Saturday, January 29, 2011

Another battle won

The name of my blog will be changing. Below is the story behind the new name.

It started as a running mantra. For those who may not know what a running mantra is, it is simply something you say to yourself when you are out there running and you simply want to quit. It can also be something you say to yourself to make you run harder and stronger. Yes, I have just admited that I talk to myself - but sometimes it's because I "need a good talkin' to" and sometimes it's because I'm just trying to find someone who will listen. At any rate, my mantra was "Everyday I run is another battle won." This got me around the track and through more miles than I ever imagined it would...and then it became something more. It became a mantra that helps me get through each day.

Maybe I'm the only one who ever has those days that make you just want to sit down and call it quits - the ones that make you want to say I'm out of this race. If so, then I'll just keep writing this to me. After all, I've already admitted I talk to myself. Still, I have to believe there are others out there who sometimes struggle as well. After all, there is nothing really new under the sun.

In 1 Timothy 6: 11-12, it says, "But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses." Sometimes it is a battle to pursue those things we are told to pursue, and not always a battle with the enemy. Sometimes it's simply a battle with myself.

One of my favorite books in the Bible is Nehemiah. In that book, Nehemiah has been called by God to go back to rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem. The people had returned to that city years before and set up the temple, but the walls of the city still lay in ruins - leaving them vulnerable to attack. I remember the first time I studied this book and realized this explained how someone could be a Christian and yet their lives could still be in ruins. The temple had been set up in their hearts, but the walls of their life that the enemy had torn down over the years still lay in ruins. To rebuild those walls, the workers actually had to have a sword in one hand and a building tool in the other!

Nehemiah 4:16 - 18  From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.
Rebuilding was not only work, it was a battle.

That's what another battle won really means to me. Some days are a battle of the will to do what I know is right; sometimes they are a battle to keep my focus on the Lord and what He has called me to; some days are a battle to listen not to the enemy, but to the promises of my Father who has never failed.

Nehemiah 6:9, 16 "They were trying to intimidate us into quitting. They thought, "They'll give up; they'll never finish it." I prayed, "Give me strength." ; "When all our enemies heard the news and all the surrounding nations saw it, our enemies totally lost their nerve. They knew that God was behind this work. "


So that's what another battle won is all about....taking this call God has given me and walking it out one day at a time. On this day, I choose to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.I will  fight the good fight of the faith. so that when I lay my head on my pillow at night I can close my eyes and say, "Today has been another battle won in the Lord."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Just a little ADD

I am beginning to think I may be a little ADD....those who know me best would probably say that was a HUGE understatement. But I'm comfortable with myself...in fact, I embrace my ADD-ness. I'm pretty sure I can add HD to that condition, which of course means I live my life in High Def, but at least it's never dull.

I am very familiar with what ADD looks like not only in my own life but also in the lives of others because I am a teacher. I have, at times, had classes that were so easily distracted that it was like trying to teach the dogs on "Up!" All it would take was a minor distraction and the entire class was off and running in a different direction. I used to say "Squirrel!" to help them realize they were getting off-track - AGAIN!

There is a truly funny comedian named Michael, Jr. (link) who really did a great job of describing ADD. He says it stands for "Attention- Deficit -Hey I like that necklace you have on!" You may think that is an exaggeration, but I have found myself talking to someone and being distracted by their shiny watch! I have, of course, learned to control my impulsiveness, well - at least a little. I even use it to help me teach. My students know that if they start talking while I am teaching, I will forget what I'm saying and they'll have to listen to the same lesson over and over and over....they are usually willing to help me out by not talking. Well, most of them anyway.

The problem is, I am finding that my ADD isn't limited to my physical life. It raises its head in my spiritual life as well. Just like I can lose focus on a conversation, I can also lose focus of what God is trying to show me. I take comfort in the fact that I have such a loving God; He not only knows the last thing He told me, He also knows the last thing I heard and understood. He gives me instruction again and again until I "get" it. But being ADD spiritually means that even when I understand what I'm supposed to do, I can be distracted by the first "shiny" thing that comes my way.

Cool new tv show - distracted. Anger at someone - distracted. Weight gain - distracted. Slow traffic - distracted. Family problems - distracted. Frustration - distracted. It doesn't really take much and before I know it I've gone off on a tangent and totally lost focus spiritually.

I would say I can't help it, but the truth is I CAN focus on what I really want to. I don't have any problem keeping my focus on a tv show that I like, or a book that draws me in, or whatever it is that gets me excited. I have friends who are severely ADD, but they can sit silently in a deer stand for hours at a time, waiting for that one shot at a deer. I have seen students who could literally lose their pencil between picking it up and putting it to the paper they were so easily distracted, yet they could analyze every play in a football or baseball game.They might not be able to pay attention long enough to hear my instructions, but they caught every bit of the juicy gossip their neighbor had to share. You get the picture. I don't pretend to understand it all, but I know I can pay attention to what I really care about.

