The Race Is Not Always to the Swift

If you were a child who grew up in America you are almost certainly familiar with the story of “The Hare and the Tortoise.” The story, one pf Aesop’s Fables, begins with a speedy hare mocking a tortoise for his slowness, asking, “Do you ever get anywhere?”

The tortoise replies, “Yes, and I get there sooner than you think. I’ll run you a race and prove it.”

The race begins. The hare leaves the tortoise in the dust. And you know the rest of the story. The cocky hare takes a nap only to wake and find the tortoise crossing the finish line and winning the race.

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Scripture tells us that our Christian life is like a race.

We are told that we need to each run the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1) That insinuates that my race and yours may not look the same. As with the tortoise you may have been given long, strong, fast-acting legs for running quick, long and hard, while I have been given short stubby legs (spiritually speaking of course) for a slow pace and endurance to accomplish whatever purpose my Maker created me for.

Am I persevering in my calling, or am I looking around seeing others with a different calling running faster or slower and comparing myself either in pride or through feelings of inferiority? I am only asked to finish my race well, not to be like others.

The Apostle Paul indicated that he wanted to be sure he wasn’t running the race in vain. (Galatians 2:2) The word translated vain means empty. The idea would be like that of a basketball player heading the wrong way down the court and sinking a basket – it was was an empty, scoreless, useless basket for his team. It was in vain. He had put in the effort to do it when it wasn’t the “race” he was supposed to running.

Am I running the race God has laid out before me? Am I angry about the race I was assigned to run? Maybe it is the childless race, the cancer race, the unmarried race, the financially deprived race… Am I too busy looking around at others who seem to have the “fun” races to run and neglecting to give my all to the race I’m in – to focus on my basket at my end of the court?

Maybe I was running a good race and I’ve lost my drive and my passion. Paul talks to the Galatians about this too. In chapter five he asks them, “Who cut in on you to keep your from obeying the truth?” That’s a good question for us as well. Who or what is distracting you and keeping you from obeying the truth of “loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” of “going and making disciples”?

If you go to your child’s track meet or ball game, you are rooting for them to win. They are competing for an honor, a victory, a prize. In sports we compete to win. If eight runners compete in a 400 meter race, seven of the eight will lose. There will be only one first place finisher. All eight runners want to be That One.

The running the race of the Christian life is unlike that physical race. Since each of us has a race marked out by the Father for us to run, then we each have the opportunity to win our race. I am called to run my race and you are called to run your race of life. Scripture tells us that we are to run in such a way to get the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24) You are. I am.

Are you running for the prize? Are you living your God-called life giving it everything you’ve got like you did in that sack race in 2nd grade? Are your running for the Gold in your Christian race? Or have you stopped to socialize with all your fans who are watching? Or to get some water and sit and rest for a bit?

Let’s encourage each other. Run hard! Run your best! Give your whole heart, soul, mind and strength to running the race the Father has given you. Run to win the prize! Follow the Father. Finish strong!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, Hebrews 12:1

I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain. Galatians 2:2

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? Galatians 5:7

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24

Kitchen Table – A Memorable Lesson

by: Trisha Forsythe

            It is one of my favorite places in the world, and the place that holds the most memories for me. It is a simple place. It can be found in every house, although it is often used for a variety of purposes other than what it was intended. My favorite place is—or was—my grandparents’ kitchen table. I miss that table almost as much as I miss them. That simple brown stained table became a safe place, a place for learning, a place for laughter, a place for encouragement, and for love. 

            Growing up, my brother and I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house. We practically lived there. My grandparents held mealtimes as special time for family to gather and eat. We didn’t just eat though. We laughed, we talked about our days, we learned lessons, we gained wisdom, and we were shown love. 

          

  As kids in school, we did homework at that table. Grammy would sit us down in our spots and watch over us as she cooked. She was there to help us when we needed it. We couldn’t stop to do anything until we finished our work. Our goal was to do it right as well as to get to finished before dinner. We knew that after dinner we could watch tv and go outside to play (which was my favorite part). Yet, we didn’t just get the knowledge from the books; when PeePa came home and we were eating, we heard great stories of love and how to treat people. I carry the wisdom they passed on—things like “if a job is worth doing right, it is worth doing right the first time,” “treat people with respect,” and “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” (my dad still uses this one on me). They also taught us the love of God at that table. We discussed the Sunday sermons and Sunday school lessons and memorized Bible verses. 

