Friday, August 30, 2013

Your life, run for HIm

I run to know God.
I run to challenge myself.
I run to learn what I am capable of.
I run to feel God uphold me.
I run to sweat.
I run to be built stronger.
I run to find my body's limits and God's limitlessness.

I run to show myself and the world that little can truly be much.
I run to prove that, with God, all things are possible.
I run to meet with God.

Why do you do the things that you do? What drives you to stride forward in action?
Is it God? Is it Christ in you?
Who propels you?
Who inspires your actions? 
Who or what motivates you?

Whatever it is you do for work, pleasure, fun or necessity, do it for the glory of God. Do it to know your King more intimately. Do it to reach the heart of Jesus. Do it to grab hold of the Holy Spirit.
Not even the simplest of actions or the most natural of movements should be wasted. They can be a direct contact with the Lord Jesus Christ. The simple act of running can bring glory to God. Answering phones at a front desk for a business can be done to the glory of God. Sweeping floors...driving a car...feeding a dog...rocking a child...all can bring you closer to God.

Is God behind the wheel of your heart, calling you forward and guiding your steps? Let your life be a constant and continual pouring out to Him. Let all your actions, big and small, be acts of worship to Him.
He has created you for His glory. In all your ways acknowledge him. He will make your path straight. Run to him and run for him with all your heart. Let each step be a sacrifice and every leap an act of worship. He has made you for just such acts of love.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Good morning storm clouds

Go forward trusting in your healing.
This morning in particular that message was as clear as a bell...and boy, did I need to hear it.
Some days I fall into frustration and struggle to break free from it. I let it overwhelm my thoughts and color my view and attitude.
Today I rolled out of bed with the threat of frustration looming overhead like an impending storm just waiting to ruin the beach goers day. The bathing suit clad crew hopes the storm will pass over with fingers crossed and an eye on the Weather Channel.
For me my hope had to come despite a change in circumstances; it had to come even if the sun didn't. I needed strength imparted from on High to handle the storm with grace and patience.
I walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror and heard God tell me, "trust in your healing." The relief was immediate. My frustration fled. My circumstances didn't. They didn't need to. My heart was changed towards my circumstances.
Thank God that he has never abandoned me. He knows how fundamentally and perpetually weak I am. I need him to keep sustaining me and carrying me because on my own steam I stumble and sometimes fall.
This morning he was once again faithful.
No matter how long it takes to regain total health I will trust in my healing. God is restoring me on his time table, not mine. But that does not mean he is not busy at work making this body new and whole again. He is building it to be better than it ever was. He is rebuilding my life from the inside out.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Giving grace

I must admit that I can tend to be stingy in my extending of grace. This is a major area in which I need major work. Although I know the immense blessing of living a life bathed in grace, I sometimes forget that I need to give that same grace to the people around me.
My troubles comes when people do things that hurt me. It can be a comment, a look or an overall sense that I am not being treated properly. Instead of extending grace to these "offenders," I take an attitude of dissatisfaction. Why are they treating me this way? What did I do to deserve this? I start blaming a flaw in their character or a lack of spiritual understanding as the cause of their behavior. I get inwardly defensive to what I feel are an onslaught of unwarranted rude and uncalled for behavior. My attitude in response to theirs becomes one of defense instead of one that is pouring out love.
This response is devoid of grace. It doesn't take into account the difficulty that the person in question might be facing or the stress that may be weighing on their mind. Maybe they don't have any  difficulty or stress to speak of. But that doesn't let me off the hook when it comes to giving grace. Their attitude is theirs to deal with. My attitude is to be one of grace, no matter how I am treated.
When I think on the lyrics of Amazing Grace I am humbled and brought to repentance for my lack of grace. There is a version of the song that says, "my chains are gone, I've been set free..." Isn't it amazing that God has given me grace that is allowing me to live my life free and redeemed? Shouldn't I be showing this grace to the world, displaying for them the freedom that comes from a life lived through God's ultimate grace and forgiveness on the cross?
Each day I am living as a redeemed, saved child of God. And it is only possible because of grace. I did nothing to deserve it and I cannot earn it. God has given it to me freely, although it cost him everything. He was pierced by my wrongdoings and crushed by my sins, yet he doesn't hold me accountable. He has given me grace to walk as a freed sinner.
He desires that I live my life pouring out this grace to the world, so that they may see the amazing gift God has given with the death of his son Jesus on the cross. On my own human steam I am short on grace, weak on granting forgiveness. But God is not. He is mighty to save and full of abundant grace. He can pour it out through me, if I'll let him.
My prayer this morning is that today, and everyday, I will be a vessel delivering God's grace to a world that is full of judgment and contempt. This world is in desperate need of God's grace and he has asked me to show it to them. May I be filled with him so that I can overflow onto each and every person I encounter.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Finding comfort in solitutde

