Monday, September 25, 2017

What Are You Running To?

Although I like to exercise, variety in the fitness routines helps me to stay diligent. Walking, Weights, Bicycling and Running are done each week in turn.  Running offers the best physical benefits, but in the summer it is the most challenging exercise. 

Recently it was the day set aside for a run.  It takes planning and preparation to get a run in before work, but this was the day.  As I left the driveway, it began to sprinkle raindrops. Knowing it would be easy to turn around and not go, I pushed on. It was also very humid out and the excuses to not do it drummed loudly in my mind.  This time could be spent doing something I loved, or just enjoying a free hour. But then the benefits of the run would not happen, so I made the choice to keep moving and to go forward. The run was a struggle, it was hot, humid and I knew I wouldn't make it to the appointed distance.  A church sign was ahead and I told myself, just get to the church and you can turn around.

Smiling, that sounded something that has probably entered many people's mind on Sunday mornings.  Have you ever thought about going to church but then began to hear excuses like..."It looks rainy, we may as well stay home. There isn't enough time to go to church and also do what needs to get done, besides, this is my only day off. It's hot, uncomfortable, I have to get dressed to get out...."  We all have.  But just like for my run, a moment will come for the decision to be made to either turn back or move forward.  Great benefits are reaped or forfeited through that choice. 

In fitness, running is the most difficult exercise in my routine.  It stretches me, takes more energy and can be hard. I get sweaty and nasty.  But the feeling of accomplishment once that decision was made to continue on is worth it...every time. Running is something that affects my entire body for good.  My heart, oxygen and muscles get great benefits. Strength and endurance are tested and increase. These benefits last throughout the day and exhibit themselves through energy and an overall feeling of good health. It is definitely worth the effort! 

Beyond the decision to attend church is ultimately the choice of how to walk as a Christian.  It is the decision to follow the Lord, to obey His commands, to live a life exhibiting His principles of loving others, sharing, caring.  It is living a life that points to Jesus. It looks different from the world and will call for difficult choices. There will be planning, preparation and time set aside to be filled with the Spirit through prayer and reading God's Word. We are called to love God and to love others. There will be obstacles and a choice that must be made, push on or back off. But just like the church sign I was running to, be encouraged to keep moving. It may not be as far as you had planned, but keep going. Push through and keep your eye on the goal - to love God and love others.  However hard the struggle was, it will be well worth it!

Monday, September 18, 2017

What Isn't Blown Away, Still Stands Firm

The entire state of Florida was recently affected by Hurricane Irma who blew through with force and fury. Some portions of the state were flooded, some experienced destroyed homes, many experienced loss of businesses and possessions and most of the state went without electricity for several days. This massive storm affected a vast amount of people in a variety of ways but each one no matter what level of impact was felt, will never forget Hurricane Irma.  Most of our county was out of power, gasoline to run generators was scarce, grocery stores were closed and our roads were busy with evacuees escaping the storm. 

Immediately following the hurricane, people began to assess the damage. In our area, we were blessed and thankful the damage was not too extensive. There were several downed trees and many landed on homes. It will be a great challenge for those who must face repairs and clean up but it is also a comfort to know they will not walk the journey alone. 

In our little town, a crew of volunteers began to clear the roads as soon as the winds passed. They removed trees from the roads to ensure safe passage. Family, friends and neighbors checked in with one another.  Strangers asked one another if they had needs that needed to be met. Local churches made plans to receive disaster supplies of water, food and other necessities. Hot meals were provided by those whose power came on first, along with offers for those still in the dark to come and shower, eat or simply charge their phones. These acts of concern and sharing put love at the forefront.  It helped ease the load that could quickly become overwhelming.  The focus of many turned to helping one another.

Our home did not sustain any damage, just lots of tree limbs that fell and other yard debris.  As I spent a day raking up the small sticks, leaves and moss which covered the ground I pondered how the wind of the hurricane blew them out and left standing a strong tree with a strong trunk and healthy leaves.  

Sometimes a storm does that in our lives, it blows out anything unnecessary and exposes a strong base.   How quickly our lives can accumulate 'clutter'.  Attitudes, worries, stress pile up so quickly and it takes energy to sift through just to survive our daily routines.  When a storm comes, it usually demands attention.  We focus on the matter and the needs directly in front of us.  That clutter that wasn't important is immediately cleared away.  Through Hurricane Irma, the basic needs were survival and helping one another, all other things swept away and our focus was on the good of others.  

As our area will never forget Hurricane Irma, the storms of life will often stay with us.  There are some times in our life we will never forget. But as those trees that are still standing strong, so our lives that are tried and tested can stand strong knowing God is our foundation.  Through the storms of life, He is still in control.  Unimportant things may get blown away and we may feel like things are out of control. But as we turn to God, seek Him and hold on to His strength, our lives are made stronger. 

May we be encouraged before the next storm comes, get rooted in the Lord and in His Word.  Pray and become comfortable talking to Him as a loving Father. When hard times come and we cry out for help, it is a great comfort and strength to know our Father in heaven hears and is able to answer. 

"For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit." Jeremiah 17:8

Monday, September 11, 2017

Remembering the Storms, Rejoicing on the Other Side

September 11 is a day every American remembers. It is a day with images forever burned in our mind of tragic and devastating loss. The day brings vivid memories of details such as "where we you when you heard the news?"  We can probably all recall what we were doing when we heard our country was attacked and the feelings of helplessness and fear that gripped our hearts.  Through the years those who were lost are grieved over daily by their families and our country continues on with the day to day lifestyle. But on this anniversary, we stop and reflect on what was lost and embrace the grace that brought us through. 