            It was also the gathering place for birthday parties and holidays. We as a family would sit around the table and talk about the day and what we had accomplished and hoped to accomplish. We got advice—godly advice and life experience. It was in these moments we saw how God was working in each of our lives and how God had protected us or taught us or changed us in ways we couldn’t see at the time. It is these memories that I hold dear.

I am reminded of the times Jesus “reclined at the table” when he was at Peter’s house and “sat at the Passover table” with His disciples. Each time He was sharing the purpose of His mission and the purpose and cost of being a disciple. He was teaching lessons in these moments. He was teaching lessons of love, discipleship, and how to live a godly life when He fed the 5000. He spent time with people. In those “kitchen table” moments he passed on his wisdom that has changed the lives of so many people—you and I included.

We have a purpose—a calling—to “go and make disciples” and to train the next generation. So, my challenge to you as I close this blog is—take every opportunity to create “kitchen table” moments with your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, moms and dads, whole families. If you have those kitchen table moments already—be encouraged, they are not forgotten, and neither are the lessons. They are engraved on the hearts of all those who shared in those “kitchen table” moments. If you need to start—do it now. Find the time. Make the time. It is well worth the extra time and preparation. 

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, … and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matt. 28:19-20

The Drought

by Debbie Rogers

He found him out in the wilderness, in an empty, windswept wasteland. He threw his arms around him, lavished attention on him, guarding him as the apple of his eye.

Deuteronomy 32:10

A drought is defined as “a period of dryness especially when prolonged” and “a prolonged or chronic shortage or lack of something expected or desired” according to Merriam Webster. Watching the news this week I see stories of extreme heat and lack of rain in Europe, the UK and the USA. But drought isn’t only about lack of water.

At times the last couple of years have seemed like a drought for many of us, me included. First there was a disease that caused us to change who we were with and where we went. Then so many issues that divided and separated us from one another. There has been a drought of hugs, handshakes, smiles, togetherness, and civility. Maybe you have had a drought in relationships, finances, happiness, health or peace. It is very easy to get discouraged, to be disappointed, to worry and look for someone to blame.

This is what the Lord says: 

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NIV)

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)

I would rather walk through a decade of drought with Jesus than a day of plenty without him. Whatever drought you are facing – walk through it with Jesus.

Jeremiah 2:6
They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and ravines, a land of drought and utter darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?’

What’s In a Name?

by: Trisha Forsythe

            Names are special and unique. Parents spend a lot of time choosing the right name for their children. Our names have meaning and are special not only to us, but our parents. Our names also give us an identity. 

            Recently, I had a “passive aggressive” run in with a parent about the misspelling of her child’s name. It was an honest mistake–a typo and an easy to fix typo, but this mom laid into me in an email and then posted it all over Facebook. My name was even spelled wrong in the post. I had to laugh at the misspelling of my name because even though it was meant to be an insult or to make me mad, I stopped getting mad about the misspelling of my name a long time ago. Why? Trisha with an “sh” is not the common spelling and Forsythe is a hard Scoth-Irish name. Both of my names are always going to be misspelled (and mispronounced). I know it is going to happen, but I do understand her argument and frustration. I still get irritated with the people who have known me my whole life spell my name wrong. Have you ever felt the same way? Have you ever reacted the same way—whether it was your name or your child’s name? It is normal.

            Yet, I got to wondering—does that change the uniqueness of who we are and our character. I think not. We are shaped by our belief in ourselves, our life experiences, and more importantly what Jesus has said we are. I like the idea that we are princesses (and we don’t have to fight over the order of things). I like that God “knows the plans [he has] for you” and that the “plans [are] for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and that “before I formed you in the womb, I knew you and before you were born, I consecrated you.” He knows us and chose us. These promises don’t change just because our names are misspelled or mispronounced. 

