Posts Tagged ‘Encouragement’

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“MONDAY MORNING GROAN” Jan. 7

January 7, 2019

“And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,for out of it you were taken; for you are dust,and to dust you shall return.”  Genesis 3:17-19

man holding hoe

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

I do not till the soil nor do I cultivate seeds. I am not a farmer.
I am not a rancher. I do not graze livestock nor do I breed cattle.
My wages do not come from agriculture.

My wages are derived from services rendered in an office. I manage and design through contracted fees for purposes greater than my participation. While I don’t wield a pitchfork, my work is still exhausting. While I don’t lift produce, my efforts exceed my energy. I return from my daily labor exhausted but rarely is that exhaustion physical. My labor is of the mind and so is my fatigue.

Yet, I am under the same plague as those in agriculture. I work under the same curse of their labors. It is a curse long ago placed. There are no eyes remaining that saw its origin. It is a curse of such history that to imagine a world without it is akin to fantasy.

I know that this coming week of work will be filled with problems; political consequences upon our capacity, strategies for emerging trends, termination of a troublesome employee, delivery of a poor performance review of another, addressing of unseemly salutations of a third, and an assortment of challenges as yet unknown.
It will wear me out by the end of each day, but I will have lifted nothing. I will have pushed and persuaded but never engaged a muscle. I will have pulled an organization while never registering a watt.

These are the days that do not endear me to my job.

design desk display eyewear

Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

I observe social media feeds of individuals apparently free from my travails. Traveling the world without a care toward employment; engrossed in the pursuit of their passion. I know workers who have completed their term and are enjoying the fruit of a pension. They are free from the duty due a paycheck and the obligations of a position.

Yet, I know that it is all an illusion. We are all caught between a blessing and a curse. We have lived in this middle ground for so long that we no longer even recognize it.

My exhaustion does not come from my work. I was made to work. From the beginning of creation, mankind was created to work. Adam was placed in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. Adam was made to work. I have the same form as Adam. I was made to work.

My work is a blessing. Work was given to us by God as our purpose. Work was to be pleasant, delightful, and fulfilling. Yet, it often isn’t but that is not the fault of work.

The fault lies in the unacknowledged curse. We live in a fallen world. The earth was cursed in response to Adam’s sin. Our work was intended to cultivate and keep the blessings of the Lord. Sin resulted in a twisting of that purpose into hardship. Work became labor and toil.

We were to live in harmony with creation as stewards of blessings. Sin exchanged harmony with difficultly. Nothing is easy under the curse. Work became a source of exhaustion. We were to be joyful stewards of bounty. Now, we are slaves to the dust we were formed from.

This is why I groan every Monday. This is why it is so hard to crawl out of bed on a workday. This is why the whole of creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth (Romans 8:22). We are laboring under the curse; Slaves to Murphy’s Law.
This is why I know that those who have achieved the blessed age of retirement are not freed from exhaustion. It is why I know the liberty of the jobless world traveler is an illusion.

We walk in blindness and insensibility when we don’t accurately attribute the source of our Monday morning groaning. The fallacy is the attribution of sadness and discontent to our employment. Problems will find us wherever we flee.

This is why I don’t place my hope in this world. The problems that await me within my week of work are simply inherent to this fallen world. I recognize the dreadful results of disharmony with our Creator.

This is why I collect the tokens of God’s goodness, which He has generously sprinkled throughout a world corrupted by the rebelliousness of sin. I might not be able to see a world as pure as that which appeared to Adam. However, I still can acknowledge the mercy and grace given by God to an undeserving world.

Therefore, I will appreciate my work, my purpose. As I ready myself for another week, I will strive to redeem my labor to its original creation for the glory of God as a faithful steward. I will separate my purpose from its problems. My purpose is the holy occupation that I have been blessed with. The resulting weariness and groaning are merely another reminder of my need for a Savior.

