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For many months as I ran God continued to lay this blog on my heart and continued to bring it to the forefront of my mind until I finally relented and said, “Okay, enough badgering, I will become a blogger.” (Not really but I did drag my feet for quite awhile.) So I wrote my first blog, then my second, and on and on and while I didn’t know what I expected I didn’t quite expect this…
(Thanks to my four, yes that’s right, dedicated readers!)
Sometimes it seems like God asks us to do things we don’t understand and then it doesn’t end up looking like we thought it would. It all boils down to our obedience and His timing. I believe that I am supposed to keep writing, even through the silence and maybe one day I will understand why. In the meantime I am reminded of the story of Joshua and Israelites marching around the walls of Jericho. (If you aren’t familiar with the story, the Israelites had to get through Jericho on their way to the promised land and God’s victory plan was a little unorthodox. Picture this, big strong warrior types, marching silently around the Jericho city walls behind a group of priests carrying trumpets. They do this for six days and on the seventh they march around seven times and then the priests blow their trumpets and the warriors yell. I really think I would have been saying, “Really, God. You are sure you don’t want us to use weapons and our training to attack Jericho. You are sure you just want us to march around the city and dodge insults and everything else they are throwing at us and then yell?” Spoil alert if you haven’t read the story (It’s in Joshua 6) because of their obedience to God, they yell, blow their trumpets, the walls fall, the Israelites win. Just like that.)
“So, let us not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
So here I am, trying my best to follow God, not always understanding, and waiting. This has always belonged to Him but today, I say it out loud, Lord, this is yours., make it as great or as insignificant as your plan calls for it to be and quiet my wondering heart in the meantime.
“You’re calling me to lay aside the worries of my day. To quiet down my busy mind and find a hiding place. Worthy, You are worthy.” Jason Morant, Unashamed Love
It’s Monday morning and the to-do list for the week is stretching out endlessly before me. I have found Jason Morant’s words to ring especially true and crave the peace that they provide…quiet down your busy mind. Sometimes it’s my mind that wears me out. It tends to race, sparking new projects faster than my hands are able to complete them and thus adding to my to-do list and making me feel overwhelmed, and even incompetent sometimes as I never quite accomplish everything that I would like to. Hiding and soaking in the peace of Christ’s presence has become essential for unscrambling my thoughts and smoothing out the path before me, as well as providing insight into what God’s priorities are for me. This quiet rarely comes easily. I think that, like our computers, we need personal “pop-up blockers.” How many times do you find yourself interrupted when you are attempting to spend time with God? (Can you guess how many times I have been interrupted as I have worked on this post? It has taken me most of the morning!) These pop-ups come in many forms, either your own thoughts drifting or through someone else’s intrusion. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just put ourselves in a little protective bubble when we are spending time with God and block out all of the other distractions? We need to find our own “prayer closet.” For me this is running, but it could be your daily commute, a bench in the back yard, or the kitchen table. Jesus usually went to a secluded hillside. John Wesley’s mother is said to have sat in a chair and thrown her apron over her head as a sign to her kids to leave her alone. (I don’t know about any other moms out there but I have wanted to do this before and it had nothing to do with prayer, just escaping the kids bickering 🙂 ) The point is that the “closet” is free from interruption, distraction, and listening ears.
Stressed? Overwhelmed? Searching for something? I don’t know your struggle but I can PROMISE you if you spend time in the word of God you will find an answer and more than that, peace in that answer.
Pastor Naeem Callaway, author of the blog “Spiritual Inspiration,” shared this and I found it so poignant I wanted to pass it along…
“One thing I’ve learned is that whenever life seems extra difficult, whenever it seems like the intensity has been turned up, that’s a sure sign that you are close to your victory. Whenever negative thoughts are bombarding your mind, or you’re tempted to get discouraged, that’s not the time to give up! That’s not the time to back down. That’s the time to dig your heels in. That’s the time to press on with a new attitude because you are closer than you think to your victory.”
