Learning to Run

“Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.”                                                             Colossians 3:2

On this last day of summer, we started something new… running. All summer long we have gotten up early and gone on a walk. Sometimes it is just my husband and I and other times kids come too. It has been nice to get out before the Texas heat cranks up and being inside is a much cooler option. We have also been in a long season that has worn us out, so walking has been our speed. Honestly at times, that to seemed too fast, but we walked anyway. But this morning we ran. Now, keep in mind it was with a very kind app that had you walk and run in intervals. Also, you need to know that I am not a runner, never have been.

IMG_4401What hit me this morning is how often I wanted to quit. One time we were running up a bit of a hill and it was getting hot. We made it to the top, turned around and ran down with the best breeze cooling us off. The hill was worth it and I was thankful. It also helped to have someone, who has been a runner, by my side cheering me on and setting a good pace. We all need people like this beside us. Something else that I found helpful was playing scripture verses through my mind when I wanted to walk instead of run. My favorite one was, “Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). This will be a verse I am pretty certain I will be saying a lot this school year. Perseverance is a big deal when it comes to planting, tending, waiting and finally reaping when it comes to parenting. It requires a lot of setting your mind on things above and what matters in God’s Kingdom, not what is common.

We have spent the summer planting and tending, but mostly waiting. I will not give up, but will instead run with my God. Because it is He who is ultimately living inside me encouraging, correcting and all the while loving me towards home. Paul tells us, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25). What that means as a Christian is the empowering of the Holy Spirit, God’s gift to us, working from the inside out. I do not have to depend on my own strength, but His. What comes from this “in step with the Spirit” living is fruit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22). When I walk or run on my own, the result is more likely to result in fear, anger, pride and impatience. You do not want me as your running buddy if this is the fruit I am bearing, trust me.

Something else that happened on our walk/run this morning that was encouraging as a wife. As we came close to the last running interval, my husband said he was sprinting ahead. I told him to go ahead and kept my slower pace. It occurred to me how thankful I am to have a husband that takes the lead spiritually. I like having him a bit ahead of me in this race. He loves the Lord with his whole heart and has surrendered his life to Him. He has his eyes fixed on the Lord and desires to bring Him glory, not himself. He is a man who lives by faith. My prayer for him is, “just like Abraham who believed God, and it was  credited to him for righteousness…those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.” (Galatians 3:6-9). I ask that the Lord bless him in all that he does, above and beyond what he could ever imagine.

As we race into this school year, I will pray for each of our kids too. I pray that they will live with this mindset,  “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). With the Holy Spirit living inside of my kids, I pray they bear much fruit at school. I pray their teachers can count on them to be kind, joyful, patient, gentle and self-controlled. I pray they love their classmates well and serve them expecting nothing in return. I pray they look for the ones on the outside and invite them in. May they know where their help comes from and not give up. I will be praying for them often as they are “running” at school. No, this way is not easy or normal, but neither was the life of Christ.

You know what is interesting? Our oldest son, who is a runner, has been training early each morning with his cross country team. Last week he was sick and did not run his best. Today he is well and shaved 5 minutes off his 5 mile time. When we are healthy spiritually, running comes easier too don’t you think? So, let’s press on towards home, running in step with the Spirit and empowered by Him and not our own strength. I have a feeling that it is going to be a good year!

*Picture was taken in the mountains of NC a few weeks ago on a morning walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reminder

“Indeed, God is my salvation; I will trust him and not be afraid, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation.”        Isaiah 12:2

Months ago I started noticing pennies. They seemed to be everywhere I went. They would show up in random places or right in my path as I ran errands. I started picking them up and now have quite a collection. If I am wearing something that has a pocket, I make sure to carry one along. This might seem odd, but hear my reasoning. It serves as a reminder because of the words inscribed on each coin – “In God We Trust”. Each penny is a physical reminder of where to place my trust. At times my eyes, heart and mind can forget with all I see. Do you do the same?

IMG_4529With a new school year right around the corner, I will have plenty of opportunities to worry if I so choose. I will try and place my trust in myself and what I think I can control. What if the kids do not have friends? What if there is a car accident? What if college plans fail? What if….? With each “what if” I will say it is God whom I trust. He will give me strength on the days when I am tired. He will keep me quiet and calm when nothing around remotely comes close to these beautiful words if I allow Him too. I will remember this verse as I go about my day. “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.” (Deuteronomy 33:12). I do love the Lord with all my heart and I know He loves me and therefore I can rest. His love does not depend on my performance or lack of. On the days that I fail, His love does not change. When I forget He is trustworthy, He loves me still. Nothing is more secure than His love. I find rest in His love.

Last year I bought each of the kids a bracelet that had one word of encouragement on it. My husband wore one to serve as reminder to pray for our kids during the day. I wanted something visible to remind them that they belong and are loved. The bracelets wore out, but the belonging and love never will. This year I will be placing a penny in each of their backpacks, all 7 of them. Each time they reach in and their fingers brush over the penny, I pray they remember where to place their trust. If their day is good, trust God. If their day is horrible, trust God. And all the in between days, trust God.

