Reach for the Prize!
I will have to say that all of the 2012 Olympic swimming has pumped me up! What an outstanding Olympics for Team USA. I thoroughly enjoyed watching their great achievements, and hearing their stories of hard work and overcoming their obstacles.
I love to swim! I may be a novice swimmer, but I enjoy it just the same. It’s a great quiet time for me. I actually listen to music, or pray while I’m swimming. It allows me to think about trying to reach for the prize.
Recently, I was thinking about Michael Phelps‘ swim coach, Bob Bowman, and how he has understandably put Michael through some trials to train him for the many adversities that might come his way. He was quite successful at doing this. I was also thinking about Hebrews Chapter 12. Both of these things got me to thinking about a similarity between our Father in Heaven, and some great coaches. The similarity of how they discipline…or train us for adversities of life.
Discipline is not always pleasant, but if one trains hard, with their “coach”, then they have the potential to become stronger…bringing about great joy. For Michael, he has become the most decorated Olympian in history of any sport.
In my case, I’m not training for Olympic history, but I’m training for an Everlasting life. I am hopeful that my new found joy will lead me to a greater intimacy with my Father in Heaven, and that will help me reach for the prize.
My pastor had a message a couple of years ago from Proverbs stating that “a friend loveth at all times”. Sometimes those friends have to love with discipline.
I know that others have tried to discipline me in a loving way, so that I may learn to make better decisions. More importantly, I know that they want me to experience the love God intended for me to know instead living in self pity (despair)…due to my past abuse. In knowing that, I will need to make sure that I have a good “assistant coach” (Earthly companions) that may be looking over my “workouts” to make sure I’m on the right pace. I may also have some questions about what “workout” will come next, or be the best for me. I may doubt their knowledge; but, those coaches, full of wisdom, will help guide me to reach the prize.
There will be times that I won’t want to listen to the “coaches”, especially when they are speaking truth. They will try to help me be better prepared for the race that’s set before me. They will tell me that there will be obstacles…even when I can’t see them coming. They will help me learn how to react and/or avoid them.
They will also help me to muster up the skills, and encourage me, to get ready to battle for any adversities that might come my way. I will need to wear good equipment (full armor of God), put my “game face” on (fix my eyes on Jesus), look at the game plan (His word), and really listen to my assistant coaches (Earthly companions) and Head coach (Christ). Together, they will try to help me put on the full armor of God as stated in Ephesians.
Philippians 4:13 states, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”! I know that I can win this battle and reach for the prize of Christ. It will take hard work from myself, and many; but, it can be done.
God can restore my hardened heart, and really strengthen me. God has shown me grace, mercy, and love, and in knowing this, I can become one step closer to being truly healed.
In order to be truly healed, my workouts will need to consist hard work & dedication. The desire to do better. Coaches that have great wisdom to share, and may be able to guide me. Their knowledge will better prepare me for the days that follow. I will have to allow them to do so, and not let my pride get in the way. I will also need strength and courage to love boldly-not just others, but myself. This will allow me to forgive, and be better able to focus on the prize.
I will be honest. It’s still hard for me to believe that I can be granted grace and mercy. I constantly forget this idea, or block it from my memory. Thank goodness God does not forget, and He places others around me to remind me of His grace, and to lift me up when I feel down.
In essence, I am just a beginner swimmer. I have not totally learned to submerge myself into His healing waters. I must learn to dive off the starting blocks to get a great push forward. It will help me to swim as fast as I can to reach for the prize–Christ who strengthens me.
I know that I might get disqualified along the way; but, the good news is that I can start His race over. God is very patient with me, and never gives up-even when I think He has.
Trying to swim hard to reach for the prize! †
Are You a Question? Be an Exclamation!
This past weekend I went to Waco, Texas to visit my oldest at Baylor University. We went to visit her church, Antioch. The Senior Leader, Jimmy Seibert, asked the congregation this crucial and “radical” question, “Do you go around wearing a question mark, or an exclamation?”
Pastor Seibert says too many of us go around wearing a question mark. He says we spend a lot of time wondering… “Who is God? Who am I? Where am I going?”
