Now for the Big Kahuna. The one that tipped the scales.
In October 2015, I completed my first 70.3 mile half-iron distance triathlon. For those of you who don’t know, this is a 3 part endurance event where you swim, bike, and run one after the other. Covering a total of 70.3 miles. 1.2 mile swim in open water, 56 mile bike ride, and 13.1 mile run (half-marathon). I went into training having just completed a marathon, so in post-marathon shape. And trained specifically for 8 months for this event. I thought if I could only get to the end of it I would be golden. For 8 months I trained very hard. So hard that I knew it would be less difficult than I expected. So my expectations for myself went from finishing, to having a time goal. It was very doable according to how I had trained.
I struggled mentally on the bike as I got passed over and over and over again. By many that started in later swim waves than me. And I did not meet my time goal. I missed it by 18 minutes. I had a “B” goal I gave myself last minute the week of the race in case there was wind or some other factor out of my control, which was under 7 hours. I met the “B” goal. I finished 70.3 miles, and finished strong at that. But I wasn’t “fast enough.” It was a very respectable time (even compared to others in my age group!). But I compared myself with friends I had trained with. I compared myself with others on the course. I felt like my effort and training didn’t match my outcome. I just didn’t “measure up.” The days that followed were an internal struggle. I didn’t fully share what I was feeling with anyone outside of my amazing husband, who listened to my raw emotions and just shook his head in disbelief. And I mustered up the courage to ask myself the question: How can I finish a half-ironman - something very few people on the face of the earth can say that they've done - feeling like it’s not good enough?
external stamp that says: “Here’s your check. You worked today. Your day is accounted for.” In brutal honesty, I personally feel more “enough” on the days where I get paid for my work. More satisfied with myself.
Don't even let me get started on body image. That would take an entire post in and of itself.
Maybe our measuring sticks are wrong. I know mine is. How I long to actually measure up to that stick at the end of a race. Sometimes it’s clear cut, sometimes there are no clear measurements. It’s like a fictitious adequacy stick where the marks are vague and ever changing. But if I do it, if I actually measure up, will it make a difference? I doubt it. It’s like throwing sticks to a hungry wolf.
It’s time to throw out the measuring stick.
Neither one of these places is a healthy place to live.
Some believe we can fulfill ourselves, with ourselves. I don't believe that. We can try, and try, and try again. Apart from Jesus it’s just not there. I've tried. And failed. And been left wanting.
What makes me enough is simple. I'm enough because Jesus paid the price for me to be enough. Period. And though I became enough when I began my relationship with Jesus 20 years ago, I haven't been fully accessing it. I've known that all my insufficiency are covered and filled by His grace, but I haven't believed it. It’s like a fish spending its entire life on the bottom floor of the ocean because it doesn’t know it’s capable of swimming.
Now am I saying that EVERYTHING I do is coming from this belief that I’m not enough? No, I’m not. There are many things I now do from the place of feeling adequate. One of those is being a mom. It’s not perfect, but I feel like I’ve finally found my groove as a mom and I’m really okay in my role as one. I do have flair ups where I start to freak out and feel like it’s “Not enough”, but I can flush it with the help of praying friends and my husband.
I want to live from this place of satiation of being “enough.” I want to finish a race and feel the joy and satisfaction from the accomplishment! I’ve only been able to feel it a couple times, but I want to feel it with every one regardless of what place I finish in. Regardless of my performance.
I want to look at the girl in the mirror staring back at me without thoughts of how she doesn't measure up.
Does believing I'm enough mean that I'm going to let go of crazy goals and enter into a life complacency? NO. It's quite the opposite! I've found that believing with every cell in my body that I am ENOUGH in Jesus will fuel my drive to go after things, HARD things. I can set a goal, work hard for the goal; and then regardless of what happens I can know that I've already won! I'm already pleasing. Already sufficient. It takes the pressure off. Because I know that sink or swim, I AM ENOUGH.
“Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!”
“O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”
“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, confirm the work of our hands.”
I’m not a big believer in New Years’ Resolutions, but I do write out goals every year for my business and my personal life. Along with that, I ask the Lord for one word for the year. It’s been interesting how He uses that word in my life all year long. My word for this year is
I bet there are some of you reading this that are overachievers, just like me. We get a bad rap. Overachieving is not a bad thing; overachievers do a lot of great things in the world. But sometimes our drive for excellence can come from a lie we believe about ourselves. It’s about the WHY behind our striving.
