Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lessons From a Race: Part 4: And Having Run The Good Race...

Well, here's the final bit of wisdom I've been able to glean from running a race... True, I ran almost a full month ago, but I am still applying the lessons I learned from that bitterly cold morning.

So to finish, what exactly happens? Seriously, what happens when you finish?

If you are like me, finishing is the hard thing. Starting is easy. My room is full of things I started, and still haven't finished. I have model airplanes, LEGO projects, paintings, books I'm trying to write, random letters I still need to respond too, poems that just need that sixth line, and yes, a pile of clothes that need to be folded. Maybe I'm just highly distractable, or maybe I just don't have the vision to finish something.

So what does it mean to finish something? Or more importantly, when you are running, why is the finish so important? Well, for some people, they don't even think about finishing. They give up before they even come within sight of the finish line. Others come so close, only to collapse just a few steps from the finish line. Just how do some people not just cross the finish line, but do it running??

I would submit to you that most of this strength is in the mind. We are told to run the good race, to fight the good fight, to continue on until the end. In fact, in 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us that "in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize." He then exhorts us to "run in such a way as to get the prize." I don't know about you, but this sounds pretty rigorous! He's telling us that we're to try for first place?

My first thought as I went over that verse was "WHAT?? I'm supposed to try and beat the people who do this for a living? How am I, a mere mortal, with limited resources, supposed to beat someone who trains with professionals, has sponsors, and lives their life to run?" But then I started thinking. We are also commanded to be above reproach. This means that nobody should be able to even hint that we've done something out-of-line. So when it comes to running, we ARE supposed to try and challenge those people who run for a living! We are supposed to try for first place, no matter what! We are to do everything as unto God. That's not some things, or faith-based things, but EVERYTHING!

So here's a little confession. Right now is finals time. I've had three finals so far, and I have another two that got postponed to tomorrow because of inclement weather. And as I was thinking about what final grades I am expecting from these five classes, I thought to myself: "Did I really study as much as I should have for all of those homeworks? Did I really do every single quiz has if I was doing it unto the Lord? Did I give every single test and exam my all? Was I completely and utterly exhausted at the end because I had spent everything trying for that ever-elusive A?"

Sadly, I realized I could have tried much harder. Several of my friends without realizing it, showed me just how wrong my attitude was. Some of them, even non-Christians, just refused to accept anything less than a perfect grade! They weren't happy with just an A, they couldn't settle for a 99, they had to try for that perfect 100%. As I walked out of my third final, I thought to myself, "Now why don't I think that way? Why am I not striving for that perfect score, as unto the Lord?"

So my exhortation to all of you out there is to finish strong. When the finish lines looms in the distance, don't cower and shrink from that last challenge. Instead, sprint! Run towards it with joy and the expectation of reaching the end! Don't compare yourself to those around you. Instead, think of what the total potential is, and aim for that. Rather than just a percentile score, try for perfection. You've run a full race, you've made it thus far, and by God's grace, you are still alive today, so finish with a burst! Take everything you've got, and lay it all out!

"And having done all, to stand."


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lessons From a Race: Part 3: To Infinity, and BEYOND!

Have you stopped to think?


How often do you stop to think? Not just about your job, or your house, or your friends, but about your life? Do you spend hours thinking about where you are going to be in 10 years?

Today's focus is on big picture thinking. But with a racing application. So imagine you are running a race. Let's say a 10k one, just because that is what I have a small amount of experience doing... When you are running that first kilometer, you could very well get to the marker, and give up right there. You could spend all your energy sprinting for a couple minutes, and then not have any energy for the rest of the race.

The problem? You didn't have (I didn't have) big picture thinking. This is thinking big. And for some people, this means they think about their friend's friends. For me, big picture means thinking about how something I will be doing affects me 20 years from now, or how something will affect the state, or the country over the next five or ten years. In a race, it isn't thinking about the next step, the next few steps, or even the next mile. It's thinking about the finish line, about the next race, about what's beyond the finish line. And even bigger, it's thinking about the race of life. Thinking about the finish line of life, and what lies beyond that.

So often in life, we lose sight of what is really important. We focus on the small things, we get caught up in the day-to-day operations, and forget to think about how we are going to use algebra 30 years from now. We spend so much time stressed out about now, that we forget about what is to come. But even more than just losing sight of the application, we lose sight of what is real. We are caught up in life, but we forget to live.

