Tag Archives: followers of Jesus

1/2 Marathon

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It was December 2010 and I had determined to cross “half-marathon” off of my bucket-list. With a house-full of kids, carving out time to train was exceptionally difficult, but I kept at it and trained up through about 7-8 miles.  I felt pretty good about my progress since my previous record was only a 5K, so race day came and I joined the hundreds of other runners on that frigid morning with great expectations.  The starting gun goes off and it takes another ten minutes to cross the starting line. The crowd opened up after a bit, and my pace increased. I passed my 5K record feeling great. Mile five and six were even enjoyable! Rounding out mile number seven, my left hip popped and soreness immediately threatened my course completion. By mile eight I was doing that funny looking limp-run-walk where you pull the arms up tighter to give yourself and others the impression that you are actually moving faster than you are. By mile nine, I was numb, but still walking.  My mp3 player had recycled the same set of songs at least three times, so they were now far more annoying than motivating. All the blood in my body had migrated to my lower extremities, which were pulsating and heavy. By mile eleven, I was ready to call an ambulance. After all, my husband had stayed home with the kids and I had no one waiting to cheer me on at the finish line. No one would know if I gave up except for me. Could I handle giving up? How disappointed would I really be in myself? I was debating whether or not I would really follow through with making a “maybe sometime in the future” second attempt, when I noticed that even the sound of my labored breathing was like fingernails against a chalkboard, and there was no water station anywhere in sight. When I thought I couldn’t go another step, I hear a voice on my left, “Hangin’ in there?” “Barely,” I confessed.  She admitted that it would be nice to have someone to talk to on the final stretch. Tired and sore we made it through the last two miles. When I looked up and saw the finish line, I nearly cried with joy. She turned to me and said, “Finish strong?” Neither of us was certain whether it was a question or a command, but I replied, “definitely!” We burned up the last ounces of energy we had picking up the pace, and to this day I don’t know what my time was when I crossed the finish line. I wouldn’t have been able to meet my goal that day had it not been for her. She could have done what every other runner did, and just pass me by. She could have passed judgment on my inadequate training or simply kept quiet. By speaking up and coming along side me, her encouragement made all the difference. I haven’t done any half marathons since then, but in considering life as a race, I strive to take her example into every relationship and to help others finish strong.  So hang in there.  God’s not done with you yet.

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Surnames & Identity

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“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” or would it? Five Japanese people are suing their government over an 1896 law that requires them to take the same surname to legally register their marriage. One of them argues that, “By losing your surname…you’re being made light of, you’re not respected…It’s as if part of yourself vanishes.” A Japanese constitutional scholar contends that, “Names are the best way to bind families.”

I would like to offer that both perspectives fall short of convincing. While family heritage plays a large role in our identities, the surname itself is always borrowed from another relative. Sure, you can blend and hyphenate names, but how long does the name become in order to identify oneself fully? If marrying someone causes you to feel disrespected, then why are you getting married? If you are partnering, “becoming one,” with another person, but don’t want to share their name, is it not an indication that you are rejecting their family and heritage? On the flip side, simply suggesting that it is the “best” way is also a statement of opinion, along with fears of “destroying social stability, the maintenance of public order and the basis for social welfare.” How, exactly, are either positions to be quantified, or reconciled?

I know of only one way…When God created man and woman, He did not give them separate names. “So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). They were collectively named “Adam,” meaning mankind. It was the man who gave the woman a different name, “Eve,” and defined her as the “mother of all the living.” So the idea of individuality is coupled with separation – distance.

If people are wrapped up in the idea of being their own person and separated or distinguished at a distance from their spouse, then what is the point of being married? Is it not entirely, then, a self-serving enterprise? How well do those marriages generally turn out? When two people desire to come together, the goal is not individuality, but oneness. Each brings their own uniqueness and heritage to the table and creates a new entity, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family” (Genesis 2:23-25).

Personally, I have dealt with divorce and remarriage, and the surname issue was a big deal for me. In my first marriage, I did not wish to entirely take on his name. I didn’t want it hyphenated, so I kept my maiden name as a second middle name, but made certain it was written on everything. It didn’t take me long to understand that my hesitation and uneasiness was because something inside me didn’t trust him or respect his leadership. After divorce and reconnecting with Jesus Christ, I set my focus on following Him, and He brought into my life the man who would become my second husband. This man also shared the same direction and desire to follow Jesus, and I trust him implicitly. He leads where I am weak, and is willing to be submissive to my strengths. I had no doubt that I wanted to take on his name. Though our relationship hasn’t always been easy, it has grown me and strengthened me more with each passing day. While it was his name from birth, I proudly claim it as my own, and I am closer now than I have ever been to being the woman that God made me to be – the woman I want to be.