It’s true! I often wonder these things myself. I wonder who I am in relation to God. I wonder who or what does the relationship involve, where is the relationship going to take me, and how will I get what I want?
Guess what? God has a plan for me. Instead of worrying about being a broken person, and rather am I worthy of His grace, I need to focus on being transformed from the inside out.
In Psalms it says not to worry because at the end of the day…God is in control! When I doubt myself and I question God, then I am putting something or someone else before Him. I lack concentration. In essence, it’s like I become ADD in looking for Him. [No knock to ADD because I truly have it.]
So who is God?
I loved what Pastor Seibert said, “Who’s the final authority? Let it be Jesus…because in the end it will be Him anyway.”
The whole congregation laughed, but it’s true. HIS GRACE ALONE SAVED US!
“For by grace you have been saved…” ~ Ephesians 2:8
Like Saul/Paul, we are blind in our own chaos. Fear is not spoken from the Lord. We don’t suffer apart from God. He suffers with us! God wants us to see and understand that concept. He wants us to know that within our own broken lives we are a treasure. We are God’s treasure!
You see, God reveals within us our question mark that is so easy for us to wear and often worn; BUT, if we allow Him, He will change it into an exclamation…an exclamation for Him.
Who am I?
I am His beloved! I am adopted and loved by God! Yes, we all have family problems. Some of us have our fair share; but, when we are adopted by God we move from one family into another family. We move into the family of God.
Sometimes we act like we are not adopted; but, through Jesus we become “joint heirs” to the family of God. We have a great inheritance! Christ is the One who has vested great interest in us, and died for us so that we could live.
We are born again and made new in His image. We are no longer chained to the past…to our family mistakes. So stop walking around with a limp, and get into the real spirit. Start with walking from a place of victory—walking with Christ Jesus!
Where am I going?
I am free of my past. My past, heinous secrets were getting me nowhere; but, through Christ, I’m free! God brings about a conviction within me to confess my very sinful nature, and then be able to “move on” through the love of God. Satan brings about condemnation. There is no condemnation in Christ who strengthens me—just forgiveness!
Now, I seem to be moving at a snail’s pace; but, I’ve begun to inch forward since learning this revelation. His desire for me is to know Him and to glorify Him. I find it funny that he knows us more than we want to know Him. He does know the desires of our heart. He makes a point of this.
After beginning to understand some of these questions, I should live life with a new purpose. My purpose should be to know Him with all my heart and all my soul. My desire is to know and understand Him. Through His grace and love becomes the reality of my faith and hope; thus, learning I have received His grace despite my past. I know that I have not received grace on my terms; but, His. He loved me and showed me grace before I was born.
I should no longer wear a question mark. I am not my own; but I am free to glorify Him. He will lead me in the way I should go. I should follow Him with exclamation.
Don’t be a question mark; but, be an exclamation…an exclamation for Christ!
“…and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’ ” ~ Romans 15:20-1
Strength to Carry On
I have been thinking, and trying to pinpoint, on how to express myself on the particular topic of strength. Some kinds of strength are good. After all, it is a reflection of God Himself, and He said this is a good thing. But, I think some strength, if misused, can be hurtful. It does not have to necessarily have to be physical strength (like tackling someone to the ground); it can be as little as a look of disapproval.
Certain strengths have the potential to become an intimidating misuse of power over another person. I think it is important to know, that if gone unnoticed, strength could get out of hand and end up hurting others (like a form of bullying). My disclaimer is that I have taken part, and we probably all have taken part in a misuse of power some time or another. I myself can be rather dominating and/or manipulating. It is a control thing. It’s the power within me thinking that I can fix things on my own…instead of truly turning things over to God. I have finally realized that can become a misuse of power that I frequent.
I think that it is God’s desire for us to use our positive strength to lead our families; like the Sanctus Real song says, “To stand up for them when they can’t”. To be a wall…a somewhat pillar of strength. God’s own characteristics include strength & tenderness; respect & forgiveness through His grace & mercy. Only God can be the true judge of our life.
If we are truly made in God’s image, then we must have a desire to gain those characteristics—to be strong and loving.
