Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Finish the Race"

I finished my first official race recently. It was a 5K run/walk… I was walking of course. Running is NOT my thing. It has been a huge goal of mine since January of this year to do this. I wanted to prove to myself and be a testimony to others, that “I can do anything with God’s help.” It may not be a big deal to most, but this was a HUGE accomplishment for ME!

I’ve struggled with an autoimmune disease for the past 6 years. It is a disease that affects my muscles. At it’s worst I had trouble swallowing, talking, walking, lifting things, and seeing. The disease weakens every muscle in my body when it’s not under control. I have struggled with these symptoms and more in variations off and on for the past few years. With medication and lots of prayer, it has been under control for the most part. However just a month and a half ago I was in the hospital for a week because of a “flare up.” Some of my old symptoms decided to come back out of the blue to torture me.

No matter what I struggled with symptom-wise, my eyes were set on FINISHING “the race.” I trained the best that I could. Sometimes exercising can make things worse and sometimes it makes things better depending on the day. I spent several months in preparation for the “big day,” not really knowing if I had in fact prepared enough. My goal was to COMPLETE the race and finish strong!

I felt an overwhelming flood of emotions on race day. I was tired, nervous, excited, anxious, proud, and uneasy all wrapped together. The one thing I wish I would have had with me was a walking buddy. But Jesus was with me. As we walked, He reminded me of how far we had journeyed together so far in this life. There have been a lot of ups and downs for me, but He has always been my constant faithful friend.

The race starting line was jammed full. There were wall to wall people. The place was packed with all different ages decked out in their racing attire. The people pushed in at every side waiting with anticipation to begin. It felt like a corral of wild horses about to be released as we started. When the countdown was completed, it was every man for himself.

As we walked you could hear music along the way… small bands were stationed along the path to encourage us. There were signs posted to show us how far we had gone and how far we had yet to go. The streets were filled with people cheering everyone on and encouraging the tired. They were the military, students, grandmas, police officers, mom’s and dad’s. We even saw some “elderly” street belly dancing. I’m not sure that motivated me… but it did bring a smile to my face.

When I got tired, I stopped for a pit stop… a short break to catch my breath and be refreshed. We were given cups of water and sent on our way. The encouragement increased as we reached the end. I’m not sure why, but knowing I was close to the finish line made me pick up the pace. I think it was the idea that it was almost over that propelled me. I pushed through the pain and meditated on the fact that I was a “walking miracle.” Without God’s help, this wouldn’t be possible!

When I crossed the finish line, such a feeling of relief and pride filled my heart… “I DID IT, with God’s help. We make such a good team!” What a sense of accomplishment to know that I finished the race I set out to and I finished strong. This race reminded me a lot of another race that is talked about in the Bible. It is found in …

Hebrews 12:1-2 (MSG)
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever.

And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (MSG)
“You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally.”

“I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.”

We are all in a race… a race toward heaven.
Make sure you are headed the right direction and you are on the right path. There are those ahead of you cheering you on and those behind you following your lead. There are signs to show you where you’ve come from and where you have yet to go. People are pushing in all around you as you journey. Be strong. Push through the pain and link arms with Jesus. He knows the way to the finish line. You can do it! Finish the race and finish strong!

Living to leave a legacy!

Monday, May 9, 2011

"The Game of Life"

Have you ever played the game of “Life” before? It’s an oldie, but a goodie. For those of you who have never played, this is how it works. Each person is given a little car with one stick person in it… YOU. You travel around the board facing the ups and downs of life at every turn. You never know what will happen next. You are rewarded for the good things and penalized for the bad. The goal is to be the first person to make it around the board and to the end.

Recently I played this game with a bunch of elementary age kids who had never played before. It was very entertaining. One boy didn’t like the game so well. Just after a few spins, he ended up with a wife and two sets of twins. He was given a job that didn’t cover his bills and he kept having bad things happen to him that emptied his bank account. Needless to say he wasn’t happy.

Have you ever felt like “life” had dealt you a bad hand? It hasn’t turned out the way you expected it would. We all have our “ideal plans,” but detours tend to come along and mess them up. That pretty little picture we have painted in our minds can get a little distorted after awhile when we face… unexpected health issues, cars break down, family members pass away, jobs fall through, babies surprise us, taxes are more than we thought etc... When “Life” happens, it can become overwhelming at times.

The object in the game “Life” is to make it to the end. The same is true in real life. Don’t let the circumstances you may face in this life cause you to give up all together. God has a plan. He wants to walk through all of life’s difficulties with you and carry you if you can’t go on. He is ready and waiting for you to call out to Him in your time of need. Instead of running away from Him, try running to Him. When life starts to feel beyond what you can bear… hold on!

Matthew 11:28-30 says it perfectly.
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." (Msg)

We will all face difficulties at some point in our lives. It is what we do with the detours along the way that makes all of the difference. It’s all about our attitude. No matter what we face in life, we have a choice. We can allow it to make us bitter or better. If we let it, good things can come from the bad we face. If we let Him, God will use the circumstances we face in life to help someone else. If we choose to allow the circumstances we face to make us bitter, it only hurts us and will become like a poison eating us from the inside out.

Positive results can come out of some of life’s hardest moments. It is sometimes in the midst of our darkest hours where we truly see how strong we are… inside and out. It is during the times that we run to God that our faith is strengthened and our anchor is fastened tightly to Jesus. Difficulties, hardships, trials, and struggles… WILL COME. Have you had the chance to discover what you are made of on the inside? Facing difficulties can help us really see how strong our faith is in God.

James 1:2-4 says…
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows you its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (Msg)

I read a story recently that inspired me… it tells of a woman who chose to see the positive in her circumstances no matter what. Check it out…

“Shirley is a woman who won’t let her disease beat her. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, Shirley went from an athletic and active life (she was a piano teacher and a Bible teacher) to lying in bed with only the use of her right hand and her mouth. For a time, she continued to teach Bible studies in homes with the help of a specially designed car. When her body no longer allowed that, she became a phone counselor for a TV ministry. When her voice grew weak, she took to writing hundreds of notes of encouragement each month.”

Shirley wouldn’t give up no matter what happened to her. Wow… can you say that about you? No matter what you face, do you keep moving forward? Have you looked for the good in your situation? God will use the bad experiences we have faced as a tool to help inspire someone else to keep going. You will be their inspiration!

Is “Life” becoming overwhelming for you? Are you feeling burdened down and you don’t know what to do? Run to God, He will give you strength. Are you ready to give up? Don’t, God has a plan. You faith is growing stronger each day as God is giving you material to use to inspire others on their journey. Don’t let the circumstances of life consume you, use them as a tool to impact your world for Jesus.

Living to leave a legacy!