Exercising opportunity, rather than my excuses

Over the past few months, I’ve been putting a higher priority on exercise. It’s not some New Year’s resolution that started early, or an attempt to lose weight. It was a desire for my body to feel more energetic and healthy. In the process of writing a Bible study over the past 18 months, I’ve set in a chair for hours on end! It’s not something I’ve ever been used to. And my body was feeling the effects.

It started with a few minutes on the elliptical at the YMCA, and maybe walk a few laps on the track afterwards. That first day, I was toast after 15 minutes on that machine. And I was embarrassed. Not due to judgmental looks of others, but my own realization to how out of shape I had gotten.

After a few weeks of hit-and-miss workouts, I decided to run a little after the elliptical. It felt so good. To stretch out my legs and find a rhythm, even if it didn’t last long.

This past Sunday, after a little nap, I woke up to a text from a dear friend. She had gone for a run. We’ve been holding one another accountable, and I felt the encouragement to not sit idle on the couch after my nap. So – the shoes went on and out the door I went. While on this particular jog, a few things really stuck out to me…

Excuses. “I woke up Sunday morning, still feeling ‘off’. I’m still not feeling 100%. But it’s Sunday, a day of rest! I wasn’t planning to run today.” Excuses. Reasons are not going to get the results I desire – a healthy body that feels good. And there is no way to get around excuses, but to put forth the effort with a ‘want to’. Wanting the results more than wanting (or living with) excuses.

Comparison. This 39-year-old mom, is not a 17-year-old cross country athlete any more. It is unfair to compare my body, and what it can do today, to my body 20+ years ago. It was exciting to have the realization that I was running again. (With no expectation attached.) It was a relief to know that it’s okay for me to not be able to run 8 miles without a hitch, and be gratefully proud of the 2 miles I was pushing so hard for now. Accepting myself, right where I am today, was powerful. Knowing that it’s not a competition between the 17 and 39-year-old, was a gift. It was about being the best reflection of who God created, in that moment. Letting go of that comparison, was freeing.

Opportunity. With warmer temps, I ran outdoors. (Self-proclaimed cold-weather-weenie.) I could have chosen to live with the reasons and sit on the couch all afternoon, but I chose to run. Had I not made that choice, I would have missed an incredible opportunity with the Lord and His creations. As I crested a large hill, and felt the urge to walk, but encouragement came. I witnessed an eagle hunting in a field, just a few yards away. It was magnificent. With some holy experiences, the details are meant to be kept to ourselves. This was one of them. Had I not gotten up off that couch and taken a step, it’s likely this encounter with God would have been missed.

I do not wish to live with my excuses and self-comparison. Instead, it is my desire to live in the opportunity to experience encounters with others and Creation. We can choose results over our reasons. What’s holding you back? What is one step could you take, today?

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“He gives strength to the faint
and strengthens the powerless.
Youths may become faint and weary,
and young men stumble and fall,
but those who trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not become weary,
they will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31 (CSB)  Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

 

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Posture

When I was a kid, my mom would often correct my posture. I must have been walking hunched over, because most of those memories of her comments take place as we walk across a parking lot. As a kid, it was just annoying. As an adult, I know it’s important and can affect my whole body. The posture of our body can also speak volumes to others, body language. Crossed arms over my chest, and I’m probably not being very open to what others are saying.

I know posture is important, and I know that it can tell a lot about a person. What then, is my posture to the Lord? That internal posture. Am I closed off and withheld, arms crossed in defiance or anger? Am I soft and moldable, or dry and brittle? Am I open and available?

I’m learning that when I feel as though God is far away, I am not posturing myself towards him. I’m not leaning in, or doing so with a hard and reluctant heart. Scripture has hints tucked within, addressing posture towards our Creator.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Psalm 81:10 (ESV, emphasis added)

That’s a promise; open wide! “For He has satisfied the thirsty and filled the hungry with good things.” Psalm 107:9 (HCSB)

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as a for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1-5 (ESV, emphasis added)

I’ve found that receiving words (Prov. 2:1), comes with open attentive ears and willing hands to receive what’s being given. It may sound funny to have open ears – my kids would argue their ears are always open. But I beg to differ. I know there has been more than one occasion when I ignored that inner voice, Holy Spirit, nudging me along.

An inclined heart (Prov. 2:2). Here, the Hebrew word for inclined is nâtâh and it means to stretch or spread out.[i] The way I understand this, as it relates to posturing myself, is being able to take my heart and spread it out before the Lord. Vulnerably stretching it out for him, through prayer and scripture. Leaning in to Him with a heart that is willing to hear, heal and grow. Nâtâh my heart.

With a heart stretched out, I must also keep my eyes open. Seeking and searching. And like the promise in Psalm 51 with an open mouth, Proverbs 2:1-5 carries one too. Posturing our hearts, with an attentive and open ear allows room for understanding the fear of the Lord, and knowledge of God.

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“Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast sure love for David.” Isaiah 55:3 (ESV)  Photo by Natalie Collins on Unsplash

Posturing myself towards Him not only requires a willing spirit, it requires trust. Am I willing to trust the Father with a surrendered heart, open and stretched out? Posturing myself towards Him, am I willing to receive what He has? 

