A Blessing From a Pair of Shoes

IMG_0836Back in May, I was the recipient of a pair of shoes- a brand new pair of Reebok Nano 4.0s to be exact. I received them as a gift for working at the CrossFit Games Meridian Regional in Copenhagen, Denmark. They were special to me not only because they commemorated my time in Denmark, but they also happened to be the same colors as my CrossFit gym- green and black. And what CrossFitter doesn’t want a free pair of the latest and greatest Nanos?! I loved those shoes, but for some reason, I never wore them. Not once. They just sat in my closet waiting to be showed off.

This Summer, I became involved with a group of women who helped provide gear to some underprivileged children who were going to sleep-away camp for the first time. We used Facebook to relay items our designated children needed- sleeping bags, laundry bags, flashlights, etc. One day, someone posted she was looking for a pair of women’s size 9 athletic shoes. I immediately thought of those Reebok Nanos sitting in my closet. They were a size 9 and what kid wouldn’t love some swanky neon green and black athletic shoes? But I stayed silent.

I wanted those shoes for myself.

The shame began to consume me. At last count, I had 14 pairs of athletic shoes. I am embarrassed to even admit this, by the way. With all of those shoes looking at me every day in my closet (pick me! pick me!), why couldn’t I let go of one pair for someone in need?

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” -1 John 3:17.

Whoa.

A few days after the initial post about the shoes, I got back on Facebook and offered mine up. It was too late. Other shoes had been donated. The Nanos continued to sit in my closet. How could I possibly wear them now when, in my eyes, they represented the failure of a test of character?

Fast forward to last week.

There is a family in my town who has been going through the process of adopting two 16-year-olds from the Ukraine. They would be adding two more children to their already large family of six. I cannot even imagine the expense (not to mention giant leap of faith!) that these adoptions entailed. As I heard from a mutual friend that the adoptions were being finalized, I felt called to help this family.

Remember that closet containing 14 pairs of athletic shoes? I learned the children were leaving their orphanage with only the clothes on their back and decided I would clean out my closet and give some of my old clothes to the 16-year-old girl. Yeah, I know I am 43-years-old myself, but I thought I might have some good stuff a teenage girl would appreciate. Hey- I do like neon green and black athletic shoes!

As I sorted through my clothes, I realized there were a few designer items I could probably sell on eBay. That’s it! I could sell some stuff on eBay and give the money to this family. Maybe I could get my book club to make donations? Maybe I could set a goal of raising $1,000 to help this family out?

And of course… I would have to sell my Nanos.

Last night my auctions closed, and along with my book club donations, I raised $750 towards my goal. As I packed my old designer jeans and Lululemon jackets up for shipping, I couldn’t help but be filled with love and joy to be helping this family I had never even met.

My beloved Nanos ended up fetching the most money of all, and as I put them in a box to ship, I noticed something funny about the buyer- Tracy from Slidell, Louisiana. Could that be my friend from several years ago? The one I used to coach and workout with in my old CrossFit gym in Albany? Who then moved to Louisiana? I immediately posted on her Facebook wall- “Did I just sell my new Reebok Nano 4.0s to you on eBay?”

Tracy quickly replied and after a couple of exchanges, she wrote the following message: “I am thrilled to have something that comes from a rock star, and I will cherish them every time I wear them!! We never forget those who helped mold us into what we have become, and as such, I will support each and every one of you when possible. I ♥ you, Shelby, and am proud to call you MY friend!!”

Oh, my heart overfloweth.

An unexpected blessing from a pair of Reebok Nanos. Redemption, maybe?

All I know is that Tracy’s message coupled with the fact that I am helping my neighbor gives me a feeling of gratitude I cannot contain. Seriously. I have walked around all day with a goofy grin on my face. And sorry- not even the newest Kevlar-coated Reebok Nano 5.0s could make me feel any better!

This is the love of God, ya’ll.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” -Luke 6:38.

Update: As I was writing this post with Luke 6:38 on my computer screen, I received a text from a member of my book club telling me that a foundation she is involved with will MATCH the amount of money I end up raising for this family. This now brings our total to $2200 though I expect it to increase by a little more in the end. I am speechless and overcome by emotion over the incredible women God has put in my life. Although this post seems to focus a lot on me and what I have done to help this family, I have to give a HUGE shout-out to the ladies in my book club. The generosity. The sacrifice. The steps some of you have taken in order to contribute money towards this cause. I can’t even.