The question is, have I lost my focus on Christ and what He has called me to do? This week has been one of those where it was easy to lose focus. Things came flying at me from every direction and at times I felt like covering my head with the blanket and just staying in bed rather than face the day. Then God helped me to refocus. It's amazing what happens when you do that. The things that come at you seem to fall away and you while you may see them, they don't cause you to go chasing squirrels. There is renewed joy in your step...mainly because you are finally walking again with PURPOSE!

How about it? Are you spiritually ADD? Maybe it's time to refocus and get back to what God has called you to do. Take it from someone who is easily distracted and is currently learning to refocus on what God has called me to do - focus can make all the difference in the world.

Hebrews 12:2 (Amplified) Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.(A)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

So you had a bad day...

It had been one of those days. If it could go wrong, it seemed like it had. It wasn't just the everyday little things either. I was getting hit with things that had me standing there with my mouth wide open wanting to say, "You've GOT to be kidding!" By the end of the day, I wanted to cry - just sit down and cry! No, I wanted to sit down, cry and QUIT! It just didn't seem like it was worth trying. To be honest I was just plain worn out.

As I headed back to my room, I noticed the door of another teacher who I knew prayed for her fellow teachers each week. I peeked my head in just to ask if she'd remember me in her prayers this week. I got a lot more. Not only did she pray with me then, but she shared something that God had revealed to her - that anger can hinder our prayers. Anger, frustration, hurt - they could all keep me from being able to pray for the situation. I knew what she said was true and I left with it on my mind, but to be honest I was still reeling from the blows of the day. I still wanted to just give up.

When I got home, I told my husband all that had happened and then I sat down to my favorite unwind activity - checking facebook. It seemed that a lot of my friends were having days a lot like mine - one even called it an "epic fail."  Yep, that pretty much described it. I stared at the screen and I knew what my status would be - "No weapon formed against me shall prosper. Sure glad I've got God's promise on that."

I sat and just looked at my status. Something about that word, 'formed', caught my eye. The weapons used against me today to discourage me weren't just picked at random - they were formed. It was as if the enemy knew exactly what shape the weapon should be to inflict the most damage. He knew which buttons to push to cause my discouragement to mount. He took the time to form a weapon against me. Why? Because if he was able to succeed in getting me to get discouraged and quit, I wouldn't be able to accomplish that which God had placed me there for. He wanted me to give up...and to be honest, it almost worked!

I looked up the word "formed" and it means, among other things: to construct or frame; compose; to place in order; arrange; organize; shape; fashion. My enemy took the time to compose, organize, shape and fashion the attack against me in such a way that it would hit my most vulnerable areas. It's a good thing that I know that when and where I am weakest, my Father is strong - otherwise those weapons might have had more power to destroy! The worst part of that would have been that the mission God gave me might have been left incomplete. So that's why the devil is so intent on making me angry, frustrated and discouraged! He wants me to give up on what I know God has told me to do! Knowing that all this was an attempt to not only defeat me but to make me give up on the mission God has put in front of me - well, that just makes me mad!

I don't know what your day has been like. Maybe it's been great, or maybe like me you feel like you've been sucker-punched in the gut and you're still feeling a little bit dazed. There is good news...you have an advocate that is standing before the Father with an answer to refute every lie the enemy uses to try condemn you. Our problem is that we listen to the accuser more than we listen to our Advocate! We actually help him form the weapons he wants to use against us! I don't know about you, but I'm tired of feeding him ammunition!

I truly hope your day was one filled with sunshine and lollipops, but just in case it wasn't, I want to leave you with some words of encouragement from Isaiah 54:17. "no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD."

The Lord has declared it and that's good enough for me. Today will not defeat me, it will become just another battle won for the Lord!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A week before payday...

Today I looked at the calendar to check just how long we have left in this month and realized, I am a week from payday! Now all the teachers out there who get their last paycheck about mid-December know just how much that first check of the new year is anticipated. Unless you are major disciplined, making it from the 21st of December to Feb. 1st without going into the red is really tough! But as I looked and saw that in just a week I'll get paid, I breathed a sigh of relief.

To be honest, yes, the next week may be a little tough. We'll finish off whatever is in the freezer and make a trip to the grocery only for milk, eggs, and bread - and maybe not all that! Still, I know that in just one week, my check will come. How do I know? Well, I've been a teacher now for over 10 years and they've always paid me before. They haven't let me down yet, so why would I believe this time would be any different?