Finally, in my very humble opinion, I think we, as a culture, lose sight of who we want to be. We are told to fit inside the box, to have a 9-5 job, a wife, two kids, live in the suburbs, commute to work every day; a typical nuclear family. So many people forget their dreams. They forget that they wanted to go to space, or climb Mt. Everest, or go spelunking, or go skydiving. People forget what it was like to actually live their lives, and let their lives live them, if that makes sense.

We are told to do everything as unto the Lord. I don't know about you, but not living my life to the max doesn't sound very God-honoring. Seems like we're just taking the talents and gifts He's given to us, and just throwing them away. So my exhortation to you is to dream! It doesn't matter how crazy or stupid it might seem, just dream! Think of something you've always wanted to do, and do it! Better yet, think of what you want to do with your life, and do it! There is NO rule that says you have to have a boring job, or you have to stay in one place, or that you have to do anything! It's your life, so reach for those stars you've always dreamed about!

One last thought: The only limitation you have is in your head. You can go as far as you want. If you really have a dream, then start thinking about what it takes to reach that dream. Sometimes it helps to reverse-engineer something like this. Start at the dream, and think what will need to be accomplished right before that, and then right before those items, and so on, until you arrive at where you are. Lay it all out. Some dreams only take a little bit to accomplish. Some take longer. Some, could take you your entire life. Some you may never accomplish. But it's not so much reaching them, it's the journey you take to get to that point! It's life!

So go! Live your life! Go tether your feet to a rope, and jump off a bridge! Go randomly jump out of an airplane! Get a job you look forward too, and really enjoy! Drive across the country! Live your life the way God wanted you too!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Love of God: Chapter last, Acceptance

"Be happy! Just let yourself enjoy this evening." my friend Courtney exclaimed as we drove to the airport. "You get to see your best friends tonight and we get to hang out for two hours. Just enjoy it." What am I doing? I thought, I mean seriously! I should be bouncing off the walls at this point, but instead I'm feeling depressed. Why? In my heart I knew exactly why.

Over the last few weeks God had brought up many topics in my life that I needed to address. But now, the gaping wounds of my heart were pretty much healed, and my life at the present was wonderful. I had won so many victories, yet I didn't feel like rejoicing. I felt sick of myself, a typical "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been" moment. I didn't feel loved and I wasn't happy at all.

Courtney looked over at me from the driver's seat as I finished explaining why I felt the way I did. "Tes," she said, "I can't possibly say it any other way, I love you, all your little quirks included and I've told you that and demonstrated that." I turned my head and met my adopted sister's gaze. There was genuine care and love in that look. I felt as if God had come down and shined through her just to tell me He loved me. A memory of one of my oldest friends then surfaced. We were both learning how to play guitar, and I was tuning hers. She smiled at me and said in an announcer voice, "Tessa, the world famous guitarist." Reader, I could barely play a single chord, yet she had lifted me up and told me she believed in me. As my mind snapped back into reality, the love that both these girls had shown me, was enough to lift my heart from the rut it had strayed into. For the first time, I accepted the love God had given me in these girls. My heart instantly felt lighter and my mind was able to escape out of this "swamp of sadness" I had strayed into.

God tells us that He loves us all the time. He gave up His only son to DIE for us and every day He is trying to get our attention, and show us how much He cares. Yet, do we really believe Him? I realized last night that I didn't. I had heard Him say time and time again how much He loved me, quirks included. However, I had never really truly excepted that love for what it is. I had never opened my heart and let Him in. As He stood knocking on the door, I had only listened. BUT, when I finally decide to take the love He offered, and let Him hold my heart, the most amazing thing happened. Suddenly, the problems I faced didn't seem so big. The relationships I was in didn't seem so complex. And that night didn't seem so dark. I remember looking out the window and seeing all the wonderful stars. I glanced across the car at my friend and smiled. She was one star in my life. I thought of my friends that I was about to see at the airport, there were two more stars. My mom, my dad, my brother, my sisters, my brothers in-law, my team mates, my teachers, all my other friends, and on and on and on. I had many stars in my life. I just had never looked up and noticed them before.

