Monday, May 30, 2005

been busy

“I’ve been busy.” How often is this my default response to “How are you?”? How often do we hear this in the midst of our daily conversations? Author Wayne Muller in his book “Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy Lives” writes, “We say this to one another with no small degree of pride, as if our exhaustion were a trophy, our ability to withstand stress a mark of real character. The busier we are, the more important we seem to ourselves and, we imagine, to others. To be unavailable to our friends and family, to be unable to find time for the sunset (or even to know that the sun has set at all), to whiz through our obligations without time for a single, mindful breath, this has become the model of a successful life.”

“The press of busyness is like a charm,”
Kierkegaard wrote.
“Its power swells…
it reaches out seeking always
to lay hold of ever-younger victim…”

Perhaps the Ancient Chinese have long had insight into this that the West has yet to discover. The ancient Chinese pictograph for the word busy is made up of the symbols/pictures heart and killing.

The understood that as we become busier and busier in the world around us, our hearts are prone to experience death – lifelessness.

How's your heart?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Sacred Text

A young Christian packing his bag for a journey said to a friend, "I have nearly finished packing. All I have to put in are a guidebook, a lamp, a mirror, a microscope, a telescope, a volume of fine poetry, a few biographies, a package of old letters, a book of songs, a sword, a hammer, and a set of tools." "But you cannot put all that into your bag," objected the friend. "Oh, yes," said the Christian. "Here it is."
And he placed his Bible in the corner of the suitcase and closed the lid.

The study of God's Word,
for the purpose of discovering God's will,
is the secret discipline
which has formed the greatest characters.
J.W. Alexander
The devil is not afraid of the Bible that has dust on it.
No one ever graduates from Bible study
until he meets the Author face to face.

When you read God's word,
you must constantly be saying to yourself,
'It is talking to me, and about me.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

all mine...

In an interview for Today’s Christian Woman, writer and speaker Carol Kent says:

One day when [my son] Jason was young, we were eating breakfast together. I had on an old pair of slacks and a fuzzy old sweater. He flashed his baby blues at me over his cereal bowl and said, “Mommy, you look so pretty today.”

I didn’t even have makeup on! So I said, “Honey, why would you say I look pretty today? Normally I’m dressed up in a suit and high heels.”
And he said, “When you look like that, I know your going some place; but when you look like this, I know you’re all mine.”

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

And the Children Shall Lead Them...

Yesterday (Sunday), I was a part of one of the most powerful services ever (I know that sounds 'evangelistic', but it really was). We were in a small church in the country of Honduras. We were scheduled to do a Sunday morning service for adults. We had prayed and prepared for the service (Songs, dramas, testimonies, and message).

Then we arrived...

As we walked into the church, the santuary was filled, every pew... However, they were filled with children, not adults. There were about 120 kids, all under the age of 12. There were only about 5 adults. The service was to start in 15 minutes. The service we had planned was geared strictly for adults, not children. 12 minutes and counting.

Kids... "What can we do?" We asked ourselves. "What songs and skits can we do for kids? We have 1 1/2 hour to fill." This was our first response. We talked for a few minutes and then in a stir with no ideas and 120+ kids waiting for us...

"Let's pray...!" A couple of us stopped, grabbed hands and began to pray. "God, what do you want us to do?"

Instantly, God began to speak to us about what we should speak on...

There's nothing like, four people praying - and everyone hearing the same thing from the Holy Spirit......

(I"m sitting in the airport -- our plane is boarding.... ekkk i have to hurry).

The end of the story, 25 young kids filled the front of the sanctuary, each of them had heard the voice of God. "God just spoke to me... I'm to be a missionary." This boy was trembling as the Holy Spirit touched him, he fell down limp, and began to pray continously.... Another said, "God spoke to me regarding my family...I need to start obeying my mother." Another said, "God told me he wants me to preach to the children of this city." Another, "The Holy Spirit told me...He's called me to be a pastor."

The Holy Spirit was moving powerfully on these young children. The whole church was filled with a very special presence. And these little boys and girls were beginning to HEAR THE VOICE OF GOD SPEAK TO THEM....

How's that for growing in intimacy at a young age.

