Tag Archive | running

The Gospel – it’s not about me

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I’ve spent a bit of time lately being reflective. Not in the way I did in the past when scrutiny only brought guilt and shame, but rather just an honest look at where I am, what I’m doing, where I’m going, and what is motivating me. If you’ve read many of my posts, infrequent as they may be lately, you’ve seen that I seem to circle the same wagon, making the same point again and again. Today is not much different because I just can’t get away from the fact that this enormous gift of grace, the gospel, the good news we’ve been offered came with the simplest of instructions on how to live it out. Yet this simple message seems to get lost in our focus on the magnificence of the gift we’ve received.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I need to put my thoughts and feelings into words in order to process the information and keep myself on track. I tend to get tunnel vision. I get focused on something I’m doing, where I’m going, etc., and can easily lose sight of all else. Many years ago I heard a man say that God gave him a word and he made it a sentence and ended up in a different place/or with different plans than God had intended. I can easily take a word from God and make it a 5 or 10 year plan, completely forgetting that my faith walk is to be step-by-step with Him!

This morning as I began the difficult task of waking enough to be functional, I turned the TV to a Christian channel. The program airing was not one I watch regularly but I quickly became interested in where the message from this world renowned preacher was going. Millions will have heard his message by the time I post this and I wonder what they will do with these words that were spoken: “Your number one priority is your happiness.”

Now I’m pulling one line from an entire message which was about not allowing others to manipulate you, being aware when it’s time to stop enabling/rescuing others, etc., which was very good information. However, the words above were in essence wrapping up the message, bringing it to his point. And those words tickled my ears. For a split second everything in my flesh wanted to shout “AMEN!” But I know better.

I went out for my run with those words stuck in my head. I was so focused on my thoughts about them that I looked up after a few minutes and didn’t know where I was. I had intended to go on one of my regular routes through the neighborhood but had inadvertently gone a different way. And being directionally challenged this was cause for concern. (I do possess a phone with gps capabilities, however I choose to run without it because I do not want any distractions…lol) I quickly realized that I was not lost but simply on another familiar path so I returned to my processing of the message I’d heard. Turning my thoughts to my own life, it was easy to see how often I’ve gotten spiritually distracted and tried to make the gospel about me.

The truth is that the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – that delivers and heals and saves and empowers and frees is not about me. It is for me. Jesus came for me, He bore the sins of all for me (and you), He sent the Helper for me. But the good news was never about me – it was about Him. It has always been about Him. He IS the good news. When I try to take this gift of grace and make it about me, I twist His intent. He didn’t set me free to chase my own dreams. He didn’t deliver me so that I could be more self-aware. He didn’t empower me so that I could be anything I want to be. He did it all so that I could be who and what He designed me to be.

The gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – is the gracious gift of God for all who will accept, but Jesus said that to truly receive and experience this magnificent gift one must deny self – completely surrender to His will, His way, His pleasure, His desire. Yet somehow we’ve taken the sacrifice and made the gift about us and our own happiness. We sing His praises and proclaim that we have a good, good Father, but we so often do not trust Him with His plans for our lives. It is only in this denial of self that we will find the true fullness of the good news of Jesus.

“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 and the gospel’s will save it…”  Mark 8:35

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

It is a challenging balance to maintain – to receive all the wonders of grace and find our identity in Him yet stay focused on Him, not ourselves. To live in the many blessings He pours out over us and yet be willing to hold them loosely, becoming only stewards of what belongs to Him. To exist in our human form and yet live consumed by His mighty presence within.

The gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – when embraced, changes the perspective of our lives. He has taken a story that is full of the everyday stuff, drama, comedy, satire, mystery, and even a little romance (for this not-so-mushy kind of girl) and given it all meaning and purpose. As He’s revealed Himself in my past, shows Himself in the here and now, and gives me vision to see His hand on my future, I grow to know and trust and love Him more and more. The script of my life has humbled and honored and delighted and even scared me at times, yet I am more confident than ever that the chapters still to come will be rich and full because as long as I will allow, this story will be much more about Him rather than me.  And it will be a very good story because He is good.

The Gospel – it’s not about me” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

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Good form is important

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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

 

 

 

Pushing through (God speaks running, part 2)

Two Woman Running by fence

My daily run took me down a winding country road on which were scattered a few houses here and there. Beside one particular curve of the road was an empty pasture that always attracted my attention.  Not because in itself it was anything to note; it was not.  But rather because this is where the sun would meet me as it began to peek above the treetops in the early morning.  And somehow as the rays broke through and spread their magic wide, even the plain, empty pasture became a thing of beauty.  I’ve always loved to watch the sun rise and our meeting place there was an added incentive to get out of bed and go because that moment to meet would not wait.

That day was like many others in the routine of running.  I got up, had my coffee, laced up my shoes and headed out. I did the same things as always, yet before I’d even made it to the halfway mark I was struggling.  My immediate thoughts were “STOP!  It’s too hard today.  Just go home and try again tomorrow.”  I wanted to quit.  It seemed so hard and my rhythm felt off.  Something wasn’t right.  I managed to keep putting one foot in front of the other as I went through a running checklist of sorts:

Am I in pain?  no

Are my shoes laced too tight?  no

Am I running too fast?  no

Are my shoulders tense?  no

Is my heart rate too high?  no

Is my breathing labored?  no

Am I sensing any dangers (creepy people or antagonistic animals)?  no

Then what’s wrong?  nothing

The fact was there was nothing wrong.  That was when God spoke.  He began to talk to me about how fickle our emotions are and if we listen to them they will have us stopping and starting and stopping and starting so often that we will lose heart and give up on whatever we are pursuing.  There was nothing wrong with me on that run, but my feelings and thoughts made a valiant effort to get me to quit.  Weird.

