For When You Feel Like an Underdog (Part 2)…

“When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, ‘Why have you come down here? […] I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.’” (1 Samuel 17:28)

“Saul replied, ‘You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.’” (vs. 33)

“The Philistine cursed David by his gods. “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!’

For David, the voices on the sidelines were loud and clear.

Last week, I wrote about what to do when you feel like an underdog. (Recap here.) This week I’d like to take a closer look at Four Underdog Lessons from the story of David and Goliath.

Underdog Lesson No. 1: David Persisted

Despite the verbal attacks being hurled against him, David refused to take “no” for an answer. Instead, David kept asking, seeking, persisting until Saul agreed to give him a chance.

When we battle against giants in our lives the best way we can be persistent is through prayer and the opportunities God provides.

Sometimes it’s easy to grow weary of seeking God through prayer but God loves for us to drive him crazy with our heartfelt desires. Likewise, when opportunities arise, it’s often easy to shy away in fear, to procrastinate, to talk ourselves out of the battle and into our comfort zone.

This is exactly what the enemy is after.

Don’t waste the weapon of prayer, and don’t waste the opportunities you’re given. Ask. Seek. Persist. When we are faithful in prayer and faithful with our opportunities, God is faithful to us.

Underdog Lesson No. 2: David Relied On His Training and His Past

When David went before Saul to ask permission to fight Goliath he built his case on his experience as a shepherd. On more than one occasion David had willingly fought with lions and bears. With each encounter he skillfully defeated the wild beasts. David felt confident that if God could rescue him from the paws of a lion or the claws of a bear, He could rescue him from Goliath too.

God is always at work in our lives, molding us, preparing us, training us in ways we may not realize. When the time comes to face a giant, God never sends us into battle unprepared.

Even in times when we don’t feel confident in our abilities, God is there, and we can find confidence in our Him. By looking to ways God has rescued us in the past we can find ourselves assured that He will come through for us again.

God is mighty to save. He loves to rescue us. No one fights for underdogs more than He does.

Underdog Lesson No. 3: David Removed That Which Encumbered Him

I think this is my favorite part of the whole story. Saul has just given his consent to let the shepherd boy face the giant. He gives David his armor, his sword. David tries them on. He walks around. “I cannot go in these,” he says to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” (vs. 39)

Taking the armor off, David opts for five smooth stones and sling. By removing that which encumbered, David remained true to himself and the skills God had given him.  

Consider the giants in your life. What’s hindering you from the victory you desire? Is there something you need to remove, take off, get free from? Is there someone or something else you’re trying to be?

Follow David’s example. Remove what you can. Be the person God designed you to be. Hold tight to your sling.

Underdog Lesson No. 4: David Spoke Boldly In the Name of God

“David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, who you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.’” (vs. 45-47)

These words are mighty. These words have the power to move heaven and earth. These words are one hundred percent as potent and powerful for us as they were for David.

The battles we face aren’t about swords and javelins. They aren’t limited to what we can see, hear, and touch. The battles we face are as much spiritual as they are physical…sometimes more so. The power of the spoken word is our weapon against spiritual forces, against the giants we can’t see, against Satan and his lies.

When giants taunt and spew their lies, when Satan attacks, fight back with words, with prayer, with scripture. Claim God’s promises. Speak boldly in His name. Use David’s speech if you have to.

When all was said and done, David ran toward the giant, and so can we.

When giants tower before us…

When Satan lurks around us…

  • Be persistent
  • Rely on God’s work in your life; Your training and His faithfulness
  • Remove all encumbrances and be who you were born to be
  • Speak bold words that call on God
  • Remember that He is with you

Don’t run away in fear. Run into the battle. Claim your victory. Stand your ground.

And watch the giant fall.

Today Was A Fairy Tale

JournalOnce upon a time there was a witch and a toad…

…Lightning flashed in the princess’ eyes as the prince thundered down the hall. Every room in the castle seemed to vibrate with the tension and anger between them…

Fairy tale or a typical Saturday morning after a long and weary week?

All couples have their moments. Moments when stress, fatigue, misunderstanding and frustration cripple an otherwise happy marriage. Nagging and bickering elbow out hugs and kisses. Peace and closeness fall under attack. The cycle spins like a wicked spell, and the distance that forms between man and wife can feel like anything but a fairy tale.

I know it firsthand. After a recent stent of on and off squabbling between me and my prince, I went to the oasis of a trusted friend for advice. “What do I do when I feel like I’m not being heard? When I feel hurt and accused? How do we put an end to the fighting and distance between us?”