I am thankful that I have one.

man kneeling in front of cross

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for my job.  Thank you for giving  employment to provide for my needs and the needs of my family.  Help me to see beyond my groanings.  Help me to see the holy in my purpose.  Give me strength to endure the curse that is upon this earth for your glory.  Open me eyes to see all the blessings I have .  Thank you for the promise that one day your children will be freed from the corruption of this place.  Thank you for making a way through the salvation of Jesus Christ alone.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“GLORY OF THE BONSAI” – March 19

March 19, 2016

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith”.’”  Romans 1:17

CLF - Olmstead ParksHe gazes out the window upon a familiar sight.
The Big Oak swaying in the breeze.

Dominating the landscape, it sends limbs far into the sky.
Within it canopy, countless birds find rest and make a nest.

No river is too far for its driving roots.
It drinks deeply from an unseen source.

The Gardener delights in it’s canopy.
The Gardener delights in it’s cool shade.

The Gardener loves the Big Oak.

He looks at his small branches.
They don’t even eclipse the table.
Why don’t they reach the sky?

Although, he has tried.
He tries to send them high.
But every time, they’re clipped short.

It is as if he is bound and pulled down.

He looks at his shallow roots.
They don’t even fill the divot in the a rock.
He knows they need to go deep.

Although, he has tried.
He tries to send them deep.
But every time, they’re rolled in a ball.

It is as if he is contained and drained.

The Big Oak is so much better.
How can the Gardener delight in his canopy?
How can the Gardener delight in his cool shade?

The Gardener will never love him as that Big Oak.

Unseen hands rotate him and he looks out a new pane.

Malus_hupehensis01
He sees the Big Apple Tree.

Its branches are filled with fruit.
The harvest is full.  Worker’s baskets overflow.

It produces a 100 fold, maybe more.
It’s fruit will bless tables far and wide.

It’s roots pull in nutrients for each blossom to grow.
It’s branches are thick;
they can bear the load of fruit, multi-fold.

The Gardener delights in it’s sweet fruit.
The Gardener delights in it’s abundance.

The Gardener love the Big Apple Tree.

He looks at his single cone.
It is so very small.
He knows there should be more.

Although, he has tried.
He tries to grow more.
But every time, it takes so long.

It is as if he lacks the power to grow.

The Big Apple Tree is so much better.
How can the Gardener delight in his produce?
How can the Gardener delight in his abundance?

The Gardener will never love him as that Big Apple Tree.

Doors are opened.
People line up in single file, along every aisle.
He doesn’t know what for.

A party ensues.
Happy faces filled with congratulations.
Pictures are taken with a group all around;
But he doesn’t know what for.

The people leave and the doors are closed.
The Big Oak sees him through the right pane.
The Big Apple Tree sees him through the left.
Bonsai_IMG_6408He sits in a house of brick and glass.
He’s been given the best location; a centerpiece.
This house was built for him alone.

He resides upon a table of stone, made for him long ago.

Ribbons hang along every wall.
Awards and plaques are stacked in trophy cases.
They attest to his “best in show”.

The Gardener spends innumerable hours with him;
more than with the Oak or Apple tree.
Pruning every leaf, wiring every branch, binding every root.

The Gardener has made him a work of art.

The Gardener delights in his canopy.
It was never intended to provide shade.
The exacting artistry of the Gardener is reflected in every shape.

The Gardener delights in his produce.
A single fruit is precious.
The Gardener knows what He has given.

The Gardener is perfecting it all.

As long as he compares himself to those who have been given more;
As long as he believes that he is in control;
As long as he doubts the hand of the Gardener;

He will never know that he is the Gardener’s pride and joy.


I don’t know why some have been gifted with amazing minds while others struggle for a coherent thought.

I don’t know why some have been gifted to capture a stadium while other can’t even get their pet’s attention.

I don’t know why some have been miraculously freed from addiction while others continue  stumbling in their temptation.

I don’t know why some have been given health while others linger in affliction.

I don’t know why some have been given wealth while others have to scrape for every penny.

