacking confidence. Runners who don’t know what’s up ahead. Runners who are watching your every move to see how you’re running your race. These runners are in the same spot you used to be. Yes, there is someone always running behind you whether you notice them or not.

In our race of faith, there is someone running behind you, dear friend. Sometimes we can get so caught up in the pace of our own race that we forget to stop and turn around to help those running behind us. There are people watching us whether we realize it or not. People who are new Christians just starting out. People who are stuck in a rut and need some encouragement. People walking a path you’ve already navigated through. But do we ever slow down our pre-calculated pace long enough to help someone else? Do we slow down long enough to walk alongside someone who is hurting?

We often may think our pain and suffering is in vain. As genuine followers of Christ, we can testify that God carries us with strength and pours his comfort on us during hard times. He does a work IN us during these seasons. But it doesn’t stop there! He longs to do something THROUGH us. He desires for us to embrace those behind us and point them to Him. To lovingly comfort them. To assure them they’re going to make it. This is what the body of Christ is called to do.

So who’s behind you, dear friend? If you have children, they are watching you whether you realize it or not. What about that young mom with multiple children? You might be an empty-nester who could encourage her with your insight and wisdom. Is there someone at work or in your neighborhood struggling through a season of life you’ve already traveled through? I promise you that you won’t have to look very long. There will always be someone beginning to crawl onto a path you’ve just finished running. Ask God to show you. And don’t be surprised when they soak up your encouragement like a breath of fresh air.

READY? Do you find yourself too preoccupied with your own pace in life? Genuinely pray and ask God to show you who’s behind you at this season of life. What is the next step you can take to pour into that person? If you’re feeling anxious, ask God for his peace!

GET SET.  Romans 15:1 “We who are strong in faith should help the weak with their weaknesses, and not please only ourselves.”

GO!  Heavenly Father, thank you for the reminder of past times when you’ve comforted me through difficult seasons. I praise you for giving me strength. Help me come out of my comfort zone and show me the people you want me to help. Give me courage and wisdom. I long to point others to the power you’ve given me. Amen

whosbehindyou

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

 

Don’t Let Your Fruit Spoil!

Cleaning out the fridge is one of my least favorite tasks. Reaching into the fruit bin, I pull out some disgusting clumps of blueberries that had spoiled. My heart sank. How did I miss these? Blueberries are a family favorite! But somehow these once ripe, vibrant blueberries were now shriveled up and rotten. It disappointed me to drop them into the trash can. But it didn’t stop there.

A container with a handful of strawberries had been pushed to the back of the fridge. I slowly opened the lid and one-by-one investigated the condition of each strawberry. Three of them were covered completely in mold. They couldn’t be eaten. The other two were partially molded. Maybe I could cut off the rotten parts and save these two. But as soon as I held them in my hand I found upon closer inspection that the mold was more serious than I first realized. Into the trash they went. Plop! Right on top of the rotten blueberries.

It disturbs me to have to throw away spoiled fruit. We paid good money for that fruit and now it was wasted. Past their ripe period, this fruit could no longer be enjoyed.

During this mundane task, I felt God speak ever so clearly to my soul in that moment. Lisa, I have created my followers to bear fruit. I’ve given each one unique gifts and talents to further my kingdom, yet if these gifts aren’t used….they will spoil just like the rotten fruit in the bottom of your trash can.

Wow. What a vivid picture God gave me in that moment! It made me think of the verse we find in John 15:16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”

The part that struck me is the phrase fruit that will last. Wouldn’t that be nice? To have physical fruit that would last? No more shriveled up blueberries. No more molded strawberries. But in this verse the kind of fruit Jesus is talking about is eternal fruit.

Fruit for His kingdom. Fruit that will point others to Him. Fruit that will outlast any edible fruit we could imagine.

So how are we doing with bearing fruit for the kingdom of God? Are we even aware of the fact that He’s given us this command? Are we using the gifts and talents He’s blessed us with to point others to Him? Are we getting out of our selfish worlds and stepping into the lives of others to encourage them in the name of Jesus?

