Race Runners

“I crossed the finish line!” 

I had never met her before, but I love having a conversation with the hip-high part of the population, so I instinctively turned my head to her. 

She was by my estimation about four years old. She was just slightly pudgy wearing a pair of pink shorts that were riding up a tad in the middle. Her once pristine white shirt had a rainbow and a unicorn on it. Alongside some smudges of fudge icing from the doughnut she’d finished off were drips of red sports drink. She had a partial temporary tattoo on her arm, I think it had been a ribbon but I couldn’t rightly tell. She skipped as she walked and she smiled as she’d made her declaration about crossing the finish line. She thrust her congratulatory card my way.

I smiled in response, 

“I know I saw you!” 

I had been tasked with the job of onsite medical and had firmly planted myself, my baggie full of bandaids and cool washcloths at the start-finish line. I had a bucket of water in preparation for those runners who lose their breakfast or aforementioned hastily consumed doughnuts. I had an umbrella for rain, sanitizer for hands and salve for scrapes. 

My new friend was most proud of her accomplishment post one mile fun run. She had run alongside people of all ages and from all walks of life. A precious middle schooler who just shy of a year ago endured three nine hour back and leg surgeries in less than six months time. She walked that fun run (with a rod through her femur and rods, screws and bolts holding her spine together) with survivors of cancers and those walking in honor of those who had not survived. A former nurse, now a grandmother, pushed her elderly dachshund in a stroller. I had seen them all cross the finish line, I’d watched them all. For the ones I knew the story, and for the ones I did not, I cheered and clapped until my hands were raw and tingling. I’d cried tears of joy and ones that could not be defined, and I had done it for no reason in particular except that they had tried and had finished the race. They had indeed crossed the finish line. 

Second Timothy 4:7 says “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I used to genuinely think that verse was about running and I am in no way a runner. I figured that verse in the King’s Book wasn’t for me. It wasn’t until I realized that those words were written to Timothy from his spiritual father Paul at the end of Paul’s life that I understood. These words were likely Paul’s last ones to his son of sorts, and he likened his life, his walk of faith, to a race. He didn’t say he had finished in first place or as best, but he had completed it. He described it as having crossed the finish line.

The four-year-old was certainly no first place winner or fastest participant, but she was a participant full of joy, and when she declared to me what I already knew, it challenged me to run my race of faith with joy and when the time comes for me to cross the finish line to do so knowing the Lord will say,

 “I know I saw you!” 

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

1 Timothy 4:7-8

In Everything Give Thanks!

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

It’s that day. The day we are supposed to be thankful. Some of us will embrace it joyfully and wholeheartedly, thankful for food, relationships, health, … thankful for life.

Others of us will struggle. We find ourselves at a crossroads with unexpected things just ahead. We may be alone, wounded, hurt or rejected. We could be in a place we’d rather not be: a hospital, rehab, temporary accommodations. Instead of a feast of turkey, dressing, sides and desserts, we may be staring at meager fare, a microwaved plate, or an unappealing bed tray.

If you find yourself in a strange place, with strange people or hard circumstances and microscopic amounts of a thankful spirit, you are not alone. You are in the company of many other people, and you are under the watchful care of the Father.

We often equate thankfulness with good things and abundance only, but scripture instructs us to give thanks in everything. In every situation.

In sickness… I may not be thankful hugging a toilet bowl throwing up with a stomach bug, but I can be thankful that I have a home in which to be sick and to rest.

When family and friends aren’t around… I can be thankful I’m alive and have opportunity to make friends or to be with family another time.

If money is tight… I can be thankful for the clothes I’m wearing and a place to stay.

As I grieve the loss of a loved one… I can be thankful for having had them in my life and that God made us to have memories, where I can always recall our good times together.

In joblessness… facing court… being alone in a foreign country (as many of our military and others are)… sitting at an empty table… in the darkness of depression… staring a cancer diagnosis in the face… brokenhearted over a family member trapped in addiction… grieving a loss… or whatever difficult thing you are facing, here are some things you can be thankful for.