I don’t think we are supposed to know.

Consider the glory from weakness; blessed are the poor in spirit.
Consider the glory from hurting; blessed are those who mourn.
Consider the glory from humiliation; blessed are the meek.

Each is a pruning, binding, training.

We are called to live by faith, which is a gift of God.  We are called to live under exacting artistry of the One who is the author and perfecter of our faith.

Therefore, you can trust that all the pruning, binding, and training has a purpose.  It frees you to simply be.

You are being created into a work of art, exactly the way the Master wants you to be.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for perfecting.  Thank you for giving me gifts and depriving me of others.  Father, I place all my trust in you.  Help me to live by faith.  Help me to worry less about what I need for tomorrow and focus on the blessing I can be today for your glory.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

This post was inspired by the bonsai video and the amount of effort and time it took to create this tree.

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WHAT I’VE LIKED – Jan. 2

January 2, 2016

next waveThe following are some of my favorite waves
from my web surfing over the last couple weeks.


 QUOTE:

corrie ten boom


FAITH:

I ran across this article through a link at Already Not Yet.  I appreciated 7 Ways to Become a Better Sermon Listener as a nice change from many articles.  I read a lot on how preachers need to improve but I don’t hear much advice about what we in the pews can do to get more out of what we are hearing.  This was a good reminder for me.


POETRY:

Today more than ever,
we need to be alert . . .
when with temptation
we begin to flirt.

We need to treat,
all temptation as a threat
so that we’re not filled
with remorse or regret.

We need to consider,
the warnings they create
our spiritual senses . . .
we must always elevate.

We need to be sober,
to the flags that are red
unless unto temptation
we might fall into bed.

Today more than ever,
we must not be ignorant
temptation must be treated
as a threat imminent!

Deborah Ann Belka, Red Flag Warning


RUNNING:

While How to Stay Motivated to Run this Winter had some good motivation to stay running, it was trumped by the 12 lbs that I have gain during this off-season.  So, I found weight loss to be the motivator that actually got me back to pounding the pavement.  I love the motivational stories in 15 Incredible Stories of Weight Loss Through Running

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A winter run – I actually did one!


CYCLING / TRIATHLON:

Good advice to change my bike trainer attitude:  Make Peace With Your Bike Trainer

However, I will take a ride in the cold over a ride on the trainer any day.  This article has a lot of good advice for those who are willing to embrace the cold: Why I Bike in Cold Weather–And How You Can Too

Best Motivation for Winter Cycling - The Beardcicle

Best Motivation for Winter Cycling – The Beardcicle


GARDENING:

I can always get my garden fix from FLORATUBE.ORG.  As I am surrounded by white snow, I was contented to see all the green from this video which FLORATUBE.ORG linked to.  So, I will do the same:


SCIENCE:

I have a new excuse – my tapeworm made me do it.  This article freaked me out.  Hidden Epidemic: 
Tapeworms Living Inside People’s Brains gives you all the reason you need to make sure your pork is cooked properly.

People forget that science is a process pursued by fallible people.  I was dismayed by the number of retractions cited in The Top 10 Retractions of 2015 due to shear fabrication of data.  It is always good to remember that many scientist have motivations other than pure science.


ART & CRAFTSMANSHIP:


FUNNY/HEART-WARMING:

You have got to love someone with a style all their own.


 

 

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WHAT I’VE LIKED – Dec. 26

December 26, 2015

next waveThe following are some of my favorite waves
from my web surfing over the last couple weeks.

QUOTE:
newton

 

FAITH:

Never underestimate what God may use to draw the lost to himself.