Two things impacted me yesterday. I am so thankful that we have a connection with the Holy Spirit that when PLANS CHANGE, He speaks clearly, and we are able to hear His re-Direction. And, it was an awesome experience to see these little one's begin to hear the Spirit speak to them.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Catch the Wind

Consider the difference between piloting a motorboat and a sailboat. We can run a motorboat all by ourselves. We can fill the tank and start the engine. We are in control. But a sailboat is a different story. We can hoist the sails and steer the rudder, but we are utterly dependent on the wind. The wind does the work. If the wind doesn’t blow – and sometimes it doesn’t – we sit still in the water no matter how frantic we act.
Our task is to do whatever enables us to catch the wind.
Personal transformation is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. Jesus said,
“The wind blows where it chooses and you hear the sound of it,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.
So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
(John 3:8)

Several months ago on vacation I set went windsurfing. It was a perfect day for it, the sun was shining and the wind was blowing great. There was only one problem, I had little idea what I was doing! I knew the various elements of windsurfing -- wind theory, turning the sail, etc etc. I was ready to catch the waves. I paddled myself a little ways out from shore. Then I mounted up on the board and began to pull the sail out of the water. After several tugs and a couple of times falling straight back into the water off balance, I had the sail up.

There were several other surfers out that day. They were zipping back and forth with great ease. “This is going to be so much fun!” I thought to myself. This thought became short lived.

I could tell which way the wind was blowing, and it was indeed blowing, but for some reason my sail and me weren’t getting along too well. I just couldn’t seem to get it turned in the precise direction I needed to get moving. Several times I did manage to catch the wind, only to head straight for the ropes marking the end of the swimming area (not exactly what I had planned).

Needless to say, the wind was blowing, but I had to posture the sail to maximize what was coming my way. And, I soon discovered it was going to take me more than one afternoon to master it.
I’ve found that mastering the art of catching the “wind of God” is very similar. We can know all the “elements” of this and that, but once your out in the deep, the theory is sometimes, simply underwater. We must acquire the art of knowing how to postures ourselves to maximize what’s coming our way. And,
if we ever hope to move along with the wind,
we must learn not only how to recognize it,
but to get in the way as well – and SAIL.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Random Thoughts on Training.......................... by Dr. Mat & Track: #4

Training is multifaceted.

You cannot reach your maximum physiological potential by merely doing the same thing over and over. No runner runs the exact same distance, pace, or even place everyday. There are “speed” days where you may be on the track running “quarters” (running one lap around the track [440meters] over and over just over 60 seconds for each split, with only 60 seconds rest in between). Honestly, these were the days I dreaded the most. On the other end of the spectrum there are “long” days or “distance” days. On these days you lace up the shoes and run somewhere between 10 and 19 miles, depending on what point it is in the season. These practices could take up to two-and-a-half hours. When your done with these runs, your legs feel like jello. On other days, you are up for a 6:00 am, 5 to 8 mile run, only to return in the afternoon for a similar run with a variable of elements included. There are a number of ways of switching up pace, speed, intensity, and so on to enhance muscle strength, endurance and speed.

Each of these variations is extremely important if you aspire to be competitive. Each of these workouts enhances a type of muscle and works together to strengthen the whole. Though I hated “speed” days, I knew it was one of the most valuable practice days for me, because “sprinting” wasn’t my strength (other wise I would have chosen to participate in a MUCH shorter race J). I was thankful for a coach who knew what I needed to do more than I wanted to do it. Though I rarely thanked my coach on the day of these work outs, I saw the benefit of the momentary pain and discomfort.

“No discipline (training) seems pleasant at the time,
but painful. Later on, however,
it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace
for those who have been trained by it.”
(Hebrews 12:11)

Any time a runner does the “exact” workout over and over day by day, they will reach a plateau. A skilled runner has the discernment to know what variation of work outs they need, as well as, when it’s time to change how their working out. The same is true for us as GodWalkers. Consistency is key, however if we do the exact same thing day in and day out, we may run the risk of spiritual plateau. We need the spiritual discernment to know when we are growing, changing, and being transformed and when we are doing the same thing, only without any advancement in our spiritual formation.

What are true and authentic signs of growth, change and transformation?


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Random Thoughts on Training.......................... by Dr. Mat & Track: #3

In every race I’ve ever run,
there came a moment
when I wanted to quit.

One would think, in order to run a fast time during a race all one would need to do is run and run and run daily preceding the race day. This is certainly true, but there are some other significant factors in addition to running alone. Muscle memory (discussed two days ago) is crucial for pacing yourself and knowing where you are at during the race. Likewise, understanding the principle that “feelings lie” is also paramount, especially on those days when you would rather be any where except training (discussed yesterday). There is another area that has proven to be fundamental to me.

