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08.11.2016

Michael Phelps, Dots, and Jesus

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I’ve seen those dots before.

The kind of bruises that Michael Phelps is sporting in Rio look painful. I first saw the circular marks years ago, when I visited my brother in China. David asked if Robbie and I wanted to get a massage after a long day of hiking on the Great Wall, and we agreed. Until we saw the “spa.”

It was a place on the street (one of many similar establishments, as it turned out) where folks could pop in on their way home from work or wherever to relieve sore muscles and stress. I stared, baffled, as one after another Chinese person lay, face down and without an ounce of self-consciousness, on little cots tucked side-by-side, in full view of the sidewalk. The technicians (masseuses?) would cover their clients’ backs with little glass cups, let them sit for a bit, and then pull them off with a thwock, leaving a collection of pinkish-purple spots, each a little bigger than an Oreo. The Chinese people seemed very happy with the results; to me, they looked possibly awkward and definitely uncomfortable.

When our turn came, Robbie demurred, but on the “when-in-Rome” principle, I plopped down on a cot and asked my gal for “no cups, please.” I guess something got lost in translation, because what followed was second only to maybe childbirth in the “sensations I’d like to forget” category. And I actually did forget, mostly–until I saw Phelps and his majestically dotted shoulders.

And then I remembered the cups, and I thought two things.

The first was that, as I’ve said in this space before, “People vary.” Phelps and a handful of his fellow Olympians credit the treatment with providing healing and relaxation. It’s just “superficial bruising,” they say (which I guess makes it more appealing than the normal kind of bruising). Again, people vary.

The second thing I thought was that people will subject themselves to pain for all sorts of reasons. Phelps & Co. do it to heal themselves; Jesus did it to bring healing to us. The Bible says that he was “pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4)

Thinking about these two guys today, Michael Phelps and Jesus, I am struck by how each got what he wanted. Phelps has 25 medals (and counting); Jesus has the salvation of our souls. That same Isaiah passage says he suffered and then, when he saw what his pain had accomplished, he was “satisfied.”

So here’s the good news, for all of us:  If you want to be like Mike and try the ancient Chinese secret, you can actually order your own set of cups on Amazon for about twenty bucks. If you want to do like the old song says and “try Jesus,” you can do that for free.

(Having been up close and personal with both–and with all due respect and a boatload of admiration for Phelps–you know which treatment I’d pick.)


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03.24.2016

The Road to Victory

I love college sports. I’m partial to U.Va., of course (and how about that Anthony Gill, praying for Coach Bennett on the sidelines last weekend?), but I’ll watch almost any team, particularly if a big game is on the line.

But there’s one part I definitely don’t love. Even if the whoopsie is on the part of the “bad guys,” I really hate it when a contest comes down to the wire and the guy on the free throw line misses his shot. Or the goalie lets a zinger rip past his shoulder in lacrosse’s “sudden death” overtime. Or (and this is probably the worst) when it’s up to the kicker, and he misses the last-second field goal. Even just writing about it, my stomach hurts.

It’s not that I hate the thought of losing. It’s more that I hate the thought that (as one of our football-playing friends put it), “First you’re the hero, and then you’re the zero.”

FullSizeRenderWhich is, when you think about it, kind of what happened to Jesus in the space between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. At first, the crowds are lining the streets, spreading their coats on the ground for his donkey and waving palm branches while they shout cheers like, “Hosanna!” and “Blessed!”

But then the mood shifts, and some of these same people are turning their backs on him. Pretending they don’t even know him. Spitting on Jesus, even. And shouting, “Crucify!”

And he took it.

Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus “made himself nothing.” He emptied himself of all the glory that was rightfully his and, voluntarily, became the biggest zero the world has ever seen.

To most people, it looked like Game Over. But it wasn’t. And I know we’ve still got a few days before the stone gets rolled away, but honestly? Easter is the best come-from-behind, bust-all-the-brackets, zero-to-hero story that has ever been told.

