Monday, August 25, 2014


There was a rotation, then, pow!  The server kawalloped the ball over the net, leaving the opposing team dazed and stunned, their confidence shattered.  And yet, for some, the miss only made them angry and they wanted to try even harder, thinking, "Just send me another, right here, right to me.  Bring it on, I'll show you what I can do!" 

Watching my daughters play volleyball, I've observed that confidence can be the difference between a hit and a miss.  As each member of the team comes up to the line for a serve, I can sense how they feel about themselves.   Some don't care.  Others over think their technique, while still a few are not sure why they signed up for this sport.   My heart goes out to them and wants to shout, "You can do it!  You matter to the team!  You are loved!"  But by contrast, those who have an air of confidence, a bit of aggression and fiery fight, are generally more successful.

My life is often littered with passive pride, where I sometimes view myself as only a worm, nothing, and nobody of significance.   And though God's strength is perfected in weakness, and I must die to my own selfish desires, somewhere in all of that I am still thinking of myself.

One thing I admire about my husband is his confidence.  In fact, I envy it.  Seeking to balance out my life, I have often sought to emulate his utter freedom to live in grace.   This freedom squeezes out every ounce of insecurity.  Yet, if taken too far, a bold pride easily seeps in. 

Somewhere between loud pride and passive pride is this very fine balance of confidence.  There were times in the past where I've approached temptation as though I were already defeated, or like I couldn't help myself, that it was inevitable that I give in.  But over the last few months I've been taking a different approach.  When faced with a struggle, I focus on who I am in Christ.  As His bride, all authority is mine to stomp on evil.  I do not have to sin.

At times I forget that God loves me dearly and that He is rooting for my good.  However, He is not just cheering from the bleachers.  No, by His Spirit, He is IN me, empowering me to overcome.

It is a sly deception which invades my thoughts telling me I cannot win, that I am defeated before I try.   Yet, deep down, yielding to temptation is not really what I want, for righteousness is not only God's standard for living.  He knows that apart from it, I am not happy either. 

What I really want is to live life abundant and that only comes through life in Christ applied to everyday living.  This is why I "stay in the fight 'til the final round", because "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength."  (Phil. 4:13)  Furthermore, I can "come boldly before the throne of grace", because my confidence is in the Lord.  In that place, "I find mercy and grace to help me in my time of need."  (Heb. 4:16) 

This song says it well:

You're an overcomer,
Stay in the fight 'til the final round,
You're not going under,
'Cause God is holding you right now.
You might be down for a moment,
Feeling like its hopeless,
That's when He reminds you,
That you're an overcomer
You're an overcomer.     

(by Mandisa)

Monday, August 18, 2014


Only last week I was thinking life was sailing smooth, my daughter back on American soil, my son returned to college, and my middle schoolers thriving at school.

Plus, I'd been sowing good seeds for several months and was now reaping some benefits.  But I have to admit, it made me nervous, because I know God is never done building my character, and that it most always comes through trials.  

Putting away childish attitudes and actions never comes with ease.  Just last year God walked me through a relationship crisis, teaching me what it meant to love, build up, and die to my pride.  And now this week I find myself smack dab in the middle of another.  

In an instant, the conflict killed my joy, launching me into a depression I have not seen for some time.  I often pray a dangerous prayer, that God would remove the veil from my eyes, to help me see my blind spots.   And in this case, I believe He revealed to me the bigger picture of what was going on . . .  the enemy seeking to sabotage my focus.

Several ministries of which I'm involved are starting up again, and in this launching stage, my focus is crucial.  It is not a time for coasting or distraction.   I've become keenly aware that Satan is seeking to hinder God's work . . . and that I was thinking too highly of myself.  

Spiritual warfare goes against the grain of my natural inclination.  It calls me to prayerful response rather than gut reaction.  The Spirit of God brought bold before me these words, "Humble yourself."  When I don't know what to do, humility is always the right option, for it inevitably dulls sharp points and jagged edges.  But I don't like it very much.  I'd rather declare my rights and present my defense.

Again the Spirit prompts, "Just humble yourself, that is all."

I recently attended a wedding where a grandpa and granddaughter sang together, "I need You, oh I need You, every hour I need You, my one defense, my righteousness, O God, how I need You.(by Matt Maher) I never thought of it as a wedding song, but loved it in that context.  How true.  Not one moment escapes but that I need Jesus. 

The verses continue with,
             Lord I come, I confess, bowing here, I find my rest.  
             Without You I fall apart, You're the One that guides my heart

             Where sin runs deep, Your grace is more
             Where grace is found is where You are.
             And where You are, Lord, I am free
             Holiness is Christ in me.  (by Matt Maher)

With a change in attitude, He has oiled the friction.  Now once again I stand firm in grace, God's favor, which declares that I am an overcomer.  By His blood I fear no shame, for He is the lifter of my head.  And my focus?  It is as it should be, on Him, where I once again find joy in the shadow of His wings. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Out of the Park

One thing I like about 'inner city' life is being near the stadium.  Nothing says summertime more than hearing the cheer of the crowd carried along by the night air.  It is familiar.  Inclusive.  A welcome backdrop drawing us into the world of the people around us. 

I was recently running around the track, my girls playing their own game in the middle, when a foul ball came flying over the stadium bleachers.  The girls managed to retrieve it and were delighted with their find.  Excited, they rushed over, grinning from ear to ear.  I have to admit that I was excited as well.  To think that what we now held in our hands was handled by the pitcher of the GJ Rockies, was an incredible thought.  

We've seen the action from inside the ball field.  When a foul ball is hit, flying over the net and into the bleachers, the fans clamor to catch it, for it is finders keepers, their own personal souvenir.   Now and then the ball soars high, completely over the press box, to the football field and track on the other side.  That was us. 

Yesterday, I listened as our youth group gave a report on their missions trip.  Stepping up to the plate, they knocked it out of the park.  And I could not help but think of this house of believers that we call the church.  We cheer in unison for the glory of God.  It is an impromptu response, connecting us with one another in the bonds of love.  From that setting, salvation to all people through Jesus Christ is sent to foreign places, and lands outside the ball field. 

Yet, I've been troubled with this movement that abandons fellowship, while at the same time, seeks the benefit of a home run.  Some decide they don't like the team and have their own idea on how to play and so they leave, not realizing that to hit the ball out of the park, you must first be in the ball field. 

It saddens me that many are moving toward social causes, neglecting the source of eternal need, a changed heart by the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  There is often great passion over issues but little concern that people be saved from eternal suffering.  Recently a large mission organization announced their ambition, "to rid the entire world of poverty".  True, we are to help the needy, but our ultimate goal is to bring them to Jesus.  Our calling is not to end all poverty.

While some resist the church, I'm reminded that Jesus gave His life for her, and it is through her, imperfect as she is, that God has entrusted His most precious possession, the message of salvation to all people.  We must love this living organism called the church and be participators within it, for Jesus loves His people.

Isolated from the body of Christ, we run circles around the track.  And though we work hard at fighting social causes, ultimately we are missing the game. 

The base from which we are sent out is so much more than good works.  All eyes turn toward Christ in worship.  He is the one lifted high.  Plus there is fellowship with one another in accountability, encouragement, and equipping, as we look forward to our heavenly kingdom.  Bringing good news to the nations is an overflow of the home field. 

Each person is a key player, the molding of character as much a part of the equipping as spiritual gifts, members of the team which function within the boundaries of the field.  And when a batter hits the ball out of the park we all rejoice together recognizing our unified purpose of bringing the lost home.