Christian, Faith, family, friends, grief, Jesus, loss, love, mothers, sorrow, Uncategorized

Mother’s Day – look both ways before crossing

mom and kids crossing street.jpg.838x0_q67_crop-smartThis road is a busy one, traveled by the thankful, the frustrated, the exhausted, the overwhelmed, the happy, the sad, and the everything-in-between. Sometimes we march with determined steps and fixed gaze, confident and sure of where we are headed. Sometimes we watch and follow those with determined steps, completely unsure of where this road will lead. Sometimes we dance and sing and play along the way as if the journey is all that matters, the destination insignificant. Sometimes we just stop in the middle of the road and cry.

There are many who’ve walked before us, those who’ve completed the journey and others we can still see in the distance. If we are blessed, we have those who’ve already walked this road yet have turned back to walk it again by our sides, cheering us on, sharing their stories and giving us hope that we, too, will make it.

Some of us are on the sidelines, hopeful, waiting, resigned. We’ve been there a long time and seen many walk by. To stand still watching feels as if this is the only road worth traveling, all others meaningless and empty. Many speak as they pass, giving encouraging words and heartfelt prayers. Sometimes they stop and hold us while we cry. But they’re on the road and must move forward and they leave us feeling lonelier than ever.

Many have walked this road only to find our travel plans abruptly and heartbreakingly halted. We desperately wanted to complete this journey but now there’s no focus. We find ourselves paralyzed, unable to move. Walking alongside the others is painful and awkward. We don’t return to the sidelines. We just stop. We belong on the road…but now we only look back at the footbrints we left behind…

Before we cross this road or remain on the sidelines or move forward or stand still, let’s look both ways, or better yet, all around. Let’s take ourselves out of holiday mode and just stay in Jesus mode. Let’s share the love and the joys and the pains and the heartbreaks of just being human because for many this is a hard day.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, sharing their joy; mourn with those who mourn, sharing their sorrow. Romans 12:15

Bear one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ… Galatians 6:2

Nothing wrong with taking a gift or a card and spending time with your mother this Sunday. But do we really need a holiday to do that? Did you know that the woman who created Mother’s Day later denounced the holiday’s commercialization and spent the latter part of her life trying to get it off the calendar?? Yeah. That.

Mother’s Day – look both ways before crossing” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

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There are victories to be won

 

heart of hands

Where do I begin? The events of the last two weeks have rocked our world again. Emotions have driven hasty words, hurtful words, divisive words, all in a desperate attempt to cast blame because surely if we can point a finger at the culprits we will feel better. We will feel as if we have affected change. But is that the kind of change we really want? To step into the battle blindly believing that anger will stop anger, hate will stop hate?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

 We have been called to a maturity that requires we lay down our opinions and surrender our emotions to the One Who has called us to greater love. Loving our enemies wasn’t a suggestion. It was an expectation that if we call ourselves His children this would be how we show it to be true. This would be the only way we turn the hearts of our enemies – overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:21).

“But I say to you, love [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for] your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may [show yourselves to] be the children of your Father who is in heaven; You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:43, 48

The emotions are raw and intense and conflicting and disturbing. Anger and frustration and sorrow and grief. And fear. FEAR. All whirling so violently in our souls that it seems they cannot, should not be contained. To feel so passionately about injustice surely must be the indication that we speak, no, SHOUT our views and if we shout loudly enough surely we will feel better. Surely someone will listen. Surely the madness will stop. Surely once released our souls will be quieted.

But this is the moment we must stop and turn the fierceness of those emotions into passionate prayer. We must retreat into the secret place wanting only what HE wants, saying only what HE says, doing ONLY what He says to do for everything else will be wood, hay, and stubble. It will not endure. It will not affect real change. It will not win the lost. And that remains our mission – to be led by His Spirit to be His heart, His hands, and His feet that take His love to EVERYONE.

