The Truth Principal

Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline, and understanding. Proverbs 23:23


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That’s Not Fair!

That’s not fair! Have you ever said that? If you are around children much, you hear it pretty regularly! My students tell me that it’s not fair when someone else is winning, or when someone cuts in front of you, or when someone gets something you don’t, or when someone gets a bigger piece of chocolate cake than you, or when you are not allowed to do something that you want to do, or when you get blamed for something someone else has done.

Following up from last month, when we learned about being an image-bearer and learning to conform to the image of Christ, who is “full of grace and truth”, we began looking at some of Jesus’ parables to get an idea of what grace looks like.

We can all relate to feeling something is not fair. Jesus knew we would when he told this story in Matthew 20:1-15 (NLT):

“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.

“At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing.  So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing.

“At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’

“They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’

“The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’

“That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first.  When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage.  When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’

“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’

I don’t know about you, but I quickly identify with the workers who were there all day. While it is true that they were paid a fair wage and received what they agreed to, it’s the inequity of the situation that makes it feel unfair. So we tried to look at it from another perspective. I asked my students to imagine that their dad didn’t have a job. (Some of the students gasped!) Not only was dad unemployed, but he went to a location where people would go hoping to find work. He was worried because he has a wife and children at home and there is no food in the refrigerator! (More gasps!) He needs to find work so he can feed his family. He has been looking all day, but finds nothing. Finally, near the end of the day, the vineyard owner finds him and puts him to work. At least he will have about an hour of pay. Maybe it will be enough to buy a little something to eat. Imagine his surprise when he is paid for the full day! Wouldn’t he have been leaping for joy? Maybe he rushed home to tell the family the wonderful generosity of the vineyard owner! “Look! Look what I got! he paid me a full day’s wage!” What a relief to be able to put food on the table! How do you feel about the fairness of the generous vineyard owner now? God is like that. He is that generous with us.

We also looked at the parable of the Unforgiving Servant from Matthew 18:23-35

We tried to imagine together what it would be like to owe someone millions of dollars. The debt was overwhelming and impossible to repay! The king was going to sell him and his family and all of their possessions to repay the debt. But when the servant pleaded with the king for mercy, the king had compassion. He didn’t follow through with the legal remedy for such a debt, nor did he set up a payment plan! Instead, he completely forgave the debt! Just like that! The debt was wiped out! Gone! Don’t you find it particularly disappointing to learn that immediately after being forgiven such a tremendous debt, the same servant sought out a fellow servant who owed him thousands and demanded immediate payment? When the servant asked for mercy, just as he had done, instead of being merciful, he threw him into prison.

We are like the unforgiving servant. We have been forgiven so much! We have been forgiven for everything we have ever done that offended God. God generously forgives us when we ask, even though we don’t deserve it. Yet quite often, we are stingy with forgiveness. When someone has offended us, we want them to jump through a few hoops and feel our pain before we relent and forgive them – if we do forgive them. Jesus makes it very clear how much this displeases God.  God requires us to forgive like He has forgiven us. In fact, when we pray the Lord’s prayer, we are committed to it, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us…”

So today we learned that grace is not fair. Grace is better than fair! It is generous! As we grow in our likeness of Jesus, people around us should find us quick to forgive and generous in grace.

“God dispenses gifts, not wages. None of us gets paid according to merit, for none of us comes close to satisfying God’s requirements for a perfect life. In the bottom-line realm of ungrace, some workers deserve more than others; in the realm of grace the word deserve does not even apply.”

p. 62 What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey
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Our Family Resemblance

Who do you look like in your family? I look remarkably like my mom. Maybe you can tell from this picture, taken a few years ago. Sometimes looking in the mirror startles me! There are times when my facial expression and the words I use look and sound just like her! This month in chapel we talked about what it means to be an image bearer. I clearly bear the image of my mother. God tells us in His Word that when He created us, He created us in His image! No one can say that “you have God’s nose,” or “you laugh just like your Heavenly Father,” so I discussed with my students ways that God’s image is clearly seen in us.

