All posts by Traci Stead

Passion

Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion. ~Martha Graham

When my boys were little all they talked about was Pokémon.

They knew the names of all the creatures and what each one could transform into if given the right circumstances. They had pretend Pokémon battles, hiding behind the sofa and jumping out to put the Pokémon into their special balls.

They even talked their grandmothers into playing Pokémon cards. None of us ever understood what we were doing, but being with Jonathan and Amos while they tried to explain was exciting. Their eyes shone, their words gushed forth like a Squirtle under pressure, and they couldn’t sit still.

They talked Pokémon, dreamed Pokémon, and played Pokémon.

Most people’s first thought in the morning is about work. The second most common thought upon rising is what errands need to be completed that day. Health and hygiene come to mind third most often. Women will likely think of friends and family next, while the men will think about food.

Many people turn to their phones for the weather, the news, a quick social media check. Some people head for the coffee pot. And all of us are made aware of our bladders.

Where does Christ fall in your line-up of the day’s thoughts?

The early church was being persecuted and ostracized. They were making a name for themselves by their good works.

But what did they do beyond that?

They never stopped talking.

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. Acts 5:42 NIV

Day after day, every place they went, the apostles and disciples kept talking. They just couldn’t help themselves.

They had found their passion.

What occupies your every thought?


Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 ESV

Community Property

A man is called selfish not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbor’s. ~Richard Whately

“I know you; I grew up down the road from your dad.”

I was at summer camp, volunteering as a counselor. She was many years my senior, but that didn’t stop her from teaching the next generation with energy and enthusiasm.

“Your grandma used to send food to us because my mother was ill. She even gave us shoes to go to school.”

I was blown away.

My grandparents had thirteen children. I’m not sure how they afforded to clothe their own kids, let alone the ones down the road. But their generosity was still remembered sixty or seventy years later.

I remember the professor’s wife who invited us to Thanksgiving dinner because she had once been far from home herself.

I remember the mother of a student who passed along clothes to my little guys because she had three boys of her own and knew how  quickly they can go through a pair of pants.

Even now I think of my neighbor who keeps our howling hound free of charge every time we leave town. She does it for the sake of love.

The early church had an opportunity. They were surrounded by people in need. Travelers, widows, sick neighbors, and the constant threat of famine were common drains on the community. Many of these problem people were ignored, shunned, or exiled.

But the church seized the opportunity and goodness spread.

The hospital movement owes its momentum to Christians. Orphanages developed as early as the fourth century because of Christians. Christians promoted leprosy communities, libraries, education, and safe living quarters.

What started as a small movement- share your possessions with others- became a hallmark of the Christian church.

What started as a meal and a pair of shoes for my grandma’s neighbor turned into a lifetime of serving others.

You may not think you are doing much today, but you never know where those offered shoes may travel.

Follow in the footsteps of those first Christians, wherever they may lead you. Because good deeds are remembered, and love is recognized.


I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:36-40 ESV

At the Speed of Time

Drive slow and enjoy the scenery – drive fast and join the scenery. ~Douglas Horton

We used to live in Arlington, Texas- 18.5 hours away from our families.

18.5 hours of driving. Non-stop.

Of course we did stop. We had two small children, and sometimes the dog came along, too. That was before the days of dvd players in vans, Waze or Google maps, even before cell phones for us.

The road seemed to get longer as we drove. Usually we took a day and a half to complete the drive, but a couple of times we drove straight through, making it in less than 24 hours.

Go ahead. Say it.

We were NUTS!

I know we couldn’t do that now. I get more restless than a toddler when I’m in the car: squirming, twisting, putting the seat-back up and down. It’s just too long.

Moses led the Israelites out of bondage, through the desert, and then turned them over to Joshua for safe-keeping. He told the people that there would be another prophet coming and they should listen to him.

About 1500 years passed.

Talk about a long drive.

So when Jesus’s disciples prophesied and performed miracles in his name, people were stunned. They couldn’t believe it.

They thought the ride was over a long time ago, but now- what in the world!?

Sometimes on those long car rides across the country, I fell asleep and woke up disoriented.

