Warring with Limits




I must confess that I have a struggle with limits more often than I wish. I suspect that you might also even if the limits that you face are not the same as mine.


What do I mean by limits?


I’m talking about those things that restrict me, slow me down, and stop me in some way from doing or being able to do something that I wish I could do. They are boundary lines and some of them feel restrictive and some I wish were not necessary.


Limits seem to pop up in our lives from the time we arrive on earth.


Think of all the limitations of an infant as well as their lack of determining how quickly or when they might be fed, changed, cuddled or put to bed. Mom and Dad make those choices depending on their endurance, values, schedules, and so on.black-and-white-boys-children-277477


As an adult, I face other limits. Before I retired, my time and spending habits were limited by my working hours and income. The speed I could drive to work was limited by how many risks I would take to exceed the speed limit. My energy level had limits as well and working often affected those and could get in the way of the things I wanted to do such as read, bike or hike, do something creative with photography and a long list of things I might wish.


The truth is the categories and lists of limits or potential limits can be quite long. 


The categories include, but are not limited to:

  • Money and economic opportunities
  • Physical health and energy
  • Mental acuity
  • Emotional health, skills, and intuition
  • Time
  • Family situation
  • Where I live or work


fence-snow-trees-65911I’m sure you get the idea and can add more categories than I have noted here.


 But there are also spiritual limits I need to recognize.


What are those?


I am limited spiritually by what I know of God, my response to Him, and all things spiritual. These are impacted greatly by my life experiences, my church experiences, and the amount of time I spend seeking to know and understand God.


The Lord loved me (and you) so much He gave me choices from the very beginning. He didn’t force me to accept Him, love Him, spend time with Him, and pursue His heart. He didn’t force me to read the Bible or spend time in worship. He wanted me to choose to do those things out of my love for Him.


That was His design from Genesis to Revelation. He, who had no limits, put limits on His creation to prevent chaos and keep balance. What would happen if the speed of the rotation of the earth varied each month or each week or day? What if the sun didn’t come up in a pattern or rhythm? Every living thing on the earth is connected and would be damaged without the boundary lines God put in place.


He put them there for man as well. I’m sure you remember the freedom Adam and Eve alone-autumn-beautiful-267039had except for one tree. They didn’t seem to like or accept limits either as a result of Lucifer’s ploys. Lucifer never accepted his own limitations with God. It is little wonder that we have all gotten tripped up with boundary lines and limits. Even when we are told the consequences of violating them, we periodically try to ignore what will happen to us and violate them.


Some of the limits or boundary lines we deal with are fixed by choices between obedience and sin, light and darkness, life and death. Most of us discover those realities through painful practice. There are seasons when we might be tempted to rail at God for the difficulty we face in limiting ourselves to make the best choice, the wise choice, and the one that honors Him.


You see, I think we can easily forget that God did not set up limits and boundary lines to make us miserable, but exactly the opposite.


He was well aware that we were finite and as such, we would deal with a multitude of limitations. He also knew if we violated them we might become unhealthy, get sick, lose relationships, miss out on Him and all He had in His design for us.


He gave us limits and boundary lines out of His love and care for us, to protect us.


 When I retired, I began to hear many comments about how fortunate I was because I could now do anything I wanted. Of course that was not really true.


 Limits and boundary lines follow us into each season of our lives.


I doubt I will ever totally stop disliking some of the limits that I face no matter what the season, but I am persuaded I need to adjust my perspective about their purpose, their value. I need to keep in focus why a loving, gracious, and merciful God has placed them in my life, in your life.


Then I can abide with the psalmist when he writes:


“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”  Psalm 16:6 (ESV)


brown-colour-dawn-132428 (1)


What Navy SEALS Can Teach Us



I confess. I love movies. It was a gift my husband brought into my life. I am not sure if I had seen more than a half dozen movies prior to our dating. His love of story played out on the big screen with plenty of action and a great musical score grabbed me.


Yes, I love a great love story and am a fan of Downton Abbey, but along the way my husband’s love of action movies has taught me more about character, great missions, and teamwork than I could have imagined. As believers, there is much we can learn from them because I see qualities in them that are too often in short supply among us.


This past weekend we saw two great movies rich in story line and powerful in significance. We went to see the new movie, Thirteen Hours. We also watched The Two Towers (expanded version), from The Lord of the Rings series (a big favorite of ours).


