Top 10 Lessons Learned from 2013

generic_clock-150x150The clock ticks…the calendar rolls over from one year to the next…time continues as it always has. But the first day of a new year always feels special. What will define 2014? And what defined 2013?

For me, it began in January with a spiritual battle. At times, it felt like a tailspin- a close call to a crash and burn. But I  experienced gradual progress- clawing my way back. I saw glimpses of hope that helped me keep going forward. Was my struggle self-perpetuated? Was it a refining fire from God to get my heart clean and righteous? Or was it an attack from Satan? I could barely take it. I don’t ever, ever, ever, ever want to go through that torment again. But what has resulted? Humility. Dependence. Intimacy. Clarity. Grace. Mercy. Love. Compassion. Joy. Boldness. Becoming engaged in God’s Kingdom once again. Understanding. Creativity. Passion for studying God’s Word. Passion for being in His Presence. Fresh, renewed spirit within me. Hope. For those things, I am eternally grateful.

I still battle nerves and a racing heart- which is so physically uncomfortable and exhausting. Not sure if it’s from changing hormones in this aging body of mine, but whatever it is, I endure and I’m learning to turn my weaknesses over to the Lord. Oh, the flesh. Such a battle.

As I reflect on 2013, what were the lessons I learned? With all the battles, it was such a rich year for spiritual growth and victory. I feel compelled to share my ‘Top 10’ with you.

10) Learn from the past and then let it go. (Replaying negative past events is counter-productive. If I’ve asked for forgiveness, trust God’s promise to forgive, cleanse and heal. Then place those things at the foot of the Cross and leave them there.)

9) Don’t waste time evaluating everyone else’s spiritual condition. I’m not  an accurate and objective judge of other people, or even of my own heart. Seek and ask the Lord to reveal areas that need to be addressed and then obey what He says in His Word. (Doing a spiritual inventory is a healthy thing, but comparing my ‘good lists’ and ‘bad lists’ to others is not. God’s holy and perfect Law is my standard- and only by faith and in Christ’s grace can I be empowered to live it out!)

8) Thank God continually for His blessings- His love and presence in my life ARE my greatest reward! (And thanking Him for my trials, as well.)

7) One day at a time. Focus on what the Lord has for me, what He wants from me, right here and right now.

6) Be informed, but not consumed about world events. Look at all things from a biblical perspective, always having His eternal plan in focus.

5) Ask, “Okay, what now? How can I be a part of the solution, rather than just being a complainer?”

4) Separate ‘good things’ from ‘God things.’ There are many opportunities and time fillers available to me- even self-fulfilling and gratifying things. But what does God the Father want me to do?

3) Don’t hold on to the things of this world too tightly. Only clutch to one thing- the Lord…. and don’t ever let Him go!

2) Honor and invest in my commitments to my husband and children.

1) Forgiveness is freedom to my soul. (Forgiving others and forgiving myself.)

I’m sure there are many, many more things I could add. And each of us has our own unique list. But whatever it is, I pray that we each recognize how the Lord is working in our lives and then walk in it. God bless from our family to you and yours!


My Soul Sister, Ruth

What person in the Bible do you most identity with? I hear busy moms often say Martha. The bold, but sometimes wavering people say Peter. The doubters say Thomas. Those that have endured great trials, say Job. I would have to say; I feel a special connection to is Ruth. Like me, Ruth was a gentile. She was a simple girl from Moab that married into a Jewish family. Now, I did not marry a Jewish man but the spiritual covenant is so cool! I will explain as we go…

Ruth’s first husband,  Mahlon, his brother, Killon, and his father, Elimelek, all died during the famine that hit at that time. So Ruth, her mother-in-law, Naomi, and her sister-in-law, Orpah, were all left widowed and destitute. Naomi, who was originally from Bethlehem, had journeyed with her husband and boys to Moab- which is where her boys found their wives. But after the deaths of the three men and the scarce work because of the famine, the women were forced to find work elsewhere. They decided to return to Bethlehem, their Unknown-11original home. Ruth began gleaning the fields that belonged to a man named Boaz.

It was a Jewish law that if a woman lost her husband, the next of kin to the husband was to marry the woman- to ‘redeem’ and preserve the family name. He was also obligated to take on all the financial duties and pay off any debts that may have been left with her. This role is called the kinsman redeemer. In Ruth’s case, the next of kin to her husband declined the offer, so the next in line was Boaz, and he graciously accepted the responsibility (Ruth 4:1-9).

Fortunately for Ruth, Boaz was a generous, kind and wealthy man- and a man that quicklyboaz and ruth became smitten with her. It was love at first sight. Their courtship is a beautiful story of love, commitment and grace. Boaz married Ruth and gave her a new identity, a new purpose and a new life!

The story of Ruth also describes a unique friendship that grows between Naomi and Ruth. A popular verse we often hear recited is Ruth 1:16, where Ruth is declaring her loyalty and commitment to Naomi. She chooses to stay with her- leaving her old identity and life as a Moabitess and following Naomi to Israel.