Some of the ways we bear God’s image include:

  • We have a capacity to love which, by the way, is infinite! When I had my second child, I didn’t have to take some of the love from my first child to have love for my second. I can love as many people as I am willing to love, as much as I am willing to love them! God says we should love everyone, even our enemies, so He has provided us with the capacity to do that!
  • We are relational beings. We thrive in relationship with each other and with God. God walked in the Garden with Adam and enjoyed fellowship with him. When our relationships are broken, it hurts, because we are made for relationship.
  • Related to that, we are communicative beings. We can express our needs, wants, ideas, and feelings. We can have rational discussion and even argue our points in a reasonable way. We are able to make ourselves understood, and to understand each other. If we don’t understand, we can ask questions to clarify until we do understand!
  • We are creative beings. God created this beautiful world out of nothing! We can’t do that, but we can create some amazing things! When I was a little girl, if I wanted to talk on the phone, I had to sit by the phone which was connected to the wall with a cord. In fact, we had a rotary dial only. I was an adult by the time “cordless” phones became the norm, and a mother of two before I had my first clunky cell phone. Now I have a phone that does everything my computer can do and more! I am continually amazed at the creativity of each generation!

These are just a few ways that we are “image-bearers”.  Unfortunately, our image-bearing is flawed, isn’t it?  Although we have capacity to love, we often choose to withhold love, or we love ourselves much more than we love others and are selfish. Although we are relational, we often hurt and sabotage our relationships rather than nurture and grow them. While we are capable of communicating and understanding, we often choose not to understand and often communicate in unkind ways. While we are creative, we often use our creativity to find ways to do harm or justify sin. God’s image in us is marred by the effects of the fall.

That’s what makes the rest of the story so amazing! God didn’t leave us in this pitiful state. He did the most incredible thing, and sent His Son, who perfectly bore His image, to take on ours!

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Colossians 1:15

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!  Philippians 2:6-8

Jesus became like us! He knows what it feels like to be us. He even knows what it is like to be a child. He probably suffered a skinned knee a time or two. He knows what it is like to be scolded by his parents. Remember the time he was in the temple and his parents couldn’t find him? They were scared and worried. They didn’t know where he was! In Hebrews 4:15 it says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” He can sympathize with us. He “gets” us. Philip Yancey, in his book What’s So Amazing About Grace? put it this way, “On earth, living among us, he learned what it was like. He put himself on our side.”

We know that the remedy for the fall is the redemption we receive through faith in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that when someone becomes a Christian, they become “a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!” Romans 8:29 says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” Did you catch that? We have come full circle – first being made in His image, then flawed by the fall, Jesus came, taking on our image, saving us from the effects of the fall, now we are being made into the image of the Son.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decide in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. Ephesians 1:4-7

God had this plan all along! You know, we have a lot of students that are adopted. When I first talked about looking like my mother, I suspect a few of them were feeling left out. Maybe they don’t think they look like their parents. Well, I have thought about that. I know of many older married couples that look like each other. All of those years living together, they take on each other’s mannerisms and begin to look similar. I have also noticed that a lot of adopted children look like their adoptive families. I am not talking about skin color or hair color, although that can be true as well. There is just something about being in close relationship with each other that we begin to resemble one another. God adopted us into His family and He is making us into the image of His Son! We started out so unlike Him, but we are becoming more like Him every day. But what does He look like?

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. …Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.  John 1:14, 16-18

Jesus is “full of grace and truth”. The more time we spend with Him, the more we will become like Him, taking on His characteristics. We will begin to “look like” his brother or sister. If that is happening, then people ought to see in us the “family resemblance”. They should see grace and truth in us! Wouldn’t it be great if someone who had just met you said, “You look just like Jesus! Any chance you are related to Him?”

How can you be the image of Christ to those who don’t know Him? With my students, we will be exploring this further next month. We are going to learn about what “grace and truth” looked like in the life of Jesus.

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

2 Corinthians 3:18

 


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The Measure of All Things

I love this mug! It makes me laugh at myself and reminds me that I am NOT “the measure of all things”. I remember learning in college (a long time ago!) that there was a philosopher, a contemporary of Plato (Protagorus – but who remembers that name?) who said, “Man is the measure of all things”. At the time I heard of it, I dismissed it. Then, as now, it was understood to mean that man is the highest creature, and it implied that there is no objective, absolute truth, but that man is the one who determines what is true. I dismissed it then because I know God and that He, not man, is the “measure of all things”. He sets the standard and He defines what is absolutely true.

