Slowing Down Makes Me Notice

map of 20km run

What I love about training for my first marathon is that the “busy-ness” of the 100km/hr life I lead building Lift Church and raising three kids slows down to 10km/hr as I pound the pavement in training runs 5 days a week. Recently on a 20km run from my house in Belmont down to Caves Beach, I observed many things I have never really seen before. I’ve driven and I’ve sat passenger in a car down the Pacific Highway many times. The magnificent views of the ocean and Lake Macquarie pass by in an instant.

I don’t notice the slight undulations of the road or the bumps and uneven bits in the grass. I take no note of the smells with my windows rolled up; nor do I contemplate the old houses and rusty mailboxes, wondering how long its been since they have opened for communication. Nope. When I’m riding in a car, these are merely background images racing past my subconscious mind, rarely ever making me glance twice.

Yet, when I’m afoot, looking down to keep my stride through the parts with no path, I notice them all. The RunKeeper updates in my ear saying another five minutes have passed give me pause to remember exactly where I am on the road…

I can feel the gaps between the wooden planks on the bridge. The aroma of meat pies from the Bakers Cottage in Belmont South contrasts the stinky fish being caught as I cross Swansea Bridge. I resent the exhaust from passing cars and relish the fresh outdoor fragrance of trees and flowers on Fernleigh Track.

I’m reminded like never before that God is alongside me. He is Omni-present. He is Omniscient and Omnipotent. He sees above and below, to where I’m facing and from where I’ve come. I think I’m in control, metaphorically marking out my steady path so I avoid disappointment and pain; but he already knows the potholes and wrong turns I’ll make. He is never disillusioned or disappointed in me.

He numbers the hair on my head and died for me before I ever lived. He knows the fluctuations of my moods and the uneven ways of my motives. Every step I have taken and every one I’ve yet to take are ordered by him and I don’t even notice most of the time. I’m passing through this life, all 37 years, with speed and persistence as if I have somewhere important to go. All the while, he’s alongside me, patiently holding his hand out for me to slow down and consider his ways.

I think I’ve noticed a slight rise in elevation as I approach Swansea Heads, clever in my mind at how strong I’ve become and how long I have run. I am surprised at the beauty; how did I never notice it before? swansea headsMy Father, in his glory, gently reminds me that he created those waves with the work of his mighty hands and the revelation is all mine. Nothing has ever occurred to the One is WAS, who IS and who IS TO COME.

I run and I wonder the story of the broken down shack, all tagged with graffiti and disregarded as refuse. broken down shackI think of my own life and the damaged places and wounded bits and rest in knowing my God still finds me useful and worthy of his love, despite the scars.

No matter what rocky path might come my way or what heartache or tragedy takes my breath away, my God steadies me and secures my steps and my faith. For it’s not in the ground itself that I place my security. My assurance lies not in the width of my path.

swanseaIt’s in knowing the One whose

Faithfulness

Equals

Fidelity.

He maps my course and gives me comfort when the path seems too narrow and enmity enters in. He can calm a raging sea inside of me when I waver. He lifts me from the clay when I’m bogged down heavy and sets me on a rock, firm and surefooted again. His wing shelters me and his promises shift me toward everything I need and everywhere I should go. I only have to slow down to notice.

If you don’t know the God I’m talking about or have questions about your own faith journey, I’d love to introduce you to your Heavenly Father and come alongside you in your walk. Please contact me here.

What is Sinking My Boat?

who sank

Everyone knows a teeny little mouse isn’t big enough to sink a whole rowboat! But what if that boat is first filled with a cow, a donkey, a “fat-as-butter” pig, and a knitting sheep? The little mouse, last to get in, who was lightest of all DID sink the boat in the case of this adorable children’s book, “Who Sank the Boat?”

I wonder what the “straw that broke the camel’s back” looked like? It could sound like a crying baby after weeks of sleepless nights. Or maybe a teenager’s back talk on the heels of a stressful day at work? Maybe it’s the online bill paying when month after month there doesn’t seem to be enough money to make ends meet?

We can’t always predict what will cause us to feel like we are going to crumble. But, I DO believe we can work out some disciplines and boundaries that will keep us afloat even in the worst of times.

We must carefully ensure that the most important, “only-I-can-do-this” priorities come first. Only I can be wife to Greg and Mum to Brett, Sydney and Sammy. This means I can’t give so much time to friends, church members, social media, and working out that I suddenly have nothing left for the ones counting on me most.

