Tuesday, June 2, 2015

True story

This is a story about God.

A few years ago my husband and I were members of a little country church. In this church was a sweet couple who obviously loved each other very much and who worked very hard in that church.
The sweet woman in this couple shared with me that she as struggling in her job and very badly wanted to be able to stay at home with their child.
My husband and I were already very concerned for this couple.
You see, they weren't married.
Why does that matter?
Because I knew God deeply loved this couple and that he had brought them together. I knew that both of them had come to the understanding that they needed Jesus and his death and resurrection for salvation.
I knew that God wanted to give them great blessing, but that sin had put up a huge road block to those blessings.
Was I better as a married woman? Nope.
Have I put up huge road blocks to blessings in my life because of sin? Yep.

My husband and I knew from past experience that we had created road blocks to blessings in our lives by allowing sin in our home.
God cannot bless sin.

He is gentle to us in our sin.
Psalm 103:8-10New International Version (NIV)
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.


But:

In Hebrews 12 we are told:
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

 
He wasn't waiting with His hammer of justice to smash this beautiful family. He was gently slowly working to bring truth to them.
He had done it for me with my uncontrollable temper, dvd burning thievery, pride, etc...
 
My husband and I prayed for a long time for the opportunity to help them. Finally my husband had a chance to lead the father in a one on one bible study. After several weeks and building fellowship with them, he asked to speak with them both privately.
He basically told them that we deeply loved them and wanted to help them to achieve the godly goals they had for their family. He discussed all I wrote about above.
The mother said she would have been very angry if it had come from anyone else but she understood he was doing this out of love. They both agreed to think about it.
 
Not to long after they separated for a short time and were married.
Not to long after that he was given a job opportunity that allowed her to be a stay at home mother as she had wished.
Not a coincidence.
 
Any couple who are Christians (people who accept that Jesus died to make them whole and has the right and ability to guide their lives) and who live together/have intimate relations outside of marriage are short changing themselves in a big way.
 
Maybe for you things are "perfect", but I submit that your perfect is only the tip of a huge blessing iceberg that obedience will unlock for you. Good enough should not be good enough, life is too short for that.
 
You only have to read John 4 (Samaritan woman at the well) or John 8 (adulterous woman) to realize it is never about condemnation with Jesus. NEVER
He even offered a Pharisee (religious leaders whom he was pretty harsh with) the truth about how to be free in Him in(John 3) as he did with the adulterous woman (whom he was tender and gentle with).
It's never about some people being better than others, because that's not possible.
It's about how much Jesus gets of you.
The more He gets of you the better off you are. The more areas of your life that you lay on the table and say "Okay God where do you lead on this?" or "Okay God I acknowledge that you deserve to lead in this" the more amazing life becomes.
Easy, no.
Blessed, joyful, victorious, (and this list goes on in an eternal way), Yes!!!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The unlikely story of how I became a runner

Just a little disclaimer from the start when I say "runner", I ask you to never ever picture, oh say the Olympics and a person pumping their legs in a fast piston fashion flying past other runners.
I can, in fact run like that but only for the very tiniest periods of time.

When I say I am a runner I mean I jog along for miles at a time.
That sentence alone makes me chuckle at it's improbability.
I have never been an athlete. I muddled through PE. I had tons of heart but zero coordination.
I am NOT a competitive person. I am awkward.

I had since getting married in 1996 at different points in my life done workout videos, used treadmills to walk, swam and had an exercise bike. I am active, I love to garden and be outside but I mainly exercised to maintain a certain pants size. My burst of exercise never stuck. I got sick of the video, I got busy and my heart just wasn't in it anymore.

I have mild asthma that flares up during exercise or allergies. I heard that running could increase your lung capacity and strengthen your heart. I had two friends who were committed runners (at the marathon level) and it sparked my interest.

So in August of 2013 at the age of 37, I decided that while my daughter was in Ballet class near the local university I would start walking the 4 mile trip of twice around campus. Why waste a perfectly good chance to have exercise time?
My goal was to add in a jog at some part of this trip. I was not very confident of success so I just did it alone. If nobody knows you failed, in my mind it seemed less painful.
My mom who worked on campus at the time walked with me from time to time but for the most part I went alone. I found that I really enjoyed myself. I loved being outside.

The first time I jogged a short leg of the rectangle shape of campus my throat, lungs and legs were on fire. FIRE! 
But each week, twice a week I jogged those short stretches until I could make all four. Then I switched and jogged the long stretches and walked the short.

I was a totally newbie to running. I used 5 year old sneakers, I took a week off and tried to go back to the same jog and got a stress fracture in my foot. So by December 2013 I was back to walking the four miles. From December to March I walked inside the Student Athletic center with short jogs added in each time. By March 2014 I could very slowly (13 something minute mile) jog the whole four miles around campus.