Ruth 1:16

images-4But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”

And then in chapter 4, there are two very prophetic blessings and promises that are spoken – first by the elders at the city gates (:11-12) and then by the women in the new city (:14-15).:

Ruth 4:11-12

Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

Ruth 4:14-15

The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

So this amazing story is now taking place in Bethlehem. How awesome, that Boaz, the Kinsman Redeemer of Ruth, was from the same town our Messiah and Spiritual Kinsman Redeemer, Jesus Christ was born! Boaz is a beautiful picture of Jesus- one whose name means, “Strength is with him,” who is full of love, forgiveness and grace. (He ‘forgave’ Ruth of all her debts, remember!)

This story keeps getting better and better…. Ruth and Boaz of course got married, gave birth to a son named Obed, who then had a son, Jesse, who then had a son, David. David becomes king! So Ruth is the great-grandmother of King David! Isn’t it amazing how the Father wove a woman from Moab into the royal lineage of Israel? And it didn’t stop there. The royal and priestly lineage of King David continued all the way to Jesus Christ- the King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Prince of Peace!

Ruth is a picture of all gentile believers in Jesus who are spiritually brought into the lineage of our Savior!

Well, we can’t forget Naomi in this story. She is a picture of Israel- a natural descendant of Israel. Ruth’s commitment was first to Naomi. As gentile believers, we must also remember our relationship with Israel. And it is because of this lineage that we are given the opportunity to have a covenant relationship with the King of Kings.

Gentile believers don’t become Israel, but Jews and Gentiles are reconciled and become ‘one man’ through Christ. Let’s examine this passage in Ephesians chapter 2 for a better understanding:

Ephesians 2:11-22

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ,Ruth-wheat excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.’

This in part, is happening right now, and has been happening for over 2,000 years! Both Jews and Gentiles are being redeemed by the same Lord, Jesus Christ (or Yeshua HaMashiach, in Hebrew)! This promise will eventually come to complete fruition in God’s perfect time!

How eternally grateful I am, to be given the invitation to enter into the Lord’s family- just like Ruth. To be sought out, loved and cared for. To be redeemed and forgiven of all sin. And to be given a new name, a new life and a new destiny! To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen!

*** Here’s a cool side note…. The name, Bethlehem, is ‘bet lekhem’ in Hebrew-, which means, ‘house of bread.’ When you read the full story in Ruth, you will see that the story takes place in a field that belonged to Boaz. And Boaz is the prophetic picture of the coming Messiah, who declared hundreds of years later, “I am the Bread of Life.”

Just as Ruth gleaned the field belonging to Boaz, may we all experience the blessing of gleaning the treasures we find in our Savior’s field! Reap and be satisfied!

The Great Physician

Unknown-5When I cut my finger, I desperately search for that box of bandages. I usually locate the box, but more times than not, it’s EMPTY! So I grab anything I can find and tend to my hurt with something that will stop the bleeding, protect it from getting infected and help it heal. Of course, I know that the bandage doesn’t really ‘heal’ me. The natural processes that occur within my body do the healing.

In a similar way, when we have emotional ‘cuts,’ we also tend to run for the bandages. Or in some cases, we look for a tourniquet! The problem is, those emotional bandages don’t really ‘heal’ either. They do provide some temporary protection, but they also cover up the wound. Exposing the wound, (at the right time and in a safe environment, that is) is a crucial part of the healing. You can’t keep it concealed forever.

Here’s an example. A girlfriend of mine finds out her husband has had an affair. She is devastated and deeply wounded. She feels excruciating emotional pain. She doesn’t want to tell even her closest friends or family that her marriage is struggling because she’s embarrassed or ashamed. Or maybe, her heart is so full of bitterness that she decides a divorce is what she wants, and she doesn’t want anyone to talk her out of it or tell her it’s the wrong decision. So, she privately deals with it while putting on her ‘happy face’ in public. It’s very difficult to deal with this kind of deep betrayal. Who could possibly understand it unless you’ve gone through it yourself? I get that. But please read on.

It is true that time can be a healer. But it doesn’t guarantee true, deep healing. Memories of pain, if left unhealed, will continue to hurt us. Sometimes they even seem worse as the years go on. But time can also be a vital part of the healing process. Rarely is anything healed instantly. It’s a process. But we need to cooperate with it and not keep ‘picking the scab.’ It will be tender and itchy as it clots. Let the healing process go through what it must.

Each one of us can choose the mending method, but it does not mean every method has equal effectiveness.

So, what should my dear friend do? Who and what can really truly heal her broken heart from an injury like this?

There is really only One that can heal our deep hurts. And His Name is Jehovah-Rapha-, which means, ‘the God that heals.’ And what does He use to heal us? The balm of Gilead. Let’s read what His Word has to say about this.

(Jeremiah 8:14-22, from The Message translation):

So why are we sitting here, doing nothing?
Let’s get organized.
Let’s go to the big city
and at least die fighting.
We’ve gotten God’s ultimatum:
We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t—
damned because of our sin against him.
We hoped things would turn out for the best,
but it didn’t happen that way.
We were waiting around for healing—
and terror showed up!
From Dan at the northern borders
we hear the hooves of horses,
Horses galloping, horses neighing.
The ground shudders and quakes.
They’re going to swallow up the whole country.
Towns and people alike—fodder for war.

“‘What’s more, I’m dispatching
poisonous snakes among you,
Snakes that can’t be charmed,
snakes that will bite you and kill you.’”
God’s Decree!

