Carrying a Corner of the Mat

Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.  When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.” – Luke 5:18-20 (NIV)

“Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

There is tenderness in the way Jesus greeted this paralyzed man who had literally been dropped in front of him. The man was a sinner. That is clear because one of the things Jesus did was forgive his sin. In the Jewish mindset of that day, physical abnormalities and sickness were believed to be the judgment of God for the serious sin of the person or his family.  Most likely the paralytic had been carrying the weight and guilt of that for years.  But, yet, here he was, laying helpless in front of Jesus, the holiest man who ever lived. Jesus looked at him and called him, “Friend.” 

Jesus didn’t ask, “What are you doing here? How did you get here? Don’t you know you interrupted me? What do you want?” Anyone could see that the man was paralyzed. What no one else could see was the condition of the man’s heart. But Jesus started there. The religious leaders in the room immediately took offense – as they tended to do – and said, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus went on to prove he could heal the man’s visible, physical ailment, but he made it clear that the most important thing, that only he could do, was to free him from sin. He does that for us, too, going right to the root of the problem.

 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”

When Jesus said, “Take up your mat,” the man did it. He didn’t spend time telling Jesus all the reasons why he couldn’t. He attempted something that had been impossible before and stood up. Jesus didn’t pick up the man’s mat, or ask his friends to help him out. He told him to pick up his own mat, and he gave him the necessary strength in his arms and his legs to do it.  

He does that for us, too. If he tells us to take a step, he promises to give us all the strength we need to take it. You may be thinking, “I need to confront an issue with my husband or my kids, or I need to go to counseling, or I need to share my faith with this person.” And then you start thinking, “But, but, but, what if…” Let this paralyzed man be your inspiration. Jesus told him what to do, and the man did it – knowing the full power of Jesus was supporting him. 

When Jesus saw their faith…

The wording at the beginning of verse 5 is significant. Jesus saw the faith of the paralyzed man, but he also saw the faith of his four friends.  God honors the faith of those who are willing to carry the weight of another. Some friends would have given up. They would have said, “Maybe next time,” or “We’ll try again next week.”

But these weren’t just any friends. They knew their friend needed Jesus now. They weren’t concerned about the status of the people in the room with him and they weren’t going to let a little crowd or a roof get in their way.

We live in a world where people are hurting – paralyzed by fear, guilt, shame, sin. They need someone to carry them to Jesus, just like someone carried us.

“We have seen remarkable things today.”

The people understood that they had witnessed a miracle. They didn’t get distracted by the mess or the noise or the interruption. They saw the goodness of God played out in front of their very eyes. That man’s story became the story they used to tell their friends and family about the power of Jesus. We’re still using it in that same way today! What remarkable thing is God doing in your life today, and who do you need to tell about it?  

What does it look like today to carry the corner of a friend’s mat?

When Jesus spoke about spiritual things, he looked for common ground on which to relate. If we are creative and willing, like these four friends in our story, we can get through anything to get our friends to Jesus.

In Acts, we see that early Christians got the attention of the world and turned it upside down as they shared Jesus with others.  They lived in difficult circumstances, hard socio-economic times and in an unfriendly political climate (sound familiar?), but they didn’t take that as meaning that it was a bad time to talk about Jesus.

Start with these things:

  • Pray for them.
  • Value them the way Jesus valued them. (Remember, he died for them.)
  • Get to know them and find your common ground. (Even if you don’t agree or understand everything about them.)
  • Answer their questions.
  • Love them in a way that reflects Jesus.
  • Never give up.

We may get tired or frustrated along the way, but God honors the faith of those who bring their friends to the feet Jesus.  

Are you actively engaged right now in carrying a corner of the mat of a hurting friend who needs Jesus?

(Originally published in the MOPS Magazine, February 2023 Leader Issue)

Notice the People in Your Story

We teach our children to say thank you to someone for a quick favor or a helping hand; but it takes a lot of intention and a little humility to acknowledge those who have truly made a significant difference in our life. 

When I was a young mother, new to leadership, a woman took an interest in me. She whispered helpful hints into my ear, applauded my efforts in front of others and spoke positive words over my children and my marriage. She looked me in the eye and said, “You’re good at this. You made the right choice. You are making a difference.” She drowned out the negative words I would say to myself, generously and graciously heaping valuable time and loving words all around me.

Your life story, like mine, includes characters who have molded your ideas and morals, fostered your mothering style, and inspired your leadership. Who are the people who have spoken into your life? 