The Nanos.

The Reebok Nano 4.0s.

Purpose.

IMG_0695The small group that I lead with my friends, Cope and Lauryn, met for the first time this weekend. I gave the lesson this week about finding my purpose in life. I have included the discussion questions used in the group and would love to hear from you if you have something to share.

I have always been conscious of the fact that I was put on this Earth for a purpose. Several years ago, I thought I had found that purpose when I began coaching CrossFit and helping others be “Better Than Yesterday.” This has always been very rewarding to me. I thrived (and still do!) at helping to unleash the hidden athlete in each of us. But as I got older, I felt like something was missing. I felt like there must be something bigger out there for me.

The first time I went to Church of the Highlands, the sermon happened to be on finding your purpose. Perhaps this is what intrigued me about this church… because I was very intrigued with finding my purpose. I later learned that finding your purpose is one of the four stated missions of the COTH. First, know God. Next, find freedom. Then, discover your purpose. And finally, make a difference. Who doesn’t want that?

As can be the case when we focus on religion instead of our relationship with God, I went through this period of Christian guilt. Here I had been thinking my role as a CrossFit coach was my higher calling, but was I really making a difference? I had invested so much time and energy into this, but wasn’t I just “blessing the bless?”

“Anyone who could afford my gym is already blessed,” I thought. “I am not really doing anything to help make this world a better place.”

Because in all honesty, I had visions of grandeur. I thought finding your purpose and making a difference meant doing something HUGE. Selling everything and becoming a missionary! Adopting children from a third world country! Beginning a charity that raises millions of dollars to find a cure for whatever disease! Certainly, I was meant for greatness, right?!

And then I had an epiphany just last weekend while out for a run. My friend had raised over $2,600 for charity: water, an organization where 100% of donations go to provide clean water to people who don’t have access to it. She had heard about it on a Rob Bell podcast, and I wanted to listen to it. But somehow, I accidentally played the wrong podcast without knowing it.

As I kept waiting for the interview with the founder of charity: water, Rob told a story about when he was a pastor in the early ‘90s and had pot luck dinners for his youth group and their friends. Just recently at a talk he was giving, a woman came up to him and said she had attended his pot luck dinners as a teen. Her experience at these dinners led her to become a priest.

“You have no idea what the next right thing for you might unleash in someone close to you,” Rob said.

This really spoke to me as I thought about my role as a CrossFit coach and gym owner. I thought about one of our former members who came to our gym overweight and not very happy. He is now climbing mountains, going mountain biking, and doing research in the Antarctica. Another athlete came to us disabled and in a wheelchair. She is now living in an apartment on her own, has a job, and is learning to drive a handicap accessible van. Now, I am not implying by any means that I am the reason these two people are living the lives they now have. But I am saying that what we have created at our gym has been a springboard for improving the quality of life for others. That’s pretty big.

“You as a human being- you carry this divine spark,” Rob said in his podcast.

Now this really got me thinking.

What if I took this concept we have at our gym- a concept we believe in so much it is emblazoned across our wall, “Better Than Yesterday”- and applied it outside the gym? What if my purpose in life is simply to make other’s lives “Better Than Yesterday,” not just those who come to my gym? This doesn’t require anything major.

This could simply be holding the door open for someone or even just giving a smile. This could be speaking to the over-talkative deli lady at Publix. This could be anonymously buying $5 gift cards for the table of girls studying in the coffee shop. This could be raising money for a family adopting two 16-year-olds from the Ukraine who literally only have one pair of underwear each. This could be making hygiene packs for the Syrian refugees displaced from their homes.

My name will never be in lights. And I won’t be receiving the Nobel Peace Prize anytime soon. But I can make someone’s life a little better in any given moment. And then that person may do the same for someone else. And so on. And so on. It’s kind of like that Liberty Mutual “Pay It Forward” commercial.

And you know what I decided this is?

This is the Holy Spirit living within me. This is the divine spark Rob spoke of. This is purpose and this is making a difference.

DISCUSSION:

Have you found your purpose in life, and if so, how did you discover it?

I love the New Living Translation of 1 Peter 4:10- “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” The COTH has a test you can take to reveal your spiritual gifts. My top three gifts were leadership, organization, and surprisingly, compassion. Finding out that compassion was one of my spiritual gifts made me look at myself in a different way and really changed the way I interacted with others. Has anyone else taken a test that revealed his gifts and been surprised by the results?