Scripture says this of our trustworthy God, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalms 84:11). God will light each of our children’s path and shield them from anything that will not result in their good or His glory. Sometimes this can be a bit hard to comprehend because we cannot see all He does. Trust Him anyway when nothing makes sense. He will not keep any good thing from His children. Again, we cannot always see the whole picture. Just think about all the good things we have asked for, but a little further down the road we are so thankful we were not given what we asked. There has been plenty of things I have asked for from God and He has not given. I trust that He knows what He is doing and that He loves me. He has my good and His glory in mind.

One of our children has learned a wonderful lesson in trust this summer. As parents, we have a different view than our kids. Faith changes you and the love of the Father brings a security like nothing else can. Because we know whom to ask for wisdom, He helps us guide our kids. This particular child was pretty adamant about what he would not participate in at school. Knowing what we know and feeling strongly about this decision, we guided our child to join a team. Turns out he loves it. Would he have chosen this on his own? No, but is now glad we did. He is actually shining now and we are so thankful! I will apply this to myself and trust my Heavenly Father’s leading. He might lead in a way that I do not like or see as good, but He knows best. I have seen Him do this time and time again, and each time, while sometimes painful, I would not change His plans. He is so worthy of our trust and the cross is the ultimate expression of how much He loves us. God, who sent His only Son to die for all the times we have chosen not to trust Him and sin, died anyway for each of us. Knowing all He knows about us, I would say this is trustworthy love. Where are you placing your trust today?

 

*As I type this one child is singing, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. The Lord your God is with you.” Praise God! He understands where he is to place his trust.

Mercy and Grace

“And when he saw him, he had compassion on him. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine…” Luke 10:33-34

The story of “The Good Samaritan” is known to many. Jesus had been with the 70 appointed to go out in pairs to the cities He would be visiting. The disciples were also a part of this gathering. A question is raised and the conversation goes back in forth before the story is actually told.  Scripture says that the man with questions was “wanting to justify himself” (Luke 10:29). Funny how our sinful hearts can cause us to stand up publicly and we ultimately reveal our heart. “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). Jesus answered the lawyer with a question. And then the lawyer responds, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27). The man then wants specifics as to who exactly is his neighbor. And just like true Jesus fashion, He turns everything upside down with His answer in story form.

IMG_4090Jesus tells about a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho that was attacked brutally by thieves. They leave him stripped and badly beaten on the road. A priest passes by, but literally goes to the opposite side of the road to avoid the injured man. Do we do the same when we pass by those in need? Another man comes along, looks and moves to the other side too. And then it finally happens, the man who happens to be a Samaritan comes along and does not pass by or avoid the injured. “…he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper; and said to him, ‘Take care of him, and whenever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.” (Luke 10:34-35). Can you even imagine being the giver or the receiver in this story? The very thought is humbling.

What stood out to me this time was what was used to treat the mans wounds, oil and wine. Both had to be pressed to be made into something that could be used to treat a wound. I remember once, a dear man saying to my husband, “We all go through a pressing”. I have found it is what comes from the pressing that the Lord can then use for healing others. If I were to label my bottles of wine and oil, they would be Mercy and Grace. He is not finished yet, but I trust Him.

For many, we go along our days and sometimes do not stop and notice those wounded in our path. No, to keep moving sounds less costly. If we stopped, our time is taken, we might be late to where we were going, we might get dirty and it might cost us money too. This is not normally something that is built in our schedules or budgets. But, what if we did something different tomorrow? What if before we started our day, we packed our “oil and wine”? What if we sat down and thought about what we have been through- good and bad? What did we learn? How were we ministered to during times where we felt broken, wounded or unnoticed? What scripture comes to mind that you clung to during times where peace was a fight? My Bible is marked up with notes and dates. The margins read more like timelines. The common thread being God is faithful and His love is extravagant. He uses others along the way to notice, stop, pour encouragement into our days, bandage us up, carry us and love us well. Never waste an opportunity to do the same when you are back on your feet. To always stay the wounded one does not seem healthy.

Back to the original question, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). After Jesus tells this story, He asks, “So, which of these three do you think was the neighbor to him who fell among thieves?” (Luke 10:36). I love the words that come next. “And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.” (Luke 10:37). Should we not be doing the same? Maybe just maybe God will use us to show mercy to others. And in doing so, we reflect Him. Remember how the lepers cried out, “Jesus, Master have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:13). Jesus tells them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests. And so it was as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:14-16). I want to learn more about these Samaritan people, don’t you? They are different.

The story continues with Jesus asking another question. “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18). When we are healed, we can return and give glory to God. We can be the Samaritan who does the uncommon and uses our oil and wine to help others who are in need of healing. We can be the Samaritan who is available and lives a life that daily wants to give glory to God. We are not here to serve ourselves, but others. Needs are everywhere. People are hurting everywhere, maybe even in your own home or family. It is very common for us to have a time where it feels like we have fallen among thieves who have stolen our joy and peace. May we all have eyes to see, hearts that love and minds that remember to always pack our oil and wine. Our world is hurting now more than ever. What difference will we make?

*I took this picture at Abilene Christian University.