Live Like You’re Loved

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It keeps following me.

Everywhere I go, it seems to be there.

Out of nowhere, it will start.  Over and over again.

It’s a song.  By a group called “Hawk Nelson” called “Live Like You’re Loved”.  And for months, it has played at random moments from various sources, popping into my day quite unexpectedly.

I have learned that there are no coincidences in the Kingdom of God.  So He has obviously put this song on my repeat on my personal playlist for a reason.   As a result, I have been chewing on this question:

What does it look like to “live like you’re loved”?

I am loved. But let’s be clear what “love” means in this context.  The Greeks had four words for love – the love of family members for each other, the love of friends, sexual or erotic love and the love of God.  That fourth one is the focus for all that follows here. The others are great – but that fourth one, the one the Greeks called “agape” is the game-changer in my life and in yours.  Agape love is who God is – and how He loves.  Me.  You.  It is how He defines love – and Himself – in His Word.  We are His creation, bearing His image.  We are designed to be in relationship with Him.  We have the option of surrendering our lives to His keeping or going our own way.  We have the choice to be saved from our sin and its eternal consequences by trusting that Jesus died in our place on the cross or to say, “No thanks, God, I’ll save myself from myself.”  From this point on, I am speaking only to those who have chosen to be followers of Christ, trusting Him for salvation because they believe He died for them.  These are the only ones among us who can truly “live loved” because they have accepted the gift of that love from arms outstretched and nailed to a cross.

So, with all that in mind, if I am going to “live like I am loved” by God, what will that look like?  Here’s what I have come up with so far:

I am going to walk in confidence, not fear. Not arrogance.  Not pride of self.  But confidence in who I am, as defined by God.  I am a beloved daughter of the King of Kings.  I am not perfect – but I am perfectly loved because that love is not based on my performance, for good of for bad.  God will not love me more today than He did yesterday and He will not love me less if when I do something that hurts His heart.  I will not fear being fully known by Him and I will not (attempt to) hide from Him.  I will not fear offending my Beloved because  I will not fear retribution, retaliation, manipulation or vindictiveness. I will choose to do my best to not offend Him simply because I am His and He is mine.

I am going to believe what the Beloved says about me – for good or bad.  I will believe and act on the Truth that there is now no condemnation for me because I am in Christ Jesus.  I will listen when guilt comes from God – and I will know it is His voice because it will be about my choices, not about me.  God’s voice says, “I love you.  And because I love you, I want what is best for you.  That choice you made (and He will be very specific) was wrong and you need to make it right.”  The voice of the enemy, the “accuser of the brethren” says, “You are defined by that sin.  You are that sin.  You are shameful and need to be ashamed.  You need to hide that past act from others and pull yourself together so you can be loved.” There is a powerful difference between guilt from God and guilt from Satan.  The first needs to be heeded, dealt with and then it will be done – gone as far as the east is from the west.  The second is a noose, a dead-weight, an anchor for my soul, never going away because it is the voice of a liar and the father of lies.

I am going to strive to please the one who loves me, not out of obligation or some hope of attaining more love, but simply because when one is loved well, one loves well in return. I am going to seek the things that make my Beloved happy and choose to do those things, simply because I want to honor His love for me and demonstrate mine in return.  I am going to learn His likes and dislikes by getting to know Him better.  And when I am not sure of what action I should or should not take, I am going to ask Him what He thinks.  I am going to value His opinion over that of any other simply because I am so lavishly loved by Him.

I am going to trust that His motivation behind whatever happens is good and not bad, for me and not against me. Whatever the circumstance is, I am going to trust that He is still in control, still the King of the World, still on His throne.  And even if the event is something the enemy sends and God allows, I am still going to believe His promise to work it together for good in my life.  I am going to choose to trust His heart over what my eyes can see every time. I will not listen to the voice of His enemies or even my own doubts when He is silent.  Instead, I will keep my face turned His way, believing the best about Him, seeking Him and knowing that He will show me sooner or later whatever it is He wants for me out of even these difficult circumstances.

