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Running Isn’t Always The Answer

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Sometimes I think I would like to be a runner and then as I consider it, I set it aside for walking.  Nonetheless, I respect and admire the diligent runners I see cranking out the miles on local trails, 5K’s, 10 milers, and marathons. The consistent discipline to build up their endurance and strength is something to be respected.

 

I recall when our daughter was homeschooling her oldest child and the educational requirement in their locale was to be able to run a mile. Despite never being an athlete, she decided she would teach and train herself at the same time she did so with her son. She discovered some of the benefits of running and continued to press on running 5K’s, a 10 miler, and a half marathon.

 

Running when trained to do so in healthy ways can offer health benefits for many when it is practiced consistently and safely.

 

For many of us, running is not our first choice for exercise or sport, but we all have a pexels-photoseemingly innate instinct to run when danger is present in any form. (We only hope our legs will carry us fast enough and far enough to avoid the impending danger.)

 

Sometimes we try to run from our past. We want to leave it behind us never to recall or experience any aspect of it again. Maybe it was because we were insecure and didn’t achieve. Maybe it was because we lived on ‘the wrong side of the tracks.’  Maybe it was because our family was a mess and everyone in the neighborhood knew it or maybe we had lived a life of abuse and trauma.

 

The problem is that we can’t really run from our past no matter how far or fast we try to run.

 

“You have to take it for what it is and realize it’s a part of you.”

Lisa Wingate

 

alone-autumn-beautiful-267039That doesn’t mean it needs to define who you are now or keep you from moving forward. Because of the cross and the Lord’s abundant grace and mercy, you can experience wholeness and become a vessel of beauty and love if you will stop running.

 

So often we run in multiple directions until we feel more lost than ever. Some of us try to do that even after we have become a Christian due to lack of a true understanding of the grace, forgiveness, and healing we are granted. The enemy can tempt us to believe that we are the exception to what we hear about grace and mercy because we are too bad, too messed up, or have failed too many times.

 

Those are all lies from the liar himself…Satan.

 

When we become a Christian and the light of Jesus then resides in us, it can be hard for others to see that light if we allow the past to continue to define us and try to keep on running.

 

The trouble with drowning in the mess of your own life is that you’re not in any shape to save anyone else. You can’t be a lighthouse when you’re underwater yourself.”

Lisa Wingate

 

When we know we need to stop running or cease drowning, acknowledging it is the first clouds-country-countryside-461797big step. The second is to tell the Lord that we know that is true. Of course He has known it all along, but saying it to Him has more power than you may think. It’s when you start a conversation with Him (that means you listen to Him too) that He begins to set your feet in the foundation of the truth of who He has created you to be. It is then that the transformation officially gets underway.

 

Can it be scary?

 

Yes, but not nearly so scary as the futile path you have been on. He will be with you each step of the way and He can also help you find someone who has made the journey before you to walk some of the path with you.

 

There is no question that life can be wonderful, amazing, beautiful, fun, and exciting, but it can also be treacherous, lonely, scary, and dangerous. God knew that after the fall in the Garden of Eden. It’s why He planned for the cross and the story of grace and mercy. It’s why Jesus said He would send the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) to help us.

 

It can be easy for us to prefer to stay in safe places and take no risks, but in Lisa Wingate’s book, The Prayer Box, she reminds us again of who God is:

 

“You are not a God of endless harbors. Harbors are for stagnant sails and barnacled wood, but for the sea…the sea is fresh rain and cleansing breeze and sleek sails. You are a God of winds and tides. Of journeys and storms and navigation by stars and faith.”

You send the ships forth to serve their purpose, but you do not send them forth alone, for the sea is yours, as well.”

Lisa Wingate

 

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Photo by Josh Sorenson

Before She Was Your Mother

 

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Before she was your mother, she was a little girl playing peekaboo, making castles in a sandbox, standing in the middle of the room twirling in a circle and giggling as her skirt swished back and forth. She was learning to ride a bike, falling, and scraping her knees. She was chasing after fireflies on a summer night.

 

She was learning about how to be in the world from her dad and how to be a girl from her mother. She was learning what each expected of her and how to get her way with each of them (especially her daddy).

 

Before she was your mother, she was dreaming of princes and castles, singing Disney melodies, and asking others to read her another story before bed. She was curious and loved helping her mother or dad do most anything, especially licking the spoon if someone was making cookies.

