Growing Pains

“I pray with all my heart; answer me, Lord! … I cry out to You; save me!”  Psalm 119:145a-146a (NLT)

Have you ever watched the parents of a young baby (or been one yourself) as they oversee their young one learn to roll over?  If so, then you know how hard it can be to watch your baby struggle over and over again in learning how to do things (like roll over, hold up her head, or begin to crawl).  To sit by and just watch as they struggle … all the while, resisting the urge to help them or do it for them.  It’s hard.

But we know that if we help them … if we rescue them from the discomfort of learning and achieving these milestones on their own … we ultimately handicap.  By rescuing them out of the struggle, we are actually doing them a disservice.

I was working with a chiropractor the other day whose practice actually centers around “undoing” these basic early movements we didn’t learn appropriately.  Perhaps our parents rescued us too frequently from our struggles, or perhaps we never learned to crawl, or perhaps we were rushed into certain stages too quickly.  Any of these have muscular and structural implications for our long-term well-being.  So, in many cases, we have to undo or relearn some very basic movements.

And all this makes me think of God.

In the Psalms, we watch David beg God to rescue him over and over.  Often today, people ask why God isn’t rescuing them or the world from a particular struggle.  Sometimes, I too wonder why I haven’t been rescued from certain struggles.

Maybe it is because God, in all His wisdom, knows that if He rescues us … He would actually be hurting us.  Maybe God, in all His love and kindness, actually restrains Himself from rescuing us … because He wants us to fully functioning more than He wants us to be temporarily relieved.  Maybe God, because He loves us so much, suffers with us through the growing pains … so that He can celebrate with us at a later date.

David seemed to know that only God was the Author of all that is true and just.  David’s trust in the Lord was unwavering, even when he wasn’t seeing God’s rescue.

So may yours be also … and mine … as we struggle through whatever growing pains the Lord allows.  “Be strong and take courage,” reminds David, “all you who put your hope in the Lord!  For He has shown His unfailing love.”  (Psalm 32:24, 21 (NLT))

 

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Running to Win

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!”  1 Corinthians 9:24 (NLT)

We all have our own race to run.  

We all have our own weaknesses and unique strengths.  We each have differing proclivities toward sin and temptation.  We have individual gifts and talents given to us by God with specific intentions in mind.  

God is seeking to do a new thing in each of us … but He requires our willing consent.  He requires our willing participation. 

Are we running our own race well?

Are we running to win?

I’ve been asking myself and God the same questions, and as I have, I’ve been prompted with this:

  • Am I guarding my areas of weakness?  Yes, I know what many of them are, but am I moving cautiously in those areas, seeking help & support, and inviting God into those areas?  God knows all about my weaknesses too, and He longs to help me in them.  Am I willing to turn to Him and allow Him to do so?
  • Am I working to establish new habits and practices that make me stronger?  Both in order to capitalize on my areas of strength and also in order to gird up my areas of weakness?  New habits require practice and repetition.  God wants to do a new thing in me.  Do I?  Enough to do the work?
  • And when I fall down and make a mistake, am I willing to get up?  Am I willing to look at and learn from it?  Am I willing to examine my thoughts & emotions around the event?  Am I willing to bring them boldly to throne of Christ?  God already knows all about me. My strengths, my weaknesses, my proclivities to sin. And He loves me anyway. That’s why He died for me.  So I can come to Him with all of me, without fear of judgment or shame.

I want to run my race to win.  Even though I get scared sometimes and even though I mess up, I want to run my race to win.  And I cannot do that if I refuse to be a willing participant with God.

I want to run my race to win.  I believe you do too.

Pondering

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us …. .. Hebrews 12:1 (NLT)

One of my favorite verses.  Hebrews 12:1.  It has been one of my favorite for years.

And yet God keeps showing new things.

This time, it’s the little “and.”  Not the big “And,” but the little one.

For years, I think I’ve overlooked the first “and” … with the result of thinking that only sin is what God is asking us to throw off.

But it’s not.

Don’t get me wrong — sin definitely slows us down. As the verse says, sin “entangles” and therefore keeps us from running our race well … or sometimes from even running at all.  Sin needs to be thrown off.

But then there is the “and.”  Let us throw off everything that hinders AND the sin….

There are things that hinder us that aren’t necessarily sin.  God wants us to throw off those things too.

Maybe it’s a negative attitude.  Maybe it is fear.  Maybe is a bad habit.  Maybe it’s as simple as inertia.  But it is holding you back.

Whatever is holding me back from what God wants to do in and through my life — those are the things God wants me to throw off.  It doesn’t have to be “sin.”

And so I ponder.  What is hindering my pursuit of God physically … mentally … emotionally?  God wants all of me.  What might be hindering me from giving all of me to Him?

It doesn’t have to be “sin.”

Won’t you ponder with me?