I am going to savor every message, every gift, every reminder that my Beloved is thinking about me. I will take time to read His love letter to me, learning from it and allowing it to correct my thinking, my worldview and my ways.  I am going to see His hand in the beauty around me and not miss the love notes and little gifts that are strewn across every day.  The three cranes I saw flying together on Sunday.  The flowers blooming in my garden.  The hug from a small child.  And laughter with a friend.  Just a few of His good gifts.  I am going to give Him the credit for every “good and perfect gift that comes from the Father of Light.”

I am going to consult my Beloved in everything, leaning into Him at all times, for all things.  The tiny things as well as the huge.  The choices that seem life-changing and the ones that seem meaningless.  I am going to allow Him to make the plan for my day and I will sign off on it before I even know what’s in it.  I am going to view my life with Him as an adventure, no matter where it takes me or what inconveniences happen along the way.  I am going to ask for His help with everything from opening a jar to getting through traffic to giving me the words to say when I write this blog, pick up that phone or teach that lesson.

I am going to shine.  His love is going to rub off on me and leak onto you.  It is going to pour through the conduit of my life and splash out into the lives of others.  It is going to show up in how I treat the waiter, how I wait in a long line at the store, how I drive in traffic, what I post on social media, how I speak about elected officials, what I do about social issues and what I say when we disagree.  It is going to cause me to consider my bank account and all my possessions with eyes seeking to share rather than hoard.  It is going to remind me that I cannot do any of this in and of myself but that I have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead at work in me.  And it is going to cause me to actually believe I have everything I need for life and godliness.   If I will live like I am loved, I am going to shine. With words and without them.  I am going to be loving others until they ask me why.  And I will then be ready to give them the answer for the hope that is in me when they ask.

As the song says,

“So go ahead and live like you’re loved!

It’s okay to act like you’ve been set free

His love has made you more than enough

So go ahead and be who He made you to be

Live like you’re loved!”

And just in case you want to hear the whole thing, here is the link to their official YouTube version:

Hello! I’m…

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Let’s say we’ve never met.

How would I introduce myself to you?  Hmmm…

Well, as a functioning member of polite society, I would probably leave it at, “Hi, I’m Kathy.  Nice to meet you.”

But what if someone gave me some sort of societal truth serum?  What if I had to give you descriptors right there in the introduction?  And what if I had no choice but to tell you what I honestly thought at that very moment?

There are days when it would go something like this:

“Hi, I’m Kathy, an overweight 46 (almost 47)-year old spinster with two cats who talks too much and is very loud.”

Other days you might get this:

“Hi, I’m Kathy, Director of Children’s Ministries at South Potomac Church, where I am in charge of all things kid from birth to 5th grade.  I struggle with having enough volunteers, knowing how to handle conflict in a godly way and a feeling of always coming up short in some way.”

Yet another day it may be:

“Hi, I’m Kathy.  I am the youngest of two girls who grew up right here in Maryland in a Christian home.  I have three beautiful nieces, a wonderful older sister, a godly brother-in-law and a Mom and Dad who love God, each other and me.”


“Hi, I’m Kathy, Ginger’s little sister, who, in contrast to her, has always been the not-quite-as-smart one.  I am no dummy, but my sister is brilliant.  Her vocabulary makes mine look like I am in preschool and her skills in creating things also can’t be beat.  She has a solid marriage and amazing parenting skills.  I want to be just like her when I grow up.”

Defining myself.

Looking in the mirror or at my life, at my roles, my tasks, my responsibilities, my circumstances.

My foibles, flaws and failures.

My struggles.

Perhaps by the words others have said to me. About me.  Behind my back. Or to my face.

Or possibly by my health at the moment. The illnesses I have – and the days that they have me.

Perhaps even my sin. My past mistakes. The consequences of them.

At the very least, my comparison of myself to others.

So, the questions:

Am I more than how I look?  My job?  My relationships?  My history?  My weaknesses?  Even my strengths?

Am I more than the difference between what culture says I should be and what I am?

Are you?

The world answers with a resounding “NO”.  It says, “You are defined by those things.  Your roles, titles, degrees.  Your salary, bank account and investment portfolio.  Your jean’s size and your gene’s outcomes.  Your last review by your boss and the opinion of significant other’s in your life.  How many toys you have and what labels you can afford.  Your pre-existing conditions.  These are the things that make you, you.”

