Saturday, April 27, 2019

My Scars Tell A Story

We all have a story to tell.  You know… you were born and then what?  What’s YOUR story?  Did you know that every story is different?  Not one is like another.  Each story is sprinkled with a mixture of good and bad times spanning the course of our lifetime.  I bet if I took a survey today I would find one thing that each of our stories has in common.  

I’m sure we have all experienced pain in one way or another in our lives... whether it was in our past or currently in the present.  It’s a part of our story.

Did you know that God wants to redeem every part of our story?
(Past, Present, and Future)

 Let me explain.  No matter what season we are facing in our faith walk, God wants us to continue to surrender our lives to Him...  when it’s easy and “in the midst of” the struggle!

There WILL be struggles!  If you haven’t faced them yet, you will!  I’m sorry to surprise you.  When they come, what will we do?  How will we respond? Will we CONTINUE to trust Him with our everything or give up all together?

Think about it… How have you responded in the past when you faced unexpected circumstances or situations? 
I have found that when I surrender “my struggle” to God…
(Whatever it is at the time), that He ALWAYS leverages it for good.

 What I mean is that… Something that may seem “bad” in my life, when placed in the hands of God, always ends up having an unexpected outcome of good. 

 That’s where the redeeming my story part comes in to play.  I have struggled with an autoimmune disease for almost 13 years now.  It is a disease that weakens my muscles.  At its worst I was bedridden for up to a year and lost 75 lbs in 4 months.  At its best I was able to complete a 5K walk… which is a big deal for those who struggle with muscle issues!  I’ve had lots of ups and downs, good seasons and bad, flare ups and remissions, but God has been faithful all the way through.

My husband said this recently at a worship service we had with our young adults and it totally caught me off guard… 
“It’s sometimes our SCARS that draw people to Jesus the most!”

In that moment the Holy Spirit hit me with the realization that one of my “SCARS” is my sickness.  I cannot even begin to count the number of people God has touched as a result of it.  People identify with my struggle and it opens doors for me to share God’s love with others freely.

Scars – Whether visible to the eye or hidden from others are something we all have in common.   I’m sure we have all experienced some kind of pain (whether physically or emotionally) at some point in our lives.

My husband could entertain you for hours with stories about the variety of scars he carries on his body… you would hear about barns, chickens, pitch forks, surgeries, horses, and the like.  I have scars too.  My most recent scar involves an altercation I had with a new kind of curling iron I was attempting to use on my hair.  Needless to say, we have decided to part ways.  My wrist has an unforgivable mark to remind me to this day.

                  “The good thing about scars is that if they heal up 
properly, they don’t hurt anymore.  They may look 
really bad, but the pain is all gone.”

I bet a lot of us have scars on the outside, but how many of us have scars on the INSIDE that others can’t see?  It could be scars of abandonment, betrayal, fear, rejection, or low-self esteem.  Or it could be scars of addictions, bad choices, broken relationships, or grief.  These kinds of scars are more personal and private.  They aren’t the kind of things we share with everyone.

I have experienced scars like this too.  SCARS… of miscarriage, rejection, cutting words that hurt deeply, broken relationships and the like.

My scars tell a story.  They are a reminder to me that God heals on the inside and out.

What stories do your scars tell?  Who have you had the opportunity to minister to as a result of them?

“Scars in a sense are past hurts that tell a story.  When we surrender
our lives to God, our scars will amazingly point people to Jesus!”

Jesus had scars too.  He faced excruciating pain on the cross… the nails in His hands and feet.  I can’t even imagine! 

Think about the Easter story… Jesus was raised from the dead (experiencing the ultimate healing) yet He still walked away with scars!  The power of death was conquered, but the SCARS remained.  God didn’t take them away!  They were not erased!  Why not? 

Jesus scars tell the story of salvation.  They are scars of HOPE!!!!
They are a reminder to us that healing is possible.   He understands pain and He cares.  He loves us!  Through Him we can find life and He promises to be with us through everything!  We are not alone!

Romans 5:8 says…
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

John 3:16 says…
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.” (GNT)

My scars tell a story.  It’s a story of salvation, deliverance, freedom, life changing moments with Him, healing, and His faithfulness.  He has redeemed my past and present scars over and over again for good!  His scars tell a story that changed my life!

Where are you at in your story?  Have you surrendered your scars to Him or do you have open wounds that still need healing? 

Maybe you need to start with salvation… surrendering your everything to God and thanking Him for the precious gift He sent in Jesus to save you and bring life!

If that’s you or you need to recommit your life to God now, tell Him.  Talk to Him like you would your best friend and lay it all out before Him… the good, bad, and ugly.  Ask Him to wash you clean and come be Lord of your life.

My scars tell a story, His scars tell a story, what story will your scars tell?

“Scars in a sense are past hurts that tell a story.  When we surrender
our lives to God, our scars will amazingly point people to Jesus!”

God, thank you for the gift you gave in sending your son to die for me.  I can’t even imagine the pain He went through to make a way for me to experience true life and that abundantly.  Today I surrender my life to you… ugly scars and all.  I pray you would leverage them all for good to draw people to You.  Please redeem my story (past and present) for good.  I pray my story will inspire others to pursue you more.  Thank you that I’m never alone.  You are forever faithful and all over my story.  I love you forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

What's in your wallet?

