Hit The Mark

I walked to the front of the somber small town church on the day we gathered to remember Jack McCaskill. Jack is a common name and it belonged to a man who possessed uncommon love. Days leading up, I listened to his family recount the small, daily ways Jack was so faithful to love people, particularly his family. We think we need to do something grandiose to leave a mark. When we think like this, we miss the mark. Before the funeral, I had asked Jack’s wife Janice what important things she wanted shared at the funeral.

Gentle tears fell as she remembered him. Then she said:

  1. Appreciate Family; Life is Short
  2. Tell About Jesus and the Gospel (Jack would want that)
  3. Jack’s Golden Heart
  4. Remind People; Live Life Full

1. Appreciate Family; Life is Short

Jack cared deeply for His family. Jack made time to care for his parents in their old age. He made countless trips to the neighboring town to visit his mom and his dad lived with him in Unity for nine months when life got tough. Jesus cared deeply for his family. In Matthew 19:25-27 it says, “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene whom he loved standing nearby. He said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” Jack hit the mark.

Jack was also kind to children. Kids were drawn to his fun approachability and non-threatening nature. Noticing and speaking to children is a mark of compassion and humility. Jesus was kind to children, too. In Matthew 9:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Jack hit the mark.

2. Gospel Message; Go to Abby

Jack had assurance about where He was going. He was on his way to be with his late daughter, Abby, in Heaven. Janice and the girls repeated to Jack many times during his last month, soon you will go to Abby. Jack knew where he was going because he understood the Grace of Jesus. Janice told me: Jack was amazing, but he was not perfect, and he knew it.

No. None of us are.

He recognized He didn’t have it all together.

None of us do.

Janice says Jack sometimes felt he wasn’t the most successful in the eyes of the world. Jack recognized his own lack. It’s that very understanding that allows us to experience the power of the Gospel.

When we can’t do it, He Does.

When we mess up, He Wins.

When we fall short, He Fills The Gap.

John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son so that whoever believes in Him shall not die but have eternal life.”

The penalty for Jack’s sin was cancelled and the power of sin had no hold on him. His slate was clean, his friendship with God was established, and because of this, he was able to live with a heart of gold.

3. Jack’s Heart of Gold

Jack’s heart of gold stemmed from the love of Christ.

How does the love of Jesus come alive in your live? Choose to see his love, daily. Jack recognized the hand of God all around him. Janice described Jack as a “Scanner”. She said he would constantly scan the horizon for animals, sunsets and beautiful things God has made.

How do we experience God’s love when life feels void of it? Let grace reign when storms come. Jack was a storm chaser. Most of us fear storms but Jack pressed right into the oncoming clouds. There is no fear in love. “Perfect love drives out fear.” – 1 John 4:18

Janice says after they lost their daughter Abby, she was looking for him days before the funeral, and he was over helping neighbors. Jack was rarely in a bad mood and let the people around him make mistakes, without holding grudges. The love of Jesus was alive in Jack. Jack hit the mark.

4. Remind People; Live Life Full

 How do we chase fulfillment and meaning?

Jack did it by giving love away and reflecting often on the most important things in life.

Firstly, Jack gave love in practical ways. Jack gave blood. Often. He donated blood at least 41 times. Jack literally gave life to others through his generosity. Jesus too gives life by giving his blood. Jack hit the mark. Often, our simple gestures of love are the most profound of all.

Jack also loved humor and wildflowers. When we recognize God in the routines and the daily humdrum, we get rid of the notion that there is a wall separating the spiritual and secular. In the simplicity of giggles and bright colored petals, we recognize:

All Is God’s. His Grace Touches All.

Jack had eyes to see this. 

Secondly, Jack experienced love by reflecting.

Jack reflected on his experiences with an enormous rock collection with treasures from all over North America. He wanted to remember where he had travelled while trucking all over North America. Not only did Jack stash rocks, He collected memories too. He appreciated people, experiences and moments with great sentiment. If we don’t reflect, we miss out on our own experiences. Jesus instructed us to reflect on the important things. He said: Take the cup and the wine and remember me.

In Jack’s final month, Jack’s family asked God for a big miracle. Janice told me he experienced very little pain during his last month and she counts this as a big miracle. I don’t understand the ways of God. Jesus asked for the cup to be passed from Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. It wasn’t. Jack asked for healing. He wasn’t.

Here is what I do know:

Jesus gave his life for Jack and Jack gave his life to Jesus. Jack is now healed, whole and home.

Jack’s girls describe Jack as being: goofy, funny, patient, a fun dad, bus-driver, truck-driver, sport lover, street hockey champion, swimmer, animal lover, down to earth, country man, cloud watcher, fisher and a target shooter.

Ah yes, a target shooter.

You aimed so well in your life, Jack.