And in that case, I am an utter failure.  Held up to the measuring stick of culture in America today, I fail miserably.  Only one degree.  No husband. No children.  A BMI that is too high and a bank account that is too low.  A dead-end job with no chance of going any higher in the company.  A miserable sinner.

But, oh, thank God!  That is NOT what defines me.  That is NOT where my worth comes from and it is not the Truth of who I am!  No matter how I feel.  No matter what the magazine says.  No matter how someone else chooses to evaluate me or my life.  They are not my Creator, nor are they the King of the World.  Therefore, they do NOT get to define who I am.

Because God, who is my Creator and the King of the World, gets to write the definition.  And here is His version of my most real self-introduction:

“Hi, I’m Kathy, the beloved daughter of the King of the World.  He adopted me into His family after paying an incredibly high ransom for me – the exchange of His Son’s life for mine.  I did nothing to deserve my adoption and am completely flawed in deep and disturbing ways.  Although I am a pauper by birth, I am a Princess now with all the love and power of the King of Kings as my resume.  I am forgiven of every sin, past, present and future.  My Father delights in spending time with me, listening to me as I talk and whispering reassurances of His love to me in a thousand ways every day.  He has designed the perfect tasks for me to do in His Kingdom and has not only prepared them for me to do, but has gone before me to make sure everything is good.  He protects me from my enemies, lifts me up when I am sad, holds me close when I am hurting and rejoices over me with singing all the time.  He loves me just as I am but He also loves me too much to leave me as I am.  Instead, in love He prepares challenges for me to face and obstacles that He will help me overcome.  And even when I face those challenges, He is right beside me, giving me strength and cheering me on.  He is mine; I am His.  And although I am one of billions that He has adopted, He treats me as if I am the only one.  He hears me every time I call.  He comforts me every time I ask.  He fills my life with good things and renews me every day.  I cannot offend Him to the point where He will leave me and I cannot earn His love for me because it is already at its highest capacity.  I am His and He is mine.  Always.”

You know, when that is the True self-introduction of my life, everything else fades away.  All of my comparisons, circumstances and short-comings become very dim in the light of Who He is and who I am in Him.  And no one can separate me from Him. From His love.  And from the Truth of who I really am in Him.

So, here you go:

“Hi. I’m Kathy, daughter of the King of Kings.  Have you met Him?  If not, can I take you to meet Him?  He’s awesome!”

“Happy Mother’s Day!” they said…

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It happened again this past Sunday.
It’s an annual thing.

And one that makes me laugh – but also gives a great lesson.

For those of you who don’t know me, you need a little background. I am not married, have never been married and have no children of my own. But I have seen God use my singleness and my lack of kids in a mighty way in my life and the lives of others. For the past 14 years I have been the Director of Children’s Ministries at my church. A full-time gig, loving on countless children in the name of Jesus. I am quickly approaching the time when I will start to have ministry grandbabies since many of “my kids” are now getting married and are thinking about having children of their own. 99% of the time I am really, really good with the “I have no kids” thing. As for the singleness thing, well that is more fluxuating and way more volatile, but even in that, I am completely split on the idea. 50% of the time, I am delighted to be single. And 50% of the time, I am sighing that I am single.

So that’s me. And that is context for this:

Every Mother’s Day the same thing happens.
About 50-gazillion people wish me a “Happy Mother’s Day!” when they see me at church.

I have come to understand that they are coming from different places when they say it.

For some, it comes from a place of ignorance. They know me only from Sunday mornings and they do a simple equation that goes: She’s good with kids + We like her = She must be married with kids of her own.

Completely false equation – but I can see where it would lead you to wishing me a “Happy Mother’s Day”.

For others, it is coming from a more thoughtless place. I don’t mean that these folks are thoughtless in the mean way. I just mean that it is sort of rote. They see me, it is Mother’s Day, and they say “Happy Mother’s Day!” They know me well enough to know that it doesn’t apply – but they forget in that moment and it slips out. (I have to say, I do the same thing with “Good morning!” when I am at church for an event. It could be 9:00 at night and I will still greet you with a cheery, “Good morning!” because of where I am!)

