How to Run Your Best Race

How to Run Your Best Race

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1 NIV

Thanksgiving will be here soon and our family will toe the line at the neighborhood Turkey Trot 5K. I love the race analogy in Hebrews 12. The author of Hebrews must have been a runner, because he nailed several key items for peak performance. Let’s train with him today.

Extras: Sweats prepare cold muscles to run, but you don’t want to wear them for the race. Like training wheels on a bike, they help at first, but to really go, you have to take them off. What has prepared you that needs to go now?

  • Perhaps you’re a devotional fan, but reading Scripture alone seems too intimidating. Choose a short book and dive in. Allow the Holy Spirit to teach you.
  • How about personal worship? Great at church but have you ever tried it at home? Just you and God? Shed your self-consciousness.
  • And what about prayer? Are you an arrow pray-er, shooting prayers heavenward when needed? How about a prayer journal or an app like iPray? Like trading cotton socks for CoolMax, a larger investment gives greater returns.

Loose Ends: When I run, an untied shoestring claims my instant attention. Even double-tied, sometimes they come loose. Likewise, details of our character, left unchecked, can trip us. No one wants to face plant during a race because of an flapping shoestring. What area of your character needs some attention to detail? Worldliness? Flesh issues? Warfare? Identify the problem and eliminate any loose ends.

Run Your Course: Your race. My race. They share similarities, but we’ll run two different courses. Even my husband’s daily course differs from mine. He spends his day surrounded by people, engaged in conversation, and moving from one place to the next. I spend mine in solitude. Butt in chair. Me, the computer, and the dog. And it works—by God’s design. I have more time for intercession. He has the opportunity to speak into lives on a personal level. Two very different courses. Two very different levels of impact. One goal: to be like Jesus.

Aim for peak performance. Shed the warm-up gear. Tie up loose ends. Stick to your course.

Now, run.

Nail your spiritual workouts this week and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: How to Run Your Best Race

Memory Verse: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1 NIV

Meditation Passage: Hebrews 12

Just Do It: Shed, tie up, and stick to your course.

For those interested in preparing for your own Turkey Trot, check out the Couch to 5K program.

The Toes Follow the Nose

The Toes Follow the Nose

Where the head goes, the whole body tends to follow.

I’m leash training my puppy. A neighbor suggested a Gentle Leader, a collar that rests high behind the ears with another strap fitting over the nose. The leash attaches underneath so that when you pull, you pull the head and not the neck, similar to the bit and bridle for horses. It takes those strong shoulder muscles out of the picture. End result? You lead him instead of being dragged behind him.

The Gentle Leader allows me to direct Valor’s attention, because his tummy, toes, and tail follow his eyes, mouth, and nose. Scripture likewise cautions us as to what we set before our eyes, because God knows all too well, our emotions, will, and reason will follow. Let’s train with Valor this week. Here are a few of his favorite—or not so favorite—commands:

Leave it! This covers everything from road kill to the ant-covered lollipop stuck to the sidewalk. Psalm 101:3 reads, “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.” What has snuck into your life that has no place there? Ask the Holy Spirit what you need to leave alone.

Give! Valor’s reach is growing as he does. Most of what he can reach he has no business with: my sandwich, my homework, my favorite socks. Psalm 119:37 says, “Turn my eyes away from worthless things.” These things aren’t bad, but they aren’t best. Often they are time-stealers as well. What eats your time, energy, and brainpower, but is giving little to no return? Ask God what needs to give.

Come! Coming is good. It can mean a walk, dinnertime, or playing fetch. Yes, sometimes, it means a trip to the vet, but that’s a good thing too—Parvo is no picnic. Scripture shows us where to put our focus.

Check out these two passages: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

. . . fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:2-3)

Are you making relationship time for the Master? Are you choosing things that will please Him?

Valor has a choice between his chew toys, my running shoe, or the dead bird in the yard. I often feel like I’m not choosing at all, just deflecting what comes at me through the day. Yet, I choose what I give my time to. I choose what I listen, read, and watch.

What will you choose?

Nail your spiritual workouts this week and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: The Toes Follow the Nose

Memory Verse: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isaiah 30:21)

Meditation Passage: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8-9)

Just Do It: Allow the Holy Spirit to be your Gentle Leader.

 

MAXimize

MAXimize

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12 NIV)

We visited our son in San Diego recently and met some of the guys on his SEAL team. I was especially excited to meet their dog handler and his dog Max. (The SEALs use Belgian Malinois and we just got one.) Max is pretty chill for a military working dog. He let us pet him, but his eyes returned to his handler.