Single girls (and guys, too) love to lament their plight of singlehood. They blame their dissatisfaction on the fact that they don't have a significant other. If only they were in a relationship, had someone to love and love them in return, then they would be happy. A relationship would solve their  problems and make them complete.
And then you talk to a dissatisfied married woman (or man) and hear their laundry list of complaints: her husband doesn't listen, doesn't help around the house, is a slob, snores and leaves the bathroom sink with an unsightly grim that he doesn't even seem to notice...the list goes on and on. And what would solve their problems? What would relieve them of their agitation and set their life right again? A change in their husband or a change altogether in marital status. They look to their spouse as the source of their life's troubles and see a change in that person as a solution.
The single girl, longing for a companion, swears she would never make such complaints about her long awaited sweetheart. She would compliment him, make him his favorite dinners, have his coffee ready every morning, do his laundry with a smile, clean the grim of the sink while whistling a happy tune, gently wake him with a kiss when he slept through the alarm....she would cherish him and never get frustrated with his quirks. She would love and embrace his quirks! That is what caused her to fall in love with him in the first place, right? (There are so many things wrong with this picture that I don't even know where to being...)
She'll be stunned by reality after she makes those fateful "I dos." She might have entered into the marriage with the greatest of intentions to be content and happy, believing that this marriage would provide that for her. But the truth is that marriage, singleness, dating - none of them can fill our void, none of them can provide us with true contentment.
Our satisfaction with life cannot be found in a person or in a relationship status. We must be content and complete in our solitude. Our happiness must be drawn out from within us, not from anyone on the outside.
When we base our peace and joy on having a certain person in our life, acting in a certain way and meeting our certain expectations, then we are destined to be on an emotional roller-coaster. Our happiness must come from having a heart that is satisfied with God and God alone. When he fills our heart we won't be looking to a man or woman to satisfy our needs. Our needs will be met before Prince Charming ever walks through the door. He can be an added bonus in life and a wonderful companion in our journey of spiritual growth as we make our way through this earth, but he won't be our sustainer of happiness and source of joy.
Buying into the popular notion that a significant other can put the wandering heart to rest is a gimmick that is being bought in record breaking numbers. Why are dating websites so popular? Because people believe their ultimate dissatisfaction in life is not anything they have done or not done, but the lack of having a loving partner that they can touch and feel. But we do have a loving partner in life. The physical need to see that person and hold onto them gets in the way of realizing the immense outpouring of love that is available if only we would receive it.
The love God has for us can fill us unlike any other. It can bring our wandering hearts to rest, closing down dating website accounts and putting an end to speed dating forever. Instead of looking to find a person to fill a void or looking to change the current spouse who is doing a lousy job at filling the void, we will be filled with a perfect love that cannot be rivaled and never be matched.
This is where true happiness is found. Not in a marriage, not in a boyfriend or girlfriend, not in the husband who makes breakfast in bed or the wife who always lets her husband have control of the remote...ultimate joy is found in being filled with the Holy Spirit. Every other person will come up short, proving to be a poor substitute for the real thing. Don't allow yourself to fall into the trap of believing that your lack of contentment is coming from the lack of a particular person. You already have the person, three in one, who can give your life meaning and peace. You don't need any other.

Monday, August 19, 2013

More about coming to God's table...