He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty – Whose power no foe can withstand.  Psalm 91:1

Does it mean we don’t have good conversations in order to find understanding and work toward unity? Absolutely not! But good conversations rarely begin with verbal assaults or fingers pointed in blame. 

Should we protest? Should we post on social media? Should we bare our heartbreak through videos? Should we sit silent? These are questions that can only be answered in each and every Christian’s secret place with God. Will He lead us all to do the same thing? No. We each have a role to play in representing Him to the world and once committed to the pursuit of our individual purposes we can no longer play the comparison game amongst ourselves. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is where we find the peace Jesus died to give us and nothing can take it away. Hearing the voice of God in the secret place is the first of the victories to be won.

We must stand for those oppressed. ALL who are oppressed. We do not choose sides. We do not take it upon ourselves to deem one worthy of His love and mercy and another condemned without hope. That is not our call. Our call is to obey. Whatever He says. No matter what anyone else thinks or says.

But the LORD reigns forever, executing judgment from his throne. He will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness. The LORD is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for you.  Psalm 9:7-10 

As I pray for the angry and the violent, the grieving and the lost, and for His children to be His shelter for these the oppressed, I pray for you “Peace”. Not as the world gives but as Jesus gives. For we simply cannot give away what we do not have.

There are victories to be won” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photo by Just Wild About Teaching

 

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When you hear my story

once-upon-a-time

When you hear my story will you love me?  Will you look through eyes of mercy and give of your richest treasure?  Will you offer a kind word and a soft touch?  

When you hear my story will you judge me?  Will you withdraw in disapproval as my sins are laid bare?  Will you weigh and measure my failures and find me unworthy of your love?

When you hear my story will you see me?  Will you look deeper than my choices and experiences and see that I am more than the sum of those?  

When you hear my story will you walk with me?  Will you stay by my side as I continue this journey?  Will you step with me into uncertainty until the certain is found?

When you hear my story will you discover that you know me?  Will you throw off your pretense and find that deep within we are very much alike?

When you hear my story will you tell me yours?  Will you take advantage of my vulnerability – for good – and trust me with your joys and sorrows, victories and defeats?

When you hear my story will you find Him?  Will you hear His words of love and mercy and grace and favor spoken to you just as He spoke them to me when my life was anything but perfect? Will you see Him more than me?

When you hear my story will you love me?

It was the day to give my testimony at the end of a five-week study.  I know how important our individual stories are and I thought I was ready.  Until I began the drive to the church.  God began to speak to me about the things He wanted me to share and the tears began to flow.  My story isn’t tragic or extreme as compared to so many who have suffered greatly.  But it is marked with bad choices, difficult inward struggles, and deeper sorrow than I had ever believed possible.

My heart was so tender that particular morning that my first instinct was to guard it.  From what?  I would be speaking to ladies I’ve known all my life, a few I’ve known for many years, and those I had met only through this study.  What was I afraid of?  What we are all afraid of in the natural – what will they think of me?  If they really get to know me will they still love me?  It is the question that so often prevents our stories from ever being heard.

I knew I couldn’t resist His leading, for what would be the point?  I knew that once I opened my mouth these things would pour forth hindered only by feeble efforts to control the tears.  And so I told my story.

It was frightening and liberating and exhausting all at the same time.  I realized on the drive home that I had told them something I had never spoken to another human being.  And it was in this moment that I found new freedom.  We so often fear the vulnerability that is the pathway to the very peace we seek.  But He is there.  In the raw exposure of our lives He is evermore our Healer and our Comfort.

He may never ask you to share your story in a crowd.  But I daresay the very mission of Christ involves us telling our stories to others, be it one at the time or in groups.  Your story is someone’s answer.  Someone needs to hear how you found Him in your darkest times.  Someone needs to hear that the very Grace that has lifted you is calling to them.  Someone needs the love and mercy you have to give because you have a story that matters in this grand plan of God.

