Have I Done Enough?

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

It’s not how you start the race that matters, but how you finish.

Scripture of the Day:

1 Corinthians 9:24

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

Leaning over and stretching, I looked at the entrance to the race with a side glance, as if to hide the fact that I was examining it. Had my training been enough? What about those days when I opted to eat chocolate instead of training on the treadmill? (There’s that chocolate appearing in the blog again).

“You can do this”, I told myself. Ugh, but I really didn’t want to. I started to contemplate why I signed up for this race in the first place, and so began the battle of the mind as we all took our mark.

In preparation for the race, earlier that morning my dear hubby thought it would be kind to make me a three egg omelet and grits with a banana. * Gulp. * One egg is usually my limit, but I thought I needed energy for the race, so I obliged and stuffed my face. It’s all about the carbs, right? Later he asked if there was any breakfast left. *Oops.* No wonder it was a three egg omelet – we were supposed to split it.

As we drove to the race, my tummy and I were not feeling in the running mood, if you know what I mean. Now back to that starting line. “Pace yourself”, I coached myself. “Don’t worry about everybody passing you when you are slower than everyone else around you”. Self-talk was starting to get me pumped up. I had enough fuel to get through this race, just needed the right attitude.

The blaring sound alerted us, hearts pumping, that it was our turn for our feet to slave away at the pavement. “Why, oh why am I doing this AGAIN?” Focusing on my first benchmark, I squinted between drops of sweat and thought I was probably already to a half mile. Suddenly, I really felt like I was going to hurl. Desperate for a quick exit, the 30,000 people surrounding me made it seem impossible to find a place to puke.

Note to self: “Don’t ever eat a 3-egg omelet with grits and a banana before a race again”. “I can’t do this”, I started to fill my mind with a doubtful mantra. Just then, my husband tapped me on the back. He was following me still, urging me on. Seeing my misery, he encouraged me to keep going.

Pressing on in my misery and panic, I furtively looked for places to hurl, but found none. At each mile marker my husband somehow appeared, dancing and rooting me on. He had not even trained for this race, and he was whooping me?! I started to wonder if he had a sinister plan with the 3-egg omelet he had prepared that morning just for me.

By the grace of God, I finished, but it wasn’t pretty. My husband sprinted the entire race ahead of me to encourage me, but I was feeling mighty inferior.

I learned a lot that day about perseverance, and yes, I ran that race again, but I avoided some of the mistakes I made before.

The lessons learned in a race impact all areas of life. The tasks God calls us to – will we work at them and complete them, or give up part way through? Will we prepare and be in the Word to enable us to do the work of God, or just randomly serve?

This question asked at the beginning of today’s post echoes in the corners of my mind. Have I Done Enough?

As a parent – have I done enough? As I prepare to send another child to study on campus instead of at home, I wonder, have I done enough? Will he be able to stand against temptation and run his own race?

As a child of God, have I done enough? Has my heart burned with the passion of sharing God’s love with the world? Or have I focused on being comfortable in this temporary world?

We are all in a race, but often get caught up in life’s hectic distractions and forget what matters most. That glorious finish line will be worth it. Our burdens and the difficulty of the race pale in light of what God has in store for those who run this race all for His glory.

Like the race I ran that was full of challenges, life is rife with hardship, temptations, and battles, but there are encouragements along the way provided by God to spur us on.

It is not those necessarily those who start well who win the race, but those who are consistent and finish it well. Stay focused and stay faithful. It will be worth it in the end.

Lord, thank You for your grace to run the race of this life. Give us Your perspective and help us to not lose heart. Be glorified as we run for You.

Truthful Tuesday: Relying on our Reliable God

Reliability of God.jpg

Inspirational thought of the day:

Whether or not God give us what we want, His character and faithful promises testify to His reliability at all times.  

Scriptures of the day:

Isaiah 45:19

I have not spoken in secret, in some hidden place. I did not tell Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain!’ I am the LORD, the one who speaks honestly, who makes reliable announcements.

