Saturday, June 26, 2010

It all started with a bad hair day...

It all started as just another bad hair day. You know the kind, where no matter what you try to do with your hair you hate it. I stood there wishing I looked different and thinking what I wished my hair looked like....If I could choose, I think I'd have Jennifer Aniston's hair....and maybe her eyes. Kind of wish I had her smile, and of course I would love to have her figure. It would be great to have her talent and personality....yep, if I were in charge of making me, I think I'd make me like her.

But instead, I'm me. Kind of ordinary. I guess you could say I'm more of a Kermit sort of person.

As I thought about this, the song "It's Not Easy Being Green" kept running through my mind. You know the one...
"It's not that easy being green

Having to spend each day the color of the leaves
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold
Or something much more colorful like that

It's not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're
Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky..."

I've never really thought about what those lyrics said before, but I think everyone feels that way at they blend into the background. Our culture celebrates the "beautiful people" in so many ways. Television, movies, magazines, even things like facebook make it seem as if everyone is experiencing a world that is far more beautiful and exciting than our own. Maybe I'm the only one, but sometimes I feel like my life falls more into the Kermit catagory, sort of ordinary. Yet we are so much more than that.

"But green's the color of Spring

And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean, or important
Like a mountain, or tall like a tree

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful
And I think it's what I want to be"

We all have days when we wish we were smarter, prettier, wittier, or more exciting....but even on those days we can rest assured that we are perfect just the way we are. Our gifts, abilities, and even our limitations are a part of who we are. God created each of us special for such a time as this. It's not even a mistake that you were born when you were born! He made you with gifts that are perfect for today. What a gift to know that you are equipped for whatever may come your way - simply because He chose this time for you...and you for this time.

So even on your bad hair days, rest assured - you are beautiful in His eyes. You are gifted and special and no one else can do what He created you to do.

That just leaves me with one burning question. On her bad hair days, I wonder who Jennifer Aniston wants to be?

Psalm 139: 1 - 16

" O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.  You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,"  even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.  For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,  your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Not where I thought I'd be....

Ever have one of those days when you look at your life and say something along the lines of "This is not where I thought I'd be"?

We all have visions of what life will be like when we reach a certain age, then life happens and it's not at all what we expected. No one thinks at 45, 50, 55, 60 (if they ever think of themselves being that old) that they will be looking for a job and starting over; or dealing with middle aged weight gain, teenagers who think they are stupid, and a loss of dreams.

We think we'll be like the commercials - going on vacations to Disney with children who think we are wonderful, eating out with friends who are as witty as we are, and taking romantic cruises with our spouse who still thinks we are the "cat's meow." Instead, life gives us vacations at home because there's not enough money, eating at the drive thru while we rush from one appointment to another, and if we are lucky, falling asleep in front of the tv with our spouse because that's about all the energy we have left. Oh yes, life also gives us an endless supply of bills, bills, bills - and not the spending kind! I don't know about you, but this is definitely not where I thought I'd be...

I got to wondering, did the disciples ever feel that way, too? When I thought about this, my mind went back to the last chapter of John. I imagined the disciples there, sitting on a boat (John 21: 1-3) and thinking this is not where they thought they'd be at all.

They had followed Jesus for years and were expecting Him to usher in His Kingdom, and instead He'd been crucified. They had made it through those painful three days before the resurrection, and had seen Him face to face once again. So how come they are back where they started - sitting in that fishing boat? Not just back in the same boat - it was even worse. This time they were catching NOTHING! (Been there a few times myself!)

Along comes Jesus, who of course they don't recognize. (I have to admit this is of some comfort to me when I fail to recognize the voice of God in my own life...I mean, the disciples missed it a time or two themselves and look at all they had seen!) Jesus calls out to them and says "You don't have any fish, do you:" Gee, thanks for rubbing salt into the wound whoever you are! There's nothing like having someone else point out just how fruitless your work has become. They had started out following Jesus on the adventure of a lifetime, but now they were right back where they'd started, and it seemed like nothing they tried was working anymore.

Yet Jesus tells them to cast their nets out again, trusting nothing but His Word this time. You know the story, they bring in so many fish they can barely pull the net into the boat! (vs 6)

Fast forward to the beach, (vs 9) and the disciples find Jesus with a fire built and fish already cooking...seems He didn't have to wait on what they brought to the table. He invited the disciples to bring what they had caught as well, but it wasn't with their catch that He fed them. It was what He provided. What a beautiful picture of bringing our offering to the table and instead of asking God to bless what we're doing, joining in with what He already has planned.

I heard a Christian recording artist say recently that he was no longer asking that God use him to make the difference, but simply that God make the difference. His ego was out of the picture, he simply wanted God's will to be done no matter who He chose to use in the process....even if that meant NOT using him. In turn, it seems that God has used him more than ever!