 

carefree-cheerful-child-459949She learned that it was Grandma who let her do things her mother and dad would usually not. Grandma didn’t mind if flour got spread around when cookies were being made. Grandma always had time for another story and you could count on her to have your favorite snacks on hand when you went to visit.

 

Before she was your mother, she developed a fair number of expectations of what her mother should be like and by her teenage years they might bump heads more than a few times about her messy room, her makeup, the length of her skirt, and how late she could stay out at night. (There would be a long list of other things if you were her son, but smelly tennis shoes and socks would be on the list.)

 

She saw her own mother as not being ‘in the know’ and tended to set aside some of the wisdom she was offering. She saw her mother as older than she was and couldn’t imagine she had any dreams of her own that sometimes sat on a shelf to be her mom. She couldn’t understand why her mother got upset or angry with her. She seemed old-fashioned or like she was trying to compete with her in the latest fashion trends.

 

Before she was your mother, she may have been abused or neglected and felt unimportant to most everyone. Her dad may have left the home before she even knew him or divorced her mom and married another woman that made no sense at all.

 

She may have been a great student or never seemed to be able to get the grades her parents expected. She may have been a tomboy or a ‘girlie girl.’ Perhaps she kept all her feelings inside or maybe she wore her feelings on her sleeve.

 

adult-chair-concert-1293551Before she was your mother, she was a little girl growing up into a teenager and then a young woman. She had interests, skills, abilities, passions, hopes, and dreams. She decided if she became a mom one day, she would do it differently than her mom or do it better somehow.

 

Then she did become a mother. Sometimes it happened right on schedule. Other times it interrupted the direction her life was going.

 

When she held you in her arms, she was changed forever.

 

Suddenly she was a “mother” and began to discover what that meant. She guessed about a lot of things that first time she became a mom and she also learned that her mother knew more than she understood before.

 

But you didn’t know her during all that time before she was your mother so you only looked at her through that lens called “mom.” When she chose to do something that was meaningful to her whether it was coffee with friends, learning to play golf, or taking an online course, it may have frustrated you if you wanted her to do something for you or just to ‘be there’ in case you called or needed something at the last minute.

 

At this time of year many laud and applaud the woman who is called “mother.” Most often she is celebrated, but sometimes she is set aside because she disappointed you at some point along the line even if she was not an abuser.

 

Sometimes those judgments come because we never knew her before she was our mother.

 

beautiful-boardwalk-dawn-247314When I was a girl growing up and then a teenager, I saw my mother as anxious and depressed. She was quick to tears and didn’t offer a lot of encouragement. Those things were, in fact, true of her; but what I didn’t learn for a while was who she was before she was my mother.

 

I didn’t grasp until later what it was like for her to find her own mother often angry and depressed or to have her home burn to the ground and lose all the family possessions when she was a freshman in high school. I could not have understood what it must have felt like to have she and her two sisters and her parents all living with other people, separated from each other for many months until a new home was built.

 

I couldn’t recognize how her emotional losses deepened when her first baby died 24 hours after he was born or that she was not doing well and could not help make arrangements for nor attend his funeral or burial.

 

When I think of how we pause to think about and honor our mother on Mother’s Day, I sometimes think one of the gifts that might bless her most would be if we put on another set of lenses and saw her before the role she has played in our lives.

 

If we could do that, I think most of us would offer more grace, set aside more of our disappointments, and value her a bit more despite her imperfections. We would also hope if we are a mother now that our children would do that for us as well.

 

Before she was your mother, she was God’s creation designed to hold a special place in his Kingdom. She was a treasure chest of possibilities and you have the blessing of knowing her when she isn’t wearing makeup, when she isn’t at her best, and when she keeps trying and loves you even when you don’t think she is doing it right or you can’t love her back.

 

Before she was your mother, she was God’s daughter.

 

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Keep Love Alive

 

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It seems somewhat of a paradox that love is something that is most sought after and yet when we receive it, we can too often stop nourishing it so it will remain alive and vibrant. Scripture admonishes us to consider always its place, value, and quality in our lives.