My boys LOVE basketball!  They always have and probably always will!  In fact, they both want to have some sort of career centered around it.  Me... I never liked basketball so much.  I didn't understand it.  Too many details to figure out for me to play the game.  I was the kind of girl who didn't like to play sports for fun ever.  I did my time in P.E. class in school to get the grade and moved on.

When I met my husband in college, he loved basketball too of course.  He loved to play and watch it.  I was bored with it all.  Once we got married, I told him when we had kids I would take the time to learn the game and he could be my teacher.  That way I would know how to cheer appropriately for my team.  LOL.

We have been a basketball family for 6 years now... well with me included this time.  I love to watch my boys play and for the most part now I understand the game.  This month marked my youngest son's last season of high school basketball.  It was sad to watch him finish his last game.  He has been a super star on the court.

This month is March Madness.  For those who aren't sports lovers, it's BASKETBALL month.  There are games going on all the time.  Everyone is trying to guess which college team will win the championship.  I'm still not into watching it on television so much, but I know enough basketball lingo to hold a decent (sports intelligent) conversation with my boys... I think. Recently I ran across an article about an incredible basketball legend I had to share with you.  His life is marked by the kind of character every man should possess.  His motivation and call to live at a greater level wasn't from what you would expect.  He was inspired by simple words scribbled on a piece of paper that rested inside his wallet as a daily reminder.

Wow!  What a powerful message for all of us!  That piece of wisdom was there for almost 90 years as a reminder to him.  What a legacy!  This reminds me of the credit card commercial that says... "What's in your wallet?"  If you could hold a paper full of encouraging words to inspire you for a lifetime in your purse or wallet, what would it say?  Be encouraged as you read these words of wisdom.

Living to leave a legacy,

Why I keep this late basketball coach's 

7-point creed in my wallet

(By Paul Batura)

“Coach Wooden” as he was known, has been gone for almost 9 years. When he died in June of 2010 at the age of 99, the highly-acclaimed basketball genius was lauded and feted as a sage of the sport, and rightly so.

But even nearly a decade following his death, the remarkable life of John Wooden can still teach us, and especially now in the midst of culture’s madness.  Up until his death, the collegiate hall of fame coach kept a folded-up index card in his wallet. On it was a handwritten 7-point creed that his father had given him as a graduation gift from elementary school.

How instrumental of a role did that small piece of cardstock play in the life of UCLA’s coach?  According to friend and NBA executive Pat Williams, it was instrumental.  “I believe,” wrote Williams, “the character and achievements of John Wooden can largely be traced to [that] piece of paper his father gave him on the day he graduated from the eighth grade at a little country grade school in Centerton, Indiana.”

Almost 100 years later, as political, economic, sociological and even spiritual battles rage white hot, we would be wise to also heed the adages of this 7-point creed:

1.  Be True to Yourself.  
Are you living someone else’s plan for your life? Nothing can stifle creativity like conformity and uniformity. What’s “your thing” – your unique ability? Nobody is here by accident. Everybody was placed on earth for a purpose. Be comfortable in your own skin and chase your dream.

2.  Make each day your masterpiece.
It almost sounds like a cliché, but everybody has the same amount of time each day (24 hours, 1440 minutes). Do you treat it like a rare gift?  On average, over 150,000 people die every day. Don’t take these hours for granted. The late Bil Keane, creator of the Family Circus cartoon, once poignantly observed, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery – but today is a gift, that’s why we call it ‘the present.’”  Don’t waste the day.

3.  Never leave until tomorrow what can be done today.
Charles Dickens once called procrastination the “thief of time” – and he was right.  We so often think tomorrow is going to be an extension of today, but it’s usually not. Rather than treat time like a blank check, think about it in finite terms – because today is all we’ve got.

4.  Help others.
Narcissism is destructive.  Care about others and practice blessed self-forgetfulness. As Dr. Tim Keller says, “Don’t think less of yourself – just think about yourself less.”  Call a friend, visit someone in the hospital, pick up trash in your neighborhood or volunteer in your community.

5.  Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
The late pastor Dr. Adrian Rogers used to say, “What goes down in the well comes up in the bucket.”  Be mindful of what you’re reading and watching. The apostle Paul probably put it best of all when he advised, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable  – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things and the God of peace will be with you.”

6.  Study friendship and make it a fine art.
It’s been said we become the product of the five people we spend the most time with. If that’s the case, are you picking your friends or letting your friends pick you?  The popular writer C.S. Lewis wrote about the origin of enjoyable company. “Friendship ... is born at the moment,” Lewis noted, “when one man says to another ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .’” If you want to have good friends, take the time to be a good friend.

7.  Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day. Cultivating a discipline of prayer and a spirit of gratitude will transform your life. It was Albert Einstein who once opined, “There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.” We are living in an age of daily miracles and many of us don’t even realize it.

As the curtain fell on his near century-long life, Coach Wooden reflected that while he tried to live up to his father's creed, he had nevertheless fallen short, saying he was more like the guy who once said, "I am not what I ought to be; Not what I want to be; Not what I am going to be, But I am thankful that I am better than I used to be."

A devout Christian, Wooden saw basketball for what it was – a game that pointed to something of greater significance in his life. "I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior."

A slip of paper with Wooden’s wisdom is now in my wallet, and it likewise reminds me that all the madness of this world is manageable – because all the madness is ultimately managed by a God who loves each one of us.

Paul J. Batura is vice president of communications at Focus on the Family