It seems like sometimes we find ourselves in Satan’s cross hair, we are under direct spiritual attack. Let me encourage you to keep fighting, keep running when you find yourself there! Satan is a very strategic enemy but in studying God’s Word we can begin to understand the timing and strategy behind these attacks. One of the prime times for Satan to attack is immediately before a great blessing.
Satan knows he can’t stop your blessing but he won’t stop trying to spoil its arrival for you. When he attacks you, his goal is to distract you from the course that God has placed you on. He wants to discourage you, take your eyes off of God, off your victory. With this understanding it becomes easier to see Satan for what he is, the great deceiver. Instead of getting discouraged, I encourage you to begin to declare, “I’ve come too far to stop now! I’ve been through too much to turn back now. I realize the reason the intensity has been turned up is because I’m about to give birth to my dreams.” Tell Satan to go to hell!
Friend, don’t allow the enemy to steal from you any longer! Instead, press on toward your finish line because you’ve come too far to give up now. Remember, God Almighty is with you, and He is leading and guiding you down the path of victory in every area of your life!
On Your Mark:
The countdown is on. Only 81 days until I have committed to run a half marathon and let me just share one lesson I have learned…training is hard! When I mapped out how far 13.1 miles really was I was astounded! Building up the endurance for not only 13.1 miles but hours worth of running takes more than just physical endurance. It takes mental preparation as well. I love the caption on the picture to the left… “It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” I have understood wanting to quit, but the feeling at the end finish line wipes away anything other than a divine sense of accomplishment.
My son has a shirt that says “Practice is hard. Four quarters are easy.” I understood what it meant but I never really got it. Until now. Practice and training aren’t fun. To most athletes they are just a means to an end. Good athletes are able to see practice as much more than that and while they may still hate it they understand that it isn’t just the best way, it is the ONLY way to build their endurance, improve their skills, and become competition ready. We are only as good as our practice.
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” (Romans 5:3-5, NLT)
Living for God takes practice. To live the life He has called us to, we must work hard. Chances are one day you will wake up and find yourself running… running straight into the problems and trials mentioned above. During trials, God builds our endurance and character. In practice we strengthen our bodies, in times of trials we have the opportunity to strengthen our hope in Christ. Trials, again like practice, can also be long and difficult. We may even question if continuing to live for God through them is worth it. When I have found myself running with trials as my weighted companion I found myself unable to muster the energy from within to continue for very long on my own. With heartache, I have felt beyond exhaustion, my feet blistered and aching, gasping for air as my heart raced and all I wanted to do was to stop running. The little voice is saying “quit,” but that was when my training kicked in. This kind of training comes in the form of a relationship with God, digging into His word for nourishment, and spending time in prayer, communication with our Father, allowing Him to pour down endurance for us, physically and mentally, in order to continue on. Endurance doesn’t come without training.
I found the following on a sign and it struck a particular chord with me. See if you find it true in your life as well. Welcome to God’s Training Camp…
I asked for STRENGTH and God gave me DIFFICULTIES to make me strong.
I asked for WISDOM and God gave me PROBLEMS to solve.
I asked for PROSPERITY and God gave me BRAINS AND BRAWN to work.
I asked for COURAGE and God gave me DANGER to overcome.
I asked for LOVE and God gave me TROUBLED people to help.
I asked for FAVORS and God gave me OPPORTUNITIES.
I received NOTHING I wanted…I received EVERYTHING I needed.
And with the proper training, when you reach the finish line, no matter what the race may bring, exhilaration awaits!
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” DC Talk
…the introduction to “What if I Stumble” and a challenging thought…to live as I claim to believe…ALWAYS!
