Archives

All posts for the month August, 2017

Just Do It!

Published August 30, 2017 by Dawn

My friend, Jordan, is an inspiring runner. He recently told me the story of his first run. He said, “I was horrible at it … but I went home and told my mom, ‘This is what I was made to do!” He said it with what I can only assume was the same ecstatic expression his mom saw that day. He’s been running ever since. He knew the second he tried it out in middle school that he had found the one thing he was created for.

I was not born to run. I had no such epiphany. My first run, I fought back vomit as I cycled through the first step of a couch-to-5k program, trying to maintain a steady pace for thirty seconds before slowing to a crawl for two minutes. I was mostly sedentary and I’m not even sure why I started running. Oh, wait, I remember! My sister was taking some class in college that required her to run and I joined her out of sympathy. I didn’t want her suffering alone.

She quit on me before her course was even over. I quit when winter hit. At that point, I was up to running six minutes at a time, still fighting vomit because I only got to walk thirty seconds in between. It was awful.

The next spring, or five months later – I’m not sure which is a more accurate statement – I started back at square one with the couch-to-5k program because I realized that of all forms of exercise (you might call it “self-inflicted torment), I preferred the one that got me out of the house and had a constant change of scenery. A year and a half later, I am a runner. I can run miles at a time without feeling the need to vomit, and I feel stronger with each run. I take a day off here and there to give my muscles time to heal, but I run most days of the week. I haven’t lost much weight, but I have trimmed down. My eating habits have improved a ton, and I can stay awake for an entire day without gluing my eyelids to my forehead. I am no longer battling depression and sometimes, I can even laugh at a lame joke.

I was not born for running. I had no intention of becoming a runner. I just wanted to be healthy and this was the way that worked best for me. It took a lot of grit (and gritting my teeth). I have had to run through rain, run through pain and run in defiance of what I otherwise felt compelled to do (which is sit on the couch and take the rest I felt entitled to). But I am better for it. I am happy, healthy and capable of so much more than I previously allowed myself to dream.

On the flip side, the first time I read a bible story, I fell in love. I knew in my heart that they were written for me. I was eight and I read the entire, ten-volume “The Bible Story” series before I turned nine. Then I started with volume one all over again. Our collection was missing volume four, so I missed all the stories about King David until I picked up my own Bible and read it through. I was fascinated. Curious. In love. And when I talked about them with others, I had the same feeling Jordan did. I was made for this.

Some people, though, don’t feel this way. The Bible is hard to comprehend. Dull. Dry. Lifeless. Reading it is a challenge. So much so that they turn away from it altogether. They would rather read a short devo, with one scripture to ponder and a page of man’s wisdom to go with it. It’s easier. It takes just a little bit of time, and an equal amount of effort.

I’m not condemning anyone, I simply want to be an encourager. Jordan will say to someone who is not a runner, “Try it anyway.”  And so I say: read it anyway. Press in. Do the hard thing. There are treasures in the Word of God I would have never found if I didn’t read it for myself. I have read many devos and they mostly center around a selection of well-known verses. There is so much more to be found! So much more that God can reveal to us if we faithfully immerse ourselves in His Word. It will take discipline. It will make us hurt, sweat, cry, vomit (maybe not that extreme, but stay with me). Anything worth doing is going to take some effort, and sometimes, a lot of effort. Do it! The Bible is full of rewards for the faithful person who sticks with it. In the end, we come out stronger, healthier, happier … we are able to withstand the fullness of a day and even endure things we weren’t able to before. The Word of God imparts wisdom and strength. It’s vital to our spiritual health. It enables us.

As Nike famously coined, “Just do it!” Pick up your Bible and read. Don’t set a chapter limit, just sit down with it every day and read it until the Holy Spirit gives you something you have to chew on for a while before it digests. Meditate on it day and night. Pick it up again the next day. Read more. Don’t quit. Create a habit of reading the Word of God and you will find it becomes easier until one day, you will crave it. A day won’t be complete without it. You’ll plan your day around your time with God. It’s amazing what a little determination and discipline will do. “Just do it!”