There is nothing wrong with being physically strong, if one acts in an appropriate manner. I guess I am trying to say that maybe a better strength to “workout” for–would be the strength that comes from the heart. Reading the Bible, worshiping, taking part in a community are all great ways to strengthen your heart.
Strength looks different for different people. It could be a silent strength, verbal strength, strong- heroic type strength, being protective and gentle for the abused, or even having the strength to be humble.
In Genesis, we find out that Eve was very manipulative. Granted, she probably could not have wrestled Adam into eating the apple; instead, she used her verbal strength and tempted him in this way. Although, Adam had been informed of this particular tree prior to Eve being created; he chose to remain silent, or passive. Adam could have spoken up and said something to warn Eve about not eating from this tree. Eve obviously did not understand the importance of not eating the apple from the tree. She insisted, to Adam, that the serpent was telling the truth…so they ate from the tree, and we know the rest of the story.
Eve using her verbal strength to tempt Adam led to his passiveness…which led to other problems; for instance, violence followed once they began procreating. This violence started between brothers and definitely became a misuse of power and strength. I believe many have seen this kind of power misused at some point in their life. This type of strength does not discriminate!
I also believe that we have the capability to misuse our own strength of power at times. We are all sinners! An extreme misuse of this strong power can be destructive for all involved.
So why do people misuse their power?
Maybe their “good” strength was ignored, or shamed, by someone. Maybe their insecurities lead to their downfall. Maybe wanting the other person to change encouraged manipulation of others…which is a misuse of power.
I am guilty of this sin. My idol of controlling outcomes of others is one of my gross misuses of power.
God was proud of Jesus. He claimed Him as His son, and said He loved Him. Affirmation is really important! Although men and women like different kinds of affirmation, that does not mean to ignore each other because of the differences. We all feel that we don’t measure up. We are all insecure at one time or another—made vulnerable. For some, the vulnerability might come from past abuse; belittling could be happening presently. Finally, some are scared of what the future has in store for them. Will I be made fun of because of my lack of _?_ (fill in your own blank).
Abuse is a type of strength that is blatantly misused. It comes in many forms. It could be words spoken, or not. It could mean being aggressive physically, or passive emotionally (not being protected). It could be getting fired for something that one did not do—maybe simply because you’re too old. It can also come as sexual abuse. This type of abuse can have many levels of abuse: from harsh words spoken to the extreme of being beaten, or even worse things that I don’t really care to mention.
Sometimes rather than being a strong leader, we give in to our fears and insecurities. Sometimes, we are just plain jealous of other’s strengths. I know this all too well. Sometimes, I am more concerned about what people think of me, rather than worrying about how I am alienating God. I also get caught up in wanting something that I really don’t need and may want to coerce someone out of it…or want them to give it to me. It doesn’t have to be a material object; it could be as much as wanting protection, love, and respect.
When a person lashes out physically, or verbally, they feel as if they have some kind of strength (or power); but, in essence, it is not genuine strength. It is hurtful, and it might be considered bullying. Again, this could stem from their own insecurity or weakness.
This is not always true; but, some may have a deep rooted insecurity that they may not even be aware of within themselves. I will say nothing really justifies bullying, or being manipulative of others. It is very hurtful to those that are on the receiving side.
Loving accountability must take place to help achieve the goal of healing from misused strength. This can be done through community; such as with a church, some peers, or a strong group of friends. Loving accountability must also take place to help one not to misuse their “weak” strength. Both types of accountability need love and encouragement.
I will say that pointing out the misuse of power of another will usually not help. Often times, it will make things worse. Learning to love boldly would be most helpful in this situation. Dan Allender uses an example of telling a story/example so that another may see their misuse in character. It’s like a mirror; thus, one could see the reflection of their action. This may allow them to see how they are truly behaving.
The act of “loving boldly” does not always work. One may have a change of the symptom, but not of the heart. To love someone boldly takes some practice. For one thing, the mirror would have to be turned one self first before reflecting the mirror on the other person.
