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THE BATTLE OF THE TREADMILL

January 30th, 2009

 

I have a ‘running’ love-hate relationship with my treadmill.  His name is Victor, which I think is a quite appropriate name.  To be honest, I do not really run.  A brisk walk is as much as my body is willing to produce, and even that is a challenge.  I know I should form a daily exercise regimen, and I admit it is hard to find exercise more convenient than a treadmill in my home, but I continue to rebel against a regular workout plan.  If I do not make my trip to the treadmill the first thing in the morning, I can know that it is not going to happen.  If I stay up late, or if I don’t sleep well, there goes my early morning workout.  Then, the more days I miss, the easier it is to miss again.  Meanwhile, Victor sits quietly in the basement, waiting for my return.

 

As a child I did not experience the joy of exercise or competition.  I was not involved in sports or dance or acrobatics, so my body never learned to ‘stretch’ itself.  As a young adult, chasing children was exercise enough and, since I was thin, I was not concerned about my weight, much less my physical strength or endurance.  However, once the children got older, and especially after I moved from a physically active job to a more sedentary one, the pounds began to creep on.  Following a hysterectomy, the pounds poured on and I began the diet game.  Several times I joined a health club, but something always interrupted my get-healthy plan before I could experience the joy in that journey.  So here I am today, still trapped in that diet-exercise web of frustration.

 

Several years ago I actually established a habit of frequenting the gym at my workplace.  I must admit that I felt much better when I introduced my body to regular exercise.  However, my weight was my bigger concern, and since I was not experiencing any weight loss, I was easily discouraged and I dreaded my trips to the gym.  Although I continued to frequent the workout center, the time between visits was getting longer and longer.  Then when my favorite treadmill was retired, I was given the opportunity to purchase it, and Victor became part of the family.  I just knew that having my own treadmill at home would for sure allow me the benefit of a daily workout.  Wrong.  Apparently, convenience does not overrule rebellion.

 

Although the battle continues, Victor has participated in teaching me some valuable lessons.  Although my faithfulness is sporadic, something in me continues to press forward, knowing that I am blessed as I meet this challenge.  Although I feel like a failure much of the time, something in my spirit rejoices that I am still in the game – I continue to remind Victor that I am still in the game. 

 

When we moved last year, Victor must have needed reassurance that he was an important part of my life.  He is extremely heavy, and transporting him was no easy task; even the professional movers groaned as it took all four of them to get him down the steps.  He was already downstairs by the time we discovered he was too wide to fit through the door of the back room.  (Had we known that, we may have sold him with the house!)  Since leaving him in the family room was not an option, and nobody was going to take him back out, my husband was left with the daunting task of making a way where there seemed to be no way.  At the end of the battle, Victor got some fresh oil and a new set of bolts and nuts, after the existing ones were sawed off to temporarily remove the crossbar and squeeze him through the door.

 

Some of my most incredible encounters with the Lord have come while I was pounding away with Victor.  I keep the room dark, I close my eyes, and I focus on the wonder of my God.  I must admit, when I am having an especially difficult time making myself exercise, I will engage in worship music to make the time go by more quickly, giving God the okay to interrupt me whenever He pleases.  However, when I am willing to simply wait in quiet expectation, the Lord meets me and often downloads wonderful messages.  On those days, I complete my workout with joy and wonder, which accompany me all day long.  If I could only remember that joy the next morning!

 

I know Victor is a gift from God and, even though he exasperates me much of the time, I reap many rewards when I learn the lessons he brings and incorporate them into my life.  Following are a few of those lessons:

 

  • The Word says that if I will draw near to God, He will draw near to me.  My battle with Victor reminds me that the process begins with me.  My ‘drawing near’ begins when I choose to set my alarm clock, get right up when it rings, and head for my time with Victor.  Getting there is the hardest part.  God will help me if I ask Him, but He will not interfere with my free will.  This is a great life lesson:  if I want relationship with God, I make the first move, and He immediately responds.  Just turning my spiritual eyes toward Him causes Him to look my way and smile.