Are you using your gifts to serve others? I thought I needed this GREAT humanitarian purpose in life that would cause me to “get in the trenches,” as I call it. I discovered that at least for now, I am not really comfortable “getting in the trenches” to help others (but I hope I will be one day!). But what I can do is organize making hygiene packs for Syrian refugees or calling on friends to donate to a cause. I can still use my gifts to make a difference and serve others in a way that I am comfortable to do so.

“You have no idea what the next right thing for you might unleash in someone close to you,” Rob Bell said. Does anyone have a story where you ended up positively changing someone else’s life with your actions?

 

 

HOPE.

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“Something is up here. Everyone is retreating,” read my Twitter feed.

We had just left the biggest night of high school football in our area- Auburn High vs. Opelika High. This rivalry runs so deep that you will be denied entry to the home or visitor side if you are wearing the opposing team’s colors. They keep it separated ‘round here.

We had taken five 12-year-olds to the game while our 14-year-old participated as part of Auburn High’s marching band. The game was sold out with a crowd of upwards to 8,000. In an effort to get out of there early and beat the traffic home, we bribed the 12-year-olds with a trip to the ice cream store.

The game was exciting so I kept everyone updated in the car with the OA News Twitter feed. That’s when things took a turn.

“Don’t know what happened. Announcement over speaker says there is no danger. People can return to seats,” Will Sammon of the OA News tweeted.

“All I saw is a bunch of cheerleaders running from one end zone on sideline to the other. Then players darted off field.”

I read these updates to my husband, unsure of what to think. Two journalists had just been shot on live television that week. Indescribable acts of violence seem to occur on a weekly basis these days. Was our small town’s worst nightmare being played out inside the football stadium we had just left? And what about my 14-year-old who was still there? I was almost paralyzed with fear as I hit “refresh” over and over on my Twitter feed.

The kids in the back started asking what was happening. They began to talk amongst themselves. Was it a bomb? Did someone have a gun? Was someone shooting up the stadium? They discussed these things almost casually. As if it was normal. Which sadly, it seems to be for this generation.

Fortunately, the incident at the stadium was nothing but a fight that had broken out. Rumor has it that someone yelled, “Gun!” which triggered the panic. Everything settled down, and Opelika went on to beat Auburn High 31-30. Boo.

Ever since the news broke of the journalists who were murdered, I had been thinking a lot about what could possibly cause someone to be in such depths of despair that they decide to kill someone. I think the answer is hope, or rather the lack of hope.

hopeless: \‘hō-plǝs\ adj. 1. having no expectation of good or success; 2. not susceptible to remedy or cure; 3. incapable of redemption or improvement.

As we (me included!) are quick to label the people who commit these unspeakable acts as “crazies” and “psychos,” I cannot help but think of the mental state of such person hours, days, or weeks before he finally broke. The loneliness. The worthlessness. The hopelessness. Though I am by no means excusing the outright evil cast out by these perpetrators, I do have compassion for the hurting soul who decides violence is an option.

I have always thought that one of the purposes of “religion” in our lives is to bring us comfort. We adopt a set of beliefs to explain the unexplainable in a way that comforts us. For example- heaven. I’d like to think one day I will be reunited with my loved ones in a special place we call “heaven.” That family reunion sounds way better than a dark, damp, lonely hole in the ground. The idea of heaven brings me comfort.

Hope has also brought me comfort. I have had a pretty good life so far, but that’s not to say it’s been perfect. I have had my share of disappointments and tragedies. But the one thing I have always had is hope and a belief that things happen for a reason. In my older age, I now recognize that some of my darkest times have brought forth some of my greatest rewards. I may not have completely understood it during the difficult times, but it was hope that things were going to get better that kept me going.

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” -2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

You’ve got to hand it to the Bible. There’s some good stuff in there.

I pray for those who feel overwhelmed by hopelessness. I pray they understand their situation is temporary. I pray their desperation, despair, and discouragement will be replaced with love, hope and faith.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”- Jeremiah 29:11.

Together We Can Make a Difference

IMG_9872I am so excited to have a “guest-blogger” for this GODwod post. My dear friend, Lauryn is celebrating a birthday this week and is asking for donations to a wonderful organization, Charity: Water, in lieu of gifts. She has challenged herself this year by going through a clothing fast, foregoing any new clothes and using that money to help others instead. I have loved hearing the creative, awesome, selfless ways that she has quietly helped others in need this past year. 