 

POETRY:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
~ Christina Rossetti, In the Bleak Midwinter

 

INSPIRATION/ENCOURAGEMENT:
This article by Derek Rishmawy was a very encouraging reminder, “to strive to become Spirit-empowered readers who are disciplined in the interpretive virtues.”  Admiring v. Flying Boeing 747

RUNNING:
Since I still haven’t done any running this winter, this article was truly needed.
How to Stay Motivated to Run this Winter
cold run 1

TRIATHLON:
A lot of good reasons to get a coach…we’ll see if this advice is enough to shell out some cash.  Why Did You Start Using a Coach

The article was encouraging to remember that the primary aspects of triathlon are mental.  11 Traits of Top-Notch Triathletes

GARDENING:
I love the power of gardens!

 

SCIENCE:

We live in amazing times.  I was once again amazed by our Creator and the incredible nature of DNA.  The concepts of using DNA to store data is more than a few science classes beyond my understanding.  Data Storage on DNA can Keep it Safe for Centuries

Molecules Arranged in Double Helix --- Image by © Imtek Imagineering, Inc./CORBIS

Molecules Arranged in Double Helix — Image by © Imtek Imagineering, Inc./CORBIS

The contrast of God’s hand in the molecular and the macrocosm (Hubble Snaps Breathtaking View of Colorful Veil Nebula) can be summarize as simply astounding.

This image shows a small section of the Veil Nebula, as it was observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This section of the outer shell of the famous supernova remnant is in a region known as NGC 6960 or — more colloquially — the Witch’s Broom Nebula.

This image shows a small section of the Veil Nebula, as it was observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This section of the outer shell of the famous supernova remnant is in a region known as NGC 6960 or — more colloquially — the Witch’s Broom Nebula.

 

CRAFTSMANSHIP:

FUNNY/HEART-WARMING:

 

"Thumbs up" picture, mostly uploaded...

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WHAT I’VE LIKED – Nov. 28

November 28, 2015

next waveThe following are some of my favorite waves from my web surfing over the last couple weeks.

QUOTE:
“It’s nice to be great, but far greater to be nice.”
~ Joe Newton

FAITH:
I appreciated this article of strategies to help enjoy continuous communion with God.  Nancy gives 10 very practical aids to help set our minds on God.  I particularly liked her reminder, “our all-gracious God chooses to bless us when we seek to bless him.”  Ten Ways to Keep Mindful of God

POETRY:
“And then one day He wasn’t there –
no voice, no touch, no sense
that He was watching over me,
the heavens just seemed dense.
And then I knew just how it felt
to be an afterthought.
To not be top of someone’s list,
the first thing they sought.
It took some time to make it up,
I learned to make amends.
But now I guard it preciously
that God and I are friends.”
~ Ann Marie Thomas, Neglect, My Stroke of Inspiration

INSPIRATION/ENCOURAGEMENT:
This article by Tim Challies was very encouraging as he exhorts, “You can be far holier, far purer than you ever thought possible.”  A Simple but Life-Changing Realization

RUNNING:
It is a familiar story –
I am seeking inspiration to run;
maybe some running movies will help.
12 Great Running Movies

CYCLING:

Tri-Bike Trainer

I hate it when the weather gets too cold and I am forced onto the indoor trainer.  I just can’t take long trainer workouts so that is why I liked this article.  The author recommends short, hard efforts to build our aerobic energy system—in less time.  Work a little harder but get it done in less time – I like that.

The article has workouts to do two to three times a week.  I am going to give these a go this off-season.  How to Ride Inside:  Indoor Trainer Workouts for Cyclists

GARDENING:
I will warn you – if you like great gardens, it is hard to watch only one episode.

 

CRAFTSMANSHIP:

AMAZING:

 

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ENCOURAGED TO DO – Nov 29

November 29, 2014

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:22-25

long_road-aheadAs the remaining days of adequate daylight dwindled, I abandoned running in preference to cycling. My goal of cycling over 2,000 miles in a year was within my grasp so I filled those precious post-work hours on the bike. I happily pedaled past 2,000 miles until daylight-savings snuffed out anymore evening bike rides.

