Are We There Yet?

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Steven Pisano

Whether or not we are aware of it, you and I have a race to run. It’s not a sprint and it’s not a marathon. Our race is a relay race. Each one of us receives the baton from someone who ran before us and each one of us needs to pass the baton to someone who is going to run after us. Those who came before us are counting on us to carry the baton forward to the next generation. Those who come after us are counting on us to bring the baton to their exchange zone and pass it forward to them.
At Lifehouse Victory Church we have a dream to grow a church where home is together and everyone belongs. Everyone has a part to play. In a relay race it does not matter how fast any one of the runners is. It does not matter how well any one of the runners hands off the baton. It does not even matter whether or not the runners imagined themselves as relay runners when they were growing up. What matters is that everyone runs their leg of the race, that they stay in their lane, and that they hand off the baton cleanly to the next runner. The team that can do all of that and stay focused on the end goal is that team that wins the relay.
Vision allows you and I to stay in our lane even when other lanes look more exciting or more rewarding. Vision allows you and I to receive the baton from those who came before us and run our leg, even when its hard, when it costs us something. Vision allows us to hand off the baton cleanly to the next runners even when we don’t understand their generation and wish they would just get a job and grow up and take life more seriously.
At Lifehouse Victory Church we have a Vision and we have a race to run. We want to help you run your race and run it well. Do you see the Vision we see?

Diamonds: Real or Fake?

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Now there’s a piece of marketing that has stuck for a very long time!

Why do we value diamonds? What makes them so desirable?

If it was their molecular makeup then technically we should be satisfied with zirconium. After all we could get a much bigger, much clearer stone for a whole lot less money! But we don’t want zirconium. We want a diamond and we’re willing to settle for an imperfect diamond as long as it is the real thing.

Why?

Diamonds take a long time to form. They incorporate the imperfections of their raw materials into their form. They vary in colour and clarity. They are costly to mine, cut and polish. They are highly prized and considered precious despite the fact that they often contain imperfections.

Zirconium is made by human effort and takes a relatively short time. They are inexpensive to make and while they can have colour added to them they are often perfect, lacking flaws. Despite this we consider them cheap imitations and even an insult when someone tries to present them to us as the real thing. We don’t value them much despite their seeming perfection.

We understand that value does not come from perfection. Yes we are often drawn into competing with one another for the title of “best”. Women have been accused of comparing themselves to Pinterest ideals, striving to have the perfect career, home, children, marriage, making a Instragram worthy meal. Men are not off the hook either. They have been accused of competing for the most money, newest car/boat/bike, having the hottest ‘wife’.  Yet instinctively we realize that none of these outward appearances really matter.

Outward appearances are about as valuable as zirconium. They may be nice but they are not deeply satisfying.  But a marriage that has been fought for, worked for and even overcomes bumps, trouble and danger is more deeply prized than one that just appears to be perfect on the surface.  A career that took twists, turns and looked like it would never amount to much can be much richer, more meaningful and satisfying than an easy arrival in the corner office.

We value the journey. We understand the value of scars that are woven into and made part of the finished product. We prize overcoming obstacles over smooth sailing. We may not like it, but we prize it.  We know, whether we admit it or not, that things of great value are worthy of a great fight.

What are you fighting for? What scars do you bear? What parts of your life seem like glaring imperfections? Those very parts – the imperfections – are proof of authenticity. They reveal that your life is indeed a genuine diamond in the making.  The choice is yours. Will you allow that imperfection to make you a valuable diamond that is unquestionably genuine or will you allow that imperfection to be a fault, creating a breaking point, making the diamond too fragile to be used for display?

You see not all diamonds get set in beautiful pieces of jewelry. Some are used for industrial purposes because they are too weak to be cut into large enough pieces for admiration. Or their imperfections are too close to the surface to allow their beauty to ever shine through. Even so they are not discarded. They are used, they have a purpose, but they don’t ever live up to their potential.