Lauryn is very special to me. Not only is she my official training partner (meaning she is subjected to daily workouts with just me!), but she is very much responsible for leading me back to Christ. As she grew in her relationship with God, I could not help but notice this indescribable goodness that began emanating from her. I very much wanted some of that goodness for myself which led me back to church and accepting God into my heart. You never know what kind of example you might be setting, huh? Her husband, Cope, is also my partner in leading GODwod, our CrossFit small group we organize through the Church of the Highlands. 

I hope you will enjoy her post and will consider making a $10.00 donation to Charity: Water in her honor. I promise it will make you feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that together, we can make a difference. 

Every year in December, our church has a Legacy Offering for missions that reach local, national and international efforts. In November, the leaders of the church provide the congregation with information about where that year’s offerings will go, as well as inform us of the lives affected through the previous year’s generous giving. The church is careful about not making people feel coerced into giving so we are encouraged to go home to mull it over with God to decide how much to give. The actual offering occurs several weeks later. Fortunately, our church is known for “big giving,” going above the national average, and these donations are used to impact lives across the globe every day. It is truly inspiring to be a part of that.

In December 2013, Cope and I spent time praying and talking about the Legacy Offering. And by that, I mean we spent five minutes discussing it on the way to church the day of the offering! We truly didn’t come to a decision on how much to give until the offering bucket was almost to us. Cope wrote an amount on the check and showed it to me. I gave a little nod, and we put it in the bucket. There! We did it! It was a decent amount, and I felt it was a “respectable” offering.

But honestly… It didn’t hurt me at all. I didn’t feel the pull of sacrifice for others in any way throughout 2014. I still spent lots of money on clothes, jewelry, eating lunch with my girlfriends, $5 coffees, traveling to Disney World, going on a family ski trip, and re-decorating my bedroom (just to name a few things!).

As the time approached for last year’s Legacy Offering, I really felt God pulling on my heart. He was saying, “Make it hurt. Make a real sacrifice. Choose others over yourself. Do something that will truly make a difference.” God knew that to truly change my heart, I needed to change my intentions.

As silly as this may sound to you, I felt called to do a “clothing fast” in which I vowed not to purchase any clothing for an entire year. The money I would have normally spent on clothes would instead be used to help someone else.

Let me preface this by saying that I haven’t always had a lot of clothes. I grew up with three sisters and divorced parents. There wasn’t a lot of room in our budget for me to spend money on clothes. I spent most of my high school and college years borrowing clothes from my friends. But now that I’m a grown up, I can afford to buy clothes whenever I want. I have a wonderful husband who supplies me with all of my needs and then some. He may occasionally chastise me for over-spending, but I typically have free range with how I choose to spend our money. And I found that I was spending it like crazy… on clothing!

When I had an occasion or an event, you better believe that I wouldn’t even consider looking into my own closet for something to wear. I went straight to a boutique or online to find something (not that I needed the excuse of an event!). The daily shopping e-mail blasts delivered to my phone not only consumed my time but were also a constant temptation to do a little online browsing. The majority of the time, I could justify any purchase as something that I “needed.” Oh, and let’s not forget the TJ Maxx trap. I am quite the Maxxonista, and anything at TJ Maxx is an automatic sale for me. I can justify a Kate Spade bag at TJ Maxx any day of the week. I mean, really, that’s just good economics!

I am eight months into my fast, and it has been an incredible experience. I have had to find ways to overcome my sense of materialism and my sense of gaining self-worth through my appearance. God has taken control of this area of my life, and it’s been awesome how much will power I have had! Whenever I get a sense of entitlement or self-pity because I want a new pair of jeans or a new outfit for an event, God has shown me someone or something that would greatly benefit from my giving and my sacrifice.

In addition to the money that we gave towards the Legacy Offering, we have also sponsored a child in Africa through Help One Now (go to https://www.helponenow.org to find out more). We have supported mission trips around the world, and we have given anonymously to people when we see a need. I even gave $20 to someone in the parking lot at Target the other day! It has been an amazing experience, and I feel like even though I am making a tiny sacrifice, I am seeing the world through a different lens. It has shown me that there is so much truth to Matthew 6:21- “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I think we are so blessed- not only because God has provided us with all of our basic needs, but also because of that, He has more expectations of us. I have learned we can truly make a difference in the world with only a tiny bit of our expendable income.