            What I want my name to carry with it is that I loved people the way God instructed, and Jesus taught us. I want to be remembered as someone who was strong enough and brave enough to shout out “Let me tell you what God has done for me” or “Let me show you how Jesus provided for me.” I want to leave a legacy that points to Him (a mission that I am struggling to do every day). I want it to be said of me that I loved God, shared the gospel, and “she loved people.” Proverbs 22:1a says “A good name is to be chosen rather than riches.” That is what I want; how about you? Are we going to let it go when our names are misspelled and that doesn’t take away from the fact that we are loved, and we have a mission to share the gospel–that a misspelled name doesn’t change how God sees us? I hope not. I hope that when we are ridiculed or “blasted” on social media, we remember who we are in God’s sight and that we respond with love so that our “good name” points to God and His love. 

“To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17 NIV

Mother’s Day Reflections

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Some of you had a fulfilling day. Some cried over unfulfilled longings. Many grieved. Women’s emotions ran the spectrum from loneliness and disappointment to joy and that warm glow of satisfaction.

So how do we deal with the aftermath? With gratefulness, joy and investment.

Gratefulness.

As hard as your day may have been, you do have much to be thankful for. You are alive today, which means God isn’t finished with you yet – He still has a purpose and a plan for you. You are loved. Maybe family members didn’t come through as you had hoped, but you have a Creator who loved you enough to give up His throne room for a time and come walk this earth experiencing emotions, struggles and tragedies just like you.

Joy.

Seek out joy in small ways. As walk. A phone call. Flowers on the table. Coffee with a coworker. A good book. Snuggles with a pet. Quiet meditation in God’s glorious sunshine. Don’t neglect to slow down and savor those little God-moments when He places something special to you in your path just for your enjoyment: a perfect sunset, finding something we lost, or a sweet word from a stranger.

Investment.

Invest some thought, time, and money in someone else. It can be small, but meaningful: a card of encouragement or a text or call to someone you haven’t been in touch with lately. Or it could be bigger: cooking a meal or cookies for someone grieving or hurting. Or it could be acts of service: mowing the neighbors grass or volunteering with a service ministry .

When we do these things we set our mind on important things instead of fretting or regretting. We will be renewed by kindnesses done for others, moments of sheer joy, and simply taking time to be grateful for what we do have.

Be Blessed!

Remodeling

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17

HGTV has been a big hit for several years now. Many of us have watched Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Fixer Upper or Ben and Erin Napier’s Home Town or even The Property Brothers for years now. We’ve studied the open concept, shiplap, and the color schemes that are trending. Most have probably considered a remodel, and many of you have done one or may be in the middle of a big make-over project yourself. What is it about a remodel on our house that thrills us? A fresh start? The beauty and up to date appearance? Perhaps just a longing for something new.

A make-over of our surroundings is very appealing. We love this kind of change. But some other changes are not so welcomed nor embraced with such enthusiasm.

Internal personal changes in our lives are not often met with the enthusiasm of of a home make-over. In fact, we would much rather be left alone to wallow in our familiar ways. “This is just the way I am. Take it or leave it,” is our mantra.

God’s Word tells reminds us that is not the way God works. He is in the business of changing hearts and lives. In fact Scripture says He makes ALL things new.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

How does that strike you today? Sure we would love for parts of our lives to be straightened out, but other parts we really don’t want the Holy Spirit messing with. It sounds painful to change. It seems like we will have to turn loose of some of self-protective ways and be less selfish in general. It could reveal some hidden dirt and decay in our lives that we are vaguely aware of but really want to keep denying, much like the termite-ridden beam crumbling in that grand house remodel. It appears to be humbling, and our prideful hearts don’t want to choose that kind of change.

Be spiritually encouraged by our HGTV home man-overs. It can be hard. It can take a long time. It can be expensive. But a remodel, whether it is of a home or a heart is always worth it in the end! Allow the Holy Spirit to begin tearing down walls in your heart today.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

Did you find yourself singing this song from The Sound of Music as you read that? Me too! It causes me to recall the children singing and the whole movie summed up in a few seconds. That movie is a family favorite, and the charming song of farewell warms our hearts.

But goodbyes are rarely heart-warming. Many of us struggle to some degree with those big farewells: kids moving hours away into a college dorm, the husband in his uniform being deployed, grandkids heading back to their home hundreds of miles away with no idea when they may return, a family member with a new job moving to another country. Even things like aging parents moving out of the generational family home and into an assisted living, severe illness, abuse, or addicted family members can cause us to have to say goodbye to memories, our way of life, or our expectations of what we thought would be.