When we don’t allow our wounds to be cleaned, they can not heal properly. When they can not heal properly they not only leave a scar they leave a weakness, a tender spot that limits our ability to use that injured part to its full potential. The hurts in our lives need to heal totally and completely to keep us from being held back in life. A scar may be visible, but a properly healed scar is a place of strength. Like a flaw in a diamond, it does not diminish your value. It reveals your authenticity.

The Master Jeweler understands the value of an authentic diamond. He knows how to cut and polish each one to reveal its true beauty and potential. He knows how to incorporate the scars so that they increase your brilliance and don’t detract from it. He also knows how to heal the wounds so that they leave strong scars. We don’t have to let Him heal the wounds in our lives but without healing the wounds will continue to hold us back.

It is far better to be a genuine diamond with flaws than a perfect and artificial zirconium. Will you allow yourself to be cut, polished and set in the perfect piece as a flawed but authentic diamond?

Too Old

Lately I’ve been battling the feeling that my opportunities are slipping away and that I’m quickly approaching the “Too Old” category to begin to pursue my dreams. I know it’s not true, but emotions can get the best of us despite knowing better.

I am a Gen-X’er. Right smack in the middle of the Gen X generation as a matter of fact.  We grew up on the heels of the extremely large Boomer generation and were trailed by the equally large Gen Y. When we became young adults, ready to begin careers and make a mark on this world the Boomer generation was nowhere near ready to retire. They made it abundantly clear that they would not be making room for us as anytime soon.  We were patient and we found a way to wait it out. Now as Boomers are finally beginning to come to terms with retirement Gen Y is hitting the work force and they come with their own expectations of their place in the work force.

For a long time we were told by Boomers that we were just too young and needed to wait our turn and now we’re told by Gen Y that we are getting too old and no longer have a place, that it’s their turn to run the show.

Add this to the usual middle age angst and you can understand why we may be tempted to think we missed the boat. I know we haven’t. I know I haven’t. But knowing something and feeling it are not one and the same.  So while I keep putting one foot in front of the other and pursuing my dreams I battle despair trying to tell me it’s too late.

This morning I was listening to Rick Warren’s podcast Daily Hope when he mentioned Caleb of Old Testament Bible fame (Joshua 14:6-15). When Caleb was 40 he was ready to take his inheritance, live his dream and build a legacy, but others were not convinced. As a result an entire generation ended up missing out on their dreams and their calling and all except 2 (Caleb and Joshua) died without achieving what they could have. Forty plus years later Caleb got to see his dreams fulfilled and achieve his goals.

Caleb was ready at 40 but he didn’t get to see it happen till 85. I can only imagine what he must have felt in those 45 years between. Disappointment and frustration because even though he was ready and willing to move ahead he was held back by other people’s unwillingness to move forward.  Perhaps he even felt frustration as he watched a new generation grow up and have ideas about what the future would be like and those ideas didn’t mesh with Caleb’s real life experience. Discouragement at how long it was taking and how much longer it would still be.  Doubt about whether or not he would actually be able to do it when the time came. Perhaps he would no longer be heeded as a leader. Perhaps no one would follow him and would instead tell him to, “Get out of the way old man!”

Caleb had so many opportunities to let his dream die in those 45 years, but he didn’t. In the middle years, in those horrendously long waiting years Caleb kept himself strong and fit. He kept his dream alive and he prepared for the day that would come, must come. He was ready when those 45 years were up. I wonder if he was a little giddy, maybe even having to stifle laughter at the funeral of the last member of the nay-sayers group.  It was time to go and get on with it and Caleb did not wait to declare he was ready, willing and able.

I admit I’m still in the middle years. I can just see the dream on the horizon and the naysayers in my life are dying off. It’s almost time to go and live that dream so while doubt and discouragement, fear and disappointment may try to make me give up, I’m going to do what Caleb did. I’m going to make sure I’m fit and strong, capable and able both physically and spiritually. I’m going to work on building my strength, developing my understanding and planning the legacy.

I’ll be honest, I’m really praying I don’t have to wait till I’m 85! What I do know is that if something was promised to me, if I have a calling to live and a legacy to leave then when the right time comes, when the waiting is over, if I’ve prepared, kept strong and done my part to be ready my age won’t matter. Neither will yours.

