Monday, September 29, 2008

what's in the water?

Okay, this one has been on my mind for a couple of days now. It's based on a scripture that, for lack of a better word picture, keeps "bubbling up" inside me.

"Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." - Proverbs 4:23-27

When I first started thinking about this verse, I kept getting a picture of people throwing trash into my wellspring! Oh, let's be honest...I've been tossing some of it in there myself! Then I wonder, why is my heart sick...good grief - just look at what I've been drinking! Some of the garbage is found in the form of television...mostly fluff. Some is wasted time, some is just allowing life to toss its refuse my way. That's the garbage that's easy to clear out. A few swipes and it's gone. Some garbage, however, is much more toxic and difficult to remove. That kind of garbage comes for me, in the form of failure, fear and dread. There's been a lot of toxic waste to choose from lately. Some is wrapped up in the election, some is wrapped up in the news, some isn't even comes special delivery and dives right in! I find that I not only partake of this stuff, but I spill over onto my family and everyone around me! Surely I'm not the only one who has barrels of toxic waste waiting to bob to the surface with each passing wave!

I've decided that I'm taking a stand. (Gee, that's scary to write!) I'm choosing to guard my heart. I may have to consciously block some garbage that wants to come my way, and I may have to reach in and clear out some refuse that drifts in, but I'm going to keep this spring clear. I don't want to look into my life and see some polluted river with dead floating fish and green slime that looks like it could crawl out of the water and eat me! I don't want my wellspring to look like some sort of Ganges river filled with the ashes of dead dreams and false gods, (not to mention sacred cows!) I want a spring that bubbles and is clear and fresh and that sustains life and hope.

Yes, I know things look bad, but I'm also going to keep my eyes focused straight ahead...directly before me. (That's the second part of that verse that I'd forgotten until I looked it up!) It's a funny thing, whatever you focus on, you tend to veer in that direction. When I'm running, if I focus straight ahead and lift my head, I do much better. I feel better and I have hope that the goal is within reach. When I drop my head, the race becomes's much easier to quit. If I look in either direction, I find my steps are following my gaze. I have to ask myself, am I looking down at myself, outward to the problem, or am I focused on the goal?

Whether we look at what is happening in our lives as garbage that tries to muddy the waters, or as something that tries to distract us to look its way, either way we must guard our hearts. We can not simply drift along and go with the tempting as that may be. It is time to set our eyes on the goal - the One who is the Author and finisher of our faith. Guard our heart so that out of it may come clean waters for the thirsty soul.

I plan on reminding myself of this the next time I buy groceries and the bill is so staggering it makes me ill. I will remind myself of this when my children act like, well, children. I will remind myself of this when life becomes so daily that I find myself not living for the moment but waiting for the someday. I will guard my heart, fix my eyes on the goal and travel on. Care to join me?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What Krav has taught me about the Christian walk..

This could be a rather long post, so you might want to get a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable...that is if you decide to read on.

As my aching muscles were recovering from a recent Krav workout and I was trying to convince myself I needed to go for a run to build endurance, I had one of those 'Random thoughts' that usually leads to these blogs. During those moments of trying to get one foot in front of the other, I realized I could find a lot of parallels between Krav and my Christian walk.

For those who are not aware of what Krav Maga is, it is a form of self defense. It works off using moves that come somewhat naturally and trains you to use them in the most effective way - I say Krav teaches you how to go home alive. My instructors usually call the moves our "tools" that we have in our "toolbox". That is where the parallels begin.

Krav takes what comes naturally and uses it. In life, when we are struck by an attack from the enemy, we will usually do what comes naturally. We will use what we know how to do. If, in Krav, I only know one move, I will use that move over and over trying to get away. It might not be the best move, but of course it's better than none! It would be better if I knew a number of moves with which to defend myself, but in the midst of battle is not the time to try and learn a new move! The same can be said of spiritual battles. If all I have in my "toolbox" are a few scriptures, I will use those over and over again. They may not be the best for this particular battle, but they are better than nothing! When I am in the midst of battle won't be the best time to try to learn new scriptures either. I've got to use what I know. The time to learn how to use my weapons isn't in the midst of battle, it's long before an attack ever comes. Those scriptures, just like my Krav moves, have got to become second nature to me. They have to be a part of who I am.