How do we handle these emotional transitions?

If we know Jesus and trust that God is in control of our lives it helps make these times easier. What do we need to keep in mind?

  1. God’s plan for His world includes each of us. He manages the world and allows the people, places, and circumstances of our lives to carry out His plans, not just for us but for others we impact. This goodbye is for purpose.
  2. When bad things happen to us we keep in mind that walking with the Lord does not guarantee an easy journey. Joni Erickson Tada has said, “God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” We must choose to walk through it with our eyes on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:1-4)
  3. God loves us and has promised to be our strength and our refuge. (Psalm 46:1) When we have said “So long” to a family member, we put them into God’s hands and trust His love and provision for them and for us. We can run to Him in our tears and loneliness to find comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
  4. Life is an adventure! God is taking us on this great adventure to new lands or new situations. Some may be scary. Some will delight us. Some may stir up doubt and worry. But just like riding a canoe down a flooding river, we hang on, paddle like mad and trust Him to get us through. When we come out on the other side we will be exhilarated with the thrill of it all, and boy will we have a story to tell! (Isaiah 43:2) Embrace your adventure!
  5. Faith triumphs over fear, worry, or loneliness. When the time comes to say goodbye, those negative feelings may overwhelm us. It is usually an attack on our heart by the enemy. We must prepare in advance for battle by staying in God’s Word and must oodbyechoose to trust God every minute, then we set our thoughts on the proper things to make it through the lonely days. (Philippians 4:8) Set your mind on the things of the Father.

I don’t know what “Adieu” you have said recently or what “Goodbye” is looming for you in the near future, but I know that we have a Father who loves you. He is walking through this time with you, He has a purpose in your situation. Cling to Him, the One who will NEVER leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) There are no Goodbyes in Him.

You Are Loved!

Here it is again – the one day out of the three hundred sixty-five that many people seem to dread – Valentine’s Day. It stirs up regret of what was or longing of what has yet to come. It seems totally focused on Eros – that romantic, physical love. And while romantic love is nice, there are so many other aspects of love that are so much more fulfilling and rewarding: friendship, nurturing, that brotherly/sisterly love, and most of all God’s perfect agape love.

God’s true love is precious beyond imagination. With Him you are loved no matter what you’ve done and NOT because of what you’ve done. But because you are His beloved creation made in His image. God loves you and nothing you do will change His great love for you! He knows you! You are HIs, Precious One!

You don’t have to measure up. Just as you are – that’s the girl He loves, “warts and all” as my grandmom used to say.

So … Be kind to yourself. In fact, be as kind to the girl in the mirror as you are to your best friend. you wouldn’t shame her or guilt her or point out all her negative attributes or call her “Stupid.” So show love to yourself as much as you do to others. Why?

Well here are some thoughts. We all know these famous words of Jesus on love from the book of Matthew:

Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Matthew 22:37-39

We are told to, first, love God, but also to love others. There is a third person to love in these verses, did you catch it? I’ll give you a minute…

We are to love ourselves! We cannot genuinely love others well until we learn to truly love ourselves with all our failings. So here’s the process:

  1. Love God. His love is unconditional and He teaches us how to love.
  2. Love self. Not in a selfish “me first” kind of way, but accepting ourselves the way God has made us and not overdoing our focus on our achievements or our failings, but having a correct view of ourselves, and loving who we are because we are His. (Romans 12:3)
  3. Love others. Out of the abundance of love God has for the world, he enables us to love, genuinely love, even those that are hard to love.

So your challenge today is to accept God’s love for you, love yourself, and spread that love to those you encounter. Here’s a song that will help heal a wounded, unloved heart. Know today that I love you and better than that, God loves you.

You Are Loved by Ellie Holcomb

White as Snow

Though your sins are as scarlet, They shall become as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be like wool.

Isaiah 1:18

A recent trip through the mountains became a sermon God preached to me as we drove.

The night before, snow fell steadily along parts of our scheduled route. The morning of the trip dawned sunny but frigid. As we headed into the snow laden territory we were cautiously optimistic about road conditions and thrilled to get a chance for our Southern souls to experience snow.