  • Who believes in you? Sometimes all you need to keep going is to hear someone say, “You are brave. I know you can do this.”
  • Who inspires you to love or do more? Think about someone whose actions or attitudes make you lean forward and say, “I need more of THAT in my life.” 
  • Who taught you to do something new? Has someone along the way given you a new idea, taught you a skill or helped you understand the world better? 
  • Who has supported you or your family? Whose practical help has provided the foundation you needed to follow your passion? There may be someone who has invested time and energy in your children or husband; or may have helped you carry a load so you could step into something big. 

You have people all around you who have contributed to your life. Make sure they know the impact they’ve had on you.

The Posture of Hospitality

For a long time, when I heard the word “hospitality,” I thought about all the wrong things. I thought about beautiful table-settings, impressive chef-prepared dinners and the delectable desserts featured in magazines. I imagined elaborate gatherings filled with smiling people and hostesses floating through the room. But, that is not what real hospitality is. I was confusing hospitality with entertaining.  We miss something significant when we equate hospitality with entertaining. We get caught up in our culture’s false definition of hospitality, and we begin to think it is all about dinner invitations and etiquette, clean homes and casseroles, or dazzling displays of flowers and desserts.  

The Greek word for hospitality is philoxenos. Phileo meaning “brotherly love,” and xenos for “strangers.” God’s original design for hospitality is extending ourselves in love to strangers.  It is not just about hosting dinner parties on special occasions with people we know, or hosting a small group with just our friends. We need to be thinking about the person who is not there yet. How can we prepare for her? How can we invite her? How can we welcome her when she is brave enough to come?  

I work with an organization called MOPS – Mothers of Preschoolers. We are committed to creating safe, welcoming spaces for moms. This is what hospitality looks like at MOPS:  We extend an invitation and then greet each woman with a smile that lets her know we have been waiting for her. We get to know her and give her a place where she belongs. We meet her immediate needs and after getting to know her and building trust, we have the opportunity to show her that her greatest need is Jesus – either more of him if she already knows him, or to meet him for the first time. 

Creating a hospitable space doesn’t just happen without some thought and planning. But, as we plan for all the practical pieces, we must embrace a hospitable posture that welcomes the woman we don’t know yet. Consider these questions to get you started:  

  1. What is their first impression? What does each person see, hear, and feel when she walks in? Many will make a decision about whether they will return to your group in the first seven minutes of their time there. They decide based on how they felt when they walked through the door.  
  1. What are their points of connection? If you can make four points of connection with each person that comes through the door, she is more likely to return. Can you connect twice in the first seven minutes, once during the discussion part of your small group and once between meetings? If you can, she is far more likely to return, and invite a friend.  

We still have to consider the “entertainment” elements of the meeting because the table we set for others tells them we’ve planned for them and we’re excited to see them. But the table without your heart of hospitality is useless. Hospitality is about the people at the table. It’s about the conversation and the connections. Let’s not just invite people to the table. Let’s invite them to relationships. If everything we do is rooted in this kind of hospitality, then it will be enough – it will be more than enough. 

Being a Curious Leader

Leadership experts say that curiosity is one of the most important leadership qualities – its right up there with integrity and vision. Showing genuine curiosity about other people is the best way to strengthen relationships, whether it’s the relationship with your husband, others that live in your house or people in your neighborhood.

We are curious for several reasons:

  • We want to learn more. We like the trivia of life.
  • We want to improve something.
  • We want to connect with other people.

Curious leaders will:

Set aside what they think they know. Every now and then what we think we know gets in the way of our productivity and personal growth. A curious leader sincerely cares about where others have been and what they know. She knows that learning something new may challenge her beliefs or assumptions, and she’s willing to let that happen.

Foster a curious environment. Encourage those around you to ask questions and share their own ideas. Allow others the opportunity to get curious and search for solutions.

Be inwardly curious. Being externally curious makes you a good leader. You spend time focusing on those you serve alongside and the people you are serving together. But it is important to turn your curiosity inward every now and then. Be curious enough to answer a few questions about yourself.

  1. How curious are you? Rate yourself.
  2. Am I making a difference? Not “are you changing the world?” But are your actions, in your home and community, contributing to the betterment of those around you? If not, then you need to become curious about how to make some meaningful changes.
  3. Is my curiosity starting conversations? Is my lack or curiosity shutting them down?

Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious.” Passionate curiosity fosters collaboration, allows us to see alternatives and be fascinated by all the possibilities.

The Best Kind of Leader

To the world, leadership and servanthood are in direct opposition, but to Christians, servanthood is essential to leadership. Unlike worldly leadership, servanthood is not about title, position or skill. It’s about attitude. People are drawn toward those who serve them. Jesus taught his followers about servanthood.