 

Advertisements

Fight The Good Fight for Your Teen

Published August 28, 2017 by Dawn

I’m a little scared. I’ve been a mom for fourteen years now, almost fifteen, and I have never been so scared of motherhood before. I don’t mean to freak any of you newbies out, but teenagers are whack.

I’m sure you hear all the time, “Cherish this time. It only gets worse.” You probably silently assure yourself that while their kids may have gone crazy with the onset of hormones, there’s just no way your darling little angels could ever be anything more than your sweet little lambkin.

I just want to cry for you.

I thought the same thing when my babies were little. How could these amazing, funny, adorable little bundles of joy ever be anything more than sunshine and smiles in my heart? I did not see this coming, and now I’m literally terrified. After all, no one ever tells you how bad it can get. They see the look of pity in your eyes and laugh, leaving you to your new-mom delusion.

It happened this summer. Don’t ask me what it is – my head’s still spinning. I didn’t see it coming. It just hit like a ton of bricks and left me dazed and confused, scared out of my mind. Teenage-hood. That’s a word, right?

I don’t think my prayer life has been this solid since the Holy Spirit began to woo me in my early twenties. I have not sought so desperately for God as I have begun to since this season of my life – this hurricane season, if you will – came on. I’m suddenly living in hostile territory, unsure of what I can or can’t say. Heaven forbid I breathe in my own home! I’m in a house under siege and my hands went up in surrender pretty quickly.

God, these are your children too, remember? Do something!

One thing has become abundantly clear: teenagers have to come into their own. They have to understand the world on their own terms, come into their own faith, have their own relationships and all the while, they push you away and reject your wisdom. It’s the scariest thing ever! To know that at any moment, your kid might make a decision that forever alters the course of their life. You might have to watch them walk into a bear trap without being able to save them. You might hear them questioning the faith they were brought up in. Who’s idea was this?! I think it stinks.

I mentioned my prayer life. My Heavenly Husband and I have gotten very close lately. I have become acquainted with a new level of parental fear and He’s my stronghold. My Rock. I am clinging to God.

Yesterday, I was reading my Bible and came across this amazing scripture that quenched my fears. “Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in His sight” (1Chron. 19:13). Immediately, I remembered a similar scripture in Nehemiah and flipped the pages to find it. In chapter 4:14, Nehemiah says, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

Don’t be afraid of them! Not your kids – I mean, of course, don’t be afraid of them either. No, don’t fear the devil in this. The hardest part about being a parent is having to step back and let your kids walk on their own. You don’t just experience it once, though. That lesson is physical first, then spiritual. It’s just as terrifying watching your kids stumble spiritually as it is when you watched their chubby little hands slip off the edge of the coffee table as their top-heavy body falls right into the corner of the table. You rush to their screaming, bleeding little bodies, scoop them up and sooth them. When they are teenagers, you watch your kids try to walk on their own and when they stumble, you rush in only to find them hardened against your compassion and you have to hold yourself together while they hurt at a distance. It’s horrific!

But we cannot fear Satan. We cannot give any room to the devil. We have to fight for our babies the only way that’s left: in our prayer closets. We have authority over our families. We were given authority when Jesus ascended. We can stand up for our children in prayer. We can demand the enemy cease and desist in their lives. We can pray in the spirit that the Holy Spirit convict them, steer them, fill them with discernment. This is battling when we feel our hands are tied and I know that this is sometimes the only thing we have left. BUT, friend, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They are mighty! We can use them to pull down strongholds, cast down all imaginations and everything in our children’s minds and hearts that are set against God (2 Cor. 10:4).

These wonderful verses encourage us to be brave and courageous. We must believe that God is hearing our prayers and we should be thanking Him even if we don’t see anything with our eyes. We must believe that God is doing what is good in His sight. More than that, we must believe that God is fighting for us. We must believe that just like Daniel, the moment we pray, the angels are dispatched to fight a war in the heavenlies on behalf of our prayers. God is the same yesterday, today and forever and we must believe that He not only hears us, He delivers our children in response to our prayers. Scriptures declare that angels guard them wherever they go (when they become teenagers, they tend to go a lot).