Good strength, or power, can lead to good things. Just look what Christ did for us so that we could live. It took great strength, courage, and forgiveness to be able to do what He did. I could never really fathom what He did at all. It was the greatest heroic act that has ever taken place.
Knowing that there is freedom in Christ, the heart will need to go under a complete restoration. One might begin with being less self-centered. I struggle with this quite often as well with many other idols. I may think that it is all about me. How I am feeling? I may not always take into consideration how the other person may be feeling, or what pain I may be causing to them.
One thing that needs to take place for restoration to occur may be admitting that a change needs to take place…especially in one’s heart. If you can’t admit your weaknesses, it will be almost impossible for restoration to take place. Blaming others will not make a change in the heart.
Now some may say that the other is too sensitive. Of course there may be times when one can be too sensitive. If others continually make others feel that they are too sensitive; then, it’s possible that the weakness of the one pointing out may hurt others.
Now a misuse of power can take place within one self. One can blame them self or have a self loathing of self due to guilt and shame. All of this can lead up to the misuse of power within one self, and will usually get worse.
There will be times that one may tell their self that another person may be the problem, and that the other person needs to get the help. This could be an excuse which seems to cover the true problem…maybe the problem is within them. Literally, the misuse of power can’t be seen by the person abusing it.
Surrendering and/or confessing your misused strength to Christ is essential. It is important to acknowledge what you have done to hurt others, and it is important to ask God for forgiveness; but, it must be sincere.
When talking with another be genuine, and give many details. This allows the other person to know that one is truly sorry. Being humble is good when it’s sincere.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Luke).
Let God love and forgive those that misused strength. His grace and mercy should be all consuming. One must accept the fact that God can use a restored heart to further His Kingdom, despite one’s weaknesses–past or present or even future.
Again, responsibility and accountability should take place. This is one of the first steps to restoration of misused strength. It is not just enough to say sorry; but, to truly understand why. To tell the other that one is sorry, and act upon it, is a great strength. Those that take responsibility will take their consequence and learn from it to become a restored person.
Now understand that restoration may not always occur; but, when one realizes their sinful nature, the process can begin to take place. One must learn to put off “your old self” so that one can “put on the new self. To know that we are created to be like God”. (Ephesians)
God wants to bring true healing; but, it can’t happen without humility. If one continues down the wrong path they might become self-destructive, or may be the root of someone else becoming self-destructive. Being humble does not mean to let others run all over them; but, to just stop misusing the strength that God has given.
One must become totally broken and surrender to Him. God is for the brokenhearted and He will make the heart new. We are sufficient in His grace, and He finds strengths in our weaknesses; thus, we will be given strength to carry on. The kind of strength to carry on restoration due to grace, love, and humility.
“…but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” ~ Isaiah 40:31
We will have the strength to carry on…with the Son, and through the Son. Power will be given to the weak, and make us strong!
When Did My Faith Become Real?
When did my faith become real? I believe receiving faith is never-ending; therefore, my faith becomes more real with each “real” season I experience. I recently told a friend that my current season of tribulations was like a bad reality TV show, and that I sincerely hoped that it would not be picked up for another season.
All joking aside, one of the worst trials I have ever had to go through was when I was a child. I was sexually abused. That terrible season has left many battle wounds and scars that still have not completely healed.
That experience led me to live a life that was not always conducive to spiritual growth. I lived in fear of others…especially men. My relational skills were lacking, and thus my communication skills followed suit. Because I let my anger get the best of me, I became one who began to contribute to the pain of others. The pain I caused was mainly due to my own selfish idols, and of my own making.
I was like a horse wearing blinders. I could not see the pain I was causing others because of the pain I harbored inside, or even the pain I was causing myself.
As a result of my past abuse I have carried a backpack full of idols, pain, and fear. I lack self confidence. I am a skeptic when it comes to thinking that my Father could give me the grace of forgiveness that I so desire. Even though I did not wish this abuse on myself, in the back of my mind I always wonder if I deserved it.
