Us: The Little Word That Changes Everything

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” Hebrews 12:1 NIV

“Us.” One tiny word—two little letters—with giant impact.

Who is to throw off everything that hinders? Us. Who is to run with perseverance? Us. Who is the race marked out for? Us. Not me. Not you. Us. We don’t have to run the race alone.

Just think of how that one little word changes everything. We can have support. We can have camaraderie. We can have the encouragement of others as we run our races, whether they’re races wrapped up in relationships, jobs, illnesses, goals, losses, or living lives of faith with victory.

In fact, we’re not meant to live the Christian life independent of other believers. Another passage in Hebrews (10:24-25) tells us, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Do you see it again? Us. Yes, we need to run together.

Let’s consider each of the races in our lives right now. Do we have running partners or groups running alongside for each one? Do we have those who are spurring us on, encouraging us, and giving us strength to persevere—or are we out there all on our own?

Let’s not forget the little word that changes everything. Let’s not forget “us.”

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV

*Who are your running partners in this season of life? Thank God for them—and then thank them too.

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early August. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by DrongowskiCreative Commons License

Lift Up Your Eyes: Guest Post by Gail Goolsby

Gazing out of the window on my first airplane trip to Afghanistan in 2004, I’d thought the scenery depressing. The decades of war, the desperate need for heating fuel, the years of drought, and the desert climate all contributed to the missing trees and grass. It is all so drab, so lifeless. Where is the green in all this khaki? Yuck.

The dusty, colorless environment fit my overall mood those first few months after my arrival in 2005 to serve as the principal of the soon-to-open International School of Kabul (ISK). I missed my young adult, semi-launched children back in the States and all my friends and my comfortable Missouri home, complete with gardens, paved streets and sidewalks.

When the rain came, the billowing dust turned to sticky mud. The mess was worse than the dust, but the rains brought relief through cleaner air. I could actually see vibrant color on trees and plants when the showers removed the dusty camouflage. But only briefly, as the high desert sun dried the ground quickly and the dust always returned.

Ah, but out of the dust rose…the mountains.

Like Denver, Kabul has several mountain ranges encircling it. They aren’t tree-covered like the Appalachians or Ozarks, or mighty granite peaks like the Rockies, but they are majestic in their own way. Walking down the dusty ISK street, I would lift my eyes to see the sunny blue skies outlining the mountains on every side and feel momentarily pleased with my surroundings. Sunrise and sunset photos over the hills were popular postings by staff on social media and undeniably breathtaking. Many fit foreigners loved to hike the stark inclines of Kabul’s mountains.

Ugliness at Every Corner

The Kabul chaos bothered me far more than bombs and guns, which were real threats, but not my daily challenge. Living in an overcrowded, unorganized city was draining to a lifelong suburban dweller like me.

Contrast too few resources (water, heat, power, internet, roadways, housing and work for returning refugees) with too many taxis, bicycles, pedestrians, beggars, flocks of goats and sheep (with their droppings), and horse-drawn carts all vying for the same travel space. Traffic was crazy with few yellow lines or stoplights. Drivers went where they liked, even in the opposite lane, confronting the coming stream of vehicles until somebody gave way.

Add to that the disregard/disrespect for women which hit me personally and professionally as I dealt more with men than women (who had limited English) in maddening, sometimes scary moments. Groups of Afghan men appeared throughout the city and seemed to stare holes in foreign women in eerie, disconcerting ways.

One October morning that first year in Kabul, I heard my husband call to me as I got ready for work. “Gail, come see this.”

I stepped outside, noticed the white powder on our marble patio courtyard, and then looked up.

Wow. My mouth fell open.

God Shows Up

When I saw that first autumn snowfall on the many peaks surrounding Kabul, I was enraptured. The transformation from a dusty, bland city was powerful. The sparkling white frosting on the brown mountain tops made a picturesque contrast. As a December birthday girl, I have always loved snow and yearly hoped it would appear as a special gift on my day. Now, it served to lift my spirits even higher, to remind me again, that God was present and able to enter any bleakness in wonderfully personal ways.

Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV) says: I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

When I purposely opened my eyes and looked carefully all around me, I could find delight, wonder, love, purpose and beauty in a seemingly desolate, vacant place.

What is hindering you from recognizing beauty and hope in your life right now?

*This article contains excerpts from my award-winning book Unveiled Truth: Lessons I Learned Leading the International School of Kabul. You can purchase a signed copy at: gailgoolsby.com/buy-book/ or online: books2read.com/gailgoolsby

 

 

Gail Goolsby holds master’s degrees in Professional Counseling and Educational Leadership. She has over 25 years educational experience as teacher, school counselor, and principal, including the K-12 American school in Afghanistan. Her award-winning book Unveiled Truth: Lessons I Learned Leading the International School of Kabul details the experience with challenging applications for all readers. As a counselor and ICF certified life coach, Gail believes there is support and encouragement in God’s Word to help us all learn to live well.

Gail and her pastor husband have been married 41 years and have three grown children, two sons-in-law, and four spunky granddaughters. They live where the wind blows over the prairie in south central Kansas and there really is no place like home.

Find her on her website: gailgoolsby.com  and social media: facebook.com/  Twitter

*Photo by Khalid Ahmadzai, used with permission.