Wonder why I bring this up? Well, my word for this year is ANTICIPATION. It is that excitement of knowing that something is on its way. I anticipate next Monday when my paycheck will be in my hand. Will it be huge? No. Will it be for me to spend on whatever I want? No, as a matter of fact, almost all of it is "spoken for" in the way of paying for the things we need to get by from day to day. Will it even last till the next payday? Well, not if I forget what its purpose is. Still, I know it will be there and to be honest, it will be enough. All that from a job that I could lose tomorrow. Yet I am confident that for now, it will be there.

How much more can I count on the promises of God? He has NEVER failed me...in fact, He's bailed me out of some pretty yucky situations before. He has ALWAYS come through - no matter how much I wondered if He would come through this time, He has always been there. He has ALWAYS provided for my needs - not necessarily all my wants, but my needs are taken care of! To top it off, sometimes He gives me much more than what I asked for, much more than just what I need to barely make it through. I can't think of a single time when my paycheck has had extra in it just to bless me!

This can be a year of anticipation for us all. Just like this final week before I get paid, at times it will get a little tough, but we know He will come through. He has NEVER failed us - even when we have failed Him. No matter what comes your way, look up in anticipation. He who has promised is faithful. He will come through. That which you have eagerly hoped for is on its way...and it won't even have FICA, Insurance, or any other extras withheld from it! So rejoice and be glad. Your answer is on its way.

Psalm 27:13 "I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living."

1 Thessalonians 5:24 "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it."

Hebrews 10:23 "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."




Thursday, January 20, 2011

Have you been audacious today?

This random thought began this morning as I watched a video clip from Living Waters Ministry. Link
It was a short segment right at the very end and a man was saying "For God so loved the world that He gave His only forgotten Son..." Wait. Did I hear that right? Did he just say "only FORGOTTEN Son"? How could it be that someone would misquote probably one of the most well known verses from the Bible? Then it hit me - that's the way some people treat Jesus, they just forget about Him.

I continued to browse through my morning emails and drink my coffee, thinking all the while about what I had just seen. Then another e-mail caught my eye. Well, to be honest, I almost passed over it because I saw the title and THOUGHT I knew the passage it was talking about....Oh, I know that one already. I'm so glad I went back for a second look at the blog from thehighcalling.org titled "Walking Around in the Skin of the Mat Carriers." (for complete article, click here)

In that article, Mark D. Roberts looked at the life of the men who carried the paralyzed man to Jesus and ultimately lowered him through the roof. (Luke 5:17-26) One particular phrase caught my eye and resonated in my spirit...Mark notes that in verse 20 of the passage, Jesus saw "their faith". (Emphasis mine.) To quote from the article, "What he actually saw, of course, was their audacious act of breaking into a house and lowering a man on a mat. Faith took the form of bold action. It involved taking big risks."

That's when it hit me. I want to live a life of audacious faith. I want to live my life in such a way that people can SEE my faith....not just hearing words but seeing me live in such a way that they can't help but see Jesus. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, I want to "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words."

In case you wonder what audacious means, I looked it up! The dictionary defines it as "extremely bold or daring; recklessly brave; fearless." That's who I want to be - someone who is bold, daring, and fearless in living out my faith! Then maybe people will be able to "see my faith" and remember Jesus - the one I'm living for. I've even gone so far as to make a little post-it note sign for my desk. It says, "Have you been audacious today?"

So how about it? Are you ready to tackle life in a world that has "forgotten" the Son? Are you willing to be audacious in your faith? Join me in this adventure and let's see just how amazing life can be.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sit up and take notice

Ahhhh, sweet sleep. I was sleeping so peacefully; well, actually I had gone to bed with a nagging headache and I was in that strange world between dreams and wakefulness. I shifted just slightly and felt the twinge. This roused me from my stupor enough to know I didn't want what was about to happen. Then in a split second the cramp seized my calf muscle and I sat bolt upright in bed. I was rubbing my leg, pleading with my muscle to please not cramp. I didn't want to wake my husband, but when a cramp grabs your leg, that's a pretty much impossible. He asked if I was okay and all I could mutter was "CRAMP!"

Eventually I got the muscle to relax enough for me to lay my head back onto my pillow. It was 3:41 a.m. and I didn't have to get up for almost two hours....I would try to go back to sleep. Of course, it was then that I realized that my nagging headache had reached epic proportions and now measured around an 8 on the headache rictor scale. I hobbled to the kitchen to get an ice pack and something for the pain. By the time I got back into bed, all I could think was this was NOT how I wanted to start my day.

After lying there for about an hour I decided I might as well get up. My leg still ached, my head still throbbed, and I still had a full day of work ahead of me. Great, just great.

After a couple cups of coffee, it was time to hit the showers and get ready for whatever the day had in store for me. To be honest, this wasn't a pleasant thought since for the past week or so I've had a major case of the discontents. You know what I mean, I couldn't quite put my finger on what was wrong, I just knew things weren't right! The laughter that usually marked my days had been replaced by grumbling. I was still doing what I knew to do - but there just wasn't any joy in the day.