Only I can be co-pastor of our church. That comes with certain restraints on my weekends and where I invest in relationships whether I like it or not. If you work, you’re the same. You’re not tempted to go to lunch with friends when you can’t afford it if you work every Friday. You’re unavailable! The weight of our responsibilities only feels heavy when we are spread thin and are weak in every other area.

So often, we can over-commit to pressures of life out of guilt or tradition (think family holidays) or even just disorganization. We forget to check our diaries when we say we are available to help a friend and realize on the day we have double-booked ourselves. The boat starts to rock.

Sometimes we fill our lives with things that don’t really add value. Then, when we look up at a commitment we really DO want to follow through on – like having new friends around for dinner or volunteering at school or church, it’s suddenly the despised one because it pushes us over the edge.who sank2

We have to guard our time and our gifts. Not every great cause deserves our money. Not every invitation deserves a “yes!” Instead of merely checking the time slot in your calendar when making a commitment, why not prayerfully consider whether or not that invitation keeps you on track with your goals and the other roles ONLY YOU can fulfill? Otherwise, when push comes to shove and space is tight, the loved one to whom we are responsible may not fit. We look up and wonder how the water started seeping.

Maturity in accepting our responsibilities and creating healthy boundaries comes with practice. Prioritizing takes organization and forethought. I love the encouragement James gives and I’m putting it into practice today:

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 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. James 1:2-4 (MSG)

 

Rub People the Right Way

shorts

One of the most annoying things about running long distances is the chaffing that can occur from clothes or other objects rubbing your skin over and over. I bought a very expensive sports bra last year that was cute and colourful; yet, after wearing it for my first 10km run, I realised the shoulder strap had one little spot where the overlap was rough and that tiny 2cm seam rubs uncomfortably the ENTIRE TIME. I have pushed this to the back of the drawer and only wear it on days when workout clothes make me feel productive even when I haven’t stepped foot out the door!

I bought some new bright orange and grey Nike running shorts recently when I was in America and couldn’t wait to wear them. I did a few shorter runs and they were fine. Then, one morning on a longer one, the seams between my legs suddenly felt two inches thick and I realized how course and bumpy they were as they rub, rubbed, rubbed my inner thighs all the way home. I had a scab mirroring minor road rash for over a week after that one!

So many times, something seems nice on the outside, even enticing (I mean who doesn’t love a hot pink and blue Lorna Jane bra?), but upon further investigation, it’s actually not suitable for where I’m traveling. If I’m pushing ahead, extending myself and actually going beyond normal expectations, something as silly as clothing takes on a whole new meaning. I’m no longer looking at it for its “cute-factor” or whether it’s the right size. Now, I’m looking deeper into its construction. Finding out if what seems right on the outside is actually good for me on the inside (of my armpits, legs, or foot). What might seem like a perfectly good pair of shoelaces, if laced up too tightly for several kilometers can cause a bruise on the top of your foot (that’s my most recent faux pax).

Our relationships work much the same way. Have you ever been around someone for a short time who was funny, interesting, and kind and then spent a little more time only to find out his humour is actually used negatively to insult or tear others down? She’s “interesting” because she knows all the latest gossip and is happy to share it. Or even her “kindness” comes with an agenda.

I want to be the type of person who, upon further investigation, actually looks and feels even better than the first impression. I want people to feel good after spending some time with me and I pray their experience of rubbing shoulders with me leaves them stronger and more like Christ, not down in the dumps, wanting to avoid me next time my number comes up.

I often say we become the people we hang around and the books we read. I encourage you to look at your friendships and ask yourself:

“If I keep running with this person, am I gonna be better for it or am I gonna have some scars and bruises?”

“Is my conversation life-giving and generous towards others, believing the best and seeing the positive?”

“Can I become more like Christ with each encounter I have, or am I being pushed away from God, my church, and other Christian friends?”

It’s the subtleties that make all the difference in time. Paying attention to our words and taking note of how someone affects us can determine our endurance level and strength. Take note when someone “rubs you the wrong way” because it may be your first clue to pick another partner to run with.

 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:28-30

Fasting Devotion, Day Twenty-One

Ephesians 5:25-33

What a great passage to reflect upon as Paul describes The Church, the Bride of Christ! He beautifully illustrates a spotless bride, prepared for Christ’s return. We know a woman preparing for one of the best days of her life, her wedding, goes to great lengths to ready herself. Head to toe, nothing lacks attention as she awaits the moment when everyone she loves will focus their gaze upon her. Her bridegroom waiting at the altar, glowing with anticipation and desire.