I drown in grief.
I’m heartsick.
Oh, listen! Please listen! It’s the cry of my dear people
reverberating through the country.
Is God no longer in Zion?
Has the King gone away?
Can you tell me why they flaunt their plaything-gods,
their silly, imported no-gods before me?
The crops are in, the summer is over,
but for us nothing’s changed.
We’re still waiting to be rescued.
For my dear broken people, I’m heartbroken.
I weep, seized by grief.
Are there no healing ointments in Gilead?
Isn’t there a doctor in the house?
So why can’t something be done
to heal and save my dear, dear people?

Asking if there is no healing balm in Gilead or a ‘doctor in the house’ are rhetorical questions. The author knew the answers. The balm and doctor are available, but they aren’t being applied! How often do we have the healing power right there in front of us, yet we refuse to use it?

This was eye-opening to me. I many times think I can heal myself. Then, as I see my method not working, I finally surrender and decide to submit my oozing and infected wound to the Father. Why do I allow the wound to get worse? Pride. Every time. And the hard question to ask is, “Can I see that God may have actually sent, or at least allowed, this disease or injury to test me?” We don’t like to think that God sends bad things. But I guess we need to carefully define what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad.’ The bad things, from a fleshly perspective, may actually be good, if they refine us spiritually and draw us to the Father. Though we would never ‘pray for cancer’, we know that through the battle, we are renewed inwardly and forever changed. We are told to look through ‘spiritual eyes,’ not with our temporal eyes. This tests and grows our faith.

Sticking with The Message translation, here’s what Hebrews 11:1-2 says about faith:

‘The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.’

Now, how does faith effect our healing? It allows us to trust the Doctor to diagnose our problem and follow through with His instructions to heal us. He will give you the strength and courage to do it. His instructions and prescription are of no use to us if we choose to just stare at it or throw it in the trash. There’s a little work to be done. If we could confidently believe in our hearts that His healing is really a ‘slam dunk,’ we will take the necessary steps to bring it to fruition, right? Well, what if I told you that the cure for your ailment is already revealed and available for you? Would you accept it?

Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)

‘But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.’ 

Jesus is the key to our healing! Forgiveness is a crucial part of the healing- offering it to those we have wounded and accepting it from those that have hurt us. We all are called to forgive, just as we have also been forgiven through Jesus. He empowers us with what we need to be healed. Remember, he already purchased the only lasting healing that cures our brokenness!

God bless you today as you yield to Him with all your hurts.

Matthew 6:9-15

“Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
‘Give us this day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’

For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.’


Tumbling Along the Path of Life: My Early Years

Thank you for taking the time to meet me today for a little stroll down Memory Lane! I’mphoto-7 going to map out the first part of my life journey for you with signs and pictures. (Visual aides help me understand and articulate things better. I guess that’s why I always enjoyed picture books the most!) The first place I want to take you is a few miles back to when I was a young girl. I was blessed to be born into a very loving family. We were the typical All-American family- a family of four (one boy, one girl, happy parents) who lived in a modest split-level home, had a dog, took annual vacations, went to church and unknown-4-1hugged a lot. What more could a kid want? This part of the journey was sprinkled with lots of hearts and smiley faces.

Starting at the age of three, I took dance and tumbling classes. I found out quickly that it was a lot of fun being upside down and cartwheelin’! Many years ago, my brother, Rich, described me quite well in a newspaper quote… “Spontaneous energy. I remember when Lisa was little and we would all be photo-11eating at the dinner table. She would all of a sudden break away from the table and start doing walkovers on the kitchen floor. Mom was always telling Lisa to get back to the table. She was so full of energy that she couldn’t sit down long enough to finish her meal.” God sure has a sense of humor. He then blessed me twenty years later with two little ones who preferred to use their chairs as apparatus to swing around rather than a place to plant their little tushes!

As soon as I discovered I had the bug for gymnastics, I enrolled myself into my first gymnastics club. It was located in my front yard. My teammates (okay, any neighbor kid that wanted to flip around, too) and I would try tumbling tricks all day long in the summer and pretend we were training for the Olympics. My personally-appointed coach (my brother) would often ‘assist’ me with my stunts. He was great at launching me high in the air, but not so good with catching me on the way down.

One vivid memory I have of those summer days is when I learned an aerial  (no-handed) cartwheel. As usual, I had spent the whole day in training. It was now dinnertime and getting dark outside, but I had not yet accomplished my goal. My friends had all gone home. I was determined to do this trick, no matter how dewy the grass was getting or how late I was for dinner. I can still remember the excitement as I ran and flipped upside down and finally resisted the temptation to put my hands down! Mission accomplished!

My mom soon realized it was time to upgrade my training program so she took me to a 367_1062216949978_6619_nreal gymnastics club. Through a recommendation from my old dance teacher, we made a weekly trek to downtown Minneapolis on 6th and Hennepin to Dr. Watson’s Club. I was a petite eight year-old clutching my mother’s hand tightly as we walked from our car to the old, shady-looking building. The songs the men in the barbershop on the first floor sang as we ventured up those dark, musty stairs to the third floor always amused us. As I waited for my class to begin, I would watch with amazement as the older gymnasts did flips and twists. I felt in my heart that one day I would be doing them, too. After about a year of classes there, I switched to a club that was closer to my home. I was soon asked to join their competitive team at the age of nine. (Compared to today’s standards, nine isn’t exactly a young age to start competitive gymnastics.)