Isaiah 43:12

I have revealed and saved and proclaimed– I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God.

The well-known game of “Trust” in which you close your eyes and blindly trust someone to catch you has been used many times as an illustration or object lesson to demonstrate surrender in a tangible way.

The thing is, people let us down and sometimes we trust only to have people break that trust. As time goes on, we learn to diligently guard our heart but can also begin to get a hard heart that does not let fallible man in.

Jesus did not entrust himself to man, yet He made Himself vulnerable to sinful man and died for him.  He chose the route of humility and unconditional love for a stubborn people who could never return such love on their own.

God has made it obvious that He keeps His word.  He went to extravagant measures to tell His people ahead of time what He was going to do. Every prophesy foretold – fulfilled. Radical deliverance from the parting of the sea to fire from the sky.  Yet His people still doubted.

As a parent, it would hurt deeply if my children did not trust me or my heart toward them. My desire is only for their good and blessing.  What must it do to the heart of God that the people He lavishly chose and called into relationship with himself do not trust Him, despite Him giving His Word and Holy Spirit?

When people promise us something they never fulfill, we have a choice to love and forgive like God did for us.  We fail God over and over again.  Yet He remains faithful.  His example and His Holy Spirit can enable us to be reliable to those around us and help us to rely on Him, as well.

Lord, help us to rely on You at all times instead of trying to find solutions to life’s problems on our own.  

A Season of Thankfulness: Day 5 – Nothing is Wasted

Ecclesiastes 1:8-10

8 All this monotony is tiresome; no one can bear to describe it: The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear ever content with hearing. 9 What exists now is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing truly new on earth. 10 Is there anything about which someone can say, “Look at this! It is new!”? It was already done long ago, before our time.

If this world is all we have to live for, perhaps Solomon’s insight would ring true, but not so for the believer.

To a parent changing diapers and attending to screaming kids with snotty noses, seemingly mundane chores become a holy work, changing our character and molding us into His image.  Selfishness is washed away as we are absorbed in the well being of others.

To a farmer striving to yield a bountiful harvest yet confronted with the brutal realities of drought or a flood, reliance on self dissipates and a dependence on the God over all becomes paramount.

To the family head, struggling to make ends meet, waiting for the next paycheck or provision to come and overcome by bill collectors, faith begins to blossom in the midst of hardship.  Insight is formed, revealing that provision was not to be chased after in the first place.  God is our Provider.

To church leaders dealing with complaining sheep, their work becomes a holy endeavor as God changes their heart and perspective toward the people God calls them to minister to.  They discover that this calling is for God’s glory and not their own, not about them at all.  Offenses are dismissed and concern is raised for the offended one, instead.

To the sick who wonder if God cares at all, He shows the need for spiritual healing and uses the affliction to draw us nearer. He becomes our comfort in the midst of pain and humbles us to depend on Him.

To the wounded, broken heart, shattered by another’s sin – God sees you.  Even this is not wasted in His hands.  Instead of death, if we hope and wait on Him, He will turn our greatest sorrow into a thing of beauty.  Suddenly our eyes are opened to realize that a human being was never supposed to be our joy or our life.  Hoping in fallible humans is idolatry and temporary, but hoping in our living, loving God is eternal.

Everything is vanity apart from God, but everything done in Him has a purpose.  All of the wearisome repetitiveness and burdens of this life are working something great for those who will see more deeply. Thank God that we serve a God where nothing is meaningless and nothing is wasted.  He uses it all.

Solomon was the wisest man and yet he chose women who ultimately turned his heart from God and cursed the next generation.  Big consequences for someone who had allowed his blessings to become his snare.  Boredom replaced gratitude and awe over all that God had provided.

Mundanity has its purpose, after all.  Satisfaction was never meant to be fulfilled completely apart from Christ.  In the endless pursuit of meaning and happiness in a world that could never deliver that quest, we finally end up at His feet, where we were always meant to be.