 

  • It is easier to walk in the fullness of life when I am healthy:  physically, mentally, and spiritually.  The Lord gave me a vision of a bar graph that contained three bars; one bar was physical, one was mental, and one was spiritual.  Moving up and down like pistons in an engine, they worked best when they were all active and strong.  When one bar was tiny, the movement was jerky and inconsistent.  When they were all working, the movement flowed smoothly.

 

  • The Lord tells me that my body is His temple; that He lives in me.  If I do not take care of that temple, it will deteriorate and require much additional maintenance.  The worst effect will be the self-hatred that often comes with the illusion of failure.  The Word says that the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy, and he will use whatever means is available to take me out.  Inactivity brings lethargy that brings discouragement that brings hopelessness.  In that place, the enemy can knock me over with a feather.  I know discipline brings rewards, and often the amount of time I devote to Victor is an indication of the level of discipline in the other areas of my life.  Sometimes I argue that I do not want to commit to a program I am not willing to continue for the long haul.  That sounds like smart reasoning, but it is mostly a really weak excuse to abandon my plan of action.  Sometimes I will use the weakest excuse to cancel my date with Victor, even though I am richly rewarded when I relent and just go for my walk.

 

  • The flesh is continually at war with the spirit, reminding me to focus inward, rather than outward.  Victor is teaching me to press in for the prize, and I know I will need this understanding as we enter into the last days.  I cannot war on my backside; I will need to know how to run.  Sometimes I envision myself as being in boot camp, preparing for war. 

 

  • A few months ago I was just about ready to give up my time with Victor, and put behind me the continuing reminder of my failure at discipline.  The very next day as my husband was walking and praying, the Lord told him that He was happy to see me back at the treadmill.  Now, how can I walk away after that?

 

  • I am learning that success is progressive: decision – action – settle the issue – press in until my body kicks in – work into a stride – find peace in my place of surrender – and finally, experience the victory.

 

I suppose it may sound like a bit of a stretch, that God would use something as common as a treadmill to teach me His valuable lessons.  However, I am reminded that if God can speak through a donkey, or cause the stones to rise up and praise Him, then He can easily enlist a treadmill named victor to partner with me in victory.

 

 

Hebrews 12:1b

…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

 

I Corinthians 6:19-20

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

 

I Corinthians 9:26-27

Therefore I run thus:  not with uncertainty.  Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

 

James 4:8a

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

 

Philippians 3:12-14

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

THE SILVER PLATTER

January 22nd, 2009

 

 

God often speaks to us in dreams, visions and parables.  Having grown up in a denominational church that did not speak at all about the supernatural, this form of communication was foreign to me.   As I look back now, I am amazed at how easily the enemy had been able to hide these truths from me – after all, I had read through my Bible a number of times.  Apparently I glossed over the huge wealth of teaching based on the things that cannot be seen with our natural eyes.  I suppose I did not stretch my mind because I had no idea there was so much more of God than what I had experienced in my small world. 

 

Dead religion was always a burden for me, and it was only guilt, and fear of man’s opinion, that kept me showing up for church.  Later in life, when I found myself in a Charismatic congregation, I discovered that church could offer more than standing up and sitting down, boring recitations, and dry sermons.  Suddenly my whole life was turned upside down.  How grateful I am that the Lord drew me out of my little box and showed me a tiny piece of eternity, inviting me to drink deeply of its wealth.  Oh the depth of the riches of His glory in which He invites us to participate!  Now, every day I wake up hungry for more of Him. 

 

Even before I acknowledged and embraced my gift of writing, I was jotting down bits and pieces of stories and revelations I got from dreams, visions, and those downloads I call ‘knowings’.  I had a collection of paper but no direction about what to do with all that stuff.  As I began to share my words with friends and family, and they began to encourage me to share my writings with others, God began to show me that from the beginning, He had a plan for all that loose paper.  Of course – He always has a plan, and it is always good. 

 

What joy it is to follow His direction, crafting the words He gives me into stories and parables, and posting them on the internet!  I also plan to put the stories into a book some day.  Since I saved a number of those bits and pieces of paper that had accumulated over the past eight years, now I can go back and chew on the bounty He had set before me – and transform them into more stories to share.  The following is from an earlier writing, which the Holy Spirit has prompted me to spruce up and post.