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

– John 13:14-17

In John 13, we see an example of how Jesus served those closest to him – and showed them the value of servanthood. Jesus and his disciples were in the upper room for the Passover. At dinners like this, there was usually a servant at the door who washed the feet of those who entered. It was a dirty, but necessary, job. The roads throughout town were dirt and the men wore sandals or walked barefoot, so they needed the chance to wash off the day’s dirt. None of the disciples stepped up to volunteer for the job, instead they started arguing about who was greatest in the kingdom. Jesus talked with them about putting others before themselves and not worrying about being first. After supper, Jesus tied a cloth around his waist, took a basin of water and a towel and began washing his disciples’ feet. He showed them the things he had been trying to teach them.

We can learn a lot from John 13, specifically about leading well. In his article, “21 Laws: Jesus and the Law of Addition,” John Maxwell points out the leadership statements below. Read these statements and then reread John 13:1-17. Write the verse from John 13 that corresponds to each statement below.

  • Servant leaders are motivated by love.
  • Servant leaders possess a security that allows them to serve others.
  • Servant leaders initiate servant leadership.
  • Servant leaders receive servant leadership from others.
  • Servant leaders want nothing to hinder their relationships with God.
  • Servant leaders teach servanthood by their example.
  • Servant leaders live a blessed life.

Jesus is the greatest leader of all time, and he was a servant who challenged those who followed him to
serve others as well. Go back through the statements above. Put a star next to the ones you feel are already part of your leadership style. Now draw an arrow next to the ones you would like to learn more about.

What kind of leader do you want to be? List several specific goals for yourself as you become a servant
leader. (Tip: Start with learning more about what the Bible says regarding the statements you drew an
arrow next to above.)

An Unexpected Warrior

At the beginning of Judges, we see the nation of Israel resting in a good place. They are happy, well-fed and strong. Because of that, they have forgotten their good circumstances have come, not because of their own efforts, but because of God’s grace. As a result, at the beginning of Judges 6 we see that, “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites.” The Midianites were a powerful and merciless people. Every year, they stormed in, took what they could carry and then destroyed the rest. This happened for seven years and then, finally, the Israelites cried out to God for help.

Why did it take so long? Probably because they were trying to fix the mess themselves first. I know that’s what I usually do! The Israelites had a history of being slow to ask for help, but God was never slow to respond.

In this case, he used a man named Gideon. Read Gideon’s story in Judges 6 and 7.

An angel appears and calls Gideon a “Mighty Warrior,” which seems odd since Gideon is hiding in a winepress at the time. Over the next chapters, we see Gideon’s journey. Starting with wondering if the angel is lost and really looking for someone else, to wanting to believe that maybe he is who the angel thinks he is, but needing God to prove some things to him. When Gideon is finally ready to go, God pushes him to handle some distractions and disobedience in his own family first and then set out to face the Midianites, only to have God rework the plan at the last minute.

We can learn a lot from Gideon’s journey:

The Israelites forgot about God. When we look at the good things in our lives, do we remember that they are always a result of God’s grace, rather than our own doing? List the things that are going well, and thank God for them.

God is quick to respond. Where do you need God’s help right now? Ask him for it. 

God saw what he could do through Gideon. Gideon just needed some convincing. Have you ever been called to do something, but knew you weren’t equipped for it?

God had a clear plan. Once Gideon was listening, God laid it out for Gideon to follow. Have you had a time when your priorities didn’t match up with God’s? How did God redirect you?

Gideon could have never done on his own what God did through him. Do you trust that God will do what he has promised – in your ministry, your family, your life?

The Greatest Connection

If you say you want to connect with others but never ask questions, then you don’t really understand connection. The greatest connection often comes from just being willing to ask the question and may have very little to do with what the answer is.

There is some skill to asking good questions.

Ask the right questions. Sometimes you need to ask “WHAT?” What is the issue, what are we dealing with, what just happened? Other times you need to ask “WHY?” Why is this important, why do you feel this way? Then you may need to ask “HOW?” How can I help, how should we address it?

Ask second questions. Second questions often matter more than the first because they explore what really matters. First questions address obvious issues. Second questions explore meaning, purpose and value behind the issues.

First question: What’s frustrating you?
Second question: How can we address it? What can you do to make it better? What can I do to make it better?

First question: What’s your mission?
Second question: Why does your mission matter?

Asking second questions helps others figure things out for themselves. Asking second questions leads to clarity and brings out all the pieces of a story.