In every race I’ve ever run, there came a moment in the race where I wanted to quit. It usually wasn’t during the first mile (unless I was absolutely getting ‘smoked’ J). I could never predict when these thoughts would come, but come they would. Sometimes they would start out faint and build with every step, every muscle ache, and especially with every person that passed me on the trail. Though, I could not calculate when they would come, I did begin to recognize patterns and times of vulnerability to these empathetic-wanna-quit-mind-sets. Often, when I was alone in the woods for a long time during a race, the desire to slow down, or the thought that I would never catch the person ahead of me was pretty pervasive. However, the worst of thoughts typically comes after the first 2.5+ miles (the race was typically 5mi/8k).

Two runners will be running next or near to another runner. The one will begin to do what is known as a “surge.” This is where you are running right next to another runner and you begin to pull out in front of them, but not to far, just a couple of feet. The other runner will without doubt attempt to follow your lead and keep up. At this point, you let them remain with you, perhaps even slow down a touch, resuming the pace you were at before you surged. Then about twenty-seconds later, you will do it again and again. After a couple of minutes, the other runner will begin to hear those dreaded thoughts, “I can’t keep up with this guy!” “He’s just too strong.” “He won’t budge.” “Just let him go…”

A practiced runner understands how this battle goes on within his opponent and knows when and how to implement these various techniques to ensure his victory.

It takes much more energy for a runner to keep up with a “surger” than it does to be the one “surging.” For the one trying to keep up, there are all these mentally realities that begin to come into play…. “I want to quit.”

I’ve been in races when my mind began to sing this sad song. It’s amazing how many ways you can think of to “throw” a race during these moments! “Coach, I got a bad stomach cramp.” “I fell.” “Someone pushed me down.” “I’ve been kind of sick the last couple of days.” “Something I ate didn’t sit well with me.” To just name a few of the excuses that race though one’s mind.

To be sure, the battle rages in the mind and the skilled runner is one who knows when not to listen to the silent counselor. This pseudo-counselor is always looking for the easy way out, and in short, he is a “wimp!”. The trained runner is one who understands how the mental battle rages and has developed the character in practice to endure the mental-war on the course.

Scripture speaks of specific and strategic moments in the “race of life” where we are susceptible to similar mental battles. The Greek word for these moments is kairos. Kairos is the word commonly translated for “time.” It doesn’t just mean time as in chronological sense or calendar time, it is used in the context of a very specific and strategic time. “There will be an open door at this place, at this specific time, and that is the moment to strike.” This word is used to describe how Satan comes against and attacks followers of Christ, even Christ Himself.

For example, “when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him (Jesus) until and opportune time (kairos) (Luke 4:13). In other words, the devil would pull back, but not too far. He would be watching from a distance, waiting, looking, longing for a moment when he could “surge” against the Son of Man and bring Him down.

Satan knows at what “mile marker” we are typically most vulnerable. It is during these “times” the he “surges” against us, bring strain to relationships, circumstances and situations. At these moments, the battle will rage in our minds. What will we allow ourselves to think…? “Just quit.” “It’s not worth it.” “This will never change.” “I’ve been in this place again, what’s the use.” “No one will really notice if…”

It is the skillfully trained runner
who is not surprised by these thoughts,
nor thrown off course.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial,
because when he has stood the test,
he will receive the crown of life
that God has promised to those who love him.
(James 1:12)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Random Thoughts on Training.......................... by Dr. Mat & Track: #2

On the days
I felt the least like going to practice,
I ran the fastest times.

The human psyche (soul: mind, emotions, & will) is absolutely amazing to me! Of all the lessons regarding life and spirituality, this one has been a definite keeper. Two thoughts: one, on the days I least wanted to go train, I ended up producing the best results and running the fastest times. I still have vivid pictures in my mind of this reality. It would be mid-afternoon, and I could be found doing what I loved most to do…take a nap. I was often done with classes around 2:00, which left me a good hour to nap before Cross Country practice at 3:30pm. One more occasions than I can remember, I would wake up to the alarm clock around 3:00 o’clock. I would wake up in a daze, my body stiff and my comforter softer than ever. I DID NOT want to go to practice. I could imagine myself remaining in bed until the next day. My body, my mind, and my emotions were dead set against me getting up and going to practice. There was one miner problem, I signed a scholarship contractual agreement thus simply not showing up for practice wasn’t exactly an option.