It didn’t take long until I was living, breathing, eating and sleeping gymnastics all year round. The gym became my second home and my team, my second family. I excelled quickly and by the age of 14, I had qualified twice to the US Junior Olympics and had competed all over the country and world.

“Quick learner! Good work ethic! She has talent that could take her to the Olympicsphoto-12 someday!” These were comments I heard from coaches and others in the gymnastics community. I was told often I had a special talent. I loved making my parents proud.  So this part of my journey seemed to be covered with trophies and accolades. But there would soon be a change in terrain just beyond the bend that would prove to be….. well, a bit bumpy to venture through.

During the highpoint of my club career, my coaches decided to moved away.  The last words I remember one of them say to me before she moved was, “Don’t ever quit!” I tried another club, but it just wasn’t the same without my former coaches. A series of emotions  started to take root in me- ranging from anxiety and self-doubt to fear of failure.

With all the changes occurring, I started losing interest in gymnastics and was becoming increasingly curious about life as a ‘normal’ teenager. Up until I was fourteen, praise and affirmation through gymnastics was all I knew. But now at 15 years old, gymnastics just seemed hard and uncertain. I didn’t have a good chemistry with my new coaches and skills and progress just didn’t seem to come as easy as they did before. So, I hung up my grips. I’ll never forget the painful words from a coach the day I left club gymnastics. “You are a loser for quitting!” Wow. Ouch. So, with that stinging departure and with no more golden trophies to proudly display on our family’s mantle, I started searching for other things that could fill this deep need for identity and purpose- this hole in my heart.

Off I went, seeking fulfillment and eager to discover ‘normality.’ I left the safe and familiar  road I had been travelling and decided to do some ‘off-road’ sightseeing. I wasn’t sure at  m4_10the time where it would lead me, but it looked fun, different and exciting. I had seen other others go there and I was curious to know what it was they were doing or looking for. So I followed….

One of the first positive discoveries I made was a successful track and field season. I saw how my Unknown-1gymnastics skills and fitness helped me find immediate success and ‘belonging’ on the team. Since I had more time to spend with school friends now, I found a new social life.  I had always wondered what happened at all those parties I had been missing out on. When I was in year-round gymnastics training, I was never free to attend them. I now finally had my chance! Unfortunately, I wasn’t very wise in choosing certain travel companions. My driving force at the time was that I just wanted to be accepted and liked by my peers. I tried to be all things to all people. To my athletic friends and coaches, I was dedicated and a winner. To the shy kid at school, I was their friend. I partied with the partiers. I studied with the smart kids. I went to church with the ‘good kids.’ If a boy paid me any attention, well, I enjoyed the attention. I went from virtually invisible to having lots of friends. My ego ate it all up. I didn’t intend to go down a wrong path. I just wanted to be known as somebody. But in that striving to be ‘somebody’, I forgot who I really was or what I stood for.

I noticed ‘Danger’ and ‘Caution’ signs all around, but chose to ignore Unknownthem. Besides, I was going to turn back soon, anyway. So I thought…

It’s amazing how quickly one small step after another can get you way off the road! The safe path I had left was becoming a distant memory. I had tossed aside many pricelessr1_1 and helpful treasures I had been given during the earlier part of my journey- including my parents’ wise counsel, my moral upbringing and my life dreams.

But there was one sign I noticed in that dark place that once in awhile appeared out of nowhere. “Follow Me. I will protect you.” It gave me finger-pointing-mdhope. I still didn’t know how to get out of that place, but I knew someone was watching over me and pointing a way out.

Let me explain to you who I thought the Maker of this sign was. See, going to church and learning about God was a part of my childhood, but it never felt very personal. The one positive thing I held onto was that, for some reason, God gave me many gifts- a great family, athletic talent and opportunities. But the performance mentality I had with gymnastics in many ways influenced the way I perceived God. I felt like I had to perform for God’s love and acceptance. At times, I saw him as this intimidating, stoic gymnastics judge sitting in His heavenly chair, pencil in hand, waiting to see if I was going to fail or succeed. I grew tired under the burden of high expectations from God, myself, and everyone else; which was the reason I left my original path in the first place. I was running away in fear.

Well, by God’s grace, I found my way out of that dark place and was back  ‘in view’ of the right road again. Along the way, I stumbled upon one of my most precious treasures- my love for gymnastics. My junior year of high school, I decided to get back into the gym- except this time, I joined my high school team. The enjoyment of competing without heavyphoto-13 stress was a great relief. The following year, I won the Minnesota State High School Championship All-Around title. I was grateful I had given gymnastics a second chance and felt satisfied to finish my career on a high note. But just when I thought I was done and ready to move on to other opportunities, I was awarded an unexpected gift. I was offered a full-ride gymnastics scholarship to the University of Nebraska! I knew competing as a Lady Husker would be a great honor because I had ‘Big Red’ in my blood. I grew up watching my Uncle Tim play football for the Huskers in the late 70’s and early 80’s. God had big plans ahead for me in Nebraska.

gbr_balloon_promoMy new view of the journey was now very red- Husker red, that is! The fall of ’87 I was off to Lincoln to begin the next phase of my journey- as a college-athlete. Everything was new. A new city, new friends, and definitely new challenges. The first day of practice, I thought I had accidentally shown up at thephoto-6 wrong place. It felt more like military boot camp, than gymnastics! I knew from that first day that it was not going to be a stroll through the park. Our team spent up to five hours a day, six days a week training in the gym, running or in the weight room. On top of that, we were expected to maintain excellent grades to stay eligible. This was a rocky, uphill part of the journey, but at least I was hopeful and going in the right direction.