Despite knowing how you fellowship best with God...despite knowing that you need to commune with him continually and regularly...despite knowing that a relationship with God that is stagnant is no relationship at all...despite knowing that you must take time to meet with God......
...some days you simply won't feel like it.
Maybe you are tired or busy. Maybe you have a list of "to-dos" or just a list of "things that sound more fun" is full of excuses. Sometimes there isn't a particular excuse du jour. Instead, it is just a lack of resolve and desire to meet with God that pulls you in another direction. Instead of a devotional time you turn on a sitcom. Instead of listening to worshipful music you turn on the country station with the latest hits. The act of avoiding God can be small and minor but can have a great and lasting impact.
On these days when communing with God isn't the burning desire of your heart, do it anyway. Set aside the time to meet with God. Be intentional.
Your act of communion cannot be solely based on your emotional readiness. If we wait for our own hearts to stir and bring us to the table we might never get there. Coming to meet with God must be an act of obedience. That is the only hope we have of making it a part of our habitual lifestyle, and not just a come and go occurrence that occasionally makes its way into our daily routine.

This morning I suffered from this spiritual stagnation. I didn't feel like coming to my own personal table. I knew the table was a run and, normally, I am excited for the exercise and the prayer time with God. But this morning I didn't feel like starting out. I felt like my body was too weak to carry me. I was afraid that it would be uncomfortable...sweaty...winded...
I cut my ankle a few days back and my sneakers were rubbing the cut, making it bloody and painful. My mind was full of excuses as to why I could easily skip this morning's run. My mind even came up with a new excuse: you weigh so little, just don't do it.
This excuse bothered me more than any other. Sure, my weight is extremely low and many people would advise against me running at all. But God has built me for action. He has made me strong and he empowers me to move forward. On my own steam and stamina I couldn't run. But I am not working off of my body's limited resources. With each stride I am further drawing on the outpouring of endurance that is in limitless supply when it is given by God.
I decided to go forth with the run, exactly as I had planned. I ran for a little over 2 miles. I was shooting for 2 miles in 20 minutes and I came mighty close to my goal. By the end of the week I hope to build my speed to be able to make it in that time. During the run I didn't feel overly connected to God. The run was painful, especially at the end. My ankle was bloody and achy. But I kept going.

I know there will be days when running will not be fun but it will be necessary if I want to stick with my plan and continue with the lifestyle I am striving for. Same goes with my relationship with God. There are days I just don't want to take the time to talk to him, commune with him and share in intimacy with him. Some days it will be mind over matter, a matter of will power just to run with him. But in the end it is worth it.
After my run I felt immensely blessed. I knew in my heart of hearts that running with God that morning was what I needed even thought it wasn't necessarily what I wanted. In the end it is always best to do the right things, not always the easy thing and not always the most desired thing. Just do what you know is right. As a child of God that means spending intimate time with God, carving out a space in the routine of the day to be with God in whatever way you meet with him best of all. It can be easily neglected but it will be sorely missed.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Feeling God's Pleasure

"When I run I feel God's pleasure"
Not everyone sees God in a burning bush. Some people don't connect with God at a worship service. Some people are moved by the words in a particular devotional. Others don't experience even the slightest stirring of the heart from those words.
There is not a one size fits all channel when it comes to connecting with God.
For Eric Lindell in Chariots of Fire, running brought him into an intimate connection with the God he desired to please, know and honor. He felt God with each stride. As he pushed his body forward he was really pushing himself closer to the heart of God. He was experiencing the beauty of being in the presence of God.
I never imagined that, like Eric Lindell, running would be the way in which I would feel most connected to God. Running brings me into an intimate communion with my Lord and Savior.
When I run it is just God and I. My spirit is one of prayer. I cry out to God. He sustains me. I talk to him. He embraces me. I smile up at him, thanking him for his goodness. He fills my body with energy and renewed endurance to keep up the run and the good fight for his Kingdom.
Maybe running isn't what connects you to God. Maybe for you it is music, or cooking, or meditation, or reading...whatever it is for you, don't neglect it. Come to your own personal communion with God. He is there and waiting. He has planted within you a way in which he can connect with you. It is unique to you. It may not be the way your family connects with God. But it is your way. Engage in it. See it as your own personal life line to your life blood. It can be a beautiful experience that is unlike any other. You will come away from that communion renewed, fulfilled and inspired.
Isn't God wonderful? He loves his children with such an unfathomable love that he wants to commune with us and fill us with unimaginable goodness. Won't you let him do that for you?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The marriage worth working at