Krav also works best if you are in good shape to begin with. It doesn't rely on strength so much as quickness and endurance. I get more out of my workouts and training if I do a little maintenance and endurance training in between sessions. There is reasoning behind this. If I should ever be in a situation where I find myself attacked, a quick tap on the nose probably isn't going to deter my attacker. I won't be playing, I very well might be fighting for my life and that tap will only serve to anger them more. I have to know that should an attack come, I am ready to fight until I can go home....alive. I don't know how long I will have to fight. Hopefully my first defense will be sufficient, but if it is not I am ready to continue on. The spiritual connection to this is pretty obvious. The devil isn't going to attack and when I use one scripture simply say, "Oh well, she is prepared, let's go home." My enemy seeks to kill and destroy...I have to be able to stand no matter what. I have to be ready to fight until the battle is won. That comes from spending time DAILY with the Lord and in His Word. I have to build myself up in faith so that in the time of testing, I can stand.

Another parallel I've found is that during my Krav workouts, the areas I'm weakest are the hardest to convince myself to do. I HATE push-ups, mainly because my upper body is weak. I LOVE the kicks because my lower body is strong. I can use what I'm good at, but at times I have to be ready to use what I'm weaker in as well. My adversary won't always attack where I am strongest. I have to recognize my areas of weakness and work to build those up as well...even if it's difficult and I don't like it.

Of course, as with any martial arts, Krav trains that you don't go out looking for a fight. I am however ready should I ever find myself under attack. While I make it a practice to walk around aware of my surroundings and steer clear of things that put me into unnecessary danger, I also know that I can walk without fear. I am able to go into situations knowing that if I had to, I could protect myself. More importantly, I can protect those that I love. While I don't go out looking for a fight, should anyone ever harm one of my children or the children left in my care, they will definitely have a MAJOR fight on their hands. One of the drills we do has to do with fighting off one attacker and then chasing down another one. Why would I ever do that? Why to protect my child of course. I'm not in this just for myself. I'm fighting for those I love as well. (I hope you are finding the spiritual connections in all this even if I don't spell it out. When the devil attacks me, I get mad. When he attacks my family, I attack back and will not give up until they are free. I'm sure parents can identify with these sentiments.)

Finally, in Krav I train best when I have people of like strength...or those who are stronger than me. To push myself to where I need to be, I have to have someone who will challenge me to push on. In my Christian faith, I need the same thing. I need people who will help me sharpen my sword, as iron sharpens iron. I need to be challenged at times to make sure I can use my weapon should I need to. At times, I help others who are just learning or who don't yet have the endurance. I'm glad to do that. However, to push myself to what I need, it is important to surround myself during times of training with those who make me reach down deep and find strength I did not know I had. One of the reasons I feel that I could possibly survive an attack physically is that I have had training partners who pushed me to the point where I felt the "overdrive" kick in. They also helped me identify my areas of weakness so that I could grow.

I hope I never have to defend myself or my family against an attacker. I may go home to be with God NEVER having to physically fight. With spiritual matters however, I know I won't have that luxury. I fight an enemy who wants to steal, kill and destroy my life...and that of my family. The moment I forget that enemy is real, I let my guard down and become vulnerable. That enemy is real, but my God is much more real. He has given me weapons of warfare; my job is to know how to use them.

Having said all that, it's time to go our for some endurance training...a run and some time spent in prayer.

even if no one notices

This one will be short.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of helping with the Labor Your Legs Race with the Pine Belt Pacers. As I was setting up to be a course monitor, I noticed a small patch of white flowers growing alongside the road underneath my feet. Since I had a few minutes waiting on the first runners, I stooped down to take a closer look.

