Monthly Archives: April 2022

What’s My Role?

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The other day my twelve-year-old son Clay and I were discussing his recent track meet. Clay said, “I did everything I was supposed to do at the meet.” I asked, “what were you supposed to do?” He responded, “I got third in high jump. My 4×200 relay team got second. And I got first in my hurdles race. I did everything I was supposed to do.” 

Clay has always been fast, but we are new to the sport. I knew that you could win races individually. But until three weeks ago, I didn’t know that the team also earns points for more than first place. At the end of the meet, the scores are added up to determine which school team wins the meet. Even though Clay didn’t win first in every event, he was satisfied with his performance because he and his coaches had discussed his role beforehand. The kids worked on their individual races and also worked together, so the team won the meet.

I appreciated Clay’s approach to the matter. It’s not that he wasn’t trying hard in all his events. He ran his leg of the relay like a demon to catch up with the person who was in second at that point in the race. But he also had a realistic view of what he could accomplish and how he could best contribute to the team. 

The Apostle Paul famously analogized the body of Christ to the physical body:

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. . . . [I]f the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:12; 15-20). 

I’ve not always followed Apostle Paul’s advice, though: there’ve been plenty of times when I’ve felt that I don’t belong because I don’t have a particular talent or skill. Or because I’m not the best at the things I do. It’s so easy to focus on individual performance, or the lack thereof, and compare ourselves to other individuals.  Sometimes, I forget that we are all in this thing called life together, and we can’t do or be everything at the same time. 

I was thinking about this passage when it occurred to me that not even Jesus did “everything” when he was here on earth. Based on stories in Scripture, I don’t believe he healed everyone in the crowds surrounding him. He certainly didn’t give folks the formula for penicillin or tell them how to build a car – things that could’ve spread wellness and his message much more effectively after he left earth. He came here to do a certain job and spread his message at a specific time in history. Jesus knew he’d done what he’d set out to do when he said, “it is finished,” not because he was finished being a part of humanity’s journey but because he knew his role in that space and time was complete. (John 19:30).

We can take solace that Jesus couldn’t do it all or at least, chose not to do it all, while he was here. We can look at our families, churches, and communities and assess what our role is in a particular season of life. Perhaps, we can better realize we are part of a team in so many circumstances. We can look to others to help us. It’s not all on us individually. God doesn’t call us to do everything. If we take time to figure out what we are supposed to do for the time being, for the sake of the larger teams to which we belong, then we can feel satisfied knowing we’ve done our part for now. 

Clay fulfilled his tasks at the track meet and came away completely content and confident in his role. Let us pray that God helps us understand what God needs us to do, at this time, in this place, for our teams, so that we can act as the body of Christ and spread God’s love. 

Don’t Ruin Your Magic

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We were shopping for new shoes for my son Clay when my nine-year-old son Alex said he might like to look at shoes as well. I paused for a moment. Alex is not always the easiest shoe shopper. He is quite particular about how the shoes fit and feel, especially their width. I looked down at his shoes and realized he would need some new ones soon, so I reluctantly agreed. 

I loosened the laces on a shoe, and he tried it on. When he didn’t immediately reject it, I handed him the second shoe of the pair. He walked around a little and then told me that I’d done something to the first shoe that I hadn’t done to the second. He pulled the shoe off and asked me to do my “mumbo jumbo” to the second shoe. I realized that he wasn’t using mumbo jumbo in a negative way, so I loosened the laces of the shoe and handed it back. He put it back on and nodded his satisfaction. “You did your mumbo jumbo,” he said. I started to explain how I’d merely loosened the laces when he put his hand up to stop me. Then he said, “Don’t ruin your magic.”

His comment got to me because I think a lot of us “ruin our magic” on a regular basis. We criticize ourselves and not in a constructive manner. Instead, we tear ourselves down with our cruel self-talk. We deemphasize our unique qualities, assuming if we can do it, anyone can. When someone thanks us for doing something for them, we may say “it was nothing.” We believe we don’t offer anything special or important to the world. Feelings of failure pervade our minds. The pressure we impose on ourselves to reach perfection is immense even if the task is impossible. We compare ourselves with others and almost always come up lacking. Maybe it’s just me, but based on my discussions with others, in particular other women, many of us spend a too much time denigrating instead of building ourselves up. We ruin our own magic. 