I encourage you, especially if you are going through a hard season. Look up, see the stars in your life. They might not be huge, but they are stars non the less. And always, always remember, that no matter who you are, you will have a bright and shining moon, guiding your path through this trial. That moon is Jesus, and He will always be with you. You might not always be able to see Him, but He is there. So take heart brave knight. Your morning is coming. But for now, enjoy the stars and walk by faith. :)

Tessa :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lessons from a Race: Part 2: Perseverance: You CAN Do It!

So most of the aches and pains have gone away. But while the physical pains have gone away, the lessons to be learned from a race still remain.

Today's topic is perseverance. With the same verse as before, Hebrews 12, we again look at something specific Paul commanded us to do. He tells us to put aside "every weight." Let me draw your attention to the word every. What does this mean? I would say it means to put EVERYTHING in God's hands. Not just some things, or most things, but ALL things.

So in a race, one of the biggest things people complain about is that they "can't do it." Some people don't think they have the strength, some people don't think they have the patience, and some people are just plain scared of the idea of running a race. And I'll admit, when I first thought about it, the idea of running 10 kilometers, timed, with a bunch of my siblings running at the same time scared me. I honestly thought too myself: "10 kilometers? 6 whole miles? There isn't any way I'm doing that for fun!"

But then I thought about Paul. He wrote so many times about how the Christian faith was similar to running a race. So I thought I'd give it a try. It was while I was running that I was able to realize just how much can be learned, and how the lesson of perseverance can be applied.

Until you have run a longer race (that you can't sprint) you don't really understand the whole theory of perseverance. There is this thing called "the wall." This is where a runner is physically, mentally and emotionally ready to give up. They've gone as far as they can get, and they simply don't think they can take another step. So what happens?

The large majority of people will just stop. They hit the wall, and collapse, sometimes within sight of the finish line. Can you imagine what that would be like? To be within sight of the finish line, and then to give up? What if it was life? You go through life, really trying to serve God, and do His will, until the last month? And then you die? Can you imagine how horrible that would be?

The lesson for today is to keep going. Don't give up. For a little history intermission, we can travel back to World War II. Not many people realize it, but England was on the brink of defeat. They had lost almost all their equipment earlier after they evacuated Dunkirk, and the morale of all the troops was rapidly declining. Germany was outperforming them with machinery, airpower, manpower, and strategy. On top of that, they had designed the V-2, a rocket that required very little to do a great deal of damage.

The only thing that kept the English going was their high morale. Their perseverance. Just about any other nation would have caved under such attacks, and in fact, many of them did. But it wasn't until Hitler met Winston Churchill, the stubborn man who led England through it's darkest hour. But it was his determination, his willpower, and his strength that got England through. He simply wouldn't give up. Ever. There were times when he literally didn't have any options. All his planes were gone, London was ablaze, the hospitals were full, and more bombers were coming. Through it all, he was remembered for one thing:

"Never, never, never, never give in!"

This is what perseverance is. When everything around you is falling. Everyone has failed, and you are the last stand. And it's when you have failed, and you have been driven to your knees, that's when He can shine through you. When we are weakest, He is the strongest.

So today's post isn't so much about physical or emotional strength. It's more a mental thing. You have to go all the way, give it all up, and keep going. We are told that we can do ALL things through Christ. Again, that's not some things, or most things, that is ALL things! We just have to accept it, and have the perseverance to run the race, even if it means Him carrying us across the finish line.

I'm sorry if this seems a little vague and rambling, but I've just finished a most exhausting day of school. And believe me, it wasn't by any physical strength of my own that I made it through. It was completely by God's grace, and His unmerited favor and blessing that I was able to complete everything that was required of me. But in order to do that, I had to reach the wall. I came to a point where I just stopped, and He took over.

So it isn't so much about your fight, it's more just persevering through Christ. To never cease to trust Him. To never reach that wall where you just drop your faith. That is my prayer for all of you, and for me. That we would never lose sight of what is most important, especially when we are facing diverse trials.

Until next time, you can rest in the assurance that if you give your problems to Christ, He WILL take care of ALL of them! How awesome is that?


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lessons from a Race: Part 1: on your mark... get set.... GO!


