Do you remember the first time that you “adulted” Christmas? You know – that first Christmas when you carefully curated “real” gifts for everyone on your list without your parents doing the shopping (or the buying) for you. The first year that I lived on my own, I had filled my car with presents for everyone that I loved. I was so proud to have chosen something special for each one of my family members. I was so full of anticipation just imagining everyone’s reactions as they tore through the wrappings. Read more
Are you a sucker for a dare or a challenge? I wish that I could answer “no” to that question, but sadly and all too often the answer is “yes.” In my younger days, tackling a challenge usually meant that I would get myself into some sort of trouble. There was that time that I had to prove that I could ramp a BMX bike like my younger brother and his friends. That one landed me on my head – literally, complete with a ride in an ambulance and a luxury, all-inclusive stay at our local hospital.
More recently, the dares and challenges that I accept would be considered “good for me.” I fell for that 30-day plank challenge that was all the rage on social media. Nailed it! Back in 2007, I was goaded into running a half-marathon. Crushed it!
No, I was not a runner. No, I don’t enjoy running. Yes, I get a deep sense of satisfaction when I push myself to achieve goals that seem just out of my reach. In this sense, my stubborn streak could be seen as both a curse and a blessing. On the one hand, we could be calling 9-1-1 or on the other I could enjoy toned arms and abs of steel for 30-days.
Of all of the dares and trials that come our way, none are more challenging than the ones Satan throws in our ways. When Satan scorches our paths or litters the road before us with shattered dreams or lines our trails with broken hearts, he’s goading us. He’s taunting us with his demonic version of “I bet you can’t.” I bet you can’t fight the diagnosis. I bet you can’t overcome the disability. I bet you can’t survive the loss. I bet you can’t pick yourself up.Satan’s subtle insinuation is that we have to pick ourselves upin order to win his wicked wager. And, when we play into his hand – we lose hope and our faith is rocked and he wins.
Yet, how often do we play right into his hand? How many times do we first react to hurt and loss with I can’t imagine?Or I can’t handle it?Or I don’t want to go on?Defeat is frequently my initial reaction. Then typically my stubbornness takes over with its best impression of – imagining, handling, and going on.I can put up a great front, but all of that putting on a front takes a toll.
There was a point during that half-marathon challenge when I didn’t think that I could take another step. I was tired to the bone. Each step was heavy and required deliberate effort to continue. Then, I turned a corner. Literally. I came around one corner and I could see the finish line. It was about a mile or so away. Even so as soon as I saw it, I knew that I could make it.
I had found my second wind. I felt lighter. Stronger. Confident. Hopeful.
When Satan tries to wedge doubt into my heart, I need a second wind. (And a third and a fourth ad infinitum) And that Second Wind stands ever ready. When we let down our fronts and take on the Holy Spirit for our guidance, strength, and comfort – We become a little lighter We are stronger. We are more confident. We find hope.
We turn a spiritual corner. We can see the finish line. We are reminded that we don’t run this race alone. When we allow the Spirit to guide us, we’re empowered to take Satan’s dare. When we turn to God as the source of our Second Wind, the finish line practically moves itself to us.
Each time we put our fate in the hands of the Father when the prognosis is poor; each time we put our faith in the resurrection of the Son in the face of our broken hearts; each time we seek the comfort and strength of the Spirit when our own spirits have been deflated – Satan is defeated.
With the holidays upon us, we are especially sensitive to Satan’s goading. Our lives don’t mirror a Norman Rockwell painting and the differences are glaring. Yet, we still tend to carry a belief that our lives should be picture perfect – if only for these few days between Thanksgiving and the New Year.
As I approach this season, I am seeking the Second Wind. This is a lesson that I’ve learned the hard way – I can’t handle the holidays (or most other days for that matter) under my own strength. And – neither can you.
Father, thank you for sending your Son to double down against Satan’s double-dog dares. Thank you for your Spirit to be our Second Wind in order to face our challenges and trials.. For all who are struggling – especially at this time of the year – please keep your Spirit close.
More than anything during this holiday season, thank you for the many blessings both past and present. Thank you for memories of loved ones to fill the empty chairs that fill our earthly tables. Thank you for the promise of a heavenly table where empty does not exist.
It’s the start of the holiday season (unless you hung your Christmas lights before Halloween, in which case you are in full swing). Families are gathering. Friends are reconnecting. News is being shared.
Not all of it is good.