“What state are we in? Are we out of Tennessee, yet?”

The Israelites had fallen asleep along the way. They were waking up disoriented.

Don’t be too quick to judge, though.

Have you prayed over a sick friend and then cried in surprise when your prayers were answered? Maybe you thought there would never be a baby, but you asked God and asked God, and now the flu is a bad case of morning sickness. You’re so stunned you stare at the test results in disbelief.

Jesus has been gone a long time. There’s no doubt that the gas is low in the tank, and we feel like a nap. It’s easy to forget that he is still  driving the car.

Instead of pulling in the rest area, pull out your map- even if you use the digital version- and get your bearings again.

It’s the trip of a lifetime.


I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6 NIV

Growing and Giving

I try to live my life like my father lives his. He always takes care of everyone else first. He won’t even start eating until he’s sure everyone else in the family has started eating. Another thing: My dad never judges me by whether I win or lose. ~Ben Roethlisberger

If you give a mouse a cookie, you better have crayons and cleaning supplies handy, as well as a glass of milk.

It’s funny how one thing leads to another.

An old friend was bemoaning the state of her church and that “young people just don’t seem to care” about being involved in church life.

Many times what seems important to one person is brushed aside by others.

A Christmas pageant is planned and only half the children are involved. A community yard sale for charity is scheduled and not enough people participate to make it a success. An elderly couple’s home needs to be weatherized before winter and only the two oldest men in the congregation show up to help.

Our lives are so busy that it’s easy to pass by these opportunities. We have our own schedules, priorities, and problems.

What can be done?

The early church seemed to have an answer: eating and praising.

Sounds too simple, doesn’t it?

Yet, when we take time to eat with people, we also take time to talk. Talking leads to concern and compassion. That leads to reworking our schedules and serving others.

And THAT leads to encountering Christ.

So grab a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. It’s time to share Jesus with the world.


How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” Romans 10:14-15 ESV

Big and Small Parts

If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way. ~Napoleon Hill

My sons were involved in community theater during their school years. The older one enjoyed acting as well as being behind the scenes. He built sets, painted scenery, ran lights, and was a stage manager. His roles ranged from supporting actor to lead actor.

The younger son didn’t care for acting, but he enjoyed the technical side of theater- carpentry, electrical work, lighting. He built sets, operated sound and light equipment, handed props to actors, set up and cleaned up.

Both of them were important to run the show.

The church was just getting up and running. There was concern about leading the movement now that Judas Iscariot was dead. What were they supposed to do?

They turned to prayer and scripture for their answer.

It seemed right to them to appoint another leader, one who had been with them from the beginning. They came up with two possibilities: Matthias and Justus. They chose Matthias.

There isn’t any more commentary on either of these men after that. All we know is that they were both good enough and trusted enough for the people to put them forward.

Perhaps Matthias was better suited for staying in Jerusalem because of family commitments or connections. Perhaps Justus was needed elsewhere or in another capacity. Maybe Matthias had more knowledge of money, or culture, or the scriptures. Or could it be that Justus was going to be an early example of a martyr, like Stephen?

Only God knows why Matthias was chosen over Justus.

Only God knows what you have been chosen to do and why.

Perhaps you are to be an example of faithfulness to other young marrieds while your husband serves a lengthy jail term.

Maybe you are adept at learning languages and are asked to be a missionary.

It could be that you are to be the mother or grandmother of a future world leader. Right now you are called to spend time with that child, patiently guiding and directing him or her.

You may have no idea why or what God is calling you to do.

That’s alright.

God does.

And like Matthias and Justus, you must do it. Not for the sake of glory or fame, but for the glory of God and him alone.

It’s very true . . .

There are no small parts.


 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. 1 Corinthians 7:17 ESV

Parking Garages

An optimist may see a light where there is none, but why must the pessimist always run to blow it out? ~Rene Descartes

I never realized how much I like the GPS until we went to the UK. “Judy” told us every twist and turn along the way. We didn’t get lost- not once. Even on the one-way bridge that I was certain was closed, Judy saw us safely to our destination.