Now, maybe it was the headache, but it took me a couple of hours before my brain processed all that was right in front of me. As I headed out the door and grabbed my regular glass of ice water, I remembered that dehydration can cause leg cramps. Of course! That's why I had that nagging headache when I went to bed, too. I know my own body well enough to know that one of the major causes of headaches for me is not drinking enough water. Add to that the fact that I'd done a major workout the night before and you had a recipe for pain! That nagging little headache was my first sign that my "water level" was getting low. I ignored it and paid the price with a stabbing pain in my leg and an extremely early wake-up call. Well, at least now I knew what to do.

Then the REAL revelation hit me on the way to work. I knew the answer to why I had been in such a foul mood for the past week - I was spiritually dehydrated! I had continued to do what I knew was right - sort of like continuing to run round the track - but I had neglected to make sure I was staying hydrated with God's Word as I ran! Just like that nagging little headache, my discontent was trying to let me know I was running dry. Right then I knew one thing - I didn't want to have some sort of spiritual leg cramp that caused me to cry out in pain in the middle of the night! I wanted to take care of the problem long before it got to that!

It is so easy as Christians to get into a routine and forget to spend time with the One who can give us living water. We can fall into the trap of thinking that as long as we're doing what we "should" do, that the rest will follow. But I'm starting to realize more than ever that those moments when things aren't feeling "just right" may be a signal that I need to get away and spend time with Jesus.

Throughout the scripture, both Old and New Testament, there is a reference to our need for Jesus - the one who can give us water for our spirits.
Psalm 42: 1-2 "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God."
John 7:37 "On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink."
Revelations 22:17 "The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. "
These are just a few of the many references to water in connection with Jesus and the Word. (By the way, they are one in the same...just thought I'd add that since it just hit me as I was typing it. For reference, see John 1:1)

I don't want to suffer from spiritual dehydration....from here on out when I start to feel that nagging little discontent that tells me that something just isn't quite right, I'm going to sit up and take notice.

It's amazing what you can learn from a little muscle cramp.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Learning to speak the language....

It was a typical afternoon class. My students were all working on their grammar, and I was about to work one on one with my newest student who had just been adopted from the Ukraine. I pulled the picture book that I had gotten from the library - the one with word labels for the parts of the body. I turned the page to reveal the picture of a skeleton and my student brightened immediately. "Oh, skeleton!" he said with a thick accent. Yes! We were off to a great start! I covered the words with my hand and pointed to each part - skull? Yes, skull. Shoulders caused a bit of hesitation so I pointed to his shoulders and my own. Ah! Shoulders. We were definitely on a roll! We continued on down the body - neck, ribs, then we came to hips. He looked at me with a puzzled look on his face. Well, since pointing to my own shoulders had given him the hint, I decided I should point to my hip bones thinking perhaps it was simply the skeleton picture that caused him to not "get" the word. He again looked at me and in a very puzzled voice said, "Fat?"

Okay...you can quit laughing now! I have to admit....it still cracks me up too. He was so innocent and was just trying to figure out what to say!

That one incident got me to thinking of all the wonderful students I have had over the years who were from other countries. I have taught young men and women from Russia, Portugal, Brazil, China, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Korea. All of them hold a very special place in my heart as I watch them find their place both as young adults and as foreigners in a strange land. We often work to help students from other countries embrace their new home while making sure they don't forget where they are from. If we don't help them connect the two worlds, we do them a huge disservice. But that doesn't mean it's easy. I recently talked with a former student who commented that she didn't feel she fit in either world anymore. She struggled with feeling she just didn't belong. I tried to assure her, she was not alone. We all feel that way sometimes.

I can relate to her struggle; can't you? There are many times when I remember, I am not of this world. While I live and work here, Heaven is truly my home. I find that at times I long for that home - especially when life gets too tough. At other times, I get so comfortable here, I act as though this is all there is. But then something will happen and the "language" of the world will  once again start to sound  foreign...so different to what I know. I probably light up just like my students when I hear another person who "speaks my language and understands what I mean." I find I want to be like my students - able to understand and communicate in this world, without forgetting what I already know. (And I guess I should make sure I don't call anyone fat by accident while I'm at it.)

In all this, I am reminded of another time when I was the one in the foreign land. We were on a mission trip and stopped to get something to drink and use the restrooms. A little boy about 4 or 5 years old came up to me and started jabbering away as if he just knew I would understand. I said the only thing I knew, "No comprende". He looked at me and repeated himself. I responded again, "No comprende". By now he was getting quite frustrated and he grabbed my arm, pulled me down so that he could YELL into my ear and then slowly said one word at a time. I was almost rolling on the ground I was laughing so hard! It was universal! If they don't understand you, slow down and say it LOUD!

