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

In Too Deep

If you haven’t heard about the plight of a Thai youth soccer team that unfolded over the last couple of weeks, I say, “Have you been living in a cave?” (Poor pun intended) In are, you missed it, twelve boys, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach found themselves in a heap of trouble while inside a cave. In spite of signs warning about the dangers of the cave complex – especially during monsoon season – there they were doing what boys will do, writing their names on the wall as part of an initiation. The rains, however, failed to check the calendar and came early. The cave began flooding, and the boys were forced to seek refuge deeper inside the underground caverns.

Have you ever done anything that you were warned not to do? Anything? You know – where the warnings are crystal clear, but you barrel ahead anyway. Appropriately enough, one of my earliest memories involves defiance of clear warnings. Read more

The Struggle is Real . . .

Writing this blog has become an outlet for me as I process the loss of my daughter. It carries the hope of not only transforming me but others as well. I enjoy the process of producing the blog. I find comfort here. So, I was surprised this week with how much I’ve struggled to write the blog.

In fact, I’ve spent countless hours searching for the “perfect” topic. I’ve scrapped drafts of two different blog posts. And, I’ve struggled.

Then it dawned on me. Sometimes, the struggle is real. Sometimes, we just have to give ourselves a little grace. Sometimes, we need to refocus. Sometimes, we need to re-center.

I’m really good at doling out advice. But, this week, all of that advice applies to me.

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activities celebrating Brooke’s memory. Her birthday was June 12th. On the same day, Professional Women of St. Tammany awarded two scholarships in her memory. A few days later, the Southern Yacht Club held the second annual swim-a-thon in Brooke’s name.

I’m tired. Not the kind of tired that can be wiped away with a nap. Rather, the kind of tired that settles in your bones. Can you relate?

This time last year, I was reading A Case for Hope by Lee Strobel and journaling about the scriptures that he highlighted in the book. What follows is an excerpt from my journal in June of 2017 – just a couple of months after the accident:

A Case for Hope – Day 10:

“For I know well the plans that I have in mind for you – oracle of the Lord – plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

The “letter” (scroll) containing this verse was written by the prophet Jeremiah. The scroll was addressed to the elders of the people exiled in Babylon. The essence of the message is “don’t waste your time in exile.” Even while in exile, God continues to lay a foundation for prosperity, hope, and a future. These are His plans for us.

This chapter of Isaiah seems to confirm my belief that my focus must remain on hope. The trickier part is to move from trying to focus one’s mind on hope/ a future – to living with hope. Truly living.

When does the day come when it no longer feels like living in a shell? When will the shadow be cast out? As I write that question it dawns on me that shadows are only seen in the light. On cloudy days, the shadow can’t be seen.

On the harder – cloudy days – the pain settles in a like a misty fog. On “sunny” days when the sun peeks out from the clouds, the shadow is still there. When I catch a glimpse of it, the shadow overtakes everything.”

Fast forward back to the future, what have I learned in the past year?

  • God’s plan for us is one of hope.
  • When the plan results in loss, hurt, or despair, it’s not God’s plan.
  • Hope doesn’t mean that all will be made (my version of) right on my timeline.
  • Hope is the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Hope is the firm foundation that paves the road between this life and eternity.
  • Hope is what assures me that not all of our days will be misty and blue.
  • Hope is the thing that destroys death’s power.
  • Hope is the guarantee that one day He will wipe away every tear.
  • Hope is the promise that eternity will overshadow every hurt of this world.
  • Hope doesn’t disappear on cloudy days.
  • Hope is the motivation to pick up the pieces and to try again.
  • Hope is the place where we can seek solace when the struggle is real.

SDG

Summer “Daze”

In the world of family law, summer is a battleground. Parents jockey for position in an attempt to manipulate visitation schedules so that they’d get more time than the other parent. Usually, they just wanted that unfettered time of lazy days devoid of the school calendar. School’s out. No homework. No responsibility. Just fun as far as the eye can see.

Sometimes, parents would be more particular about crafting a schedule, homing in on the “forgotten” holidays – Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day. And, in South Louisiana where summer typically stretches deep into October, parents often went to war over “Parish Fair” Day – that extra Friday in October when the world of Washington Parish revolves around the fair. (Other parts might recognize this as the “county fair.”)

For those dealing with the loss of a loved one, summer can be a battleground. Even when the sky is cloudless and blue in the shade of a memory, shadows loom with the intensity of storm clouds. Read more