Prepare, stay strong and build strength. Develop your understanding and grow in wisdom. Then get ready.  Maybe you too will have to stifle laughter at a funeral!

Finish the Race

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It wasn’t a beautiful finish. It wasn’t a record-breaker. It didn’t make the podium. Arguably though, it will be the most remembered and celebrated race of this Olympics.

Russian Cross-Country skier Anton Gafarov was not having the time of his life. He was not feeling very victorious on the course today. It seems that whatever could go wrong for him did. He fell, he was at the end of the pack by a mile and his ski was broken. But Anton, appearing to want to avoid the eyes of the crowd of witnesses was determined to finish his race. He just kept going. He got up and tried to ski with equipment that could no longer do the job he needed it to. He just kept going.

Imagine being in his boots. Probably humiliated. Probably tired. Probably discouraged, but determined. There were years and months and long days of training and preparation for this event. There were dreams and visions of what it would look like to compete and win at this Olympic Event in his own country. I promise you all the dreams, visions and hopes did not include falling, breaking a ski and finishing last by a mile. This was not what he had dreamed of.

Anton is a trained athlete and he did not stomp off the course feeling sorry for himself. No one would blame him if he had. Even the announcers on TV suggested he may be better off giving up his race or at least removing his equipment and walking across the finish line. But Anton was not in a walking race. He was skiing and he was determined to ski to the finish.

It was at the very moment when he least felt like a champion. The very moment when his emotions and thoughts must have been jumbled that the most unexpected help arrived. A coach from Team Canada stepped into the course and brought him a ski. He assisted Anton in removing the broken ski and replacing it with a new one, a whole one. one that could hold his weight and do the job. It took less than a minute, but in that short moment Justin Wadsworth restored hope, dignity, pride and courage to a competitor. He removed an obstacle and restored Anton’s ability to complete his race. On two skis. As a skier. (Watch here)

We can relate to Anton. We too have fallen, gotten discouraged, lost equipment we needed to rely on. We too have felt the sting of broken dreams, crushed hopes and humiliating outcomes. We have been tempted to take our skis off and walk off the course. We have felt the sting of lonely tears when we felt all alone, left behind watching our dreams disappear.

For some of us it was more than we could take and we are sitting on the side of the track wondering what could have gone so wrong. We feel hopeless, embarrassed, too ashamed to keep going. We are discouraged.

What difference would a Justin Wadsworth make in our lives? What would happen if someone came alongside us and whispered an encouragement? Shared something that helped us get up again? What if someone just gave us the tools that we so desperately needed, but couldn’t get for ourselves? What if someone came alongside without judgement, took a few seconds to help us remove what was broken and replace it with what was whole? What if they breathed enough life into us for us to finish our race?

Anton didn’t need a coaching session. He didn’t need a new sponsor. He didn’t need a new plan, a new strategy or new systems. Anton probably had a lot of equipment back at the base, and he wasn’t lazy or unprepared. He just had the unexpected happen to him and at that moment all he needed was a little help.

We all have a race to run. Not all of us will run a race that makes the podium of life. We won’t all be lauded by the masses, celebrated as national heroes or given accolades. Still we all have a race to complete. That race may not be glorious and record-shattering, but it is being watched by so many who need us to finish. Their courage depends on our persistence. Their ability to start their race depends on us completing ours. They need us to just run the race set before us so they can run the race set before them.

We can’t all end on the podium, but we can all be a Justin Wadsworth. We can all come alongside someone who is discouraged, hurting and ashamed and help them change their broken ski. It doesn’t have to be a life-long commitment. We don’t have to be their coach. We don’t even have to be on the same team, but we can make all the difference in their world.

So many have prepared all they could, trained and practiced. They have coaches, and equipment. They’re not lazy, unskilled or uninitiated. They just got blindsided by the unexpected in the middle of their race and they can’t get back to their base right now. They can’t reach their support team and their replacement equipment is too far away to help right now. They just need a Justin Wadsworth, in the right place, at the right time able and willing to help because they are there.