100% of marriages are imperfect. 50% of them end in divorce.
There is no marriage that exists on this planet that hasn't failed to live up to expectations, disappointed both husband and wife and proven to be more difficult than anticipated. Every marriage is tough. Maybe it isn't tough everyday. But no matter who you are, what age you were when you married or how right you played the dating "game" marriage will not be a walk in the park from "I do" till "death do us part."
There have been countless books, magazine articles and self-help guides geared to the marriage in distress. Counselors have lined their pockets with well over $100.00 an hour giving advice to couples who are at their wits ends, confused and uncertain of how to fix their problems. There are retreats to "save the marriage" that feature nautical adventures that build teamwork and communication. Some dissatisfied husbands and wives have started blogs to complain to the world about their sub-par spouse. Women take "girls" weekends to escape home and men take "guys" golf trips to get away from nagging wives.
All of these dissatisfied married couples are looking for some magic wand to change their circumstances so that they can be happy. They blame their lack of contentment on the problems in their marriage and the problems their spouse. That person, their habits and their actions are the cause of the unhappy life.
Or are they?
We often want to look at other people as the root cause of our unhappiness. We want to blame someone and point the finger in a direction other than our own heart. But often the problem of a bad marriage won't be solved by escaping the person with whom you signed your name next to on the dotted line of a marriage certificate. The root cause of the real problem may not have anything to do with any person or a particular set of circumstances. The problem may be you and your spiritual health.
Marriage does matter. It is vitally important and the most sacred of earthly unions. But our marriage with God trumps our earthly marriage every time. There simply is no comparison.
We must first set out to work on our marriage with God. He is our bridegroom. He has asked for our hand and, if you are a born again believer, you accepted his offer. Now, with that commitment made, your relationship to him becomes your utmost concern, your first priority. An earthly marriage will need work, too, but the work will be far less demanding if both husband and wife are putting it second to their union with God.
The beauty of putting effort into a thriving marriage with God is that it takes away the stress, anxiety and confusion of working on an earthly marriage. God does double duty. He comes to you as a bridegroom, showing you the most amazing love that can ever be imagined and he works in your earthly marriage, strengthening it and supporting it in ways humans simply can't manage.
This miraculous matrimony is only found when the first marriage is put in its rightful place. Your name is signed next to Christ's, committing yourself to his care, accepting his free gift of forgiveness and agreeing to live in sold out obedience to his word and will. This is your first marriage. This is the most important marriage. When you set your eyes on this union, whether you have a husband or wife or just a dog, your earthly relationships will be brought into a new light. Confusion will flee. Frustrations will be eased. Love will be restored.
But circumstances may not change. Annoying habits may still remain. Finances may still be tight. Kids may still be going through their stages of rebellion. Yet God can transform your heart toward your circumstances and your earthly relationships. He can lift you up to be a different person in spite of your difficulties and troubles.
This beauty can only be found when you go to work on your marriage - your marriage with your bridegroom in heaven. He wants to show you love and give you a life full of joy. There is no man or woman who could ever compare to the love he will show you; no one could ever fulfill you like he will. So, set aside the time to work on your marriage and give it the care it deserves.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What kind of wine are you?