I would grumble my way out of bed, share my intense lack of desire to be a practice with my roommate (who was also on the team), and then the most amazing thing would happen. Half way through practice my body began producing results that I did not expect it to produce just ninety minutes earlier. In other words, I would run the hardest and fastest times. And when practice was over, I had full energy, fully amazed at the times I had just run, and in awe of how “good” I felt. At the end of the day, there was one concrete conclusion I came to again and again… "My feelings lie!"

How often, in our spiritual life in Christ do we simply “not feel” like doing something. We don’t feel like praying. We don’t feel like reading Scripture. We do feel like waiting in the long line at the grocery store, and we definitely don’t feel like stand behind the person with 12 items in the 10 item line. We don’t feel like serving our spouse, or co-worker. And, please! I don’t feel like committing to another night, afternoon, or Saturday morning.

Just as with my “super-duper-power-napping” afternoons, we can think of numerous reasons that validate and support our feelings. But the lesson I’ve learned in the training days has been a powerful one. For, many have been the days in my walk with God that I’ve not “felt” like doing something and had numerous reasons to support and validate, yet many, if not all of those reasons are founded in the feeling itself, which I discovered…was A LIE, mostly rooted in my selfishness.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is get up and go. Do that which we know to be truth, and the “feelings” will more often than not, follow shortly along.

“If what you believe does not reflect truth,
then what you feel does not reflect reality.”
(Neil Anderson, Victory over the darkness)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Random Thoughts on Training.......................... by Dr. Mat & Track: #1

Every race is not a P.R. Day,
yet everyday is key to having PR Days.
Consistency is the key!

Every runner, on race day hopes to have a “PR Day.” PR stands for “personal record.” This means that you run the race faster than you have run it before, or at least for the present season. If a runner’s training is well planned, their times should progressively get faster and faster as the season continues. However, there are several factors that play into this happening or not. We will discuss some of these factors over the next couple of days and their application to spiritual formation

Though it has been stated that achieving a PR is a goal, there is much more that goes into a race than merely the finish-line. In fact, it is that “much more” that determines what happens at the finish-line and how fast one reaches it. Moreover, it is the practices and training times that precede the race that will ultimately determine what one is even capable of doing on Race Day.

Consistency is the key. In consistency, muscle memory is developed. When I was in college, during practice, I didn’t even need a watch to tell how long I had been running. With great accuracy, I could tell you how long I had been running, how far I had run, and at what pace (mph) I had been averaging. Several teammates and I used to make a game of this during practice. We would periodically ask, “how long have we been running?” and before another would look at their stopwatch, I would give an answer. Someone would then check their stopwatch and see the actual time. During the heat of training, I could usually get within 60 seconds of the actual time. How? Your body begins to develop what sports psychologist call “muscle memory.” My muscles could simply “feel” the pace we were running. I had timed myself at various paces so many times that my muscles learned what various paces felt like. (For example: 5:00 minute mile pace, 5:20 minute mile pace, 5:40 minute mile pace, etc.)

There is another side to the “muscle memory,” that also has direct applicability to our spirituality. Muscles begin to deteriorate within 72 hours of not being worked out. In other words, if one goes three days without working out, they will feel the digression when they hit the trails on that third day. This is why it is often advised to at least go for a 20:00 light run, even on the day after a big race. This is just enough to keep your muscles at strength, while allowing for them to rest and recuperate from the race.

After 72 hours, if one gets out of their training rhythm, training begins to be everything but enjoyable. It is always challenging once you get out of sync with your training rhythm. It’s hard, your mind fights going, your body resists, you’d rather stay in bed!

It is the same with spiritual practices such as prayer and the Word. Have you ever noticed, the more consistently you read, the more relevant, desirous, and applicable Scripture seems to your life? And, the less you read, and the more sporadic you read, the less and less Scripture seems to be relevant, desirous, and applicable to your life, as well as your current circumstances. It is the same with prayer. The more one prays, the more they become conditioned to hear the voice of God, His direction, and see His involvement in even the minuscule moments of the daily. There grows an expectancy and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s moving and involvement. However, when we get out of sync and don’t pray, prayer seems less and less significant, we are less expectant, less sensitive, and we begin to develop a greater dependence upon our selves and our own strength.

The daily is supremely significant to continual growth and spiritual formation. It is the daily that adequately prepares us for the day. Consistency is the key?
"Run in such a way that you may obtain it."
(1 Corinthians 9:24)