So let me ask you, are you able to help someone finish their race? Are you willing? You don’t have to commit to anything long-term. You don’t have to leave your race or jeopardize your finish. You don’t have to create a plan, a system, or prepare a policy. All you have to do is be ready and willing to step in, provide a life-line and help someone else finish their race.  Will you?

Are You Limiting Your Legacy?

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Ladies, let’s be honest. If you walk into a room full of women what are most of us eventually going to be talking about? The latest book we read on leadership principles? The newest scientific discovery? Economic principles? Political developments? No? How about proposals for community improvement? Educational theories? No? Well, maybe we are discussing truths from our recent Bible study? Discoveries of life principles? Or maybe about how we are planning to make a difference this week in the life of the family down the street?

No. We are most likely going to be discussing our latest diet, exercise and food restriction programs. We are most likely discussing our body image and our desire to lose some weight, get slimmer and fit into some arbitrary size that we feel will make us more acceptable to others. I know, this is a gross generalization, but even so it is not too far off the mark.

I’ve recently gotten to meet lots of women in various settings, of various ages and various educational levels. By no means has this been a homogenous group. Yet the common thread with each group was how quickly the conversation turned to weight loss, food restriction and a desire to be smaller.

I get it. There is a lot of pressure on us as women to meet an ideal and it’s hard not to get sucked in, even in the name of getting healthy. There are so many experts out there spouting off what is considered to be the most current understanding of healthy eating and weight. The cultural ideal of beauty assaults us in the grocery store, the gym, the doctor’s office, even the library. The pressure is everywhere and the reminders are constant.

As women we turn to each other for reassurance and support in this rough environment. By discussing our latest struggle, making self-deprecating comments about our ‘extra’ weight we disarm our critics before they can fire disapproval at us and we become part of the tribe. It’s not easy being a woman in a youth-obsessed, skinnier-is-better minded world.

“I so want to have a cupcake right now, but I’m over my calorie limit already today!”
“I have to get my workout in today because I had a slice of bread with my salad at lunch today.”
“I’m not buying any new clothes until I lose this extra weight and get back into size X clothes.”

I have been guilty of these comments, these conversations. I too have tried to be part of the tribe, to fit in (pun intended). I’ve apologized for my size, for eating when I was hungry. I’ve made excuses for having a slice of cake lovingly prepared for a celebration of a loved one’s life. I’ve been there. That’s why my heart aches.

Girls, is that all we are? Is this the legacy we want to leave our daughters? Our very actions tell our precious girls that despite all the dreams, hopes and imaginations within them, all they can truly look forward to is becoming experts on weight loss, calorie counting and food restriction. Whether we realize it or not, this is what our actions and girl-friend conversations tell our daughters!

Are we unknowingly restricting not food, but our potential to leave a mark on this world? Are we limiting our legacies? Short changing our potential by focusing so much time, energy and emotion on controlling our food intake?  Are we letting food control our lives?

For the vast majority of us, food is not something we worry about having enough of. No, in fact we worry instead about eating too much. We are not in fear of starving, but we are starving ourselves in fear of eating more than we deserve. I believe that Jesus addressed this very issue in Luke 12:23 when He said, “For life is more than food…” In the middle of teaching about greed, eternal life, spiritual choices, hoarding, generosity and trust Jesus tells His disciples not to be anxious or troubled about their lives, what they will eat (or wear). Jesus states that life is more than food (and clothes). In the Aramaic-English New Testament this passage is translated as the soul is greater than food.  The soul, that part that is our personality, our uniqueness, our identity. Jesus says that part of us is more important than the food we eat.

Who we are. Who we were created to be. All the potential placed within us has far more value than the ability to control our food intake. Our ability to plan, dream, create, design and implement was intended for far more than managing a food and exercise plan. We were meant to have an impact on this world.

Women are capable of wrestling with matters of greater consequence. We can tackle matters of great spiritual, intellectual, artistic, social and moral importance. We are capable of contributing far more to our homes, churches, work places and communities than just the latest weight loss plan. We are more than a number on a scale. More than a size on our clothing tags!

