Monthly Archives: February 2014

Aiming at the Wrong Target | Going for the Gold in an Ordinary Life

Matt Emmons

Matt Emmons, Olympics Shooter
Photo Credit The Denver Post

Hebrews 12:1 …the race marked out for us

In every athletic contest there are rules. No matter how good you are, you can’t win the event unless you follow the predetermined course.

For example, with one bullet left to shoot, the only thing 23-year old American Matt Emmons needed was a score of 7.2 to win his second gold medal of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. No problem. Emmons’ lowest score on his first nine shots in the 50-metre rifle three-position target event was a 9.3. He took careful aim and fired. Bull’s eye! The only problem was that Emmons’ shot pierced the target of the Austrian shooting in the lane to his right, resulting in a score for Matt of 0. Instead of gold, Emmons’s rare mistake left him in eighth place.

Sometimes we aim at the wrong target. We aim for worldly acclaim or financial success. We aim for popularity or a promotion at work. But are we aiming at God’s target? Are we focusing on spiritual growth? Are we focusing on our families? Are we focusing on Jesus?

Where are you most likely to aim at the wrong target?


Persevering Against All Odds | Going for the Gold in Ordinary Life

Persevering Through the Hard Times | Going for the Gold in Ordinary Life

Running with Perseverance | Going for Gold in an Ordinary Life

Surrounded by a Cloud of Witnesses | Going for Gold in an Ordinary Life



Persevering Against All Odds | Going for Gold in an Ordinary Life


Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Rudolph Going for the Gold
Photo Credit PhotoBucket

Hebrews 12:1  … and let us run with perseverance…

Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994) was the first American woman runner to win three Olympic gold medals. This feat was all the more remarkable because she had suffered from double pneumonia, polio, and scarlet fever as a child, leaving her with the use of only one leg. She couldn’t walk without braces until she was 11, although family members massaged her legs daily. Eventually she walked with the aid of a special shoe. Then she discarded the shoe and joined her brother in backyard basketball games. In high school, Rudolph broke the state basketball record for girls and was undefeated as a sprinter in track. In 1957, she enrolled at Tennessee State University, setting her sights on the 1960 Rome Olympic games. There she earned the title as the “World’s Fastest Woman” by winning three gold medals.  She won the 100-meter dash and set an Olympic record in the 200-meter dash. She was also anchor in the 400-meter relay, where the U.S. took gold and set a world record.

What are the insurmountable odds keeping you from accomplishing your goals? Who is helping you overcome those odds and reach your goals? What are some new strategies you might consider as you run with perseverance?


Persevering Through the Hard Times | Going for the Gold in Ordinary Life

Running with Perseverance | Going for Gold in an Ordinary Life

Surrounded by a Cloud of Witnesses | Going for Gold in an Ordinary Life

Persevering through the Hard Times | Going for Gold in an Ordinary Life

Figure Skater

Figure Skater Going for the Gold
Photo Courtesy of torbakhopper

Hebrews 12:1  … and let us run with perseverance…

Have you ever considered what it takes to make it to the Olympics? To enjoy those few moments of fame? Think about the figure skater doing a perfect triple axel? Or the gymnast striving for the perfect performance on the balance beam. What we see on television is the few seconds of near perfection as the athlete flawlessly performs the double back flip and plants the landing. What we don’t see are the thousands of hours of practice. What we don’t see is the coach physically twisting and turning the young student to help her get the feel of flipping over twice in the air before finding the mat. What we don’t see are the years of falls, bruises, and sprains before the moment of perfection. Gold metal figure skater Scott Hamilton says, “The hardest jump in figure skating is the one that follows a fall.”

Isn’t the Christian life pretty much like that? We look at those in the limelight and think that they were born successful. We look at those suffering persecution and think it’s somehow easier for them. We beat ourselves up because here we are, asking forgiveness for the same sin for what seems like the thousandth time. We get knocked down and think we can never get up again.

The writer to the Hebrews encouraged his audience, Christians suffering persecution in the first century, to “run with perseverance.” He was actually alluding to the Olympic games, which were familiar to his readers. They knew that running with perseverance was not just a Sunday run in the park, but rather, an all-out effort to win. To attain the prize. As you watch the Olympics this week, consider the all-out effort these athletes are making, and then apply that to that area of your life that keeps you feeling defeated. Then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.


Running with Perseverance | Going for Gold in an Ordinary Life

Surrounded by a Cloud of Witnesses | Going for Gold in an Ordinary Life



Surrounded by a Cloud of Witnesses | Going for Gold in an Ordinary Life


Surrounded by a Cloud of Witnesses
Photo Courtesy of BrentDPayne

Heb. 12:1    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,…

Where are you when the Olympics begin? If you’re like most people, you pull up a comfortable chair and watch the highlights on TV. Even if you aren’t usually a sports fan, there’s something about the Olympics that compels attention. Here are the best of the best, competing for the gold. And all of us at home cheer for our favorites.