Constantly.

Like every 5-10 seconds.

He didn’t move without checking with his handler first.

And, believe me, he wanted to. Another SEAL had his two golden retrievers off leash. Both had balls to play with.

Let’s MAXimize our training today:

Keep your eyes on your Handler. “As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God.” (Psalm 123:2) God knows exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it. Whether it’s a load of laundry or a job change, His timing is always right. Fail to pay attention, and you’ll miss His instructions.

Stay focused. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) It would have been easy for Max to be distracted by our attention and by the two retrievers cavorting nearby. Yet his attention returned to his handler. His handler determined what was acceptable and what wasn’t. Petting, ok. Taking down the civilian golden retrievers, not so much.

Obey. “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-36) In the world of dog training, obedience brings rewards. Disobedience brings correction. Dogs love rewards and we do too. How much better are the spiritual rewards for obedience?

I love how God uses all of His creation to teach us. Pardon the flux of dog blogs, but with a new puppy, that’s where I’m living right now. What a gift these furry creatures are to us!

Train with Max this week. MAXimize your workout and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: MAXimize

Memory Verse: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” 2 Chronicles 20:12

Meditation Passage: “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Hebrews 10:35-36

Just Do It: Obey your Handler.

Tweetables:

Train with Max this week and MAXimize your spiritual workouts. Click to tweet.

(I apologize for the stock picture, but the SEAL Team guys are active duty and I can’t post photos. Please remember to pray for these brave men as they serve our country.)

Callused, Not Calloused

Callused, Not Calloused

Runners’ feet. They’re not pretty. I lost eight toenails after my first marathon.

I go in for the occasional pedicure.

But, I don’t let them touch my calluses.

Those hard spots of toughened skin protect my toes from the constant pounding of running. Without my calluses, I start over. Blood blisters and all.

Calluses form from friction. Some friction comes from good things like guitar playing, hard work, and prayer on your knees.

Callousness comes from the wrong things.

Scripture warns us to keep our hearts from being hardened. Toughened. Calloused.

Matthew 13:15 (NIV) quotes Isaiah when it says, “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”

A hardened heart affects the eyes and ears.

Here are some training tips to get your calluses in the right places while avoiding callousness:

Blood, Sweat, and Tears: The flesh and the emotions must be trained to serve the Spirit through the will. Both will fight with a fury because they want to follow deceptive desires.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:12

Friction: Expect it. Press in to the training. There will be some tenderness at first, but the right calluses will form. You are more than a conqueror.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Sensitivity Training: Cultivate sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Today’s memory verse warns us not to harden our hearts—in response to His voice. Do we tune God out the way we tune out our kids?

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Galatians 5:16

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30

Sensitive spirits. Tough skin.

Nail your spiritual workouts and change your corner of the gym.

Workout of the Week: Callused, Not Calloused

Memory Verse: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts . . .” Psalm 95:7-8 NIV

Meditation Passage: Hebrews 12: 1-11

Just Do It: Sensitive spirit, tough skin.

Tweetables:

A hardened heart affects the eyes and ears. Click to tweet.

The flesh and the emotions must be trained to serve the Spirit through the will. Click to tweet.

Friction forms calluses. Click to tweet.

Do we tune God out the way we tune out our kids? Click to tweet.

Sensitive spirits. Tough skin. Click to tweet.

How to Train According to the Heart

How to Train According to the Heart

Workout for the Week: How to Train According to the Heart

Memory Verse: Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Meditation Passage: Romans 8:5-14

Key Thought: I must train my flesh to follow my heart.

Feet churned and arms pumped as I glanced at my heart monitor. Too low. My legs complained as I pushed for speed and a higher heart rate.

Athletes often train with a heart monitor. The reason? A runner’s perceived effort is usually incorrect. A heart monitor gives a true picture of what’s going on, and the athlete can adjust his pace accordingly.

Often, my legs and my heart are on two different pages. Though my heart monitor says to pick up the pace, my legs are screaming at me to stop. I have to retrain my legs to match the conditioning of my heart.

The same thing holds true spiritually. When I decided to follow Christ, I became a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). God gave me a new heart.

The body remained the same, and it had been trained to follow the old heart. The sinful one.