And I love it. I love it because Jesus didn’t just win one for himself; he won it all of us. “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

And I love it because he didn’t just triumph over death so that we could go to heaven when we die. He did it so that we could be on the winning team now, so that we could play with confidence and joy, even when the game doesn’t seem to be going our way.

I don’t know where you are, spiritually, or what you’re dealing with this Easter season. But I can tell you this: God is all about the zero-to-hero thing. To him, it doesn’t matter how badly we’ve messed up our marriages, our parenting, our jobs, our whatever. He knows all of that, and he still wants us to play for him. He wants to take all the zeroes of our lives and turn them into a win.

If you’ve never made a decision to trust God – to just hand him your life, cuz he’s already given his for your sake – I want to encourage you to do that this Easter. Being a Christ-follower doesn’t mean you’ll never get fouled, or that you’ll never get a bad call. You will. But you’ll be playing for a Coach who is crazy about you, who has a wonderful game plan for your life, and who has already won the victory.

And March Madness doesn’t get any better that that.


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02.18.2016

A Life Well Lived

When I was in high school, nobody had ever heard of Martha Stewart, Bunny Williams, or even Pottery Barn. Anyone who was anyone decorated with posters. The guys all had that eye-popping red swimsuit shot of Farrah Fawcett; we girls chose a more varied mix of rainbow-colored peace signs, Shaun Cassidy or that other Hardy boy, and anything that looked good under a black light.

All of the cool kids got their wall art at Spencer’s. I got mine from my dad:

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Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Dad bought the poster at the Christian bookstore (the same one where he and Mom got my extra-large “Jesus is Lord” purse, but that’s a story for another blog). I knew the poster wasn’t cool (neither was the purse), but I liked it. I taped it onto the wood paneling of my bedroom wall, just above my orange beanbag chair and my collection of Peter Frampton albums. When I went off to U.Va., I hung it up in my dorm room, just above my bed, right across from my roommate’s shrine to Bruce Springsteen.

I know my dad meant for the message (which you can read for yourself in Matthew 6:8) to point to my Heavenly Father, but I felt like it applied to him, too. Dad usually did know just what I needed, and he was always quick to provide an encouraging word, a sound bit of advice, or even, sometimes, a material gift. Like this tennis racket, which I had not asked for (and clearly did not think I needed):

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The best thing my dad ever gave me was an introduction to Jesus Christ. A pillar in the church, a softball coach, and a bright light in our community, Dad came home one night and said he’d been to a men’s meeting where someone explained that it wasn’t about being a “good” person. If you wanted to experience the abundant life here on earth, and then get a ticket to heaven for eternity, you had to have a relationship with Jesus. That was big news to my dad, but when he broke it down for me (starting with the fact that I was a sinner and wrapping up with an invitation to grace), it made perfect sense. I confessed my sins, asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, and never looked back.

I was eight years old.

My daddy was only 61 years old when doctors discovered an inoperable, golf ball-sized tumor in his brain. When they started using words like Stage 4 and glioblastoma, we knew there was not much that they could do. We spent the next twelve months singing praise songs, counting pain pills, and letting Dad use what we decided must be Russian words when we played Scrabble, as the malignancy stole more and more of his brain. We also prayed, both for a miracle, and for God to be glorified.

The first prayer, for the miracle, didn’t happen (at least not in terms of a return to physical health, but I guess when you get right down to it, getting to spend eternity in heaven is nothing if not miraculous). But the second prayer, the one for God to be glorified, did. Dad lived well, and he died even better, leaving a legacy of faith for his family and friends. He pointed us down the path where we could grow closer to God in a deep and life-changing way, and he left us secure in the knowledge that we would one day see him again.

I miss my father more than I thought I would, after 15 years. (Grief is funny; you think it’s over, and than it just sort of sneaks up, unannounced, and jumps you.) There have been plenty of times in my own parenting when I wished, more than anything, that I could have my own daddy around, just to talk things over. But, as one friend who knew him put it, “Jodie, you don’t need to talk to your dad. You already know what he’d say.”