I want to get to the place where I can speak to those around me in a way they will understand - I know from experience just yelling it at them won't help if they don't understand the words! Lord, help me to learn to speak the language of the land in which I live....and yet never forget the sweet sound of those who speak of Home.
Guess you could say I learn a lot from my students.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The men with the talents and a starfish

Most people know the parable of the men and the talents. There were three men who were each given an amount of money when their master went away and it was their responsibility to use that money. Here is the beginning of the passage from the Message translation (Matthew 25)
"It's also like a man going off on an extended trip. He called his servants together and delegated responsibilities. To one he gave five thousand dollars, to another two thousand, to a third one thousand, depending on their abilities. Then he left. Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master's investment. The second did the same. But the man with the single thousand dug a hole and carefully buried his master's money."

Now, I am quite familiar with the interpretation of this passage, but this morning while browsing through my emails, I was struck with a slightly different way of looking at this passage. I am not saying this is how you should interpret this passage...it just caused me to stop and think.

Very often I can get overwhelmed with the enormity of the needs around me. I see children starving in other countries, young teens throwing their lives away, people losing loved ones, animals being abused (it was an email asking for a donation to the local animal shelter that started all this), and our earth being destroyed. It all can seem like it is just too much to handle. Too much to help with. Then I remembered the story of the boy walking on the beach where there were thousands of starfish that has washed ashore. He walked along tossing them back into the water. When someone told him that there were too many, he couldn't possibly make a difference, the boy picks up another starfish and tosses it and replies something along the lines of "It made a difference for this one."

Now I can't explain how my crazy mind put these stories together with the parable of the talents, but it did. I was feeling like it is all too much and then came the thought, "Do what you can where you are and God will increase your ability to do more." I sometimes feel like the little bit I am able to do in reaching out is so insignificant - it can't possibly make a difference. But I am called to use whatever he has given me - not bury it because I'm afraid it won't work or be of any real use. That's not for me to decide. I'm just supposed to use whatever "talent" I have and trust the rest to God. The interesting thing is, not only did the talent (money) increase for the two men who used it, they were given even more when the Master returned to check on them.

I may feel like my "talent" has very little value...most people don't get really excited about someone who is able to talk a lot....but I'm to use what I have. God will take whatever it is and multiply it so that it can do more. And whereas I cannot possibly help every hungry child in the world - I can help one, I can't save every animal that has been abandoned - I can help one, I can't clean up the rivers and streams and oceans and hillsides but I can clean up right beneath my feet. It's not about doing everything, it's about doing whatever I can. The thought of the child I can't help must not keep me from helping the one I can. Who knows - maybe when I do that God will give the increase so that I can then help another one!

Yesterday on the radio, I heard an interesting thought. What if the resources we have been given haven't been given for us to use on ourselves, but to pass on to others. What if we are merely to be the conduit through which God passes out His blessings. The problem is, we hang on to them. We even rent storage buildings to we can "house" them, then we wonder why we aren't able to reach out more to others. Here's a scary thought: that's just what Satan did. He was created to act as a conduit that passed the praise on to the Father but he decided to keep some of it for himself. I think I may have to chew on that one for a while.

I'm not suggesting we all sell everything we have and give it away. I am suggesting that we take the talent that is in our hands and reach out to the "one" that God brings our way this day. I have to wonder what will happen when we all "pick up one starfish" and toss it back to safety.

Don't bury your talent because the need is so overwhelming and you fear it will not be enough. Give what you have and watch God mulitply it so that you can do more. I'd love to hear your stories. Please share them with us so that others can be encouraged to do what they can do with what they have.
Happy Starfish tossing ya'll!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Fuel for the run

I have to be honest. One of the reasons I run is so I can eat what I want. Oh, come on - most of you other runners out there have to admit that's at least part of the reason you run, too. I like the idea that I can have the occasional dessert dripping in chocolate...or one more slice of pizza with extra cheese...or just a few more hot breadsticks dipped in butter. Okay, I'd better stop before this becomes a trip down "fattening" lane.

The truth is, however, that as I'm getting older I find I CAN'T eat whatever I want - not if I want to really run. As I've gotten older, those "I can eat this" episodes have left their marks in the way of extra pounds. Those extra pounds are playing havoc not only on my speed and endurance, but my knees and ankles as well. It's time I admit that what I put in has a direct connection to what I am able to "put out" on the track come race day.

You can find articles on what you should eat to help you lose weight and run better with a simple google search. The thing is, I already KNOW what I'm supposed to eat....it's just that it's easier and more tempting to eat what I want. Television doesn't help me....why is it that I wind up on the food network watching cupcake baking when I am at my weakest? Or after a really hard day, the pizza and hamburger commercials look so much better than anything I have in the kitchen. Fish is good for me, but I have a feeling those battered and fried strips I see bouncing across my screen are NOT what the doctor ordered. See, I know what I'm doing wrong...I just keep doing it!