I felt like I had won the lottery. My breathing was so much better. I had learned to get proper running shoes and clothes. I knew how to avoid blisters, black toenails, and muscle strains. I had figured out how to stretch for my body before and after each jog. 
Don't get me wrong every time I tried to increase my speed I saw stars, got tunnel vision and felt like I had to throw up, so I still do have asthma.
But by October 2014 I could jog 6 miles at an average pace of 10.45 minute miles.

November to December 2014 I had survived a major pull in my hip and kept at it. I ran my first official race on December 12th 2014. It was a 5K and I finished in 29.42 minutes, slightly behind my friend's two 12 year old twin boys. Hey, those kids rock.

I had a quarter marathon scheduled on January 17th and two weeks before I got hit by a rough allergy attack, my times dropped and I felt pretty bummed but by this point I just enjoyed making my body do the twice a week 4 mile runs. I still have to push each mile and I hate having to increase speed. Increased speed makes me feel like my digestive tract is melting down and brain will explode.


Today I ran in the Louisiana quarter marathon- 6.5 miles. Small by seasoned runner standards but it's the longest run I have ever done. I finished around 1 hour and 11 minutes (update- got the official results: time:1:10:40 pace:10:48). That was better time than any practice run I had done. I was so surprised. 

I felt good for most of the run and so happy to celebrate at the end with my family. My husband said I looked like I was having so much fun, he wanted to run it with me next year. Funny, considering my face during the race looks like a cross between extreme pain or nausea. Hey, I don't concentrate prettily.

And I just realized I have been doing this for 17 months and I don't want to quit. I actually Googled how to train for a half marathon. Yikes!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Needy- in the 1st world sense of the word

1 Thessalonians 4:11 Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 12 Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

I have really been thinking about this scripture this week. These are directions from a Christian shepherd. This was written down and passed to the early churches. Through years of trial and persecution this letter makes it into the first copy of the Christian Bible. Then it goes on to travel the centuries and the world.


It's no accident. 

God wished for us to hear these words. 

Now I must apply it to myself.


We live in a culture filled with needy people. No so much poverty stricken here in the US but needy for love, attention, validation, encouragement, etc....I often find myself as one of them.


When we come across someone who is not needy, it is quite a surprise. 

The person who seems to be anchored against the emotional hurricane that is our culture. How do they do it?

They know that Christ is all we need. They understand that for every need, of every kind, He is the answer. 


If you aren't a child of God this makes no sense, and even if you are you may still feel this is too simple a way to look at the world.


But do not discount this ROCK, this Eternal Foundation. 

I heard a song this week that said "What if all you understand could fit into the center of a hand? Then you found it wasn't you, who held the sum of everything you knew "

All the understanding I have, tiny as it may be, did not even come to me by my own strength. 

So when any thought pops up that indicates Christ and His word aren't enough, I must put it to this verse:

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

and to this:

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

and to this:
Isaiah 66:2
“These are the ones I look on with favor:
    those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
    and who tremble at my word.


Friday, June 20, 2014

What is that to you?

John 
21So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?" 22Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!" 23Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?"…

The old comparison game. 
It really started with the first mind that existed outside of God. Satan saying- "Hey, I want this divine being gig. Yeah what you got, that's for me". 
It almost seems like a law of nature, like magnetism, that we must look around us and questions why others do not have to walk the same road we do or seem to walk  a better one. 
That's what Peter is doing. 
He was just told he will have to walk a very hard road, leading ultimately to his death. 
The biggest downer prophetic speech in centuries and his first thought is "yeah but what about that guy, he's gonna have to die too right?"

I think this brings out two very good points:

1.) Real prophets speak hard things. Would Peter know spiritual abundance, prosperity of the task God asked of him? Yes, and Yes. He would be filled by Christ in wondrous ways but earthy hardship would be his companion as well. 


and 

2.) We have stop looking intently in the lives of others for guidance or comparison. Yes, we can see and be inspired but ultimately we are all made for purposes so specific that only God's got the guidelines. Comparison ultimately places our knowledge on par with God's. There is no meter or scale of balance between me and another person. The scale, balance is between me and Christ and He chose to intentionally tip it in my favor on Calvary. No earthy trial or purpose compares to the work He has done in my favor. Nothing is too much to ask. Do I live this - no. Do I need to- yes. I pray that I would through His strength. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Hope

Realized this weekend that hope is not just "wishful thinking". The kind of hope a Christian has is knowing something is as good as done. Our pastor put to words something I have been struggling with. 

I knew the key to overcoming sadness or loneliness was hope in Christ but I honestly did not know how wield hope in my life. You can actively use hope to fill the empty places in your heart. 

