Taking Risks For What Matters Most

I’m a huge hockey fan. It is a love I share with my daughter and many of our friends. We have even been known to convert people to hockey by sharing our love of the game with them. Anyone who knows us, even briefly, knows we are Washington Capitals and LA Kings hockey fans. I have a wall in my home dedicated to hockey memorabilia. I have hockey stickers on my car. I proudly “rock the red” with shirts, scarves, and jackets. I am bold about my team and happy to tell you about our community and why we follow hockey.

Funny thing is, I’m not sure that everyone I meet knows right off the bat that I am a follower of Jesus Christ and a Christian. I don’t know if I am always willing to risk that recognition in public. I don’t know that I am as willing to talk about Jesus as I am to talk about hockey.

Washington Capitals Tom Wilson with the power shot.

Washington Capitals Tom Wilson with the power shot.

When it comes to hockey, I love the excitement. I love the speed of the game and the powerful hitting and fighting that takes place on the ice. I love that these men are willing to bang up their bodies and risk head injuries for my enjoyment. They do what they do at the risk of concussions and torn ligaments:

A concussion is a type of brain injury that is caused by a bump or blow not only to the head, but anywhere else that causes the head to jolt in a harsh manner. The main symptoms of a concussion include headaches, loss of memory, and general confusion. Some of the worst symptoms include seizures as well as constant dizziness. Unfortunately, the style of play in hockey means that concussions are pretty common.

Players get out there time and again and offer so much of themselves for the benefit of others. They don’t think twice about the sacrifice or the long-term effects of what they do, they just do it. And there have been repercussions. For example, Dennis Vaske was playing for The New York Islanders when his career was interrupted by a concussion. In a game against The Los Angeles Kings in 1995 Vaske was on the receiving end of a nasty hit that sent him face first into the boards. Three other players with the Flyers had their careers ended by concussions: Eric Lindros, Keith Primeau, and Chris Pronger. Eric Lindros career ended after a shoulder to head hit in the 2000 Stanley Cup Finals. Keith Primeau’s career ending concussion was caused by an elbow to the head in 2006. Finally, Chris Pronger was concussed in 2011 after taking a stick to the right eye.

And we cheer on the sidelines for these rough and tough players as they get up and do it all again. As I think about this great game and the risks players are willing to take to their health in the name of a sport, I’m left wondering what risk I am willing to take in the name of Jesus that might yield a lasting result. What am I willing to do to bring lasting joy and healing to someone else? What risk am I willing to take to show my love of Christ with the same passion I show for my love of hockey? Am I willing to take the hard hits and get back up to share another day?

Washington Capitals player Michael Latta dancing with the puck.

Washington Capitals player Michael Latta dancing with the puck.

Hockey can be a brutal game and so can sharing the Gospel. We may have to dodge a few pucks shot our way as we defend our faith. We may run the risk of being knocked down to boldly step forward into the other zone. Our heads will likely be spinning some days as we launch into new territory. We may even loose the life we planned as God opens new doors to us. We may suffer a few bumps along the way; however, the end result might just be winning the game, in his name.

Be bold. Step forward. Put on your protective gear and don’t worry about what might happen. Know that you are protected and that even when the fight seems impossible, there will always be another chance at the goal. And remember that the angels are cheering you on.

Written with contribution and photos by Brittney Marcum (@NewViewOfYouPhotography )

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Loving the Refugee Among Us

I am struck this morning by Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves and the words of his followers about loving one another, especially fellow believers. I can personally attest to the way in which my life was changed by the love of people in the Christian community. I also know that there were those who would rather I not be around and who did not think I belonged in their group. They were the ones who looked down on me because of my circumstances and thought I was of less value than they because of my situation. It breaks my heart when I see that today.

Refugee. Displaced. Escapee. Fleeing from danger. Running in fear. Lost. Alone. Desperate.

Those words came to me this morning as I read Jesus’ and the disciple’s words about love. As I read about loving those in the body, I wondered about those refugees coming to strange lands with no hope. I wondered about the fear I am reading that many here in America have about what this change means for them. I wondered how it is we as Christians can believe in Jesus and have read the stories of his outreach to strangers, and yet we are not rushing to embrace these people.

The man I follow crossed the road for the despicable, for the untouchable, and for the criminal. His only agenda was to touch them, love them, and give them an opportunity to know that they are worthy of God’s love. They were all valuable in his eyes, even the loathsome sinner. This Jesus went into areas of the world where no Jew was to go to show us that there are no boundaries or borders to God’s love for man. And by his actions they came to know God the father and Jesus the savior and their lives were transformed.

Why then as Christians are we not overjoyed at the arrival a people in need of God’s love? Why are we not rushing to them with arms full of clothes and food and jobs? Why are we not sharing God’s love with them rather than pushing them away as the untouchable? Why are we letting the fear that Jesus told us to let go of run us? Why are we not taking this time to give them an opportunity to become part of the body of Christ?

Where is the love?

I am not a political person. I don’t write a political blog. I am just a believer and follower of Jesus Christ who tries to live out his message in all that I do. Maybe this is radical thinking for some of my readers and I hope it gives you pause to pray about the neighbors who share your streets and will compel you to cross the road to say “hello” and build a new relationship with them. Maybe this will encourage you to adopt a refugee or immigrant in your midst and share the love of Jesus with them. Maybe we who follow a God of love and second chances will be gracious enough to offer the same to a stranger. I pray that today God will present you with the opportunity to do that and I pray that we as the body of Christ will find a way to love the hurt and broken he is sending to us. HE IS SENDING TO US! The broken have come to our shores and there couldn’t be any easier way than that for us to share Christ’s love than in this moment.