If I want to drop those extra pounds that are keeping me from running "my" race, I'm going to actually pay attention to what I'm fueling with. I'm going to have to plan my meals, cook (oh, that horrible thought), and CHOOSE to do what's right. I'm not saying I can't have an occasional treat or splurge, but it's not the occasional ones that blessed me with the extra weight I'm trying to pull around the track! To be very honest, it's been a series of choices where I chose to just go with the flow and do whatever was easiest.

The Bible talks about what we put into our bodies and minds.
1 Corinthians 10:23 (God's Word translation) "Someone may say, "I'm allowed to do anything," but not everything is helpful. I'm allowed to do anything, but not everything encourages growth."
1 Corinthians 6:12 (Message translation) "Just because something is technically legal doesn't mean that it's spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I'd be a slave to my whims."

I have a feeling I've fallen into the area of thinking because I run, "I'm allowed to do anything"...and I can, but it won't encourage growth. My spiritual walk isn't that much different. I can fall into the mindset that since I'm "working for God" that I don't have to be careful what things I consume mentally and spiritually. I can think that since I have enough since to NOT take poison, that the little "slips" in judgement won't really hurt me. So what if I watch a tv show with questionable content, (I have to be honest, if I had Jesus sitting in the chair next to me, I'm pretty sure I'd change the channel!) I can dismiss it and think that it's not that big of a deal with I join in a gripe session at work or pick apart the pastor's sermon as I pick up my fork for lunch on Sunday. I can even try to convince myself that I deserve to sit and worry about how bad things are getting in the world today. And to be honest, yes...I can - but it comes with a price. Just like the chocolate cake and donuts and pizza and fast food leave their mark in the way of pounds, my choices of what I consume mentally and spiritually leave their mark in  the way of weight that slows me down in my walk with God. Remember in my last blog I talked about running alone wouldn't seem to make the weight disappear. A marathoner friend of mine commented that I would have to watch what I ate as well....sigh. Well, in this race for God, just working harder for Him won't make the weight fall away either. I've actually got to pay attention to what I consume and that means changing the channel, walking away from conversations, making a decision to focus on His Word rather than the worry around me. Dog gone it, this training is hard work!

There's a verse about that too! Romans 12:1 - 2 "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Yes, it is tough at first. I've got to retrain my way of thinking. I've got to be conscious of what I put into my body and my mind. The good news is this, once I've done it for a while - it gets easier. I find I don't miss the sugar and salt quite so much after I spend time eating things that are good for me. Even my favorite sweet tea seems a bit too sweet after a steady diet of ice water....and I know the same will hold true of my spiritual consumption as well. I might actually start to NOTICE when something I am watching or participating in is contrary to what I believe. Maybe I can even get to the point that it becomes quite distasteful. I won't necessarily go around criticizing others for their choices, but I won't sit down for a big pig-out on grumbling stew either!

I guess it's time to get real with this running, both physically and spiritually. I can't use my "activity" as an excuse to do as I please - not if I want to run this race like I really want to. It's time to make some decisions. Do I really want to do this, or am I going to plod along for the rest of my days wishing I could do more? As for me - I think it's time to fuel for the run and leave that extra weight behind.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Carry the weight...

I am a huge fan of the reality show, The Biggest Loser. I am such a sap when I see these people turn their lives around. They inspire and give me hope. Of all the challenges they do, my favorite one is when they run a race "carrying" the weight they have lost so far. They begin the race literally carrying weights attached to their body to help them see how far they have come. It is amazing to watch as they drop the weight at each mile marker and move on toward the goal.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, especially since I am desperately trying to lose at least 10 pounds (15 would make me happier) so that I can run the way I used to run. I've been trying to train again, and I can really tell the difference those 10...15...oh, let's be honest - 20 pounds can make. I've had people tell me I don't look like I weigh that much. They say I "carry" it well. How exactly does a person "carry" weight well? It's not in a backpack that I can drop when I want to go faster....I can't just leave it at the first mile marker - it's attached to parts of my body that I wish it wasn't attached to! I told a friend recently I wasn't dealing with a muffin top, I'm dealing with a whole bundt cake! Nope, I'm not one bit happy about this situation.

I've tried increasing my training, hoping that this would someone miraculously make the weight disappear.....it hasn't. I've increased my miles, run harder, tried harder - that weight just keeps hanging on making my runs miserable and slow. Then I got to thinking....this reminds me of how some people go about trying to serve God. We think that "working" more for God will somehow make the weights in our life simply fall away, but it doesn't. It just wears us out. As a matter of fact, running with all that extra weight makes it even harder and burns us out faster! Nope, simply working harder doesn't seem to be the answer. It's not just about doing more for God, it's about letting go of whatever is holding us back from fully experiencing our life with Him. Then we can really "run" the race before us. (It's funny, but the older I've gotten, the harder it is for my body to "let go" of the weight, and the older I've gotten the more things in my life I try to hang on to and carry myself. You'd think I'd learn by now!)