Ask one question at a time. Great questions cause people to pause and reflect. Ask your question and then give space and time to answer. Stay curious long enough to get to the real issue because sometimes the first thing you see or hear isn’t really the problem.

Listen to the answers. Henry David Thoreau said, “The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.” Listening makes people feel valued. It allows you to show that you are sincere in the questioning and that you can be trusted with the answers.

It takes courage for someone to answer a question in an honest way. It takes courage to lay something important out in front of others and ask them to consider new ideas.

Ask questions, listen to the answers and then applaud other’s bravery in order to encourage their next question.

Originally shared on the MOPS blog. If you like the idea of connecting with moms in your community, check out MOPS. Find a group near you today!


My brother-in-law was born colorblind. He knew the grass was green and the sky was blue because everyone told him. But to him, it all looked gray. A few years ago, he was involved in a car accident. In the midst of a dozen terrible things resulting from it, one really interesting thing happened: he could see color. I don’t know the medical explanation, but suddenly he’s living in a world of shading and textures, realizing sky blue is not the same as water blue or Royal blue (the color of his favorite baseball team). Living in this new colorful world requires some adapting and learning. He has a whole new perspective.

I think we all need a new perspective every now and then, but especially after the last year we ‘ve had. We need to see each other and God in a way we haven’t before. To look closely and notice the textures and subtleties of each other. To celebrate things that make us alike and, maybe more importantly, things that make us di­fferent. To be a safe place for others to dream, seek, change, and be themselves. Let’s not just see blue – let’s see cobalt, navy, midnight, periwinkle and cerulean. Look at something you don’t quite understand, requiring you to get on your knees, dig in and study, and reach out to someone else to help you fully see what is in front of you.

Toilet Paper and the Scarcity Mindset

When the quarantine in our area began, we had 5 adults and a baby living in our house. My husband, son, daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and me.

Now, this is NOT a complaint. I am so grateful we were all together during this lock down. The only thing better would have been, if for some crazy reason, my oldest son and family needed to move in with us, too! (I don’t know where we would have put them. My college son, who came home for the longest spring break in the history of spring breaks, was sleeping on an airbed in the laundry room.) I worked in my office, my husband worked in the dining room, my son studied in the living room, my daughter and son-in-law worked upstairs and the baby just crawled around from room to room. We took turns fixing meals and we played games via Zoom with the rest of the family at night. If I had to sum up our quarantine in six words, it would be: “Just looking for a quiet place!”

Just before the official lockdown in our area, I had stocked up on toilet paper at Costco. Not because I had some sort of prophetic leading, but just because we needed it. So we were in a pretty good place when the whole toilet paper shortage began. Several weeks in to the “shortage” my daughter and I were at the store and they had toilet paper on the shelves for the first time in a while. I voiced that we should grab some since they had some. My daughter responded, “But we have lots of it. We don’t need it.” My concern was that, even though we had it now, what if they didn’t have it later, when we did need it. She replied, “But, mom, what if the next person comes in and really needs it NOW, but she can’t get it because you took one you didn’t need?”

I didn’t buy toilet paper that day. 

This fear of running out came because I was listening to media and others who were saying, “This is a big deal! You need to be worried about this!” It was a big deal for some, and I was able to give some of my precious rolls away to a neighbor who had literally used up all the toilet paper she had in her house. But I didn’t need to worried about it – not yet. And it turned out that I never needed to be worried about it, because by the time I ran out of all of my Costco stock, the shortage was over.

I had fallen into a scarcity mindset. The feeling that if I don’t hold on to what I have, if I don’t stockpile when I can, if I give away any that I have, then I will suffer later. I realize that sometimes our physical resources are scarce. Proverbs says that a wise man prepares.

So what is the opposite of this scarcity mindset? We might think that the opposite is “abundance.” Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, talks about this. She explains that scarcity and abundance are not opposites. The opposite of scarcity is, in fact, “enough.” A scarcity mindset and a life focused on wanting an abundance may look very much the same. (Talking about abundance the way the world describes it, not necessarily how God describes it.) If we are constantly striving for “more,” then we often feel scarce.

Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need.” – Proverbs 30:7-9

When we are at peace with enough, we don’t have to be afraid of not-enough; we don’t have to hoard more than enough.

Brené Brown says, “The greatest casualties of a scarcity culture are our willingness to own our vulnerabilities and our ability to engage with the world from a place of worthiness.” 

This scarcity mindset rolls over into our jobs, our ministry, and our relationships.

