Run with Abandon

Life is hard. But God, our Father, is REAL! Reach for His hand today.

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

REAL Life is like my Beach Umbrella

As I recently enjoyed some quiet time by the ocean, the wind caught my umbrella and sent it tumbling down the beach. As I chased after it, it occurred to me that no one else’s umbrella was flying away. I retrieved it, stuck it back in the sand, and was forced to hold it for the remainder of the afternoon if I wanted to sit in the shade. Sitting there holding my unruly umbrella, I wondered what made the difference. Why did my umbrella blow away while others sat contentedly under theirs?
After thinking about it for a while, I realized that there were numerous factors to consider when it came to my umbrella incident. Other people may have dug their holes deeper and firmed up the sand by pouring water around the pole. It could be that their umbrellas were smaller and had less for the wind to catch. Or, as was the case on this particular occasion, perhaps I placed my umbrella in a poor location… like right at the end of a wind tunnel! I had walked down a street and onto the beach where I stopped to set things up. I did not realize that the buildings on either side of the street created a breezeway for the wind. Not only were the other umbrellas outside of this strong draft, but the beachgoers up and down the coast were protected by a sturdy line of Australian Pines. These were just a few of the factors that I had not stopped to consider when I chose my spot on the beach.
Isn’t that the way life feels at times? I may wonder why I seem to be the only one with deadlines at work that feel impossible to meet. No one else appears to struggle in relationships the way I do. Everyone else is making it financially while I struggle month after month.  Or, I may face a frightening diagnosis from a doctor while others casually go about their daily activities. We observe the lives of others, draw conclusions about what we observe, and then wonder why we are the only ones having a rough time! But we cannot possibly know the many factors that play into the outcome of another person’s life nor do we have insight into their very personal burdens.  I believe we are better off focusing on our own circumstances and doing all within our control to live according to the principles outlined in the Word of God. No matter how successful we are at accomplishing this goal, our stability in this life is still found in God alone! He is there for us when we are stressed, hurting, or frightened and when we have failed in our obedience to Him. His love never fails but it is up to us to turn to Him to accept it and receive the joy and peace that only He can provide. So if the winds of life seem to have you running after stuff, then perhaps it’s time to pause, put your conclusions aside, and seek answers from the only One who has the answers.


Living with Purpose – HIS Purpose

As much as I enjoy relationships, I would rather blend into the wall in a large crowd because I really don’t like being surrounded by people. This made our life in baseball interesting as I was often in the midst of large crowds at games. I was there because I enjoyed watching Andy pitch and wanted to support him in his career but I did not like being watched or noticed as a “player’s wife”.  It always amazed me that Andy could do his job in front of thousands of people with the knowledge that hundreds of thousands more watched the game on TV.  Andy explained to me that he had to learn how to tune out the distractions and focus on the task at hand. Andy had a clear understanding that his job as a pitcher was to throw quality pitches and get hitters out. This was an explanation I could understand! I gave a similar answer to a question from my daughter a few years ago. Robin had attended a speaking engagement with me and asked why I didn’t appear nervous when talking to a room full of women. My response was that my comfort came from the confidence that I was doing what God had equipped me to do.  Furthermore, I explained how completely uncomfortable I would be in her job as a preschool teacher!

Everyone was created by God and He gave each individual unique abilities. When we are involved in a growing relationship with the Creator, we are better able to discern what those gifts are and how He intends for them to be used. In other words, you are uniquely qualified to complete the meaningful work the Lord has planned for you. For example, I believe I was given the gift of teaching but that is not to say that I would be an effective teacher in every setting. It is my responsibility to seek the Lord’s guidance as to when, where, what, and who I teach.  I can take it upon myself to act according to my personal preferences as I am certainly capable of teaching without God’s guidance. And, it is true that God allows me to choose. If I choose to live life my own way, I am confident that God can see that His goals are accomplished without me. Our freedom to choose does not change the truth that it is His desire that we each live in relationship with Him and enjoy great fulfillment in that relationship. We can live in a way that we find pleasing to our flesh nature and ignore the raging war with our spirit. The reality is that the ongoing battle between our flesh and spirit is very real and the one that gets stronger is the one that is exercised more often.  Therefore, if we choose to do life apart from God then we experience the effects of that decision in our weakened spirit resulting in a spiritual ignorance and eventual hardening of our hearts toward the things of God. We can get to a point where we don’t ever think about God and we live entirely for our fleshly reward, enjoyment and glory. Then, our life is over and we face eternity in a broken relationship with God.

It has been my experience that people want to have a reason for living. I believe the life that brings the greatest sense of fulfillment is the one lived for the glory of Almighty God.  I often feel the temptation to work for my personal gain but, ultimately, those achievements are temporal. Whereas, if I choose to do all that I do as if I am working for the Lord God and for outcomes that I may, or may not, ever understand then the effects are eternal. When my life ends, my purpose lives on because it was always His. When I contrast a purpose that is temporary, in the grand scheme of life, to one that will literally affect lives for eternity then it is not difficult for me to decide which purpose I desire.  How about you?