Okay… I just went back and read this, and it sounds EXTREMELY self-righteous so it’s “confession time.” Here goes… I used store credit from Rue La La to buy 2 tops. I recently purchased a bra. I asked for a bathing suit for Mother’s Day (I got two!). I traded with a friend who sells CAbi for a couple of samples.

And now here’s my convicter- my birthday is coming up this month. I will admit over 2 months ago, I started thinking about my birthday presents. I was dog-earing the J. Crew and Anthropologie catalogs and leaving them in conspicuous places for Cope to find. I was making a mental list of things that I was going to ask for from my family. Oh, I couldn’t wait to get something new! I deserved something new! I’ve sacrificed so much! (You can vomit here.)

And then about a month ago, I was listening to my new favorite podcast by Rob Bell. He had a guest speaker from an organization called Charity: Water that builds wells for people in developing countries- for people that don’t have water, y’all! Not people that don’t have the newest and cutest Free People shirt!

Scott Harrison, the founder, shared the story of the organization’s roots and said they give 100% of donations directly to the water projects (not a typo- 100%!). I am compelled. I am drawn in. I am loving this organization! (You can listen to the podcast here: http://robbell.podbean.com/e/episode-29-water-for-everyone-the-scott-harrison-interview/)

Then, the kicker- Harrison said that one of the best ways to raise money for Charity: Water is to ask for donations in lieu of gifts for your birthday. Oooohhhh, what? Seriously, God? Have I not given up enough for you this year? You want my birthday too? That hurts!

Oh, how humbling. As I listened to the stories about the lives of those who do not have access to clean water, I had tears streaming down my face. I thought, “Thank you, God. Thank you that my concerns are so petty and silly, and thank you that you have opened my eyes to the needs of others.”

So, guess what? No new clothes for me!

This year, I am donating my birthday to Charity: Water. Because I am turning 37, I am asking my friends and family to donate $37 to this organization in lieu of gifts. Click here should you feel so inclined: https://my.charitywater.org/5db8f840-8211-41d0-809b-513a4ac2f3a8/39f18dbf-48ae-4172-bb6a-d7365ebd9bf7

Be sure to spend some time on the website to read the stories of how simply having access to clean water can impact the lives of so many in our world. You will be humbled and amazed and also blessed to be a part of it. And maybe you will decide to donate your birthday as well!

We all want to make a difference in this world. Here’s your chance!

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I love this girl!

OFF THE WAGON

IMG_9627It’s been a while since I posted on GODwod, and a lot has happened since my last post. I was baptized. I attended a LIFE retreat. And I fell off the wagon!

I spent most of my late Spring and Summer traveling, which severely disrupted my normal routine. Instead of my daily morning prayers, I decided to sleep in. I swapped my devotional books for some good ‘ole beach reads (try The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewel). I may have even skipped church here and there… or maybe a lot.

Church of the Highlands knows exactly what it’s doing when it schedules another 21 Days of Prayer at this time of year. Can I get an “Amen!” for back-to-school and a return to normalcy? As I geared up for the 21 Days, I admit- I felt guilty. I felt like a poser. I felt like I had let my God down by not making him a priority the past few months.

But you know those posts you see on Facebook that say something like, “A true friend is someone you don’t need to talk to every single day, but when you do, it’s as if you’d never stopped talking.” Well, that’s exactly what it’s like with God. We picked right back up where we had left off.

People have their own ideas about God. I used to see God as a punisher. I saw Him as someone you had to please by praying more, going to church more, giving more, and acting more righteous for. Ugh?! Who wants to be friends with that guy? That does not sound like a fun God.

Here’s what I know: My God loves me unconditionally. He’s like my dog, Max. He’s just happy when I show up. Now that’s somebody I want to hang out with!

This little blog of mine was on a roll a few months ago. It was reaching more people than I ever thought it would. Through emails and messages I received, I knew it was helping people. But as its readership grew, the pressure to produce worthwhile content grew. I did not want to disappoint you. And it was much easier to remain quiet than to admit that I had fallen off my spiritual wagon.

I attended our First Wednesday service at church this past week where Pastor John C. Maxwell spoke. Dr. Maxwell gives leadership seminars around the world primarily to the secular business community. You may have heard of him. He spoke about how we Christians can more effectively share our faith with non-Christians.

