Running Undeserved

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I’ve shared with family and friends the ecstatic feeling that came from being able to run for the first time in almost four months since a severe ankle injury. Any athlete or active person who has been injured understands the pain, disappointment, and frustration from limited activity. I cried more than I wish anyone to know when I found out that I couldn’t play sports for the entire Minnesota summer. When I ran for the first time, to me, it was better than someone handing me $10,000.

So, you get the idea. This was a huge gift. But, the timing was also significant. And, by timing I don’t mean a Tuesday evening in October. What I didn’t share was that the same day I felt a million miles away from God. I felt as though I had failed Him, my family, and friends in more ways than I care to admit.  It was while sharing my struggles with a dear friend that I all of the sudden felt ready to try running again.

I know that God has given me a love that I don’t deserve. But, in that moment of being given such a tangible gift when I certainly didn’t deserve it drastically impacted me. It was as if I found out I got promoted at my job right after I made a critical mistake that cost the company thousands of dollars. It didn’t make any sense, and it almost felt wrong to accept. But, God’s love is like that, and He wants us to accept it and show the same grace-filled love to others.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:6-8

Stilettos, Cleavage, and Mini Skirts


Standing in line at Chipotle, there were several people ahead of me waiting to order. Near the front, I noticed about four dudes who would best be described as “jocks.” Sporting athletic shorts and cutoff t-shirts, they were accompanied by a pretty girl wearing some of the highest heels I had ever seen complete with a mini skirt, midriff shirt, and perfect makeup. She looked completely out of place being so dressed up compared to the guys next to her; yet it was obvious they were in line together.

Note: this blog has nothing to do about modesty, if you were wondering. It was not what the girl was wearing that hit me the hardest—it was why she was wearing what she was. Let’s just say that it would have been nearly impossible to not notice her. Yet, I wondered if most people really noticed HER, or if they only noticed what she was wearing, or the lack thereof. It appeared as though she was trying incredibly hard to be the part she felt she needed to play. She may have been seeking attention, but I would guess what she truly desired was love—without having to strive for it.

I feel the same way. Sure, maybe I don’t feel the need to get some jock’s attention by dressing in a skimpy outfit, but I find myself trying to perform to be loved. Even though I know God loves me regardless of anything I have or ever will do, I often feel the need to wear my “high heels” and “do my hair” to get His attention. I don’t feel like I can be seen by God on those mornings that I roll out of bed and my hair is a mess and I haven’t done my makeup yet. So, I find myself running away and trying to look more presentable before I spend time with Him. I cry out to God for help when my friends are in need or when things with my family are falling apart, but when it comes to things I struggle with in my own life, I am compelled to work harder to be in control before I show myself to God. I know what I need to do, but I fail time and time again. Instead of crying out to God in my brokenness and accepting that being “human” is okay, I distance myself until I can “get it all together” all the while knowing that apart from God I can do absolutely nothing (John 15:5).

What I need to remember is this: I don’t need to get God’s attention; He wants me to realize how much He already noticed me—while I had less than nothing to offer.

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” – 1 John 4:10

When You’re The Baking Soda


Have you ever made chocolate chip cookies and forgotten to add the baking soda? If you enjoy flat, lifeless cookies, perhaps this is for you, but most people would agree that the results are less than preferred.

Baking soda is not one of those glamorous ingredients. The chocolate chips seem much more important as they are visible and help consumers easily identify the type of dessert they are enjoying. Baking soda, on the other hand, is white, powdery, and tastes like nothing but salt. Not something you want to eat by itself, in case you were wondering. Most recipes require only a teaspoon or so, and as it is mixed into the batter, it quickly disappears. You would hardly know it was there until it helps the cookies rise to perfection.

Do you ever feel like what you have to offer when it comes to your job, friendships, relationships, serving in the church, or your family, that what you have to offer is not important enough for anyone to notice a difference? Do you feel like you are baking soda, but no one realizes you got mixed into the dough?