What if I told you that I’ve struggled with this my entire life? In the past few years, I thought it was one of those things I had defeated for once and for all. Buried it. Burnt it. Felt victorious over it. In the past few years I’ve grown tremendously in every area of my life and have come awake to who I am and am actually loving myself and my life! So I thought for sure that pesky inadequacy thing was buried. Then something happened a couple months ago that brought the same feelings of inadequacy back. A big wave. It was like that familiar knock at the door. My response to the situation clearly showed me there was more work to be done.
Enough means by definition: To the required degree or extent. Adequately.
Have you ever believed you’re inadequate? Maybe you do right now.
Feelings of inadequacy begin when we’re children. If you’re a parent, chances are you’ve done this. If you’re a human being (I hope you are), chances are it was communicated to you as a child. A kid brings you his coloring page, proud of it. And you say, “But why did you color outside the lines?” Or your child cuts all the freshly bloomed flowers and brings them inside with a big smile to which you respond “My flowers! You destroyed them!” You see, we are born looking for affirmation. And it’s only natural to look to our parents in those early years. But because we are imperfect people, we communicate imperfectly. And sadly enough, many children grow up believing their efforts are not ENOUGH.
Not in the popular crowd. I wasn’t popular enough.
Not on a sports team. I wasn’t good enough.
Not in the dance company. I wasn’t strong enough.
Not the valedictorian of my senior class. I wasn’t smart enough.
No boyfriend. I wasn’t pretty enough.
And then I became a mom. Again I experienced the “not good enough.” You didn’t feed the baby ENOUGH. You’re not attentive ENOUGH. You don’t focus ENOUGH. You don’t play with your kids ENOUGH. Your baby is not doing ENOUGH. Your baby’s not fat ENOUGH.
With the increase in confidence and coming into who I was, I decided to sign up for a half marathon, trained, and ran it. I had run the distance a couple times during training, so I knew I could do it. But race day is always different. When I finished, it wasn’t as fast as I expected. It was a very respectable time for a first timer, but I was comparing myself and looking at what my times had been in training. I remember the feeling afterward. Instead of being proud, I felt disappointed in myself.
Realizing how much I enjoyed the distance running and taking risks, I signed up for a full marathon right away. My goal was “finish” first and foremost, but I had a time goal too. Well, it didn’t go how I’d hoped. I fueled wrong and was nauseous the last 10 miles. It took me 5 hours to finish. I FINISHED, but all I could focus on was the disappointment in how I bonked and finished at the back of the pack. Not good enough. Not fast enough.
We all have been invited to potlucks organized by local churches where food and much laughter can be punctuated with some awkward moments. Going to a potluck gathering can be challenging simply because you just never know what you are going to bite into. Everything looks different than what we are used to. For instance: what we are accustomed to when we think of an apple pie can look completely different from what someone else brought. It might have the same ingredients but it sure does not have the familiar look that we are so at ease with. It takes risk to dig into something so strange looking, making us feel like we are now venturing into an uncharted culinary territory, just as when Indiana Jones was staring down into the pit of snakes. But we have heard that building relationship takes risk, and so it is with potlucks.
This past Sunday we gathered in the afternoon to spend time together apart from our regular morning service, and as in the past we had a theme. It was all about pies. We called it “PieExtravaganza”. What was different from the past three gatherings we have done is that this time people had to bring their own dish as the main piece. On top of that, there was contest for the best pie.
Some of the folks in our church spent quite a bit of time putting together pretty remarkable pies. Some went to the extreme of making their own ice cream for a chocolate mint ice cake. Others expressed themselves with intricate designs on their pies, while others baked their famous sweet potato pie from a family tradition passed down from many generations back. Families with their busy schedule set time aside to bake, or drove back from their own family gathering early enough to make a pie for our event. Thoughts, planning, investment, and care took place that day. Each pie was not only beautiful to look at but they were all very exquisite to taste.
Despite what one may think, bringing our dish to a food gathering truly reveals how we feel inside about the people we are spending time with more than any other thing.