But I have often thought of the phrase since then, because I have noticed that many people live as if they are the measure of all things. For example, “I would never think that, feel that, do that, … therefore you shouldn’t either.” Or, “I always, …therefore you should…” Some people live their whole lives this way, but we all have a little of this in us. In fact, it goes back to the Garden of Eden doesn’t it? When we live this way, we tend to judge others by ourselves.

I especially notice this when someone jumps on a “bandwagon”. I have been on a LOT of bandwagons in my life. I have often felt guilty when I didn’t jump on one with my friends. Here are the kinds of “bandwagons” I see in our culture now. For example, do you think Paleo is the healthiest way to eat and secretly judge those that don’t “get it”? Or maybe you think everyone should boycott Disney or Starbucks because the values of the company or its owners are very different from yours. Maybe you can’t fathom how anyone who doesn’t share your particular political perspective could possibly be a Christian.  Don’t get me wrong. It is fine to choose to eat the Paleo diet or boycott companies whose values differ from yours or to have firmly held political convictions. These can all be the result of honest attempts to live out our faith and to live our lives in such a way that we don’t offend our conscience, what we understand to be right and wrong. The problem is, we get so enthused about what we are learning or doing, we judge those who are not doing it too.

The reality is, we are just trying to make sense of things we believe to be true, and live our lives accordingly. And we are all in different places – in our circumstances, in our maturity, and in our walk with Christ. Some things I used to believe tenaciously, I don’t feel strongly about anymore. I realized they were chasing after wind. Other things, I cling to even more deeply because I have tried and tested them and found them to be trustworthy and true. We learn and we grow.

We all need grace on the journey. When we differ with others, grace tries to understand the other person’s perspective. Grace allows time to grow and mature. Grace is willing to assume the best and forgive the worst. Grace listens and cares. Grace does not pass judgment. By grace, we can choose not to take offense when someone disagrees with us, and we can choose not to offend when we think we are right and they just don’t “get it”.

This isn’t a 21st century problem. The New Testament Christians had similar struggles as they were learning to live out their faith:

One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Romans 14:2-4 (NIV)

What grace have you received today? What grace have you extended to others?

 


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Grace

This year, the theme with my students and staff will be “Grace”. This summer, after re-reading What’s So Amazing About Grace, by Philip Yancey, I realized how little we really understand about grace. We have it neatly packaged as “unmerited favor” and tied up with a clever acronym ribbon of “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”. We know that we are “saved by grace”. But really, what IS grace? What is so amazing about it?

While we acknowledge grace is “unmerited”, we still feel somehow it is owed to us, or someone “should” have given us or our children grace, and the grace we have received, we sometimes secretly feel we have deserved. While we want grace for ourselves or our loved ones, when grace is requested of us, we are more inclined to mete out justice than grace. So I am excited to begin this journey of exploring grace with my students and with you!

This week in chapel, because it is the first chapel of the school year, we will first discuss the authority in the students’ lives – the authority of God, their parents, and me and the teachers at our school. Children have a lot of “authorities” in their lives, and it’s important for them to understand how they work together and which authority matters most when there is a conflict.

Then we will begin to delve into grace. Do you realize how much grace is all around us? Last year for my birthday, I received an expensive rose bush that I ordered online. It cost four to five times more than one I could have purchased at Kroger, but it was so worth it! The roses are beautiful! As a bud, they are outlined with red, then they open up mostly yellow, transitioning (actually changing color!) to a beautiful yellow or cream with a pinkish red edge – and they are so fragrant! My roses are, to me, a beautiful example of God’s “common” grace. He could have made only one kind of rose, one color, but He made so many colors and varieties that delight our eyes and noses! In fact, He could have made the world in black and white and we would be none the wiser. But instead, He created a world full of vibrant color and beauty that we all enjoy, whether we belong to Him or not. Jesus put it this way, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44)

So, with my students, we will start where everyone starts, with God’s common grace, learning to recognized the graces around us that He provides, and that others extend to us.