For example, though my new heart recognizes God’s goodness and the work of His Spirit, the rest of me zeroes in on what’s wrong or what’s missing. I’m distracted from the good thing right under my nose because the old me chases negativity like my Lab chases squirrels.

I need retraining—retraining that requires my mind and body to follow my heart.

Here’s a training tip for each day this week with a specific application to God’s goodness:

  1. Write down five things for which you are thankful. Every day. This doesn’t have to be anything major. Hot showers and iced tea work for me.
  2. Get outside today. Stop and smell the roses. Literally. Look around. Let God speak through His wonders.
  3. Fast from negativity. For one day, erase all negative or critical comments from your speech. If it helps to avoid social media and the news, turn them off.
  4. Encourage three people this week.
  5. Smile.
  6. Be kind to yourself. How has God uniquely designed you? Embrace it.
  7. Spend time in worship. Life gets better as God gets bigger.

As you retrain your mind and body, pass your wisdom and experience to others. We all struggle with the flesh and, like physical workouts, it helps to train with others. For those unbelievers in your life, connect the good things in life with God—because they won’t. They can’t. You operate on a different level than the rest of the world. Who better to point out God’s goodness than one of His kids?

Nail your spiritual workouts this week and change your corner of the gym.

P.S. Hey guys! First, thank you so much for allowing me to share life with you. It’s a privilege, and I appreciate your time. Second, I’m trying a new format. If you have a second, tell me what you think or if there’s anything special you’d like to see. Thanks!

Tweetables:

I must train my flesh to follow my heart. Click to tweet.

Let God speak through His wonders. Click to tweet.

Fast from negativity. Click to tweet.

Life gets better as God gets bigger. Click to tweet.

Connect the good things in life with God. Click to tweet.

Ballerina Buff: Spiritual Barre Work

Ballerina Buff

I recently attended a benefit concert with my daughter. She was checking out a modern dance company, and I tagged along. One of the dance numbers was a ballet solo. The ballerina looked like a body builder. Her muscles were so defined, I was distracted from her performance. I asked my daughter about it afterward.

“Oh, Mom,” she said, “all ballet dancers look like that. You just can’t tell because they’re usually wearing tights.”

I questioned her further as to why dancers from other genres—tap, jazz, and contemporary—aren’t as buff as their ballerina counterparts. She explained that ballet requires a great deal of muscle control due to the very precise nature of movement in ballet. Hence, the high level of muscle definition.

The dancer got me thinking about my own spiritual muscle tone. I face a thousand different challenges to my walk every day.

Am I fit—or am I flabby?

Am I stretchy or tight?

How are my muscles at:

  • Holding back a critical thought or comment
  • Exercising self-control, especially my eating habits
  • Dying to self by setting my schedule aside for someone else
  • Moving out of my comfort zone

Miss Christa, one of my daughter’s ballet teachers, is infamous for her rigorous barre work. Repetitive. Tiring. Vital for muscle memory and training. Ballet is not for the faint of heart. Sore muscles and aching feet are part of the gig.

Spiritual training inspires similar groans. Yet, like Miss Christa’s class, training brings results, Misty Copeland-like muscles, and the ability to make the difficult look easy.

Here are a few tips, courtesy of Miss Christa.

Have a Plan

Miss Christa does nothing without a plan. What muscle do you want to target? For me, it’s positivity. My plan touches thoughts, words, and attitudes. Stop the negative thinking from gaining control. Keep the positive in the spotlight.

Focus on Today

Live in the present. Don’t get overwhelmed by tomorrow, next week, or next year. Focus on today’s class and work that muscle. This minute. Right now.

Build Muscle Memory

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. One day at a time. Feel the burn.

Classmates Make the Work Bearable

All of us want to grow spiritually, and we all have our weak areas. Together, we encourage and strengthen one another. So, go to class. Hang out with other believers who are training too. Share stories and hold each other accountable.

Step up to the spiritual barre and get your plié on. Soon you’ll be sporting spiritual muscles that will carry you through any challenge with a flying leap. Psalm 38:11-12 says, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” The soreness and discipline of training will become effortless obedience as you dance before Him in praise.

Questions:

In what areas is your muscle memory strong?

What’s one muscle that’s flabby spiritually?

What’s your plan?

Of what do you need to be watchful?

What might distract you from your plan?

Who would be a good classmate?

Tweetables:

Am I fit—or am I flabby? Am I stretchy or tight? Click to tweet.

Step up to the spiritual barre and get your plié on. Click to tweet.