2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Oh for the love all things dignified, I can’t believe I committed to meeting her every Monday and Friday for workout class. I hate workout classes. I love to run, but hate all indoor “cardio” created classes. I can’t stand watching my uncoordinated, disjointed, out of step, movements in a room covered in mirrors. The truth is, I hate admitting I can’t do something. I don’t like relying on someone else for help. I don’t venture far from the things I know I can do. I like to protect my public image of being pretty put together. So, workout classes don’t fit my required framework of remaining in control. But, I needed it. I had been avoiding the advice of my doctor to lift weights and build muscle for way too long. I needed to step out of my comfort zone and join a class in order to get the needed muscle building exercise my aging body required.
What I didn’t realize was that in order to get stronger your muscles must be worked to exhaustion first. Muscles get stronger after they have been broken down. Lifting weights, running long distance, doing squats all stress the muscles to the point of exhaustion. These damaged muscle fibers then fuse with new fibers creating repaired, stronger, thicker muscles. Weak muscles only get stronger when they are taxed beyond their normal range of motion and work. Classes forced me to work beyond what was comfortable to me.
Feeling weak, overwhelmed, and inadequate? According to 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, that is where God wants us to be because it is in our time of weakness that He is strong. When I have nothing left to give or nowhere else to turn, I am forced to depend on Him. My faith grows stronger when it endures being weak. My weaknesses force my faith to fuse closer to God and it is in this fusion His strength becomes my strength. I can only experience His strength when I allow myself to be weak. For me, that means I have to give up control. I have to let down my guard and the barriers I have set up to protect myself from pain, embarrassment, criticism, and failure and let Him work in and through me to become real and authentic with a vibrant faith.
So sweet friends let's start seeing weaknesses, both physical and spiritual, as a means of growing stronger. Let’s not hide our weaknesses, but use them to grow stronger in Him because His power is perfected in our weakness.
Dear Heavenly Father fuse your strength in us. We are so tired and weary. Use our time of weakness to show your strength to those around us. Draw us closer to you. Amen
A*&#%*! The naughty name calling just popped out of my mouth before I could stop it. The red Cadillac SUV from New York just wedged his car in front of mine cutting off an entire lane of traffic. What a jerk! Boom. Wasn't I a brave one? Standing up for my space on the road from the confines of my Civic. To top it off, I rode his bumper for a little while down the road, just so he knew I wasn't happy. "Mom, you know you weren't paying attention when the light changed and it left a gap..." In my moment of road rage, I forgot my son was in the car. Oops. Definitely not a stellar, honorable, above reproach moment for me.
In Romans 12:17-21, Paul instructs us to not repay evil for evil, but to "give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all." So often our emotions, our hurt feelings, our sense of being wronged- react first. We curse. We stomp our feet. We ignore people.We speak unkindly about others. We slam cabinets. We gossip. We plot. We work to get back at those who have harmed us. All these negative reactions flow freely and easily in response to someone bumping into our happy. Left to fester, these feelings of being wronged begin to consume us. We become saturated with the desire to "get even" or to "set the record straight." God says stop. Stop trying to get back at everyone. Stop trying to prove that you're right. Quit seeking revenge. Leave the pay backs to Him. Instead, consciously make a different choice. A choice to be kind, compassionate, generous, and humble. Ouch.
Romans 12 is filled with Paul telling us to be different. To think differently. To act differently. To respond differently. We are to do the opposite of what comes naturally. Got an enemy? Take her to lunch or out for coffee. Someone rocks your boat, don't splash them. Someone waging war with you, stay calm and work to make peace. For me, that means I need to stop trying to find others who feel the same way I do and "talk about" the enemy. I need to stop trying to persuade others that I am right and someone else is wrong. I also need to filter the words that come out of my mouth. I need to "give thought to do what is honorable" because I never know who is taking their cues from me about what it means to follow Jesus, or even who may be riding in the car!
Transform me by renewing my mind with your words. Help me to stop and think before I react. Help me choose the better way to deal with people. Help me relinquish my need to avenge. Help me chose grace and mercy over being right.
My word for 2017 arrived early this year. My heart was drawn to it in October. After a year of being intentional and another of relinquishing, God has been whispering in my ear to follow. So, my word for 2017 is follow.
The path right now is unclear and foggy. But, I am being guided with a gentle hand in the small of my back, to get behind Him and follow. I am being nudged to embrace new challenges and opportunities- to let go of my expectations and take the path that unfolds before me trusting the One who is leading. Because following is about trust. Trusting that the one in front leading knows the way and won't forget that I am behind following. Trusting that the path I take is the right one and that there are guide markers directing me along the way. Trusting that even if it is foggy right now, light will break through and the way will become clear.
In order to follow this year, I must trust the One who is leading me. I must be intentional about seeking His direction and guidance. I must relinquish the need to be in control and to know what the future holds.Therefore, I step out in 2017 unsure of what is to come and unclear of what is ahead, but I know the One who marks my way and I trust Him to lead me so, I will follow wherever He leads.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8
Do you have one of those people in your life who drives you nuts? You know the one. The person in the meeting or at church who begins to talk and you find yourself unconsciously rolling your eyes (and then you suddenly realize you just did that in front of everyone). I do. In fact, right now in Florida our streets are overflowing with them. You see we are in the height of "season." We are smack dab in the middle of white haired, Buick driving, northern senior-citizen migration season. Traffic has doubled and accidents have tripled. My daily commute takes twice as long, contains several extra forehead slaps and probably one or two not so nice words muttered through gritted teeth. So, what is a sharped tongued teacher of teenagers suppose to do in the face of such frustration?
According to Colossians 3:12-17, just as I layer my clothing in the winter, I am to layer my words and actions. First, I am to clothe myself with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Then, I am to wrapped up in a sweater of forgiveness and last of all, cover everything in an overcoat of love. (The irony of this metaphor is I am typing this while wearing shorts and a T-shirt.) Bottom line, I am to make a choice. I am to chose what I wear. I can wear the ugly, comfortable, easy clothes of anger, frustration, hate, bitterness, impatience and condescension or the fashion forward clothes that God has provided for me. God tells me I am chosen, and holy, and beloved and I should dress accordingly. My reactions in life should reflect the qualities of Christ's character. I should respond to people in a manner worthy of His sacrifice and forgiveness. That means when I reach into my closet of behavioral choices I consciously chose the outfits that God has designed for me. Words that offer compassion and kindness. An outward demeanor that is not consumed with myself, but defers to others so they feel accepted and important. Forgiveness that restores relationships. Praise that promises hope. Thankfulness that lightens a burdened heart. Just like the clothes I wear are a choice, so are the words I say and the things I do.
Change is not easy for me to do, but I want to try. I want to wear different behaviors than I usually wear. I want God's word to dwell deeply within me so that when I am squeezed by my circumstances or the people around me, a little bit of God squirts out instead of me. I want to behave in a manner worthy of the One who saved me and called me to follow Him. And that means for once, I don't roll my eyes.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Change me. Help me to choose you. Help me to choose to spend time with you. Help me to choose different words to say when the sarcastic ones are the only ones I know. Make me aware of the tone in my voice and the expression on my face when I encounter "trying" people. Keep working on making my heart like yours.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.