Tag Archives: encourage

Coaching the Underdogs

running-shoesAmong the many nicknames I have for my soon-to-be twelve year old daughter, the most accurate may be “Speedy.” We can’t recall a phase in between crawling and running. She’s always been one of our most physically active kids, playing soccer and running 5K’s for fun. While those are interests that define a little bit about her and how she spends her time, there’s one that I find of much greater value. At the end of each soccer practice, twice a week, the girls run a mile. Audrey usually comes in at the head of the pack, often by a considerable distance, but one day she noticed one of the heavier girls struggling. Instead of speeding on past and lapping her, Audrey slowed to jog alongside her friend and took an extra full lap in order to spend time encouraging the discouraged and embarrassed teammate. The team manager took note of it and seemed impressed, as did some of the other players, but she didn’t do it because anyone was watching, and she didn’t understand why she was getting praise for something that “anyone would do.” While technically she had the best time on that run, it was certainly not her best – but she doesn’t remember what her time was because that wasn’t her focus. She finished first and last that day, because she didn’t want to leave anyone behind.

article-2155133-13783754000005DC-940_634x832In a world where we pride ourselves on individualism and reaching the top, people often get shoved to the side or even trampled in the process. The reason it is so refreshing to see a humble competitor is because it resonates with each one of us. We all want that extra encouragement – someone to be there with us when we’re playing the role of the underdog. We all want a pat on the back that says “you did it!” – no matter how long it took to finish the job. It resonates because every great story is a reflection of what Jesus did for us. Jesus – King of Kings and Lord of Lords, fully God and fully man, didn’t come as a conquering hero, but as a helpless, poor infant. Born to a single virgin mother and adopted by Joseph, Jesus taught and demonstrated mercy, compassion, justice, and love. He was first and became last, lowest, bruised and beaten. He was blameless, but took on our shame so that we would not have to bear the burden of our own guilt. He spent every ounce of His limited human strength in order to offer us the limitless and divine gift of grace – a pink slip marked “Paid in full.” Whether we finish first or last, He offers us the free gift of eternal life with Him. Because He is perfectly just, and our great debt had to be paid, He paid your debt and mine. You don’t have to accept it – If you don’t want to follow Him, don’t like who you think He is, or just want to be your own coach – He isn’t going to force you into having a relationship with Him. He will give you everything you think you want – but it will still fall short of true satisfaction. His gift is FREE – Yours for the taking – You can’t earn it. You can’t loose enough weight, exercise enough, run fast enough, climb high enough, make enough money, feed enough poor people or attend enough church services to earn your own way to heaven. The one and only way is to accept His gift, take His hand, and let Him pick you up, heal you, coach and encourage you throughout the race.

Hebrews 12 New English Translation (NET Bible)

The Lord’s Discipline

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up. You have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed in your struggle against sin. And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons?

My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline
or give up when he corrects you.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.”

Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons. Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? 10 For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. 11 Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but be healed.

*Now, keep reading…He has so much more that He wants to share with you!*

P.S. Full disclosure: the picture above is not my daughter, but another awesome young lady who went the same “distance” for another competitor. You can read her story at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2155133/Meghan-Vogel-Inspiring-photo-shows-Ohio-runner-help-carry-competitor-finish-line.html

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Back to School

Back-To-School-Make-a-DifferenceI’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for good teachers. Having seven kids of our own, each as different as Nashville from Hong Kong, I have often praised teachers for spending hours each day caring for over twenty kids in addition to any of their own at home. I’m certain it is incredibly rewarding and exhausting! In my youth, it seemed every other year I had a fabulous one or two teachers, and the alternating years I was saddled with teachers who were more anxious for the closing bell than any of the students. Teachers can make or break a student’s spirit, igniting a flame or smothering it. Going into this coming school year, my respect and admiration to the sacrificially-dedicated, student-loving educator has jumped to a whole new level as I am preparing to home-school four of my children. The fifteen-year-old boy has home-schooled for the past two years, and this year we’re adding all three of his younger sisters. With each of them at a different grade level, and taking into consideration their different learning styles, strengths, and the speed at which they function best (which is different for each of these four), I’ve spent the last several weeks combing over lesson plans, reading lists, possible field trips, and the calendar is my constant companion…Okay, so my calendar was my constant companion before this whole venture, but now there are planners for each of the kids and my master copy so that I know which one I have rotating where and when. Whew!

Our family did not part easily from public education, nor did we have a poor experience. On the contrary, all of our kids were blessed to attend one of the most amazing public schools in the country! Our decision was made as one is transitioning into middle school and will need more specialized attention with regard to testing (mostly related to formatting) than her teachers will be able to provide, a second wants to pursue acting and the crazy audition schedule that can result, and the third likes a challenge and is wanting to advance her studies beyond her grade level. As for me? The Lord has allowed me an incredible learning opportunity as I work on developing and organizing curriculum for these kiddos, and hopefully for other home-schooled kids and university level students in the future!