 

In a vision, the Lord showed me a large and shiny silver platter, filled from edge to edge with beautifully decorated small boxes of various sizes and shapes.  This was God’s baby gift, given to me at my birth.  The platter itself was intended to represent my free will, which He has given to each of us, freely and unconditionally.  Each box placed on the platter represented a choice or a decision that would direct my life.

 

Initially my platter was filled by my parents as they exercised my free will for me.  However, as I grew into adolescence, I slowly began to remove some of the packages, as I discovered that my own will often differed from that of my parents, replacing the packages with choices more to my liking.  Thus began a game of take-away, put-back, and take-away-again between my parents and me.  Every year I gained a little more ground as my parents were forced to retreat, and soon the entire surface of the tray was filled with boxes representing my own life choices.  I found that in order to add a new box to my already full platter, I would have to remove something else presently on the tray.  (In finance, this is called “opportunity cost.”  The true cost of one choice or decision I make is the value of whatever I have to give up in exchange for the new choice; i.e., the cost of staying up late is the loss of my early morning walk; or, if I spend all my county fair money at the concession stand, my funnel cake cost me a ride on the roller coaster.)

 

When the Lord invited me to examine the boxes, I was surprised to find that, although they were beautifully wrapped, some were hollow on the inside.  I had to admit that too often I was guilty of making choices that looked good on the outside, but were empty on the inside.  Next, He showed me a few boxes He had to offer.  These were not beautiful at all, but were covered in scratchy burlap with no adorning of ribbons or decorations.  When I was tempted to decline the offer, surprised and disappointed that these boxes were not beautiful at all, He invited me to take a closer look.  These boxes were heavy, solidly filled with depth and substance, and the longer I gazed at them, the more beautiful they became, giving off a heavenly fragrance and offering up the promise of deep fulfillment for my soul and spirit.

 

Upon seeing the value and the inner beauty of these boxes, I began to reach for them, but I was quickly reminded that my platter was already full.  To take one of these boxes offered by the Lord meant I would have to remove a box already in place to make room on my platter.  Would I be willing to let go of choices I made in my flesh, and replace them with the true gold, the Will of God?  He loves me so much that He will always allow me to exercise my free will.  His love will also allow me to experience the consequences of each decision I make.  Every day I make new choices, and each small decision impacts the rest of my life.

 

In re-examining this story, I can see that when I asked Jesus to be Lord of my life, He took me at my word.  Almost immediately He began to show me small pieces of His plan for me, inviting me to step out of the ways of the world and walk in the ways of the Kingdom.  I see now that many boxes on my platter were empty, uselessly taking up space.  Some looked good on the outside, but inside they contained things I would not want exposed to the light.  Some boxes contained good things, but Jesus taught me that often ‘good’ is the enemy of ‘best’ for me.  Some boxes were very large but contained very little inside, while other boxes were overstuffed.

 

This morning I asked the Lord if this message is relevant for today, and He assured me that the message is more relevant than I realize.  These are exciting times for the church, and we must be ready to serve in the Lord’s army.  As the world’s system begins to crumble, many will look to us for direction and reassurance.  The ‘boxes’ we have placed on our platters will define us in these last days.  Choose well.

 

 

I Corinthians 12:1

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.

 

Ephesians 1:3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

 

Ephesians 1:18-19

The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.

 

Romans 6:12a

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them.

 

I Corinthians 12:31a

But earnestly desire the best gifts.

 

Ephesians 4:7-8

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”

A MESSAGE TO HOLD ONTO

January 15th, 2009

 

 

After spending too many years relying on my own thoughts and ideas, too often failing miserably, I am thrilled that the Lord has been bringing me to the knowledge that He will lead me well, as much I allow Him to do that.  I have come to know that I thrive when I seek Him at every turn in my life, and then respond accordingly (that means: do what He says).  The Word says that He knows “the end from the beginning,” so it only makes sense to get my direction from the One who knows exactly what I need.  Of course, if I want to hear from Him, I must continuously make sure my heart is pure and if not, get right with God immediately – sin always separates me from Him.  Contrary to the world’s opinion, allowing God to direct my life is one of the smartest choices I can make.  Less of me and more of Him always leaves me in the greatest position of strength.