For a few, it comes from a place of understanding and is a compliment. On Sunday one of my young adults, who I have known since her middle school years, came up to me, gave me a hug and said, “Happy Mother’s Day to the Mother of All.” Her intention and her words matched. She understands who I am, what I do and even why I do it. And her greeting included all of those ideas at once.

But here’s the thing I want you to understand.
I am not offended by any of these.

Mostly because one of my mottos for life (that just happens to be a biblical principle) is that “Love believes the best.”
Love looks at a situation – any situation – and decides to assign the best possible motive to the other person. Love doesn’t react in a knee-jerk way, even when the situation stings. Even when it is thoughtless. Even when a sensitive area is hit. Love believes the best.

And the key word in that whole paragraph is “decides”. Because love – biblical love, God’s love in us and through us – is a choice, not an emotion. It is verb, not a noun. Love chooses. Even when the choice is difficult, love chooses to do all the actions in I Corinthians 13, including “Love believes the best.”

That’s easy for me to do with Mother’s Day greetings. Because they aren’t really hitting a sore spot. So it is easy for them to make me laugh.

But there are other areas of my life where it is much harder. Much more difficult to not respond with a sharp, “Ow!” and some impulse to retaliate.

Let me be clear here. I am NOT talking about taking abuse, sticking in a dangerous or unhealthy situation out of some misguided sense of doing the right thing. I am talking about an initial reaction to another’s person’s communique. Whether that is in person. Verbal or non-verbal. On Facebook. Over the phone. In an e-mail. At a meeting. In the bathroom in the morning. At the breakfast table. In the day to day, choosing for love to believe the best.

And yes, sometimes love has to correct. Say a difficult thing in response. Present a differing opinion or side. But my initial, gut-response is choosing to love. So, even if I disagree, I don’t attack. I don’t denigrate you as I respond. I don’t fire back the first thing that springs to my tongue. I pray. I respond. I treat you for what you are – a beloved creation of the Creator, an image-bearer of God, someone who is also offered redemption that neither of us deserve, one for whom Christ died. I choose to believe the best.

Or that is what I strive to do.

I find that fairly easy to do with people.
I find it harder to do with God.

If you read last week’s post, you know that I recently had a rental car with a cracked windshield. The thing is, that crack didn’t show up right away. It was 48 hours of wild weather and temperature fluctuations later that revealed the truth. And when I got in the car and noticed the crack, my first response was NOT to believe the best about God. I didn’t immediately jump to Truth. Instead, I wrestled through a few initial responses first.

I wish I could be like that first set of people who wish me a “Happy Mother’s Day” and can rightfully claim ignorance. If I am them, then I responded in anger, frustration and worry when I saw the crack because I don’t know God. I don’t have a history with Him. I don’t know His heart for me. I don’t know that He has promised to supply my every need. I don’t know that the Bible clearly teaches that every hard thing that comes into my life has been filtered through His hand. I don’t know that He is good and everything He does is right.

Except I can’t claim ignorance. Because I have seen His faithfulness in the Bible. In the testimonies of His followers for centuries since the Bible was recorded. And in my own life. I have seen Him deal with things far more difficult than a cracked windshield. So I can’t claim ignorance. I can only truthfully claim forgetfulness. But that is definitely not an excuse for not believing the best about Him. Especially since one of the exhortations repeated in Scripture is to “Forget not!”

I fear I am more often like the second set of people – the responding-by-rote folks. Because that is awfully easy to do as I merrily dance through life. “God is good!” “God bless you!” “Praise God!” All these and more spill from my lips easily. Until a rock bounces on the windshield of life. And makes a crack. So that the rubber must meet the road on the truth of my faith. Do I really believe the things I say I believe? Or are they just words? Do they actually apply in tough situations? Or am I going to rely on me? My senses? My understanding? My ways?

But I long to be the third set of folks. I long to respond to God from a place of knowledge and an awareness of who He really is. I long to speak Truth about Him and to Him – and really, really mean it. So that when the cracks appear in the windshield of my life, I can honestly say, “Blessed be Your name.”

No matter what, “Blessed be Your name.”

I know He doesn’t mind if I say it through tears, or at least with a deep sigh. But because He has proven His character over and over and over again, He deserves for me to say, “You are good. Everything You do is right. You knew before time began that this trial would come. And you are going to work it for good in my life. May You receive all the glory for whatever comes of this. Because You are love. And You loved me first. So I choose to love You back. Even when I cannot see. Even when it hurts. Even when my heart wishes this incident had never occurred. Even when I don’t understand. Blessed be Your name.”

Love believes the best. About people. And about God.
Because love remembers that the future is coming.
Where every wrong will be made right.
Justice will be done. For me. And to me.
Thankfully, I am covered. My sins were paid for on the cross by the blood of the Lamb.
And I will have an entire eternity where they will be no more pain. No more tears. No more suffering.
No more cracked windshields.

And love remembers how very little sight I actually have right now.
I can’t see your heart. Your motives. Your history. Your hidden hurts.
And I can’t see God’s ways. His full plan. The reasons He has allowed that rock to bounce up from the road.

But I can love you with His love.
And I can love Him for Who He is.
I can choose to believe the best.
And respond in the best way.

I can choose. Will I? Will you?

On Rocks, Rentals, and Scandalous Grace…

Last week I had the privilege of attending my niece’s college graduation in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Factoring in all sorts of “things”, I decided the best way to get there would be to fly into Atlanta on a really cheap ticket and then rent a car to drive to Huntsville, Alabama to visit dear friends for a few days before going on to Chattanooga.

So last Wednesday found me tooling west on Interstate 20, somewhere in the middle of Nowhere, Georgia or Even-More-Rural, Alabama.  And then it happened.  A little rock flew up from the roadway, propelled by a large truck, and found its mark on the windshield.  I jumped, startled by the sound, but was relieved to see that it hadn’t done any damage.  In fact, I couldn’t see where it had struck – I only knew by the sound that it had.

Fast forward to Friday evening – the next time I drove that rental car after parking it in my friends’ driveway.  I got in and immediately saw the crack.  It was impossible to miss!  It stretched in a thin line for about a foot from the edge of the windshield, running parallel to the dashboard.

Right in my line of vision.

On my RENTAL car.

Tons of lessons and spiritual applications have come to mind since making that discovery Friday night.  But one resounds, resonates and demands to be shared: GRACE.

Because here’s the thing – I didn’t pay for the extra insurance provided by the rental car company.  I had a vague memory of my insurance agent telling me that a rental car would be covered by my regular insurance.  I also had the confident arrogance to believe that nothing bad could happen to me. After all, I am a good driver!  So I said, “No, thanks” to the offer and went on my merry way.

But now it was Friday night.  Too late to call my insurance agent.  Too late to really do much of anything except battle the overwhelming worry of what could be. And wonder what I should do.  Call a repair company and try to get it repaired sometime between Friday night and Saturday’s graduation? Would I have time? Was that even ethical?  And would they do a repair on a car that isn’t mine?  If so, try to do that Sunday instead of church?  Or throw myself on the mercy of the rental agency Monday morning?  File a claim with my insurance?  Did they even cover windshields on rentals?  Or just major accidents?  And how much was my deductible again?

So. Many. Questions!

But, in the course of the evening, my friend did a bit of digging online.  And he asked me if I had rented the car with an American Express card, because if I had, they would cover it.

I had not.

But it got me thinking.  I DID pay for the car with miles earned on my traveler’s credit card.  And I had used it to cover the “incidentals” when I signed the forms. Could it be?  Would I be covered?

Early, early Saturday morning I started digging in the forms and documents on the website for my card.  And sure enough, it was covered!  And not just the repair.  They will cover the entire cost of the incident. Including any “loss of use” fees the rental car company charges.  Without a fee to me.  With no deductible being paid.  Simply because I “belong” to that company.  Paid in full without me having to pay a dime.

I am sure you see where I am going.  But let me spell it out, just in case.

My life is FULL of cracks in its windshield.  I tool along merrily through life, arrogantly confident in my own abilities to be a good person, to go through life unscathed by sin or its effects.  I am trusting in my own driving abilities to get me safely to my destination.

But then it happens.  I fall from perfection quite easily – with a small pebble, my illusions of my own strength to be “good enough” are cracked.  Because I realize the standard is perfection.  Not my definition of it – but God’s.  And I suddenly realize that even my “tiny” sins are a big, big deal.  In fact, one “small” sin that seems to be no big deal is enough to separate me from the holiness, the perfection, that is God.

And I am in trouble.  Because I can’t pay the debt that is owed.  The Bible says that the wages or earnings of sin are death.  Death to peace. Death to relationships.  And eternal death, being separated from God forever.

But then I start digging in the documents left by God for my reference.  And I hear the staggering news.  It is PAID IN FULL.  Completely covered.  I don’t have to do one good thing to earn my redemption, my freedom from this debt I cannot possibly pay.  It is a gift, simply because I choose to belong to God.  That’s mercy – NOT getting what I do deserve – and that is grace – getting what I DO NOT deserve.

Now someone will pay for my windshield repair.  And in the same way, Someone paid for my sin.  The rental car company is not going to just look the other way and say, “Never mind, it’s all good.”  And God doesn’t either when it comes to sin.  He can’t because He is holy.  Instead, God provided a substitute in my place.  Jesus took all of the wrath of God that was due to me – due to you – and put it on Jesus on the cross.  He took my place because He had no “cracks in the windshield” of His life.  He never sinned and therefore did not deserve punishment.  Be He willingly died on the cross in my place.  And because He did, God offered me eternal life.  All I had to do was accept the gift He offered. And I did.  So I am completely and totally released from any condemnation that I deserve.  Grace.

For some reading this, that is an old, familiar story.  And because it is, it is easy to forget the enormity of what God has done.  It is easy to get arrogant and cocky, somehow thinking that I am better than others who have not accepted that grace – or even others who have.  It is also easy to swing the other way and think, “That can’t be right – I have to DO something to make God love me – or at least to make up for what I have done.”  But that’s not the way it works – in either direction.  It is so incredibly simply – and yet enormously breathtaking at the same time.

I owed a debt I could not pay.

But God loved me just as I was.

Completely.  Utterly.  Not based on my performance – my “good driving” as it were.

His love for me did not change when I cracked the windshield of my life.  He hates the sin that I commit – but He is passionately for me.  In my corner.  Loving me as a parent loves a child.  Not because I have done or not done a single thing – but simply because He made me.  And because His character IS love.

And once I accepted that gift of eternal life through Jesus, His love for me did not change.  He does not love me more because I accepted it.  As singer/songwriter Michael Card wrote, “He CANNOT love you more and He WILL NOT love you less.”

Grace.  Inexpressible, freeing, redeeming, life-changing, powerful, incredible grace.

And one last thought.  Knowing the car was completely covered by the credit card company did not change how I drove it.  I didn’t suddenly become Evil Knievel, trying to break land-speed records or take crazy risks.

How much more in my life!  I don’t have any desire to abuse this incredible gift of grace.  In fact, knowing how much I am loved, how much grace has been given, and how little I deserve it drives me in the other direction.  It drives me to respond in gratitude by choosing obedience.  Choosing service.  Choosing to love as I have been loved.  Not so I will be loved more.  Not so God will cover my sin better.  Those are both impossible.  But simply out of incredible gratitude.  I have been forgiven much – it drives me to love much.  I have received ridiculous, scandalous grace.  It drives me to offer the same.  I am thoroughly and completely loved by the God of the Universe, who is intimately concerned about the details of my life.  It drives me to give Him my very best as an act of worship, a response of gratitude, a declaration of love in return.

Scandalous, amazing, incredible grace.

Do you know it your own life?

Are you living like you do?

You are passionately loved by an incredible God.