You hit the mark, my friend.

Run Towards The Roar

“I feel like I can’t go on anymore, I’m exhausted.” Sarah said between sobs.

It was the first time she had spoken such honest words in a long while. She liked to be strong, independent and competent … I think we all do.

“This morning”, she told me slowly as water welled around her eyes, “I saw you running, and on the back of your shirt it says, Run Towards the RoarThat means something to me!” She blurted out, as if a mighty spring was released inside her. Her voice was plagued with defeat and disappointment.

“For Two years, God has been telling me to follow the Lion – to follow His footprints in the sand” She said. “And I’m trying, but I’m …. I’m tired” she cried, deflated.

That morning I had seen her on the path, watching me run – and I had said a brief prayer for her. As we sat together, Sarah told me about the significant physical challenges and emotional pain and pressure she carries. Sarah’s spilling emotions made it impossible for her to speak and I took her worn hand in mine. Her skin was ice cold.

I held her chilly hand with both my heated paws and my heart moved as I felt her hand begin to warm. Sarah spends much time alone – and has difficulty asking for help. Our conversation reminded me of all the ways isolation causes us to grow cold in our hearts, bodies and minds. I thought of the times I have experienced this.

We have an enemy who tries to isolate us while he piles shame, fear, intimidation, accusation and guilt high on our heads.

Isn’t it amazing how you can be surrounded by a sea of people and still feel isolated? Sharing all of who we are – our difficulties, shortcomings, fears and failures is challenging – and humbling… But Christ, the Mighty Lion, honed humility and paved a pathway to freedom. His declaration, “I’m leaving you whole…” means there is nothing to fear and nothing to hide. Honest connection with the people we love changes the temperature of our hearts.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even 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. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Sarah and I talked together for a long while.

And the Lion was Roaring his freedom declaration.

And warmth filled the room.

And Joy joined us.

And the Lion’s cry

Led us to love

Where freedom lives and reigns and rules.

Amen.

Run towards the roar.

“Do not weep. See the Lion of Judah has triumphed.” – Revelation 5:5

You’ve Got It In You

“I remember hearing once about a group going into a community to minister but before they could they needed permission and when they did ask- the response was ” If you come in SPIRIT of whom you preach about you can…”- Deloris Netmaker

There are different kinds of love. There is self-giving love and self-preserving love. There is manipulative love that gives with demands and then … then there is pure love that gives without strings attached. God is the source of self-giving love – love in it’s purest form. There is no force more powerful than this.

Self-giving love is patient, kind, never jealous or boastful … It is not stuck up or rude and does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful and it doesn’t ever celebrate wrong.

In his book, Longing for God, Richard Foster writes, “To get at the essence of Paul’s teaching here, we could substitute the words “a self-centered person” for “love” and reverse the action. Here’s how it would read: “A self-centered person is not patient; a self-centered person is not kind. A self-centered person is envious and boastful and arrogant and rude. A self-centered person insists on his or her own way, rejoices in wrongdoing and does not rejoice in truth. A self-centered person does not believe anything, hope in anything or endure anything. A self-centered person always fails.”

In the third century, Bernard of Clairvaux went to great lengths to communicate this: The ultimate goal of life is to fall in love with Jesus over and over again. Nothing is more important. Nothing is more central. Nothing is more critical.

This truth has not changed and will not change – because humans will always be made to know and make known this kind of love. Romans 8:38 says NOTHING can separate you from this love that has been secured by Jesus’ incomprehensible act in Israel centuries ago.

For what purpose though?

Romans 8:29 would say – so we can be “Conformed to the likeness of his Son…” So we can become like Love Himself.

Love always hopes.

Hope means Change.

Love changes us.

Love changes our world.

It always has, and it always will.

When you show up and allow the sincere love of Christ to infuse your thoughts, words and actions – you are bringing God’s Kingdom to earth. You are living at your highest potential and you are acting as a pathway for Jesus to arrive at every scene you enter. And the presence of Jesus is always transformative.

You bring His Kingdom by carrying the presence of the King.

Love always stretches beyond borders for the good of those waiting on the other side. In Canada, we have racial borders that can divide us. My friend Deloris Netmaker is an Educator, Pastor, and an advocate for Indigenous people in Canada. She was recently asked: How can I as a Caucasian woman respect Indigenous culture and worldview while building relationships and sharing the Gospel with Indigenous women and families?

Deloris responded by saying:
Relationship is definitely key! It’s in the relationship where you get the opportunity to show God’s love – a scripture that comes to mind is ” Its not by might nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord” …”and they will know we are Christians by our love”… I remember hearing once about a group going into a community to minister but before they could they needed permission and when they did ask- the response was ” If you come in SPIRIT of whom you preach about you can…” Indigenous are very sensitive and when they know you are “real” they will embrace you ( it’s Who is in you – Jesus – the Spirit of God in you).

