Wednesday, April 13, 2011

No Pain, No Gain

Now that the kids are back in school, like many moms, I've resumed my regular workouts. Things are going pretty well, but once again, I'm dealing with muscles that are screaming out in protest over their new work schedule. However, I'm trying hard to push through the pain because I know from experience that in a week or two things wil improve and I'll feel stronger and more energized.

I did some research online about the cause of muscle soreness after a workout. I learned that when we exercise we lengthen and contract our muscles. In the lengthening phase, we create tiny tears in our muscle fibers which result in the soreness that appears a day or two after each workout, especially for those starting a new exercise routine. It is through this process that our muscles adapt and strengthen, becoming better prepared for the next time they have a task to perform. Now that I know the soreness is actually a sign that my muscles are getting stronger, I don't mind it as much. In fact, I hope to be a little sore after each work out, that way I know it was effective. After all, I probably won't see the results of all this hard work for a few more weeks, so feeling the results right away is encouraging.

Pain is often a part of a strengthening process in our lives, isn't it? Spiritual and emotional growth rarely happen during the peaceful times in our lives when everything is going well. Unfortunately, periods of great growth usually happen during times of great trial. These are the times when our spiritual, emotional and mental "muscles" are tested, torn and ultimately strengthened.

Even though it may not feel like it, God is closest to us in these painful seasons. Psalm 34:18 assures us that "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." And, in Isaiah 40:29-31 we find the encouragement that after the pain comes a time of renewal and increased strength, "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mixed Messages

Check out the following story recently emailed to me:

One day, there was a blind man sitting on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet and a sign that read: "I am blind, please help."

A creative publicist was walking by and stopped to observe. He saw that the blind man had only a few coins in his hat. He dropped in more coins and, without asking for permission, took the sign and rewrote it. He returned the sign to the blind man and left. That afternoon the publicist returned to the blind man and noticed that his hat was full of bills and coins.

The blind man recognized his footsteps and asked if it was he who had rewritten his sign and wanted to know what he had written on it. The publicist responded, "Nothing that was not true. I just wrote the message a little differently." He smiled and went on his way, knowing that now the sign read, "Today is Spring and I cannot see it."

This story reminds me that, often, our needs are not met because we’re not communicating them effectively. This is especially true when it comes to our close relationships. Is there someone important in your life who, you feel, consistently ignores your needs and feelings? Maybe it’s time to take a hard look at the way you are expressing yourself.

One classic conflict resolution model is the I-Statement. It goes something like this: "When you _________, I feel __________, because __________, so what I would like is __________________." For example, if your spouse keeps leaving dirty clothes on the floor…instead of yelling or nagging, try this: When you leave your dirty clothes on the floor, I feel taken advantage of, because I work hard to keep the house clean all week. So, what I would like is for you to use the hamper instead of the floor from now on.

It may seem simple, but it really works! Just by changing your tone and your words the same message may be heard in a whole new way.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Clean Slate

Recently, another class of men and women graduated from the Triad Community Kitchen Cooking School. The students in this free, 10-week culinary training program, are folks who, for whatever reason, have been unable to find and keep gainful employment. Some of the students are even homeless. Classes are led by Chef Jeff Bacon. He provides the students with the education and training they need to be ready to work in the food service and hospitality industries upon graduation from the program.

There is something even greater than cooking skills and job readiness that Chef Jeff offers his students. The greatest gift he offers them comes in the form of a clean slate.

Each man and woman in Jeff’s class has a past that includes tough times. They have each overcome some pretty big bumps in the road. But, at Triad Community Kitchen, the focus is not on what’s in the rearview mirror, it’s on what lies ahead. And, each graduating class is comprised of people who had the courage and motivation to make a u-turn in order to follow a new path that leads to success.

Can you relate to these students? When you look back do you cringe at what you see? When you look ahead, do you see a new beginning or do endless miles of the same unproductive, painful path lie ahead?

Jesus knows your past. He knows the worst thing you have ever done. And, that’s what makes his gift so amazing. Listen to this passage from the 5th Chapter of Romans: “8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”

If you haven’t accepted His offer yet, what are you waiting for? Jesus stands ready with a clean slate and a new beginning. Hand your life over to him today, ask him to forgive your sins, and experience the freedom that only comes with grace.

Tending Sheep

Just weeks before I took my first mission trip to Guatemala, some friends of mine who had been trying for quite some time to adopt finally got the news that they had been waiting for…they were matched with a newborn baby girl. God’s timing was so perfect! I, along with another friend of theirs, would soon be traveling to the children’s home where she was placed and we would be able to meet and hold their new baby.