If we are just standing still and letting time tick by, then we are wasting away like those shriveled up blueberries. If we are not letting the light of Jesus shine through us into the darkness around us, we are just like those molded strawberries in the back of my fridge.

I don’t want to be like that! I don’t want my heavenly father to open his fridge one day to evaluate what’s in there, only to find that I’ve let something go to waste that could’ve been used for His purposes. I don’t want to regret not making choices that would’ve brought someone closer to Him.

The reason we love fruit so much is because of the bright, vibrant colors that dazzle our eyes. The colors beckon us to pick up the fruit and indulge wholeheartedly. Fruit at its ripest tastes so very sweet! Fruit at its ripest is juicy and succulent. Fruit at its ripest makes our taste buds dance and satisfies us to the full.

But once fruit is past the ripe stage, it’s just a matter of time before it starts to decay. The once vibrant colors turn dull. What once was sweet now tastes sour and unsavory. Just looking at spoiled fruit turns our stomach and repulses us.

Dear friend, what kind of fruit do you want to be? Do you desire for your life to be vibrant, satisfying and full of light? A life that beckons others to run to Jesus? My prayer for us is that we would truly do as Jesus has commanded–to go and bear fruit…..FRUIT THAT WILL LAST!

fruit

John 15:16: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

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

 

 

 

 

My Brother is a Hero

When you hear the word hero, who do you think of? Maybe you envision your favorite super-hero like Superman or Batman. A victim in distress cries out for help, and just in the nick of time, the hero steps in to save the day. Or maybe you think of policemen, fire fighters or soldiers rescuing people in an emergency.

I agree that all of the above fit the description of hero, but today I put the spotlight on someone else… My brother, Jeff. For those who don’t know him, he is the epitome of a servant leader. He always puts others’ needs ahead of his own. He loves with actions and not just mere words. He recently went above and beyond the command to love others.

Jesus commands us to love our neighbor and goes on to say that our neighbor is anyone in need. Jeff’s brother-in-law,Chris, had a very desperate need. Fighting against the disease of diabetes, Chris stood  at a critical crossroad recently. Functioning only at 15%, his kidneys were failing miserably. He was to the point that unless he had a kidney transplant, he’d have to begin dialysis immediately. Unless a family member or friend was an exact match, his name would be added at the bottom of a  long waiting list.

Time was running out.

Enter our hero, Jeff. Just in the nick of time. He saved the day. He didn’t step in to fight anyone. He stepped up to fight for someone. He was a perfect match to donate one of his kidneys to Chris.

When you hear the word donate, maybe you think of someone writing a check to their favorite charity. Maybe you think of digging through your closet to give outgrown clothes to Goodwill. But donate takes on a much deeper meaning when you give a part of your body to someone else so they can live. There is no physical pain in writing a check. There is no physical pain in giving away household items.

But having your body cut open and a surgeon removing an organ? This involved physical pain. It’s a pain I can’t identify with. But for a short time just two days after the surgery, I got only a tiny glimpse of my brother’s pain. It seemed that merely breathing was painful to him as he sat propped up in a chair, hardly able to keep his eyes open (even with a football game on TV). Witnessing this moment brought tears to my eyes. Tears of JOY for seeing up close what real love looks like.

I can’t think of a better example of sacrificial giving. An example of selfless love. Love in its purest form.

We live in a society where the word love is used so flippantly. Many people say they love someone, yet it’s all about what the other person can do for them. This false love is manipulation in disguise to satisfy selfish desires.

True love goes way beyond this. True love gives freely with no thought of self. True love doesn’t have strings attached.

Jeff didn’t give Chris his kidney to get something in return or to manipulate him. Jeff gave his kidney to Chris because of love. Period. Nothing else. Just pure love.

A love that says I care enough about you to give you a better quality of life.

A love that says I sacrificially give part of myself to you.