 

Peter addresses it this way:

 

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)

 

John addresses this often. Here is only one verse:

 

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

John 15:12 (NIV)

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The word love appears many times. How many times?  It depends on which translation of the Bible you are using. Here are just a few of commonly used translations and the number of times the word love appears:

 

  • King James Version – 131 in the Old Testament, 179 in the New Testament
  • New American Standard Version – 133 in the Old Testament, 215 in the New Testament (New Revised Standard – 317 in the Old Testament, 221 in the New Testament)
  • New International Version – 319 in the Old Testament, 232 in the New Testament

 

Since God is love it is evident that it ought to be our priority as well if we are committed to Him. And He isn’t interested in a casual laid-back version of love, he wants it to be sizzling or not be there at all. We see that in Revelation when the Holy Spirit directs John as he writes to the church at Laodicea:

 

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:15-16 (NIV)

 

The passion of God’s love for us is something He not only desires in response; but that Heart-blaze-bright-220483 also commands we extend to one another. I cannot read about this without being provoked about how often I fall short with evidence of the passion I have for Him as well as others.

 

Reading through the Song of Solomon we cannot mistake God’s passion nor miss that it is expressed in detail with creativity.

 

What does that look like in my life?  In yours?

 

I could list many examples of what it may or may not look like, but what is key for any one of us is what we do with what we know is true. After we have made the decision to love, we can become lazy about continuing to cultivate it.

 

How often does our dissatisfaction with relationships have something to do with our failure to nurture relationships beyond what we hope to receive and continue to receive?

 

One of the relationships that often falters is that between a husband and wife. The dailyness of life that can often demand so much from us can result in us slogging along with routine expressions of the love that once was all we could think about. We say the same things, do the same things, and go to the same places. Despite enjoying some of these favorites, perhaps we risk lukewarm love without thinking.

 

bloom-blooming-blossom-1820567My husband and I are blessed to have a marriage that has lasted for 54 years as of this writing. We have weathered many kinds of seasons and had more than a few tests along the way, but our commitment to one another has stood throughout these years.

 

As I was reading about the subject of love this post focuses on, we were nearing Christmas and I was looking for a creative gift idea for my husband. I have surprised him more than a few times over the years, but that has reduced the number of items related to interests or hobbies that he doesn’t have or need. (If you know my sweet husband you know he is always happy to get a new flannel shirt, but how many flannel shirts does one man need?)

 

After a bit more thinking and praying, I came up with a bit different gift to put under the tree for him. I gave him a year of dates! Inside the gift box I placed a letter telling him that on the first day of every month he would find a note with a date for that month. Within the note would be the money, gift card, or information related to the date as well as whether it was one that could be used at any time during the month or it can a specific date. One rule was that it needed to be spent before the month ended.

 

Each date was designed to invite him to someplace new he had not been even if I had there orIMG_9028 to make time to do something special that he enjoyed that we may not do as often.

 

The first date began with December 2018 and needed to be spent before December 31. That date was to a new Italian coffee shop and bakery I had enjoyed with friends, but he had never savored.

 

As of now our dates have included walks with breakfast at a newly opened specialty place, lunch at a fun place we have never enjoyed together, target shooting together with coffee afterward at another new place, and tickets to Phantom of the Opera on stage. (We had enjoyed seeing Phantom several times over the years, but not for a very long time.)

 

(I can’t really share the other dates that are planned or the surprise would be lost as he reads this, but I hope that this gift of nurturing our relationship will be fun for him each month.)

 

But what do we do with love in our other relationships? How attentive are we?

 

What about our relationship with the Lord? 

 

Is your journal only filled with prayer requests and scripture?

 

What about writing a love letter to the Lord in that journal (Keep in mind His passion for you❤️)?

 

I love the words John uses in 1 John 3:18 as expressed in The Passion Translation:

 

“Beloved children, our love can’t be an abstract theory we only talk about, but a way of life demonstrated through our loving deeds.”

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Corinth and Us

 

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When I look at the challenges of fellowship and community in the body of Christ, in the local church, few books in the Bible can match Paul’s letters to the people of Corinth.

 

Paul had visited Corinth around 50 AD. He had begun the church on his second missionary journey. It was there that he met Aquila and Priscilla, Jewish tentmakers like he was. He spent two years there preaching first to the Jews in the synagogue. When they refused to hear him, he preached to the Gentiles.

 

When he arrived there, Corinth was already an ancient city that had been in existence for a thousand years before the time of Christ. It was a wealthy seaport city, a center of art, athletics, business, and religion. Unfortunately, it had developed a bad reputation as an immoral city.

 

How like God to send His light into a dark place?

 

Paul sent others to minister to the church he established there after he continued his missionary journey to Jerusalem for a brief stop and then on to Ephesus for three years. He kept in contact with the churches he established by letter and letters came to him updating him on the church and how things were going as well. He desired to continue to disciple them and grow them up in all spiritual matters.

