How to Run with Endurance

Are you exhausted from running the race marked out for you? Have your faith muscles been stretched further than you thought you could endure?

This year I learned, once again, the importance of FAITH when I had to endure a heart wrenching event. Followed by a continual avalanche of minor first-world problems that threatened to trip me.

The Hebrews Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11) show men and women who endured hardships where the physical reality—what they could see—often made no sense. And may have presented God as absent and unloving.

These people weren’t commended for who they were or what they accomplished. They were commended because they held onto their faith despite hardships.

Their faith moved them from a ‘contract faith’ which means I’ll follow God if He treats me well—to a relationship that surpasses hardships.

I learned this lesson when I was in my mid-thirties. I thought my faith was rock solid. Then I had three miscarriages in a two year span.

I accepted the first miscarriage. Life happens, right? Plus, I had two toddlers. However, grieving for my baby made me long for another one. The second miscarriage threw me in a downward spiral. Instead of praising God in the storm, I whined because my two best friends had babies. By the third miscarriage, I shook my fist at God.

“Why is this happening? Don’t you love me?”

I had a contract faith: I expected God to prove that He loved me by giving me what I wanted.

Then one night I cried out, “Lord, I trust you to give me a baby in your time. Or, fill my void with Yourself.”

I claimed Isaiah 27:13,14. “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord … Wait for the Lord; Be strong….”

Sometimes, all we can do is believe God and wait—for His guidance, His intervention, His promises.

That season of loss and—believing God—was a pivotal turning point in my faith. The Lord renewed my spirit and gave me His perfect peace. When I least expected it, He gave me a son … who was born premature, but that’s another faith lesson.

Remembering God’s faithfulness over the years enables me to run with endurance. Even in this … latest hardship.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

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Did you know?

Mary, did you know…

Wise men were coming to see your baby, Jesus?

Did an angel warn you; give you time to prepare for company? Or did they show up unannounced?

Nativity scenes depict you serene, radiating joy as you cradle your infant son.

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But was God’s peace enough?

Enough to keep you tranquil when your home was bursting at the seams with visiting dignitaries? Camels resting outside your door?

Although you found favor in God’s eyes, and were chosen among all women to bear the Son of God, you were still a woman.

A young mom with raging hormones. A newly wed, living in humble means.

So I’m curious. Was your expression as europhoric as it appears in Renaissance paintings and Christmas cards?

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Because if I’d given birth, and prestigious strangers showed up at my door (uninvited) I’d probably come unglued.

Oh, I’d smile and invite them inside, but my eyes would only see the clutter on my kitchen counter. The dust on the mantel piece.

I’d scramble to brew a pot of coffee or tea. Bring out my nicest cups—the ones not chipped or stained. I’d forage in my pantry for snacks to share.

Not knowing how long they’d stay, I’d take my husband aside and tell him to order Chinese food or pizza.

If these strangers brought valuable gifts, I’d balk at the price tag before I graciously received them—knowing I had nothing to give in return.

What if they worshipped my son? Would I miss out while I searched for my camera to capture the moment?
Or be still and ponder these things in my heart like you did?

Mary, how did you feel when the shepherds and wise men had come and gone?
Did the thrill of childbirth go away when you and Joseph were left alone; faced with the reality of raising God’s Son?

How did you react when an angel told your husband to flee to Egypt for safety? Did you question God? Wrestle with the decision to move?

Surely your heart sank when you heard every male child under the age of two in Bethlehem had been killed when King Herod’s men searched for the Christ Child.

Did your faith flounder…even for a second?

Or were you so intent on God’s eternal purposes that His supernatural peace kept your mortal soul calm—come what may?

Mary, I like to think you didn’t know what lay ahead.

That you were a woman like me.

Imperfect, but walking by faith and not by sight even though you didn’t comprehend events.

Trusting God’s sovereignty during tumultuous times.

When Death Interrupts Life

My uncle died Friday night.

Lying in hospital, his one strong hand clung to the woman he loved. His pale cheeks wet from my aunt’s  teary butterfly kisses.

My uncle had suffered a Stroke weeks earlier, but on Friday—the first day of spring—I didn’t know his frail body was shutting down….

While I played Florence Nightingale to my outdoor plants—amputating dead limbs, nurturing them with life-giving water.

Springtime—the smell of fresh-cut grass, a sky the color of robin eggs, yellow buds unfurling in the afternoon sun.  My Friday was pregnant with new life around me and joyful possibilities.

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 What a stark contrast to my uncle and aunt’s reality. Death’s chill shadow loomed over them as the life they knew and shared concluded.

And yet, even in this…gut-wrenching pain of letting go….Hope was present.

Hope is the balm that soothes the burning sting of death.

