Gimme the ball, gimme the ball, gimme the ball..

As I watched the Golden State Warriors (pro basketball) this season, I tried to describe concisely what is so different about them. many things can be said, but during game 1 of the Finals, it struck me. Every player wants the ball–and every player wants to pass the ball to someone who has a better shot.

Gimme the ball so I can shoot. Gimme the ball so I can pass.

The number of assists on this team of superstars is astounding. When most teams are built around one or two superstars, what makes the GSW great is their truly team approach. What makes them dangerous is that even if you clamp down on one player, they have six more who can still beat you. Shut down 3-point shooter Klay Thompson in Game 1, and you still have to deal with NBA MVPs Kevin Durant and Steph Curry. Clamp down on Durant, and Draymond Green, known for his non-point stats (rebounds, steals, assists, etc), will open Game 2 with a three-pointer. And when the depth of the bench can fill in to allow the first six to cycle in and out of the game without much loss of progress, a team becomes unbeatable.

Every player wants to make the play. Every player wants to give the assist. And every player hustles from start to finish. Even if the talent of the other team exceeds that of the Warriors, the Warriors will outlast them almost every time. Go ahead and start fast–they’ll out pace you in the end. Their conditioning, their work, and their hustle is unmatched.

Imagine if we approached our life of faith the same way. When God calls, we want the ball and we will make the play. When God calls someone else, we will take the assist and get them what they need to make the play. We cheer from the bench, and we high-five on the floor. We hustle in practice. We work. And in any situation, we might be beat down temporarily, but we will never be out-worked. In the life of faith, working means trusting, working means pushing when God calls us to push, and working means hitting our knees in prayer as often as we hit the floor in action.

We are given armor, for the life of faith is a battle. Maybe that’s why I enjoy sports–because there is an opponent, you have a team, and the work you put in behind the scenes comes on display in the battle. Let’s aspire to be so on point in our walk with Jesus that we will confidently make the play just as confidently as we pass the ball to our bother or sister in faith for their play.

Let’s be playmakers.

Gimme the ball, gimme the ball, gimme the ball.

Intention cannot lead…

The work I do requires results. I was brought in to lead now-three departments, each in need of a financial turn-around. Given three years to turn them around or shut them down, the only option for me was obvious–if I shut them down I would lost my own job as well. If for nothing else than self-preservation, I set out a three year plan to make a financial difference.

What I ran into throughout were excellent intentions without training in how to execute or make those intentions reality. My team needed a path on which to put their intentions. And more so, they needed to execute. They needed to take the steps necessary to achieve the success we sought. They needed guidance from someone who had been there before, had success before, and could assure them the steps we were taking together would get us where we needed to go. They intended for good, but they needed someone who could lead them there.

And we turned each program around in one year.

It seems so obvious to me in the work world. And yet, I find myself mixing up intentions with execution so frequently in my spiritual life. Paul shares the following in Romans:

“I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented)…For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith…” –Romans 1:13, 16-17, ESV

Paul wanted to come to the Romans. He wanted to preach the gospel to them. Yet he knew that his obligation was to the gospel, not to his intention. Paul’s call was to preach where God called him to go–and if he kept getting way-layed in his attempt to go to Rome, the gospel must be preached wherever Paul was.

Paul put the preaching of the gospel as supremacy in guiding his intentions “for in it the righteousness of God is revealed…” Paul knew why it should be the guiding reason. And he stayed keen to that reason, kept taking steps in that direction, and didn’t get torn up when his intention to visit Rome didn’t pan out.

I have recently found myself choosing intention over the overarching truth when it comes to faith. In my work, the truth of financial turnaround seems simple to my business brain, and so laying aside intentions that are different comes easy. In faith, the same analytical business mind seems to spend too much time in analysis, worrying the details rather than remembering the overarching truth: I am called to follow where God leads. And when I do, I will find Him there showing me where to go and what to do next. I need not get tied up in my own intention, my own analysis, because following Jesus is where the power of God found in the gospel gets us.

So rather than over-analyze this life of faith, I need to spend more time stepping.

It’s time…again?

Life. The older I get, the more I see cycles and patterns and how bits and pieces fit together to prepare us for each part of our journey. If you are a follower of Jesus, you can trust that each thing in life will be pulled together for eventual good–so even in the mixing stage of life, when pieces are all ingredients and not yet a meal, you can trust that eventually it will come together as a meal you will so greatly enjoy.

Sometimes life moments come as a result of percolating. A little bubble here, a moment there over the course of years comes to a head. A decision must be made: move forward in faith, settle back in complacency.

I cannot say I have always had faith to move forward when the opportunity first was made clear. And yet, in His infinite mercy, Jesus keeps coming, taking a different angle, a different approach. Sometimes my pause has resulted in a lost opportunity. But sometimes, in His love causing His desire to refine me into the best version of me, He keeps coming.

So a decision point comes…again. Something that has percolated for nearly three years is coming to a head–it is time to step out in faith, regardless of knowing where that road will ultimately go.

If Jesus is calling you to step, step. Trust His leading. Trust His hand. And trust His love for you. He would never lead you to a place that would not ultimately be for your good–His ultimate goal is your ultimate sanctification. Your best self will come as you surrender to His leading, submit to His refining of your self, and repentance from the sin that so easily entangles.

Let’s not wait until “again” happens–let’s take the step together. The people of faith are all in this walk together. Let’s wave each other on, hand each other a refreshment, and give some grace as we all step into new territory.

Life behind an 18-wheeler

I laughed today as I drove the highway, on the way to a family function. Lots of road equals lots of time to think. As I come up behind an 18-wheel, tractor/trailer, I sigh. I hate following them. You can’t see around them, you can’t see the road in front of them, and if there are over-road signs, you cannot read them until it is too late to make a lane change.

Don’t get me started about road spray in the rain and snow when driving behind one of these behemoths.

But today, I laughed. The life of faith often seems like following such a massive truck. We cannot see the road ahead, whether it turns right or left, and often hindsight is the only way to see the “signs” above the roadway.

But instead of annoying, dirtying road spray from a behemoth truck, we settle in behind our Savior. The Behemoth in this case is the Conqueror. He trampled sin and death. He rose from the grave and sits at the right hand of the One True God. Jesus has earned His behemoth status–and His road spray is a dusting of “follow Me,” a spray of “trust Me,” and when the storm is great, the overwhelming wash of “I am here.”

Jesus isn’t such a bad 18-wheeler to follow.

10 years…

A decade. A lifetime of journals, but a decade ago, I put the words top ring and started distributing them. Groundswell began as a church women’s newsletter of short articles to encourage, empower, and equip the people of God to pursue and achieve the life God has planned for each of us.

Ten years. There are ups, there are interesting moments when your ideas are taken by another trying to present them as their own. I have struggled with how to write, what to write, where to write, where to publish, what to share here, what to keep for a future book. Who to let in my circle, who to let remain a measure removed.

The insecurities, the cruel words of the enemy roaring, trying to distract–sometimes temporarily succeeding, sometimes the taunts being laughed out of the room.

If you look at the long road of ministry, the road of using your gifting for the purpose God has provided, just start walking. If you stand nervous, walk it out. If you keep looking up, looking down, looking to the side, walk it out. If you trip in a hole, get up, brush off, and walk that out as well. Because, in wisdom from my father to my mother when she wanted grad school, “in ten years, do you want to have that degree or do you want to still be wishing you had it.” Walk it out. Keep swinging. That is what I share with you–just start walking. And in ten years, you’ll look back and be amazed at all that happened in the meantime.

–image credit: unknown