 

Some of my most frustrating times come when, no matter how hard I press, I cannot seem to ‘hear’ from God, when His voice is so quiet I cannot find it.  During those times, my spirit knows He has not left me; He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.  However, I desperately need that ongoing communication in my life or I begin to feel confused and vulnerable.  I can always come up with a number of intellectual reasonings as to why He is so quiet, but all those mental gymnastics leave me even more frustrated.

 

Although these seasons do not last long, they seem like an eternity, as my soul rattles around in what feels to me like darkness.  I find myself becoming lethargic, and that forces me to cry out even more desperately.  I will try every avenue I can imagine, to bring the quietness to a quick end.  I desperately beg for mercy, and then grab onto two lifelines that begin to settle my spirit, if only in a small way.  First, I recall the most recent thing I heard, and I make sure I am not still in the middle of something He previously instructed me to address.  And second, I lean on what He has said in Scripture, understanding that those words are personal, and not simply general in nature.  Those exercises help to bring some calmness to my life, but nowhere near to finding peace.  I suppose these tests are good, but I certainly do not enjoy the experience at the time.  Nor does anyone enjoy being around me when I am in one of these testy places.

 

I rarely hear audible words from the Lord.  For the most part, I simply experience something like a download.  One second I have no clue about the answer I am seeking, and the next instant I ‘know that I know that I know’ exactly what He is saying to me.  When I speak it out loud or write it down and read it, test it against scripture, and my spirit comes into agreement with the word, then I know I have the answer.  As you can guess, I must continue to stand in a place of trust, believing that I am hearing correctly,  checking my heart to make sure it is pure.

 

On one occasion, I was in one of those ‘silent’ times for what seemed like forever.  Nothing I did brought any peace.  I agonized over every decision and every plan of my life, not trusting my choices or my motives.  I continuously searched my soul for any unrepentant sin or for any uncompleted assignment.  (I now have a clearer understanding that excessive examination of my belly button always ends up in pride, because when my mind is on me it cannot be on Him.  But that’s another story.)

 

One early morning during this particularly difficult season, I was pounding away on my treadmill (named Victor) and crying out to God, begging Him to speak to me.  Suddenly the Holy Spirit came over me and I sensed that in order to hear Him, perhaps I should spend a little time being quiet myself.  I took a really deep breath, exhaled, and settled my spirit.  I smoothed out my walking stride, closed my eyes, and ‘leaned’ into the quietness.

 

In that moment Jesus ‘spoke’ one of the most powerful messages I have ever received.  In an instant He dropped a word into my spirit and I began to sob.  I ran to my laptop and let my fingers fly across the keyboard, typing the message that would change my life.  I have held those words close to my heart, re-reading them when I need to be encouraged.  Because the Word also says that God is no respecter of persons – that means He loves all of His children equally – I would like to share that powerful message with you, and I invite you to make it your own.

 

During My crucifixion, do you know what kept Me going?  When I was being beaten and spit upon, when I made the horrific walk through the city streets and up the hill, when they pounded the nails in My hands and feet, when I hung on the cross, when it seemed as though My Father had turned His back to Me, do you know what encouraged Me when I wanted to give up?  It was seeing your face that kept me going.  Every time I thought I could not go any farther, I would see you standing there, all bound up in chains, with satan standing right between you and Me, laughing.  I could not bear the thought of losing you, and that kept Me going.  And when I breathed My last breath, I saw the chains fall off of you and I saw satan quietly slither away into the darkness.

 

The next day when I asked for more, I was told to first chew on what I had received the day before until it was woven deeply into the fabric of my life.  And so I did.  Then He gave me this vision:  Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying to His Father to take the cup from Him.  The Father told Jesus that because He was man, He had the freedom of choice and could refuse the cup if He chose to do that.  The Father then reminded Jesus that if He did refuse the cup, I would be lost and would spend eternity separated from Him.  Jesus cried and said He could not bear to lose me, so He would gladly drink the cup of suffering.  And so He did.

 

 

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Job 23: 8-10

 

Behold, I go forward but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He acts on the left I cannot behold Him; He turns on the right, I cannot see Him; But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

 

Isaiah 46:10

Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.’

 

Acts 10:34

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.”

 

Jeremiah 33:3

‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’

 

II Corinthians 5:15

And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

 

I John 3:16a

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.