At the time there were close to 60 children living at the home. While I tried to give attention to each of them in the limited time that we had there, I made a point to give extra attention to the baby my friends were adopting. I held her as much as possible and took lots of pictures. After all, I had a special connection to her, I knew her parents. I also knew that when I came back from my trip, these parents would want to know about every moment I spent with their baby. I wanted to be able to tell them that I had given her the best care that I possibly could.

As parents, we all want to know that our children are treated well in our absence. Similarly, I really believe that some day, when we stand before God, He will ask us how we treated His children. Did we take time to love each other, provide for each other’s needs and answer each other’s cries for help?

Consider the exchange between Jesus and Peter recorded in the Book of John. Jesus asks Peter three separate times if Peter loves him. Each time, Peter replies, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you”. Jesus responds first by saying “Feed my lambs”, then “"Take care of my sheep” and finally by again telling Peter, “Feed my sheep”. Jesus makes it clear that he expects us as his disciples to care for one another.

Now, loving this baby that my friends were adopting was easy, she was precious. However, each day, we encounter lots of people, and some folks can be difficult to love. However, when we take time to consider that we know and love their Father and He has asked us to treat his children well, we’re given a new perspective and motivation to love and care for one another.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Just One Won't Hurt

The sign in the cookie stand at Subway looked innocent enough. It read, “Just one won’t hurt.” I was waiting in line to pay for the sensible, nutritious salad I had just ordered when those 4 little words caught my eye and nearly convinced me to buy a cookie. But then I realized that the “Just one won’t hurt” mentality is the cause of my being overweight! In actuality, the path to destruction is laid with statements like, “Just one won’t hurt.”

CS Lewis was definitely on to something when he said, “Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.” Now, obviously, one cookie is not a bad thing. But the destructive things we do rarely happen after just one bad choice. No, it’s usually a chain of bad choices…just one cookie, just one drink, just one impure thought, just one little lie, just one item purchased on the credit card. Those just ones rarely stand alone.

How do we break free from these bad choices? Listen to this advice from 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”

So, if the “Just one more’s” have brought you to an unhappy place in your life, take comfort in knowing that God is ready to supply you with the power you need to break the chains that bind you. Ask him for forgiveness for the bad decisions you’ve made and for the strength and will to choose the right things in the future.

Stormy Weather

The news story read like this:

“The center of the Tropical Storm has barely moved in the last several hours. That has meant a lot of flooding rains with some areas getting as much as 25 inches and more is expected.” Think about the poor folks experiencing this deluge, caused by a storm system stalling out over there area. They must have wondered if the rain would ever stop.

Sometimes, life can feel that way. We all experience times when stormy weather sets in and after a while you feel certain it’s here to stay. Pain, discouragement, tragedy and loss come pouring down in buckets and you can’t understand why God doesn’t just make it stop.
These are the times that our faith is tried and tested the most. We cry out to God, wanting to know why he is allowing our pain. We want answers but all we get is more rain.

Maybe you are feeling this way right now. I can’t offer you answers, but perhaps I can offer you some hope. This will not last forever. Just like the Tropical Storm in the news story mentioned earlier, your storm will move on. You may be left with some floodwaters and a mess to clean up, but you will get to a place where the rain stops and you can move forward with life.

During this time it’s essential that you cling to God with the assurance that he has not forgotten or forsaken you. Consider these words from Psalm 37: (7 & 28) “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him…” and " For the LORD loves the just, and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever…”

God promises to offer you peace and strength. Take him on his Word. Listen to these verses from 2 Corinthians (9&10), "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Friday, April 1, 2011


Have you ever watched someone with multiple pieces of obviously heavy pieces of luggage trying to make their way through the airport? It’s quite a sight, isn’t it? Maybe you’ve even been that person before…questioning whether or not you really needed to pack 3 different outfits and 2 pairs of shoes for each day of your trip. PBS travel Guru, Rick Steve’s advises travelers to pack just one carry-on suitcase for a trip. That seems a little far to the other extreme. I don’t think I could pack everything I need for a weekend at the beach in one carry-on sized bag, never mind a 2 week trip to Europe!

Unfortunately, lots of us are weighed down by another kind of baggage…emotional baggage. Just like that poor guy trying to make his way through the airport with 3 or 4 heavy suitcases, emotional baggage makes our journey through life so much more difficult and strenuous. It trips us up, weighs us down and just makes us miserable! So, what is packed in our emotional bags? Usually they are full of past hurts that we carry with us, giving us a dim out look and getting in the way of healthy relationships with others. We don’t need these things, yet we carry them around with us everywhere we go.

The good news is that there is a kind Gentleman who wants to help us with our bags…he’s willing to take them from us, freeing us from our burden. His name is Jesus and here is what he has to say to those of us who are still carrying our own bags, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30