For our family September 11 is also a day of remembering. It has been one year since our middle son was involved in an ATV accident on that day. Recalling the day, I can remember where I was, the exact words I heard telling me he had been in an accident, the feeling of immediate fear and helplessness.  

It is also a day to remember grace.  God graciously protected our son and spared his life. Later when we heard the extent of his injuries which we were told he was a breath away from death, our hearts overflowed with thankfulness and praise. 

As we look back over the year of crisis, we can now see more clearly than we did in those first few days. Sometimes when crisis comes, it blindsides us and we simply do what it takes to survive.  Last year at this time, I'll never forget arriving at the hospital to see our son on the stretcher, bruised and bleeding. The next few months were a flurry of rest, healing, doctor visits and constant care. Each day was a gift to cherish and be thankful as we began to see improvement.  Now a year later, he is whole, healthy and healed. 

As I write this, another storm is coming.  Her name is Irma and she is plowing through our state. I'm posting this early because we may not have electricity tomorrow.  But we are trusting the Lord in the midst of this storm as well as the storms of life.  Storms will come in and out of our lives, but it is vital to remember that they don't stay forever. The effects may linger, but we continue walking through them.  There is something good on the other side.  As we remember 9/11, we cannot help but remember God's great grace. It enables us to go through the storms and comforts us in the midst of them. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

People First, Phones Secons

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Selfies are defined as "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media."
The definition I looked up also added this quote -"occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself everyday isn't necessary".  Can I get an "amen'?!!

'Back in the day' when I was younger, cell phones and selfies were not around...thankfully!  I love photos and when the selfie craze began, my children were too old to want to take pictures with me and I was getting too mature to take too many pictures of myself.  There is a balance to everything in life and in the selfie spectrum, it could be aligned as taking enough selfies to share your life with friends and families but not to overload them with them constantly!   

This fabulous book I'm reading - "Calm, Cool and Connected" which becomes available this week, shared some powerful thoughts on 'how to notice others in a selfie world'. What do you think of this quote..."Society would benefit from a non-selfie movement of people who focus on others online. Technology can be well used to leave a legacy and to invest in people and causes you believe in." 

Although I"m not one to do many selfies, a recent need for a social media appearance for a work related project had me scurrying to the restroom to fix hair, replace lipstick and make sure my appearance was up to par. There is nothing like being 'on camera' to instantly turn the focus to self.  

Even what was supposed to be a quick family selfie to celebrate a milestone in our son's life turned into a repeated photo session simply because I didn't look my best!

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The picture turned out great, but the moment was lost through the focus on self.  

As Christians, we are called to be others centered.  Turning attention to others takes practice and intention. It calls for observation, to pay close attention to others and to listen whole-heartedly. With some determination, even social media can be used to bless and encourage others. Instead of some of the negative emotions it may draw out such as curiosity, comparison, judgement we can use words to bless, encourage and support.  

Selfies are here to stay and I love them!  But may we be encouraged to do a quick glance at our self and linger long at others. Remember, people first! 

Friday, September 1, 2017

September Hope

It's September 1st which probably ranks as one of the most favorite days of the year for me. I LOVE September, even typing it out makes me smile!!You probably are wondering what makes this month so special, but there isn't really a reason.  Crazy huh?  Both sweet hubby and myself have birthdays in September, but we don't celebrate all month!  No other special things occur in Septemeber, but I think it is the home and promise it holds that makes me smile.

In the deep south, we've hit the 'dog days of summer'.  It is hot outside.  Not just hot, but miserable hot.   Hot, Humid and Hazy has been the weather forecast for months now. 'Cool' weather is still at least a month away, but September marks a glimpse that fall is coming. Oh, how I love fall!  Pumpkin everything, cooler weather, more outside time, time to bake, long sleeves, apple cider are some things that I'm looking  forward to. I can't see it or feel it, but I know it's coming!

Hope is kind of like that.  There is something in each of us we long for or look forward to. Capturing a glimpse of it brings hope to us.  Focusing on it, brings purpose and anticipation. While we wait for it to come, we are excited and eager. Then once it arrives, we are ecstatic and fulfilled. 

My hope for fall is a sure thing.  God the Creator ordained the timed and seasons.  Faith kicks in when it is understood this is a sure thing. Sometimes we gamble on our hope, we might long for and hope for something not sure or true and experience great disappointment.  Where we put our hope is vital.  Hope in God   True hope is something that should not waver, because it is rooted in the faithfulness of God. Only when we look to the truly firm foundation for living -- Jesus Christ -- will we find a hope that can anchor our souls. 

Here are four practical steps you can take every day to build a sure foundation of hope that will carry you through the storms of life:

  1. Submit yourself to God. God is the source of our hope. Come to Him in humility and He will restore you (1 Peter 5:6-7).
  2. Strengthen your faith. Allow God's previously fulfilled promises to renew your hope. God has given us written record of countless ways He has provided hope for believers in centuries past. Look to these marvelous accounts for renewal (1 Chronicles 16:11-21).
  3. Trust God's timing. Sometimes God answers our prayers and fulfills our hopes quickly. At other times, for His own divine reasons, He allows us to wait. Remember, it was through faith and patience that Abraham's hope was fulfilled.
  4. Thank God today. Though it's arduous to rejoice as we wait for hopes to be fulfilled, rejoicing enables God to perfect us in ways we are unable to see at the time. And this kind of hope, purified in the crucible of waiting, and sometimes suffering, "does not disappoint" (Romans 5:1-5).
Hope makes my soul alive because God is hope.  One of my favorite verses reminds me He is the God of Hope.   Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

Happy September to you!  May this be a month full of joy, peace and hope for you!