Whether we’ve ever put together a lesson plan or not, all of us are teachers. The younger generations (and even our own peers) look to us for inspiration – It’s why Pinterest exists! – So what kind of teacher are you going to be? Will your example raise others spirits and encourage them, or will you zap the energy and enthusiasm of those around you? I would charge each of you to think of a teacher, mentor, friend or family member that has taught you something positive and significant, and take the time to say “thank you.” If you already have recently, great! Think of another educator and say a positive word to them. It’s contagious and will, hopefully, resonate with the youth they are serving as well. So, no matter what your position or profession, endeavor to make it better and have a great school year!

Broken

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To be broken refers to being separated into parts or pieces, altered, fractured, or damaged in some way. It indicates that an obstacle to unity has been introduced which requires assistance in order to be repaired. Often, the break is physically, emotionally, or financially painful to endure. When a bone is broken, a doctor has to follow certain steps in order to assist with healing. Treatment may begin with an x-ray of the area in question. This allows all parties to see the nature and extent of the damage. Readjustments would be required to reset the bone, and a cast to hold it in place. Regardless of the speed of healing, the area will be vulnerable and sore for a time. When the bone has healed, there is usually an additional layer of tissue that has developed to guard against the separation reoccurring in the same area. The body is designed to be self-healing, so with all obstacles removed, physical reconciliation may be achieved so that you are even stronger than before.

Emotional separation does not always heal so easily, and often there are real or imagined obstacles that cannot be tangibly x-rayed, reset, and cast. Can we guard against dealing with personal brokenness? To some extent, yes. Romans 16:17-18 reads, “Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles contrary to the teaching that you learned. Avoid them! For these are the kind who do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By their smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of the naive.” Avoidance is possible when the obstacle is known. The key to being able to achieve this is knowing the obstacle. Many of us spend incalculable hours trying to discern ourselves, our motives, and appropriate responses to life events. The self-help industry is a multi-billion dollar a year business where we go to search out ways to improve, overcome fear, or inspiration for achieving that next level of success. Each of these things being identified and accomplished, we assume, will bring us closer to happiness. So, let’s see…

To overcome…To those in the middle of a specific battle, Jeremiah 1:19 relays a promise, “’They will attack you but they will not be able to overcome you, for I will be with you to rescue you,’ says the Lord.” Romans12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Two tips – good rules and God rescues.

To achieve…1 Samuel 18:14 “Now David achieved success in all he did, for the Lord was with him.” In Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 we see personal reflection regarding achievements, “I did not restrain myself from getting whatever I wanted; I did not deny myself anything that would bring me pleasure. So all my accomplishments gave me joy; this was my reward for all my effort. Yet when I reflected on everything I had accomplished and on all the effort that I had expended to accomplish it, I concluded: ‘All these achievements and possessions are ultimately profitless—like chasing the wind! There is nothing gained from them on earth.’” In fact, read all of chapter 2. It’s a great philosophical mind-tangent trying to understand feelings of utility and what ultimately can bring about experiencing joy!

If success is measured by something being achieved or gained, then you find that in Proverbs 16:20, “The one who deals wisely in a matter will find success, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” I’m seeing a pattern here. Success, joy, unity, and happiness can be found by trusting in the Lord! Simple, right? There is nothing that we can impress Him with. He only wants a love relationship based on trust. Unfortunately, when trust is the very thing that has been broken in some way by someone who is a father or father-figure, a mother, a best friend, another person professing to be a Christian… It’s much easier for many to cry “malpractice” rather than to look to God as the Doctor who can heal all wounds. Too often, a trust has been violated and those who claim to follow Jesus Christ are more interested in diagnosing the sin and then categorizing and discussing it in committee while the patient lies there in pain. The name of God is cursed among those who don’t believe in Him because of many who call themselves by His name, have wounded others in His name, and/or have elevated themselves above others using His name as their slogan! Jesus says, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the open sea.” Romans 14 says we should not “do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” We are ambassadors for God on Earth. Ambassadors come bearing His message of love and forgiveness, not wearing a powdered wig and holding a gavel. But I digress…

Brokenness will not heal overnight. Don’t expect it to. Brokenness may mean some pieces get lost along the way. Brokenness may cause us to put up artificial emotional and mental barriers or walls in order to cope. This is not the type of cast Doctor God would necessarily use. It is exactly now, at our most vulnerable, that Jesus speaks. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28. Imagine for a minute someone who’s never stepped foot in a gym, but has prayed for strength. Will He give you superhuman strength just by your walking in the front door, or after the first workout, or will He give you opportunities and the time necessary to become stronger? If you are jobless or underemployed and seeking a way to provide for your family, will God hand you a lump sum of cash, or will He condition you to serve in some manner that is productive for others? Learn to be daily dependent on Him. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been away trying to make your own decisions. He is a kind and gentle father, employer, provider, brother, friend who is patient with you and understands your needs. I know I would not be where I am today without Him. Without Him, I searched for acceptance in one broken relationship after another. Without Him, I made poor and self-centered financial decisions. Without Him, my gifts and talents were misused and had no direction. Without Him, I was exhausted…In Him, I found rest. In Him, I found comfort. In Him, I learned that I am loved just for being who He created me to be and that I didn’t have to feel like a performing monkey, get the highest grades, earn the biggest paycheck, or fit in with any particular group of people. He put the pieces back together when I didn’t have the strength, and He replaced those that were damaged beyond repair. In Him, I found something better. In Him, I am free.