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

Chaotic Musings: Holiday Edition

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

No More Carbs in Heaven

Time flies . . . especially when things are ordinary. This time last year started out pretty ordinary.  Monday just seemed like a typical Monday after a horse show weekend. Brooke was usually exhausted from the weekend and used that as an extra excuse for a nap (as if she really needed one). Frankly, I don’t recall too much about that Monday. But when I look back at my texts with Brooke, I’m reminded that Monday (March 13, 2017) was “National Napping Day.” Perfect! That sounds exactly like a typical Monday.

Tuesday was one of those days that I would have recalled vaguely as time passed, but I can only pinpoint it with accuracy because of the events that unfolded later in the week.  Graduation was still a couple of months away, but Brooke had found a few dresses that she wanted to check out. (If you knew Brooke personally, then you are keenly aware of her powers of persuasion.) So, we went shopping that afternoon. It was a fun shopping trip. No drama. We visited with the girls in the shop who are also friends. We found a cute dress and then headed to the grocery to pick up dinner. Read more

How to Fill the Empty Seat at the Thanksgiving Table

When tragedy strikes, it becomes a line of demarcation. Like the rings in the trunk of a tree, each misfortune leaves a permanent mark on our souls. There is “before” and “after.” Time marches to a different cadence in the Land of After. The calendar ticks off “should have beens,” “could have beens,” and “would have beens.” The calendar in the Land of After chronicles time with “milestones” and “firsts” nonexistent in the Land of Before. Read more

When you’ve lost so much – how do you manage to be grateful?

My daddy was an ironic mash-up of 70’s flower child and Sicilian Catholic. In the 70’s and 80’s he had an annoying habit of preaching the gospel of “PMA.” For those of you who might have been subjected to this particular brand of torture in your own lives, you will recognize “PMA” as standing for “Positive Mental Attitude.” For every negative comment that Daddy caught us uttering, he would literally make us repeat the opposing positive statement out loud ten – TEN – times. You recognize the formula. It takes ten – TEN- positive thoughts/actions/comments to erase the energy created by just one negative thought/action/comment.

How does this look when applied? Quick example – I might say something to my little brother like “I hate you.” Read more