What could our friendships be like if we encouraged each other to develop and grow our  souls? What if we spent more mental and emotional energy on making a difference in our relationships? Our communities? Our children’s school? What if we were as determined and focused on developing interpersonal skills? Spiritual development? Work expertise?  How could we impact that world if we spent as much time becoming active students of the Bible as we do on implementing the latest weight-loss craze? Imagine how we could impact the world if the focus of our souls was on almost any other thing rather than restricting our food?

This is not meant to be a guilt-inducing lecture lovely. No, I do not want to replace the legalism of weight-loss and food restriction with a different set of rules about the time you spend reading your Bible, or the number of seminars you attend, hours you volunteer or any other program. No my lovely it’s quite the opposite! I would love to see us break free from the gravitational pull our size- and food-obsessed society has created and truly be free to live in the fulness and joy we were meant to have.

When Jesus said that He came to give us a full life (John 10:10) I don’t see an asterisk that says, “Except for women. You women will have to forever contend with watching your weight and restricting your food.” It does NOT say that because Jesus never intended for us to live like that!

Yes we are to develop self-discipline. Yes, we need to take good care of our bodies. Yes gluttony is a sin and yes it can cut our lives short. But so can obsessing over our weight and restricting the food we need to stay healthy and strong. The amount of obsessing, restricting and talking about our food we do says, “God, I just can’t trust You to meet my needs. I’m afraid if I don’t worry about it, You may forget me.”

The One who knew you before you were conceived can not forget you!

Lovely, please listen to my heart. I so hope for your sake that you can move beyond letting your food and your weight determine your legacy. I pray you’ll give up the need to always be on top of every morsel that crosses your lips and instead you’ll learn to eat with gratitude. Eat to fuel your body so that you have the energy to live in the fullness of your purpose and passions. Let go of your need to hit a magic number on the scale or on the clothing tag and instead explore your calling!

I pray you’ll discover the depths of the legacy you are called to leave as you develop and grow in fullness in every part of your being. I pray you catch a vision of what is possible and the difference you can make in this world. I pray as you explore the fulness of the life God has in store for you other women will rise up and join you and find the same freedom!

May our conversations become life-giving, purpose-affirming, joy-multiplying, legacy-creating, sources of encouragement. May we become women of wisdom, courage, strength and beauty. May we be examples of health, peace, unity and passion. May we live on purpose!

Enough

 Photo: Some rights reserved by cursedthing

Have you seen it yet? Have you seen the fabulous photographic call to end the mommy wars? If not you can see it here.

I applaud these women for standing up and saying enough to the crazy war we are waging against each other. This war can have no victors only victims. There will never be a clear winner because there is no clear objective. It only serves to beat ourselves senseless instead of building each other up.

It takes courage to parent. It takes courage to make the best possible choices for you and your family in your specific circumstances. Regardless of what “everyone else” is doing, your family situation is your own, unique and challenging. You need to do what is right for your family, not what is right according to the consensus of others (who are probably not being totally honest anyway).

Recently our family had the privilege of bringing a 6 month old infant into our home for ten days. With baby came the instant reminder of what life looked like when our littles were preschoolers. It was as if instantly our family schedule, order and organization went out the window and the victories I had gained in keeping our house clean and orderly (not spotless or H&G worthy) went out the window. Laundry started piling up. Dishes didn’t make the dishwasher. Dinner was late. We were late. Schoolwork started to fall behind.

I started to wonder if I had somehow started to lose my ability to keep up. Then I remembered. This, this is exactly what life was like 24/7, 365 when our littles were this little. I fully remembered feeling like my housekeeping skills were non-existent, my ability to prepare and serve meals had gone out the window and I had zero energy for anything but survival!

At that very moment I felt compelled to tell all other mommas going through this stage to hold on sister! Hang in there beautiful! It does get better. It gets better not because you figure out how to get it all done, nor because you wake up earlier or your kids get better at letting you accomplish things. It gets better because your kids get older!

That’s it. Simply. Honestly. Truly.

Your kids get older and more independent and you find your way through the tasks that need doing. You find a system that gets the important things done. Your littles get big enough to learn to take responsibility for some of the load (we’re not raising men who can’t find the laundry hamper, right?).