If my total forgiveness of sins is done, if my power for living free from sin is done, if my place as God's child is a done deal then I can have a heart full of hope for my future. 
If God hears my burdens and knows my needs then I can have a heart full of hope that He is actively working to equip me and fill me. 

To have filling hope like that you have to really trust Him.
I realize now my lack of joy and hope was actually doubt. 
Not doubt that God was God or that He was acting on my behalf but doubt that I could ever find joy in what He had planned. I wondered if sacrificial living and Christlike behavior would ever fill some of my more self centered hurts. I struggled with the idea that somehow He created me with a need that, His plans could not fill. 

Yeah, sometimes just putting something down in print, or admitting your thoughts helps you to see how broken they are. 

Trust restored, Hope renewed. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Midlife Crisis

I have reached that age where I really wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self a thing or two. 
Does that come with a certain age?

I guess you can probably feel that at 16 about your 14 year old self but there is something about nearing 40 that kicks this into high gear. 

I will be 38 this year and hubs is turning the big 40.

I would have sworn this would never happen to me. It was inconceivable that I would get flaky about getting older. Truth was I had no concept of what "getting old" actually meant. 


At 24 I was 5'8" and 125 lbs. My body could tackle any challenge without injury. I could read anything without glasses. My hair was free of grey strands. Yet, honestly I was wildly insecure and critical of myself. 

Now all I can think is, how dumb could I have been?
I want to shout at myself, "Wake up you fool, enjoy every minute, relish your health, take better care of it and for heaven's sake count your blessings."

Now, I find myself in a slump. Many pounds have crept on the old frame, I have a healing foot injury from my year of jogging and I had the eye doctor tell me at my visit two week ago "Wow, your eyes have gotten much worse for being still under 40". 


Grump, slump and grrr. I want to know I still got it, know what I mean?

I feel frumpy. I look at my pretty little daughter and realize soon she will be a million times prettier woman than I ever was at my best. Even as I write that I know it reveals how horribly vain I am. 

Then it hit me as I visited with a sweet older widow who will be 90 this year. She was describing someone she knew and she said, "She's a girl like you". She then giggled and apologized for calling me a girl, like as if she needed to. 


My thick as concrete brain finally got it- I am the 24 year old still. 

I am blind to what I have. 
To this 90 year old my age was a time of youth, joy and adventure. 
I have young children to watch grow, I have a husband who truly loves me (who still looks at me like I was that 24 year old), I can jog, I can afford reading glasses, I HAVE JESUS- daily teaching me to be present and accounted for in my own life. 

You know it's easy to discount the idea of counting your blessings.

"How naive", "How can I be made happy just because I am not suffering as badly as another person?".

It's not that you have to compare yourself to others, it's that sometimes you have to look around to see where you are.


It's the whole not seeing the forest for the trees idea. 

You can get lost in the ordinary, so much so that you might loose track of the fact that your ordinary has plenty of miracles in it. 

I only hope I live to be 80. I hope I do it with my eyes wide open. I hope I get out of my own head and really live. I pray that. I repent of being wrapped up in foolishness. To quote a famous group of theologians - *The Newsboys ;) - "faithfulness, not easy fixes". Time provides a true test of every heart.

* They also said "Whistles make for better mixes" which is equally true.
Check out the song: Secret Kingdom.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIUHpvSkXOI&feature=kp

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Affirmation vs. Compliments

Affirmation vs. Compliments
Maybe you did not know there was a difference.
I didn't think about it until I started reading "Practicing Affirmation" by Sam Crabtree.

This book brought to light how useless being nice can be. 
What?
Yes.
It's nice to say - You are pretty, cute, snazzy, have nice hair or some other surface claim that has nothing to do with a person's character.
That might give the person a little rush for the moment, it will not get them thinking about deeper character issues. Compliments will not stick or they can become an addiction which needs the next hit. 

I was guilty of tossing out compliments everywhere.

God centered affirmations are ones that point out the traits of God in a person. 

God made us in His own image.
Genesis 1:27
That means even the most hardened soul still has some traits of God in them. 

Crabtree points out that by looking for these and pointing them out, you can:
a) lift up that person's spirit
b.) encourage more of that character trait in them
c.) open the door for the gospel
d.) change how you see people around you to a more loving and godly light
e.) be praising God all day long since He gets credit for all these affirmations

So it sounds good but how?
How do you finds traits of God in us everyday people?

Learn the traits of God and look for them.
For example God is:
Gentle, loving, merciful, a good father, a loving teacher, a deep thinker, the inventor of organization, diligent in His work, etc... 
The Bible is full of examples, which means being in the Bible daily gives you a better chance of spotting these things. 

Then when you see one of these traits you simply say something like:
"God really made you a loving teacher".

That's it, that simple. Not something to be afraid of or worried about just something to make a priority. 

The book has so much more to offer than I can discuss here and I highly recommend it.