Life. Breath. Emotions. Love. Jesus. God’s world. Quiet or Joyful noise. Shelter. Warmth. Compassionate People. Your fellow church members. The Present – This Moment. Pets. Colors. Music. Yummy things – Taste. Sight or Hearing or Mobility. Kindness. The Lessons your trial is teaching your heart. God’s Word. Prayer. Salvation. That God will be your refuge and will come through for you and will work all things for good.

Find things to be thankful for today – large or small. Write them down and look at them. Gratefulness encourages our heart. Be grateful.

Hope the following songs encourage you! Happy Thanksgiving!

“He Will” by Ellie Holcombe Red Sea Road by Ellie Holcombe You are Loved by Ellie Holcombe

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Priceless and the GFBC Women’s Ministry!

Hidden Brokenness

She was about 13 or 14 I think. My kids were outside playing a game of basketball when the ball bounced up on the porch. My daughter jumped up the steps to get the ball but as she made her way down she missed a step and rolled her ankle. I knew it hurt and I knew it was going to be painful but I didn’t think much of it. I iced it, gave her some Ibuprofen and called it a day. The next morning it didn’t seem swollen and wasn’t even bruising so I sent her to school. She complained of how painful it was, but I insisted she was being dramatic and forced her to go. By the end of the day her ankle was twice if not three sizes what it should have been and bruised doesn’t even begin to cover it. We went straight to the doctor for an X-ray and found out her ankle was broken. I won Mom of the Year for that one!

I missed the bottom step of our basement stairs a few weeks back and rolled my own ankle. Oh, it’s nothing major and the carpet burn on my foot hurt worse than my ankle but it took me right back to the day my daughter was hurt. As that memory has been fresh on my mind and my own ankle has been healing I’ve thought a lot about brokenness that we can’t always see.

For whatever reason my daughter’s broken ankle wasn’t evident until she spent an entire school day walking on it. But, yet, the brokenness was still there. A lot of times I’ve walked around with a broken heart or spirit but no one had a clue. It took time for the brokenness to boil its way to the top and become visible.

I think as women we tend to believe the lie that we can’t show our brokenness to the world. We hold it all in and keep it to ourselves and honestly, we don’t even share it with God. Or, maybe that’s just me. There’s a part of me that thinks I have to always be strong and be numb to how I’m truly feeling. I’ve bought into the lie that I don’t deserve to be hurt or that I’m weak if I show my cracks.

But, ya know what I’m learning? The light can only show through when there’s cracks! Friend, when we hold onto our hurts and brokenness for dear life we’re never allowing God to heal any part of it. It’s as if we think the cracks will ruin us when in reality it’s the cracks that make us beautiful!

So, today, take your brokenness and share it with God. And, when the time is right, share it with someone else. You never know who needs to hear your story. Our stories are meant to be told. Their meant to be entrusted to our Father. Their meant to mold and shape us and if we keep them hidden all they’ll ever do is swell and bruise and cause us pain. Let it go, sister. Free yourself from the brokenness and trust the ONE who heals it all! ❤️

Harvest

“Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”  John 4:35 (NIV)

I wrote the following paragraphs at least a year ago:

“This morning I decided to pull up the tomato plants that I eagerly planted months ago.  I was tired of tending them now. I took a bowl and harvested the last of the ripe and semi-ripe fruit on the vine.  I looked at each tomato, was it ripe or close enough, did it have any flaws, any bug bites, was it damaged by the wind or not enough or too much water, was it worth picking?  I looked at the ones that fell on the ground; were they hurt, or could I add them to the bowl.  As the bowl got fuller, I got pickier, discarding some that I might have added earlier.

How thankful I am that Jesus is not like me harvesting the tomatoes.  He doesn’t tire of tending to me or you. He doesn’t discard those of us that have been bitten, bruised and damaged by life.  He carefully cradles me and you in his arms, heals the bumps and bruises and loves each of us regardless of our state.  There isn’t a ‘no vacancy’ sign in Jesus’ bowl, it’s big enough for all who believe. 

My prayer today is that if you are bruised or broken by life, hurting, or discouraged, you will turn to the One who can heal and love you as God intended. Know that Jesus will embrace you and love you just as you are. “

As I reread those words, I recalled how I felt that morning; I just didn’t have it in me to keep tending those tomato plants.  Sometimes today I look around at all that is going on and I feel tired of trying to keep going amid all that I see.  But I remember that Jesus called on us to continue just as he continued all the way to the cross, to the grave, to the resurrection.  To continue isn’t to just exist; for me it is to be a worker in whatever way I can. 

