Saturday, January 28, 2012

I Run & Obstacle: Fear Conquering!

Ok, so about a year ago, I signed up for this crazy "race," but everyone who has "competed" knows that to finish is your only goal.  Tough Mudder calls it a "challenge" not a race.  Most people who peruse the link to the website will call you "insane."  I am here to testify, 'I AM INSANE!'

The race was located on the former GM proving grounds in Mesa, AZ.  Climbing over the torn up asphalt roads was conveniently part of our 12.5 mile course and was just an added perk to the 29 obstacles we were to complete.  I've included a few favorite pictures in this blog, but my cousin April and her sister-in-love Erin have already done an excellent job of blogging pictures and videos, so check those out for more context if you like=)

For me though, I must admit I was deeply terrified to complete this course.  I was most worried about holding back my team of 7 other super-fit friends because to be honest, I was the only one in our group who has had kids, and I just didn't have the time or energy to train how was necessary.  I won't give excuses, but I can admit I was not in the shape I needed to be for this race.  I knew it, and I was scared.  So scared, I'm pretty sure that's where my week-long blinding headache came from for the whole week before the race.

But ultimately it boiled down to conquering the fear.  Fear holds us back from accomplishing so much in this life.  Fear of making a wrong decision, so you don't make one.  Fear that the decision you just made was wrong, so you live in doubt and anxiety.  Fear of never trying anything, so your life will fade into oblivion without a blip on the radar.  Fear of trying things because you might fall flat on your face, fail, injure yourself, and/or make a complete fool of yourself.  Fear of this.  Fear of that. Fear, fear, fear!!!

If we were honest, especially as parents, we fight fear every day of our lives.  We battle with fear on the spiritual battleground hour by hour, and sometimes minute by minute, decision by decision.  If you're like me, and you're always trying to extrapolate the final results of every decision 5 minutes to 5 years out, fear can be paralyzing, depressing, and ultimately become your prison.

God did not put me on earth to live paralyzed, depressed, and imprisoned.  So IN HIM ALONE, I claim movement, joy, and freedom(Galatians 5:1)--IN Him I live and breath and move have my being. (Acts 17:28) In Christ alone I will walk, I will run, I will jump, climb ten foot walls, shimmy through mud pits under barbwire, dunk myself into a bath of ice water, leap off 15 foot platforms into the 33 degree water below, hurl my body up a 15 foot half pipe trusting someone stronger will catch me, and maneuver my way through a maze of live wire enduring the 10,000 volts of electricity that shock my lower back feeling like a baseball bat has crashed into my spine.

Crazy?  Absolutely.  Insane? Positively commitable.  Would I do it again?  Bring it on! (It's taken me two weeks to write those last 3 words, but yes, I would do it again.)  Why?  Because when God provides for you through one of the most difficult things you've ever experienced (and I include childbirth in this category because their was no epidural to numb the pain), when you stumble across the finish line almost in tears out of pure relief, you come to a slow realization as your body relaxes and rewarms and reorients that YOU ARE STILL ALIVE!  Very much alive, actually.

Oh, you have a few bumps and scrapes, some seriously ugly bruises, and others that day (not in our group) left with twisted ligaments, displaced joints, and a few with broken bones--but no one died.  No, we all lived!  Really lived.  Fully lived.  And to fully live like that is the greatest, deepest feeling of accomplishment and true, utter joy I've experienced in life.  Some people say you get addicted to the adrenaline, and there's probably some truth in that, but it's also knowing, knowing for sure, without a doubt--I did that.  God did that.  Wow.  Look what we can do together.  Look what He can do through me.  Wow.

Everything I'm writing here is about a physical challenge, but if you look a little deeper, it also applies to our spiritual lives and walks with the Lord.  What is it you are afraid to accomplish?  To do? To try?  Is fear holding you back from fully living for the Lord?

 Are you taking the first steps?  I mean, I didn't get to the point where I could physically complete this "race" over night.  It's been over 2 years since my first 1 minute run down the street.  There's been multiple 5Ks, 10Ks, and half-marathons leading up to this point.  Where are you on the road to doing great things?  Are you following the Lord's leading in even the small things, so He can trust you with the bigger?  A principle from my BSF study this past week was God works step by step, not leap by leap.

Have you surrounded yourself with a team of people to help you accomplish your goal?  Because let me tell you, at mile 6 when my entire leg was cramping so bad it felt there was a moving creature running inside my leg from my butt cheek to my ankle, and all I could do was walk, I silently blessed my sweet husband for walking by my side and never making me feel less of a team mate for having to slow the pace.  I silently thanked the Lord for each member of my 8-person team who at one point or another shouted an encouraging word, offered a helping hand, took some time to walk by my side when I couldn't run, and just overall let me know, they didn't care I couldn't keep up.  It didn't matter in the end that I wasn't up to their fitness level, they just wanted me to finish with them.