Lord, all of the tasks, burdens, joys and sorrows are ultimately serving Your purpose in our lives and in this world.  Give us Your eyes and understanding and the wisdom to walk and chase after You, not the things of this world that always disappoint us.  Thank You for being our sovereign God who wastes nothing.

The Purpose of Giving

Photo Credits: mschristianliving.com

Photo Credits:
mschristianliving.com

2 Corinthians 9:11-12

You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous on every occasion, which is producing through us thanksgiving to God, 12 because the service of this ministry is not only providing for the needs of the saints but is also overflowing with many thanks to God.

It feels good to give to others. Knowing that we can make a difference in someone else’s life is rewarding, but isn’t the motivation of giving. Nor should guilt over blessings in our lives be a reason, either. No – giving, like every other aspect of our lives, is for God’s glory.

To think that thoughtfulness toward another can result in praise to God humbles me. So many times I have been concerned with self and my own provision and missed opportunities to bring praise to God. When my kids and I were on our own, the need was so strong that it hurt. The sting of being alone and seemingly forgotten while others around us had all they needed began to engulf me. Looking back, God gave grace to be others-centered at first. As time went on and circumstances were dire, however, I began to forget that focusing on other’s needs was where my happiness and joy lay.

Sometimes a shift can happen without our realizing. We might have had a good foundation of generosity, but when troubles abounded, our vision became blurred. Giving can easily become a checklist and a burden instead of a privilege when we forget that our God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and wants to take care of us. His care is not so we will be lavish and spoiled, but so we might help others, too.

When we choose to give despite knowing we have unmet needs, God is glorified. Who knows what our help can mean to another person? It might be their very means of grace for salvation or give them encouragement in a dry season, culminating in thanks and worship to God. That is what the purpose is in giving – helping others, which results in God receiving glory and gratitude.

We each takes turns in this life – helping others and being helped.  Like washing one another’s feet, giving can be a beautiful act of service and a testimony for the world to see.

Lord, help us to see giving as being agents on Your behalf.  May we never forget the generosity of your free gift of salvation and be motivated to serve others from that place of humility, all for Your glory.

Thoughtful Thursday: What It Means To Follow Jesus

Job 23:8-12

“If I go to the east, he is not there, and to the west, yet I do not perceive him. In the north when he is at work, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I see no trace of him. But he knows the pathway that I take; if he tested me, I would come forth like gold. My feet have followed his steps closely; I have kept to his way and have not turned asideI have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my allotted portion.”

1 Corinthians 11:1-2

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.” 

John 10:27

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

1 Peter 2:21 

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

Job says he does not see God, nor what He is doing – yet he has followed Him closely.  How is that?  How are we to follow Jesus when our experience of Him has been in faith?  Job understands – He followed God before Jesus came.  We follow God after Jesus came.  Both are in faith.  We were not there when He rose from the dead, nor when He walked among man, yet today we can hear His voice and follow Him.

His voice might not be audible to others around us, but to our souls it is clear.  God speaks to us directly to our spirit, through other people and through His word.  Sometimes it is when we least expect it and other times when we are seeking Him it seems hard to hear anything at all.  In either time, it is our will that is set to do God’s will that makes all of the difference.  When God seems silent, like Job, we can admit that we do not see His activity, but trust that He sees us completely.  Job obeyed God and he treasured His word, even when the chips were down.  That is what it means to follow God.

As a parent, I hope more than anything that my children will see that my love for God is genuine.  How will this be evident to them, that I am a follower of Jesus?  They see me seeking Him daily, but they also need to see the hands and feet of Jesus, lived out in me.  They need to see integrity and selflessness, they need to see character.  These attributes cannot be faked or put on – that would be religion – they become part of us the more time that we spend with Jesus.

When troubles come as they did for Job, people need to see in us that we are not a sunshine follower, but a follower and believer in God in all times of life.  Following Jesus includes following Him into dark valleys, trusting that He will use those places of suffering for our good.  He was acquainted with persecution and hardship, in fact He chose to walk that path.  We who follow Him must be willing to follow in all aspects of life.  When we are afraid to follow, we can ask him to give us courage and strength to do so.  Our following might not look perfect, but that is where a true follower acknowledges their faults and glorifies our perfect God in those moments.