God bless,

Maggie

He makes the whole body to fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4

Image by The Refugee Art Project

Grappling with Oneness

It has been a few years now since I was married. I have grown accustomed to picking which side of the bed I want to sleep on because there is no one on the other side. I have gone through the phase of curling up with a body pillow or laying long-ways across the bed so it doesn’t feel so empty. I have nearly forgotten what it is like to nudge someone in their sleep because they are snoring or to curl up with them when I get cold. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss it at times. It means I have adapted to sleeping alone and I am more comfortable with it today than I was some ten years ago.

I have spoken with many people about the dramatic change in their lives when a spouse dies or they find themselves alone after a divorce. Even those who have never married have that sense of longing for an intimate relationship with someone. So we find ways to fill the hours of our day with work, friends, family, and busy things. But there can be so much more if we look.

I am a firm believer in seeking our mission and living out a life of purpose. I am also aware that for many of us singles, a purpose-filled life doesn’t always eliminate the sense of aloneness we have at the end of the day. It doesn’t replace the sense that we are home alone reading a book or watching TV. More importantly, I also know that living with purpose changes everything and makes my time alone more palatable.

Purposeful living brings a sense of joy and peace and in some cases, a reason for getting out of bed. There is nothing worse than a day of emptiness that leads to a night alone and the anxiety of a gloomy morning. James wrote that in the midst of our troubles we have the opportunity to find joy. (James 1:2) I believe that opportunity comes in the shape of service to others. The psalmist cried out in his distress and emptiness in Psalm 102 and in the midst of his sadness he realized that God is with him. He is never truly alone. No matter what happens, he can find peace in that promise. When we can identify our mission and turn our attention to the needs of others, we can experience God’s love in a profound way. We can change our perspective from the sadness of what we don’t have to one of joy in knowing that we are living for God—even if we are living alone.

Now we can close our eyes at night, comfortable in knowing that God is watching us and that we will waken in the morning with a sense of celebration that God has given us another day to worship and serve him. While the bed may still be empty, I believe our hearts can be full. Even as we grab our extra pillow at night, we can quietly end our day in conversation with God about his reason for our circumstance and ask that the morning bring new purpose and a greater sense of belonging. It is the same conversation we should have every night, regardless of our marital situation. You see, my fellow singles, this relationship is far better than any other relationship for which we could ever wish to have and we are fortunate that we can give all our attention to enriching our relationship with the Lord.

Bridging the Vision Gap

Have you ever had a vision and been overwhelmed by the thought of what it will take to reach your goal? This can happen when we aren’t sure how we will get from where we are to where we want to be. The gap may seem far too wide to overcome, especially if we focus too much on those final steps that will bring our dream to fruition. We may even feel as if we are sitting in the fog, full of ideas and yet uncertain how to implement a plan.

I am a planner. I like to lay out all the necessary steps I will execute to achieve my end-goal. This includes all the things I don’t know how to do or the things that are out of my control. If I look too far ahead I am likely to freeze in place because these things seem too insurmountable to me. For example, I am building a ministry for singles. I believe that God has given me a vision for this ministry; however, I have so many questions about the organizational structure, finances, and who will attend our gatherings that I find myself too overwhelmed to move ahead.

I am overwhelmed first by the vision and mission and secondly by the demands on me as the leader of something I have wanted to do for the last 30 years. Thankfully, I have wonderful spiritual advisors and partners who have counseled me to just start. I have stepped out in faith without worrying about what will happen on the journey and without answers to all of my questions. I am taking one step after another, prayerfully considering each step and in consultation with others who hold me accountable. We are getting closer to launching the ministry and with each day I am gaining more clarity about what to do next.

So what does this mean for you? If the answer to my first question is, “yes, I’m overwhelmed and I don’t know what to do,” I would suggest you write your vision and mission statement. Then consider where you are and where you want to be and write down some of the major milestones you need to accomplish to close the gap. Once you lay out your milestones, start at the first milestone and list the most important things you need to accomplish to reach that milestone. If you are able, go to the next milestone and describe the actions you need to complete for each subsequent milestone. Write them down even if you have no idea how you will complete them. By the time you have written down the milestones you need to achieve you will see that it is much easier to bridge the gap from here to there. Post your plan somewhere as a visual reminder of your first objective and to all that you have accomplished as you move closer and closer to the final result.

Take the first step now. Pray about the others. Trust that God will guide you and as you experience success in those first steps, build confidence that God will get you through the rest.

Be bold. Be fearless. Step forward!

Interrupting our Mission

These past few months I have been working to launch a new single’s ministry in our area. I have been writing about the challenges and the gift of singleness while preparing for a discernment meeting. In the midst of my planning another interest of mine sprung up and I have found myself pulled in two directions—doing what God is calling me to do and doing something I love to do. It is a rewarding and troubling place to walk, this enjoying all the things I have a passion to do.

My question though is: am I blessed with two things that are keeping me very busy or am I letting myself be distracted from my real mission and ministry? Am I hiding my insecurities about my ability to lead this new ministry by taking on something that is draining my time? Energy drainers are those things that we allow to interrupt our progress forward and I fear that this other adventure is indeed doing that.

I have interrupted my writing on this blog to write for another blog. I have spent time studying this other topic rather than the scriptures that will shore up this new ministry. I have found it easy to spend hours doing something that actually has little benefit to God or to my life, while putting his work on pause. As a result I feel an unease in my spirit because I have been disconnected from the spirt that guides me. I flit in-and-out of ministry and then wonder why I am nervous about our launch.

So today I shift the gears back. It is never too late to get back on the road forward. I will continue my other writing, but as a secondary interest to that which God asks of me. I have discovered during the time of diversion that there is a process I need to put in place for my writing—so all is not lost. God always makes something positive out of our journey, if we are willing to ask him to reveal the changes we need to make. So let the change begin!!