Most importantly, we need to remember our blessed promise in Proverbs 22. Verse six promises that if we ”train up a child in the way they should go, when they are old, they will not depart from it.” Satan, no matter what he tries, can never defeat the promises of God. They are yes and amen! This is a promise we parents can stand on when their walk takes them into scary, foreign places.

Be strong and fight for your families! God bless.

Proper Running Posture

Published August 27, 2017 by Dawn

Finally, a full month over my knee injury, I have begun to hit the pavement again on the regular. I take in a lot of literature on running, now that I officially meet all the requirements to call myself a runner:

  • Checking the weather for tomorrow’s runs today
  • Planning my day around my run
  • Having withdrawals when I don’t get one in
  • Walking around in my workout clothes as a way to make sure I get my run in (can’t change until it’s over!)
  • Eating conscientiously because I know that what goes in has to be run off later
  • Totally “getting” the running memes – they finally make sense

There’s a ton more, but that’s my list. Anyway, that part is not important. I’ve been reading the lit lately about proper running posture. Didn’t know there was such a thing? Me neither. But now I do. There’s a proper way for your feet to hit the pavement, your legs to push off, your arms to swing, your chin to tilt and your shoulders to lift. It’s crazy when you think about it, and at first, I didn’t give it too much thought. But then I paid attention to the foot strike and corrected it. Suddenly, running was so much easier! After a while, I took the push off into consideration and noticed myself feeling more powerful during the run, and less pain after, as I grew accustomed to running in the prescribed way.

Last week, I decided to attend to my arms and chin. I took a run last Tuesday and kept my arms swinging by my sides instead of across my chest/stomach. I was running, chin up, gently swinging my arms by my sides when I felt this pain in my upper back become very acute. It was a pain that had been there for years, often the source of all my back problems. Suddenly, I was super aware of it, but right when I might have stopped running, I felt a grisly pop just left of my spine and all the pressure I often feel in my upper back was immediately gone.

It’s been a week and I have not felt it since. That’s monumental. I have felt that pressure, and sometimes pain, for years!

Paul uses the runner analogy in scripture to talk about the discipline of a Christian. That we should be aware of ourselves, one would think, goes without saying. We should be disciplined in our actions and our words, as the scripture has revealed to us the standards that please God. Holiness is important to Him (Hebrew 12:14). But have you thought about your posture while running your race?

Just as in running, in your spiritual walk, your steps are important. Where you go and how you walk before others may be the only glimpse of Jesus others see. As Christians, we are encouraged to mind our footfalls. As we become more aware of our feet, we will find that our walk with the Lord becomes easier if we let Him direct our steps.

As we discipline ourselves in our spiritual race, we might initially find ourselves running more from our own strength and power, “pushing off” just any way that seems appropriate, but if we intend to stay in the race for the long run, allowing the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to teach us how to run properly will add strength and power to our race. When we live and move and have our being in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, we will find that though the struggle is very real, it’s not nearly as painful. We can be thankful in our sorrows and suffering because we know that we are growing in the Lord and He is enabling us to be more and more impactful to the world around us as He has His way in our lives.

I noticed this past week that as I focused on the way I used my arms while running, making sure to keep them at my sides and not swinging them across my body, I was in fact using less energy to run, and immediately, the posture of my whole frame was much more erect. I had a habit of keeping my head down while running, which I knew was a running no-no, but when I started to keep my arms in place, my whole posture took a new and improved form. It seemed easier to keep my chin up, my back straight and my legs and feet in proper alignment. In the spiritual sense, we should also be aware of how we walk in the newness of life that God gives. We so often forget that we have been adopted into sonship by our heavenly King, that old things pass away and all things become new, and we allow Satan to remind us of our pasts so mercilessly. We run our race with our heads down. We avert our eyes, insecure about who we used to be, even though Jesus died to make us new!