1 Corinthians 12:14-19 talks about everyone being a crucial part of the body of Christ. Perhaps, however, you realize you are important, yet you feel unnoticed and under-appreciated. Everyone notices the effects of baking soda, but most people don’t give it the credit it deserves or talks about it much. Know that people do notice what you have to offer even when no one says anything or seems to appreciate you. And, even when people do not notice, God notices. Hebrews 6:10 says, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” Ultimately, what we do is not to gain the notice of men. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men.” 

Although it is easy to know these truths, the nagging sense of needing to be noticed and appreciated can remain. Only God can satisfy this feeling, yet, it can be helpful to remember that if you are feeling unnoticed and unnecessary, there are probably other people around you that feel the same thing. Don’t forget to say something when you notice how crucial the “baking soda” is to making the perfect cookie.


Selfish Fear

My response to fear: run, and run fast. 

If I’m afraid someone is mad at me, I avoid them thinking this is the best course of action to not bother them further. If I’m afraid my suggestions at work will not be well received, I don’t say anything. If I’m afraid someone doesn’t want to be my friend, I don’t always even talk to them. It feels safer to run away than risk getting hurt later. I’m afraid of relationships, so I tend to ignore guys who even potentially try to hang out with me. I’m afraid of failing, so I don’t take a chance to pursue some of my dreams. I’m afraid of being judged, so I don’t always share what’s going on in my life with my friends.

Then it hit me: fear causes me to respond out of selfishness. I may think no one notices if I run away, but my actions never affect just me. Fear makes me focus only on how a situation affects me or makes me feel. It takes all the focus off the people around me. I stop talking to someone so I feel “safe” without considering how that might hurt the other person. I don’t share my ideas so that I don’t get ignored, but I don’t consider how not sharing might actually cause someone to miss out.

How do I not let fear control my life but instead focus more on how my actions affect those around me?

“Perfect love casts out all fear.” – 1 John 4:18

And perfect love is not self-seeking. Only when I am fully confident, that God will love me no matter what, can I stop watching out for myself and start caring more about those around me. Embracing love and letting go of fear can result in incredible freedom.

What is one thing that you would do right now if fear didn’t hold you back?


Full Visibility


That dreaded moment. You knew it was coming, and you could have prevented it…But, you didn’t take the extra three minutes to refill the windshield washer fluid that you knew had been low for the past week. The small act might be quick and inexpensive, but it involved staying out in the below zero temps just a few seconds longer than seemed pleasant. So, you kept putting it off. Sure, you don’t really need it, well, not until you are driving at night and your visibility drops to nearly nothing thanks to the snow, sand, and salt being whipped at you by the semi truck you can’t manage to pass. You round the next corner in the road only to be more thoroughly blinded by the vehicle who forgot to turn off their high beams. Thank you very much. As much as you might be annoyed, you desperately don’t want to collide with oncoming traffic, but you come too close for comfort…all because of a dirty windshield.

So many things in life tend to pile up and cloud our visibility. When it really counts, it is easy to be so blinded by the junk on our windshields, that we don’t see the things that are most important, even things that might save someone’s life. It is worth it to take the time to fill your windshield washer fluid: to intentional spend time with God to be prepared for whatever life throws your way—to be so filled up with truth that you can clear away the lies and distractions, allowing you to focus on the people around you, see God more clearly, avoid crash encounters with past struggles, and keep your eyes focused on what God has for you next.

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13

Socially Aborted

Screaming, running kids bolt through the doors to the playground to enjoy the short recess before being corralled back into the classrooms. Laughing, giggling kids play with their friends and run around getting out excess energy. All the kids, that is, except one.

Team captains are called for the next game. Everyone vies for attention to get on the best team. All the kids, that is, except one. She is always the one who never gets picked. Or worse, she is the last to get on a team, not because she was picked last but because the teachers said she had to be included.

She is an afterthought, passed by, forgotten—socially aborted. 


Her brain runs circles wondering why no one sees her, why no one wants her. Perhaps she is too chubby, too thin, too awkward, too dumb, too slow, too fast, too ugly, too needy. If only she knew what the problem was, perhaps she could change.

She changes her clothes, hair, voice, attitude, friend group…herself. Even so, no one seems to notice. The teams have been chosen. She lost her chance, for now.

