Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Success:  To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded!  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

How do we measure success? Success is defined in many different ways and largely depends on the circumstances you find yourself in. As a teacher, I often define success by seeing my students increase their knowledge. My husband considers a service call a success if he has fixed the customers problem and doesn't get called back for the same issue. A sales person may determine they are successful if they are able to meet their quota and a lawyer would be successful if they win a case. But what about as a Christian? How do should we measure success?

I am blessed to belong to a thriving church that is growing in numbers and ministries. We have the Women's Guild, Men's Club, Choir, Youth Group, VBS, St. Vincent dePaul, Altar Society, Divorced and Separated Support, Contemporary Band, Mission trips, Parish Festival, Religious Education, and don't forget about Girlfriends Unlimited! The list could go on and on. So what is the barometer that the church uses to determine success? Is it a certain number of members either in the parish or in individual groups? Is it the amount or scale of events that take place? Is it that people have fun or that education is provided? What about the an event, ministry, or entire church successful based on how much money is brought in? Is a parish, organization, event, or even an individual successful if they provide a welcoming atmosphere? Is it considered a success if someone (even one person) grows closer to Christ? And is it successful if we provide enough good works or volunteer efforts? Think about it...and be honest...which of these is our measuring stick for success and which should be?

As we ponder that, let's look at what God tells us in the Scriptures? When the Israelites are just about ready to enter the promised land, God speaks to Joshua and tells him, “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7). The law. The Ten Commandments.

Soooo... are we successful Christians if we don't murder someone in our parish? If nothing gets stolen during one of our events? What about if we make sure to rest enough on Sundays?

In the New Testament, Jesus is asked which commandment is the greatest. In Mark 12:29-31, He replies, “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Is a ministry successful if the people love God and each other, regardless of the amount of money they raise at an event? Is a parish successful if it's members love God and each other, no matter how big the building is and how many people attend services? What about providing religious education? Shouldn't we make sure others feel comfortable and are having a good time? Is Jesus really telling us that all we need to be a successful Christian is to love God and each other?

I propose that it is...because if we truly love God with all our heart, understanding, and strength and treat everyone else as we would want to be treated, then the rest will flow from that. With genuine love in our hearts, other people will be drawn to our presence, our ministry, our community. Love will breed volunteers. Love makes people feel welcome. Love will lead others closer to Christ.

And I am not naïve in thinking that money isn't needed or that God will just place it in our laps if we love Him enough...but doesn't that too, come from love? Aren't we more generous when we are in love with something or someone with all our heart, understanding, and strength? Wouldn't we be more willing provide for the material needs of the church if we loved our fellow Christians as ourselves?

The conversation Jesus has in Mark continues in verses 32-34: “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Sounds like sweet success to me.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Helpless But Not Hopeless

Romans 8:24-26

24 ...But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

Sadness and worry overwhelm me. A few months ago I was raving about how blessed I am, but tonight I am sick with the news of the past few days. There is nothing I can do to change the situations that weigh on my shoulders. I have some control over the solution that I desire for one of the situations, but absolutely none over the other. 

I feel helpless.

But I am not hopeless. I have Jesus.

Jesus IS my hope. He is the One who keeps me moving. He gives me the strength to stay love when I can' speak when I am afraid.

I sit and think. I try to pray. I don't even know what to pray for. I don't know what is “best.” I don't have the words to say. 

I feel helpless.

But I am not hopeless. I have the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit is on my side...he will intercede. He will not only go forward to bring my wordless prayers to the Father, he will also go before me to fill me with the words I must speak and write.

I have to wait to see if I can enlist the help of someone who might be able to do something. I have to wait for a response, if any will even come. I wonder if relationships will ever be the same after these trials.

I feel helpless.

But I am not hopeless. I have God the Father.

The Father fills me with the gift of patience. He allows me to wait with peace. This could never be possible on my own, patience has not been one of my virtues in the past. But God will fill my longing for help, He will always respond, and He will heal broken relationships.

The Trinity will see me to the end of this trial. I feel helpless, but I am not hopeless.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Running with Jesus

“My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24

I am a runner. It makes me smile and chuckle to say that. You see, I've only been running for about three years now. Before that, I literally shunned running. I thought those sweaty people that I would drive by on the road were completely crazy. Then in the summer of 2009 I joined a ladies only boot camp for the summer. Of course, part of the class was to run...lucky me. When I started, I couldn't even run for two minutes straight. Thankfully, the running wasn't too intense during those workout sessions, but after the summer ended, a coworker that had also attended the boot camp asked if I would want to continue running with her in the mornings before school. So we began our morning run/walks. We began by running about two minutes, then walking about 10-15 minutes. We slowly worked our way up to five minutes of running, and then running and walking for equal amounts of time. As the weather turned colder, I began to run on my own and increase my stamina. I remember the feeling of running for an entire mile straight...then two...three...four. In March of the following year, I entered my first 5K and have been racing ever since. Last September, I ran my first 10K and right now I am training for a half marathon. Last month I ran 11 miles! This woman who couldn't run for two minutes, can now run over 2 ½ HOURS at a time. I never thought that sweaty runner along the side of the road would be me.

That's not the way my relationship with Jesus has gone, though. I can't remember a time when I didn't have Jesus in my life. I grew up in the Church thinking that everyone learned about and believed in God. I can't recall any one moment of transformation that occurred where I was saved (not like my mile markers). Oh, I felt closer to God sometimes more than others, I had those moments of begging God in prayer as a teenager, I even remember saying the sinner's prayer as a kid one day when I went to Bible School with a friend. But none of these events were the beginning of my walk...they were just points along the way of a long path I have always been on. I thank my parents for that. Maybe they should write a how to manual for raising kids in the faith, because both my siblings and I consider ourselves Christians who try to live the life God has called us to every day. Not many parents can boast (even though we shouldn't boast of our own abilities) that all their children have kept the faith. We went to church, we prayed...God was just there. No big deal was made about Him, but He was never ignored either. He was part of our family. It's the way it was.

Even though they began differently, I can compare my running and my relationship with Jesus now. As I have grown into adulthood, I have grown in spiritual maturity as well, just like I have expanded my ability to run longer distances. But, don't think I jump out of bed every morning ready to go a few miles...I love running, but I still have trouble getting motivated. Sometimes I can't run as fast or as long as I had hoped. And I still have to make myself get out there and begin each run. Similarly, I have had highs and lows in my walk with God. There are some times that I feel closer to Him than others. I still find myself begging in prayer. And every so often, I am inspired to rededicate my life to Him in some way.

This is one of those times. 

I believe that I have been blessed with a gift to share God's Word with others, especially in writing. And so I begin my race (this blog) to complete the task the Lord has given me.

Some people have had a Christian walk similar to mine and feel that they have always had Jesus in their lives. Some are ready and looking for the motivation to start their “race” and grow closer to Jesus. And some are looking at Christians like I looked at runners, thinking how crazy those people are, but secretly wondering what it would be like to “run a race” live for Jesus.

Wherever you find yourself in your relationship with God, my hope is that you will come here to find encouragement to begin (or continue) your own “race.” My reflections are inspired by real life (and the Holy Spirit) and come from the heart. As I continue my own race, both spiritually and physically, I hope you will run along side me so we can support one another. I invite you to become a follower of this blog, (re)dedicate your life to following the path God has laid out for you, and join me in Running with Jesus.