Did you know that crossing your arms across your chest is a sign of defensiveness? Why do we walk, or run, like this? Christians, though humble, should be able to be confident. Not in themselves, but in who they are because of Christ. We should be able to walk with our chins up, able to meet the eyes of others because we are the head and no longer the tail. Drop those arms to your sides and allow your posture to improve so that others will see that you are strong in the Lord! It could be that running with your arms in their proper position and your chin up cures a lot of things you’ve been struggling with!

Dear Lord,

Help us to see ourselves as you see us. The Bible says you are able to humble us, so please show us how to walk with a confidence in you that defies Satan’s constant barrage of torment. Humble us if necessary, but help us to walk in a way that draws men and women unto you. Improve our posture, Lord. Help us to be aware of how we run this earthly race.

 

Are You a Wedding Crasher?

Published August 10, 2017 by Dawn

“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:29-30).

I’ve been in four weddings, none of them my own. I have thus far only been a bridesmaid. I have always loved getting the call to attend the bride in some capacity, though one thing is always abundantly clear from the get-go: it’s HER big day. Her day. All that I did in preparation for each wedding was with “her” wishes at the forefront of my mind. I wore the dress “she” picked out, put on make-up, let someone else fix my hair how “she” wanted it. I loved every minute of it.

Each time I walked down that aisle ahead of “her” big moment, I walked next to a man “she” chose (or her soon-to-be groom, as it were) and stood where “she” wanted me in the front. I was simply there to see my beautiful friend get married to the love of her life.

One thing a bridesmaid knows (or should know) instinctively is that this day is not about “you.” It’s about “her.” Wedding etiquette might be a short list, but there are definitely a few things you don’t do:

  • You don’t wear white. EVER.
  • You don’t propose at someone else’s wedding/reception.
  • You don’t argue with the bride or groom … it’s “their” day, not “yours.”

John the Baptist used the analogy of a wedding to explain his relationship to Jesus when his disciples became concerned that Jesus was stealing John’s thunder. John simply said, in effect, “it’s not my day, it’s his.” All that John did in ministry was to point others to Jesus. His heart’s desire, and great delight, was for other people to be a part of what Jesus was doing. Everything John did was for Jesus to be noticed, loved, celebrated, etc. John knew wedding etiquette and he knew his place.

Proverbially speaking, John went down that aisle first, looking, speaking, and acting just as Jesus wanted him to. But he wasn’t the main attraction. He was simply the prelude. At this point in his ministry, this was the moment when he would have been approaching the front, stepping to the side and taking his position next to the man of the hour: the bridegroom.

I’ve never seen it done, but I’ve read horror stories of brides and/or their grooms being upstaged at their wedding. Unfortunately, some people can’t stand to be in the background. I found a group of such people as I read further on in John today. Chapter 11:47-48 tells it like this: “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

You guessed it … it was the Pharisees. The Chief Priests. A little to smug in their positions, they had forgotten their calling. You see, the Pharisees had taken pride in their positions, forgetting that they were called for one purpose: to draw attention to God. To magnify God. To exalt God. To lead people to God. They had a really hard time stepping out of the way so the Lord could have a personal relationship with His people. They upstaged the bridegroom, so to speak, and it really upset them when He tried to take his rightful place. They were afraid of losing their influence in society, their positions which had always made them feel superior to the people they ministered to, and all the finery that their position afforded them. They didn’t want to be servants, because that was too humbling. They wanted the center-stage with lights, and they wanted the love of the nation to bolster their pride.

Which are you: friend or foe? Do you live to make Jesus known, or yourself? Is the ministry God has called you to “your” ministry, or His? Take this test: if God told you to step down tomorrow and live in obscurity doing menial tasks in the church – or no tasks at all –  how would you respond? Don’t hide the truth from yourself, get real!