A couple of years later when we visited French Quebec, we bought a SIM card for Canada. But most places in Canada weren’t covered by our phone. Once we made it through border patrol, we discovered Judy was mute.

Our French leaves a lot to be desired, and we hadn’t brought a map because, well, Judy.

We headed north and prayed.

Searching for the Plains of Abraham park in Quebec City wasn’t so bad. There were a few signs that sent us in the right direction, but then we had to find parking. The directions I had looked at and printed before we left home didn’t prepare us for construction or a festival.

We pulled into a parking garage, put the truck in park, and breathed a sigh of relief. We had made it.

Only we hadn’t.

We couldn’t figure out how to get out of the parking garage. I know. I know. How hard could it be?

We entered the doors for pedestrians and were suddenly trapped in a maze of corridors and French-only signs. Arrows pointed to the ‘sortie’ but that was the exit for the people who worked in the attached office building.

We followed more arrows to a door. I started to open it, but Matt noticed the ‘urgence seulement’ and stopped me. He had seen a sign with listed fines for opening the door.

After half an hour- no exaggeration- we made our way into the sunlight.

What does that have to do with the Bible?

Just this-

Matt and I approach problems differently. I am an optimist; he is a pessimist. I am a “push the door open and see what happens” kind of gal; he is a “keep-your-butt-out-of-prison” kind of guy. We work well together. I provide the excitement; he provides the stability.

Both are needed.

We need people in the kingdom who can take us on a wild ride of adventure, and we need people who look ahead and read the signs. We need heads that think, eyes that see, and hearts that weep and rejoice. (1 Corinthians 12) The kingdom needs optimists to say, “We can enter the land.”  (Numbers 14) And the kingdom needs pessimists who are willing to prophesy even when we know no one will listen. (Jeremiah 7:27)

Sometimes pessimists get a bad rap from us optimists. They never have fun. They don’t want to try something new. They think too much.

And sometimes pessimists don’t give optimists enough credit. That will never work. There they go again leaping before they look. Why don’t they ever think these things through?

But when we work together we can break out of the parking garage and get moving again.


One person could be overpowered.
But two people can stand up for themselves.
And a rope made out of three cords isn’t easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIRV

I Don’t Like This Road

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought. ~Matsuo Basho

My mother gets terribly carsick. She has lived all of her life in curvy, mountainous West Virginia, and the sickness has never left her.

There are roads that she refuses to use because experience has taught her that she will have lunch twice, maybe three times. It seems unfair that she should never have relief.

It also seems unfair that she should have beautiful vistas at her every turn when others don’t have such sights. Their rear view mirror reflects dumpsters and street lights. They peer through windshields to see smoggy valleys and graffiti-filled alleys.

Everyone travels their own road.

Maybe that seems harsh to you.

You cry out to God, “WHY!?”

Why do I have to be deaf? Why is my child autistic?  Why does my husband look at other women? Why can’t I have a baby? Why don’t I get a good job? Why am I short, tall, black, brown, too thin, too fat . . .

But what if it is only the road that is making you sick? If you stop the car for a minute, do you see a beautiful vista on the horizon? Is there a sunset glowing over top of the smog?

Jesus asks us to walk down the Via Dolorosa with him, a road that leads to death. Will you go?

People will throw stones. There will be sweat, spit, and blood. Angry curses will be hurled your way. The rest of your life will be affected. Your friends may even turn their backs on you.

But you get to walk beside the Savior of the World. He knows your name and his eyes look into your soul.

It’s worth it, isn’t it?

What if the road you are on now is the one Jesus has asked you to travel? Your deafness makes you notice things that hearing people don’t. Your autistic son amazes you with his insight. You counsel other women, adopt a homeless child, learn to be content, even generous. Do you still want off? Will you still beg for another route?

Or will you idle the motor a bit and see what beauty surrounds you?


Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12 NIV

 

Roads and Paths

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Several years ago we took a family trip to New England. We quickly discovered that they think highly of their roads. The tolls were exorbitant.