In the days before Jesus entered Jerusalem before his death, he visited with his friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus in Bethany. After dinner one night, Mary took an expensive perfume, poured it on Jesus’ feet, and then wiped his feet with her hair. (John 12:1-11). In other versions of the story, she pours the perfume on his head, but in every account, the people grumble about her actions saying she should’ve sold the perfume and given the money to the poor instead. (Matt.  26:6-13; Mark 14:1-9). But Jesus would have none of that. “Leave her alone,” he said “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” (Mark 14:6). She’d demonstrated her character and heart by caring in such an extravagant way for Jesus, and he wanted her to be celebrated not ridiculed. In fact, Jesus said, “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9).

Jesus cares for us in the same way he cared for Mary. He believes that we are valuable and have much to offer the world. He doesn’t want others to treat us badly, and he doesn’t want us to treat ourselves that way either. I think that many of us are our own worst enemies. Jesus took on Mary’s critics, but if Jesus had expressed his deep appreciation to Mary, and she’d said, “oh, it was nothing,” I think he would’ve corrected her too. He would’ve told her he loved her, and he wanted her to love herself too. 

God pours out his love for us and wants us to embrace that love. God doesn’t like our unkind words and thoughts when they’re aimed at others or ourselves. What if we believe in the best versions of ourselves, the versions God sees? Perhaps we could stop our self-defeating behavior. When we start to beat ourselves up, let’s remember God’s deep and abiding love for us and adopt Alex’s words as our own mantra: “Don’t ruin your magic!” 

Just Ask

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As Riley’s dance recital approached, I reached out to a couple of my dance mom friends assuming we would take the lead in collecting money from the dance company’s families to buy teacher gifts and flowers as we had for the past few years. But when I brought it up, they reminded me the tradition was that the moms of senior daughters didn’t do the gifts because they usually had so much on their plates. We agreed that we had a lot on our collective plates. My friend Kim noted that the moms of the younger girls would be happy to help and then said, “We’ve never even asked them to help.” In that moment, I knew she was right. I sent a group text the next morning, and within minutes, the younger dancers’ moms had gladly agreed to take over the process. All we had to do was ask. 

I think we choose not to ask people to participate in many situations. If we hadn’t asked the dance moms, they wouldn’t have known that we needed or wanted their help. If we don’t extend an invitation to join in conversation, we exclude others who might be longing for a chance to speak. If we don’t reach out to check on others, we miss the opportunity for connection. If we don’t tell people that we want them to come with us, we won’t give them the opening they need to become part of the group. We assume that if others want to help or be involved in any way, they’ll take it upon themselves, but this is rarely the case. All of us need to feel wanted. We need to invite others into our circles, our communities, and our lives.

Jesus invited people. When he first approached the men who would become his disciples, he said, “Come, follow me” (Matt. 4:19). After Zacchaeus climbed a tree to catch a glance of him, Jesus invited himself over to the man’s house. Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). Jesus wanted the little children to come to him (Luke 18:16) and told Peter to come out of the boat and walk on water with him (Matt. 14:29). At one point, Jesus and his disciples were trying to have a conversation, but “because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest’” (Mark 6:30-31). And after Jesus was crucified and resurrected, he called to the disciples to bring him some of the fish they’d just caught saying, “Come and have breakfast” (John 21:12).

Jesus didn’t assume folks would join or follow him. Instead, he asked them to help him, to have a meal, or get away from the stress of life for a little while. The God of the universe invited people then and continues to call us today. God asks us to partner with him in inviting everyone to share in God’s community and his love. 

Pacing Ourselves

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My family loves basketball. Jed and Clay play the game, and we follow the Dallas Mavericks obsessively. I’ve learned that the team that can set the tempo for most of the game is often the team that wins. Especially if the team likes to play fast and can get the opposing team to speed up more than they usually would. Our star player Luka Doncic is gifted in many amazing ways, but one skill he is known for is his ability to play the game at his own pace – a slower pace. He doesn’t cave into the pressure from other teams to unnecessarily hurry his shots. Recently, when asked about his ability to maintain his steadiness, he said, “I play at my own pace because I’m not fast. I would like to be fast.” Despite his desire to possibly play with more quickness, he has the self-awareness to stay within his abilities when he’s playing.

