Taking Faith on a Dare

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.

SDG

Why are we hiding?

Most of you reading this will likely think of Halloween at the mention of masks, but where I’m from . . . “throw me something, Mistah.” (Or “Sistah,”) rules the day. For those unfamiliar with Mardi Gras, it is truly the greatest party on earth. From January 6th until Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) each year, the streets of New Orleans and the surrounding communities host parades and street parties. Families gather in the same spot along a parade route where they’ve gathered for years. Much fried chicken, po-boys, king cake, and beer is consumed.

The parades aren’t your typical ones where beauty queens wave from an open convertible. Yes, there will be a “royal court” on display, but there’s so much more. The bands are better. The floats come in elaborate (and often satirical) themes.

The riders are in costume. Masks are an essential part of their costumes often looking much like those cheap, plastic masks that are sold with children’s Halloween costumes. The masks add to the mystery of the parade so much so that most local ordinances require riders to be masked while on the floats. Parade-goers often join in the fun with their own extravagant costumes and masks.

Traditionally, masks were worn by during Mardi Gras to allow revelers to escape social judgment. No matter your social status – all are equal behind the mask. Our modern-day “masks” serve the same purpose. Not the masks worn by revelers; rather the ones that we don each morning. Those thin veneers that we never leave home without. Those facades that help us face the world. The smiles that say, “stay away.” Even when pain presses against our broken hearts, we create picture-perfect lives on social media. Snippets on Snapchat. Isolated updates on Instagram. Pithy posts on FaceBook. The perfect life tweeted in 142 characters or less. The lives we think we should have. The lives that we think will convince others of “nothing to see here.” Read more