The marathoner’s psalm

I was out doing a really tough run this morning, not tough because it was the longest run I’ve ever done (that was last week), but because of the warm, humid conditions. While I was running, I kept thinking of something my husband said to me this past weekend. He advised me in his ever-so-gentle-way to find ways to think more positively as I run.

He’s right. Negative thoughts don’t usually creep in during my training runs, although there are hard runs where I don’t feel especially happy afterward. But in tough races, for reasons I don’t understand, a negativity sets up shop in my mind.

Then the grumpiness pours out along with the sweat. And who gets the brunt of that ill temper? My husband. And I’m usually at my grumpiest right when he sweetly comes back from his finish to run back in with me and cheer me to a strong finish. Not at all what he deserves.

So this morning, I tried to use the especially soggy conditions to force myself to think of positives. I found myself grateful for many things along the run: the ability to run at all, the time to run, a shaded path and much more.

Then – because I had a long time still to run – I started thinking of Psalm 23 and ways that it applied to my life as a runner. I started adding new words, and the result became my prayer of gratitude for the morning, a psalm for marathoners that I hope you’ll enjoy reading, whether you run at all or consider yourself an unrepentant couch potato. Maybe it’ll encourage you to take a challenge or negative mindset you’re dealing with and turn it into a psalm of praise: Continue reading

Nature’s pragmatic lessons

Last Thursday, I came home from my afternoon walk with my dog to find two rabbits hanging out in the yard. Because there’s a bit of Mr. McGregor in my husband and me, and because we don’t want rabbits setting up camp in our yard or eating everything in our garden, I let our dog try to chase them away (with me still holding her by the leash). One bounded away, but the other just ran in circles around a newly-dug rabbit nest. Deciding the rabbit might be a new mother, I took the dog inside and then stood at the front door to watch.

That’s when I saw it – a movement in the grass near the front walk, a dark spot rustling the grass. I feared it might be a snake at first and walked carefully toward the area. Instead of a snake, here’s what I found: Continue reading

When God’s “no” is a bitter pill

Perhaps today’s title hits a little too close to home for you. Maybe you have prayed desperately for something you desire – healing for yourself or a loved one, getting the job offer for your dream job, becoming a parent, seeing a wayward child turn her life around, saving a broken relationship. But instead of the “yes” you had hoped to hear from God, you have heard “no” … again and again.

God answered one of my prayers with a “no” this past weekend, and while it’s not the bitterest pill I’ll ever have to swallow, it was a tough one. I was supposed to spend the weekend in the woods: volunteering for an ultramarathon and crewing for my husband while he ran the race. He had trained hard for the race, and all his running over the last six months was preparing for this one big race.

But it was not to be. Four weeks ago, he realized he injured his left foot during a wet, muddy race. Not a severe issue, not a break or a fracture, but a tendon or muscle strain. While we had both surrounded the race with prayer for months leading up to it, the prayers changed after the injury. I asked God to heal my husband’s injury so he could run the race. I begged and pleaded and prayed and prayed and prayed some more.

After doctors’ visits and a couple of rest weeks, a few bad, short runs, and prayers that asked not just for healing but also wisdom about running the race, my husband knew that God’s answer was “no” – no running this weekend.

My husband handled the decision well, but it was a tough weekend emotionally, even with distractions of a trip out of town, dinner with friends and a big gardening project. So while it turned out to be a fun weekend in its own way, it wasn’t the one either one of us would have chosen.

Accepting God’s will and answers of “no” to our prayers can be extremely difficult. We bargain, cajole, promise and plead. God loves us enough to listen to these prayers, but He also knows the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11), and sometimes those plans mean He will say “no” to our prayers along the way.

Whether He’s teaching a lesson in patience or shaping us for something in our future or allowing a loved one to die to end earthly suffering or keeping a door closed so we’ll get closer to His will, God alone knows why some answers have to be “no” or “not yet.”

Jesus’ own “no” from God
As we walk together through this Holy Week, I thought it might help to remember that even Jesus experienced an answer of “no” from God in His own time here on earth, as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, right before the soldiers came to arrest Him:

And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the
Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. When
He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may
not enter into temptation.” And He withdrew from them about
a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray,
saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me;
yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Now an angel from heaven
appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He
was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops
of blood, falling down upon the ground. When he rose from
prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping
from sorrow, and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get
up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
– Luke 22:39-46

Look at how Jesus prayed in this time before His arrest and crucifixion: He prayed fervently, pouring sweat because of the anguish He felt over what was coming for Him. In His pleading, though, he never forgot the one key thing: “Father, if You are willing …” Jesus knew God’s plan and knew the suffering that would come, and He knew that God would not let Jesus suffer unless it served God’s purposes.

Accepting God’s “no” was Jesus’ response of obedience and submission to God’s will. It was difficult for Jesus to accept the torture and death He would face, but He understood God’s will would prevail, and He knew whose lives He would be saving by His own dying.

Do you think any of the disciples prayed fervently for Jesus’ life to be spared that night? Perhaps they were too frightened for their own safety to pray for Jesus then, but Jesus wanted them to keep praying. His last words to them before his arrest exhorted them to “pray that you may not enter temptation,” to pray that they would not be tempted to lose faith in all they had seen and believed about Christ.

Can you picture Jesus saying the same words to you in the face of a “no” from God. Some of the “no” answers we get may tempt us to turn from faith, to turn away from God’s will, but Jesus wants us to stand our ground and fight for our faith, and He knew that the best way to do that was to pray – even if the answers aren’t always what we want.

As Easter approaches, I hope you’ll remember Jesus’ prayer and His response to the answer. Maybe God’s “no” to Jesus, His beloved son, will remind you of His own love for you and His desire for you to fulfill His plans for you, even if it means saying “no” to some of your own plans.

A second look at worries on the road

Last week, I wrote about worrying – and why it’s not only needless but also shows a lack of faith. I also offered you a challenge to begin keeping a list of things you’re grateful for. Little did I know that I would need the message I had shared with you last week to be firmly in my mind and heart by the end of the week.

Someone very dear to me took an ambulance ride to the hospital on Friday morning, not for health problems that had plagued her much of the summer, but for something new, something scarier, something life-threatening. But she was in good hands, in God’s hands. And she got to the hospital in time.

As I walked to and from her room each day, the blur of activity in the hallways dizzied me. But the experience filled me with items for my gratitude list. I hope you don’t mind me sharing some of them with you.  Continue reading

Worries on the road less traveled

Do you worry a lot? I do. I know, I know – God tells us over and over again in the Bible not to worry, but I think I was born worried, so worried, in fact, that I came out six weeks early to fit in more worrying.

This past weekend, I had a lot of worries to face on what should have been a blissful outing. My husband, dog and I went for a hike to measure a trail for my husband’s web site. My husband has a passion for running and numbers and helping others and sharing his story of faith, and he has combined all of that into a great site with maps and accurate wheel measurements of runnable trails in the northwestern North Carolina mountains.

I’ve taken wheel in hand to measure a couple of trails for him. And I’ve accompanied him on other trails as he did the measuring. Until this weekend, the trails were easy ones. Wide, well-maintained, steep at times, but still easy to walk.  Continue reading