We may have disagreements with some people in the church. We could even be dealing with some hurt and uneasiness about some relationship. The fact that we spent a few hours cooking or baking, showcasing our skills to bring to such events speaks volume. It shows that deep down in our hearts we care about the community the Lord has placed us in. After all, our intention was not only to please the palates of others, but also to offer parts of who we are so that others can have a glimpse of our hearts.
I believe to comprehend the strength of unity in a community; it is necessary to look at the sum of all the relationships corporately, rather than one or two individuals. In the same community, we may have affinities with some, and be completely turned off by the attitudes of others. For the sake of the whole we are willing to work passed our potential hurts. Just as it is when cooking, some ingredients may have been dangerous or bitter by themselves, but put together, they become a work of art.
Yes potlucks are tricky because we just don’t know what we are putting in our mouths. And yes it takes courage to try something that looks odd.
Relationships can be risky, even in the midst of a safe church environment. If we dig in, we might be surprised to found out the truth inside is much better than it sometimes looked.
I am reminded of the time it takes to share a meal from my European upbringing. Each meal you share is apart of your heart you offer, and this past Sunday was no different. I am honored to be in the company of such a group of people dedicated to making relationships work.
Acts 2:42, 2:46-47. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.
They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved
Many attempts have been made to explain faith. Some more successful than others, but every single time I am left with a tragic sense of religious jargon mingled with some esoteric principles. I understand that describing something invisible isn’t something for the faint of heart. After all, faith isn’t tangible. It is not something you can put in a box with a label. Faith is more than a concept; it is more than a simple religious attitude toward a God we cannot see.
Faith is a force that drives people over insurmountable obstacles. Faith drives people to sacrifice their own well-being for something supernatural. Faith can cause a kingdom to fall and another one to rise. Faith can move mountains according to the Gospels. It can heal incurable diseases and even pay taxes through the mouth of a fish.
Yet, this doesn’t explain in plain language what faith looks like, it merely exemplifies its effect.
Suppose an official envelope is hand-delivered to you by a reputable law firm. This is not one of those emails informing you that you are the sole heir of a Nigerian fortune if you only give them your bank account number. We all have received those, and instinctively know they are too good to be true.
No this letter is legitimate. Bemused by this unexpected letter, you hurry through the wax seal to find inside a notarized letter announcing to you that an uncle you didn’t even know existed has left you his entire inheritance. We are talking millions of dollars. So much money that you will never have to worry about your needs and wants for the rest of your life and the lives of your children. Still in disbelief, you call the law firm to make sure there isn’t some kind of scam going on. After all, this is obviously too good to be true. The attorney assures you that indeed the will that was delivered to you is legitimate. All you have to do is come to the attorney’s office to pick up your check before the end of the day.
Both examples are similar in nature. Both will give you a huge amount of money. Yet, the former triggered unbelief while the latter gave you the assurance that it was real, even though you still haven’t gotten the money in your hands.
Suppose now that your friend comes to you, and after hearing the wonderful news tries to persuade you that you are being scammed. Despite his argument, you are not wavering in unbelief. Doubts can’t survive in your mind because of the official nature of the document attesting of its veracity. Nothing can make you give in now. All you have to do is show up at the law firm to retrieve your check. You have been given a promise, and nothing will stop you. Even if your tires get flat, your engine blows up, you have to walk 10 miles and your feet are bleeding from the hot pavement. You will not stop at any cost with your letter in hand. No dogs, no bears, no rain or any other crazy thing will slow you down. You have the proof. It is true. You are now experiencing a force that is beyond human reason. It is giving you vision beyond the natural. You could move mountains. It is changing you as you run towards what has been promised to you. You are unstoppable.
This strength, the resolve you would experience if this story was true is the best definition of faith.
Hebrews 11:1 (Amp) puts it this way: Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].
The promises God has given us are always true and have been sealed with the blood of an innocent who came back from the dead and is now pleading on our behalf. There is no reason to waver and question His intentions toward us.
II Corinthians 1:20-22 (MSG). Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.
Whatever the Lord has promised you it is a sure thing. All you have to do is trust in the document and make your way to the attorney’s office to retrieve it. You may encounter obstacles and contrary winds trying to keep you from your destiny, but it doesn’t make the promise less true. They actually confirm that the prince of the air is doing everything he can to prevent you from your promise.
We all need friends.