Let’s be sensitive to His leading when He says “Go and tell”.  Will they love you when they hear your story?  Some will, some won’t. But that’s not the basis on which we decide to speak because telling our story isn’t really about us.  It’s about Him.

 

When you hear my story” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

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But it FEELS like…

Screenshot_2016-01-27-11-19-03

In the sequence of our morning activities my husband is usually the first out of bed and downstairs to turn on the coffee.  While he waits for it to brew he also turns on the morning news.  Whether I follow in a few minutes or stay snuggled in the bed for another hour, whenever I get downstairs the television is tuned to the news.  This morning as I poured my own cup the weather forecast was being shown.  A cold front has blown through and the presenter of this ever-changing information was as excited about the dropping digits as if it were something never before experienced.  Now, granted, near-30 degree temps in our neck of the woods doesn’t happen that often, but there will be no snow or ice today and her enthusiasm was a little much for those of us struggling to be enthused about anything more than that first cup of coffee.  I listened for only a few minutes before changing the channel in hopes there would be something less irritating that would aid in the process of becoming fully awake.

However, as I went through my own rituals of morning, her overly enthusiastic words “But it FEELS like…” stuck in my mind.  Her stating of the actual temperature was each time exuberantly followed by the Real Feel temperature.   At one point I asked myself “Real Feel?  Says who??” and thus began my little search:

The AccuWeather.com RealFeel® Temperature was created in the 1990s… The RealFeel Temperature is an equation that takes into account many different factors to determine how the temperature actually feels outside. It is the first temperature to take into account multiple factors to determine how hot and cold feels… Some of the components that are used in the equation are humidity, cloud cover, winds, sun intensity and angle of the sun… The equation also takes into consideration how people perceive the weather…this can be debated, since not everyone perceives weather the same way, but the equation uses the average person’s perception of weather and adds that into the RealFeel equation.   http://www.accuweather.com

As God so often does, He tied that little phrase to the thing that I’ve been mulling over for the past couple of weeks:  Christian guilt.  My last post prompted some enlightening responses from a few readers. They were each thankful that I shared my little story and their responses included:  totally resonates with me… really needed to hear this…thank you for the encouragement in freeing me to REST without GUILT…   We just slow down a bit from our ever busy schedules which include church and prayer and giving and service because we love God…and we take a nap or read a book…but it feels like we should be doing something else, it feels like it’s wrong somehow…

What I write of today is not the bold and glaring guilt that shows up when we blatantly sin – I mean, we’re supposed to experience that guilt, right?  (We’ll get to that momentarily…)  No, this is the shadowy guilt that quietly whispers words that are more frightening to us than the loud scream of sin guilt.  This persistent companion is relentless in its finger-pointing, occasionally directed outward but most often toward the mirror.  We chase it away with our offers of worship and our acts of service.  Until we are alone. It is then we discover that it never really left, we had simply drowned its voice with the loudness of our own.  And with the realization that it didn’t leave during our offers of worship and our acts of service we accept its heavier-than-ever existence.  If this guilt had a name it would simply be Not Enough.

Your prayer was not enough.

Your offering was not enough.

Your worship was not enough.

Your service was not enough.

Your study was not enough.

Your faith is not enough.

You are not enough.

When was the last time you prayed or gave or served or studied or simply sat in the presence of the Lord that you did not walk away thinking you should have done more?  This guilt of not enough is at the core of why we can’t truly rest and we don’t allow ourselves to just “be”.  And it grieves the heart of our Father.

…God shows and clearly proves His own love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Therefore, since we are now justified – acquitted, made righteous, and brought into right relationship with God – by Christ’s blood, how much more certain is it that we shall be saved by Him from the indignation and wrath of God.  Romans 5:8-9

Jesus took our guilt.  He took it so that we would not have to.  All of it.  Once and for all.  Never needing to do it again.  It was enough.  We have been acquitted – found not guilty – and to seal the deal He gave us His Spirit to:  teach us all things, help us remember what He said, guide us into truth, empower us to be His witnesses, to be our Comforter, Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby.