And I do. He’d say “Pursue Jesus.” He’d tell me that of all the things I run after in this world—being a better wife and mother, writing a book or a blog that someone might actually want to read, decorating my house with something (anything) other than posters—there’s only one thing that matters, only one thing that lasts.

And he’d be right.

My father would have been 77 today. I don’t know how much time people in heaven have to pay attention to stuff on earth (and I kind of hope it’s not a lot, cuz I’d hate for him to know how bad I still am at tennis), but if my dad does have a chance to check in, I hope he’ll see that I’m still trying. I’m still running hard after Jesus and, even though I trip and fall way more often than I’d like, I don’t plan to quit.

Allen Rundle. 1939-2001. A life well lived.

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02.05.2016

Friday Prayer for Your Soul

It’s February.

If you’re like me, you’re flipping through the calendar to see when Daylight Savings Time begins (ugh – we’ve still got like a month to go), you’re tired of your same old sweaters, and your soul is just plain weary.

You need some greener pastures.

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I love this painting by my friend, Sally Corpening. It’s called “The Lord is My Shepherd,” and I’m grateful to have this image as a backdrop for our Friday Prayer. Pray this one for yourself, or for someone you know who needs God’s refreshment today:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for being our shepherd, for giving us all that we need. Let ____ rest in green meadows today; lead ____ beside peaceful streams. Renew _____’s strength. (Psalm 23:1-2, NLT)

Amen

 


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10.08.2015

Report Cards

Two things happened this week to get me thinking about parenting, performance, and our perception of God’s love.

The first was that my friend and fellow parenting author, Jeannie Cunnion, wrote a terrific opinion piece for Fox News. She said that today’s kids feel “overwhelming pressure to get it all right” because their identities – and, in fact, their “lovability” – is linked to their behavior, their accomplishments, and their performance. “If I am good,” the thinking goes, “you will love me more.”

The second thing that happened was that I got my dad’s kindergarten report card.

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My mom and John are downsizing, and as part of their domestic purge she is unloading pretty much everything she thinks her kids and grandkids might want. (And more than a few things we might not, like a c. 1978 how-to book on napkin folding that she gave Hillary at one of her wedding showers. But that’s material for another blog.)

Anyhow, I wound up with a box of old photographs and papers. In it, I found this gem:

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That’s my dad, Allen Rundle. He was a kindergartner in 1944, and from the marks on his report card (also in the box), he had some growin’ up to do. I was relieved to see that he was clean, but he clearly had a ways to go in a few other areas, including walking (seriously?), using a hanky, and and…wait for it…breathing with his mouth closed.

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Oh my gosh. What did my grandmother think, when she got this report? Was she like, “Allen! Close your mouth!”?

That’s how I would have been, if he’d been my boy.

But even if he had sat there, staring at me with his tonsils hanging out, I wouldn’t have loved him any less.

I mean, things like being a mouth breather (or missing a free throw, or flunking a test, or pouring the fat back into the macaroni and cheese, or any of life’s imperfections) don’t make or break our love for our boys. Or our girls. We love our kids just because they are ours.

Which is pretty much what Jeannie writes about in her article. And she brings it around to the bigger picture – the one that has to do with God’s love – by reminding us that nothing we do could make him love us any more, or any less. Because it’s not about what we do. It’s about what Christ did. He’s the one who makes us lovable.

If that idea runs counter to what you’ve always thought, you’re not alone. Most of us have been there – and as Jeannie knows, the performance mindset can make it really tough to be a parent. “I was once the mom who put unbelievable pressure on herself to be a perfect parent setting a perfect example for her kids to follow,” she confides. “And because I wasn’t accepting God’s grace for myself, I couldn’t give grace to my kids.”

I won’t steal any more of Jeannie’s thunder; click here to read the piece for yourself.