The video below found its way into my inbox this morning and I wanted to share it. For those who aren’t aware of the I Am Second movement, it is a fabulous one! They talk about becoming “an agent of change” wherever you are. Our society is one that demands winning and expects perfection. It is easy to be solely consumed with becoming first in everything we do. The best athlete, student, mother, employee, you fill in the blank. The I Am Second movement is meant to inspire people of all kinds to live for God and for others. We become second, and experience the freedom that it brings with it, when we lay all of this other stuff down and put Jesus First. Seconds are bold to lift up Jesus and tell others. I love that word, BOLD. For me, bold is stepping out of my comfort zone and into the danger zone. Bold, does not come naturally to me but in the moments that I find myself needing a little boldness I know that I can draw on the strength of Christ to supply it, relying on Him and not myself.
“And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.” (Acts 4:29)
“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ. (Colossians 2:2)
May you be bold. May you be encouraging. May you become Second. Everybody has a “cause” these days. Make yours one that will reap eternal rewards. If you do choose to become an agent of change in this movement, watch who God funnels into your life and be prepared to answer their question, what does “I am second” mean? Many, many times as I wear my simple black band, I have been asked. But, I have also found that it serves as a very simple personal reminder that this race is not all about me.
run a race. start a conversation. finish second.
Enjoy the video…
Who knew that a cinderblock wall could be so beautiful? Certainly not me! And I am sure that as you admire my view (don’t be too jealous) you are wondering what in the world I am talking about. Let me explain…
We have to start at the beginning. So, if this is to be an anatomy of a good run we have to answer the question what makes a good run. There are a couple of things that are absolutely essential for me. First are my trusty Nike Vomeros. I haven’t found another pair of shoes that make my feet happier and as long as my feet are happy I can go on and on and on. Second is my music. This is essential for putting me in the right frame of mind. Most days I have a stream of worship songs blasting directly into my ears, blocking out anything else. Finally, a place to run is needed and this is where the beauty comes in. I have run many miles both on the treadmill and outside. This spring, I couldn’t wait until the weather broke so that I could feel the warmth of the sun on my face while I was running. I also particularly remember one spectacular day last fall when the trees were ablaze with their fall colors and I couldn’t help but marvel at God’s creation. One of my favorite outdoor places to run is at a nearby resevoir. I am a sucker for water and it’s peaceful tranquility. I will also let you in on another secret about this place. There is a bakery nearby and sometimes early in the morning if the wind is blowing just right I can smell the bread baking. I don’t think there is anything that smells better than fresh baked bread. Talk about engaging all of my senses! Those are all great places to see God but, if I really need to hear from God I hit the basement treadmill and stare directly into my cinder-block wall. That is where the magic happens for me almost every single time. This is where I come when I really need to be drawn in, when I am searching for the stillness, when I am looking for not just a run, but a good run. James 4:8 says “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” It doesn’t always happen as soon as I take the first steps. Sometimes it is a fight to turn my mind form all of the things that need to be done, all of the things screaming for my attention. But I have found that as I keep pounding away, I am leaving behind all of the worries and to-dos and drawing near to God.
There is a passage in 1 Kings 19 where the Lord appears to Elijah and what I find I can relate in these verses is where God finally shows up. “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was a terrible earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:11-12) There in that gentle whisper is where Elijah finally found the Lord.
We find our senses absolutely bombarded everyday with chaos and noise, incessant chatter. Finding the quiet, your quiet, where you can hear the whisper of God is essential if you want to draw near to him. For me, being surrounded by His “wind, earthquakes, and fire” are a wonderful place to worship Him but that’s not where we are able to commune. I am also not going to claim that every time I run it’s a beautiful, awe-inspiring, hands raised in worship kind of experience. There are days when it physically hurts, days when my mind refuses to shut down no matter how I try, days when I feel more frustrated having tried and failed. But, on the days when I can cut through all of the junk, and quiet my spirit, there is nothing like it!
Being still doesn’t always mean ceasing movement. I would encourage you to find your “cinder-block wall” and see how beautiful God can make it.