Were these movies different? Yes and no.


Both movies deliver a powerful story full of action and moving lines delivered in the midst of stunning backgrounds and powerful musical scores. One is an allegory written by J.R.R. Tolkien playing out the forces of good and evil, light and darkness.


accident-action-adventure-263356The other is a retelling of the survivors of a real life story set in the midst of the crumbling modern day Middle East where it is difficult to identify the good guys from the bad guys.


The similarity I see is that each lays out the story of a team joined together on a mission of significant importance. Lives are on the line. Trust and courage will be tested. There are no easy choices. Working together is essential. Not everyone will survive.


What makes that resonate is how it reminds me that we too often get caught up in small stories, forgetting we too are part of a great story of crucial significance.


We also are on a mission that we too easily forget. Choices can be difficult. Trust and courage will be tested. Working together is essential and not everyone will finish the mission.


What I see in a story of Navy SEALS or Delta Force missions as well as in ‘ring fellowship’ in Tolkien’s story shows me what is missing in the great story we are all a part of.


In the stories unfolding on the screen, the teams are clear on their mission and achievement-action-adventure-209209committed to it at all cost. Whether in these two I have mentioned or numerous others like Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers, concern for self-interest gets set aside for the sake of someone and something else to accomplish the mission before them.


No matter how individualistic they may be at the outset, the mission is kept in focus. They also support one another and truly have each other’s back in the midst of great danger when all faith and hope can be lost. The small stories each may have come from may or may not have equipped them.


The key is that they are caught up in something bigger and more important than themselves.


 In the quest for the mission to succeed, each is willing to lay down his life, his preferences, his doubts, and his ego for the good of everyone else. They work and fight together as one and in the midst of that they show great care and love for each other.  They also want no one to be left behind, alive or dead.


The Navy SEALS, Delta Force, Rangers, and other elite teams all operate under a similar code. What are the hallmarks that forge such teams?


  • Loyalty
  • Honor
  • Integrity
  • Ready to lead
  • Ready to follow
  • Never quit
  • Take responsibility for your actions and those of your teammates
  • Excel as warriors through discipline and innovation
  • Train for war
  • Leave no one behind


What if we, in the body of Christ, operated similarly keeping the Lord’s mission and our place in it in focus?


What would happen if we understood the significance of the unseen war we are caught up in and applied such hallmarks?


What if we stood with on another against the enemy of our Lord and us as His disciples?


What if we were committed to leave no one behind?


The Navy SEALS and the stories they live are stories we can learn from to stand more effectively with and for one another, helping each of us to be encouraged, strengthened, accountable, and focused.


When we do, we can be better than we would have been without each other.




Crunch Time




Crunch time happens to all of us at various points in our lives. We can usually identify courses and term projects when we were still involved in being educated that can cause us to shudder. I get a close-up view of those with my grandchildren who are at various stages of academic pursuit, but crunch time doesn’t end when we leave the classroom or lecture hall.


Crunch time…it’s that time period when there is great pressure to succeed or handle something unexpected. We feel it when we are running out of time or the task seems to be too big for us. It’s when our mettle is tested and we will be judged by the outcome of our efforts. We can get caught when our efforts slacked off. Maybe we wait till the last minute to get the work done or have failed to study.


Crunch time also happens when a sudden illness strikes, we are in an accident, our job disappears, or a temptation crops up when we were sure we had that thing defeated.


adult-blood-business-220723A lot starts happening during crunch time. We feel the stress building up inside of us and our blood pressure may jump up. We might develop a headache or migraine. We tend to be irritable with anyone and anything. Our sleep gets disrupted.


What happens next will generally go in one of two directions. We will dig in and summon up something from somewhere deep inside us and face the challenge head on or we will cave in, give up, try to run from it or withdraw with a certainty we are not only failing but are also a failure.


That decision will largely be determined by the habits we have practiced all our lives up until that point. These are not only behavioral habits, but habits related to how we communicate, habits about what we believe, and habits about our value for relational connection.


Developing good habits is not something we get excited about. They require discipline and practice over time…even when everything is going well. Ugh! They also chafe at our adult-ambulance-care-263210desire to be free to do what we want when we want while believing we will always be able to do what is necessary when the time comes. How the enemy of our souls delights in such folly.