I will say that I hope my grandmother was into the whole grace thing. I didn’t want to show you my dad’s whole report card (some family secrets are better kept that way), but she couldn’t have been happy with how he scored on “Originates stories and poems.” (But maybe that’s just hard to do, when you breath through your mouth. I don’t know.)

At the end of the day, though, it all worked out. My dad shut his mouth, learned some rhyming words, and wound up at Harvard Business School. Plus, he married a gal who knew how to make a napkin look like a lobster.

What’s not to love?

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09.30.2015

Perfect Grace

So Hillary is now Mrs. Charlie Blakeley, and the wedding was perfect.

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Well, maybe not perfect.

Like, the top of the wedding cake slid off in the heat. (But hey, Hillary likes things a little messy and asymmetrical, so I’m chalking that one up as a plus.)

And one of my travel-weary relatives, who got to town too late to make it to the rehearsal dinner, let himself in to what he thought was his rental cottage and climbed into what he thought was his bed. Turns out, he was wrong on both counts (as both he and Charlie’s aunt discovered, much to their mutual surprise, later that night).

Oh – and a stripper showed up at the brunch (a casual affair, held on the beach, where the woman had presumably spent the night) and said that yes, she was in fact with the wedding party, and could she please have a breakfast burrito? Charlie’s mother was standing right there when the gal introduced herself – by trade, not name – to the party hosts. (I guess, after the mix up with the beds, she just figured the newcomer was another one of “those people” from our side.)

But things like these are minor details. Nobody noticed or cared. (Well, nobody except Charlie’s aunt, but I like to think hers was an extenuating circumstance.) And if I’ve learned one thing after throwing two weddings in four months, it’s that no wedding is perfect. At the end of the day (like, as in the literal end of the day, when your husband lies next to you in bed and asks if you baked that wedding cake by yourself), it’s all about grace.

It’s all about grace.

I know that (in my head, anyway) but it’s a lesson I learned all over again from watching Hillary’s cousins, the flower girls. During the rehearsal, Anna Joy and Elizabeth had been told exactly where to stand. The wedding guild gal even taped quarters to the church floor, promising the girls that they could claim them if they stood on the “treasure” the next day, during the ceremony.

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Come show time, the girls nailed it:  They made it down the aisle, found the quarters, and planted themselves. Everything was perfect – until Hillary and Charlie moved up to the altar to say their vows. At that point, the girls could no longer see what was happening. And whether it was out of obedience or avarice (to an almost-five-year-old, a quarter looms large), Elizabeth was definitely not willing to move her feet. She leaned over as far as she could, straining to catch a glimpse of the action, until I was sure she was going to topple.

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And she really might have, had not the beautiful bridesmaid standing next to the girls noticed their struggle. She reached out her hand and pulled them forward, assuring them that it was okay to move just a bit. To me, it was like God said, “See? You can’t keep all the rules, no matter how hard you try. Nobody can. And if you try to make things perfect – standing on your quarter, no matter what – you’re just going to topple over and hurt yourself. That’s why there’s grace.”

(Lest you think I am super-spiritual or that I had this amazing deep convo with God right in the middle of Hillary’s wedding, I need to tell you one thing. The bridesmaid’s name is Grace. And what went through my head wasn’t some long theological observation. It was more like: “The girls can’t stay on their quarters. Thank goodness for Grace.” Bingo. Cue the lightbulb.)

And, in the “Lessons for the MOB” category, I’d venture to say that grace is probably the single most important thing that a bride’s mother needs. (Especially a bride’s mother who happens to be a perfectionist, like some people.) Because here’s the thing:  You work like crazy to pull off a beautiful event, and you want it to be “just right.” And when it’s over, you fall into bed, happy and exhausted. You think about how pretty your daughter looked, right down to the “perfect” Tory Burch heels that you found to go with her dress.

And then, just before you turn out the light, you check the wedding hashtag…

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Ahhh.

I should have suspected.

I love my girl. And I love God’s grace. Because when it comes to throwing a wedding (or doing anything in life), it’s really the only thing that is perfect.