However, the consequence was a complete lack of running for about a month. It is a common story for me. I will abandon running to the most insignificant of excuses. I am not a person who experiences the runner’s “high”. Therefore, a run does not hold the promise of an endorphin fix. It is just a rather uncomfortable workout.

cold run 1Since the season of outdoor cycling has passed, I have reluctantly returned to running. I am too inconsistent on the treadmill so I decided to do evening runs at a local track. In my new found dedication, I completed a couple workouts but quickly found it hard to persevere in my commitment to running in the dark and cold. I could feel all the excuses sapping my resolve. Inconsistency was once again lurking around the corner ready to devour my motivation.

A runner friend discovered my activities and began to join me. Around and around the track, we run in darkness. I hear his breath and adjust my pace to the beat of his footfalls. I run faster. My lungs burn and my legs sting but I push on just a little longer because… he is still going. These have been some of the best workouts I have had and some of the most enjoyable.

cold run 2I have enjoyed it so much that a polar vortex and snow have not kept me from the track.  I ran in 13 degree F temperatures when, in the past, threatening clouds kept me in?  The question is why?

I have read books and articles on running.
I have listened to running experts.

I know how to be a better runner.
I want to be a better runner.

I could benefit from a coach but knowledge is not my primary need. Knowledge is not what keeps me from being a better runner.

A lack of running has kept me from becoming a better runner.

My greatest need as a runner is encouragement to run – encouragement to do. I went out in 13 degree weather because someone came by my office door and said “you coming?”. It was as simple as that. I would not have persevered in doing what I need to do if it had not been for that simple encouragement.

I tell this story as an illustration of what I believe to be the Church’s primary need.  In my last blog (The Fall of the Homely Handy), I pondered how the Church might want to respond to the information age that we are currently living in.

OpenBibleWe live in a time when the internet delivers into our homes some of the greatest Spirit-inspired teaching of the centuries. We can listen to teachers from across the globe that have been powerfully gifted and called to eloquently preach the Word of God. I can easily research any theological question that might be troubling me. We can maintain a near constant hearing of the Word of God.

I asserted that in the typical Church, the majority of their activities revolve around education – presenting the Word of God to the ears of their congregation.

Yet, is that our greatest need?
Are the ears of the typical Christian suffering
from a lack of hearing the Word of God?

I believe that no Christian has the excuse of inadequate teaching. We live in a wonderful age. We can easily supplement any inadequacies that may come from the teaching of our local Church. Therefore, I don’t believe that true followers of Christ are suffering or should suffer from a lack of hearing the Word of God.

Yet, I do see a lack of doing.
I do see a lack of perseverance.
I see a lot of folks who are hearers of the word but struggle at being doers.

They know what they need to do to better follow Christ.
They want to be better followers of Christ.

I know that every Christian can benefit from Spirit-inspired teaching but I don’t believe that more teaching is the primary need of the typical believer. Hearing the word of God is not what keeps me from being a better follower of Christ. A failure to do is what keeps me from being a better follower of Christ.

Therefore, how do we become better doers?
If this is the primary need of Christians,
then how can the Church better meet this primary need?

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

I assert that the greatest need of the typical Christian is encouragement; encouragement to persevere through difficult times; encouragement to love; encouragement to good works; encouragement to DO; encouragement to take what we have heard, what we know, and to actually DO it.

The author of Hebrews is encouraging the Church to come together for the purpose of motivation – to stir one another up and encourage each other to be DOERS.

So, what might this look like in our information age?