Shining 2

 

You have said, ‘Seek My face’…”  Psalm 27:8a (ESV)

The funny thing is that we tend to seek God’s face only when we are in a casual, relaxed place — when we have lots of time & little pressure bearing down on us. It’s then that we seem to find the space to be with God and know Him just for His own sake.

At least that has been true for me.

But one of the things that I hope I can carry out of my gym time is the discipline to seek God’s face when I’m tired and stressed … or when something challenging is pressing upon me.

There’s a temptation to turn away from God when we are exhausted or stressed. Or, if we do turn to Him, to turn only to seek His help. When under pressure, we tend only to seek God’s hand. Rarely in our exhausted and overwhelmed places do we turn to God just to seek His face. (Or at least that’s the way it has been with me). But the truth is that His face is what I really need in those moments, not His hand.

What I really need when I am exhausted and overwhelmed is to know Who God is and what He is like … and to rest in Him.

So as I seek His face in the gym … while I’m tired and sore, pushing heavy resistance and completing long runs … I am praying that I am also training my heart and my mind to seek His face when I’m tired and overwhelmed in other aspects of my life.

Shining

Your face, Lord, I will seek.”  Psalm 27:8b (NIV)

One of my favorite things to do when working with clients, is to help them remember why we do the things that we do.  It’s so rewarding to bring people back to the fount of their motivation & their heart’s desire.  It’s also such an honor to be able to help people shape their motivating force.  To point them to Jesus, and encourage them to seek His face.

Because in the exercise and fitness world, God’s face isn’t always so obvious. People exercise and work out for many reasons, some of which revolve around vanity and other worldly pursuits.

But we exercise to honor God.  We exercise to thank God for the bodies He has given us and to steward them well. And while we work out, we seek His face.

Seeking God’s face is wholly different than seeking God’s hand.  Seeking God’s hand is easy. We do it all the time. We ask for His helping hand, His wisdom, His strength — we ask for His intercession on our behalf. But when we seek His face, we seek simply to be in His presence. We seek to see Him more clearly as He is, and to absorb more of Him.  That’s all.

When I go to the gym, I am submitting my body to the work it needs.  But when I go, I also submit the rest of me to the Lord — to seek His face, to hear His voice, to gaze at the only One who can really heal & change & grow me.

And I trust that … just as Moses’ face shown brightly after he met with the Lord on Mount Sinai (see Exodus 34:29) … all of me might shine a little brighter for His glory with my workout is done.

Counting the Cost

“But don’t begin until you count the cost ….”. Luke 14:28a (NLT)

Goals.   Have you ever set a goal for yourself and then backed away from it? Maybe it was about running a race, or maybe it was about starting a new dietary regime, or maybe it was about developing a new habit or quitting an old one. You were excited when you started, but somewhere along the way it got more difficult than you realized it would. You failed to count the cost. You failed to count it accurately. I do it too sometimes.

 

Some goals do not have a very high cost. Others do.  And usually the bigger goals — the higher goals — have a higher cost.

 

But the best things are worth it, aren’t they?

 

As I sit on the eve of one of the highest goals I have ever dreamed — one of the biggest assignments God has ever given me — I am soberly counting the cost.  Extremely grateful to have the chance, but not wanting to arrive at midpoint, realizing that I failed to count the cost accurately.   There are things I have to die to … and things I will have to carry … to do this journey well.  Am I really willing?  Really?  For the long haul?

 

As a follower of Jesus, I look to Him as my example. He had the highest goal of all — to redeem and save mankind.  He also paid the highest price.  And for Him, it was  worth it.

Am I willing?  Yes.

Am I scared?  Yes.

And having counted the cost to the best of my ability, I claim and cling to the truth of Philippians 4:13, that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

And so can you.

 

Unity

“You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.”  Deuteronomy 6:5 (NET)

Wholeness.  Personal wholeness.  Integration of our whole selves.  Complete alignment.  Internal harmony; external radiance.  We all want that, don’t we!?

And God wants it for us, too.

He made us for it.

To radiate His glory.  As image-bearers.

If asked to paraphrase Deuteronomy 6:5, I would say that God is asking us to love Him with everything that we are.  Inside & outside.  Mental, emotional, spiritual, physical — everything.  Or as Sarah Young writes: “I want to be Central in your entire being. “(See June 3, Jesus Calling).  Central in everything.  Every part, every aspect.

Of course, we will never achieve it perfectly on this side of life.  That’s why we need Jesus.  But we can aim for it.  We can strive towards it, knowing that every effort counts.  Knowing that God is cheering us on because He wants it for us too.  And if God is for us, who can be against us!?

To give God my heart.

To give God my mind.

To give God my body.

To give God everything.

Wholeness.  Unity.  Integration — within ourselves and with God.  To love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.  To pursue peace — within and without — today and everyday.

Amen.