I believe we have to ask this of ourselves often in the ministry: what is my motive in this? Who gets the glory? If the answer isn’t Jesus, we’re not being a very good friend of the bridegroom. Our callings get us up out of the pews and a little closer to the limelight, but that spotlight isn’t ever for us. It’s to draw attention to Jesus. To direct the gaze of others to their beloved groom and watch in fascination and awe when their eyes meet for the first time. If we go beyond that, we have sinned greatly against our Friend, at the least. We may lose our position in the ceremony and be thrown out, if we aren’t careful! Take heed, and be a true friend of the Bridegroom!

A House Divided

Published August 8, 2017 by Dawn

“I hate your house. I hate the music you’re always listening to and the way I feel when I’m there.”

He dissed my music … and my house. And the atmosphere in my home. I could have taken this personal. In fact, I might have except … well, I know it’s a spiritual thing and I am not letting the devil bait me.

I bet you want to know who said it. It hurts me to admit it, but it was my son. He hates my home. He attributes all his anger, depression and anxiety to the atmosphere of my home. That’s how I know it’s spiritual.

Ok, let’s talk for a moment very specifically about what he hates. He hates classical music. The soothing music that is scientifically proven to de-stress you. He hates it. Or, my worship music. The music that brings peace into the chaos of my life. He hates it. Why? Because Satan is trying to cause a war in him and the music I listen to is quite literally an instrument of peace!

He hates constant singing. That’s what I do. I sing … a lot. Like, all day, every day. I also laugh a lot. I also like to make him responsible for his own messes and hold him accountable for his actions and his words. He hates that. What teenager wouldn’t?

He hates it when I talk to him and my words end up being something straight out of the Bible, because the best of my wisdom comes from the Word of God. I speak to my kids in scripture form a lot. He hates that.

Do you know why this didn’t hurt me? Because I know who “he” is, and it isn’t my son. You see, Satan hates all of these things about my house. Right now, he’s managed to manipulate my teenage son into believing that everything that “he” hates about my house is making my son miserable. Perhaps it is. After all, my son is in the midst of a great battle to figure out who he is. He doesn’t know which side of the fence he’s on just yet. I’m praying for God to woo him one way, and the devil is masterfully persuading him in the opposite direction. I’m not surprised … we all have this war at some point in our lives. We all have to come into our own faith because someone else’s relationship with God won’t save us. It must be our own. So we all have a crisis of some sort, where our foundation is solidified; just us and the Lord.

I’m surprisingly calm, right? Ha! Listen, I’ve had my moments of crying out to God. This all started when my son was eleven, almost twelve. The turbulence in his heart and mind became really violent. He began struggling with depression and anger. I took it to God in panicked, ugly-crying sessions, begging him to save my son. He spoke something that was so true, though hardly comforting: “Every warrior was once a boy in training. There’s a time of preparation for the man of God, and mothers don’t get to choose when they are ready. Fathers do.”

Dear Lord.

That was the day I handed him over in my heart. I tried taking him back, but sadly, he’s not mine to coddle any more. He still runs to me like my son, leans into my hugs like he misses being a child and invents reasons to need me. But now he fights, which is something I never saw coming. He’s an untrained warrior learning how to wield a sword and sometimes, it teeters in my direction. He’s not my enemy. He never will be. I know who the enemy is. No, this emerging man of God is a warrior learning the battlefield for himself. War hurts, and so sometimes, he hurts too. Hurting people hurt people. My son doesn’t hate me. He hates the confusion. The angst. The constant struggle inside. I get it! I hate those things too.

I guess I just wanted to share this with you because, well, parenting is hard. Peopling is hard too. Sometimes, waking up in the morning is hard. You feel me? It helps to remember that “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of darkness, and wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12).

Don’t take it personal, friend. At the end of the day, it’s not even about you. It’s about so much more than you. Pray for your loved ones. Give the hurt to Jesus and love them like you always have. They need your constant, unwavering love as a safe-haven in this war-torn world. Love is truly an oasis, even if they can’t always recognize it as such. One of the first things a warrior seeks out in battle is a safe place to duck into in case of an ambush. Let your love be that place.