“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:37-38 (NIV)

Continue. Finish Strong.

Ailments

“Mame what’s-a-ailen’ you youngin’?”

The interrogative would be posed to me often. My Mam-maw could’ve said, “What is wrong with you?” Or “Is something bothering you?” But her mountain raising and simple cut to the chase methodology led to her all encompassing question. 

“What’s a-ailin’ you youngin?”

She knew me well enough to know when something wasn’t quite right. She would know even if I didn’t quite know what it was myself. I don’t rightly know how she always knew, but she did. 

Maybe I was as a child as I am now as an adult, somewhat melancholic. But I reckon it had to have been her God-given intuition. 

She’d ask me what was a-ailing me even as I grew older and her mind began to give way more often than not to the thief of Alzheimer’s. 

She would ask the question as to the source of my ailment, my pain, be it physical, emotional or spiritual. 

In all fairness I didn’t always know and couldn’t always say what the source of my ailment was but I was always mystified how she knew there was a source to be found. So many times she’d just snuggle in close or hug me and I immediately felt better.

Mam-maw went to heaven a long while ago and nobody has asked me that exact question in quite some time but in the wee hours of the morning over a rerun episode of Andy Griffith, it came rushing back to me and so did some tears. I was caught completely off guard. Barney was silently, sulking around the courthouse when Andy asked Barney what was a-ailing him. 

In the days of late my heart has been aching. Try as I may, I can’t quite shake the sadness. 

Like my Mam-maw my little pup seems to know my heart is achy and she’s been extra close and hot on my heels. The evening I had a bad headache, she wouldn’t find herself too far from me. I found myself wondering just how she knew. I’d not said anything out loud, hadn’t telepathically communicated it that I knew of, she just knew I needed some extra snuggles and firmly planted her wiener dog body at my side. 

She was still there about 4 in the morning when Andy was on the TV and  had posed the obvious question to Barney. I realized in that moment how much I missed Mam-maw and her ways. 

Sometimes grief is like that, just hits you out of nowhere and is compounded by other loneliness, losses and sadness. Then as Barney droned in about his issue, and my wiener snuggled in closer, I came to a realization. 

In our sadness and brokenness, the King is near, He snuggles in close like that wiener and we don’t even have to tell Him something is wrong, like my Mam-maw and my pup, He already knows. 

He already knows how bad it hurts and sad we are. He already knows and He promises to stick close and to intercede for us in the places we need it most even if we don’t even know how to say what those are. 

Forgive the Unforgiveable

About a year ago I did a thing! We only had one vehicle at the time and it was a truck that my husband loved. Me? I hated it. I work downtown so I park in a parking deck and I ran over everything and bumped into everything and I found myself anxious every time I drove it. It was nice and comfy when he drove it, but it was big and bulky when I did. I sort of sprung this random idea on him about trading it in on a car. He didn’t technically say no so I went to the local dealer and traded it in.

A few weeks past and the reality of what I had done settled in for both of us. While I was happy with the car and the fact that I was no longer a threat to society in the truck I felt guilty for the way I had handled it. I brought up the subject and he was honest and shared how he would have rather kept the truck and bought me a car and I was honest about my reasons (aka threat to pedestrians near and far). We both apologized and moved on.

Then one random weekend the subject of vehicles made its way into our conversation and the truck incident came up again. I felt this need to apologize and he stopped me and said, “You didn’t really do anything wrong, you’ve already apologized, I’ve just got to deal with the outcome of it all.”

His statement caused me to ponder which led me to a podcast where this same thing was mentioned again. The podcast was about forgiveness and how we not only have to forgive the person but we have to forgive the ripple effect of their actions. Not gonna lie…this one stung a little bit. Okay, okay…it stung A LOT. I struggle with forgiveness. I’ve been hurt…deeply hurt and I’ve got a lot of baggage because of it, and in that moment when I was listening to that podcast I realized that while I have forgiven the person, I haven’t forgiven the consequences of their actions and the deep wounds it has left on my heart. Deep inside I’m still holding on to my anger which, truthfully, is now shreds of bitterness.