Competing as a Lady Husker was a fantastic experience for me. Over my four collegiate seasons, I had surpassed my personal goals in many areas of my performance. Twice I was the Big-8 conference All-Around Champion, competed all four years at the NCAA Nationals and set numerous school records. As a team, we placed in the top five in the country, in 1989 and 1990. But 367_1062213389889_7904_nthere were other things that made my experience there even sweeter. For one thing, I found a very special new traveling companion. His name is Mike.

Mike was also a Husker gymnast. He was different than anyone I’d ever met before. There was something about him I couldn’t describe then- only that I saw an inner strength and peace in him. Things I never had. From witnessing the loss of his father and his career-ending injury, I noticed peace was always there. He never seemed phased by circumstances. He was Steady Eddie.

One time early on in our journey together, I asked him how he could be so cool and367_1062213749898_346_n collected about everything. He answered me with a question- one that seemed completely irrelevant at the time. “Lisa, if you died today, do you know if you would go to heaven?” I had never been asked that question before and I quickly tried to think up some good reasons that were in my favor. But the more I tried to list the ‘good things,’ the more I was reminded of all the mistakes and ‘wrong turns’ I had made in my life. It was like the movie of my past was playing in my mind, replaying over and over the bad experiences. I didn’t know how to answer him and that disturbed me. The view from this point of the journey was filled with question d9_10marks. Who am I really and where was I going?  And though I was at a place on my journey that appeared good and positive from the outside, I still had restlessness in my heart.  I especially started having serious questions about my relationship with God.

18366_487750440435_5052398_nOver a few months, Mike and I started attending a church together that ministered to college students. It was amazing- drums, electric guitars and clapping! Everyone was so nice and FUN! And another thing… the teacher encouraged us to bring our own Bibles and take notes in them!

Going back to my church experience as a kid, I had only remembered organ music and our minister reading from the Bible. Occasionally, we would recite some memorized creeds or prayers altogether.   Though I had grown up going to Sunday School classes where I had learned all the main Bible stories and Christian songs, I had never personally studied my Bible and read it for myself. I’m pretty sure it just sat on my top bookshelf collecting dust next to my once-read Judy Blume and Hardy Boys novels.

That nagging question Mike had asked me (about going to heaven) wouldn’t leave my mind. Every Sunday, our college pastor taught directly from the Bible. I began exploring who God really was and what the Bible was all about. It started to make sense and I was seeing how maybe I fit into God’s larger story. It all came together for me one evening during a church service. The worship leader asked the congregation at the conclusion of the service, “Do you want to know Jesus?” That was the cry of my heart, but this otherwoman-kneeling voice in my head was saying, “Why would God accept you?” But that night, the full Gospel message was shared with me. The REASON Jesus Christ, the Son of God, left heaven, came to Earth, led a ‘Perfect 10’ life,  willingly died on a cross and was raised from the dead, was me. I had heard all these things about Jesus a million times before, but now it was personal. He didn’t just die for all sin… He died for my sin.

The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I had no problem believing this for myself. I knew I had sinned a lot. I had always been aware of my hopelessness and rebelliousness apart from Him. But I had no idea what the remedy for my sin and shame was. This perfect God-man chose to be sin for me and willingly laid down his life to pay the penalty of my sin, which the Bible says is (eternal) death. He did this so I could have new life and real hope for a future. He had taken my 15752645-christianity-representation-with-the-symbol-of-a-crossplace on the cross and died for all my sins- past, present and future. And that penalty was paid in FULL! It wasn’t a down payment or given conditionally based on my future mess-ups. I was told that God would accept me right then and there. Romans 10:8-9 says, “If you just confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” So that’s what I did. I believed and I confessed that Jesus is Lord!

This promise of eternal salvation was so comforting to me. Ever since I was a small child, I had been terrified of death. Now, knowing I could know for certain that when I left this life on Earth, I would be with God in heaven forever, was mind-blowing to me! To think, I was walking around with an eternal death sentence for 20 years, and now I have been pardoned through the blood of Jesus. Wow.

May I emphasize that this gift of eternal life (or salvation) is FREE.  Nothing I can do, or you can do, can earn this gift. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” In fact, Romans 6:23 says that, as sinners, what we HAVE earned is death!

He has also given me a clean heart. In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, the Lord says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Wow! I was set free from shame and filth!