 “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. BUT Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Death can’t be sugar coated. “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.” (Lyric from Empty Chairs at Empty Tables)

However, my uncle and aunt believed “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day….”

And their FAITH is what the Bible describes as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

This world isn’t the end all. There may be mysteries we can’t explain. But God has given us His Word, and His Promise, that death will be swallowed up in victory.

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The Columbine seeds I scattered in my garden last year now rise from the earth, but in a new form. The clover-like foliage and lavender bell-shaped flowers are more beautiful and fragrant than its seed.

So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

Because Christ lives, we live too!

That is the sweet reality for those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in His name.” (John 20:31)

*Other scripture  cited is from 1 Corinthians 15

Photos by Jennifer Foster

Are You Still There?

Words poured from the woman’s heart like a broken water main. I waited for her to catch her breath so I could interject my thoughts over the phone.

Finally, a pregnant pause followed by her whimper. “Are you still there?”

“I’m here,” I assured her. “I’m just listening.”

Lately, I feel like that woman. I’m venting to the Lord, but He’s not saying anything. Lord, are you still there?

I imagine the Lord would speak more often if I’d be still and listen. And yet, there are times when I hold my tongue.

Desperate for wisdom or direction, I wait for the Holy Spirit to speak to me through scripture. Or I long for the joy and satisfaction of His fellowship.

Only, sometimes God appears silent.

The longer He’s silent, the more I feel estranged from the One I’ve come to love and depend upon.

I plead like David, “Don’t toss me aside, banished forever from your presence. Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation….” (Psalm 51:11-12)

More silence.

So I remind myself to believe God and trust He is with me even in the deafening silence.

“Faith is especially required in times of silence as we wait for the intimacy of God.”

That’s what my mentor and friend, Loretta, told me years ago when she felt “God was silent and in the wings.”

Which is why Ephesians 6:13 tells us to “use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks….But to do this, you will need the—

ü  Strong belt of truth

ü  Breastplate of righteousness

ü  Shoes able to speed you on as you preach the Gospel.

ü  Shield of Faith to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.

ü  Helmet of salvation

ü  Sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God.

Putting on the armor of God is a daily task like brushing our teeth because the enemy doesn’t retreat. He knows my Achilles heel, the weakest spot to attack my faith.

When God appears silent or like He’s “watching from a distance,” Satan shoots flaming arrows aimed at my limited understanding to make me doubt—

God’s love. God’s mercy. God’s presence.

The SHIELD OF FAITH is my best defense.

Faith STOPS the fiery arrows from hitting their mark because “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Faith enables me to believe God is present even when He Appears Silent.

Just now, my cell phone rings, interrupting the silence as I finish this blog. The voice coming through the receiver is a sister in Christ who lives in South Dakota. We haven’t spoken with each other in a year.

My skin tingles. This is a Divine Appointment. God’s perfect timing.

He knows I need a word of encouragement, so He sends a friend I’m least expecting to talk with me.

And while we’re on the phone, the Lord enters our midst and makes Himself known.

Faith extinguishes the doubts as we pray to the Glorious One who always listens—even when He appears silent. 

How do you respond when God appears silent?

The C Word

Heard the C word again; the one that fills the human heart with dread.

The C word that forces me to “lean not on my own understanding”

But rest in a sovereign God.

He tells me surgery is scheduled, but the doctor’s optimistic prognosis doesn’t slay the inner demons swimming in the back of the mind:

What if ?

Dwelling on the problem instead of the Lord,

Feeds FEAR and makes it grow into a gIANT   that only faith can slay.

“For the Lord your God will hold your right hand saying to you, ‘Fear not. I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13)

  • Fear not, even if it’s cancer.
  • Fear not, I will hold your right hand.
  • Fear not, I will help you.

I cling to that promise like a blanket and fall asleep, one ear listening for the phone to ring.

And it does ring, waking me up just as dawn appears on my horizon and bird song fills the air.

A weary monotone voice greets me from a thousand miles away where skies are blue, but not for him.

I feel the weight of the world on his shoulders as he waits for his wife’s operation to be over, and the lab results to show good news.

Words stick in my throat as I search for the right thing to say.

“May I pray with you?”

Instead of holding warm-blooded hands, I grip the cold metal of my cell phone and …

  •  Plead to the heavens on his behalf.
  • Pray to the Lord who is an ever present help in times of trouble.
  • Claim God’s promises that are true.

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2)

If only I could crawl through the phone, and sit beside him. Show that I care beyond words. But I can’t.

So I hang up and do what I can.

  • Bow my head and pray some more.
  • Sound the trumpet so my fellow saints will pray too.
  • Rely on the Holy Spirit who dwells within my friend to do what I can’t.

Be his strength in weakness;

          give him grace that is enough,

                 guard his mind with the peace that surpasses human understanding.

Even in this ……