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early August. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

Growing in a Hard Place

Last summer while on vacation with my husband, I witnessed one little flower after another growing in hard places—in the nooks and crannies of rocky formations above tree line in Colorado.

I spotted the flowers pictured above in the Mount Evans Wilderness area. The flowers found there (and in other alpine regions throughout the world) display a delicate but hearty beauty that seems to cry out, “Look at me! I made it! I’m growing in a hard place. I’ve survived harsh conditions and my beauty is declaring God’s glory!”

And today we each have an opportunity to be like the alpine flowers—we can grow in the hard places we find ourselves in.

Due to the current worldwide coronavirus pandemic, we have literally been thrust into harsh conditions—threat of illness and possible death of ourselves and our loved ones, social isolation as we join together separately to rob the virus of opportunity to spread, financial losses and loss of jobs for many, and an inadequate supply of medical supplies, food, and other product shortages as people panic and start hoarding. Most of us have also had to place certain plans or events on hold—some of them very important like graduations and weddings.

Some of us are dealing with living in other hard places at the same time. Some may be grieving the loss of a mate, family member, or friend. Others may be struggling to keep a marriage afloat. Some are living with chronic pain or long-term health problems and some are even battling cancer or other life-threatening illnesses.

As we each struggle with our own set of harsh conditions, let’s remember that if we hang on, the beauty will come. Persevering and overcoming struggles always serve to make us better, to help us grow. We will have the chance to declare to the world, “Look at me! I made it! I’m growing in a hard place and I’m declaring God’s glory!”

Hang on, friends. God will see us through—and oh, what beauty will come!

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 1 Corinthians 4:8-9 NIV

*Are you seeing any beauty in your circumstances yet?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early May. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Amazon and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*My photo

Marching Orders to Strengthen You

“March on, my soul; be strong!” Judges 5:21 NIV

I saw this verse years ago in one of Beth Moore’s blog posts. She was sharing scriptures about marching since it was the month of March, and I instantly fell in love with these simple yet powerful words: “March on, my soul; be strong!” And today in the midst of the national emergency we find ourselves in regarding COVID-19, these words take on new meaning.

Just reading or saying these precious words from the Word of God seems to infuse my soul with his encouragement and strength. I think most of us probably feel the need for such encouragement on a daily basis as we face the challenges of life, but there are times when the need for fresh strength eclipses everything else.

Are we faced with a difficult road to travel this month? Yes. Do fear and uncertainty loom ahead? Yes. Are we worried about the pandemic? Yes. And maybe some of us are facing other difficult roads as well. Maybe a continuation of an already difficult journey where no end is in sight.

Whatever the case, let’s allow the breath of heaven—the Word of God—to give us our marching orders and the strength to carry them out. Let’s march on!

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” Psalm 84:5 NIV

*What has God done recently to strengthen you for a difficult road?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early May. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by NINXIVICreative Commons License

Guest Blogger Jane M. Tucker: Better Days to Come

I went to bed feeling fine and woke up with a pain in my leg so acute I could barely walk. How did I injure myself while sleeping?

“It’s probably bursitis,” my doctor said.

Bursitis? Isn’t that an old people’s word?

On days like this, when my body lets me down, my thoughts sometimes turn gloomy. Will this pain last forever? I wonder. Is it a foretaste of misery to come? Getting old is not for the weak!

My earthly body is my home in this world. It’s the means by which I process all my experiences. Without it I would not be human, and if I weren’t human I would not know the Lord Jesus. I’m grateful for my body, but I know it’s not going to last forever.

In First Corinthians 15 the apostle Paul addresses the Corinthians’ doubts about the resurrection. It’s true, he tells them. Jesus’ body was resurrected, and ours will be too. Our resurrected bodies will be different from our natural ones, just as a seed planted in the ground is different from a stalk of wheat. “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (I Cor 15:42-44 NIV)

The promise of an imperishable body makes my current imperfect one bearable. Someday eyeglasses and allergies and random bouts of pain will end for me. Maintaining my health becomes a means to serve the Lord, not the focus of my life.

The promise of a body raised in glory and power makes me look differently at my appearance. I do what I can to be neat and attractive. But I don’t see any reason to put time and money into looking younger than I am. Someday I’ll look much better than I do right now. I can wait for that.

The promise of my natural body being raised a spiritual body reminds me of my purpose on earth. I’m not here to glorify self, but to work hard for the glory of the Lord.

Friend, are you struggling with the aches and pains of growing old? If you know the Lord Jesus, you have every reason to hope for better days to come.

“We . . . would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8 NIV

Jane M. Tucker is a lifelong writer and reader with a deep love for the art of storytelling. Her Midwestern roots inspire the stories she tells, both in her books and on her blog, Postcards from the Heartland. Jane is the author of the Lottie Braun series, about an Iowa girl with a big gift for music, and the family she loves with all her heart. Lottie’s Gift, Lottie’s Hope, and Lottie’s Freedom are available at Amazon.com and Crossrivermedia.com.

Follow Jane on Social Media:

Website: JaneMTucker.com

Facebook: Jane M. Tucker Author

Twitter: @JaneMTuckerAuth

Instagram: JaneMTucker

Thank you, Jane, for sharing your encouraging thoughts with us this week!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early May. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

Photo used with permission from Picmonkey.com Stock Photos