Regardless of earthly names, titles, labels, roles or relative position – first and foremost, my husband and I are children of God and carry His name. We are His ambassadors, sent to share the love of Jesus and to testify to His kingdom. Our goal and desire is to be unified and of one mind with Him. My perspective will be different than those who choose to follow any other path, because we have a different filter and focus.

Marriage, for me, is not about a political or social movement, a whim, a flight of fancy, or romantic notions that any other human could “complete me.” As a follower of Jesus, I can call my marriage (oneness, unity, relationship, etc.) by any name and it will still be as sweet because it is defined by the One who created my identity.

Reference article: “Debate on separate spouse surnames heats up before Japan court ruling.” By Elaine Lies. Reuters, December 10, 2015. http://news.yahoo.com/debate-separate-spouse-surnames-heats-japan-court-ruling-002048548.html

Photograph courtesy of Rebecca L. Jordan, 2015.

Unlovable People (Like Me)

IMG_5180I have often told my children, “Don’t expect people who don’t know the Lord to act as if they do.” People that know the Lord have a hard enough time acting appropriately as His ambassadors. It makes it far easier to be loving toward others when we’re not focused on their actions as being prerequisite to our willingness to extend grace. After all, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). While it’s been relatively easy for me to teach this lesson to my children, and to live it out generally myself, God has found someone to test me in this. There is a member of my family that knows all the right things to say regarding faith and was brought up in church, yet has no understanding or interest in what it means to follow Jesus as Lord. I have never encountered an individual that is more self-centered, inconsiderate, and all-around toxic than this particular person. At Bible study, the question was asked, “What distinguishes a “good person’ from a Christian in the eyes of unbelievers? Is there any difference?” The difference is Jesus, but what does that look like? First of all, Christians are not perfect – let’s just address that myth right now. We are hypocrites, broken, disturbed, incomplete people in need of spiritual guidance, and love – the same as everyone else. The difference is that we follow Jesus because He knows how to take care of all those ailments. Not all hurts will disappear this side of heaven just because we begin following Him either – we still live with the consequences of sin, our own and others. But He shows us how to live and grow and love in the middle of the struggles. And today, He’s working on me.

I was self-centered, but He loved me selflessly.

I was concerned with personal gain, but He gave to me without restraint.

I was consumed with my busy schedule, but He pencils me in without appointment.

I made mess after mess, and He cleaned them up for me.

I was ignorant of His presence, but He knew right where I was.

I tried to ignore Him, to run, but He stayed right by my side.

I was harsh and irritable, but He is patient and gentle.

I asked Him why He’s so willing to deal with fools (temporarily forgetting my place), and

He reminded me, “I get the last word.”

“Lord, help me to love this unlovable person the same way that you’ve loved me. Help me to extend grace in the face of indignant arrogance. Teach me to give with no thought of return. Help me to forgive foolishness the same way you’ve forgiven mine. You willingly went to the cross, were beaten and bruised to carry a punishment that I deserved. Then you looked down from that cross as I sat there in judgment, and said, ‘Forgive her, Father. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.’ You paid a debt that was too mountainous for me to bear or repay. You stood before the Great Judge as my Advocate and offered to pay my bail. Help me to love like that. Help me to serve like that. Help me to extend mercy where it is anything but deserved, because You did that for me. I need Your strength, Lord – Your compassion.”

Yours eternally,

Rebecca

In the Middle of the Storm

178294-e7dd0b80-12d9-11e4-9633-5d2eb5bc90d6In the Middle of the Storm – You are there

When the Wind is a Gale – You keep me grounded

When Debris wounds my Spirit – You sustain me

When I can’t Catch my Breath – You fill me up

When I can’t see my way through – You can

When all seems lost – There You find me

When I can’t hold on – You take my hand

When my song is a whimper – You give it life

When my Endurance fails – You are my champion

In the Middle of the Storm – You are there

You hold me close

You are my strength

You are my Advocate and Judge

You are my Father and my King

Lord, Jesus, I will praise You always

Through the tears – I will praise You

Though bruised and battered – I will lift up Your Name

You are more magnificent than the greatest tempest

And Only You can calm the Storm

In the meantime, Stay with Your student and be my Teacher

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

Defining Treasure

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As St. Patrick’s Day approached, I began pondering the concept of treasure.  That, and the question:  How in the world do tiny people called leprechauns fit into the picture of a holiday proclaimed as a result of Christianity being brought to Ireland by a Roman Catholic former slave?  So I started digging.

The Irish concept of a leprechaun began with an ancient people called the Tuatha De Danann.  This group worshiped various gods or spirits, most of whom were related to elements of nature.  The Tuatha De Danann were, themselves, worshiped by some as gods. There were said to be four things the Tuatha De Danann actually treasured:

1) The Stone of Fal, which would cry out under the king who took sovereignty of Ireland

2) The Spear of Lug, which provides victory in battle

3) The Sword, which none could escape, and

4) the Cauldron of Dagda, which left none unsatisfied.