So this year when we took another family trip through the highways and byways of New England, we checked a couple of boxes on the GPS- namely *Avoid Highways and *Avoid Toll Roads.

The scenery was beautiful, it didn’t take much longer, and our wallet stayed a little fatter.

Which road we traveled didn’t make much difference since we were going to end up at the same destination whether we went straight away or took our time and meandered a bit.

Every Christian ends up at the same destination, but every Christian has a different way to get there.

Some come to Jesus on the super highway- fast and straight away. They knew as children that Jesus was their destination and they didn’t mess around.

Others suffer from car sickness. Disease, mental illness, disorders, or physical catastrophes drive them to Jesus.

Some take a very scenic route, stopping to experience all of the road stops along the way. These travelers worry those of us who have already arrived. We tap our foot, look at our watch, and mutter about their lack of concern.

I have taken the scenic route to places before. Along the way to my destination I discover new insights into myself and those around me. I learn about what makes me tick and what’s really important.

If you have a “Sunday driver” in your life, just keep on giving them directions. Direct them to the best restaurants. Guide them to the right rest stops. Get in the passenger seat and listen to their ramblings sometimes.

Remember there are many roads and paths along the way. It doesn’t matter how we get to Jesus, just that we do.


“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:9-10 NIV

Recognition

Christianity isn’t a religion we join- it’s a person we follow. ~Samuel Deuth

A friend was clearing out her mother’s house. In a box of memories she found her mother’s nursing school pictures from 1941. She posted them on Facebook, and they were correctly tagged through facial recognition.

Wouldn’t we all love to look the same seventy or eighty years later?

Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder who that is looking back at me. On the inside, I’m in my early twenties, full of life and hope, excited for the future.

On the outside I’m graying, less toned, and more wrinkled. But I’m also not twenty.

Jesus had been gone for three days, and no one recognized him.

Granted he’d been whipped, beaten, and crucified. He wasn’t looking his best.

But, really? No one recognized him?

Mary Magdalene didn’t know Jesus until he called her by name.

The disciples in Emmaus only recognized him after he broke bread and gave thanks.

The apostles identified him when he came through a locked door.

These were people who spent most of their time with Jesus. They traveled with him, ate with him, prayed, sang, and baptized with him. They acted like him, healing and raising people from the dead. They were known as his followers.

But there came a time when they turned- out of fear, disillusionment, frustration. It doesn’t matter why they turned away, but that they turned back.

They took a second look. They believed the unbelievable. They recognized Jesus.

Are you in a dark place? Does Jesus seem like a farce? Has your faith waned and wandered away?

Don’t give up.

Listen for your name. Let him break the bread. Expect a miracle.


They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. Luke 24:33-35 NIV

Doing the Hard Thing

Sometimes it is better to lose and do the right thing than to win and do the wrong thing. ~Tony Blair

When my older son was about twelve years old, he took a stand.

While visiting his grandparents one summer, he attended Bible class at their church. The Sunday school teacher was going to show a clip from The Matrix. I know the woman and I feel confident that she had a good lesson and reason to show it. But . . . we had a rule in our house that our children couldn’t watch rated PG-13 movies until they were 15. And The Matrix is rated R.

“I have to leave.” Jonathan stood to go.

“Why? What’s wrong?” The teacher was confused.

The conversation that followed was my son explaining the rule and that he had to obey it. The teacher said she was sure it would be fine for this little clip, but he didn’t give in.

He left the class.

Joseph was wealthy. A new up-and-coming politician in the inner circle. He had real estate, a position, and clout.

And an unpopular opinion.

He believed in doing what was right, even when no one else did.

50 Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Luke 23:50-51 NIV

It’s hard to take a stand for what’s right when others around you are doing whatever they want.

But it’s even harder to stand up when those who are supposed to stand with you, don’t.

An accountant who won’t agree to fudge a little with the rest of the office might find herself out of work.

A postal worker who won’t put letters aside so everyone can go home on time, could bear the brunt of some bullying.

A teacher who refuses to talk about students might be eating alone the rest of the year.

But doing what is right is always the right thing to do.


God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. Romans 2:6-8 NIV