There were quite a few of these delicate little flowers, all in full bloom. No one probably ever notices them...they are so small and close to the ground. That didn't matter. They bloomed anyway. After all, they weren't necessarily blooming for someone else anyway. They were blooming because God had created them to.

Now I know I am using personification, but it made me think of the verse in the Bible that talks about "consider the lilies". Well, I am considering the wildflowers. They may be small, not nearly as spectacular as a rose or some other more noticeable flower, but they bloom just the same. They brighten the small area where they are. I was fortunate enough to be there to see them, but they weren't blooming for me. They bloomed simply "as unto the Lord."

Would that I could live my Christian life this way. Caring not for recognition, but "blooming" where I am as unto the Lord. Maybe I will be noticed, maybe not. I, like many others, wish I could be great at SOMETHING. I run, but I'm not really that fast. I write, but only a blog that very few will ever read or care about. I fail on a regular basis as a wife and mother. I teach, but I'm not holding my breath waiting for "Teacher of the Year" award. Let's be honest, I'm never going to be the greatest at anything....except being me. But really, that's all I've ever needed to be.

It would be so amazing to be considered the best at something, but maybe that's not my destiny. Maybe my life will consist simply of "blooming", even if no one notices. I live for the day when I can hear my Savior say, "Well done." Come to think of it, maybe that one little flower was also blooming for me. Perhaps, that's a part of the plan. We are to "bloom" as unto the Lord, then when the time is right, someone will see...and a life will be changed. Lord, help me to live my life as unto You...simply because that's what You created me to do.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Is the Christian life routine?

Okay, it's been quite a while since I've blogged. The muse just hasn't been stirring! I sensed that was about to change however when in service last week, I had one of those "random thoughts."

The sermon was about the Kingdom of God and how the Kingdom is Righteousness, Peace, and Joy. I had heard sermons about keeping your peace and joy, but when Pastor began to talk about walking in Righteousness, the wheels began to turn. Let me begin by stating that by Righteousness, I'm not referring to some set of rules and regulations. I'm talking about walking in obedience to the voice of God as He leads you. We know that when we are saved, we receive the Robe of Righteousness, but walking in Righteousness has more to do with following God on a daily basis....walking WITH Him as it were.
Anyway, as I remember, Pastor was talking about how we as Christians sometimes get to a point of obeying God about something, and because we either are unwilling to submit or we just sort of "put off obeying", we get off the "path of righteousness" and take a detour. We're no longer heading in the direction we thought we were, but instead we're going around in circles. It's much like what the children of Israel did in the desert...circled around the mountain. We eventually come back to that "lesson" or "place of decision" where we are once again presented with the option of obeying or "making another round." I had heard this before...but somehow this time I "heard" a different part.

As Pastor illustrated his point by walking in that circle, it occured to me...that's when the Christian life gets "dull". I've heard it before..."the fire is gone, I feel like I'm not growing, this life has become routine." To be honest, I've felt it myself. So what happened? I got off the path and started walking in circles. It's no wonder it felt dull. The scenery wasn't changing much because I was simply walking in circles, covering the same ground I'd gone over so many times before....much like running around the track over and over again. Of course it would be dull!

However, if I am walking in the path of righteousness that God has mapped out for me, well that is anything BUT dull! Each day can be a new adventure because God has planned something for me to learn, a life for me to touch, or simply a day of rest in Him. I love that song by the Newsboys..."Wherever we go, that's where the party's at!" That song strikes a chord in me (pardon the pun) that reminds me that wherever I go, I'm supposed to make a difference. Why? Because wherever I go, I take Jesus...whether I realize it or not! But that's a whole different blog!

So what's the point? I guess it boils down to this....if you think the Christian life is dull, perhaps it's time to stop and ask yourself if you've moved off the path of Righteousness. I know I'm going to keep a close eye on myself...just in case I start thinking life is getting too routine.