"…for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." (Proverbs 8:11)

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Sharpening Iron

As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Many people think of this in the context of serving others, offering compassion and forgiveness, or helping someone with material needs. Yes, loving your neighbor as yourself can mean bringing someone a home-cooked meal when they are sick, turning the other cheek when a co-worker says something hurtful, or driving 45 minutes to help a friend with a flat tire. But it can also mean being strong when someone else is weak, and being courageous on their behalf.

Several years ago, our six-year-old cat Junior suffered a thrombosis on a Tuesday afternoon. He was lying on the stairs howling in pain and confusion, with his back legs completely paralyzed. I happened to be home that day and quickly scooped him up and rushed him to the vet. My husband Craig dropped everything to meet me there. The news was not good: Junior had only a 5-10% chance of recovery, and even if he did recover, he had a 90% chance of throwing another blood clot within the next six months. It was a genetic condition—nothing we could have foreseen and with no real cure—and so we made the difficult decision to put him down.
Junior the Cat
I cried like a child and fell into my husband’s arms. He was a rock, staying calm and offering me a steady flow of love and support for the next several hours as we said our goodbyes to a beloved pet, and then returned home and tried to step back into everyday life. Craig was strong and steadfast for me when I was weak and broken. Months later, he confessed that he was a wreck that day, too—that he wanted to cry and to be held as he grieved, but that someone had to be the strong one. Someone had to step up.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLV)

What surprised me, however, was when he explained that he had made the decision to be strong long before the event occurred. He had purposed in his mind and his heart to be calm in a time of crisis, regardless of his own feelings and emotions, so that others could trust and rely on him. He chose in advance to put me before himself, and he was ready when I needed his strength.

Going to Extremes
Fast forward to this past week, when I went skydiving for the first time. I have never wanted to skydive—in fact, since Craig and I first married 11 years ago, I have told him repeatedly that I would never in my life jump out of a plane. But last week, I went skydiving because I knew that someone else needed my strength. I purposed in my mind and heart to step as far as possible out of my comfort zone—to do something so extreme and confront my own fears and weakness head on—so that when a friend or even a complete stranger felt weak and broken, they would have a living, breathing example of courage and strength.

LeslieSkydive_FallingForward
My goal was not to encourage anyone else to skydive. My goal was to demonstrate that you can choose to be bold when you feel broken, that you can choose to move forward even when you feel bound by fear. Whether that fear is related to a relationship or a job loss or an addiction or a disability, it doesn’t matter. What matters is seeing first hand that you can choose to be strong, choose to be brave, and find the strength to overcome your circumstances through faith in Christ Jesus. When I jumped, I didn’t know who would need to see that example or hear that message, but I was sure that it would help someone move forward on the path that God has for them.

Be the Example
As children, we rely on our parents, siblings or grandparents to protect and encourage us when we feel frail. As adults, we are often called to be the strong one. We may feel helpless and broken ourselves, but Philippians 4:13 reminds us that our strength comes not from our own efforts or will, but from the Lord. Today, I encourage you to be an encouragement. Set your mind on things above by determining that you will be strong for someone else in a time of need. Reach out to a friend or loved one and edify them with your words and actions. Decide to love your neighbor as yourself by choosing in advance to be their rock.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NIV)

 

More verses on encouragement:

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14 ESV)

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25 ESV)

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

January 27, 2015   1 Comment

We Plan, God Laughs: Letting Go of Fear

I was planning on skydiving again today. I am still petrified, even though I had my first tandem jump last week. (I encourage you to check out my post-jump video on overcoming fear.) In fact, I was wondering whether it might even be worse because I already knew how it would feel to fall out of the plane into mid air. But, I am being called to step up to the challenge that God has placed before me — to push past fear and show others that we can be brave even when we feel broken. So, I made a reservation and spent most of yesterday wringing my hands and worrying about jumping this morning. Then, my husband Craig spoke a powerful word of truth into my life, which is that I should not let my concerns about tomorrow distract from the joys of today. I was so wrapped up in fear about what the morning would bring that I was missing being fully present during a wonderful dinner with friends and an evening at home with my husband.

When we drove out to the drop zone at Skydive Dallas this morning, God underscored the point. It was a gorgeous, sunny morning and looked like perfect jumping weather — except that it turned out the winds at altitude were 100+ mph, WAY too high for safe jumping. Nobody was going up, not even the most seasoned old timers. There would be no jumps today.

Energy Conservation
If you are wrapped up in fear about what tomorrow might bring, pack it up and put it away. Concerned about rumors of layoffs at your company? Anxious about an upcoming test in school? Worried that your kids will do something stupid or your spouse will make a mistake? Afraid of an upcoming court date? Put it away. You have no control over tomorrow, and you have no idea what God already has planned — who He might bring into your life, what doors He might open, or what schedule changes He may cause to happen. Trust in Him, and focus on the present. Extract every bit of joy from today, because you are right here, right now.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
(Matthew 6:33-34 NIV)

Addendum: God’s Back Pocket
There is a saying that God does not call the equipped, He equips the called. One of my constant prayers in recent weeks has been that He equip me to be bold and courageous, because in my flesh I feel far from brave. I have been amazed at the ways in which He continues to provide exactly what I need, when I need it. For my first skydive, it was the company and encouragement of my friend Robin, whom I had met just 8 weeks ago. She came along last Sunday morning when I thought that I was only going to watch Craig jump, then she suggested that she and I both sign up for a tandem. For years I had said “never,” but God equipped me with exactly what I needed: perfect weather, a great instructor, the financial provision, and an enthusiastic and courageous female friend whose energy and faith were just enough to push me from “never” to “now.”

Robin_Before_Tandem

This morning, He filled in more of the gaps to equip me for my second jump, which has been rescheduled for tomorrow. Since we were already at the drop zone, I spoke with my instructor and spent several minutes looking closely at the tandem harness so I could understand exactly how it worked. I was able to examine each strap and buckle, and to clearly see that there was no way I could escape the harness in mid-air (something I had feared while we were under canopy last week). This was important information that really helped put my mind at ease.

The man who taught my tandem class last week also recognized me and came over to say hello. Actually, his first words were, “Weren’t you here last week? And didn’t you cry after your jump? What are you doing here again?” I explained my purpose and commitment, and he offered wonderful words of encouragement. He told me that he really disliked skydiving and grappled with fear and frustration for his first five jumps. He was on the verge of quitting, but then he knew that in the long run, he would always regret the decision. So, he went back up for a sixth jump, and that’s when everything changed. His fear went away, and he discovered the joy of skydiving. He has been jumping now for several years and teaches the tandem class on the weekends.

Before we left, I also spoke with the videographer, Jimmy, who will be filming me tomorrow. I learned about his colorful history (he has been a scuba dive master as well as a professional kick boxer), and his crazy style of skydiving. (He flies on his back during free fall, instead of on his belly.) If today’s jump had not been cancelled, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get to know him, and to develop a level of trust to help further prepare me for tomorrow.

The next time you are worried about what tomorrow might bring, remember that God loves you. He has plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). Trust that His timing is perfect, and look for all the ways in which He is equipping you for your calling. You may feel weak and afraid, but we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. Be present today, be grateful, and be a blessing to someone else!

 

January 25, 2015   No Comments