Never once does the scripture say that the Holy Spirit will find us guilty.  He gently exposes our sin and compels us to repent – to change our minds.  This is an act of love not anger!!  So…why do we feel guilty?  Because we have not fully believed that we have been made completely acceptable to God.  Right now.  Just as we are.  With fresh wounds and old scars, with things that we’ve already done and things still to do, with our failures and our successes, our weaknesses and our strengths, our humanity and our new nature.

One of the definitions of guilt is:  feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy

Imagined offenses.  We imagine that God is offended by all our “not enoughs” and that we are guilty.  These imagined offenses are like the RealFeel temperature (you thought I’d totally lost that train of thought, didn’t you?).  The real temperature, the actual comparative measure of hot and cold, is a fact. When I took that screenshot the temperature outside was 42 degrees.  Yet if we go by the RealFeel number, to many – the average people (which evidently does not include the vast population of women of a certain age who are sitting with windows open today) – it would feel like 35 degrees.  But RealFeel is also based in perception and how they felt did not change the fact that it was 42 degrees.

The fact is that God has made us acceptable to Him.  He pre-planned to keep us in His never-ending favor through what Jesus would do!!  His Spirit will lead us and guide us and teach us and this leading and guiding and teaching will always be more about what He has done for us than what we will ever do for Him.  Once we begin to set our minds on the fact of redemption rather than how we feel, we will find rest for our souls and the ease to just “be” and guilt will have no place. Ahhhhh…..     🙂

 

But it FEELS like…” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

 

Christian, church, coffee, Encouragement, Faith, God, grace, love, prayer, retreat, Spiritual, Uncategorized

On being spiritual

sleeping

After a week of serious focus on a project that required all my physical and mental energies to complete, I am exhausted.  I drug myself out of bed this morning praying that the coffee would have extraordinary power over the aching weariness my body was experiencing and fill me with enough umph to make it through the lesson I had for my ladies.  I read over the scriptures and my notes several times before my brain decided to participate.  But once my mind was on track and my spirit motivated, my body picked up the pace a bit and I made it to church ready to share what He had placed on my heart.

My friend entered the room as I was waiting for another cup of coffee to be ready and making notes on the whiteboard.  She has been struggling with some health issues and it quickly became apparent that we were both weary.  I told her that I could stretch out on the floor right then and go sound asleep; she said she could join me.  We both refrained from giving in to this temptation, but wouldn’t that have been a sight when the pastor made his stop by to say hello!!

There is a God-energy that always surprises and delights me as it takes over when I stand to teach or speak to a crowd.  In those minutes it’s like an out-of-the-body experience in that I am no longer conscious of how I physically feel.  I love how He does this. This morning I taught the lesson which just made me more excited about the lessons that will follow, and my only disappointment was that the time was too short – I could have taught for hours.  But as soon as we dismissed, all I could think about was getting back to my bed!  I stayed for the worship service but must admit that God did not get my best.  He barely got my attention at all as what little remaining focus I had was fixed on preventing my head from bobbing in slumber.  Seriously, I could not get home fast enough once the service was over.

I’ve re-committed my Sundays to be a day of rest.  I know my body needs it and my soul is desperate for it.  I want to give Him time to renew and refresh and restore me.  I want to hear Him more clearly and see life through His eyes.  I want to study His word.  Really study, not just the quick, encouraging devotional reading, but the digging in with my questions and fears and doubts, journal at hand to record the things that will change my life.  I want this time to be truly spiritual.

But after the nap today that was both necessary and totally unavoidable, I just felt numb.  You know that place in-between being asleep and awake?  That.  I couldn’t shake it.  I tried to listen to a teaching video, but didn’t hear half of what was said. Pen in hand, I tried to conjure meaningful prose but the only thing that came to mind was “I got nothing.”  I picked up a book that I am purposefully reading slowly so as not to miss its many messages and I read and reread the same pages more than a few times.  It was not feeling very spiritual.