In a professional environment, if you feel like there aren’t enough promotions or commission dollars or even kind words from your boss to go around, then competition becomes your driver. Competition isn’t wrong on its own, but it’s harmful when we become obsessed with getting all we can because we think there will never be enough. That’s why we fear change, it’s why we won’t help someone else or why we won’t share what we know – because if I tell you what I know then I’m not as valuable anymore. There just isn’t enough for all of us.

We see this in ministry all the time, too. We see the damage it can do to a leader and to a ministry when we are so focused on holding tight to what we have because we fear that if we share it or give it away then we won’t have enough. Or that somehow me calling out the really good things you do – in your home or work – makes me less. We don’t believe there is enough space for everyone to succeed, and when we feel that way it is really hard for us to cheer others on.

I had a conversation recently with a young single friend who said she doesn’t like to hang out with women her own age because they spend all their time picking each other apart (sometimes out loud, sometimes through jokes or jabs) and she knows that she just doesn’t measure up. She can never be or do what they are. In the insecurity that accompanies a scarcity mindset, she so easily discounts what she has to offer.

Our scarcity mindset makes us focus on what we need and what we don’t yet have. One author describes it this way:

When we focus only on the needs, our vision becomes distorted. It may seem as though we are looking up from the bottom end of a funnel that is broad and wide at the top, but narrow at the receiving end—our end, where we are waiting for what we need.  And a mindset of scarcity can creep in. Gradually, our perspective becomes defined more by what we have not yet received, rather than everything that is waiting in the funnel for us.

What do we do if we find ourselves with a scarcity mindset?

First, be thankful.

Second, remember how good God is and how much he loves us.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:26-33).

God gives us “all these things” that we need. He gives us enough. 

  • What in your life feels scarce?
  • What are you holding back that God wants you to share with someone else?

Pray –

We come today so grateful for all you’ve given us. For salvation, grace, compassion, guidance. For physical resources that sustain us and protect us. For opportunities to give and share what we have, to speak kind words and encourage others, to do loving things for someone who might feel unloved, and, most importantly, to share what we know about you.

And God, give us a fresh revelation of how much you love us. Thank you for loving us so lavishly.

The Best Assumptions

I have not always been one to assume the best about others.

There, I said it. It’s not pretty, but it’s true.

As a teenager, I was a people-pleaser who followed the rules. That combination means that I didn’t get into trouble very often. But when I think back on my teenage years, I see that my people-pleasing, rule-following heart was very judgmental about those who made different choices.

I assumed that everyone had the same options, came from the same background, and knew the same things I did. And when they made a choice that I would not have made, I judged them because my way was “right” – which meant their way had to be “wrong.”

I was able to filter what came out of my mouth, for the most part. So I was definitely seen as a kind, people-pleasing, rule-following teenager. But people can spot the fake smile or insincere compliment, and they know when you look at them as if they are your project to fix. It wasn’t until I was a young adult when I realized I was basing how I interacted with people on what I could see in them. I wasn’t even considering what might be happening that I couldn’t see.

A few years ago, I was sitting around a table with young moms. We were playing a simple icebreaker and sharing just three simple facts about ourselves. One young mom shared that she had two children, worked at a local grocery store and was a drug addict. She was looking me straight in the eyes when she said it because she wanted to know how I was going to react. I was the leader of the group and my reaction was going to shape her experience there. Would I look away because I judged her or because I was shocked? Or would I embrace her story and want to know more? I have not always reacted in a loving way in situations like this, but this time, I invited her to lunch and asked her to tell me more. As her story unfolded, I was shocked. Shocked by what she had been faced with and the options she did (or mostly didn’t) have, shocked by the decisions she had made and by the painful decisions others had made for her. It would have been easy for me to walk away and ignore the truth and darkness, but I kept listening as she explained her process of making a series of good decisions that were gradually moving her into a much better circumstance.

If I had continued to look at her as someone who was just paying the price for her “wrong” choices, I would have missed her incredible story of forgiveness, grace, love and just pure grit. I would have missed knowing one of the bravest, smartest women I’ve ever met.

What I understand now is that we don’t know anyone’s real story just by looking at them. We have two choices: we can judge others based on what we think we know OR we can look at others as they really are – the beloved children of God (whether they know that about themselves or not.)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

This isn’t just about changing the words we use (although that’s a start), it’s about setting aside our need to be “right” and all of our assumptions, and getting to know the real person within her real story.

Originally shared on the MOPS Blog. Go read more there, because we believe moms are the most powerful creatures on the planet. We are the ones influencing the smallest details of people’s day, but also the trajectory of generations. When moms are resourced, when moms are elevated, when moms are educated, when moms are empowered to do what they are meant to do in the world, everyone is better because of it.