Not only has the Lord given me the gift of eternal security and a clean heart, He has put inside of me His Holy Spirit- to love, teach and guide me. And to be my Peace, my Comforter, my Hope and my Joy. To transform my mind, strengthen me to turn from my sinful ways and walk in newness of life. Salvation was not a one-time decision. It was my spritual birth. From then on, it has been about growing up in Christ and deepening my relationship and knowledge of Him.the-light-at-the-end-of-the-road-109014-530-484

So, what’s the view of my journey at this point of my life? Well, I’m on a completely new road now. When I look behind me, I see my old path ending at a cliff. But there lies Jesus- creating a bridge from my old path to my new one. He stretched out his body for me to walk from death to life! Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

The Lord blessed me with an incredible opportunity right at the end of my college gymnastics career. It was 1991 and I was competing in my final NCAA Championships. My team did not qualify that season, but I qualified individually. So I was there with my two coaches and my athletic trainer, James. I was a pretty healthy athlete so James didn’t have much to do. I had just completed my competition and was back at my hotel. I was having a little pity party because I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to. But as I was sitting on my bed reflecting on the meet, I decided to pray and open my Bible. A few minutes later, I got a knock on the door. It was James. He wondered what I was doing, so I told him  what I was reading. He was very curious and had lots of questions about the Bible, Jesus, my church experience, etc. I was so happy to share with him what Jesus had done in my life! I could tell that just like me, James knew ‘about’ Jesus but had never had a personal relationship with Him. When I shared the Gospel with Him, I saw in his eyes that the Lord was touching his heart.  He thanked me and went back to his hotel room. Just a few minutes later, I got another knock on the door and it was James again. This time, he was there to tell me that he had given his life to Christ and wanted to share that with me! Wow! I sure wasn’t having a pity party anymore! I was rejoicing with the angels that James was now a new born-again believer in Jesus Christ! This eternal victory in James’ life definitely outshined any golden trophy I could’ve ever achieved that day! I love how the Lord uses all things for His glory!

My new path has not been perfect. Nor has not been easy. I still make mistakes all the time! But with each obstacle that wants to get in my way, the Lord has continued to walk with me and help me through all situations. I can’t imagine living without Him. He is everything to me.  I cling tightly to His Arm as he leads me. He gives me just enough light to see and take another step of faith. I am in awe of who He is. I trust He will lead me the right way because I know without a doubt, He is trustworthy and faithful. This last sign says it all for me: photo-14

Oh, and you may be wondering what happened to Mike. Well, he was gracious enough to ask me to be his wife and we’ve been married for 21 years! I’m so thankful my Lord Jesus has blessed me with such a fun life companion! With Christ at the core of everything, life is glorious!

And what about you? Was there anything you read here that truly resignated in your heart? Are you like me- maybe you’ve known about Jesus but you know you have never asked for forgiveness for your sins? Do you know without a doubt in your mind that you have received the free gift of eternal life that only Jesus can offer? If you need to make sure, I invite you to make that decision right now. Today is the day of salvation. We are not promised even one more day so don’t put it off. Where you spend eternity hinges on your personal decision to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Please remember this… it is much more about the attitude and sincerity of your heart than the words you speak. This is not a ‘formula’ to receive a free ticket to heaven. This is a life-changing decision. And it’s the most important decision you’ll ever make!

When you are ready to open your heart to Jesus and begin a whole new life with Him, express these things to Him and believe them in your heart:

1) “I am so sorry for sinning against you by breaking Your holy and perfect Law; 2) Please forgive me and cleanse me ; 3) Holy Spirit, come into my life, transform my mind and help me turn from my sin; and 4) Jesus, You are King of kings and Lord of lords. My Prince of Peace. Thank you for loving me and for saving me from eternal death! I am a new creation, the old is gone; the new has come!”

If you made this eternal decision in your heart and have repented of your sins, all of heaven is rejoicing over you! And if I don’t meet you in this life, I can’t wait to get to heaven and meet you there! What a big party we’re going to have!

For more information about the ‘next steps’ in your new life with Christ, please send me a message and I’d be happy to connect you to a variety of wonderful books and study guides to help you. (I also have more verses about salvation written in the “What I Believe- and Why’ section that may be helpful to you.)

Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop pursuing the Lord. Gather with other believers to encourage one another. Start attending a Bible-believing church in your area. And God bless you!!!

My Favorite Nickname

photo-3I’ve had many nicknames over my lifetime. My maiden name is McCrady, so I’ve been referred to as Lisa Mac, Little Mac, (my brother was Big Mac!), and McCrazy Legs (something to do with my sloppy gymnastics, I’m sure!). But my favorite, and most endearing nickname, that only my husband is allowed to call me, is (his) ‘rib.’ (Hey, maybe I should be called ‘McRib!’ Now, that’s funny!)

‘Rib’ might sound like a very strange nickname, but if you are familiar with the Genesis two chapter story of how and why God created a woman for Adam, it makes perfect sense!

Genesis 2:19-24:

‘The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.’

The marriage union between one man and one woman was created by God, not man. And while our culture may attempt to redefine its definition, God’s Word will not change what God has already established at the time of Creation.

I love this quote by Matthew Henry, a Christian writer in the early 1700’s:

‘Eve was not taken out of Adam’s head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.’

God knew what he was doing when he put a man and woman together. The two sexes compliment each other and marriage is a beautiful picture of Christ and His Bride, the Church. Earthly  marriage is never perfect, and at times, it can be the hardest thing to make work! But this relationship is a context in which we learn and live out the virtues of love, forgiveness and the fruit of the Spirit.

I Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’

Galatians 5:22:

‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’

I am thankful I have a life partner to take on challenges together. Often, my husband and I pick each other up and ‘watch each other’s back’ when we need a defender or helper. Here’s a simple and whimsical case in point…

Each and every Monday morning, I hear the garbage trucks zoom by and yell in full panic (still in my pj’s, I might add), “Shoot, I forgot to put the trash cans out again!” Then Mike calmly gives me the “I got it” smile.

Yes, in this household, two heads are better than one- especially when someone is married to a scatter-brain like me!

Ecclesiasties 4:9:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”


Coffee Mugs

Coffee Mugs

Selecting a coffee mug is a morning ritual of mine. It kind of sets the tone for the rest of the day. Every mug I own has a sentimental meaning to me. My Husker mug reminds me of my own college years; and now, it also reminds me of my son, who just finished his freshmen year there. My Maryland Terps mug reminds me of my daughter and her future school. I have a Minnesota Wild hockey mug which reminds me of my northern roots. I have a couple scriptural mugs and others that I bought on trips to Hawaii and Mexico. So, whatever mood I’m in, I choose my mug accordingly. I know, it sounds a bit OCD!

This reminded me of our pastor’s recent sermon on the roles of the wife and mother in the home. The sermon was titled, “Happy Wife, Happy Life!” Pastor Jack Graham compared wives/moms to the thermostat of the home. She sets the temperature for everything and everyone who lives there. It’s a big responsibility, if you think about it. When I consider my roles as wife and mom, it makes me more intentional about how I start my day. Is my mind focused on the right things? Am I prepared to serve my family with my whole being? I know that if I start the day wrong, it really does affect everybody! So, if choosing the right coffee mug helps me get set correctly, than so be it!

Then the next thing I do is set up my devotional space. Bible. Check. Writing Journal and pen. Check. ‘Jesus Calling’ devotional. Check. Filled coffee mug. Check. It is now time to kick start my day with a little caffeine and a lot of God’s Word and Holy Spirit inspiration!

‘By doing this they will teach the younger women to love their husbands and children. They will teach them to be wise and pure, to take care of their homes, to be kind, and to be willing to serve their husbands. Then no one will be able to criticize the teaching God gave us.’ (Titus 2:4-5, ERV)

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,(2 Tim 3:16)

‘May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.’ (Psalm 19:14)

‘but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. (1 Pet 3:4)

May God bless your day today!

(To listen to Pastor Jack Graham’s excellent message, ‘Happy Wife! Happy Life!,’ please go to

Rock of Remembrance

Today, May 7th, marks the 25th Anniversary of my father-in-law’s passing. I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting him just two weeks prior to his sudden departure from this life.  I take pause today, reflecting on my very brief, but special visit with Mike’s dad, Bob. It is a memory I will cherish in my heart all the days of my life.

photo-3It was late April and the best college men’s gymnastics teams from across the nation were gathered in Lincoln, Nebraska for the NCAA Championships. Mike’s parents came to town to watch their son and his Husker team contend for another title. See, their program had been a dynasty in the late 70’s/early 80’s, winning five national crowns in a row (’79-’84). But it took another four years to recapture their dominance once again. It was now 1988. I was a freshman and Mike was a (redshirt) junior. The guys had steadily increased up the rankings all season. They were primed for a victory. In previous years, Nebraska had been picked to win, but had come up short by the slightest margin- tenths of a point some years. They were hungry and more focused this time. They had the talent, as they did every year, but their determination to win on their own turf was stronger.

Well, long story short, they won in dramatic fashion. And following the competition was the traditional ‘after meet party’ where gymnasts from all the schools, coaches, judges, families and friends all gathered to have a fun night together. Mike was half of the ‘Dude J’s’ DJ team with his fellow teammate, Neil. Mike ran the music for the event while Neil was the front guy entertaining the crowd. They were the perfect match! While Mike was busy at the soundboard, I was socializing with his parents. I don’t know what came over me, but I spontaneously asked his dad if he wanted to dance with me! He responded, “I’m not much of a dancer, but okay.” So, I took him by the hand and pulled him out onto the dance floor. He was a good sport! I didn’t make him suffer out there too long, I promise. We enjoyed the rest of their visit then they headed back to Oklahoma.

Two weeks later, we were celebrating the graduation of his friend, Neil. We were playing volleyball at the host family’s home when we received the sad news about Mike’s dad. His mom had called and said Bob had died of a sudden heart attack. We were shell-shocked. It was decision time for us. Of course, Mike was going to head home immediately. But school was out and I had planned to drive home to Minnesota the next day- just in time for my birthday on May 10th. But I just felt it was the right thing to do to accompany Mike home. It would’ve been a long car ride by himself. So, we both packed our bags and hit the road.

Mike’s two sisters and his extended family had all gathered at his mom’s house. One of his sisters, who is just 15 months older than Mike, seemed to take it the worst. I felt a bit awkward there. I wanted to be an encouragement to Mike, but it was strange meeting his whole family for the first time under these circumstances. I tried to help serve but stay out of the way.