The guys were gone so I had the house to myself, everything still and quiet.  I went downstairs to refill my water glass and wondered if they had taken the dog with them on their adventures for the day.  Just about the time that thought crossed my mind I heard CJ on the back porch.  I felt no inclination to engage with him at the time so as soon as I got my water I retreated once again to the comfort of my bed, having closed the bedroom door behind me.  A few minutes after I had nestled under the covers, I heard CJ run up the stairs.  I knew he didn’t need anything but I decided to open the door and let him in.  He literally jumped with excitement.  I pet him briefly before, again, crawling back to bed. He wagged his tail as he watched me and as soon as I was settled in he ran back down the stairs and outside.  It was then that I realized he thought he had been home alone.  His excitement upon seeing me was not because he needed or wanted anything, but just the delight he experienced upon discovering that he was not alone. Then he was off to do whatever it is that dogs do when no one is watching.

My sister wrote this a couple of years ago and today it came back to my mind as it has many times:

Be still and know that I am God

Be still and know that I am

Be still and know

Be still

Be

Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is simply be.  Be in His presence, asking nothing, requiring nothing, perhaps even expecting nothing.  Allowing the fact that we are not alone to be our delight as we do whatever it is we humans do when no one is watching.

Today it was as if He simply said to me “I’m here.”  When I heard that, I pulled the covers up, closed my eyes, and very spiritually nodded off once again.

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Do you love Me?

ca. 2004, New Zealand, Pacific --- Flock of sheep, New Zealand, Pacific --- Image by © Mula Eshet/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Feed My sheep.”

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Organize a protest against those Pharisees and Romans because they’ve really upped their game to oppose My sheep.”

“Wow!  Really?  Finally!  I’ve been waiting a long time to stand up to those who’ve been pointing their fingers, mocking us, spitting on us, and give them a piece of my mind.  Just who do they think they are? We have rights, you know, and it’s time that we demand those rights be respected!  And I’m just the one who could get this movement started.  I know a guy who has a stock pile of papyrus – he’ll gladly donate it for a social media blitz.  We can flood the city with posters pointing out our enemies’ grievous errors and mistreatment of your people, we can slander them right back, all in Your name, of course.”

“Do you love Me?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Call those other two hotheads in the group and begin a battle strategy for My sheep.  It’s time for war!!!”

“I’M ON IT!!  I’ve already got some ideas.  I told you I’d have your back, Jesus, if they ever came for you.  You must have misunderstood what I meant though, because that whole “Get thee behind me, Satan” comment was a little harsh, don’t you think?  I’ve got my sword ready.  I can defend and fight for our cause.  You’ve seen my skills…you know that I can take a man’s ear off in a flash!  And surely that day you turned to the crowd after the snippy Satan remark and told them that to follow You meant that they had to deny themselves and not care if following you led to their deaths…you meant that for them because they’re too weak to fight, right?  And before you go back to heaven I could use a little clarity on that whole love our enemies bit.  But it’ll have to wait until after we destroy those wolves in sheep’s clothing that are right here in our town…   I’ll be safe, right?  I mean, I’m your follower so you’re going to protect my life because I’m fighting for You… aren’t you?…because it kinda sounded like You just said I was going to die…”

Not exactly how the conversation went.  But maybe that’s how it would have gone if Jesus had only an earthly agenda and Peter had been a little more like me…a little more like you…

The early Christians lived in deeply troubled times.  Trouble like most of us have never seen. Governmental oppression.  Excessive taxation.  Public mockery.   Estrangement from family and friends because of their faith.  Imprisonment for spreading the gospel.  Persecution and torture for sharing the Truth.  Even unto death.

He sat with the one so passionate and out-spoken, the one He had called a rock, the one who bore the heavy weight of his own recent betrayal, and mercy and forgiveness asked of him three times…

Do you love Me?