“Grace is everywhere, like lenses that go unnoticed because you are looking through them. Eventually God gave me eyes to notice the grace around me.” p. 42 What’s So Amazing About Grace

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.

John 1:16 NLT


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Running, Homework, and the Gospel

Maybe these aren’t three things you would put together as having something in common, but this all came up this week and the parallels this Resurrection Sunday compel me to write!

Earlier this week, I was interviewing new families that have applied to enroll at our school for next year. We always discuss several particular policies and the truth behind them. One such policy is our “No Homework” policy. There are several reasons for this policy: 1) it usurps the parent’s authority in the child’s life to make decisions about how they will spend their time after they leave school for the day, 2) research shows that elementary children’s brains are academically done by 3:00 (they get brain fatigue and can’t push past it with any more academics) and 3) homework displaces things that are academically beneficial such as activity, family meal times, reading for pleasure, and sleep. It came up in our conversation how we seem to always think, as human beings, that if some is good, more is better, which is what often leads to the assumption that doing a little more math and worksheets will propel our students even faster. But quite the opposite is true. It causes brain fatigue and burn out. It saps children of their enjoyment of learning and does not provide enough down time to process what they have already learned that day. More is not better. Enough is as good as a feast!

That reminded me of running. (Doesn’t everything now days?) Whenever we start an exercise program, like running, it is typical to completely overdo. Although the training says to incrementally increase time and to run only 3-4 days a week with rest days in between, we tend to discount the experts and run too far the first day and/or run every day, thinking that will get us to our goals faster. Again, the opposite is true. More is not better. You are more likely to develop an injury because you are not giving your body time to heal and strengthen between runs. And because you are missing rest days, your body is fatigued and cannot perform as well.

All of that got me to thinking about the work Jesus did on the cross. Really! Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, once and for all, and the proof that it was paid was in the resurrection! There is NOTHING more that you or I need to do to make things right with God if we have accepted His gift of forgiveness through His Son. When you give yourself a regimen of good deeds to do to make up for your sin, aren’t you really saying that Jesus’s blood wasn’t enough? When you are unforgiving toward yourself and toward those who have offended you, aren’t you assuming that Jesus’s forgiveness isn’t enough? There is nothing you can add to what Christ did to make it better. More is not better. It was already perfect!

The good works we do now, as forgiven children, are not out of a sense of “owing a debt” because that debt has been paid! We do it out of our deep love and gratitude for what has been done for us! In homework terms, it’s the difference between “reading for pleasure” and reading to complete a reading log. One comes from intrinsic motivation, the enjoyment of the heart; the other is from a sense of duty, it is required.

Many years ago, our youngest daughter learned how to make coffee. One Saturday morning, she came quietly into our bedroom bringing my husband and I mugs of coffee in bed! What a lovely, sweet gesture! We enjoyed it so much, and she enjoyed the giving, because it was done out of a heart of love. This happened a few more times. One day, I heard my husband ask her to make him some coffee. Then another time he offered to pay her to make coffee. What happened? The coffee stopped. It was no longer a gift of love but an expectation, a debt, and the joy of doing it was gone.

Do you feel guilty about the sin in your life? Accept the free gift of forgiveness that comes through our resurrected Christ! Your debt has been paid! It’s finished! Accept the forgiveness and live a life of devotion to the One who has saved and redeemed you! Let your obedience to Him flow from a heart of love and gratitude, rather than a sense of duty and paying for past sins. There is nothing you can add to what Christ has done for you. Hebrews 10:18 says, “And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.” More is not better, because Christ was enough!

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.  Romans 5:1-2

Christ is risen!

 


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Running for the Prize

Yesterday was the day. I have been training to run a 10K since mid-December, from a non-runner, to a runner. Last week, I ran another 5K. Although I ran it completely, it was still a challenge and I started to doubt myself, knowing that the 10K was fast approaching. All week long I pondered whether I could really run a 10K. I considered giving myself “permission” to walk as needed on the second lap. But then, this passage from 1 Corinthians 9 kept invading my mind:

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

In a 10K, there are a lot of people who get “the prize”. Of course, there are the overall winners in male and female categories, but there are also 1st through 3rd place winners in age categories. However, in this race, they were also giving participation medals to 10K runners. Now, if you know me at all, you know I am not a fan of participation medals.