 

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By the time he wrote his first letter to the church at Corinth, it’s clear issues were blossoming and the church was not behaving as a Christ like church. The worldly wisdom of the day had been creeping into the church creating confusion and division.

 

Sound familiar even in 2019 in many places? We seem to have some common characteristics with the city of Corinth and the church there.

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Paul’s words as a loving disciple are firm and direct calling them into account out of his love and care for them and his desire to see them mature. He let them know they were acting like babies. They could not be equipped to reach out to others, to look different than the world in Corinth. The church was to model Jesus. The church at Corinth wasn’t doing that.

 

We are blessed to have many strong, effective, loving churches in our country, but not unlike the church in Corinth our success and culture can slip into the church almost unnoticed until the fruit of its presence becomes evident.

 

In The Master’s Indwelling, Andrew Murray writes this about the believers in Corinth:

 

“We find in the Corinthians simply a condition of protracted infancy. It is quite right at six months of age a babe should eat nothing but milk, but years have passed by and it remains in the same weakly state. Now this is just the condition of many believers. We come in contact with them and there is none of the beauty of holiness or of the power of God’s spirit in them.”

 

 I think we sometimes bump into the same issue today. Protracted infancy will not let us reflect Him.

 

Can these things harm the image of Christ? Absolutely! Can they prevent healthy relational fellowship? Yes, of course.

 

Sometimes the church today (not unlike Corinth) can have a solid foundation with excellent teaching, but if we only rely on being fed on Sundays we will never grow up into Him and become mature. It is what happens on those other six days that make the big difference in whether or not we are truly growing.

 

Our churches bear a great responsibility before the Lord for the oversight and care of their body, but that is His to judge. We also have a responsibility. How we spend our time in pursuing the Lord beyond the teaching of the pastor will tell a great deal about the way we model Him. It will have a significant influence on whether we move beyond protracted infancy.

 

We come into a church looking for certain things. What do we also bring? Do we bring childish self-centered attitudes or a growing, developing Christ-life?

 

Perhaps what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 16:13 lays out the path for us:

 

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

 

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The Trees Are Waking Up

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Our Dogwood

 

In “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”, Legolas speaks to Gimli about the trees of Fangorn Forest waking up. How much our family loves this trilogy of movies!

 

I don’t live in Fangorn Forest and I am fairly certain our trees do not speak to each other, but at long last spring has steadily and slowly arrived and the trees indeed are waking up.

 

I love the word picture of trees awakening. It can be easy to see the trees as dead after autumn in the Midwest and other parts of the country that enjoy all four seasons. They are not dead at all, but only asleep, in a state of dormancy, conserving their resources. The Lord created them to temporarily stop growth, development, and physical activity to conserve energy. One of the reasons their leaves drop in the fall is so fewer parts of the tree need nourishment.

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Our Apple Tree

 

God has designed them so incredibly that they actually change their membranes on the surface areas so that water migrates from inside the cells to the spaces between the cells. This makes them more pliable. Then, as the trees convert starches to sugar in the fall, these sugars act in the same capacity as antifreeze, lowering the overall freezing point of the trees.

 

How marvelous are His works! What a Creator He is!

 

If He has so carefully designed the mechanisms of the trees to withstand the harsh winds and temperatures of winter, how could we ever be tempted to doubt His provision for us during the harsh seasons of our lives?

 

Everywhere we look, He reminds us that He has and is providing for us. We can look at the tree as provision for its beauty, its fruit, its shade, or its wood, but it often goes without notice of the provision for the tree in order for it to provide all of those things.

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Our Service Berry Tree

 

There is a truth there. His provision comes layer upon layer in intricate detail. That provision may seem scarce or non-existent even as the trees appear dead in winter, but the Lord has not forgotten.

 

The last few days I have been able to enjoy walks where the Lord has been drawing my eyes to the evidences of His creation being summoned to awaken. The steadily increasing warmth of the days and the lengthening hours of light are nudges to the trees to awaken even though an unseasonable few warm days early can fool the trees.

 

Light. How key it is to everything!

 

Trees and plants of all kind need light to be fruitful.

 

blooming-blossom-bright-1116945We, too, need light to bring us out of the darkness, to awaken us into life.

 

We need ongoing light for growth and fruitfulness.

 

We need the Light of the World!

 

I can only imagine what it will be like when the Light of the World returns and awakens this world!  Then we will truly behold Him and see the whole of what we cannot see now.

 

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Grapes, Napa Valley