I want to encourage you to take some time – What is our posture towards the Lord? Keep your eyes attentive to what scripture says about our posture towards Him. Softened hearts, stiff necks (which is not so great), and listening (or not listening) ears are tucked into all of scripture. I’m convinced that the Lord speaks to His children, He is the good shepherd (John 10). Are you postured to hear and see him?

 

[i] A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 2, p. 78). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Glory Beheld, Glory Given

What do you think about when you hear the word ‘glory’? What about ‘God’s glory’?

Really. Take a minute – What do you think of?

Glory can carry a sense of renown or fame, praise and worship, brightness and splendor. That’s a broad range. Glory can be used to describe God, but also to worship Him in the sense of giving Him glory.

In the Old Testament, God’s glory appeared to the Israelites on their journey in the wilderness (Exodus 16:10) and in a devouring fire upon Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:16). In the New Testament, God’s glory shone as the shepherds received word of the King’s birth (Luke 2:9). Jesus was also described as being God’s glory in the flesh, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Just as God’s glory appeared to the Israelites, I believe it can be seen today – every day. When the sun rises and sets, painting the sky with irreplaceable beauty. I believe it’s an expression of God’s glory. “You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.” Psalm 65:8.

There’s something about God’s glory that intrigues me. Perhaps it’s because, for me, glory seems to be something that’s impossible to grasp and fully understand. It’s something that can be seen, but challenging to embody with just words. It can’t be contained, except by one – The Lord. He is glory.

But not only are we able to witness God’s glory, we are also meant give God Glory. “Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory! Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory! Rise and shine and, give God the glory, glory, children of the Lord!” I’m guessing by the second exclamation mark, you were singing. Do you remember this song from your childhood? (If not it’s okay, a quick google search will get you there.) More than just a children’s song, it’s what we are created to do.

“I will say to the north, give up, and to the south, do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:6-7

Even the heavenly hosts give glory to God. In Luke 2:13-14 the heavenly hosts shout and reveal God’s glory, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”

Glory is something to behold and witness; and glory is something to give away, to God.

Praise is powerful, and just like the heavenly host it’s one way we can give God glory. How might you behold and give glory to God this day? It doesn’t have to sound like a chorus of angels, what matters is where that glory is directed. Rise and shine!

Lord, how may I glorify you today?

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 “You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.” Psalm 65:8.  Photo by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash

 

 

 

A Surrendered Sheep & Shepherd

For five years now, around the New Year upon request, the Lord has given me a word or phrase to focus on. I’m not legalistic about it, just attentive to the possibility of a word from Him. However, each year it becomes something that really guides and directs me, and usually it becomes pretty obvious why.

For example, one year it was the word ‘steward’ or ‘stewardship’. There were multiple possibilities and focuses as to what I was ‘stewarding’, such as family and relationships, work, our farm, etc. But in a major hardship that year, it became obvious as to why that word would be my guide. I was learning to steward something that wasn’t mine. I had to trust God, be obedient, and then let go.

Over the course of several challenging months, I chose to ask God, “Would you help me to steward this (situation) well, Lord? I need you to guide me.” No matter what the outcome, I desired to keep watch over what He had entrusted to me. I was a sheep asking her Shepherd, to help her be a shepherd.

It’s an interesting thought, to be both sheep and shepherd. We are all following someone else, as a sheep would. In the same respect, we all have someone following us, which puts us in the position of being a shepherd. Clear as mud?

Our Messiah, Jesus, is a perfect example for us. He is both the spotless lamb (1 Peter 1:19) following the will of our Father, and our shepherd (John 10:1-18).

In order to be a sheep we put ourselves under the authority of another, for example – God. As a sheep, I listen for the voice of my shepherd and trust his leading. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3) If I don’t listen, I’ll for sure get lost and start listening to something or someone else.

As a shepherd, I don’t wish to lead people astray. It’s being intentional and honoring with what God has entrusted to me. Therefore, I must be attuned and listening to God, aware and purposeful.

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“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3) Photo by Pawan Sharma on Unsplash

This year, my word has an associated phrase – surrender (to God), and give Him glory. At first I didn’t think they were so closely tied together. They seemed like two separate, yet semi-related ideas. Over the past several weeks, I’ve been on a mental journey in respect to surrender. The glory bit came latter. I’m looking forward to more understanding as to how they fit together.

At first, I tried to shake-off this word ‘surrender’. Who wants that one?! How about joy, gratitude, or maybe even patience. Patience is at least a fruit of the Spirit! (Galatians 5:22) But I’m grateful for this challenge. After wrestling with ‘surrender’ for a few weeks (that’s a funny thought), I’m finding this act increases comfort and trust in God. I’m discovering that surrender requires a lot of letting go, and while uncomfortable, it feels good. There is also a beginning realization that by surrendering, it allows room to bring God glory.

How about you? Is God placing something on your heart right now? Something to focus on, guiding you through this season or this year?

With Gratitude, Amy