So, here I am being as raw and real and exposed as I’ve ever been. Trying to process what God has shown me and looking for the courage to forgive what I would consider unforgivable. But, you know what….out there in this big ole world there’s someone who is struggling with forgiving me and the consequences of my actions on their life. Grace goes both ways. I’ve been wronged but I’ve also handed out some wrong of my own. So, it’s a new day and a new chance to do the unthinkable… to forgive the unforgivable 💛

Scandalous Faith

I was recently reading the passage of scripture about the woman who touched the hem of Jesus garment while he was surrounded by a crowd of people.  I’ve read that passage many times but this time the commentary that was given talked about how scandalous that would have been at that time in history.  You see this woman had a bleeding problem that forbid her to participate in society like most women could.  She was considered unclean which meant she could not go to the temple to worship, could not participate in normal social activities; it meant she was excluded.  In today’s language she was “canceled.” 

The commentary described what this woman did as ‘scandalous faith’.  She did what was forbidden; she risked everything to touch the hem of Jesus garment.  She was willing to be further ostracized because the possibility of healing was greater that the potential risk.  She had nothing left to lose. 

Touching someone’s clothes would hardly be scandalous behavior today.  Given what is seen as acceptable in society today, I’m not sure what would be considered scandalous; except perhaps standing firm in my faith, speaking up about my faith and keeping on doing the best I can to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone who will hear.  Maybe that is what it means today to have ‘scandalous faith’ – to speak up and step up even if society cancels me, even if friends no longer want to be connected to me, even if I’m considered crazy or dangerous by some.

Yes, I want to think I could have scandalous faith but I wonder if I would be more like the Pharisee who came to Jesus at night rather than during the day when everyone would see.

Matthew 9:22 (NIV) Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “Your faith has healed you.”

Street Lights

Have you ever watched street lights as you pass by? As you approach a street light there is the slightest hint of brilliance that illuminates your path. The closer you travel toward the light the brighter it all gets and as you move on past, the light begins to filter across your back. You quickly enter a brief moment of darkness and then suddenly you’re in the next light’s shadow and it starts all over again.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

I was driving home recently and was noticing the dark places between the lights and it got me thinking about times I have been in dark places spiritually. There were times that I couldn’t utter a prayer or even comprehend scripture and I felt dry and almost brittle. But, without fail, a friend would randomly text me a verse or offer a word of encouragement. I would hear a worship song or a hymn would come to mind. It was those moments that the shadow of light would illuminate and guide me to my next breath.

God is so bright when we stand directly under him, but he casts quite a shadow of light when we tend to veer off our path. It’s in those dark moments that we desperately need our people…our sisters to shine their lights so we don’t lose our way.

When that friend randomly pops in your mind, send her that text…even if you think it seems weird. When you feel the drawing to stop and call out that friend’s name to the Father in the bathroom stall at work…do it. We’re all fighting battles and some of us are standing directly beneath the light and we feel like we could reach out and touch heaven. Some of us are in the shadows and while we can see the light it’s hard. But there are even more that are in the dark. They know the light is there but they can’t seem to find it. So, friend, be her light for this moment because you just never know when in the blink of an eye you’ll find yourself in the dark. We aren’t called to always have it together, but we are called to allow Christ’s light to shine through us. Imagine how bright the world would be if we all just shined his light! 💡

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

FaceTime Bible Reading

I love FaceTime. I think that this is the most wonderful invention for Grandparents that has ever been made. My granddaughters only live an hour away so I do get to see them, but we love to FaceTime.

Last night they called just after bath time while they were getting ready for bed. The oldest took the phone in her room and climbed in her bed and picked up a book. I asked her what she was reading, because I have tried to instill the love of reading with both of the girls. She showed me the bible she received when she was baptized. She reminded me that she is a Christian now. She began to quote a verse that she has learned this month at church. Then she showed me where it was in her bible. She had used colored bible markers to mark the verse. She was in Ephesians so I told her to turn to Ephesians 3:20-21 and read her PawPaw’s favorite verse. She read it to me and then used her markers to highlight the verse: 

20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (NAS) 

Then I had her turn to my favorite verse, Galatians 2:20. She read it to me and then highlighted this verse in her bible.  I learned most of my scripture in King James and New American Standard but she read it to me from her children’s bible. 