Back to the disciples. I kind of get the feeling that they were then where some of us find ourselves now - not where they'd expected to be. This wasn't how life was supposed to turn out. Their dreams had died and even though they knew God was still God, they figured it was pretty much over for them. But God had something else in mind....He told them to throw their nets on the other side. They were not done yet.

Maybe that's what God is saying to us today? Maybe it's not time to let the dream die...maybe it's time to cast the dream again only this time in a different way. Maybe, just maybe, He's not done with us yet.

I have to wonder will we be as surprised as those disciples were when our nets/dreams come back full this time. Will we be just as amazed when no matter how full, the nets don't break? And will we be fed when we bring our offering to add in to what He is already doing in the earth?

Life has a funny way of taking you on a journey you weren't expecting. At this point in my life,  this isn't where I thought I'd be....but I can't wait to see where He takes me from here.  I hope to see you on the journey...and that we catch a lot of fish this time!

I'd love to hear from you...what dreams is God telling you to "cast out" one more time?

John 21

Jesus and the Miraculous Catch of Fish

1Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias.[a] It happened this way: 2Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3"I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. 6He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.[b] 9When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. 10Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught." 11Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Journey Back to Running, Part 1

I am a runner....reallly I feel like that should say "I WAS a runner" because right now I'm not so sure I can claim that title....and the journey back to running is a hard one.

When I first started running in 2006, it was a new experience for me. While I had run a little in high school, I was really never much of an athlete. There was one race I won simply because no other school had anyone to enter into the mile event. They put their best sprinters in, but they didn't know how to keep plodding along for an entire mile. That race looked like a real live "Tortoise and Hares" kind of race. I was thrilled, but even I knew I wasn't really much of a runner....they were just unprepared.

Fast forward 30 years (yes, it took that many years before I started running again.) We had just come through Hurricane Katrina and I was discovering a new lifestyle of fitness that I really enjoyed. I had gotten used to the heat, thanks to no electricity for two weeks, and I was losing weight, thanks to reduced food being readily available....did I mention we'd had a hurricane? I even was getting used to exercise thanks to having to haul limbs and trees from my front yard, wet clothes from my destroyed closet, and construction debris from my house while we tried to repair the rooms. In the midst of all this, I discovered the program "Biggest Loser", thanks in part to only having one station that would come in clearly after the storm. That show became my inspiration and motivation to hit the gym.

After about 7 months of exercising on a regular basis, I  decided to enter a race to celebrate my 48th birthday. It was a 5K and it seemed like such a HUGE distance, but I was determined to give it a try. I signed up and then started increasing my time on the treadmill in hopes of not being too embarassed at the race. Truthfully, I still had no thoughts of myself as an athlete. I was just having fun.

Race day came and I not only ran part of the course, I actually won my age division....thanks once again to no one else in my age bracket showing up for the race. Still, I didn't care. I was hooked. I was so proud of my first place medal that day. I still, however, didn't really consider myself a runner.

For the next few weeks, I continued going to the gym to run/walk on the treadmills. Then on my way home one day, I saw a woman at our school track setting up cones so I decided to ask what she was doing. She was from the local runners club and they were beginning a 12 week training course for 5K's. She encouraged me to come. I gave her the old, "I'll try", and went home. It had been a particularly tough day and I just wanted to collapse on my couch and feel sorry for myself. Somehow, her encouragement kept ringing in my head and before I knew it I was lacing up my shoes and heading back out the door.

I came to the training pretty faithfully. To be honest, I remember being amazed at myself. I had never been that consistent with any form of exercise in my life! Each week I could see a bit of improvement in my abilities...but I still didn't see myself as a runner, especially not since I was out there with people who were running 5K's so much faster than me. Looking back, I realize that during those beginning days at the track, I was surrounded by some of the most encouraging people I had ever known in my life. Each runner was working on becoming better, and eager to help others do the same. They kept me coming back. The most encouraging person of all was our "coach." She was a few years older than me, but able to run faster and longer than women half her age. She saw in me what I could not see in myself.

I distinctly remember the race when I signed my name as Donna "the runner" Sumrall. I did it as a joke, but also as a motivator to myself. Coach had been telling me for weeks I had to start seeing myself as a runner; on that day, as an act of will, I decided to do just that. I don't remember if I even placed in that race, but I do remember how I felt when I crossed the finish line. I felt like I could do anything I put my mind to.

With each week, I continued to run, even setting my sights on a half marathon. I ran that half marathon and had a blast....and then I quit running. No, I didn't quit running as much. I quit running. One week turned into one month that turned into one year that turned into two. I'd make sporadic attempts at getting back into a routine, but something was different; something was missing.