Within an hour of starting out we encountered patches of “a dusting of snow” here and there. Even that is enough to excite an Alabama girl. By lunch the shady side of the road had an inch or two, and though the sunny side was khaki-colored, dead, winter grass the excitement was mounting in the car. Eventually, the last few hours gave us our hearts’ desire, inches of white covered every hill and valley, laced the branches of trees, and powdered the mountains in the distance.

With clear roads – thank you very much snowy state, you know how to do it – and praise music filling the car, my heart soared! As white as snow! That was the whitest white, reflecting every bit of sunlight that hit it on that clear sunny day.

Though MY sins are as scarlet they shall become as white as snow…

The burning red of my anger and jealousy – made white!

All I could manage was trying to dust the the dirty landscape of my life with white.

The crimson of my selfish pride – made white!

My spotty cover up of sin with legalistic behavior in random places, useless.

The blood red depth of the evil thoughts and intents of my mind – made white!

Man-made snow, false whiteness, an attempt to appear pure myself.

The filthy, black soil of my sinful heart – made white!

All human attempts prove useless in cleansing and purifying.

I couldn’t make myself white any more than I could make snow. Left to my own means, I wallow in the devastation of my sin.

However, there is a solution – a Savior. I can place myself in the hands of the one who can make me white as snow, the one Who bled crimson blood to cover the depths of my sin, the purest of pure sacrificial Lamb Who paid the price for my failings. Thank you Lord for restoration, for giving us purity where we have been impure, and for scrubbing this dirt-dweller up to the brightest, cleanest white – whiter than snow! My life is in Your hands.

Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithfulness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion, wipe out my wrongdoings. Wash me thoroughly from my guilt
And cleanse me from my sin. For I know my wrongdoings, and my sin is constantly before me. Psalm 51:1-3

The Best Mother-in-Law

We’ve all heard them, the mother-in-law stories! Husbands who don’t want the mother-in-law to come over. Tales of rude conversations between in-laws. Sarcastic comments and evil references. Our society seems to accept that type of strained relationship among in-laws.

Here’s a story that goes against that negativity.

When I married, I had in my mind an antagonistic in-law attitude. I felt that was how life worked, at least that was what the culture had taught me. Those first couple of years I did not want to accept my mother-in-law’s help. I guess I felt I had to prove myself worthy of her son. I over-analyzed her comments, was touchy around her, and doubted myself frequently. Fortunately, I am a generally amiable person, so I was never rude or ugly towards her, but my inner dialog was a battlefield in my mind.

After those first few months and years I finally realized that my “other mother” was on my side. She loved me and rooted for me simply because her son had chosen me. Her love for her son spilled over on me!

As I began to change the frame of reference in my mind I settled down. I grew in love for her and our relationship became strong and important in my life. She was a godly woman worth learning from and listening to.

What did she do, or not do? She never judged me. She was a humble servant to our whole family and everyone who knew her. She was honest and forthright without drama, I knew where I stood with her and we were able to work through difficulties without turmoil. She loved my/our kids and spoiled them in a healthy affirming way. She sewed for us, babysat for us, cooked for us, took me to women’s events with her at church, vacationed with us, and never complained, even when you knew her arthritis had her feeling bad.

One of the most important things my mother-in-law did was, she let me be me. I wasn’t skilled and talented in the same ways she was, but she always appreciated my gifts and never tried to get me to conform to her standards. I was more blessed than I realized at the time. She was an example to me of how to be a mother-in-law, and I believe I am a relatively good (though not perfect of course!) “mother-in-love” to my new children who have married into our family.

So why do I write this today? To challenge all of you who have in-laws.

Think about the cultural biases and expectations you have towards your mother-in-law. Are they realistic and just? What if a person had these biases and expectations of you? Would they seem fair then? Make a conscious decision to have a wonderful, close relationship with her. Decide to become one of her closest friends – as much as it depends on you. Find ways to serve, love, and give to this wonderful woman God has placed in your life. Appreciate her for raising your husband to be the man you fell in love with. When you do these things you will learn from her, grow in grace and wisdom, and have a calmer life.

Consider making this a goal for 2022! Let this verse be your theme:

 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18

When it comes to in-laws “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is a good motto!