His love changes everything. It always has and it always will. If you know Him, you’ve got it in you.

Hold Hope

Are you having a hard time hoping?

Uncertainty can make it tough to see him and disappointment can squash the desire to see him.

Brokenness didn’t originate with God. But God doesn’t disregard a single broken heart. He sees the depressed, disillusioned, disappointed and desperate ones and his compassion carries healing for each.

Hope showed up for the servant boy as he stood frozen by fear beside Elisha. Elisha prayed and instantly he could see monstrous angelic protection all around him.

Hope came in unexpected ways to Naaman who wanted to earn his own healing through money and power. Instead, Elisha gave him outlandish rinsing instructions, and Naaman’s pride almost prevented him from receiving his healing. But he took humble steps of faith and received healing in full.

Hope was there at Bethesda with the man who had been sick for thirty eight years. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be made well?”

Hope stood beside the woman caught in sin as she trembled on the ground, aware of the rock tossers ready to aim. Jesus disarmed the crowd, the rocks dropped, and before leaving, he reminded her to live free from the power of sin.

Can you hear him? Open your eyes, He says. It’s okay to let yourself believe Me. Will you open your eyes to see me? Do you want to be made well? Will you behold me so you can Hold Hope? 

 

 

 

Multiply

Yesterday, my friend Stephanie Morales Beaulieu spoke at an event called: You Lead. The most poignant moment of her presentation happened as she told about her dad battling ALS during his final months on earth. Stephanie said as her family gathered things to display at his funeral, only a handful of items could be found – nothing of much earthly value. His basketball jersey, and a book about cars.. the items appeared small and some would even say, insignificant.

Stephanie went on to speak about Jesus feeding the 5000 and she noted that all the people had as much as the WANTED, implying they had even more than they needed to get by. Jesus multiplied leftover loaves and fish to make abundance. Similarly, Stephanie’s dad lived a life of multiplication and abundance. People still come up to her and tell her the mass faith-building impact her dad had in their life.

Liz Wiseman writes about this kind of multiplication in her book, Multipliers. She says addition, adding more people to a cause/organization should not be the goal, but instead to multiply. Multiply gifts, aptitudes, talent and intelligence. Build people to enjoy life at full potential and watch any group, class, organization or ministry soar.

In the past year, the church I Pastor at said goodbye to two incredible Pastors. It was odd to watch them go after pouring heart, soul, energy, love and life in the Young Adult community. However, they were never building their own empires, so they could release the ministry and move on to God’s next call in a healthy way.

I am convinced that true life is not found in building empires up, but instead to multiply God’s glory out to the people around us. He will multiply extravagantly what we give Him completely.

A Valuable Lesson

Rebecca’s soulful reflection on expectations breathed life into weary parts of my soul this week, I trust it will do the same for you…

A Valuable Lesson

Expectations… what are they? Are they okay? Should we expect from others? At what point do expectations become unrealistic? I had placed so many expectations on my family, my friends, those people I call my people. You see, the thing was I had the expectations, but I never told anyone about them. I never took each person aside and said, “This is what I expect of you as my friend, my sister, my brother.” The expectations I was placing on them were very unrealistic. I was asking others to meet me only in the way that God could. It was in this that God taught me a valuable lesson. I had drawn a diagram as I pondered the people in my life. It was me in the middle with all the others on the outside, including God. In the end I had taken a pen and scratched out all of the relationships because in some way all had failed me, including my God. In reality, I was the one who had failed. I didn’t know exactly what this meant, but I drew it anyway. You see I’m visual, I have to write it down to get clarity. That evening my friend came over. I showed her the diagram. She said this is what you need. These need to be switched… Instead of Bekah being in the center, God needs to be. Instantly I knew she was right. I knew this was the answer. With God being in the center and Bekah on the outside, I’m able to live free, and content. I’m just another person living amidst the rest, needing, just as they do. But expecting from God alone. I pray this would free you to let go of the weight you put on others to be what you need them to be, and to expect from God alone. Living for Him alone. God bless you all.

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” ‭‭II Timothy‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Rebecca recently published her beautiful book, Life Abundant & Free: Finding a Rich and Satisfying Life in Christ. Rebecca is generously giving all proceeds from her book to Valley Light Home, an orphanage in Kenya where Rebecca will be the dorm mom to a lively group of girls, eager to have Rebecca join them this June.

Rebecca’s newly released book “is a testimony of a girl who found Christ through the dark struggle of anorexia. She was 98 pounds, at the brink of disaster, literal bones, with no life to give. It was here she recognized her need for a Saviour. She discovered the only place left to run was to the foot of the cross—pleading for mercy.” – Life Abundant & Free

To find a full description or to purchase Rebecca’s soulful book, please click HERE.