Storms in Life are Inevitable…What will you do when they hit?

My grandson, Tristan, started 1st grade this year and, like many 6 year olds, experienced anxiety about the bus, work load, and general absence from the comfort of home. After much reassurance and encouragement, his mom reminded him to also pray to which he responded “I did talk to Jesus but I told him that I know there are other kids who are more scared than me so he needs to help them first.” While our motive may not be compassion, we may sometimes act like God really doesn’t have time to worry about my problems with all the more desperate issues of the world!

I was spending some time at the beach when Tropical Storm Isaac caused some problems. I listened to the news to determine whether or not I should evacuate. I watched the wind, seas, and rain with a sense of awe and, once again, marveled at the power on display in nature. I sat on the beach one morning, in between the rain, and made some observations that correlate with life. The waves were large and crashing on the shore with such force that they reached the dune line – the protective barrier of sea oats and sand between the surf and dry land. I had to move my chair back to avoid getting soaked. As far as I could see, the breakers were pounding and water was spraying as the swells collided in a disorganized way. As I looked up and down the beach, I could see numerous surfers enjoying this unusual occurrence as if it was Christmas morning and they were surprised with a fantastic gift! I felt the wind at my back and the sun on my face and felt a deep sense of relaxation. When I looked out toward the horizon, it was very dark and ominous and white caps were visible which could only mean that the waves were even larger out in the Gulf as Isaac passed by Florida. Soon, it began to rain again and I was forced to go back inside. This odd mix of enjoyment and beauty combined with a storm on the ocean could also be described as quiet stillness and peace in the midst of chaos.  This reminded me of a graphic description in Psalm 46 where we find the often quoted passage “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Like Tristan, it is so easy for me to become consumed with a particular set of concerns on any given day. I may become distressed over an unexpected expense due to a medical, plumbing, or pet emergency. Or, I have been known to wake up with a sense of calm and by 10:00 AM find that I am in an emotional whirlwind because of a serious bump in a relationship that I hold dear. It is not hard to go from feeling carefree in spirit to hoisting the weight of the world upon my shoulders due to a set of circumstances that are out of my control.  These are the facts about storms in our lives! The question is “How will we face the storms?”

When I read Psalm 46 in its entirety, I see a description of chaos like I have never experienced even in times where I have actually been in a hurricane.  Phrases like “though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea” and “nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall” are terrifying to me! But the reassurance comes as I reread the first verse of the chapter which says “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”  I strive to understand what “ever-present” means just like Tristan did during those first few weeks of 1st grade. Then I remember that the truth is made clear to me when I am “still” and “know” my God! I must renew my daily goal to “know” my Lord and Savior better today than I did yesterday and that certainly involves learning how to “be still” in His presence. I hold on with more confidence through the storms as I cling to the promise that “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Convention Wisdom for ALL

What would you say if invited to speak at one of the political conventions? My friend simply said “I would read the Bible to them”. While I believe that to be a wonderful idea, we would be wise to remember that the reading alone would not suffice! It is common knowledge that we can hear advice all day long and let it “go in one ear and out the other”. In order for the reading of God’s Word to make a difference in anyone’s life, it must be able to take root in the healthy soil of an open heart. This is where we must be careful because the only heart I can control or have responsibility over is my own. The question I have to ask myself is whether or not my heart is open to hear the Truth….not from either political party but from God himself!

As Christians, we have the unique ability to hear from God through His Holy Spirit which communes with our spirit. God is the only one who honestly and intimately understands each one of us and He is capable of letting His Truth be known in our innermost being. Will we listen? Or, will we have preconceived ideas of what His Truth is and keep our spiritual hands over our spiritual ears and refuse to hear? As always, God allows us freedom to answer that question on a personal level.

I do not write this to promote one political party over another but to encourage caution as we make our decisions in November. Unfortunately, we will not find a political party that acts like the “church” and we are not selecting a “senior pastor” but the President of the United States.  We must keep in mind that what is seen on TV or read in the news is not necessarily accurate. With the free access we have to information via the internet, perhaps we should spend some time doing old fashioned research and, as we were taught in school, double check our resources. At the very least, listen to both sides of the arguments from the original source and not from a person reporting what was said.

We cannot reasonably expect perfection from either party as perfection is not found in anyone except Jesus. We, who are called to be salt and light in this world, have a responsibility to listen carefully to the Light of the world.  Don’t tell God what you think or believe…..just listen to Him! In quietness before the Lord, open up your personal political views to the inspection of the Holy Spirit. Be willing to hear from Him. Then, make the decisions you believe would most please your heavenly Father and trust Him with the results.  Whatever the outcome now or in the future, God is still God and God is still good. We are aliens in this world but we are not alone. God is with us always and forever!

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