 


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09.01.2015

Paddle Hard

If you’re a mom (and especially if you’re a mom with an empty or mostly empty nest), you know that there’s nothing better than having all of your chicks in one coop. You love it when “the gang’s all here,” and you’ll do just about anything to make it happen.

For instance, I have one friend who rents a big beach house on some island every year and lets her adult children know that, if they “want” to come, she’ll cover their flight. (Um, that would be a yes.) Another pal keeps a family bucket list in a notebook, with a bunch of must-do’s like “learn to ride a horse” and “get scuba certified” as a way to keep everyone focused, engaged, and (this part is key) participating. And then there are moms like my grandmother. I am pretty sure she faked her own death-watch more than a couple of times, just so we’d come visit, all at once.

From a mom’s perspective, no cost is too high, no scheme too desperate. Which is how I found myself at a local tee shirt shop, having eight matching shirts printed up with the words, “Paddle Hard.”

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Paddle Hard has been a family motto of sorts for several years. Robbie likes it because of surfing. I like it because it reminds me of Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart…” And when I got everyone to agree to give me 30 hours of their summer for a “staycation” (two weddings in one year pretty much kills any normal vacation), I decided to co-opt the motto for our staycay theme.

As with most of my grand ideas, there were plenty of holes in this one. Like, who knew you couldn’t put a period in a hashtag? (Well, my kids knew. But why don’t they post this sort of rule someplace where mothers can see it? Like, before they try to be all hip and put it on a tee shirt?)

Anyhow.

The first item on our agenda (because what’s family fun without a typewritten plan, with copies for everyone?) was paddle boarding (because theme). Robbie hadn’t even finished telling us which way to hold the paddle (you’d think that’s a duh, but trust me) when Khaki the lab decided – like, suddenly – to shed her “mostly dead” persona and get with the program.

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Khaki is 12 years old, riddled with tumors, and pretty much doesn’t move (unless you count the 27 steps from our couch to her food bowl). She has no idea how to paddle hard…but she wanted to. And her enthusiasm was contagious. Pretty soon everyone was on the water. They even lined up, with minimal groaning, so that I could get in the photo:

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We had a wonderful 29.5 hours of good food, good laughter (I’ll share the how-to’s for our favorite game next week), and good conversation about what it means to paddle hard in life – in your relationships, your work, and your time with God. Plus, Khaki survived, which was a definite plus.

Feel free to borrow our motto for your next family gathering. You can even make everyone a handy scripture card, like I did, for when you pass out the agendas.

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Or not.

(I thought folks might want to memorize the verse, but from what I can tell, nobody got much farther than “Paddle hard.” But hey. A mom’s gotta try.)

 

 


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08.14.2015

Friday Prayer for Spiritual Fruit

Galatians 5-22I saw these peaches at the Charlottesville City Market last Saturday.  As irresistible as they look, their gorgeous-ness pales in comparison to the fruit of the Spirit!  Use today’s prayer verse to ask God to grow a bumper crop of beautiful virtues like patience and joy in your life today, or pray it for someone you love:

Heavenly Father,

Fill ____ with your Holy Spirit.  Let ____’s life be marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  (Galatians 5:22)

Amen.


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08.07.2015

Friday Prayer for a New Song

Psalm 40-2-3Tired of slogging through the muck of life, looking for a firm place to plant your feet?  Turn today’s verse into a prayer and soon you’ll be singing a brand new song:

Father God,

Lift me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire of life’s problems.  Put my feet on a rock; give me a firm place to stand.  Put a new song in my mouth – a hymn of praise to you! – so that all who see what you have done will put their trust in you.  (Psalm 40:2-3)

Amen.


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03.18.2015

Sexual Assault: Don’t Become a Victim

This post is the third in a three-part series on sexual assault.  Monday’s blog featured a brief review of Wendy Blight’s book, Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner, and yesterday Wendy recapped her story for us (if you missed that post, click here to download a free chapter of the book).  I am grateful for Wendy’s perspective, and for her willingness to write these posts.  The strategies she offers for staying S.A.F.E. are worth sharing.  JB

 

How I wish someone had shared with me what I’m about to share with you. If they had, perhaps the events of June 7, 1987 would have ended very differently.