During the early games in Athens, as now, the athletes were surrounded by fans in the stadium that encircled the track. The enthusiasm was strong as spectators cheered for their local or national favorites.

The writer to the Hebrews uses the image of the Athens games, a familiar contemporary event, to encourage the Hebrew Christians to persevere. These early believers were facing persecution and many were questioning how to live under such pressure. Although circumstances have changed, the principles still stand as each of us faces the challenges of conquering the strongholds in our lives.

The implication of the Greek word for “witnesses” is not just any critical spectator who isn’t good enough to play the game. Rather, these witnesses are experts, those who have already successfully run this race and won the prize. In the TV coverage of the Olympics, the commentators are usually former medal winners in the particular event. Experts. They understand every nuance of excellence in that event and inform the rest of us whether an athlete really did a good job or not. Their opinion shapes ours, and their opinion is far more important to the athlete than yours or mine might be. This cloud of witnesses is not just enthusiasts, but those who have gone before and have earned the right to comment on our game.

I want to perform at my best every day. Even as an ordinary woman, I’m going for the gold.  You never know who’s watching…


Running with Perseverance | Going for Gold in an Ordinary Life


Running with Perseverance | Going for Gold in an Ordinary Life


Photo Courtesy of John Lemieux

Have you been watching the Olympics? I’m not a sports fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I always enjoy watching the Olympics, both summer and winter. I’m always uber-impressed with the excellence the competitors exhibit. And I’m always struck by the stories of personal dedication and perseverance.

Yesterday a friend questioned the sacrifice these athletes and their families make, wondering if it’s worth it or even wise. There is always incredible expense, sacrifice by their families, and childhoods spent in practice settings. As a sports cynic, I have to agree with her. I certainly wouldn’t want to have a child of mine spend their childhood like that.

But let’s look at it from a different perspective. Isn’t this fierce determination how we’re called to live our Christian lives? To become extraordinary rather than settling for the ordinary? The writer to the Hebrews tells us to “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). Each of us is called to a different race, a different “event.” And each of us faces different challenges, obstacles, and opportunities. As I’m writing this, I’m watching the snowboarding finals. The halfpipe course is softer and bumpier than ideal, causing many excellent athletes to fall. U.S. favorite Shaun White didn’t even metal.

The same is true in our lives. Sometimes we don’t get an ideal course. Sometimes we get entangled by burdens or sin. Sometimes we fall. But like the Olympic athletes, we need to get up, brush ourselves off, and persevere.

What does that mean? Am I willing to get up early in the morning to spend time with Jesus? Am I willing to sacrifice recreation, time with friends, or even professional pursuits to pursue relationship with Him? Am I willing to spend money on expensive “equipment” — classes, conferences, or opportunities — to pursue splendor? What am I willing to sacrifice to obtain the pearl of great price?  We need pursue splendor as godly men and women as if the gold metal depended upon it.

Want to Know the Secrets of Happy Families?

Who doesn’t want a happy family? For those in the Sandwich Generation, it seems like that is often our primary focus. Or one of them… But how do we get there? Magazines promise tips and strategies. Who doesn’t want a happy family? For those in the Sandwich Generation, it seems like that is often our primary focus. Or one of them… But how do we get there? Magazines promise tips and strategies. Who doesn’t want a happy family? For those in the Sandwich Generation, it seems like that is often our primary focus. Or one of them… But how do we get there? Magazines promise tips and strategies. Library shelves are filled with books promoting different approaches. TV pundits offer their insights. Our pastors and religious leaders weigh in. Scripture sometimes seems outdated in this high tech world. What’s an ordinary woman to do?

In The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Tell Your Family History, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More, New York Times bestselling author Bruce Feiler provides a blueprint for modern families — a fresh approach to family dynamics inspired by cutting-edge techniques gathered from experts in science, business, sports, and the military. Written in a charming, accessible style, The Secrets of Happy Families is smart, funny, and fresh, and will forever change how your family lives every day.

Even though I no longer have children in the home, I was fascinated by his findings. I especially enjoyed the chapter on grandparenting, where he both affirmed the role of grandparents in kids’ lives and put us in our place.

“Why Didn’t You Warn Me?” Turns Seven!

I’m so excited to share that my small group website, WhyDidntYouWarnMe?, linked to my book Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members, turns seven on February 12. To celebrate, I’m giving away copies of my book, and also lowering the price of the book for the month of February. Please check out the blog for contest details and new pricing details.

Some of my new readers might not be familiar with this book. Why Didn’t You Warn Me? addresses 18 common problems that well-meaning people create in small groups and it give s you step-by-step suggestions for dealing with them with grace and sensitivity. It has provided a unique resource for small group leaders since 2007. If you aren’t familiar with it, check it out. I think you’ll like it.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff |Relax and Trust God (Pt. 2)


Hand (of God)

Everything is God-Filtered
Photo Credit: Andreas Levers

Once we realize that it’s all small stuff, it’s much easier to put the minor—or even major—foibles of life in perspective. Here are three more strategies for whacking those seemingly looming problems down to size.