I've written before about "laying aside the weight" spiritually (Heb. 12:1) and to be honest, I'm still learning how to do that. I know I need to keep my focus on "whatsoever things are good, pure, honest, of a good report" but I also need to let go of some worries. I know that my God can be trusted with EVERYTHING in my life....I don't need to try and help Him carry any of them. He can take care of my finances, my family, my students, everything! I just need to lay them down at His feet and leave them there.

If you ask any of those "Biggest Losers" if they'd like to go back to carrying the weight they've taken off, not one of them would say yes. They are glad to leave them and move on. It's not just about training hard - it's also about "losing the weight" so we can RUN!

I look forward to the day when I can really run again without feeling like I'm carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders (or in my case - my stomach and hips.) Until that day, I'm learning how to love the run again. After all, that's what it's all about....not running because I have to - I run because it's what I love to do. I just know it's going to be easier once I finally learn how to let go of the things that weigh me down. I don't want to carry the weight anymore. I'm ready to let it go.

Care to join me for a run?

Psalm 55:22 (Message)
Pile your troubles on God's shoulders— he'll carry your load, he'll help you out.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

One more word...or two.

I've been seeing a lot of posts on facebook from people who have embraced the idea of one word to focus on for the year. This will be my second year to do this, (not an original idea...I heard about it on the radio - you can also find a link at the end of this blog), and I've even written about it in previous blogs. The other day, however, I heard a suggestion that I liked - finding one word to focus on for my children as well.

Since I have two precious children, I immediately started asking God what word could I focus on for them. Well, to be honest,I was actually a bit hesitant. After my experience with the word "Hope" last year, I knew that the words would mean MUCH more than I originally realized. Still, I asked.

For my daughter, the word that came to mind is "Grace". Now, that is her middle name, but I'm pretty sure that isn't why it is her word. The dictionary defines grace, among other things, as:
1. elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.
2. a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment.
3. favor or good will.
4. a manifestation of favor, esp. by a superior: It was only through the dean's grace that I wasn't expelled from school.
5. mercy; clemency; pardon: an act of grace.
9. moral strength: the grace to perform a duty.
Now to be honest, I like some of those better than others! I like the theological meaning of the word best: a. the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. b. the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them. c. a virtue or excellence of divine origin: the Christian graces. d. Also called state of grace. the condition of being in God's favor or one of the elect.

There are a number of scriptures that go along with the word 'grace'. Here are just a few: 2 Peter 1:2; Psalm 84:11; James 4:6; John 1:17; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:1; 2 Peter 3:18...the list really does go on and on.

For my son, the word for this year is 'Strength.' I'm sure he would like that since he's really into lifting weights and seeing his muscles "grow". (And as I listen to him singing in the other room and think about the fact that he NEVER seems to stop talking, perhaps the word strength is meant to help ME! LOL)
According to the dictionary, strength means, among other things:
1. the quality or state of being strong; bodily or muscular power; vigor.
2. mental power, force, or vigor.
3. moral power, firmness, or courage.
4. power by reason of influence, authority, resources, numbers, etc.
6. effective force, potency, or cogency, as of inducements or arguments: the strength of his plea.
7. power of resisting force, strain, wear, etc.
8. vigor of action, language, feeling, etc.
11. something or someone that gives one strength or is a source of power or encouragement; sustenance: The Bible was her strength and joy.

I knew the first definition, but to be honest had not thought of some of the others that really do apply to my hopes for my son. I want him to not only be strong physically, but mentally, morally, spiritually as well! A few of the strength scriptures include: Nehemiah 8:10 (the joy of the Lord is your strength.); Psalm 27:1; Psalm 31:24; Isaiah 41:10; Ephesians 3:14 - 19; Ephesians 6:10; Phillippians 4:13....again, I have a number of verses I can pray for him this year.

Now that I have "words" for my children, it's time to see what one word God would have me focus on when praying for my husband! I think I have an idea, but that's for another blog.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what God will do this year with our "words".... I'm hoping a lot of people will spend some time this month seeking for the one word God would have them hold on to this year. Through it all, we can pray: "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14

It's 2011...what will your word be?

For an excellent article on how to choose your one word, check out this link to FCA: http://fcaresources.com/devotional/2010/12/28/just-one-word-part-1

Monday, January 3, 2011

For right now and his cousin, Just this once

I have just spent the better part of the past two evenings tossing clutter. Most of it was junk, some of it was stuff out of place, and all of it was overwhelming! I'd look back at coupons that expired, notices for bills long since paid, books that belonged in other rooms, sales papers, magazines, toys, the list just goes on and on.