With the look of a fairy godmother, and thirty-four years of marriage shimmering in her eyes, my friend smiled a knowing smile and spoke an answer that was simple and true, “You lean into God, and you lean into each other, and you don’t let anything destroy the closeness.”

With these words in mind I pictured myself over the last few weeks. The selfish things I’d said. The harsh things I’d thought. The prickly shell I grew around me.

I considered the assumptions I’d made.

The grace I’d withheld.

The fingers I’d pointed in his direction.

None of it was helping. None of it did one good thing to restore the peace in our castle. In my eyes he’d become a toad and, let’s be honest, a few warts short of a witch might be the best way to describe me. 

Remember The Sweet ThingsSeveral years ago I read an article written by Ellen Greene, author of Remember the Sweet Things. In her powerful narrative, Greene wrote about her decision to keep a written list of all the things she loved about her husband and the way it revolutionized their marriage.

Moved to begin a list of my own I bought a fancy leather journal for my prince’s thirtieth birthday and started filling line after line with all the things I noticed, appreciated, and acknowledged about him and his love.  

Journal PageYou spent your Barnes and Noble gift card on books we both enjoy.

You built shelves for the basement.

You stayed home from work to be with me when Uncle Ron died.

You dried the dishes for me while I cooked dinner.

I kept with it for a while but I’m sad to say I eventually let months, even years, go by without a single entry. Inspired by Ann Voskamp and her book One Thousand Gifts, my list, over time, evolved into an ongoing journal of things I am thankful for, a record of God and His gifts.

One Thousand GiftsIt’s a different sort of list but the idea is the same. Both lists keep track. Both lists recognize what could easily be missed. Both lists revolve around my ability to see, and choose, and dwell on love, thanksgiving, and the gifts I’ve been given.

In fairy tale stories the princess must kiss the toad to turn him into a prince. Why should life with my beloved be any different? When my prince starts to look like a toad, when I start to act like a witch, the answer, the cure, the only way to break the spell is always and only through love.

To lean into God. To lean into each other. To let nothing destroy the closeness.

Keeping a list of things I love about my husband changes my eyes to see a prince instead of a toad, his love instead of his faults. It changes my heart to feel soft instead of prickly, thankful instead of hard. It changes my focus to that which is good, and right, and lovely between us, instead of all the little things that pry our hearts apart.

On days when my prince is a prince I see, I choose, I scribble down lines. On days when my prince resembles a toad, I read the lines, the notes on love, so I can see, so I can choose, so I can break the spell with love.

This list…it is the act of love… it is the kiss that transforms. (And for the record…real kisses work too.)

Brave Prince, Lovely Princess, may you wake up this day to the fairy tale found in a list of love, of gifts, of thanksgiving. When lightning strikes in her eyes, when he thunders down the hall, may you lean into God, may you lean into each other, may you always fight for closeness and break the spell with love.

For When You Feel Like An Underdog…

BracketsIt’s 3:43 on Thursday afternoon. The NCAA Tournament has barely started and already my brackets are screwed.

It happens every year. The sorry state of my brackets has little to do with my knowledge of who’s who in college basketball and everything to do with the fact that I can’t help but bet on an underdog.

I know I’m not alone in this. Every year March Madness enthusiasts wait expectantly for “Cinderella” to emerge. For one unlikely team to defy the odds. For one unlikely team to slay the giant. For one unlikely team to show up to the ball and dance.

As a nation, as fans of the game, we love it. It’s what makes March Madness and tournament time so sweet.

As I consider my love for an underdog story, I’m reminded of the fact that for every Cinderella, for every underdog out there, there is an ugly stepsister or a nasty giant that stands on the sidelines and taunts…

“What are you thinking, Cinderella? You’re too ugly to go to the ball.”

“You’ll never win. You’re not smart enough, strong enough, skilled enough to beat me.”

“It’s impossible. You might as well, go home, give up, forget it.”

Sound familiar? I don’t know about you but the ugly stepsisters and the giants sound an awful lot like the voice I hear inside my head whenever I sit down at my computer to write…

“What do you think you’re doing? You don’t have anything important to say.”

When I start another day of school with my daughter…

“Homeschool? What makes you think you’ve got what it takes to homeschool your daughter?”

When I fight with my husband…

“He doesn’t love you. You’re such a screw-up. No one’s marriage is as wrecked as yours.”