Remember, friend, you are at war too. Only, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty! For the pulling down of strongholds, the casting down of imaginations and everything that sets itself up against the wisdom and knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:4). As our loved ones train for their own battles, let us look past their faults and see their needs. God bless!

God of the Hills and Valleys

Published August 3, 2017 by Dawn

“Afterward, the prophet came to the king of Israel and said, ‘Strengthen your position and see what must be done, because next spring the king of Aram will attack you again.’ Meanwhile, the officials of the king of Aram advised him, ‘Their gods are gods of the hills. That’s why they were too strong for us. But if we fight them on the plains, surely we will be stronger than they.”

“The next spring … the man of God came up and told the king of Israel, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord.’”” (1 Kings 20:22-23, 26, 28)

I was picking up around my room yesterday morning, and it was a rare moment where I really wasn’t fixated on anything in thought. My mind was quiet, which hardly ever happens. I’m glad it did, though, because I heard the Holy Spirit say something that I needed to hear, very clearly.

You over-estimate the devil, and under-estimate God.

It was a mouthful of something bitter I needed to chew on. The truth is bitter sometimes, you know. I was glad the Holy Spirit confronted me on this, even though in that moment, I was uncomfortable. I mean, I know my thoughts are laid bare before the Lord all the time, but sometimes, I put on a good enough front, I can even fool myself into believing I have rock-solid faith. It’s all a sham, I’m afraid. When the Lord spoke this to me, I knew instantly I had been called out on something He wanted to deal with.

I wrote it down on the whiteboard in my bedroom. I put my prayer requests on it, quotes I want to think about, scriptures that are doing a work in me … pretty much anything I need to ruminate on go on the whiteboard. I wrote this “word” down and went about the rest of my day, thinking back to it often because let’s be honest, when the Holy Spirit speaks so clearly, you know God is about to do some major work in you.

I sat down to read my Bible this morning and eventually ran into the above scripture, and recognized myself in it immediately. I think this is my problem: I see God as master over certain situations, but deficient in others. I also tend to look at the enemy in certain circumstances and immediately give him the victory in my heart because I’ve seen him victorious before. I also worry a lot when I don’t see the whole picture, afraid that God is not going to prevail in things that are truly important to me. You see, I have designated Him a God of the mountains. I have come to expect the mountains, strive in climbing them, meet Him there, but then I descend (as we all inevitably do) into a valley and immediately lose sight of God because I believe Him to be up on the hill somewhere above me.

I don’t expect God to be with me in the valleys. I don’t carry with me the faith that He truly will never leave me or forsake me, even though He said so and the word assures me He cannot lie. In the valley, I am often defeated in my mind before the battle even really begins, and because of that, I cannot see the victories until I am up on the next hill looking backward. He hasn’t failed me ever, but I often feel He is failing me because I allow my abandonment issues to rise up and cloud my vision.

Add to all of this, the fact that I give Satan credit where none is due, and I can clearly see why the valleys seem so deep, dark and troublesome. I feel alone in a place I know the enemy is lurking. He’s got a plan and before he even begins to work at defeating me, I’ve raised my hands in surrender, trembling at the thought of what he’s capable of. I get my eyes off the Lord because I don’t trust Him to truly be with me and deliver me. In my heart, I have believed that God is not God of the valleys.

Just like the prophet said, the enemy is preparing for battle all the time. We need to muster our courage, check our defenses and strengthen what remains. We need to strategize and have a plan (it’s not hard … my plan is to rely on God and see His victory!). We need to stand up and face life head on KNOWING that our God is God in the valleys just the same as He is God on the hills. I probably don’t have to tell you that in this story, He reaped an awesome victory. He will do this in our valleys too. While our enemy may be encouraging us to see his own strength and to fail in our faith, God is lovingly imploring us with His tender gaze to TRUST HIM. He is no less God in the bleak days. He is no less powerful in the darkness or storm. He is no less loving in our struggles to believe. He is God who cannot change. The same yesterday, today and forever. He is for us. He is victorious!

Our God is God of the hills and valleys!