Over the next two years, I continued to run, but not with the joy or success I once knew; and I miss that. So now what do I do? Well, like most people who somehow get off course, I've decided to go back to the beginning and start again. For me, that means hitting the gym on an almost daily basis and then joining others training for a 5K. Tomorrow night is the first meeting of the 12 weeks, and I plan to be there. Will I be able to find my way back to the joy of running? Good question. I guess I'll find out, and you'll be able to read about the answer in the coming weeks. Hopefully the answer lies ahead and it won't take 30 years to find it this time.

For those in the Hattiesburg area, the Pinebelt Pacers will begin their 12 week training this Tuesday, June 15th at the Thames track. Come join in what some of us call "fun".
Hebrews 12:1, GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)

"Since we are surrounded by so many examples [of faith], we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Time to cut through the.....

It's time to look at the only part of our armor that is not just for defense. It's time to look at the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. I love this part, because it's time to cut through the, shall we say, fertilizer, that the world tosses at us every day. It's time to cut through the excuses, the reasons, the blaming, the...well, manure, that keeps us from becoming the person God intended for us to be!

I love the Word of God. It has the ability to cut right through all the garbage that clouds our judgement. It somehow can make the murky waters of decision crystal clear. The Word can take the arguments of man and reveal them for what they are....
The Word has gotten a bad rap from many. I have no doubt that some have used God's Word like some sort of religious machete, swinging it willy nilly toward anyone who got in their way. But from what I understand, the Word isn't to be used like that. It is more of a weapon that destroys the things that would keep us from God...not something used to destroy us!
I know personally that I have had times of struggle when the Word of God has helped me make it through. It has cut through all the ropes and chains of confusion and given me hope to carry on. The Word has been a weapon to defeat the discouragement and lies that the enemy would try to use against me. His Word has been what can cut through the disception and bring TRUTH into focus.

The more of God's Word I know, the bigger/stronger my sword. I can go into battle with just a little of His Word, but that is a bit like charging into the fray with a pocket knife. Personally, I prefer a much sharper and more effective weapon!

There is much that has been written about the Sword of the Spirit, but one sentence keeps ringing in my head. It's time to cut through the's time to know God's Word.
Psalm 33:4-5 (Message translation):
For God's Word is solid to the core; everything he makes is sound inside and out.
He loves it when everything fits, when his world is in plumb-line true.
Earth is drenched in God's affectionate satisfaction.

Hebrews 4:12 - 13 (Message translation):
God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God's Word. We can't get away from it—no matter what.

Breaks your heart

Ever heard a mom say something along the lines of "break your mother's heart?" I'm starting to understand what that means. Don't get me wrong. My two are truly a blessing and MOST of the time, things are going just fine. Then there are those times.....
As a parent, you want so much to help your kids through life's trials, but the world has done a pretty good job convincing them that as parents, we "just wouldn't understand." Can't say this generation is any worse about it than those in the many remember the phrase, "Never trust anyone over 30"? For the past few 50 years we've been moving away from the "Father knows best" toward "My parents are clueless" attitudes. I guess I was as guilty as the rest. I remember thinking at 10 my parents hung the moon. By the time I was 14, they were getting a bit senile. When I hit 18, I pretty much knew it all and my poor old parents were just OLD! Then a funny thing started happening. I got to my early 20's and started calling my parents for a bit of advice. By 30, I was calling on a regular basis! Now that I'm in my 50's, I can't tell you how many times I have wanted to call them and just say I was sorry for being such an idiot all those years and WISHING I could ask them for their advice just one more time. I know this isn't something new to just me. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
Now I am the parent and I have to sit by and watch my own children struggle with things that I might be able to help with, but they think I won't understand. They shut me out, sometimes talking to their peers, but rarely to their parents. Then I got to wondering if I do the same thing toward God. The world does a number on us telling us that God just won't understand; that He'll be too disappointed in us if we struggle; that He's just too out of touch with us to understand. But the world is wrong.
As a parent, I may over-react, get angry or simply be clueless as to how to help...but God doesn't really have that problem. He knows just what to do. He knows exactly how to mend the broken heart, bring direction to the path, or simply clean up the mess of a life...if we simply come to Him. He longs to help us! In Matthew 23:37, Jesus spoke these words, "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! .... How often I've ached to embrace your children, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you wouldn't let me." Sounds like words I wanted to say to my own children at times.
Teens seem to build a wall to protect themselves, but these walls actually shut out those who love them and want to help. That is why as parents we must fight for them....and fight again. In the words of my pastor, "Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do." This is a battle we cannot give up on. Even though the words "I'm just so tired" come from my mouth more often than I'd like, I can thank heavens that our Savior never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding and I am not in this fight alone.
Do I expect my children to come running to me for advice tomorrow? Not likely. But I will continue to fight for them, pray for them, and know that God loves them even more than me. Come to think of it, I think it's probably time to seek His advice and ask HIM what to do.