The Truth Principal

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


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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