  •  Everything is God-filtered: This is perhaps the most useful lesson I’ve learned in a long time. We somehow give Satan a lot more credit than he deserves. We think the world and everyone in it is out to get us. We magnify our problems and minimize the role of God. In reality, it’s just the opposite. God is in control. In Jesus, everything holds together! Col. 1:17 tells us, “And he (Jesus) is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” This means that nothing is random. Nothing comes out of left field. Nothing touches me that isn’t filtered through the hand of God. So, if something hits me, my Father must have a reason and if I trust him, I can receive it differently than if I decide He’s against me too.
  •  God is with me and for me: Closely related is the knowledge that God is with me and for me.  He isn’t up in heaven wringing his hands and lamenting the mess I’ve gotten myself into this time. He didn’t lose me in the underbrush. He didn’t get distracted in the Middle East and forget me. No, His eye is ever on me. And he is on my side.  He’s my greatest fan. He loves me. And he isn’t surprised by anything going on in my life.
  •  Give thanks in all things:  Therefore, I can thank Him even when circumstances seem random. Even when I don’t like what’s happening. Even when I’m sure he’s on vacation. Paul tells us to give “thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20). In the Greek, the words for always and everything translate to mean always. And everything. When we learn to thank God for everything, whether we like it or not, we are on our way to being unflappable.

What are your strategies for becoming unflappable?


Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff | And It’s All Small Stuff (Pt. 1)

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff | And It’s All Small Stuff (Pt. 1)

Depressed Man

Don’t Let Small Things Ruin Your Day–Or Life
Photo Credit: Phillie Casablanca

I got an email the other day from a friend telling me about what seemed to me to be a minor problem with a vendor. A misunderstanding on cost or something. But it was his last line that stopped me. He said, “A least I didn’t let it ruin my whole day.”

Ruin your whole day? Seriously? I had just come back from a trip to Mom’s where she had fallen, broken her foot, lacerated her arm, and hit her head. That little fall resulted in over eight hours in the ER, plus several related medical appointments. The trip included several other appointments and dozens of problems she needed me to solve for her (and those continue every day). And it didn’t even occur to me to let it ruin my whole day, or any portion of my day for that matter! Now, I’m not bragging. I’m not always cool, calm, and collected, and I certainly used to let small things ruin my life. But I’ve learned some skills over the years that have helped me remain calm. Or at least calmer. And less of a victim.

Let me share a few strategies that have helped me. I’ll share the first in this post and the rest in the next one.

  •  It’s all small stuff: Richard Carlson has written a great little book called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff.  In it, he shares strategies to accept what life has to offer with less resistance. Once we learn how to reduce the stress, we find that those things that used to have power over us lose that power. And that feels wonderful!


Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff |Relax and Trust God (Pt. 2)

Being Cultivated or Pursuing? Pursuing Splendor [Pt. 3]


Pursuing with a Purpose

Pursuing with a Purpose

Last post we looked at being cultivated by God.  While that is an excellent and biblical stance highlighting God’s work, I also know I have a responsibility to stay in the game. To be active rather than passive. To take in the nutrients provided for me. To “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14 ). To pursue splendor (my work).

So what does that look like? Of course there’s the obvious. Worship. Bible study. Prayer. Community. Service. These are all critical. But there is also something called pressing in. I wasn’t taught this in the first 30 or so years of my Christian life and I missed a lot.

Several years ago I was privileged to attend a nightly worship service in San Francisco featuring several hours of uninterrupted worship with a very short sermon. When you’re worshipping for a long time, it’s easy to allow your mind to wander. To drift. So periodically, the pastor, his wife, or a worship leader would remind us, “Press in. Stay focused on Jesus. Press in.” And as one, we would draw our focus back. And in the pressing in, the pursuing, we encounter His glory.

John Piper suggests four reasons to pursue or “go hard after” God.  I especially resonate with his fourth reason:

 The final reason why we must go hard after Christ is that he has gone hard after us and, indeed, has by faith made us his own. Philippians 3:12 again: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” This sentence explodes the false logic which says that if Christ has found us, we need no more seek him. If he has laid hold of us, we need not press on to lay hold of him.

Paul reasons exactly opposite to this: I press on in order to gain Christ, because Christ has already gained me. Paul’s conversion was not a cage to hold him back but a catapult into the pursuit of holiness. The irresistible grace of Christ overcoming Paul’s rebellion and saving him from sin did not make Paul passive, it made him powerful!

That’s what I mean by pursuing. Being intentional. Staying focused. Getting some coaching when necessary. Getting prayer support when necessary. Making a decision and sticking with it. I think that’s how we can pursue splendor while being cultivated for splendor. I think it’s both, and the key is finding the right balance.

What do you think?


Being Cultivated or Pursuing Splendor? [Pt. 1]
Being Cultivated or Pursuing? Being Cultivated by God [Pt. 2]

Photo Credit:  popofatticus