Or when I risk my heart in relationship…

“What do you have to offer? Why would they be interested in you? What are you thinking inviting them over, your house is a mess?”

In his book, Waking the Dead, John Eldredge writes, “Any movement toward freedom and life, any movement toward God or others, will be opposed. Marriage, friendship, beauty, rest— the thief wants it all.”

The taunts from the sidelines are endless because the thief does want it all.

So what do we do?

Perhaps the best we thing we can do is look to the most famous underdog of all-time and notice what he did when it was his turn to face the giant.

“Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and greeted his brothers. As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted out his usual defiance, and David heard it. When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear. Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel.” […] David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (Samuel 17: 21-26 NIV)

Who is this Philistine? I can just see David now, full of holy swagger, sizing up the giant before him. Refusing to give way to fear, David relied on his faith, his knowledge, and his confidence in God to silence the taunts from the sidelines. David knew that God was with him, and that Goliath wasn’t just picking a fight with a young boy from Israel but with God himself.

In one way or another we’re all underdogs and whenever we make a move toward God and his Kingdom, whenever we stand on the edge of a battle and size up the giants before us, we’re bound to be taunted by Satan and his lies.

When the voice of the giant echoes in your mind, remember David, remember that the God of Angel Armies is with you. The living God is on your side.

Don’t give way to fear. Throw the stones. Slay the giant. Show up to the ball. And dance.

I’d love to hear from you. What giants are you facing? When do you feel the most opposed? What’s your favorite underdog story?

Today Was A Fairy Tale

The Last SummerOnce upon a time there was a girl who loved to read…

…and that girl is me! My friend Susie Finkbeiner, author of Paint Chips and My Mother’s Chamomile (two books you simply must read) says that reading for writers is like flexing your muscles.

I heartily agree. For writers and non-writers alike, reading is rarely a waste of time.

While March is typically a time in which our nation loses its self in the world of college basketball, it is also National Reading Month. In honor of this celebration I thought it would be fun to share with you a passage that I love.

Taken from the pages of The Last Summer (of You & Me) by Ann Brashares, this passage captured my heart several years ago.

It’s the type of passage that made me cry in the middle of the break room at work. It’s the type of passage that lingers long after finishing the book. It’s the type of passage I visit from time to time, to savor its sweetness, to remember its hold on me.

This passage speaks to me of love, loyalty, and friendship. It speaks of finding what’s true in a world of many things false. It reminds me of the magic found in words and reading.

These words may or may not speak to you…but even if they don’t I hope this post will inspire you to pick up a book and seek a little magic of your own.


An Excerpt from The Last Summer (of You & Me) by Ann Brashares

As a band of children, they had laid a magical world over the topology of this skinny place, spread it from ocean to bay. It had places and creatures both evil and good, and part of the enchantment was their power to change sides whenever a good game required it. Both he and Riley realized this world was fragile. It would sink unmarked into the sea if they let it. It required believing in, and fewer and fewer people did.

In outward disgust and inward fear, he and Riley had established a mostly wordless covenant. Bodies were being snatched left and right, but they had each other to remind them what was true. If they kept each other honest, they decided, it would not happen to them. They would lash themselves to the mast of prehormonal bliss and sail through the storm that way. They’d had the prestige at that time to say, “This we know is true.” And if ever anyone said it was untrue, they would know that evil was whispered in their ears and the enemy was at hand. They would not talk. They would not give in. They’d carry the poison pill and use it if they had to.

But what would happen when they came out on the other side of the storm? They hadn’t thought it through that far. They hadn’t quite considered that by trusting one part of your life, you could undermine all the others. By siding with an early version of yourself, preemptively, you would doubt all future selves the conflicted with it.

Alice had been easy to enlist at the age of ten. Alice who would…attune herself to the broader and subtler frequencies of human interaction. She hadn’t known what she’d be giving up.

The rest had been looking backward. Trying to remember what was true rather than seeking it. They were holy men divining the ancient book, judges interpreting their constitution. They harkened back to a calmer, more just time.

But time went on, as it will, and the seasons changed. What did not accord with the covenant Paul did not tell Riley and Alice. The ambitions, the petty preoccupations…the laughing girl in his history class junior year. He went ahead and lived those seasons, all the while feeling that his real life lay here, on this beach in the summer, with Riley and Alice.

What was powerful at thirteen and even seventeen should have grown quaint by twenty-four, and yet the covenant, by its nature, had durability. It still existed between them. He could feel it even now. You could go away for months or years, but it was still here, bound to what you loved, binding you to it.