Feed My sheep.*

Each time He asked He was giving Peter His unfailing love and changing Peter’s perspective on how to truly respond to that love.  He knew the disciples would undergo hardships and persecution and how they would die, most of them as martyrs.  The Pharisees and the Romans had not changed their positions. They had not relieved the oppression of the saints.  They did not believe in Jesus even though they still could not explain how His body left the tomb.  But what mission did Jesus lay before Peter?  Lead a rebellion against the Pharisees?  Organize the troops to fight the government?  Lead them into war?  No. He said “Feed My sheep.”

If we follow current events and listen to the reports, both secular and especially religious, the alarm is sounding that the wolf is at our door.  Arguments rage and emotions are on edge.  Opinions abound and frustrations rise.  Complicated issues demand a response.  Maybe we are like those early disciples in our floundering about through the daily activities wondering what God would have us do.  Perhaps it’s time to sit with Him and listen.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to follow Me as My disciple, he must deny himself – set aside selfish interests, and take up his cross – expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come, and follow Me – believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life in this world will eventually lose it through death, but whoever loses his life in this world for My sake will find it; that is, life with Me for all eternity.  Matthew 16:24-25

Will we die for our faith?  I don’t know.  But I do know that if we expect to be bold and courageous under persecution, real persecution, the question must be settled in the secret place with Him long before someone threatens our lives.  He called us to death from the beginning – death to self.  Pursuing Him takes us further and further away from consideration of ourselves and gives us vision beyond the news reports and the fear that tries to settle over us like a thick, black cloud.  There are many who are struggling with this fear because they don’t know Him.  They are hungry for something real to hold on to, something that will give them hope.  Right here, right now, in our cities and our neighborhoods.  And I believe that if we would just turn our attention away from the chaos and onto Him, we would hear mercy and forgiveness speak to us the very same mission:  “Feed My sheep“.  Obedience to this command is the only correct response to the question “Do you love Me?”

According to Christian tradition, Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero Augustus Caesar. It is traditionally held that he was crucified upside down at his own request, since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus.**

Now, I don’t know if this is really how Peter died, but he died doing what Jesus told him to do.  He spent his life feeding His sheep.  No matter the conditions, I strongly suspect as he was gasping for his last breath he was not wishing that he had never gotten out of that boat when Jesus came by, never left Galilee, that he should have just lived out a comfortable life as a fisherman.  No.  I believe as his life ended he was full of grace and completely satisfied that it had been worth it all.  Even unto death.

In our last breaths, no matter what brings us to that point, will we be satisfied that we have done with our lives what He asked of us?  Will we love not our lives unto death (Revelation 12:11), whether literally or spiritually?  Will we have lived out our love for Him by feeding His sheep?

I suppose I should have included a sarcasm warning at the beginning of this post, but really…what can we do in the midst of the trouble that rages upon us?  Pray.  Support.  Give.  Vote.  But most importantly, let’s not lose sight of the mission.  Give action to His command.  Love the unlovely.  Help the helpless.  Stand for the defenseless.  Forgive the unforgivable.  Tell of Him.  Feed His sheep.

 

Do you love Me?” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

*John 21 contains the account of the conversation between Jesus and Peter.  The real one.

**source:  Wikipedia

 

 

 

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Good form is important

badrunning

Back in the days of high school I ran track.  This was an ideal sport for me as I could still be a part of a team while participating on an individual level where a lackluster performance might not provoke the dreaded angry disapproval of my teammates. My fear of disappointing my team quickly dissipated, however, when I discovered I could run.  Fast.  And I loved it.

My first coach was tough and while I no longer feared my peers, I maintained a healthy respect toward him even when he pushed us mercilessly.  We all grumbled and complained about the unfairness of it all – the heat, the long practices, the repeats – once we were certain he couldn’t hear us, of course.  But when it came time to compete and we walked away with the medals, we loved him.  It had been worth it.