Last Saturday, I woke up at 6:00 am and ran nonstop until 6:00 pm (after staying up late the night before working on a project). My son Clay had two middle school soccer games followed by solo and quartet bass performances for orchestra. My husband Ben was out of town with our oldest son Jed and therefore couldn’t assist.  Thankfully, my daughter Riley helped with my youngest son Alex, or I wouldn’t have been able to manage the day. I felt harried but kept my head throughout the day until I had to rush home for something we forgot for orchestra. When a car cut me off, I honked, and the driver shrugged through his open window. That was when the pace of the day caught up to me. I honked again and gestured in a very un-Christian manner. After the anger subsided, I felt terrible about my behavior. I was so sped up with the rapidity of the day that I acted in a way that did not fit with the manner in which I want to conduct myself.  I wasn’t playing the game at my own pace anymore.

While I couldn’t control the speed of life that day, on most other days I have a choice. Sometimes, I strike the right balance between productivity and rest that allows me to maintain my equilibrium. At other times though, I let external factors control my pace. My to-do list makes my mind frantic, and my emotions frayed. And that’s when I’m in danger of reacting to others in ways inconsistent with the person I want to be. 

The author of Hebrews famously said, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:1-2). In the previous chapter, the writer detailed the journeys of many who’d gone before, such as Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, and others, who “by faith” had traveled their own unique journeys (Heb. 11). Then the writer advises us to persevere in our own race, looking to Jesus for help. He didn’t say we must all run the same race, at the same pace. Indeed, none of the people he listed encountered the same sets of circumstances.  

The race or game for each of us will be different. If we keep that in mind, then perhaps we can pause and reassess when we find ourselves playing at a tempo that is not our own. We can pray for God’s guidance to discern the best way to manage our pace in any given season of life. We can stay true to ourselves and play our own game if we look to God and act “by faith.”  No matter what, God will be with us every step of the way. 

Try a Little Forgiveness

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I enjoyed my restful weekend getaway to Santa Fe. I soaked in the artistic vibe, visited historic churches, and ate delicious Southwestern food. All was well until I got on the escalator to catch the tram at the airport to travel from one terminal to the other to get back to my car. I wasn’t up very far when my roller bag fell, and I couldn’t grab it quickly enough. Down it went on the escalator, one step at a time as I backtracked attempting to catch it. But I couldn’t reach it. Thankfully, no one was behind me on the escalator, so my bag and I didn’t disturb anyone else as down we went. At the same time, there was no one to help stop the situation, so we kept going until we reached the bottom and the bag stopped, and I fell down where the escalator met the floor. 

A young man approached me and asked if I was okay. I bounced back up quickly and said I was fine. I started back up the escalator, bag secure, and hurried to the tram. I knew my knee and elbow didn’t feel great (see picture below of my knee complete with escalator track marks), but I didn’t take time to look at them. Instead, I got on the tram and tried to act like nothing had happened. I found myself swimming in embarrassment though, almost as if I were shrinking into myself. I felt like everyone had seen my tumble even though no one else on the tram had seen what happened. 

I think sometimes we walk through life wearing our mistakes as if others can see our worst moments. Even when others know nothing about what has happened or what we’ve done, the shame or pain may weigh us down and shape how we approach everything. We may carry the heaviness with us causing us to pull back from others. We put our guard up and hide our true selves afraid that if someone really knew us, they wouldn’t like what they see.

Yet, the One who knows us and knows all the choices we’ve made and all that has happened to us does not want us to live our lives in shame. God forgives us and wants us to work through the process of forgiving ourselves. The writer of the book of Ephesians said, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Eph. 4:31-32). This advice to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving applies to how we treat others as well as how we treat ourselves. God doesn’t want us to talk to ourselves in hateful ways or berate ourselves constantly for the past. God doesn’t want us to always feel burdened by the pain we’ve experienced.

Working through pain and the past isn’t easy. It can take a long time, and we may need a great deal of support, including help from mental health professionals. But we must remember that God wants us to heal from the past wounds – those imposed by others and those we’ve imposed on ourselves.

When we find ourselves withdrawing into ourselves and away from others because we are convinced we are unworthy and unlovable, let us remember that God forgives us and loves us. God wants us to follow his example and forgive and love ourselves too.