 The father of this ancient Irish tribe was called Nemed, who traced his lineage from Scythia and Noah’s son Japheth’s line of descendents (via Magog).  This people group was driven underground, though not exterminated, by the Milseans (also from Scythia via the Iberian peninsula).  Over time, and as Christianity eventually gained a foothold, the importance of the Tuatha De Danann diminished, along with their figurative stature.  They seem to have leveled out at approximately 3 feet in height according to legend.  The myths surrounding their magical qualities endured and these shoe cobblers, known for stashing their gold coins at the rainbow’s end, were also said to be capable of granting three wishes to anyone capable of capturing one.  For a great tribute to the ancient legend, look into the Disney movie and Sean Connery’s second performance in a film, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People.”

 The notion of “luck” associated with the early Irish peoples was borrowed from the Latin Fortuna, the goddess of luck or chance.  Luck may be defined as, “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.”  Chance is, “a force that causes good or bad things to happen.”

 Fast forward to the 5th century AD.  A teenager named Maewyn Succat was taken from his home in England to become a slave tending sheep in Ireland.  After six years he escapes and, through a series of misadventures, finds himself learning about monasticism in France.  He feels convicted that he must return to his previous captors in Ireland and share the good news of Jesus Christ with them.  The Roman Catholic Church warned him against serving there, as previous missions were unsuccessful and the Irish were thought to be unreachable, savage, and violent.  Maewyn Succat is determined, and upon becoming a priest, adopts the name Patrick (Patricus), which means “father-figure.”  He already knows the language and customs of the Irish people, and their traditional worship of nature and spirits.  He employs these ideas that they already understand, such as with placing a high value on the shamrock, to communicate the more complicated Christian concept of the Trinity or triune, but singular God (three heart-shaped leaves, but one flower with one stem).

 Patrick met them where they were, loved them regardless of his own negative past personal experiences during slavery, and is reputed to have performed signs and wonders so that the Tuatha De Danann, the Picts, the Gaels, and the Celts might come to know that the Lord God is sovereign and good.  Patrick died on March 17, 432 AD leaving over 300 churches and more than 100,000 followers of Jesus on the Emerald Isle.

 Like the early Irish, we are still in need of guidance and direction in order to understand what treasure really is and where it can be found.  Our treasure is not in pots of gold at the end of some rainbow.  It is not found in earthly utensils of war.  Our Stone of Fal is the Solid Rock that we stand on, the only stable foundation that is a relationship with the One true God.  Our Sword that none can escape is the Truth that Jesus is the way to abundant spiritual life, and that no one can come to the Father except through Jesus (John 14:6).  Our Spear of Lug, our victory in battle is knowing that Jesus has already won!  He made the ultimate sacrifice for us so that sin would not eternally keep us separated from our Creator! Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks some of this water will be thirsty again.  But whoever drinks some of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again, but the water that I give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).  This is our true Cauldron of Dagda that leaves none unsatisfied.  He is what nourishes us and will never leave us wanting!  He is our treasure!

 The Bible has more than a few other things to say regarding how we should perceive earthly treasures:

 Colossians 2:3 refers to the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

 “Your riches have rotted and your clothing has become moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver have rusted and their rust will be a witness against you.  It will consume your flesh like fire.  It is in the last days that you have hoarded treasure!”  James 5:2-3

 “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

Matthew 25 explains that the way we treat others is a reflection of the love relationship that we have with God, that will naturally overflow into serving and helping others, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me” (Matthew 25:35-40, New English Translation).

 What do you value? Who do you value?

 A few other interesting tidbits about the modern history of St. Patrick’s Day:

 1) Light blue was worn on armbands and collars by members of the Irish Citizen Army in honor of St. Patrick until the Irish Rebellion of 1798, when green became more common.  This was the same group which prompted the 1916 Easter Uprising against British rule.

 2) The 1st St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in the United States (1792 in New York City).  By 1848, nearly 3 million people would line the streets to watch 150,000 participants march in the 5-hour procession.

3) Ireland has only been officially celebrating St. Patrick’s Day beginning in 1903 when the Irish politician, James O’Mara introduced a bill at Westminster to formalize it as a holiday.

4) Being a heavily Catholic country, Ireland’s bars and pubs were legally closed on St. Patrick’s Day, and no alcohol was to be sold or consumed (as the holiday always falls during Lent) until the law was repealed in 1961.

5) Dublin’s first celebration was not until 1931, and Belfast would not celebrate the Irish festival until 1998 because of Protestant hostility toward Irish symbols (seeing them as associated with Catholicism or British rule, depending on who you ask).  The present-day ceremonies are championed by the only flag that all parties can agree on and are proud to wave: The flag of the Shamrock.

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