A few years ago, Oprah Radio invited me to Chicago to share my story and the facts, statistics, and practical lessons I learned from my experience. I’m sharing that same information with you today. I write this NOT to instill fear but to inform and educate. I invite you to read through to the end…inform and educate yourself… and share what you learn with your friends.

The Facts

  • Did you know that 1 out of 4 college women are sexually assaulted every year?
  • Did you know that 1 out of 6 women some time during their lifetime will be the victim of sexual assault?
  • Did you know that approximately 60% of sexual assaults go unreported every year? And 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.

The Effects

Victims of sexual assault are:

  • 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
  • 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
  • 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
  • 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

(Statistics taken from RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.)

Be S.A.F.E.Ways to Prevent Becoming a Victim:  Be S.A.F.E.

Sexual assault is a crime of 0pportunity!!! What do I mean by that? Rarely is a woman assaulted by a stalker. A perpetrator selects his victim because, by her unintentional actions, she has made herself an easy target. By following a few simple steps, you can avoid being an easy target. I learned some of these first-hand. THE KEY TO AVOID BEING A VICTIM IS AWARENESS; please share these “Be S.A.F.E.” strategies with all the women you know!

S – Avoid Compromising Situations

When you go out….

  • never leave your drink unattended (alcoholic and non-alcoholic)
  • never accept a drink from a stranger and accept drinks only when you see the bartender pour it and hand it directly to you
  • never leave the keys to your home with anyone (valet, service station, car wash)
  • never be alone with someone you do not know
  • always be sure a friend or family member knows who you are with and where you are going
  • be conscious of what you post on social media; never announce you will be alone…anytime or anywhere
  • use apps that will help contact people when you are in trouble and locate you (for example: Circle of 6 and bSafe)

A – Be Aware of Your Surroundings

  • know where you are at all times
  • know what is going on around you
  • know who is around you
  • never have conversations within range of a stranger that reveal you will be home alone, closing a business alone, traveling alone, etc.

F – Trust Your Feelings

  • if your intuition tells you something is not right, pay attention and respond (chills down your spine, hair stands on end, knot in your stomach)
  • flee if you feel uneasy or uncomfortable
  • call 911 if you sense danger
  • never ignore your feelings because they may save your life

E – Don’t Be An Easy Target

  • secure your home, apartment, and car by locking your doors and windows at ALL times – NO EXCEPTIONS
  • carry your cell phone at all times and be sure it is charged 
  • never walk alone at night ANYWHERE
  • never open your door to a stranger and ALWAYS ask for identification when expecting workmen
  • don’t leave a friend alone … ever
  • watch what you drink and don’t exceed your limit

Some of these sound simple and obvious. But I violated three of these prevention steps. I had a conversation outside at the pool which unintentionally announced to everyone around me that I would be home alone that afternoon. We left our front door unlocked, which allowed the rapist easy access. I had a “strange” sensation when I walked in the apartment and saw our front door locked because we usually left it unlocked for each other. But I didn’t trust that “feeling” and walked up the stairs right into the arms of an armed, masked man.

What to Do If It Happens to You

  • Immediately call 911 no matter what your attacker threatens.
  • Do not change your clothes.
  • Do not shower or bathe.
  • Do not brush your teeth.
  • Do not move or remove any item from the location of the attack.
  • Write down anything you can remember immediately (race, age, height, weight, hair color, hair length, eye color, distinguishing marks, facial hair, clothes, weapon, odors).
  • Go to the emergency room.

For help, contact 1-800-656-HOPE, the national hotline for RAINN. Anyone who believes they have been raped or abused in any way can call this number.

This is a message I’ve shared on many college campuses and in radio and television interviews. I invite you to share what you have learned today with those in your sphere of influence…women you care about…it could save a life!

 




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