High school gives hope for a new face, a new chance to get on the team. But, the cycle repeats. Then comes college. No one knows her. Perhaps this time she will be noticed, wanted, chosen. But no.

The blow comes again. Unexpected, but not really. She feels she should have anticipated this. It always happens. Sitting alone in the dining hall. An afterthought for group projects or floor events. Maybe she is truly invisible. No one notices or even cares. She practically gets tripped in the hallway, and no one even stops and stares.

One last try. Walking up the church steps, her hope slowly climbs. Surely here, she may finally be noticed. Yet, all the faces, young and old, seem to scan right past hers with thoughts untold. Surely something is not right with this picture. Will she ever fit in? Will she ever be noticed?

Perhaps you can relate.

The Christmas Eve service I attended last night was about Jesus making room for everyone so each person  can have a family and place to belong in Him. As this is part of the message of the season, I thought it appropriate to muse along such lines. There is something extremely special about knowing that you are picked. You are specially noticed and needed. Whether you are ever picked by your peers or not, know that He picks you. Jesus was rejected and passed by, yet He knew His identity in Christ. He never passes by; he never rejects or despises. You are not just another face in the crowd but someone who was explicitly chosen.

Perhaps you were not passed by, but rather passed others by.

When you get the chance, change this. Perhaps the family, friends, middle school, high school, college, or church you have experienced has been less than welcoming. This is life because everyone is human, flawed. However, this is not the way it was intended to be. When you are secure in being loved, chosen, and part of God’s family, take the focus off of you. Be someone who notices the ones left behind, thrown out, and seen as a burden. Be one who doesn’t pass by and leave behind others to add to the socially aborted.

Unconditional Love Made Possible

“Why do we love?”

Such was the question I asked myself the other day. My answer: we love in order to receive love in return. Love desires love. God IS love, and what does He want most from people? Love. The greatest commandment talks about loving God with everything. Pretty important. If people are created in God’s image, and God is love, and He desires love, it is only natural that we were made to love and receive love as well. This is good and right.

Often, love initiates a response of love. God loved us first so that we would love him. However, true love cannot love in order to be loved in return.

Love can desire love in return, but it cannot hinge on being loved in return. 

I throughly enjoy loving on people. I believed that I was able to love with no strings attached because I didn’t expect people to give me something in return. Although I did not want to want something in return, I found myself struggling in moments where I would extend love to a person over and over only to get rejected. I would muster up my strength to keep “loving” on them while often growing distant inside and starting to resent the fact that they continually rejected me. In all honesty, I was desperate to gain love in return. Therefore, I could not truly love unconditionally.

We must know we are fully and completely loved in order to love unconditionally. The only way to do this is to be confident in God’s unconditional love toward us. When you know that you are loved unconditionally, it doesn’t matter if you get rejected because you on not dependent on another person’s love. When we look to others to be loved, the chance of losing that love become too great of a risk. You can’t give unconditionally when there is too much to lose.

Think of an all-you-can-eat buffet. If you are at the buffet, you know you can go back for seconds, thirds, fourths, etc. In this situation, I would not hesitate to share my food with the person next to me. I am confident I will still have plenty to eat, so I have nothing to lose. Even if the person rejects the food I offer saying they don’t like it, I can just go back and get them something else to try. However, if you only have one plate of food and give it to someone and they reject it, you aren’t able to give them anything else, and you will be mad they wasted the only food you had.

Just because love comes from a place of love, however, does not mean that love does not hurt. The cross is a stark example of that. Jesus went through incredible pain in order to demonstrate love. It does hurt to love others especially when you get stabbed in the back and rejected. But, if you truly know love, you can still love through the pain instead of pulling away when you are hurt. Until we are able to be fully loved, we will always look for that in others. But, when we know unconditional love, we can truly give out of a place that is constantly being filled and is not needing to gain anything in return.

This is unconditional love.

Ice Cream and Brussel Sprouts

I LOVE ice cream! Can you relate? But, what makes ice cream so desirable? For me, there are several factors. Of course the smooth, creamy texture, the sweetness along with memories of ice cream as a special treat, and brussel sprouts. Yes, you read that correctly. Brussel sprouts. Have you ever realized that sometimes certain foods taste better when there are unappetizing foods to compare them to?