I'm far from a wine connoisseur. Okay, I'm about as far from it as you can get. I have never had more than a sip of wine and even that I could barely swallow. To me, wine is pretty unappealing. The smell does nothing for me. The taste is repulsive. Maybe I just haven't had the "good stuff" but somehow I don't think that would change my feelings on the substance. I simply don't think I'm a wine-o. Now, on the other hand, a coffee connoisseur might be more my style - but that is beside the point.
So, what is the point, you may be asking? The point is this: I may not have a taste for wine, but I wouldn't mind sharing some of its characteristics. I want to get better with time, more refined with age, more desirable as I add years to my life.
I want to age like a fine wine.
There is no denying the truth of the matter, I have not reached my peak. I still have so far to go. I am like that bottle of wine, sitting on the shelf, putting in its time before its cork is popped off with a thrill of anticipation for what lies behind the glass exterior. It has potential on the shelf, but time must be spent in wait. If the bottle is opened now it will never reach that potential. It might taste alright but it won't be anything spectacular. It won't be worth celebrating. It will just be the addition to a meal, an accompaniment to the main event.
But if it puts in time on the shelf the pay off can be something great. The wine can be worth a ceremonial opening of the bottle, swishing of the glass and sharing of the liquid gold. The day the bottle is enjoyed can be one of celebration. A meal won't even be needed to make it an event, the wine itself will be exciting enough to draw a crowd.
The time of waiting for the wine to reach its peak is anything but exciting. There is no thrill in the waiting. You can't see the aging process taking place that is producing an appealing taste within the bottle. All that you can see from the outside is a layer of dust forming around the glass, covering up the label. The bottle begins to blend into the shelf with the gray layer of filth that covers its surface. The appeal is no where to be found.
Until the right year is reached.
When the label is rubbed clean and the date can be seen, proving the long aging process that this particular bottle has endured, there is a rebirth of excitement for the once neglected shelf dweller. It once wasn't worth a passing glance. Now all who will partake do so with great anticipation. Finally, the years of waiting will show their worth.
For now, I too must sit on the shelf. The work being done is so subtle, unassuming, that no one would give a second look. There is no crowd watching and eagerly waiting. There are no flashing lights with a countdown or a preview to entice what is to come. The process is quiet...sometimes lonely.
But there is an exciting future in store. When the time comes to be moved off the shelf there will much more worth celebrating then there was years earlier, when the time of waiting began. Just like a fine wine, age will prove to enhance and strengthen all the positive attributes that were once untapped potential. There is no pomp or circumstance in the waiting. There is no show. But when the cork is popped on this life there will be a marvelous creation just waiting to be revealed.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The real deal

Knock offs are never as good as the real thing. Just ask any girl who fell for the "Coach" bags spread out along the streets of Manhattan. From far away you can't tell the difference between the brown leather and signature "C" logo of a sidewalk bag compared to one bought in a legitimate, authorized Coach retailer store. But once you get up close and really look there is no question that the two are not one in the same.
The cheap imitation bag is fun for kids and those ladies looking for a designer fashion without the price tag, but for someone who is looking for quality and longevity the purchase won't stand the test in time. That person would be better spent putting in a greater investment for the long term benefit of a bag with real leather and intricate stitching. The zipper of the real deal Coach will be of a higher quality, less likely to become jammed or stuck. The sidewalk purse, on the other hand, is made of fake leather, cheap materials and shoddy workmanship. That bag won't stand the test of time, maybe even not the whole season of the fashion cycle. You'll be buying a new purse before you know it.
And so it goes with life in general. There are lots of knock offs to grab our attention, lure us away from the real deal. We get sucked into fleeting fixes for satisfaction and happiness while we abandon and neglect the true source of joy that is ever lasting - never ending or wearing out.
But our eyes are wandering to the sidewalk sales. We see cheap entertainment, money, experiences that give an adrenaline rush and momentary thrill, a relationship, a career, a change of scenery or a change in hair styles. We are always looking to something that we can touch and feel to fill the void of happiness and satisfaction. Yet, every one of these things proves to be short-lived in its ability to satisfy us. It breaks, wears out, gets on our nerves, fades into our memory or simply isn't as great as we originally built it up in our minds to be. All of these things turn out to be cheap, weak and fleeting. They are imitations of the real thing. And just like the purse for $20.00 that cost $200.00 in the real store, these things that looked great on the outside aren't built for the long haul.
Any replacement for God given joy will prove to disappoint. There is nothing that can fulfill us like God. There is no one who can sustain us like God. There is no joy like the joy found in God.
Nothing on this earth can fill the God sized void in our hearts. We can try all day long - all life long - to find a suitable replacement but our search will be in vain. We will jump from one temporary fix to the next. It will be an exhausting hunt with emotional highs and extreme lows. But if we become content with God filling our void, relying on him to give us happiness, we will be truly satisfied. We will know the meaning of true joy. Our hearts will not need to go on a scavenger hunt for the next best thing, the latest craze or the deal of the day. Our hearts will be content, in no need of further knock off fulfillment. Ultimately satisfied to no longer wander.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Running my race

What do you have to fight for?
My fight isn't for a person, or a career, or a family, or a house, or a bank account, or a husband, or kids or a dream.... it is for the glory of God.
And that is my everything.

