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.

 

 

 

 

 

Life is Short…Live it Well

When you find yourself suddenly entering a new decade of life, it certainly changes your perspective on time.

Hitting the big 50 milestone marker became reality for me recently. Mixed feelings? You bet!

My daughter blessed me with her encouraging words, “Gosh, Mom, you’re a half century old!”

For a few days I found myself feeling a bit on the negative side.

If the average life expectancy is 70, then I guess I’ve got at least 20 years left.

I guess it’s all downhill from here….

But then God reminded me of all the blessings He’s poured out upon me. So instead of getting depressed about my age, I rejoiced in all He’s entrusted me with. I also feel compelled to use the time I have left on this earth for His glory.

I like how James 4:14 puts this truth:

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Most people don’t know how long their “mist” will last.

70 years? 80?

For some, their mist is very short. Tragedy strikes out of nowhere and their days are suddenly gone. No warning. Living life as if there were no tomorrow.

For others, they are faced with the reality that their “mist” is coming to an end. Cut short compared to most.

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Sixteen-year-old Amzie Smith is dying of terminal liver cancer. She’s living each day to the fullest because she knows time is short. You can read more of her story here. In spite of what she’s faced with, her goal is to shine the light on God’s kindness and love. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she’s chosen to let God use her life to point others to Him. She’s packed more into her short “mist” than most people do in a lifetime. Her faith inspires me to live each of my days to the fullest.

What if we all lived like that? What if we embraced each and every day with everything we had?

The reality is that we just don’t know how many days we have on this earth. There are no guarantees for anyone. We are given one day at a time and we get to choose how to live that day.

Psalm 90:12 says “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”

Maybe this means wisdom is found in the day-to-day moments of humility instead of thinking when we get older we’ll suddenly have a huge dose of it.

Psalm 146:2 says, “I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”

While I have my “being”? How long is that?

You don’t know.

But we are urged to praise God as long as we live. It’s simply praising Him for what He’s given us. Taking our gifts and talents and using them for His glory. Loving others He puts in our path. Pointing them to the love of Jesus. It’s our purpose.

So just as sixteen-year-old Amzie is living her purpose to its fullest, I want to do the same.

Instead of putting the eternal things on the back burner with the assumption that I’ve got plenty of time later, I choose to do those things now.

Ann Voskamp puts it like this in her book The Broken Way:

“Whether we have a diagnosis or not, we all get one container of time–but no one gets to know what size that container is. Live every day like you’re terminal. Because you are. Live every day like your soul’s eternal. Because it is.”

I don’t know where you are in your journey of time, dear friend. Maybe you’ve lived many years and you have regrets. Maybe you’re approaching middle age and you think you’re halfway through your lifespan. Or perhaps you’re young, thinking you have a whole life yet to live.

Your life is short…live it well.

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

Cherish What Matters

Just a few seconds earlier and he would’ve been dead for sure.

A near-death experience with some scratches could have been spinning out of control into a fatal bloody mess.

Just a few days ago, the driver of a semi-truck didn’t see my husband’s car in the right lane. He was on a mission to get off the exit so he could get to his required weigh station. But then he slammed into the back of Jim’s car.

Just a minor dent and a handful of scratches on the car. No injuries to the driver or Jim. Amazing to say the least.

When I got the call, my heart skipped several beats. Realizing Jim was okay, I gradually calmed down and breathed normally. But I was shaken up for the next couple hours just thinking about what could have happened to my husband.

My focus shifted from his close call with a semi to the moments I had with him before he left for his trip.

He was a bit stressed trying to get ready for his business trip. Rushing around, he reminded me that the tires on the Jeep needed air. He would get to it before I had to leave with my daughter for an appointment.

Stressed from some conflict with my daughter, I felt frustrated. With little margin left, it was time to go. We had a forty minute drive with thirty-five minutes to get there! But Jim had waited until the last-minute to put air in my tires.

Come on! We’re already running late! Why did you wait until now to do this? I told you what time we needed to leave!!

I snapped at him. And he snapped back at me.

Pulling out of the driveway, I barely glanced at him. I knew he was getting ready to leave for his trip in just a couple of hours. He would likely be gone before we got back. No time for a kiss goodbye. It was time to go.

After getting off the phone with him that night, I replayed in my mind our last conversation and moments of snapping at each other.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. If he’d been killed in that accident, rushing out the door and snapping at each other would’ve been our last shared moment together on this earth.

Tears flooded my eyes and I broke down.

We may think we’ll grow old with our spouse. But the reality is that we just don’t know how many days we truly have with one another.

We may take for granted that we’ll live to watch all our kids grow up into adulthood. But there are no guarantees for anyone.

My spouse’s near-death experience has changed my perspective on how to live my life.

I should cherish every moment I have with my loved ones.

I should live in the moment instead of getting too caught up in the next thing on my schedule.

I should be ready to offer grace when people don’t follow through with my expectations.

I should take a few seconds to give those hugs or kisses, even if it means I’ll be late.

 

This doesn’t mean we should let fear and worry consume our every waking moment! It also doesn’t mean we linger over past regrets that can’t be changed.

I’m praying for God to just help me enjoy the life He’s given me.

To live it to the fullest.

To savor the moments that really matter.

To soak up His love so I can pour it out on those around me.

To focus more on what is eternal instead of the things that won’t last. 

Sometimes I need something to stop me in my busy-self-centered tracks to realize what’s really important. For me, it was a collision between a semi and my spouse. For you it might be something else.

I encourage you today, dear friend, to slow down and cherish the moments that really matter. 

 

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett