A Work In Progress

Last week I celebrated the 6th anniversary of my elbow surgery. Seems like a silly thing to celebrate, huh? Well, in my case, there’s cause for celebration. Much progress has been made since May 19, 2011. You see, things didn’t quite go as planned. The tendon had completely torn from the bone so proceeding with surgery was the only sensible option at that point. It was the aftermath that was completely unexpected.  For some unknown reason, every joint up and down my right arm, including my fingers, essentially “froze” and there was very limited mobility as a result. There is no need to bore you with all the details. I will just say that my life for the first four years following surgery consisted of countless doctor appointments, various types of therapy, and pills of every description, all with the goal of restoring my range of motion and managing the pain. For the last two years of the six, I am pleased to say that the doctor appointments and pills have been minimal and the therapy mainly consists of getting in the pool to keep things moving. To the eye, my physical issues go undetected by most at this point.

I won’t soon forget May 19th (for a few reasons actually—one of my sisters has a birthday that day). That date causes me to stop and reflect on where I was, where I am now and all the progress that has been made in between those two points. As I do that, there is a verse that really speaks to me. I remember learning it in a small group study somewhere along the way. The verse is tucked into the story of God making a covenant promise to David through the prophet Nathan that secured David’s, as well as his family’s, place on the throne. This is David’s response:

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”        

2 Samuel 7:18 NLT

I don’t know why my surgery had a bad outcome, but I do know this—it is only by the grace of God that I have come THIS far. He has seen me through each step along the way, supplying everything I need just when I need it. My journey back from elbow surgery is much like my spiritual journey—-I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I was either. I believe we refer to that as progress! As long as I have breath, He’s not done with me yet. I am a work in progress with the goal being to look more like Jesus each day.

So what’s your story? I know I’m not alone. We’ve all stumbled upon roadblocks along life’s path at one point or another. They come in all shapes and sizes. What circumstances have you feeling defeated today? Don’t give up! He will make a way where there is no way. I share with you the words of Paul:

“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:19 NLT

It’s true for me and it’s true for you too. Someday you’ll look in the rearview mirror just as I tend to do on May 19th and you will be equally amazed that He has brought you THIS far!



Sacrifice Before Glory

My small group has been studying the book of Philippians and our most recent lesson focused in on Chapter 2 Verses 1-11. Throughout this passage, Paul encouraged the Philippians to be more like Jesus.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”                                    Philippians 2:3-5 NLT

It’s not easy, is it? I think, as humans, we’re selfish by default. I can’t speak for you, but I tend to remember when someone puts my needs ahead of their own. Humility doesn’t come easily either. We’re a prideful bunch! Jesus did it all perfectly while He walked this earth, because He was God. He would later make the ultimate sacrifice and die a criminal’s death on a cross.

But death did not have the last word—

“God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”                                                                                                                          Philippians 2:9-11 NLT

If I had to sum up (and I like to do that) the whole point of the lesson it would be that sacrifice comes before glory. It was true for Jesus—He was the ultimate example.  It is also true for those who put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

I love when I can connect the dots. While we were driving home from my husband’s grandmother’s funeral last week it struck me that, other than Jesus Himself, she has to rank right up there as one of the best examples I could ever have of what sacrifice before glory looks like. By the time I met her nearly 30 years ago, Gram had already been firmly entrenched in modeling sacrifice daily as the primary caregiver for her disabled husband. That continued until his death in 1993 and she did it all with a smile. She was a lady of great faith and loved her family with all she had. It almost seems like we lost her twice because Alzheimer’s robbed her of her memory several years ago, and now we’ve lost her physical presence too. Lost isn’t a good choice of words though, is it? No—she’s not lost at all. We know exactly where she is. She’s with Jesus.

First, the sacrifice, then the glory! I can’t think of anyone more deserving of that glory.

In loving memory of Freda “Little Gram” Leipold
October 21, 1924 – December 26, 2016


All About the Word


Earlier this semester I was teaching my students how to solve and graph the solution of compound inequalities and found myself repeatedly saying, “It’s all about the word.” I’ll spare you the math lesson and just tell you that a compound inequality is two simple inequalities joined by the word and or the word or. That word happens to have a huge impact on the solution set.

As I was teaching this lesson and heard myself repeating that same sentence over and over, I heard His still small voice whisper, “That’s right, Polly, it IS all about the word—MY word.” Just as AND or OR has a dramatic effect on the solution set of a compound inequality, God’s word has that same potential in our lives.

“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”                                                                                                        

Hebrews 4:12 NLT

When we get into God’s word, His word gets into us. It is potent enough to stir our souls and bring about change in our lives. Through His word, we can learn who we are as well as who and what we are not as it cuts to the very core of our being. As His word works in us, we’ll be faced with decisions:

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”  

James 1:22-25 NIV

Have you noticed that doing the right thing is often also the hard thing? We can simply listen to God’s word or we can act on what we hear and apply it to our lives. The latter requires far greater effort, but the payout is worth it. The result of applying His word to our lives—we look more like Jesus! Isn’t that the goal?

I’m suddenly reminded of something else I’ve been known to say to my students regarding their effort—you get out of it what you put into it. Ugh…looks like I’d better take my own advice!



Divided Attention

FOCUSThose of you who know me well, know how much I love my sports. We are currently in the thick of March Madness, the nickname given to the season-ending college basketball tournament. Last night I found myself trying to watch three different basketball games and a hockey game all while watching a movie. I generally don’t touch the remote at my house, but my thumbs sure got a workout last night. I did happen to catch two goals in the hockey game. But I missed four. I saw a game-winning last second shot in one of the basketball games. But I missed a historic comeback in the last minute of another. Though I got the gist of it, it’s hard to tell how much of the movie I missed while trying to keep track of the games. My lack of focus on any one thing was somewhat comical at the time, but then God pointed out the painful truth of the matter this morning during my quiet time.

The truth is that my attention is divided in much more important matters than what’s showing on TV. Jesus promises that we WILL have trouble in this world. Some of us currently have more than others, but none of us are immune to it. As Pastor Chris often reminds us, “Everybody’s dealing with something.” If you’re like me and your attention frequently gets diverted to your trouble, you’ll soon find yourself drowning. That’s what happened to Peter when Jesus invited him to walk on water…

“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.”           Matthew 14:29-30 NLT

The key to staying afloat in this troublesome world is to fix your eyes on Jesus, giving Him your undivided attention. His power is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”                                   Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV

During this Holy Week, Christians generally have a heightened awareness of just how much Jesus suffered on our behalf. He made the ultimate sacrifice when He gave His very life for ours. If He can do that, then surely we can endure whatever obstacles await us in our own races. Whatever troubles you are facing, I pray you will just keep putting one foot in front of the other. By not giving up, you’ll reach the finish line and taste victory at just the right time. And it’ll be sweeter than the candy in the Easter basket! Victory is ours because Jesus defeated death. That’s cause for celebration—


(When the movie ended last night, they announced that there would be an encore presentation of the movie airing on its sister channel next week. After all that…ugh!)