Eventually you’ll have new systems, new challenges and new levels of chaos. But that season where it feels like you just can’t succeed? That season will pass. I promise.

Hang in there momma. It will get better. Every momma who has weathered that season before you knows in her heart what it’s like to be there. Those of us who have been there are not judging you on your ability to keep up. We’re cheering you on… you can make it and you will!

Photo courtesy Creative Commons:  Some rights reserved by cursedthing

Bold Enough To Be

4046234527_90c26d358d_zRenewing. Refreshing. Recommitment. Recharging. Rewarding. Restarting. Reviving.

Growing up in the church I have heard a lot of ‘re’ words and have witnessed a lot of people (myself included) trying to ‘re’ something into their spiritual lives. There was always this feeling that we weren’t quite living up to something. Many of those ‘re’ words left me feeling like I was just not doing enough to live up to the wonders and power of a truly close walk with Jesus.

I wanted a close walk with Him. I wanted to experience the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through me. I wanted intimacy with Jesus. I wanted to know His voice and be so sure of His calling. I wanted to live an overcoming life. I wanted to live in revival. I knew I wasn’t. At least not in the way I felt I was supposed to be. Certainly not in the way I assumed others were.

So I doubled up my efforts. I read my Bible more. I prayed and journalled longer. I got rid of music I assumed would be too unholy. I became certain of what I was against: I didn’t smoke, drink or chew and didn’t go out with guys that do. I made sure I volunteered at church for everything I could. I went up for every altar call if I thought it might in any way apply to me, even if it was a stretch. Yet I didn’t feel any more revived or closer to Jesus. I felt more aware of how far I was from where I wanted to be.

Over the last 11 years I have started to realize that the problem was that I was trying to make it happen. I was the one working to earn approval and favour. I was doing what I thought I needed to do so that God would see me as faithful and would maybe, just maybe, decide I could be one of the special ones in the inner circle who got to live in the power of His Holy Spirit. I was trying to EARN God’s favour and approval. I was trying to EARN the gift of the Holy Spirit. I was trying to PROVE I was committed enough to be trusted by God and used by Him. It was all about what I could do.

In the last 9 years my need to prove my commitment and EARN God’s approval has started to subside.  Becoming a mother has given me a fresh perspective of how God must love me. When my littles have a bad day, seem to run head long into the boundaries we have established for them and can’t find their way to even token politeness I may be disappointed, even frustrated, but I would never disown them, ship them off or give them away. I don’t stop loving them. My love for them doesn’t even lessen. If anything, once the dust settles, my heart aches for them because I know what it’s like to feel like you just can’t get it right.

There are moments on days like that when I see in my children’s eyes the question of what they might have to do to earn back my love. They don’t realize at that moment that they may need to mend fences, but they haven’t lost my love at all. It is my love and commitment to them that makes sure those boundaries stay firm for their protection.

When I have those moments with my children I pull them close and remind them that there is nothing they could ever do to make me love them more. And there is nothing they could ever do to make me love them less. I may not like what they do, but I will ALWAYS love them because they are mine.

In moments like that tears well up in my eyes because I begin to realize that my Father sees me the same way. He loves me. Full stop. Do I believe Him?

In the book “Believing God” author Beth Moore asks if we believe in God or if we believe God. There is a big difference between the two. I can believe in God, but not believe He loves me. I can believe in God and not believe He is pleased with me. I can believe in God and not believe He has met all my needs according to His riches in glory. I can believe in God and not believe that the gifts of His Holy Spirit have been given to me. I can believe in God and not believe Him when He says He will never leave me nor forsake me. I can believe in God and not believe Him when He says that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is alive and working in me.
When I realize that I must choose to believe God at His word then all my DOING is revealed for what it is: my lousy, pathetic attempts to bribe God into accepting me on my terms instead of me receiving His love on His terms.

All of my work to have renewal, revival, recharging, recommitment, revision starts to be revealed as my attempt to earn belonging and love. I can’t earn what God has already freely given me! I have to believe Him and take Him at His Word. I am my Beloved’s and He is mine. I can stop doing and start being His daughter.

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