Ironically, I suggest that we learn from the example of David Dickson in his book “The Elder and His Work”, first published in America in 1883. He provides practical advice of an elder’s call to the ministry of shepherding Christ’s flock, which is really a description of how we are to practically encourage one another to be DOERS.
Here is how I will summarize this example from the late-1800’s that I think we can learn from:
  1. TEACHERS SHOULD TEACH: PreachI am not suggesting that pastors should abandon the preaching and teaching the word of God. That would not be Biblical. Our Lord has gifted and called teachers to speak the word of God to our ears. They need to be faithful to their calling. Our local pastors have the opportunity to speak from the Word to the direct needs of their congregation. That is something that no podcast can do. In addition, I believe that teachers have a responsibility to teach the Church how to wisely and safely use the resources that we have available to us in this informational age. We know that all that is on the internet is not good. Therefore, we need to be shown where to go and how to discern the information that we might come across.
  2. SHEPHERDING SHOULD BE VALUED: shepherdI am suggesting that the shepherding of the congregation should be valued as much, if not more than, preaching and teaching in this informational age. I am arguing that the greatest need of today’s Church is for followers of Christ to become better DOERS. I believe that will be best accomplished by practical encouragement – shepherding. Therefore, local Churches should evaluate how they are doing the ministry of shepherding. They should be particular and specific in dedicating resources to this desperately needed ministry. They should be practical and organized so that people in their congregations don’t fall through the cracks and be overlooked.
  3. SHEPHERDING IS A TASK BEYOND THE PASTOR: IS4086RF-00038636-001There is no pastor that has enough time to practically shepherd a congregation. I believe that shepherding should be the primary task of the Elders. It seems that the primary task of many elders has become the purveyors of budgets and bylaws. This is where we can learn from our past and the example of David Dickson. In the 1800’s church in Scotland, the families of the congregation were divided amongst the Elders. Each elder was responsible to shepherd specific families. He regularly visited those he was shepherding. He knew them personally. He knew their struggles and trials. Therefore, he was able to give that needed word of encouragement and when necessary a word of admonition or correction that might be received. He was able to see where additional teaching would be beneficial because he knew where they were spiritually. He was able to effectively disciple which requires an involvement in people’s messy lives beyond what can be accomplished by a Sunday morning greeting. By this organizational structure and division of responsibilities, the elders were able to practically shepherd a large congregation.
  4. SHEPHERDING IS A TASK FOR EVERYONE: I have focused on elders in this discussion because I believe the Church needs to be organizedEnglish: A man helps a friend along at the 200... so that shepherding actually happens for the entire flock of Christ. However, I hope it is clear that the ministry of shepherding is something every follower of Christ can provide to each other. It is not a ministry that is reserved for the elder or the pastor of our Churches. We should all be encouragers. We all should excel at stirring each other up to love and good works. Imagine the draw of our gatherings if when we came together our primary purpose was to encourage one another. I cannot help but to think that our Churches might be closer to meeting our primary need – encouraging one another to finish the race and to persevere all the more as we see the Day draw near.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the church.  Thank you for our pastors and elders you have called to their specific ministries.  Thank you for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  That you for those who are encouragers.  Help me to be an encourager.  Help me to be an encouragement to my family and friends.  Help our churches to be places where we are encouraged to persevere.  Lord, form our churches so that all of our needs are met.  Don’t let us forget our own faces.  Give us the strength and motivation to faithfully follow you through anything.  Give us encouragers.    I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

 

 

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REVELATIONS FROM A BAD RACE – April 1

April 1, 2014

““Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

In my last post (Race Day), I was in the midst of pre-race excitement and the unknown of never having competed in a cycling event.  I am now in the haze of reflection on a weekend of bicycle racing.

 

ToO Road Race 2014

I now know that my day-dream of standing on a podium really was a silly fantasy.
I also know the dreaded realization of being crushed by  “real” cyclists.

Time Trial:

I knew I was in trouble as I watched the other riders warm-up. I was impressed by the degree of aero-equipment that whizzed past me; TT bikes, aero-helmets, aero-wheels, and skin-suits of every variety and shape.  The vast majority of my competitors wore the gear of a cycling team and looked very fit.  I did not see any newbies, like myself.

The actual race confirmed my fears. They release competitors individually, in one minute increments. I was passed by three racers. In fact, I was passed within the first two miles by the guy who started immediately behind me, after I had been averaging over 23 mph.  I finished 10th…out of ten, in my age group, 76th out of 87 overall. However, I had personal bests on both climbs and I maintained my heart rate between 155-165 bpm. It was probably the best I could do.