Somewhere in the midst of all that chaos, it occurred to me. I had put these things in that particular spot, "for right now." Now I was staring at a room filled with "for right now" on top of  "for right now."I truly had never intended to leave it there permanantly, but a series of "for right nows" had piled up on me and now lay covered in a film of dust so thick you could probably not only write your name but copy the entire Declaration of Independence on top of it before signing your John Hancock!

As this random thought turned in my head (and I tossed with reckless abandon), I realized that "For Right Now" had a cousin named "Just This Once." I can thank that cousin for countless pounds that have piled up on my hips as I caved into going through the drive in "just this once" or having that piece of cake "just this once" or skipping exercise "just this once." That "Just This Once" is one tricky dude! He had me "just this once-ing" right into a bigger pants size!
Let's face it, I am a creature of habit. To say that I won't fall prey to "For right now" and "Just this once" is an exercise in futility. But maybe, just maybe I can take this little habit and turn it for my good! What would my life be like if "for right now" I completely dealt with the mail as it came in? What would happen if "for right now" I turned off the tv and cleared the table of the day's clutter? Could I possible even get my family caught up in putting their stuff away "for right now?" Okay, maybe that is a bit far-fetched.

And what of his cousin? What would happen if "Just this once" I ate what I knew was best for me, even if it meant cooking when I was tired? What if "Just this once" I chose fruit over cake for dessert? What if "just this once" I spent 30 minutes on the treadmill or going for a walk instead of plopping in front of the computer screen? What if, "just this once", I did things a little differently?

I'm thinking this might make a difference in a lot of areas in the world around me.  What if, "just this once", I picked up the trash I saw in my path as I went for a walk? What if, "for right now", I take my eyes off my own circumstances and reach out to someone else? What if "for right now" I was patient with the old person who was telling me that same story for the tenth time? What if "just this once" instead of losing my temper, I showed mercy for the person who cut me off in traffic? The possibilities are endless! I don't have to resolve to be a better person or clean up my health or get back in shape or try to change the world! All I have to do is "for right now" make a good choice, and "just this once" do what I know is best instead of what is easy.

I'd like to hear your ideas of what we could do "for right now" or "just this once" that might make a difference in the new year. Or if you give this a try, let me know how it goes...just this once.

Looking forward to hearing from you...and for right now, I think I'm done.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Wait for it....Wait for it....

Most of us HATE to wait. We want everything ASAP! Instant service, no waiting, serve me now! Very few of us think of waiting as a GOOD thing. But it can be....if it is waiting coupled with anticipation of what is to come!

There are a few of us still around who remember the ketchup commercial that used Carly Simon's song Anticipation as its theme song. "Anticipation. Anticipation. It's making me wait...." (I love another line in that song - these are the good old days...but that's for another blog.) The idea was that this ketchup was worth waiting for! It was just that GOOD!

As I mentioned in my last blog, I have such a strong feeling of anticipation about the coming year. This is very good news to me since looking back at last year's blog, I realized that at this time last year I felt a strong feeling of foreboding...that it would be a rough year. The word I chose to focus on for last year was hope and at times it was a choice, a very difficult choice, to hang on to that hope. This year feels very different. I am almost giddy with excitement of what is to come. I have no idea what it will be, but I know it will be GOOD! My anticipation, my expectation, is that God is about to do something wonderful and I'll get to see it!

There is a second part to that anticipation, however. It is "making me wait"....guess that's what anticipation is all about - waiting. But this waiting isn't a dread or a bore - it's filled with excitement of what is to come! This is like the days leading up to Christmas that are filled with preparation and joy, knowing that an expected celebration is near! It is hope plus a little bit more.

Somehow I came to the following verse in my morning Bible study: Lamentations 3:21-25 (By the way, I NEVER thought I'd find this kind of encouragement in a book called Lamentations, a word whose root means a passionate expression of grief!) Back to the verses: "Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him". The New King James versions says the last part a little differently: "The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him." That word "wait" is qavah and according to Strong's it means "To wait for, look for, expect, hope." It is the root of the noun tiqvah, "hope" or "expectancy". Qavah expresses the idea of "waiting hopefully." For me, it is as if the "hope" I had last year, sometimes simply as an act of faith that seemed to take everything within me to hold on to, has now been coupled with joy!

The season of waiting and, to be quite honest, sometimes wondering would God really come through for me, has been replaced with the excitement of knowing He will. Now instead of just sitting and hoping, I'm ready to take that hope and RUN with it!

I do not know what your 2010 was like. Perhaps you too have had a season of holding on to hope by the tips of your fingers, wondering if you could really hang on. If so, then I boldly declare the Word of the Lord to you. "
"Forget about what's happened; don't keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! I'm making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands." Isaiah 43:18 - 19

Wait for it...wait for it....don't give up hope! Now this is waiting that I can do!

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