"One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Prov 18:24
Most of us have a circle of friends. Often times, our friends will have the same passions, be from the same socioeconomic backgrounds, and share our same interests. Some things may be slightly different, but for the most part our friends would think along the same lines as we do. After all, if our upbringing was from a conservative Christian environment, we probably wouldn't be close friends with an atheist, for example, for the simple reason of avoiding offenses against our beliefs.
According to the Bible, a friend is closer than a brother. How can that statement even make sense since siblings live together in the same house for more than 10 years? It would seem no one would be closer than a sibling. Even if siblings are very different, they are still part of the same family, doing things together and spending time with each other as families do. How then could a friend be closer? Jesus shows us how.
Jesus, being human, shared our same basic need for friends. Read some of the statements He made to his disciples at the end of His life. "I don't call you servants, I call you friends"! So how did He chose His friends? Logically, He should have gone with the ones that resembled Him the most, not the ones that were the furthest from His nature. Yet instead of choosing priests, Levites, kings, religious leaders, His eyes fell on quite the opposite. His friends were sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen. They really had no common ground with Jesus.
Jesus is looking for friends. His eyes are on the ones that feel disqualified and unworthy. And the moment Jesus chooses His friend, He will stick with them closer than His own family. We don't have to be like Him for Christ to like us as a person. All that is required is that we love Him back!
Friends don't decide to stick with us based on bloodline or family ties. Friends don't stick closer than a brother because they have the familial obligation to stay with us. For them, it is a choice, and choices have greater impact than obligations. Jesus chooses to stick with us regardless of our shortcomings. He is not obligated to stay our friend because He has to. He does so because He wants to!
All of us have experienced rejection, this evil emotion, to some degree. Some of us more than others. We hear of the "spirit of rejection." So think of rejection almost as an entity.
Rejection comes when we expect it the least, when our heart is not guarded. It sneaks up on us out of nowhere. Unfortunately, rejection often comes from the people we like or trust the most. Or does it? If only we were more like Jesus, we would be immune to it. Surely Jesus doesn't have issues with rejection, right?!
Is this true?
Let's have a look at the Lord. His walk on the earth was not devoid of rejection. For crying out loud, He started His life from a rejected standpoint. From His childhood until the end of His ministry, rejection was a way of life for Him. Jesus didn't have that many friends to care for His heart to begin with, and even these ended up rejecting Him when He needed them the most. It makes the sting deadlier.
Rejection has to use people to survive and continue its destructive work.Rejection comes veiled in misconception, misunderstanding and expectation we place on people. It needs a vehicle to move, and by attaching itself to the people we love it causes a much deeper wound. The moment we realize it is a ploy of the enemy, the power of hurt is broken.
How can we get free of its poison? Well, how did our Savior?
When Jesus was hanging on the cross, the ones that had rejected Him were laughing and mocking Him. One of the ultimate wounds of rejection is when you are hurt and the ones that hurt you make fun of you. In that very instance, Jesus recognized that these people were innocent victims of the ploy of rejection. At that very moment, Jesus looked at His Father and forgave them. Not only that, but said the reason to forgive them was because they did not know what they were doing!
Rejection comes disguised in people we love. When it comes again, let's demonstrate that we now understand the scheme of the enemy. We have the power to release our friends and family to a greater revelation of love when we do. We also get to experience the power of the resurrected life when we win.
In finishing, we could conclude that every time we encounter the stings of rejection, we are given an opportunity to experience more of Christ-likeness.
As it was the custom at the time, the political powers would present the crowd two prisoners to chose from. One would be set free of all charges against him. The other one would be condemned. This time one of them was falsely accused with fabricated arguments, while his counterpart was guilty on all counts.
Passover was full of excitement from the many travelers coming to celebrate the mandatory feast ordained by Moses. This time however, the crowd in Jerusalem was conversing about a man who stirred up the whole country with acts of goodness never seen before.
The crowd loved him just a few days ago. In fact their affection for him took an unusual turn when he entered the city. Something special came over all of them. Cutting branches from neighboring trees, they covered his path with them. Some of them were so overwhelmed by his presence that branches were not enough. They stripped down, got rid of their clothes by laying them down while his was passing.
The same crowd stood in the courtyard of the palace to make a life and death decision indelible the now infamous custom. Today, a prisoner would be set free, acquitted of all past indictments. Today a man would have a second chance at life.