My husband, Sam, has explained his take on the situation. If I had gone into the doctor’s office to get a physical, and several days later I got strep throat…did that mean I wanted to get strep throat? Of course not, nor did I expect to get it. Strep throat causes many to become quite ill. In fact, I usually get a headache and nausea along with it–making it a triple whammy! Under the circumstances, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I never asked for the strep throat, and I certainly never asked for the abuse. My friend described the abuse like an illness that was given to me. I couldn’t help it! It was given to me. I was so very young, and the abuser had no right to pin the abuse on me as my fault. To threaten me with harsh words, and fists to body…warning me to never tell or he would beat me up. No child deserves to be treated with such disrespect. To be made to feel like scum, and then told that no one will ever want them because they were tainted.
I believed him!
I have always wanted to run in a race; but, definitely lacked the passion to train. Trust me, I am no runner. When I was at Baylor University I was on the track team; but, as a javelin thrower. Running was definitely not my forte. In fact, one year I did not qualify in the javelin for the Texas Relays, so I had to run the 10K. It took me an hour and six minutes to run that race. The man who ran the half marathon passed me up. BTW…now I would be lucky to walk a 10K.
Now I am remembering that I have this awfully heavy backpack, and I am thinking how do I run with a heavy backpack? I see the military, or fitness gurus running with heavy loads to train; but, I don’t want to train with a heavy backpack. I am not a fitness guru, and I definitely don’t want to train with a heavy load. It would be extremely hard!
So how do I lighten the load in my backpack? I have carried the load for many years. I have become quite attached to my many idols, and I don’t know which ones should stay or go.
Then my Heavenly Father suggests to me to give Him my backpack. I asked Him, “Why do you want my backpack?”
He answered, “Because, I love you, and I want you to run to me. I want you to fix your eyes on Me. I have made a promise to carry your heavy burdens, and I want you to run the race that is set before you.”
Okay, so even if I were to give Him my backpack, how would that help me to see Him? How would that allow me a clearer vision to be able to run to Him?
I know now that I lacked a true passion for recognizing my Father, and his promise that He made to me. I lacked faith and hope in the words He was telling me to obey. I must really enjoy my bad reality TV show because that’s where I was headed…back to “seasons gone bad.”
I tried to focus on Him; but, I could not see Him at all. I only recognized my stepfather, and all of the horrible things he had done and/or told me. He was no father to me. He did not protect me, or love me. I became scared…so much so, that a couple of times during the race I considered suicide as an alternative to facing my fears. Truth is, my own hindrances of my own idols were causing me to lack the faith I needed to run the race…to run the race with patient endurance.
I wanted to hurry up and train for the race my way. I wanted to be in control. In the back of my mind I wondered if I could run the race by myself? Did I really need my Father? Could I train without any help, because asking for help might mean I was weak? I certainly did not want to look weak and unworthy to anyone. I mean my stepfather did say that no one would want someone as worthless as myself. I wanted to believe I could prove my stepfather wrong.
I learned quickly that training, and running alone, did not seem to be working for me. Training by myself, I noticed that I seem to fail every time. I was extremely out of shape.
I wondered do I really to need the “Author and Finisher” of my faith to help me train for this race? Does He really know what path to take to get to the finish line? Would He really be the only One who would be able to keep me from “jumping the gun” at the start of the race, and would certainly keep me from facing disqualification? Would He do this for me just because He loved me?
I had to really dig deep inside to see what I really desired. Did I want to continue carrying my heavy backpack, or give it freely to Him? My faith was lacking; but, He told me, “Come ye who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” He was telling me to cast my burdens upon Him, and He in turn would help me cross the finish line so that I could rest. I definitely need rest. I look horrible!
With His help, I found the faith, hope, and strength to go the distance…even when I could not always see the finish line. I knew that I would be able to reach the prize–which had already been fulfilled by Him. I knew that He would give me rest.
I have decided that my faith in Him should not be just wishful thinking, but having a true passion; a trusting confidence that His promise of grace is for me–despite my past secrets, my present idols, or my future mistakes. Through faith, God’s grace gives me freedom to be me—broken and scarred.
So when did my faith become real? Every time I step out the door and experience various seasons. Just putting one foot in front of the other, and walking out the door. Now that’s having real faith to me!
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen.” ~ Hebrews 11:1