And believe me, everyone of us openly admitted there would have been no finishing without a team to support you.  This was not a one man "race," and neither is our walk with the Lord.  It is a challenge for the body of Christ to love one another and get each other through to the end.  Leave no man behind.  Lift and push them over the walls of life.  Pull them out of the ice when the tunnel vision has set in and they can't move forward.  Encourage them through the tunnels and over the hay bales of life.  Pull them up when they are about to slip back down a slippery slope.  Jump together into the cold, dark water holes of life.

If you haven't surrounded yourself with these people, then honestly, you have a slim chance in Hades of making it out alive or making it at all.  Chances are you will simply give up, quit, and go home.  Then all the glory God could have gotten, all the joy He wants to give as He works through you is wasted and useless, and you will feel the weight of the shame.  Thank God for forgiveness and repentance, grace and second chances, but that still means you have to wait and start the race another day,from the beginning, working through some of the same challenges you had already faced--again.  So find the right people to help you through.  Find them, listen to them, encourage them in return, invest in their lives as well, build and honor those relationships, and run together.

Do life together because even Christ surrounded Himself with 12 loyal disciples.  Even He was in constant communion with His heavenly Father.  Jesus died absolutely, positively alone as the Father turned His back away from the sin that weighed on Christ's shoulders on the cross.  For a brief moment in time, Christ had to die utterly alone, so that we NEVER have to be alone, ever, not even for a moment because IN Christ we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28 but I also like Ephesians 2:4-10)  His very presence is even evident in nature. (Romans 1:20)  God's plan is not for us to be alone.  Alone with Him at times, maybe, but never completely alone.  Only Jesus had to suffer that horrible fate.  All for love of us.

So find those people and conquer those fears.  I challenge you to find something physical that seems insurmountable because God (obviously) has taught me so much through the analogies of the physical and spiritual life, and He will be faithful to carry and teach you as well.  Never be afraid to really live!  To fully live!  We serve a BIG GOD!  Amen.  There's nothing too difficult for Him=)

So, fear conquering in a nutshell...
1) Identify the fear and admit you are afraid.  There is no condemnation in Christ! (Romans 8:1)
2) Commit to overcoming the fear.  Sign up for that race, put down that non-refundable deposit on that mission trip, whatever it looks like for you--commit yourself!
3) Prepare.  This can be LOTS of prayer and scripture memory.  It may be more physical in a nature like training your body.  It could be doing your research and talking to the right people.  Whatever preparation looks like, put forth the best you can offer.
4) Surround yourself with the right people for support. Let me tell you, our two team-members standing on the sidelines with water, energy gels, and snacks during the "race," following us around from obstacle to obstacle, taking pictures and cheering us on were JUST as important as everyone actually doing the "race" with me.  Surrounding yourself with the right people can take many different forms, all of them vital.
5) Trust God. Period.  Only He is capable of defeating fear.  He holds all the power.  Trust Him!

Now live life fully and go conquer some fears!  Trust me.  It's exhilarating!!!

Romans 8: 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

A Gift From Me to You

So, I am a collector of sorts, and one of the things I LOVE to collect are quotes and other useful pieces of information that are simple, succinct, to the point, 100% practical AND applicable.  This explains the large numbers of bookmarks and tiny pieces of paper littered throughout the inside pages of my Bible.  This also explains why I have collected over the years a small book of its own of handouts from various people, places, times, things, etc. in my life, half-folded handouts that stay neatly tucked away in the back of my Bible that have come in handy so many times over the years for various purposes.

Today, I would like to share with the world my new favorite hand-out of all times.  I highly recommend every parent double-sided print this and tuck it into their Bible or journal, whatever is handy where you remember to say your prayers each day.  My goal on most days is to simply pick one item from each list to include in my prayers for my family for the day.  After all, praying all of them would just be preposterous--at least for me;)  If you have that kind of prayer life and time, more power to you!  In the meantime, I'm doing good to pray one of these each day...

10 Ways to Pray for Your Children & 12 Ways to Pray for Yourself

God continues to work in and through my prayer life to teach me how to pray, what to pray, and when to pray.  I feel in my spirit that this year, He will reveal Himself more to me through my prayers than any other avenue, so here's to tapping into a power I've taken for granted for too many years.  I especially like that these lists came complete with Scripture to read and pray and support what is being presented.  I deeply believe that praying scripture is the best way to effectively pray, so often God's Words are much more complete and just so much more all together than what I could think to pray on my own.  Enjoy & Blessed Praying!

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