I got up early, as I usually do on the day of a race, ate a simple breakfast then began to prepare what to wear. It mercifully wasn’t as cold as the last two 5Ks, but there was a threat of rain. I drove to the race site early so I could easily park and scope things out. When I got there, I saw a sweet friend, parent from my school and a former teacher, who greeted me and encouraged me that I could do it. She said she just focuses on “keep running, even if it is really slow”. That is what I tend to also focus on and it encouraged me. We laughed a little at the possibility that I may be the last runner, but she encouraged me to not worry about that, just keep running. My doubts from earlier in the week were being replaced with “you can do it if you don’t give up”.

A few minutes before the race started, it started pouring. I had time to grab my rain jacket and I lined up at the start line. And we were off! My first few paces of a race are so eager and strong, then suddenly I realize I won’t be able to keep up that pace, and I settle into a rhythm. As I ran, with rain running down my face, I kept hearing “run in such a way that you get the prize”. I always hope to place in my age category, because being older has it’s benefits. There aren’t many women who run at my age! So while I hoped to place, I knew the challenge of this, my first 10K, was simply running and completing the whole thing. It was farther than I had ever run before, even in my training. So that participation medal became, for me, the completion medal, the “you did it even though it was hard” medal.

I eagerly looked for my time on the first 5K lap and saw it was my best time yet. As I started the second lap, I was suddenly alone. A lot of people run the 5K, but much fewer run the 10K, and those who do, are typically the seasoned runners. I am still a rookie. I heard no one behind me and no one passed me. There were a few scattered ahead of me in the distance. I started to wonder if maybe I really was going to be the last one!  As I rounded a turn, I finally saw there were a few behind me. I am not last. I kept running with my friend’s words reminding me to keep running even if it is slow (which came in handy on a very steep hill), and hearing “run in such a way that you get the prize” over and over. The whole second lap I ran alone, with no one passing me and passing no one. I had no idea how lonely the 10K could be – not in a bad way, just different.

I did run the whole race, without walking, ending with a time just under 1 hour and 17 minutes. Unfortunately, the timing company had some issues so, for many of us, their equipment didn’t capture our bib across the finish line and they didn’t have a record of our time! I think I would have placed 2nd or 3rd in my age category if it had. But that’s okay. I will keep running “for the prize” and I have my participation medal that signifies to me that I did it! I persevered and found that I could do something I didn’t think I could do! The giddy joy that comes from perseverance and completion, encourages us to do the next thing, to sign up for the next race!

I know for many of you, my running story is of no consequence; you are not interested in running. That’s okay. I share it because I am finding that running is, for me, a metaphor of so much of the perseverance we need in this life. The apostle Paul seems to agree with me, as he uses it often. As I am learning to persevere in my running, by improving how I am thinking and what I am focusing on, and continuing my training, it applies in so many other areas.

God often calls us to do things for which we feel so inadequate! The calling to live a Christ-centered life in this God-averse society is a challenge that can make us weary. We feel weak; we just want to slow down and walk. We may even feel like quitting. We often feel alone, like we are the only ones and we may be finishing last. But He calls us to “run with purpose in every step” and to go for the prize. And although we feel alone, He promises we are never alone!

Whatever you are going through, trust that God is with you through it, strengthening you at every step. Don’t allow your fears or your feelings to psych you out of the prize that is waiting for you at the finish!

31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31


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Let Us Run With Endurance

I have continued to teach my students about persevering through trials this year. We have focused on James 1:2-4:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The job of kids is to grow up, to become mature and complete. As I mentioned in my previous post, we parents have often sabotaged our kids by removing the struggles and pains of life, thereby handicapping them so they don’t know how to deal with pain, disappointment, or rise to the occasion, face problems head on and solve them.