Confidence

The most remarkable thing you will ever do with your life is to fully trust God with it.

“Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.” – Isaiah 30:15

It took confidence this week for students in the math classroom to create their own business plans, innovate new products and collect data. It took confidence for those students to change their plans based on collected data.

It takes confidence for me to ask students for feedback at school regarding my teaching strategies and methods – and to ask the incredible women I partner with through the Sisterhood ministry to give honest feedback around ministry plans. It takes confidence to adjust plans according to their voices.

It takes confidence to have hard conversations and to recognize blind spots. I had a few of these this week… It takes even more confidence to change. It takes confidence to receive God’s love with beautiful openness and to give it freely, especially after feeling hurt or disappointed.

During a Mirror Mirror presentation with high school girls this week, it took confidence for girls to talk about the things they turn to in order feel valuable. It took confidence for me to disclose the things I tend to do in order to feel more valuable, too. I am grateful for the reminder this week that value is stamped on my life by God alone – and that the Gospel frees me to live from a place of worth – consistently. The cross seals it.

Confidence in Christ produces freedom and power.

Confidence means to trust His ability to bring change and power to your life and your world. And He will. And He is. Amen.

Love Your Everyday People

The word “Good” in the English language could be swapped for: nice, regular, okay or ordinary. But the Goodness of today could not be more extraordinary.

Today is Good Friday.

I have always loved German shepherd dogs. I grew up playing with pups and watching powerful demonstrations of agility, tracking, and obedience. My favorite memories with my favorite Shepherd, Liberty, are the hours we spent running together on the Saskatchewan gravel roads. It didn’t matter how far we went, or at what pace, she did not leave my side. She was predictably and absolutely Faithful.

Faithfulness can be underrated. The Goodness of this Friday can be downplayed too.

It’s hard to fathom the greatness of faithfulness because consistency becomes commonplace.

However, when we recognize the immense Goodness of Good Friday, we discover the Liberty to experience and give limitless love that leads to life.

I want to be like that exquisite Shepherd. Strong, determined, dependable. While it is pleasant to meet new people and chase after daring new adventures – there is something so deeply brave about remaining somewhere that isn’t exciting. There is something extraordinary about the footsteps of the Savior travelling resolutely with familiar chums to Jerusalem. When I feel His limitless love lavished on me, I feel deep appreciation for my everyday people, places and tasks.

His faithfulness reached it’s pinnacle on Good Friday.

And Good Friday gives me Liberty to Love.

And love really is everything.

And love really does change everything.

Ann Voskamp writes, “What matters most is not if our love makes other people change, but that in loving, we change … No matter what the outcome looks like, if your love has poured out, your life will be success-full … You aren’t ever missing your best life – when you aren’t missing opportunities to love like Christ.”

Psalm 57:10 NIV “For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.”

Grace

Isaiah 30:18 NIV “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.

For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”

Hebrews 12:2 NIV “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Father, I believe that your heart yearns to show me grace. Unlike your mercy, which spares me the punishment I fully do deserve, your grace offers me riches I could never merit. I believe your kindness is extended to me in the rising of the sun each morning. By your grace you infuse the globe with shades and tints pleasing to the human eye and heart. By grace you designed tasting buds to detect and bask in bursts of vibrant flavors. Even the storms that rock and quake my path have been intended by your grace. You, the great refiner, the author and perfecter of my faith, let no circumstance in my life go to waste, but use it all for your glory. Your most extraordinary gift expressed by the costly blood of Jesus that envelops and protects me now and will one day deliver me fully to glory. Thank you God for grace.

It Is Settled

“Elijah answered the captain, ‘If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!’ Then fire fell from heaven and consumed the captain and his men.”

Here, in this place, on this hill, God settled it. In a moment blazing hot flares penetrated the atmosphere and struck the sacrifice with force. There was no question in Elijah’s mind as to whether God actually has the power he claims to have. Elijah knew with assurance that the Most High Provider God was on his throne in that moment, just as He always is. Unmovable. Unchangeable. Love perched, life-giving, God-breathing King. However, Elijah may have wondered how God would choose to show up in this situation before Elijah opened his mouth to ask God to pour fire onto the hill. Although we often know God is King, that He is at work, we don’t always know how He is at work, or what exactly He is up to. This is not our job. Our job is to believe that God is who He says He is and He can do all that He professes. Our job is to rest in the knowledge that He sees the big picture and has scripted the big story and He is trustworthy truth and grace God-Head. You may not see it in your circumstances today, but know that the God you pray to this day is victorious, that it is finished, that the cross is complete and the resurrection means salvation for you, this day, and always. It is settled.

Location: Mount Horeb, Israel