Here’s what I learned: I need to be more intentional in sharing my faith. The good and the bad.

If I want YOU to want some of this good stuff I’m getting over here, this blog is my bullhorn. It is my opportunity to change how you think about God, to show you He loves you unconditionally, and to bring God to you. Hopefully, it is also my opportunity to connect with you and show you that you don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of God’s love. He is always ready to pick up where you left off.

I am on Day 6 of my 21 Days of Prayer. I am back in the groove of things and am reminded of how much I love the simple act of praying. Seriously, I am as good at praying as I am bad at saying the blessing at dinner. If it’s not “God is great. God is good,” you do not want me blessing a meal. But ask me to pray? Oh, I AM a prayer warrior! I would be honored and privileged to add you to my prayer list. If there is something I can pray about on your behalf, please leave a comment or email me at: shelby@allincrossfitauburn.com.

And if you are wondering how to take that first step towards a relationship with God, let me give you a tip. It all begins by starting a conversation with Him.

My Jesus Problem

IMG_8337It is the holiest of weeks for the Christian faith, and I have another confession to make. Though I have always kind of sort of believed in a supreme deity or a higher power of some sort, my hesitancy towards Christianity always rested on Jesus.

Do you really expect me to believe that God sent his only son to Earth to endure torture and ultimately death? What a great Dad! Somebody call DFACS.  And this son had to die in order to forgive us for our sins? I am not really sure what that even means. And then the whole resurrection story. Really? He came back to life? Prove it.

I always secretly admired those whom I considered to have blind faith and who accepted what they had been told about Jesus as the truth, no questions asked. It seems easier to have blind faith, but that is not in my nature. I am analytical and must have answers. I knew that if I wanted to accept Christianity, I would have to resolve my issues with Jesus.

Everything hinged on the resurrection.

In order to declare Jesus the Son of God, I had to accept that the resurrection did, in fact, happen. Otherwise, Jesus was just a charismatic guy who happened to come along at the right moment with a message of love and hope for an oppressed people. In other words, if he did not resurrect from the dead, he was simply human. The entire Christian faith depends on the resurrection.

Here is a very brief synopsis of what I researched in order to solve my Jesus problem:

Miracles and the supernatural: Did I believe in them? Yep. For various reasons, I did.

Accuracy of the Gospels depicting the events surrounding Jesus’ life and death: After an incredibly lengthy (and somewhat boring) time researching this issue, I came to the conclusion that the Gospels are trustworthy, especially since they were written within the lifetime of eyewitnesses to Jesus.

Appearances of Jesus after his death: I learned that Jesus made several appearances after his death- and not just to his disciples whom I assumed might be a little biased.

Events after Jesus’ ascension into heaven: I am not sure how I missed this part of the story, but I learned that most of Jesus’ disciples were later murdered in horribly cruel ways for their beliefs. I also learned about the explosion of Christianity that occurred soon after Jesus’ death. Historians estimate there were over 30 million Christians only four hundred years after his death. Whoa!

But here’s what really made me a believer.

I imagined myself living during the time of Jesus. The Jews are an oppressed people, abused and over-taxed by the Roman rulers, as well as their own religious leaders. Along comes Jesus who speaks out against these self-righteous evil-doers and who ministers to the poor, the needy, the sick. He is said to be the King of the Jews and the Son of God. He is surrounded by 12 men who are not sure what to think of him. He gains a following and is seen as a threat by the religious leaders. One of his own betrays him, and he is taken into custody. He is given an unfair trial and condemned to death for blasphemy. He is teased, laughed at, spat on, beaten, forced to wear a crown of thorns by his captors. He is nailed to a cross and suffers a slow agonizing death.

Stop right there.

If I were witnessing Jesus’ crucification, I would have thought to myself that if Jesus were truly the Son of God then he would not die on the cross. Come on! He’s supposed to be the Son of God! Can’t he use some sort of magic to jump off that cross and say, “Gotcha!”?

I would have been terribly disappointed as his dead body was taken from the cross and buried in the tomb. “Oh well,” I would have thought. “It was nice knowing you, Jesus. Good try. I guess you were only human after all.”

That would have been the end of it. Christianity would not have existed.

Something had to have happened. Think about it. Something BIG had to have happened for Christianity to have spread so quickly and so far throughout the world. It had to have been a supernatural event in the form of a resurrection. There is no other explanation.