Each of us as believers have the honour of building the local church. The same attention a bride would give to her wedding day should be given as we represent Christ’s bride. He desires that his church is without stain or blemish. As we work in unity together, loving one another and serving selflessly, we prepare his church for his return. As our fast draws to an end, let’s continue to grow our relationship with God and endeavour to present his church beautifully, a bride worthy of our Saviour.

Dear God, you have blessed me with your word and revelation during this fast. Thank you for the breakthroughs and insight you have given me. Help me continue this journey of knowing you more. I pray for my church and my involvement there. I want to be an integral part of the thing dearest to your heart, your church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Fasting Devotion, Day Twenty

Numbers 11:1-20

When something hurts, our tendency is to do whatever we can to make it stop. When the pressure is on, we feel like quitting or turning back; we can lose sight of the reason we chose this path and easily look to where we came from as the better place.

Every time life was tough for the Israelites, they wanted to go back to Egypt. Distrusting of their leader, their anger brewed, and they pitied themselves. God would show up faithfully and provide a solution for them but it was never good enough.

Anything that is tough requires fortitude, an ability to push ahead, and not quit. Many of us have pressed through some difficult days as we have fasted over the last few weeks. God has shown up in those moments and given us strength to continue. As we move forward, let’s not forsake this daily time with God that’s like precious manna, our provision to move forward.

Discouragement will come and some days we feel like quitting. Oftentimes, we are in a full court press and our breakthrough is just minutes away. Promotion and headway comes right after the hardest part. If we turn back when the pain feels too intense, we will never give birth.  When faced with the impossible, it’s time to dig deeper with God, stay in the game for one more round, show up and trust him to come through.

Dear Lord, you ARE the great provider in my life. You never fail. I give thanks for everything in my life – every blessing, and even the difficult parts. Help me not to look behind me but to always press on. I know my future is bright. I trust you for daily provision and an outpouring of your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Fasting Devotion, Day Nineteen

(Post submitted by Pastor Greg)

Matthew 5:13-16

As our devotions and fast draw to a close, let’s not lose sight of what God is doing “in” us while also working “through” us. Jesus reminds us that we are to be salt and light to our world.

Salt flavours, enhances, and makes palatable the foods we eat. It is not intended to stay in the shaker; in the same way, we aren’t to keep what God is doing to ourselves. Rather, we are to influence the world around us.

Bland, tasteless living can turn into purpose, hope and freedom in Christ once our zest is spread around!

The warmth of light is soothing and comforting. It illuminates dark spaces and brings forth life. Jesus reminds us to let the light within us shine out so that others can find comfort, peace, and direction through Christ.

The more we grow in Christ and allow him to work in us, means Christ can be revealed through us to influence others. Imagine living in such a way that a beautiful, loving, gracious Saviour’s reflection outshines our fleshly tendencies to fall short.  Our kids will see Jesus through our marriages.  Our coworkers and colleagues will testify about Jesus because of the way we carry ourselves at work.  Imagine reaching people for Christ without “saying” a word!

Thank you, dear Jesus, for putting the challenge before me to live as salt and light to this world. Our world SO NEEDS you. May my life be a reflection of your pure light; and, please help me to add flavour and spice to my world for you! I pray for everyone in my world who doesn’t know you personally. Use me to influence them for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Fasting Devotion, Day Eighteen

(Post submitted by Paul O’Rourke)

Psalm 133

We can all agree with King David that people living together in unity is beautiful and pleasant. The Psalmist likens unity to precious oil, signifying the cleansing, healing and directing power of the Holy Spirit being poured out on us by the bucketload. It’s like fresh rain falling on normally barren dry ground (dew of Hermon falling on Mt Zion).

And there, in the midst of true Biblical unity, the Lord commands blessing and life.

Unity is obvious. It’s attractive and sweet-smelling. It’s exemplified by a genuine love for one another, a commitment to others’ success and welfare. Discernible peace and contentment within a marriage, a family, a congregation exist alongside people living in harmony.

John says that when we are of one heart and mind, we reflect Jesus to the world. Where there is unity, people care; they go the extra mile; they forgive quickly and completely; they are secure.

Disunity repels; it stinks. Dissension is characterised by jealousy, strife, malice and anger where people put up with one another – tolerating, rather than forgiving and serving.

Jesus said people would know we are his followers by our LOVE.

Love is the means, unity the ends.

God, thank you for your promises in your word. They bring life and favour to me. I commit to living in unity with those you have placed in my life. I choose to go the extra mile, to serve, to encourage, and submit where necessary. This brings blessing upon my life and I receive this word today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.