Seeking to honor God with our lives and letting others see Him through us is our goal, but we are often wandering off the path and do not perceive it.  I am so grateful that God sees it all – His Holy Spirit reveals when we are off track and need reminders.  If we listen to that inner voice and choose to obey rather than just go our own way and rationalize, there is the sweetest peace and fellowship with God that beats by far following our own way.

Lord, help our lives to be hidden in You.  May our relationship with You inspires those who come behind us to know You, worship You and seek You fervently.  Your way is perfect – help us to follow You even when we do not understand.  

If the words of this blog have ministered to you, perhaps the songs I have written will, too.  Learn more at: http://www.pledgemusic.com/seeingdeep.  Thank you and God bless you!

Thankfulness: Joy in the Humility of Gratitude

Photo Credits rootedforlife.wordpress.com

Photo Credits
rootedforlife.wordpress.com

Numbers 11:1, 4-6, 10, 18-20

1 When the people complained, it displeased the Lord. When the Lord heard it, his anger burned, and so the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outer parts of the camp. 4 Now the mixed multitude who were among them craved more desirable foods, and so the Israelites wept again and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now we are dried up, and there is nothing at all before us except this manna!”  10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and when the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly, Moses was also displeased18 “And say to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, and you will eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat, for life was good for us in Egypt?” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat. 19 You will eat, not just one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out your nostrils and makes you sick, because you have despised the Lord who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we ever come out of Egypt?”’”

As a mom and chief chef in our home, I feel the sting of this one.  Slaving over the stove to provide tasty meals, sometimes the creativity runs low.  But the attitude of gratitude is what the recipient should bear when provided with food.  God provided the food for them – they merely had to gather it.  But that was not good enough.  Ouch.  We can easily get spoiled when our needs are provided for.  When things come easily to us, we contemplate the value and wonder if we could do better.  Maintaining thankfulness takes effort.  It takes humility to understand what we really deserve instead of thinking we deserve better.

Moses was very humble – more than any man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3).  He was surrounded by complaining yet lodged none of his own, well, except for having to lead the complainers themselves.  This is also something I have seen as a parent.  Loving parents tend to want to make their children comfortable.  But too much comfort leads to idolatry of that comfort and the flesh is not pleased when comfort is removed.  How do we treat such whining?  When tempted to complain we can always consider one less fortunate, but perhaps beyond consideration should be action.  Serving someone who has less would help produce a humility and take the focus off of ourselves.

Another aspect of our humanity is comparing – thinking that the grass is greener on the other side.  For the Israelites to say it was better to be enslaved than to follow God and be provided for by Him is a slap in the face of our LORD.  But do we do the same thing? Somehow we think earth should be like Heaven and when hardship happens or someone else is blessed more than we are, discontentment can grow – if we let it.  Back to the example in my own life.  One of my sons was not fond of split pea soup when he was a toddler.  So, much like the Israelites who consumed manna daily, he had split pea soup every day until it became his favorite.  He learned thankfulness and to appreciate what was given to him.

The parent/child relationship serves as a great analogy in my life when trying to understand why God our father would be offended over our discontent.  The hurt of sacrificing for another only to have it poorly received is painful.  If I am willing to examine myself, I can see where seeds of dissatisfaction are sown in my life, too.  A migraine kept me from blogging earlier today – crippled with pain, I first complained about headaches but then thanked God for medicine and a wonderful husband who made me soup.  Medical or household bills can be a source of a disgruntled attitude on my part, too, until I thank God that we have physicians.  As we are nearing the celebration of Thanksgiving, and in everyday life, may we turn the discontent in our hearts around into a praise instead.

Lord, forgive our discontent and lack of thankfulness.  Help us to trust Your provision and to recognize the everyday graces you bless us with and to have an attitude of gratitude and humility all for Your glory!