A love that says despite the pain, you can count on me.

So how can someone love like this? Where does this kind of love come from? It comes from God above–who demonstrated unconditional love to us when Jesus hung on a cross. He endured our pain knowing that in the long run, it would give us hope, a new life and a fierce passion to love others like He did.

And when we love deeply like this, it points others to Jesus. This is the kind of love He calls us to give.

I’ve never been more proud of my brother. It doesn’t surprise me that he did this. This is just who he is. He’s a real hero in my eyes. Jeff  doesn’t like to be in the spotlight, but the reason I can truly call him a hero is because of the inner light permeating from the core of his heart. That light is a reflection from his hero…..Jesus.

John 15:13 “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

chris and jeff at hospital

 

Please pray for continued healing for both Chris (left) and Jeff (right).

Blessings to you!

Lisa

http://www.reststopforthesoul.com

 

 

I Want an Exact Answer!!

Math appeals to my daughter because each problem has only one correct answer. Cut and dry. Two plus two equals four. No need to waver back and forth. You’re either right or wrong.

But when it comes to something subjective that involves reflection or opinion…..she can fall apart. In response to simply reading a few paragraphs in a book and giving a summary in her own words, the drama begins…..

“I don’t know what to put down for my answer!” “I don’t know what to do!” “I’m not sure about this!” “I’m just gonna leave it blank!”

What I think is going on is this: She’s really asking the question “What if I get this wrong? What if this isn’t right?” “What if I fail?” 

I get frustrated with her and tell her to calm down. I try to explain the difference between an exact answer and an acceptable answer. Math is absolute….one correct answer. Writing a one sentence summary of a paragraph will look different for each student. But all the answers will be acceptable.

After the drama settles down, she makes an attempt. Sometimes the first word can be the hardest. But once she steps out and starts writing, it makes more sense. It comes together. And she can finally accept the fact that her answer will be different from her friends. Her unique answer reflects who she is.

God whispers to my heart in that moment: Sometimes you want an exact answer for something, Lisa. You want to know precisely step-by-step how to handle something. You stand still and become paralyzed because you’re afraid of failing. 

There are some things in God’s word that are absolutes. If we were to ask these questions, there would be an exact answer:

Should we murder? NO

Should we steal? NO

Should we commit adultery? NO

But what about this one: Are we commanded to love our neighbor? YES

But what does that look like? Will everyone’s answer look the same here?  Or will each person follow through according to the gifts God has given them?

Here are some ways we can show love: Help someone with yard work. Invite a friend over for coffee. Write an encouraging note. Write a check to meet a financial need. Give a hug. Take the time to listen. Spend quality time with a loved one. Buy a special gift. Wash someone’s car. The list goes on…..

There is not just one way to show love. Love according to how God has wired you. Love with a passion that only you can give. Let your unique love flow through you to the people in your corner of the world.

The way in which you show love will look different from those around you. Not everyone will have the same exact answer for this command to love.

But to do nothing?  To stand still–as if paralyzed–for fear of getting it wrong? That would be a wrong answer for sure. To do nothing is to disobey this greatest command from Jesus.

So what about you, dear friend? What are you doing to show love? Are you standing still waiting for an exact answer? Waiting for God to tell you step-by-step what to do for someone? I urge you to pray and step out of this mode of thinking and simply ask God to open your eyes.

To see your children in front of you.

To see your neighbors you might rarely speak to.

To see your co-workers.

To see those friends from the gym.

To see those homeless people with the cardboard signs.

To see the single moms who are barely making it.

And yes….even the people who have wounded us.

When our eyes are truly open, we can then choose to love freely from our heart. We can love with the gifts God has blessed us with. It is far better to love by stepping out in fear of the unknown–even if we stumble–than to stand still doing nothing….waiting for some magical answer to appear before us.

We are all called to love. And when we each follow through with our unique way of loving, this is the body of Christ! And that is a beautiful thing to be a part of.

Mark 12:31 “…and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

chalkboard