I am satisfied with the race since my finish was strong (for me).

Criterium:

The crit course is located in the downtown section of a local town, in the form of a rectangle with two block straight-aways and 90 degree corners. It is flat and fast. From the whistle, we were immediately up to 25 mph. I managed through the first and second corners.  On the third corner, I was set up on the outside of the turn. I could not see very far ahead due to the group so I set my line base on the rider inside of me. We all leaned into the turn but I quickly released that I was being pinched into the curb as we were coming through the turn. I grabbed my brake a little too hard and felt my back tire slip toward the curb at which point I felt this sense of weightlessness. The next thing I knew I was standing in a grassy area adjacent to the course, inspecting my bike.

I had crashed in my first lap. Fortunately, I landed on the only grass aligning the whole course.  A rider with better bike handling skills and experience probably would never have crashed. I am a little disappointed that I did not get back on my bike and finish the crit – I probably could have. The crash rattled and scared me.

I did not finish well. In fact, I did not finish.

Road Race:

I didn’t want to do the road race after my experience with stages 1 and 2. I had been humbled and outclassed. I had done the pre-race ride and knew what a day on the road race course would be like.(Strava-Like Community)   A few friends encouraged me to continue and consider the road race as an opportunity to train and gain experience. I had no answer to their encouragement so I sucked it up and went for it.

To my surprise, I hung with the group until the climb at the end of the first lap when I was dropped and the group was gone. I rode in solitude for the next two laps, as I had expected, finishing 12th …out of twelve, in my age group, 49th out of 58 overall. I am happy that I persevered through the race even though my time was not competitive.

Measure the Heart
I was thinking about Paul’s encouragement to compete in a way to obtain the prize.  Thankfully, God does not judge our faith by outward appearance. He knows our heart. He knows the blessings and abilities that He has granted each one of us. He does not grant the prize based upon the external accolades from this race we call life.

God judges us based upon our heart.

I may have exhibited more heart and determination than my weekend rankings may have exhibited. I have not been blessed with much of the youth, experience, strength and athleticism on display by those real cyclists. I don’t have the luxury of time to put into dedicated cycling training necessary to achieve the sort of cycling fitness and power that I saw this weekend. But given where I am, I might not be in last place if heart were a category.

God judges us based upon our heart and what our love for Him motivates us to do with all the blessings and abilities He has given us. That is why we should not judge other people by their actions. We never know how competitive their heart really is. They might actually be running a better race of faith than I am without many of the advantages I have been given.

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Race Well
We are all in a race. The goal of this race is to persevere and finish strong in our faith. We should all be striving to hear the words, “well done, good and faithful servant”.

We may feel outclassed by other people’s faith and dedication.
We may have crashed our faith due to inexperience and poor decisions.
We may be rattled and afraid of where following Christ might take us.
Bad experiences may have us at the edge of wanting to give up.
We might feel discouraged as we slog along in solitude.

Remember, God does not judge the external results of your faith. He judges your heart. He knows the gifts He has given you. He knows the disadvantages you are overcoming. He knows the faith He has given you. He has you exactly where He wants you. He is providing you with experience and training so that you will persevere to the finish line.

So, don’t give up; look to other real faith racers as examples of what is possible. Take heart in knowing that God has given them the strength to follow Him as they do. He can do the same for you. Most likely, He is already doing it as long as you continue to show some heart – a heart dedicated to loving God more than anything.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the opportunity to race this weekend. Thank you for showing me how important heart is.  Thank you for giving me grass to crash into.  Thank you for the faith that you have given me.  Thank you for the experience and training that you are putting me through.  Lord, examine my heart.   Give me examples to follow and be encouraged by.  Help me to suck it up and continue when I feel like giving up.  Remove all fear of following you with a wholly dedicated heart.  Help me to keep the prize of living well for your glory in sight. I want to embrace the hope of obtaining the prize. Grant me a spirit to race my life well. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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