Alice kept it out of loyalty, he suspected. For Riley, it wasn’t so much like a choice. And for him?

For him, what he’d had here on this island with Riley and Alice was the best and most lasting thing in his life.

Brave Prince, Lovely Princess, may you wake up this day to the fairy tale found in the love of reading. May you flex your muscles and find that few things in this world have the power to strengthen and nourish like well written words and a passage that feeds your soul.

Red Hair Does Care

Red Hair WineI hung up my phone and squealed for five minutes straight. My girls watched, wide-eyed as I jumped around the kitchen.

I was excited.

“Red Hair is coming! Red Hair is coming!” I chanted over and over.

Four days after we were married my husband, Chris, and I packed up a smallish sized U-haul van and moved to Charlotte, NC. We lived in Charlotte for four years, and while we were there God brought a host of special friends into our lives. One of these friends was Steven, who we affectionately call Red Hair, and his lovely wife, Rachel.

When we first met Steven and Rachel they, too, were newlyweds and had just moved into our apartment complex. We invited them to dinner, to church, to Bible study and in no time at all a friendship was forged.

Together we walked through trials, and heartaches, and loss. We ate together, laughed (a lot) together, and cried together too. We got dogs together, then babies.

When the time came for us to leave Charlotte and relocate to Northern Virginia one of the hardest good-byes we experienced was in the hugs, tears, and whispers of “Don’t worry, we’ll visit soon,” that were solemnly shared between us.

Eight years, three moves, and six children have filled our lives since that tearful good-bye. While living in Virginia, Chris and I visited as often as we could but when we eventually moved to Michigan our visits became few and far between.

Instead of dinner, church and Bible study our relationship, these days, is kept alive through cards, emails, and talks on the phone. Our last visit with Steven and Rachel came in the summer of 2011, almost three years ago.

And then it happened: A fateful call from Steven lit up my phone.

“Hey, Jennifer?”

“Steven?” I said in disbelief.

“Hey, are ya’ll going to be home this weekend?”

“Yeeesss,” I dragged out the word, wondering, hoping. “Are you coming to Michigan?”

“Yeah boy,” Steven said. I could hear the smile in his voice.

Steven’s work was flying him to Detroit to train with another employee. His plan was to fly in Sunday afternoon, rent a car, drive two hours to our house, spend the evening, then drive two hours back to Detroit where he’d be needed for work on Monday.

It would take a lot of effort on his part but this was a visit none of us were willing to miss.

“Don’t tell Chris,” Steven said. “I’d like to surprise him.”

“I won’t breathe a word. See you Sunday,” I said and set down the phone.

The squealing and jumping ensued. I felt like I’d won the lottery. I had won the lottery…Red Hair was coming!

When Steven arrived on Sunday he came with a bottle of red wine for me and a six pack of Two Hearted Ale for Chris. It was a throwback to our time in Charlotte, and coming from Steven it was perfect.

For hours we talked and laughed. The only thing missing was Rachel and the kids. We ate pizza, told stories, and shared memories that never grow old. We basked in the joy of friendship, in the warmth of a forever friend.

When Steven left we were sad to see him go. We invited him back with implicit instructions to bring his family next time, and thanked him again and again for coming. It’s hard to say good-bye when your next hello is a question mark but as we watched our red-haired friend get in his car and drive away all we could feel was thankful for the time we’d shared together.

“God did this just for me,” Chris said. “Out of all the people in Steven’s company they picked him to fly to Michigan. This wasn’t a coincidence. This was God.”

I know Chris was right. After experiencing our share of broken relationships and friendships gone haywire, this visit from Steven reminded us that friendships do last, that there are those who remain closer than a brother.

For years we’ve had a long running joke with Steven. After he unknowingly snubbed Chris at party we teased him and coined the phrase “Red Hair don’t care!” But when Chris opened the door to Steven’s broad grin all he could say through his shock and surprise was, “Red Hair DOES care!”

As I washed out my bottle of red wine a few days after Steven’s visit I couldn’t help but remember how good it was to see him. I decided to keep that bottle. I placed it in our room, a reminder of what God did for Chris and me by bringing Steven to Michigan, by bringing him into our lives.

Friends like Steven and Rachel are more than just friends. They are an expression of God’s heart for relationship. They are an expression of God’s heart for us.

They are a reminder that Red Hair does care…

…and that God cares too.