It would be easy to want to give up now, to give in to defeat, but how would that possibly glorify God? He has given me healing. He has promised me restoration of my body. I'm not quitting. I'm going to forge ahead knowing that he has already paved the way for me. He has already laid claim to the victory.
He sees the finish line ahead - the red ribbon of victory is tied tight, just waiting for me to run through it with arms held high and legs moving full steam ahead. The red tape isn't the end. It is just the beginning. It is my opening to break out into a life that God has been preparing me for.
This race is worth giving my everything. I will smile past the awkward glances, love the face I see in the mirror, lift weights that feel like too much and run through pain. Because God is equipping this body and this spirit for great things. Little as I am, I can do much when God is propelling me forward, working in the midst of my weakness. This is where I can glorify him. This little, weak, scrawny body is going to show just how great and mighty God is.
If I were strong, where would the glory for God be? If I never had a struggle how could God use my very physical body to be a testimony to him?
My pain is for his glory. My low weight, that is soon to give way to a healthy and perfect weight, is going to bring God glory. This victory is his. Through the saving grace of his Son he has rescued and restored my spirit, now my physical body will experience the same redemption.
This fight isn't for me and it isn't mine. It is God's and it is for the magnification and glorification of his kingdom. It is to show a lost world a truly great God.
I can't give up now. I won't give up now. I have a reassuring peace that is flowing through me like a raging tide bolstering my spirit and propelling me forward in perseverance. The victory is already won. The outcome of the battle is already determined.
God is the victor. He reigns as master over my struggle. He is there with me, running this race, cheering me on all the while.
Can I see the finish line up ahead? Can I see where this first marathon ends and training for the next begins? No, I don't have a clue. But I'm not looking for the finish line. I'm looking to my running partner. He is always one step ahead, encouraging me to run harder, with a bigger smile and a louder song flowing from my lips.

No such thing as poverty

"Poor me"....
The words are tempting when life seems to be dealing us a rotten hand. The words "fight harder" or "forge ahead" get lost in a whining complaint of self-pity. These two little words - so small, so seemingly simple - can throw us off track and pull our focus away from all things good and beautiful, towards all things negative.
The words "poor me" are really just an easy out... Feel sorry for me.... Indulge me in my complaints.... Give me a reason to be depressed and frustrated.... Let me wallow in self-pity.... Tell me my whining is justified... Because I have a rotten deal.
Poor me.

Is this God's will for his beloved? Does he hand us a deck of cards that is devoid of all the aces? Are we stuck with a bunch of 2's in a game that rewards the man with the highest number?
No. God hasn't short-changed us. He hasn't dealt us a partial deck and he hasn't removed all the good cards or replaced them with others that are less valuable. He gives abundantly and generously to all of his children.

Psalm 34:9-10 "Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want (no lack) to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." 

God may reveal the cards in a different order then we would like. No two lives, and no two hands of cards, will look the same. But for those who find the saving grace of Jesus Christ and who live in fear and obedience to him, they have treasures stored up in heaven. They have the promise of a blessing ahead that is far greater than anything this world can offer.
For a time we may wonder where all the kings have gone, but they are in the deck. We just haven't flipped them over yet. The order isn't ours to choice. We are given a unique set of circumstances, a unique order of cards, and we are given the abundant opportunity to play them out to the glory and magnification of our King.
There is no poor me in God's game. He has and is blessing his children with such frequency and consistency that there is never any excuse to claim poverty. Be it spiritual, financial, physical or emotional - God is steadfast in his tender care of those he calls his own. For those who live as redeemed, we have nothing but glorious news to share. There is no poor me in God's house.

Each of us will have a hand that looks drastically different from another. That just means we will play the game a bit differently. But the rules are still the same. The principles still stand. The moves just come in a different order, with different strategies and tactics.
So, I will not approach my life lamenting the cards staring back at me. I am a beloved and blessed child of God. Through perseverance he is making me whole and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:4) I don't need the pathetic cry of "poor me"....because honestly, my hand is quite full.