Good habits, healthy habits, don’t just happen. They always require something of us.


Think about the challenging training Navy Seals, Marines, and other service members go through. Many do not make it.


Why is it so tough? 


Their leaders know the training must bring these individuals to the end of themselves again and again so the training in good habits kicks in automatically when they are in actual crunch time situations.


Bad habits are quite the opposite of good. They require no practice and initially they may appear to cost us nothing.


There is a snare with them, however. Unlike good habits requiring time and practice to become part of us, bad habits seem to adhere to us almost right away and the longer we practice them the more deeply embedded into the core of us they become. Then they are so entwined within us they are usually hard to break. We discover we are not free at all as we first thought.


Make no mistake: the habits of a lifetime show themselves at crunch time or in extreme circumstances.


book-lake-learning-34075The book of 1 Samuel gives us a contrast as we hear the story of two leaders: Saul and David. Over and over again we see David has learned to “strengthen himself in the Lord his God.” It’s what he draws upon when he faces Goliath and when he faces the unexpected attempt by Saul to take David’s life. Over and over again in the book of Psalms, in good times or bad, David calls on the Lord. Sometimes he rejoices. Sometimes he laments. Sometimes he shouts in anger. He could do none of those if he had not first practiced strengthening himself in the Lord and laying a sure foundation of what he believed about the Lord.


David also listens to and humbly accepts encouragement to stay steady in his relationship with the Lord. That is evident in his close covenantal friendship with Jonathan as one example.


Saul doesn’t appear to think of God a great deal and gets caught up in situations and circumstances as they are happening. It doesn’t show evidence of developing discipline and training in good habits. As a result he goes ‘with his gut’ and loses the position of the first king of Israel as a result. As we go through his story, we see him on a roller coaster of emotions depending on those circumstances. He can be prideful and threatening or quickly fearful and rash in decisions.


The Bible God gave us leaves us plenty of clues on what habits to develop so we are prepared for crunch time. You can find them on every page from Genesis to Revelation. They are not there to deny us anything, but to help us navigate through whatever life or the enemy may throw at us knowing with certainty what we believe, whose we are, and who will be with us.


It can be easy to balk when someone exhorts us to practice these things, to make time each day to read in the Bible and pray, to take our thoughts captive, to love others and forgive quickly, but those who do so are those who love us. They want us to be ready for crunch time.


Are you ready for crunch time?








Are We Contagious?




In the northern hemisphere we are caught in the throes of winter and most places I go, I see hand sanitizer dispensers to help all of us stay healthier. Ads abound about risks of flu, washing our hands, not coughing around others, and more.


Disease is contagious and can be easily spread from one to another. We see that in epidemics and rare but dreaded pandemics. As a result, the question about contagiousness suggests a caution about taking a risk of being around anyone who is adult-baby-child-1097496labeled as such.


As a result the word contagious shows up in a pretty negative light oftentimes, but is it really always a “bad actor?”


Can it ever be positive or a gift?


 The dictionary speaks of something (usually disease) that is “spread from one person to another by direct or indirect contact.”


I confess that I initially ascribe the worst sort of view to the word, but I am rethinking my evaluation because there are other things that can be decidedly positive that are also contagious.


It’s been said that we tend to become like the people with whom we spend our time. In most cases it isn’t that they are directly teaching us something (even though sometimes they might be). Most of the time it is because we “catch” whatever it is that emanates from them – good or bad.


refreshing-splash-splashing-68262If we are around people who tend to be highly critical and judgmental, then despite our best efforts we will often develop more of those characteristics as well. If we are around people who are joyful and positive much of the time, we will find it more difficult to see our glass as half empty.


I have often shared that I am less concerned about what I taught my children or students or clients and more concerned about what they may have “caught” from me that I surely did not intend.


A cursory study of history will show what happens when in the midst of a fierce battle someone steps forward with courage and against all odds. Soon others join in…the courage is “caught.” It happens in every war and battle.


In the movie “Glory” whose theme is centered in the U.S. Civil War, the final scenes involve the Massachusetts 54th being asked to assault a position of the Confederate Army that is impossible and sure to result in great bloodshed. The Union unit is made up of African-American soldiers led by Caucasian officers. The task is one that would cause the bravest to shudder and give in to fear.