No matter how cruel this custom was, the decision should have been easy. There, stood a blameless man, having committed not a single trespass. The only caveat against him was that he set people free of all sorts of bondage. The man who set people free was now being held captive because of it. His fate, resting in the hands of those he had set free. They could have returned the favor. Everybody would have benefited from releasing him. They instead released a man who could steal, kill and destroy once again.
This would be tragic if the name of this notorious criminal wasn't Barabbas. As his name points out "son of the father" he encompasses every single one of us who were estranged from our Father by the dreaded separation of our sin nature.
The first known association with a baker’s dozen was in the thirteenth century when a law was instituted by King Henry III that produced severe penalties for bakers that would cheat their customers by selling under-weight bread (The Assize of Bread and Ale). The punishment for selling under-weight bread could be as severe as losing a hand to the executioner’s axe!
Bakers fearing the weight of the law would throw in an extra loaf/roll into the sell to ensure that they would not be subject to the King’s wrath.
This law was eventually repealed in 1863, but the tradition continues to live on, by giving over and above what is required.
For me, I want 2013 to represent the baker’s dozen, but not giving because of any requirements of law, but giving out of love. The love of our fellow man should compel us to look beyond ourselves, and give where there is a need, comfort where there is a hurt, and intercede where there is conflict. We should be known as those who love to give extravagantly because we are given so much. God blesses our nation in so many ways. When we move forward with a thankful heart, and a willingness to give out of love, we will see tremendous change.
Money, time, resources, prayer, and talents are just a few of the ways that we can give. I would love to see 2013 become our great nation’s baker’s dozen year, and not for any other reason than to see real hope, and real change. The catalyst does not come from a government or an institution, it comes from a people.
I love the way that a deep revelation of the truth can completely disarm irrational fears. God has a way of showing up with His truth and turning on the light, which leaves no place for darkness to reside.
I did a beach trip with the kids one morning last week. It was beautiful and absolutely refreshing. As we were trekking across the sand back to the trail that led to our car, my 4 year old Judah was far ahead of me, and my 2 year old far behind. I stayed in the middle and watched the one in front, asking him to slow down, while at the same time continuing to check on the one behind and urging him to move faster. Before I realized what was happening, Judah (way ahead of me) was surrounded by seagulls and was running and crying, as they "chased" him. "Mommy they're scaring me!" I made out as he cried for help. I could see clearly what was going on. He had a couple big seashells in his hand. No doubt, the seagulls were after what appeared to be food in Judah's hand. I knew he would be okay. I yelled for him turn around and chase them, and run back to me (not wanting to get too far away from my toddler behind me), but I don't think he heard me. They finally left him alone as he reached the wooden walkway back to the parking lot.
When I finally reached him, I gave him a hug and told him I was so sorry. "I'm scared of seagulls Mommy." Oh great. Honestly, that's the first thing I thought. No, my fearless child cannot become afraid of a bird. I knew the seagulls were just after what was in his hand. I knew the reasonable thing to do was for him to "chase" the seagulls away. I wanted to just wave my hand and erase the memory so he would go back to the Judah I know, and chase seagulls down the beach as he's always done. But when we have an experience like this, its not that easy.
As we walked back to the car, I knew he needed to process this. I asked the Holy Spirit for wisdom with words. "So Judah, the seagulls scared you?" "Yes, I'm scared of them now." I asked him, "Why are you afraid of them? What made you afraid?" Here comes the irrational part: "Because I thought they were going to eat me." Ahhh. That totally makes sense a kid would believe that. So I told him, "They can't eat you, their mouths are too small." And the light turned on. He repeated it to me a couple times. I also reminded him, "You are bigger than the seagulls, you can chase them and they will fly from you!" Then, we talked about what really happened. "Judah, do you know why the seagulls were really chasing you? It was because you had shells in your hand, and they thought the shells were food. So they wanted to get what was in your hand." Another light popped on. He had heard and understood the truth. I prayed for him, and as we drove home and he further processed "what really happened," I believe his fear for seagulls was disarmed.
We need each other. We have to stop telling each other "Don't be afraid!" and begin validating one another's feelings and experiences as real. And then, lovingly support each other in seeing and choosing the truth. The Lord is Truth. He absolutely wants us to be free from all constraining fears so that we can run down the "beach" of life full of joy, abandonment, and confidence, knowing we are sons and daughters of a Father who's all powerful and always present.