So many people talk about it, some people try it, and even fewer people can actually do it correctly. Whole sports are dedicated to running, or a form of it, people obsess over it, and it has been used for so many different analogies... But how many people actually know about it?

Perhaps the greatest analogy we have is in some of Paul's letters in the New Testament. In his letter to the Hebrews, he talks about setting aside everything, and running the race which is before us. But perhaps the most important part about this verse is the word "patience."

I really understood exactly what Paul was talking about, and I gained some new insight into this verse. On Thursday, I decided to run a 10k, with a couple of my siblings. And if there was one thing I learned, it was patience. My instinct was to spurt ahead, pass everyone, and just run! And at first, that is exactly what I did. But then I remembered the other 9 kilometers. So I had to slow down, I had to pace myself, I had to have patience.

The importance of this can't be underestimated. Perhaps the biggest part of running or participating in anything is getting the timing correct. In your car, if the timing is off, your car either runs really horribly, or not at all. If your watch is messed up, then your whole day could be ruined.

I guess the root of what I am trying to communicate is timing. As an extension of patience, which is more waiting for the right time, I would say it also has to do with doing things when you are supposed too, and not waiting beyond that.

But what is so important about it? Why is timing such a big issue?

To understand this, there is a certain engineering principle that can be applied. It is called the Critical Path. The basic idea is you assign times to every task that is in the path until you reach your goal. You lay everything out, and the Critical Path is all the items that take the longest time, in their chronological order. Because those are important, you do everything you can to get them done on time, because if you take a week longer on the first one, then the entire project will finish a week later.

All that to say: Timing is very important. Everyone talks about it, but they don't ever really explain why... We are told to wait for things, or to hurry up, and get something over sooner. There is such emphasis placed on timing, and yet nobody really understands why...

So here's the one thing I would encourage everyone to do. Go run a race. You gain so much insight, and just the feeling of joy you feel when you come around that final turn... You just sprint to the end! You finish with a burst, everyone is cheering, and you just run!! But most of all, you can understand how life is a race. Sometimes we go fast, and sometimes we go slow. There are curves and bumps, but then there's long straight stretches. But it's really the final stretch that makes it all worthwhile. When we near the end of our life here on earth, everyone is gathered around us, and we have millions and billions of people, waiting to welcome us to our new home... Let's just hope we can all finish with a dash across the line!

Oh, and a word of advice, don't plan anything strenuous for the next few days... You'll be very stiff and sore, and won't be able to move very much... :P be continued......

~(a very stiff and sore) unclejoe

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Love of God: Chapter 6, Am I allowed to quit yet?

"Bah humbug!" I spluttered as my drink fell for the third time. My friend in the driver's seat turned to me. "Ok, what on earth is going on with you? God has to be telling you something, cause this is ridiculous." Again, Bah humbug, I thought.

Ok, today, was not the greatest day. I woke up with my jaw half locked and a sore throat. Exhausted, aggravated, and discouraged, having my friend bring up another problem was enough to make me want to scream.

"I quit." I replied to her. "I don't know what's going on, and I am just DONE." I wonder what God was thinking at that point, because to me, it seemed like He had no idea of how annoyed I was becoming. This last week has been a roller coaster ride. God had brought up some really big issues that I needed to deal with. I knew that I didn't have a lot of room for error, but I didn't know that God had lined up a week of tests for me. It's felt like everyday brings a new problem that is getting between God and me. I've had to play snow plow and push those things out of the way and I was officially dead.

As I vented my frustration and the reasons behind it to my friend, an idea began to form in my mind. I had tried to be superman, and realized that I wasn't.

How many of you have ever felt this way? You try and you try and YOU TRY. But no matter what you do, you never seem to win. There is a reason you feel this way. It's because without God, you aren't winning. In fact, you are losing. We are not capable of being God. Not even close. As teens, we seem to believe that we have the only real answers to our questions. We think that our parents don't (or won't) understand us, our elders are unable to see things from our perspective and anyone old enough to try to be a mentor doesn't really have our best interests at heart. So, we go to ourselves, our little group of peers. Alright guys, whether this group consists of good Christian friends, people who don't really care about God, or whoever, these people are dangerous to keep as your counsel. As teens, our brains are not fully developed. Literally, until you are 25, the part of your brain that deals with having good judgement is NOT EVEN DEVELOPED. We should not be looking to each other for guidance. We should be looking to God, and those He has placed in our lives to help us. And that's what I had to realize today. I had extended every fiber of my being to fix myself, and ended up drained. Basically my lesson from today could be summed up in a quote from an old play called High Tops, "We don't have to clean up ourselves to go to God, that's His job."