As always, when I am teaching my students truths from God’s word, I am always learning more myself. Have you ever wanted to try something, by you find yourself squashing your own desire with “you can’t do that” or “you are not good at that”? Ever since college I wanted to be a runner. I ran some in college, but always got violently sick and finally I quit. I determined that “I can’t run.” Fast forward to a few years ago when The Biggest Loser came on TV and I saw very obese people eventually work to the point of being able to run a marathon. It seemed impossible, and yet, with hard work and perseverance (and a relentless personal trainer), they did it! That started to chip away at my own belief about myself. I started to wonder if maybe I could run.

Then my youngest daughter started running and she signed up for a half marathon to run with her mother-in-law. She ran it and loved it and has done more since. I sure would like to run one with her sometime. Hmmm.

In December, I participated in a local 5K by walking. I have walked a lot of 5Ks, but this time, it lit a fire in me and I decided it was time to put aside my assumption that “I can’t run. I am not a runner.” and redefine myself. Part of the reason was that I wanted to do a 10K and the first one I considered signing up for wouldn’t have given me enough time to walk it. I would have to run to finish in time. So I found an app that would train me from a non-runner to a 10K in 13 weeks. Great! That’s just enough time to be ready for the 10K I wanted, so I signed up for the 10K right away to hold myself accountable. On December 6, I put on my headphones and started the app and committed to doing whatever the app told me to do. The app was created for beginners like me, so I told myself that no matter how I felt, I was going to trust the app. My first day I walked for 5 minutes to warm up, ran 1 minute, walked 1.5 minutes, ran 1 minute, walked 1.5 (6 times) then cooled down walking for 5 minutes. In 25 minutes I had run only 6 total minutes. That’s not a lot, is it? But every other day, as recommended by the app, I go back out and do the next training. A couple of weeks ago, I RAN my first 5K without walking at all in between, and placed 6 out of 33 in my age category. I am on my way to the 10K.

On Friday, my training took 80 minutes, 60 of which was running. I’ve come a long way. I was tired and it was long. The first part of the run, I just thought “I’m too tired, this is too hard, this is too long, I can’t do it…” Then my commitment reminded me to trust the app and Hebrews 12 came to mind:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.

My husband came to cheer me on at my first 5K run. Knowing he was there and that I also had students running, helped me persevere so that they could see that I didn’t quit or wimp out. As believers, we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses! As a school principal, I am surrounded by staff, students, and school families. Are they witnessing me persevere through trials and come out triumphant and faithful?

When I run, I wear clothing that makes it as easy to move as possible. I want shoes that fit and support my feet. I don’t want my garments to weight me down or to chafe. I don’t carry anything that could slow me down or trip me up. Yet in life, we often put obstacles in our own way. We fill our homes with things that tempt us and distract us from more important endeavors. We find time for Facebook but can’t seem to find any available time to spend with the Lord. What trips you up? What can be removed so that you are not slowed in your progress?

One thing I have learned as I have tried to improve as a runner, is that it helps your energy and focus if your posture is right. If I pull my head up and look straight ahead instead of down, my breathing is easier and my pace is stronger and faster. As I look far ahead, I seem to get there more swiftly, and I enjoy more of the scenery along the way as well. We endure our trials, whatever they are, when we fix our eyes on Jesus; He is the beginning and the end of our faith! Keeping our eyes on Him is like seeing the finish line in the distance. It keeps our focus on what is real and true instead of how we feel, and it strengthens us to persevere.

What I have learned about endurance or perseverance in my journey to become a runner is that endurance is more mental than physical. I notice that after the first few minutes of running, my breathing and heart rate level out. So it’s not because I’m breathless that I want to quit. It’s because it still takes effort and I’m tired, my legs ache, and it’s long and I can’t always see the end from the beginning, but I have always trusted the app. I trusted that it knew what I should be able to do even if I felt like giving up, so if it said I could run 35 minutes straight then I focused on what it believed I could do and just did it. And you know what? I did it, so the app was right! When God says we can make it through trials, no matter how hard, and we feel like we just can’t, we can trust Him. He is with us. He strengthens us. He knows better than us. He made us! Even when it seems insurmountable or impossible, trust Him!

I am a runner! I didn’t know it, but I am! Don’t miss out on what God has planned for you because it is too hard or painful.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.

Romans 5:3-5a