20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (KJV)

What a wonderful time we had reading God’s word together by FaceTime. We have read Bible Stories for many years, but how precious it was to me that she was reading God’s Word and that she understood about the bible.

We should each spend time in God’s Word. A time alone with God is crucial for a personal relationship with our Lord. Whether you read passages straight through a book of the bible or use a devotional or bible study book, God will bless the time you spend with him.

Some years ago, Larnelle Harris sang a song called “I Miss My Time With You.” It talks about God missing the fellowship of the time we should be spending together. God is there at the appointed time and place, but so many times, we do not show up. Don’t let the busyness of life keep you from spending time with God.

There He was just waiting,

In our old familiar place

An empty spot beside Him,

Where once I used to wait

To be filled with strength and wisdom

For the battles of the day

I would have passed Him by again

If I didn’t hear Him say

I miss my time with you

Those moments together

I need to be with you each day

And it hurts Me when you say

You’re too busy,

Busy trying to serve Me

But how can you serve Me

When your spirits empty

There’s a longing in My heart

Wanting more than just a part of you

It’s true, I miss My time with you

What will I have to offer

How can I truly care

My efforts have no meaning

When Your presence isn’t there

But You’ll provide the power

If I take time to pray

I’ll stay right here beside You

And You’ll never have to say.

I miss my time with you

Those moments together

I need to be with you each day

And it hurts Me when you say

You’re too busy,

Busy trying to serve Me

But how can you serve Me

When your spirits empty

There’s a longing in My heart

Wanting more than just a part of you

It’s true, I miss My time with you

Source: LyricFind. Songwriters: Larnelle Harris / Phill Mchugh. “I Miss My Time With You” lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Capitol Christian Music Group, Capitol CMG Publishing. Accessed 9/23/22.

E.R. Visit

In the local news this week they were reminding people not to use the hospital emergency room as a doctor for a non-emergency. (Who would, with the price of using an ER, but undoubtedly people do.) This news story got me to thinking. Emergency rooms are for a specific purpose – emergencies. Often people turn to God’s Word in times of crisis or trauma. Which we can and should do. But do we turn to God’s Word as a spiritual ER? Do we, do you, run to His word only in an emergency?

We’re told we should go to the doctor regularly, but we’re so busy we put off those checkups! We’re also told we should spend time in God’s Word each day. But once again, we’re so busy we put it off. In this hectic American culture we live in, it is a challenge to find time for everything we have to do, want do, and are told we should do. Between work, family, kids homework, sports, grocery shopping, and household chores, we (collectively) tend to feel that the random Sunday morning jaunt to God’s house is all we can add to our schedule. Reading our Bible every morning? Who has even 5 minutes? “I’ll make sure and read my Bible tomorrow …this weekend …I’ll start again in January,” we say.

The problem with turning to God’s Word only in our traumas and tragedies is that we never get to know Him. Just like the anonymous ER nurse or doctor, we need Him in the moment, call His name to come fix the IV, and when we’re well, then we’re off. Back to normal life and we have no relationship with Him.

A daily time of reading or listening to God’s Word is crucial for our long term spiritual health and our ability to cope with life. That’s how we get to know Father God and develop that relationship with Him. When we come to know the Father, the Great Physician, it’s like having a personal relationship with our doctor. Only better!

We can give him a call in a moment of need and he’ll be there to help. He knows the diagnosis and the correct cure. We can ask Him for advice. He has all the wisdom of the universe. He knows our history, what has plagued us in the past and how that affects our current situation. He treats us tenderly. He knows our heartbeat and our very breath. He can recommend the best treatment for our specific condition.

Our role in the treatment is the same as with a doctor. We must do two things.

First, we must come to Him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mathew 11:28) We do this through His Word. As we come to those pages each day we are learning from Him and listening to Him and receiving healing.

Second, we must follow His orders, including getting the prescription filled and following His advice. Spiritually that means simply obeying what we learn from Him in the Bible.

Let’s get our spiritual health in order by coming to God’s Word each day to have a relationship with Him. Let’s quit using God’s Word only as a spiritual ER when we are in crisis.