And y'all, I understand that is hard to do sometimes. We don't like the idea of having our lives in someone else's hands. But in the end, the safest place to be, is in God. And when we give our problems to Him, it's a beautiful thing. We can feel free to address the issues in ourselves because we know God is there to help us. We can take risks and do things that we never though possible when God calls us to them. So let God take the wheel of your life and see where He steers you. You never know what can happen with a little faith. :)

Sincerely praying for you all,
Tessa :)

P.S. Here is a poem that I wrote during another time of learning to trust, thought you all might like it, :) Praise God for His mercy right?

Am I allowed to quit now?
Am I allowed to back out?
Am I allowed to stand down?
and get away

My life is a crazy mess
I feel like such a wreck
I need to take a sec
ad get away!

Why is life like this?
A nutty insane asylum
where we're all running in the thick

I know I'm here
For a reason and not just in a random fray
I just need to kick this fear
and get away

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Names of God- Ch.1 Part 1- Elohim

Imagine you and I are meeting for the first time. Someone introduces us, and I say, "Hi, I'm Anna." And you reply, "Good to meet you, I'm Leah (or Justin... or Edween). One of the first things that you and I ever learn about one another when we are introduced is our first names.

What, then, do we learn about God when we first meet Him in Scripture? Does God have a first name?

Perhaps not. But He does have a name that was used first. The very first time you and I meet God in the pages of the Bible, we are introduced to Him by name. And His name, in the Hebrew language, is Elohim.

In the beginning God
[Elohim] created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1

Elohim is the name for God, as Creator, in this most foundational passage. It is also the primary word translated "God" throughout the pages of the Old Testament.

But what is that to us? How can the name Elohim serve as a strong tower to us? How can we hide in its depths from the savage storms that sweep into our lives? How does learning this "first name" of God bring us the kind of security and comfort and hope our hearts long for?

Learning who God is by name is the answer to every situation in life. When we know His names, we begin to grapple with His power, His purpose, and His incomparable love.

What does it mean, then, for you and me to encounter Elohim in that first sentence of our Bibles? El means "mighty" or "strong" and is used for any reference to gods, including Almighty God. The him ending of Elohim is very significant, for it is a plural ending in the Hebrew that indicates more than one. Genesis 1:1 could accurately be translated, "In the beginning Gods created the heavens and the earth." More than one God? No.

"The LORD [Jehovah] is our God [Elohim], the LORD is one!" (Deuteronomy 6:4). God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit- the blessed Trinity- created the heavens and the earth. One is essence, in character, yet three persons united as one. As you read various scriptures, you can see references to the different persons of the Godhead participating in the word of creation.

In Genesis 1:2-3 we read:

The Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.
Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.

God spoke, the Spirit moved, and Colossians 1:16 tells us that in Him, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, "all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth."

Each person of the triune Godhead had a part in creation. And it was no different when God scooped up the soil of His new world to form the first man. Genesis 1:26 tells us, "Then God [Elohim] said, 'Let Us make man in Our image.'" The "Our" has to refer to more than one! God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit were involved in creation. Your creation.

Don't skip past that thought. Go back, read it again, and take a moment to think about it.

God is your creator.

You exist because of God.

You are the unique and distinctive handiwork of Elohim.

Yes, He created the heavens and the earth. He formed the swirling galaxies and the blazing stars and the orbiting planets, and all the life that swarms across the face of our world or swims in the great seas. But He also formed you. Specifically. Individually. Thoughtfully. Carefully. Precisely the way you are.

So then-
-if you've ever struggled with your self image...
-if you've ever wept over your family of origin...
-if you've ever bitterly resented who your mother was, or who your father was...
-if you've ever agonized over your reflection in the mirror, or with your physical limitations... the name of Elohim is your strong tower and unshakable refuge. When you learn to boast in your Elohim, no matter what, life will change!

To be continued...