My next coach was kinder.  She was tough enough to drive us to new pr’s and prepare us for further competition while recognizing that kids still need to be kids and smiled more than she frowned.  I remember the exasperated roll of her eyes when I would cross the finish line and she would be asking me, yet again, why I was blowing bubbles with my gum as I was running…  I remember learning how to pass and receive the baton during relays.  I remember learning how to use a starting block.  I’m sure we were given other instructions and coaching on how to be a good runner but it evidently went in one ear and out the other.  I just ran.

Quite a few years later I became friends with a real runner.  He would go on 50 mile fun runs (can those words really be used together???)!  He was my boss and my friend and through the hours we spent together at work he taught me about running.  He coached me without being my coach and I learned a lot about running form and how important it is if you want to make the most of your time on the pavement.

First he taught me about breathing.  Yes, I already knew how to breathe, but not so much when I was running.  He taught me to pay attention to my breathing as I ran and to keep it rhythmic and in concert with my steps.  This took concentrated effort, especially when I was attempting to run faster or farther or uphill.  He taught me that if I couldn’t get my breathing under control that I should slow down until I could.  I didn’t want to slow down, I wanted to go faster.  But erratic breathing would only cause me to miss what I was aiming for.  Hearing myself gasping for air was not encouraging and would cause my mind to scream “I can’t do this!”.

Next he taught me to relax.  While running.  Again with the words that sound like they don’t go together! I have a strong tendency when I am pushing myself harder to tighten my shoulders, clinch my fists, and keep my arms close to my chest, all of which require more energy and actually make the run harder. Again it takes concentrated effort to drop my shoulders, loose my fingers, and allow my arms to lower. It is possible to greatly relax my upper body while engaging every muscle in my lower body in the act of running.  It makes it so much easier.

Lastly he taught me to pay attention to my feet.  This wasn’t as hard to do as learning to breathe properly and relax, but I had to apply the effort to pay attention to my foot placement.  He had previously “coached” me through race walking where correct form is to put one foot directly in front of the other.  However, should you attempt this form while running it is an invitation to kiss the pavement along with creating some serious knee issues.  I had to pay attention to where my feet were placed and to get good running shoes.  It made all the difference.

Those lessons were learned many years ago.  Now, I never hold my arms close to my chest when I run. I always wear good shoes and rarely deviate from proper foot placement.  But you know what?  Quite often I still find myself clenching my fists or tightening my shoulders.  My mind covers many things when I run and if I’m not paying attention, before long I am expending energy that is unnecessary.  Once I realize it, I lower my shoulders, shake out my hands, and relax.  Good form makes the run easier and more enjoyable (perhaps words some of you would never use together, but stay with me…) and in the end helps me accomplish the goal.

God has been coaching me in grace.  He has been teaching me the rhythms of breathing Him in and out. He has been guiding me to rest and relax as we move together in the mission of this life.  He is placing my steps as I move ahead in this life race even when I am unsure where we are headed.  But I have to pay attention.  When I’m distracted by the many things that press in on my life, I find myself very often clenching my fists and tightening my shoulders just to get through, temporarily forgetting that there is an easier way.  He calls me back every time.  He calls me away from what is natural to me into His nature, His way of doing things.

I notice when people run with less than good form.  And the world notices when the namesake of Christ move through this life with bad form.  It will not be our angry discourses or ridiculous attempts to defend God (do we really think that He needs our defense?) that will win the world to Him.  It will not be our glaring disapproval of our teammates whose performance doesn’t meet our standards.  It will not be when we hold our anger and resentment and unforgiveness tightly to our chests.  It will not be our gasping for air through the difficulties of life.  It will be when we learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  It will be when we walk in His nature displaying that we have been made in His image, free from clenched fists and stiff shoulders, free to give out what has been so lavishly given to us.  This is what will make the world hungry for Him.

“Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to Me.  Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

Grace is good form and good form is important.

 

Good form is important ” (another God speaks running segment) was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com