I don’t mean to be the “Debbie Downer” to your holiday season. It’s just that yesterday brought news of another young life lost. Another family is shattered and forever altered. And we know that others are facing difficult news during what is “supposed” to be the happiest time of the year. Families won’t be able to put food on the table because ends just don’t meet. Other families – particularly those dealing with California’s wildfires – won’t be able to put food on the table because there is no table. Families in Florida are still sifting through the debris of Hurricane Michael wondering where their table has floated off to and more poignantly – does anyone remember us?
That is the big question we all ask when we are facing our worst days.
Does anyone remember me?
I can answer that question with great confidence – YES! Not just anyone. The One who remembers me and you and everyone is God the Father who created each of us in His own image. The One is God the Son who emptied himself of his full divinity in order to live among us and to sacrifice himself so that we may spend eternity with God. The One is God the Holy Spirit who fills each one of us bringing comfort and peace during difficult times.
Let’s take a moment to remember each other. Share your prayer requests. Say a prayer. Know that each one of our prayers are heard by a loving God.
Father, we thank you for all of the blessings that You continue to provide even in our darkest times. We praise You in good times and bad. we ask that you send your Holy Spirit to fill each one of us during this holiday season. We need the strength, comfort, and peace that only You can provide. We need reassurance that You remember us during our times of need. We pray that your healing touch will be felt by all of those who are struggling at this time. We pray this through your Son, Jesus. Amen.
Chaos is a funny thing. Sometimes it overwhelms me. The cacophony consumes me. Other times, it swirls about me perfectly choreographed so that it comes ever close but never actually touches me. Like a Square Dance caller who yells “Swing Left” at the precise moment when “swing right” would have all the madness crash into me.
(Don’t tell me you didn’t Square Dance in junior high. It’s an American right of passage. Or at least, I thought.) Read more
As I pen this post, chaos is all around me – literally. Movers are delivering furniture. Tile workers are destroying the kitchen backsplash. A painter is ripping sheets of old wallpaper from the hallway. A woodworker is staining the stairs. The dogs are barking. The noise-cancelling headphones only block out so much.
In the midst of this chaos, it occurs to me – I can handle it. This is no big deal. I’m not even rattled. Why? Because I know the plan. I can envision how the mess will come together in the end. I know that the upheaval is both temporary and necessary. I can buy into the vision because it’s my vision. I created it (with help of course).
Life’s chaos shouldn’t be any different. But it is. Why? Simple answer – it’s not our plan. Granted, we are too frequently participants of our own pandemonium, but so often our lives are thrown into disarray by outside forces. The boss is breathing down our necks and our inboxes are piling up. The teacher schedules yet another conference to discuss Little Johnnie (or Jeannie’s) “leadership skills” in the classroom. The dogs chew your new sofa. Phone calls come in rapid succession sharing unbearable news.
In the throes of turmoil, we lose sight of the game plan. We forget that the mess is going to come together in the end. The final outcome is so simple and so satisfying – no more tears. That’s great and it’s easy to get on board with that plan. I love that plan, but what about today?
Even though God has shared his vision with us, I still struggle in these in-between days. God has shared the beginning, and He’s laid out the end. God even warns that the in-between days will be frenzied and disordered, but I still want more. I want to know. On my worse days, I want to fix it. I desire to impose my vision when I’ve only been invited to partake of God’s vision. God has not appointed me to a heavenly Board of Directors for purposes of devising a strategy for moving forward.
God’s smart like that. I may (with the right help) be capable of choosing some fresh paint colors and a new countertop, but God knows that running the universe is outside my skill set.
God is the master Artist. In the beginning, He created the universe in the way a painter looks at a blank canvas and begins to apply color. God created out of nothing. The first strokes on canvas can appear haphazard to the bystander. Yet as layer after layer of paint is added, a scene comes into focus.
These middle days are the days of haphazard color and missing layers. God sees the finished work that is still outside our realm of comprehension. The day is coming. The final stroke will be applied to the canvas. We will see the final masterpiece in all of its Glory. We’ll be able to see how the brushstrokes of our own lives fit into the whole and how the finished piece wouldn’t be whole otherwise.
So, as I soak in the frenzied creativity taking place all around me – I am reminded to step back. I’m reminded that when life feels out of control, He is always in control. I’m reminded to trust God’s ultimate vision. I’m reminded that when our tears our wiped away, we’ll see clearly.