Colonel Shaw is the commander of the unit and he knows that everything is stacked adventure-backpacker-climb-1365425against them. As an officer he could choose not to lead the charge and bring up the rear, but instead he steps to the front and leads the men up the hill. It would appear to me that his courage was contagious.


It’s an example of how contagion can be a gift. We can “catch” something, some good quality from someone else, that spurs us forward and buoys up our own reluctance and fear.


If we consider the spread of the Gospel by a rag-tag group of disciples who were largely uneducated, ravaged by grief from the death of their leader, full of weaknesses of various kinds, and not known to be consistently brave, we see as the Holy Spirit filled them they gained courage. They stood “with” one another in the face of persecution and their courage was contagious and spread far and wide.


Ponder how many lives were changed by the courage of 12 men whose love and passions were contagious.


What happens in our relationships?


If we play it safe and keep things on the surface, there is little growth in deepening the relationship. We can make that choice and some of our relationships will be much like that, but if we long for friendships that are deeper, richer, and spur our thoughts, behaviors, attitudes…our character…to higher levels, then we will need to challenge ourselves to risk being more courageous.


“Vulnerability and courage are contagious and can be caught by those we love if we can first boldly blaze the trail.” Andrew J. Bauman


Experience teaches us where and with whom we can move in greater openness and vulnerability and be used to spread the fruit of the Lord’s light and love within us. That kind of contagion is a gift indeed. It is absolutely necessary if we are to be channels of his love.


“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket − safe, dark, motionless, airless − it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

C.S. Lewis from The Four Loves









What Kind of Leerie Are You?



What’s a “leerie?”


A “leerie” is the name used for lamplighters in the new movie, “Mary Poppins Returns.”  And as I listened carefully to the lyrics while watching the movie, it became evident to me that if we are Christians we have a connection with the word “leerie.”


philippe-mignot-127665-unsplash One of the songs in the film entitled “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” has this line within it, Leeries trip the lights and lead the way!”  In this case they are describing how lamplighters of another era would go from lamp to lamp throughout the city and light them each night to light the darkness and show the way for people. It may have seemed like a menial job, but it was vital to the city dwellers each night.


The metaphor becomes clear in Matthew 5:14-16 (MSG):


“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”


 There is no doubt in my mind as I read this that each of us who claim to be his are called to be light and lamplighters for the world. Luke writes about that in Acts 13:47 (NIV):


“For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’.”


The lyricist for the song in the movie refers to the process of the lamplighters lighting the blur-city-cold-965877lamps as “trip a little light fantastic”as they move up and down the streets lighting the lamps. That is a fun description indeed.


Since the Lord calls us to be light and light the way for others, what kind of “leerie” am I?  Are you?


As shadows fall across the earth in many different places and some have lost hope, are we lighting the way for the hope that is within us? Pointing the direction to the path they cannot see?


Listen to some of the things the song suggests a “leerie” can do:


“Let’s say you’re lost in a park, sure
You can give in to the dark or
You can trip a little light fantastic with me
When you’re alone in your room
Your choices just embrace the gloom
Or you can trip a little light fantastic with me


For if you hide under the covers
You might never see the day
But if a spark can start inside your heart
Then you can always find the way
So when life is getting dreary
Just pretend that you’re a leerie
As you trip a little light fantastic with me”


landon-martin-263376-unsplash Some of you may be shaking your head that I would compare being called to be light in a dark world with the lyrics of this song about “leeries” from the movie, but consider even the words noted above…


If we are lost physically or spiritually, are we to give in to the dark?


If we are alone and lonely, feeling down and gloomy, do we choose to “embrace the gloom” or search out the light?


Is the light within our lamps burning brightly with fresh oil that allows “a spark” to “start inside your heart?”


 Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 5:8-10 (MSG) by reminding us of what we were and now what we are to be:


“You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.”


 We were once groping around without light, stumbling as we went. But now that the IMG_1779Lord has lit the way for us and called us to be light in the world, we are to be lighting the way for others who are stumbling in the dark, alone, lost and without hope.


There is no qualifier that suggests this role, as a “leerie” is optional. Whatever season we are in, we are to keep fresh oil in our lamps and light the way for others.


What kind of “leerie” are you?


“Now when you’re stuck in the mist, sure
You can struggle and resist or
You can trip a little light fantastic with me”