It was now the day before the funeral, which happened to be my birthday. I had just gotten ready for the day and was planning on going with his family to the church to finish some service arrangements. As I came downstairs, I found the house empty. I thought they had all left without me! But then I turned my head and glanced out the window into the backyard. There they all were. Gathered around a table with a beautiful cake and a wrapped present. In an instant acapella chorus, they began singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me! I was deeply touched by their thoughtfulness- especially at this sensitive time. As I later discovered, his sisters planned the whole thing. What an amazing example to me to see how God can work through pain and turn a sober moment into a celebration! I do believe that with the sorrow they felt in their hearts, a peace was also there. Bob knew the Lord and they could celebrate his life with joy, knowing that they would once again be reunited with him in heaven one day. He had only 51 years on this Earth, but his life with Christ and the impact he made on others’ lives for the sake of Christ will be celebrated for all eternity! May God be glorified above all!

1259384992mo97koIt is a biblical custom to place a ‘rock of remembrance’ on the grave of a loved one. Today, I place a rock on Bob’s grave in my heart. I look forward to the day we will see him again at our Heavenly home. Maybe he’s been practicing his dance steps and will ask me to twirl around the dance floor with him!

Thank you, Lord, for giving me that precious opportunity to meet Bob and to see the love of Jesus that filled that family’s home. Thank you, that in the midst of our pain, you comfort us and give us hope and peace.

‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Holy Bootcamp, Robin!

I believe every blogger probably begins with a burning in their soul to share with the world something that is precious to them. What compels our souls to speak out? So much so, that we know if we don’t, the rocks will shout out? Well, I know what it is for me….

In 20-plus years of knowing my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I have stood upon tall mountaintops and have crawled through dark valleys. But in the past five or so years of my walk, complacency began taking a toll on me. I believe God put me through a month-long spiritual bootcamp recently to get me back into proper shape. He needed to 11017670-young-woman-hiking-at-the-forestbring me to a deeper trust in Him so I could battle through any future life terrain with more strength, endurance and dependence on Him.  This ‘bootcamp’ period had followed a long and painful season of trials and emotional fallout. And what preceded that time, was a season of loneliness. I spiraled downward. My marriage was struggling, as well as my relationships with my kids, neighbors and others. I was just discouraged and angry all the time. I was plain lost. I think I actually forgot where I was going. But it didn’t happen all at once. See, once Satan got my eyes off Jesus, my Hiking Guide,  just long enough, I started experiencing spiritual vertigo. I couldn’t make sense of direction anymore. My new comfort was hiding my head under my backpack, hoping I could just sit there for awhile…..

Reality set in regarding how off course I really was. It was time to get face to face with the depth of my lostness. And how could I deal with this, while at the same time, I was seeing the fearful holiness of God peaking out behind that mountain? It was almost too much to © Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporationbear. I wanted to run. But where would I go? I wanted Jesus. But I didn’t know if I could trust that He’d still be there to lead me. I was the one who left Him.  I know what you’re thinking…. “Why did you doubt God’s character? He’s forgiving. Why wouldn’t He accept you back this time?” Believe me, I asked myself those questions many times! I had told thousands of people over the years of God’s amazing grace through Jesus Christ. Would He not extend it to me once again, as well? But my hang-up was not really with God. It was with me. I felt hypocritical and I had to trust that His love for me was still more than my own depravity. I didn’t doubt my eternal salvation in Him, but could I really ever get back to where I was before I got lost?

This is where the character of God blows me away. See, I do think God needed me to go to the edge of that mountain just to get a peak at my lostness on that big mountain. Not so I would fall, but to see things the way He saw them. I do know, as scary as it was, God was gripping me tight. And I promise you, I was clinging to Him with all my might! I hated what I saw in my inner being. I hated how I stopped trusting His leadership in my life and willingly turned and went my own way. But all I could do at this point was trust that greater was He that was in me than the sin that so easily entangled me! He knew my heart. He knew my sin, whether in thought or deed. He knew my desperation to get right with Him again. I just had to trust Him.

God knows how I struggle! I am not under any delusion about the ‘potential’ of my sinful nature. God keeps me in check every day about that. No, He doesn’t throw it in my face. It’s just that now I better understand the depth of His Amazing Grace and how absolutely necessary it is for me to never lose sight of my Heavenly Guide!

One more important step I needed to take was to put down my burdensome backpack that was filled with expectations, bitterness, trials and disappointment. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, ‘Come to me, all of you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls.  Serving me is easy, and my load is light.’ The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4:31,  ‘Get rid of all hard feelings, anger and rage. Stop all fighting and lying. Put away every form of hatred. 32 Be kind and tender to one another. Forgive each other, just as God forgave you because of what Christ has done.’

I will end by saying that God did not bring me back to that place I was before my trials set in. No, He launched me up that mountain to a better place than I could ever imagine! God proved that no matter how big my downfall seems to be, He is always BIGGER!!! ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done…’ (Genesis 50:20)

I am so incredibly thankful that He loved me enough to forgive me and refresh me with a bottle of Living Water at that point of spiritual dehydration. So it’s time to climb some more…but in His strength and power, not mine!


‘ I can do all this through him who gives me strength.’ (Philippians 4:13)

‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’ (Ephesians 3:20-21)