For a whole month now, I have been struggling with severe migraines which make it incredibly difficult to do homework, work, or even get up in the morning and make it through classes. I’m trying to graduate and a million other things. This is not prime time to be laid up and practically unable to function. I have asked God “why” many times. I know I am not alone in my struggle. Life is full of difficulties that often lead to questioning God.

Why do best friends ditch for apparently no reason? Why do couples who are married for years decide to leave each other and break a sacred covenant? Why does a family member get cancer? Why do people stab others in the back? The list goes on.

I often wish I had answers to these questions for myself as well as for my friends. But, I don’t.

Sure, I have heard how struggles are just part of life. God promised Christians there would be trials. God uses everything to build character. Maybe God just wanted to teach you something? Christians suffer because Jesus had to suffer. God will use this trial so you can minister to someone else going through the same thing.

I think that these answers generally have Biblical backing, but perhaps there is more.

Just like there has to be brussel sprouts for ice cream to taste good, life’s struggles are necessary in order to know what joy looks like. How would we be able to know what was good and wonderful and enjoy those things fully without knowing what evil and sadness and disappointment look like?

In the same way, there would be no rejoicing in the resurrection without the pain and suffering of the cross.

The final resurrection is what Christians ultimately look towards, and it is what makes the trials of this life endurable. The more suffering, the more the desire for heaven. Maybe you feel like you have been eating a lot of brussel sprouts lately. Just remember when you get the ice cream, it will taste extra delicious!

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:2

Underdressed for the Kingdom

God can and will use you even when you feel under-qualified and out of place.

Torn up, old jeans. Leggings underneath for added warmth. Tennis shoes for easy walking. Long sleeve t-shirt. Zip up sweatshirt, winter jacket, camo hat, gloves, and a scarf. Perfect attire for a chilly, evening walk to the warehouse district downtown Minneapolis, right? Yes, but not if your destination is an art show. I walked into a three story building of art studios only to discover the general attendee was dressed business casual if not nicer. Despite standing out drastically due to my appearance, I was allowed to enter the building and view the various displays. A few strange looks were cast my way, but overall I did not feel as out of place as I anticipated. Not only did I enjoy the art, but I was pleasantly surprised at the wide array of fancy hors d’oeuvres provided to allure potential buyers to linger at certain displays. I did not have 15 grand to make a purchase, yet I still sampled the free food and learned from the art culture I viewed.

In God’s kingdom, there are often situations one can walk into and feel extremely underdressed. This can stem from feelings of inadequacy as well as the feeling of not fitting in. I often find myself feeling like I don’t have the skill set or experience necessary for God to use me. I get thrown into environments and get completely caught off guard. “Everyone else is way more qualified, why am I even here?” I think to myself. How am I going to fit in and accomplish anything. Everyone is going to want to throw me out on the street thinking I am a bum. At the art show, I was not dressed appropriately, and I didn’t have the kind of money to fit in with the class of people present. In church, you might not have the talent of the people on the worship team or feel like you can’t relate to the majority of members who have grown up in Christian families and know a wealth of information about the Bible and theology. Are you tracking? Do you ever find yourself feeling like you don’t have a place? In these cases, why even try? When I realized that the art show was out of my league, why even enter?

Nevertheless, when we step out into wherever God calls us, it may turn out differently than expected. Sure, we may feel uncomfortable and get a few discouraging comments, but just maybe there are delicious “hors d’oeuvres” you won’t expect. God may put opportunities in front of you that you never imagined but you end up greatly enjoying. Not only that, but had I not gone to the art show due to my attire, I would not have been able to appreciate all the different artists and their works. Even the people we don’t feel like we belong with have something beautiful to offer to God’s kingdom. If we don’t get past how we feel, we will miss the opportunity to appreciate what others add to the body of Christ. Next time you come underdressed to an “art show,” don’t be deterred by the strange looks or feelings of inadequacy. Take a risk, and experience all God has to offer.