We’ve all experienced this.  We’re making progress in our love walk with someone we need to forgive. Things are going well, we’ve interacted with them without the anger and resentment of the past.  Then one day, for no apparent reason, we are mad all over again at the injustice done to us!  Nothing has changed, no further harm has been inflicted, yet our emotions are feeding our thoughts.  They scream to the love that forgives “STOP!  I can’t do this!”  And if we listen, they will take us back to the beginning and hold us captive to the pain.

Oh, it’s not just about forgiveness.  It’s in the commitments we make, the constant demands of family life, our work, our relationships with friends, and yes, our relationship with Jesus.  We read and we study and the desire to be an all-out Jesus follower is there.  We make progress in our prayer closet and determination is at its peak.  Then one day we wake up and for no apparent reason we just want to stop trying.  We want to quit on the deeper things and settle for being saved and having a home in heaven because it just seems too hard to keep going at this pace.  We feel like we are struggling too much and our life rhythm is off – surely those are the indicators that something is wrong and we don’t need to continue…

Learning the difference between being led by His Spirit in us or led by our souls (mind, will, emotions) is critical in our pursuit of becoming like Him.  I’ve learned to do a spiritual checklist of sorts when my feelings are out of kilter:

Am I hurting?  maybe

Has the outward circumstance changed?  maybe

If I change my direction, will I still be following Jesus?  oh……

Discovering that I am not at the mercy of my emotions and that they are a very poor life navigator has freed me to listen more clearly to what He has to say and to stay on course.  I pushed through that run many years ago and felt a stronger sense of accomplishment than even on many of the days I ran further distances.  It was an important lesson learned that took me into and through the much longer runs that would follow.  Sometimes you just have to ignore how you feel, focus on the facts, and push through.

And it’s the same with following Jesus.  He warned us that following Him and doing things His way would take us into areas that were uncomfortable and difficult.  Then He assured us that He would be with us and would give us everything we need to make it through.  Left to our emotions, some days we will follow Him and other days not so much.  We get to choose.

What’s He urging you to push through?  Me?  I’m still learning to push through the challenge of being still. And again I say, Weird.  You wouldn’t think it would be that hard, but my feelings often tell me I should be doing more, be more productive, get busier.  And when I fall for it, I’m frustrated in doing things I don’t really want to do, knowing that I’ve let my emotions get me off course.  Thank you, God, for new mercies every morning!

Sitting here in my comfy pjs with a hot cup of coffee and looking out the window at some gloomy skies, I’m tempted to just crawl back into bed.  But I’ve got a lot to do today, so I need to run.  No, really, it’s time to run…     🙂

 

Pushing through (God speaks running, part 2)” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

God speaks running (part 1)

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These are my favorite shoes.  Besides the fact that they are the most comfortable of all I own, they are more than that to me.  They represent an effort that I find enjoyable even when it’s hard.  They take me outdoors and remind me that there’s more to any given day than the pressures and responsibilities and busy-ness that my list demands.  They take me away from the other voices, the other noises, and give my mind a break.  They take me to a place that God consistently speaks to me.

For my non-running readers, hang with me.  I believe as I share His runningspeak, you will be able to relate from the comfort of your robe and fuzzy slippers just as well.  I posted the following earlier this week on social media and will be periodically sharing the many ways God has used running to help me grow.  Perhaps you can relate…

As I sit here this morning with my second cup of coffee (slow start today…) and resist the temptation to visit the Dunkin Donuts which is just minutes away, I am thinking about exercise. Haha. As you may have guessed, I bailed on the aerobics class months ago. I had a really good reason – my summer office work hours prevented me from attending any classes except the one led by miss-serious-muscle-bound-intensity and I simply could not bring myself to endure this voluntary torture and the humiliation that would invariably occur. So I did nothing.

Now fall is here with better hours and cooler temperatures and it’s calling me out. I want to run. It’s always been my preferred method of exercise and tender knees were the only reason I re-entered the aerobic world in the first place. Now the knees are better and I no longer have to rise at 5 am to avoid triple digit temperatures. It’s time. I’ll have to start with walking, but it won’t be long and I’ll be running again. Woohoo!

My excitement builds as I consider the many advantages of running. Here are my top 10:
#1 I don’t have to count my steps.
#2 I don’t have to watch the minutes unless I want to. And if I want to know, I can wear a watch that will do that for me.
#3 The only skill required is the coordination to place one foot in front of the other over and over. Granted, I still struggle with this from time to time but the odds of me kissing the pavement are considerably less than the tripping and stumbling and falling that occur when I attempt to do the grapevine in time to rock music.
#4 There are no mirrors.
#5 THERE ARE NO MIRRORS!!!
#6 I am alone. There are no witnesses to my trips and stumbles unless I take CJ (the dog) and he doesn’t laugh. Well, at least not out loud.
#7 I choose the time and location that suits me.
#8 Run enough and I don’t have to feel guilty about the occasional Dunkin Donut
#9 The only investment needed is a good pair of shoes. And who doesn’t like to buy shoes, right??
#10 Perhaps the greatest revelation I’ve had: If I go at the right time of day, the image I see of myself is no longer the reflection of a poorly spandex-stuffed sausage in movements that can be best described as spastic, but rather a tall, slender, graceful shadow that gives me hope there will be a day when my waistbands no longer threaten to cut off the circulation to my entire body and a trip to my closet can be a moment of joy rather than despair.

So here goes. Time to lace up and get out the door. I am thankful I live in a neighborhood with leash laws and drivers who fully expect to see walkers and runners and cyclists and allow plenty of room as they pass. I’d invite you along, but I don’t have time to wait. Besides, being alone is always a time that God can speak and He speaks running.      🙂

 

God speaks running (Part 1)” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com