I pray for you (and me) as Paul did for the Church, that we, “having been [deeply] rooted and [securely] grounded in love,  be fully capable of comprehending with all the saints (God’s people) the width and length and height and depth of His love [fully experiencing that amazing, endless love]; and [that you may come] to know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up [throughout your being] to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself].”  (Ephesians 3)



The Cowboy

So it was last Saturday afternoon and I was driving to “The Homestead”, which is what I call the place where I grew up and where my entire immediate family still lives.

To get from my house to theirs involves a long time on a major thoroughfare in our area, Route 301. Major road with major traffic. Always. And especially on a Saturday afternoon.

It pays to be alert on 301. You never know when someone will suddenly decide they need to be where you are. Now. Without you moving. Or when someone will decide to completely rewrite the rules of the road to fit their needs. Regardless of what it does to you. It pays to be alert.

But as it is said, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” So I have to admit, it is easy for me to drive that road on some version of auto-pilot. Even with all its inherent dangers.

So I am tooling along on Saturday, perhaps fairly alert because of the sheer volume of traffic but perhaps less alert because I had made it through what I consider to be the worst stretch, known as Brandywine. And I was closer to The Homestead, on very familiar roads. Auto-pilot.

But then I saw him.

A young man with a plaid shirt, jeans, cowboy boots and a hat.
Waving his empty hand above his head like he was swinging a lasso.
Galloping down the median of the highway. On a gorgeous horse.
With a huge grin on his face.

I must say, auto-pilot disengaged very quickly at that point!

So many thoughts. So many unanswered questions. Where did he come from? Where was he going? Didn’t the heavy traffic freak out the horse? What was he going to do when he came to the VERY busy intersections ahead? What if the horse stumbled on the steep pitch of the median in that stretch? Was the man crazy? And was I really seeing this?

ALL unanswered. No clue what the rest of that story is. How it began. How it ended.

But I was suddenly on much, much higher alert to EVERYTHING around me.

How often this same story applies to my walk with the Lord!
Auto-pilot engaged.
Fairly alert to the dangers around me – but not really.
Forgetting that Peter says to “Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8)
Slipping in my prayer life.
Not as hungry for the Word.
Content with moseying down the highway.
Sort of numb to both the dangers and the glories of all that is around me.

But then God sends – or allows – a cowboy in the median.
Something happens.
Sometimes something glorious where He pulls back the curtain for just a moment and I see His hand at work in answered prayer or details coming together in the perfect way or the transformation of a life.

Or sometimes something devastating that I would not have planned, chosen or asked for, like a diagnosis that shakes my world, or the betrayal of a friend or a misunderstanding that leaves debris in its wake like a tornado has passed through.

Some kind of cowboy riding down the middle of a major highway on a Saturday afternoon in a suburb of Washington, DC.

God shakes my world. Or allows it to be shaken. And I wake up out of my stupor. I look around with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. Back to more alertness. And perhaps with some new lessons learned that will stand me in good stead a little farther down the road.

I am often left with unanswered questions when that happens. Pieces of the story that I may never know – or will not fully comprehend until much, much later.

But I am grateful that God sends them. The cowboys on the highway.
Because I need to be “well balanced and self-disciplined, alert and cautious at all times”. I am a soldier engaged in a cosmic conflict. And while I am on the winning side of the war, the battle still rages. And I have seen way too many casualties around me. People who were doing well on the highway – until something caused them to wreck. Sin unchecked. Bitterness allowed to grow and take over. A little step off the path leading to a leap completely off the cliff into unbelief. Or a redefinition of God in a way that excuses their sin, using rationalization rather than repentance to ease a God-inflicted guilt. And suddenly, they are ineffective for the Kingdom, a soldier cut down in battle. A brother or sister-in-arms that I need to help me stand strong suddenly toppled because of complacency. A lack of alertness. A highway-induced drowsiness.

Oh God, send the cowboy in the median in my life whenever You want! Whenever I need it. Whenever You see complacency creeping in – or a certain behavior or thought pattern that needs to be weeded out. Because I want to be alert. Ready. Self-controlled. And diligent. So that I can defeat that roaring lion. Fighting him consistently until the day You call me home. Until the day I finish well on this highway of life. And the day I can hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” If a cowboy in the median gets me there, bring ‘em on, Lord! Yee-haw!