Something I came across in all of my research that has stayed with me is this:

Nobody dies for a lie.

Jesus would not have have gone to the cross for a lie.

His disciples were beheaded, crucified, speared, flayed, stoned, stabbed, and burned to death. For a lie? All they would have had to say was, “You’re right. Jesus is not the Son of God,” and their lives would have probably been spared.

Death is the ultimate sacrifice. The. Ultimate. Sacrifice. What would you die for? Anything? Nothing?

Jesus died to forgive us for our sins.

As I read the story, God sent his perfect son to our sinful world to show us there is a better way- to love your neighbor as yourself. And for this, Jesus was condemned to death, an innocent man.

As he was nailed to the cross, Jesus offers this: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Could there be a greater sin than to murder an innocent man? And Jesus’ response is forgiveness. The take away? There is nothing you or I can do that God will not forgive.

Throughout my life, I have had to have faith. As a child, faith that my parents would take care of me. As a parent myself, faith that my children are safe. As an adult, faith that I am living out my purpose. Now, as a Christian, faith that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead. Maybe my faith will be proven wrong? Maybe it is misplaced? But I am willing to take that chance.

Love is All You Need

IMG_8083The other day, I was driving with a carload of pre-teens when I heard one of them say, “I hate gays!”

“Uh-Uh,” I said. “You are not allowed to say such things in this car.”

“But the Bible says that being gay is a sin,” said the child.

Well, you want to know what the Bible also says? That thou shalt not eat bacon (Leviticus 11:7). That thou shalt not have tattoos (Leviticus 19:28). That thou shalt not wear spandex (Leviticus 19:19). I guess everybody at my CrossFit gym is doomed!

Growing up, church always seemed to be about all of the things thou shalt not do. But as an adult and reborn Christian, I was surprised to learn that there are only TWO commandments containing all of the laws of God. Just two. (Is anyone else surprised by this?!)

1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

2. Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:39)

On the way to church yesterday, my son asked me about what his friend said. Was it true that being gay is a sin? I explained to him that I did not have the authority or the power to determine what is or is not a sin, only God does. Though the Bible speaks out about homosexuality, it also speaks out about practices no longer shunned in our modern world, such as women not being allowed to speak in church (1 Corinthians 14:34) and long hair being disgraceful for men (1 Corinthians 11:14).

I told my son the one thing I knew for sure was that as a Christian, I am directed to simply love my neighbor as myself. To have hatred towards anyone- whether it is based on sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, religion, or because someone said something mean to you in the lunchroom- is in direct contravention to one of only two commandments God has given us to obey.

Can you imagine a world where we ALL just loved our neighbors as ourselves? Sign me up. I want to go to there.

The pastor at my church recently said the opposite of love is not hate. It is fear. Think about that for a second.

I have to believe it is fear that causes a child to be taught to hate someone he doesn’t even know. The fear that someone’s skin color is different. The fear that someone feels love in a different way. The fear that someone worships a different god. It is the fear of someone being different that stirs up this hatred. And isn’t it funny how many times as a parent you tell your child to embrace his or her differences? “The world would be a boring place if we were all the same,” we tell our kids.

I recently had a vision or a dream or something weird. In it, what appeared to be a filthy man in rags approached me. As he came closer, I saw a bright light. In a split second, I was given great clarity. What if the poor, the needy, the oppressed- the ones who are different- are really a test for each of us regarding our capacity to love? And every time we look away or refuse to help or express hatred or disdain, we fail the test. These are the very people that Jesus loved and cared for the most. Shouldn’t we as well? We are not commanded to “Love only those people who are exactly like you.”

As I sat in church yesterday, I wondered if I said the right things to my son. Did I get my message of love across to him? We bowed our heads to pray, and there I saw it. Etched onto the surface of my apparently recycled church program were the words, “Every day love is a choice.” Pastor Chris spoke these words as it related to marriage last week, but I think it applies here as well.

Every day, we are given a choice. A choice to love our neighbor, to fear our neighbor, to hate our neighbor. God tells us to choose love so I am going to choose love. I am also going to teach my children to choose love.

You may not agree with me on my views in this post (or any of my former posts for that matter). But that’s okay. You are entitled to your opinions, and I will respect them. And I am going to do my best to love you no matter what because I believe if everything we said or did went through a filter of love, our world would be a much better place. Choose love. It really is all you need. IMG_8069

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