Faith

Running with others

“Oh, I don’t run with others.”

This was my response to friends who had done Couch to 5k and wanted to join me on some of my regular runs. It makes me cringe now, looking back but there was a reason behind it.

Running for me is more than just getting fit. It is my headspace, my self-care, my therapy. It is my place to run away from my worries, to run through my frustrations. It’s often pretty messy and it wasn’t a process that I wanted others to witness.

When you run with others, there is an assumption that you are going to talk. Talking wasn’t always something that I was comfortable with, so it was easier to put my earbuds in, get my head down and keep going. I joined a running club last January and was the slowest runner there. I hated watching others overtake me, but what I hated even more was when people hung back for me.

Crazy, right?

But the kinder and more encouraging people were to me, the angrier and more embarrassed I felt. I have been conditioned to independence. Much to my poor husband’s dismay, I am fiercely stubborn and determined to things my way, on my own, in my time. (Our eldest son has sadly inherited this same fierce independence!)

If things get tough? Its okay, I’m tough enough to cope.

If things get messy? Its okay, I’ve got it under control.

If things get sad? It’s okay, I can paint on a smile.

Just run with it. Run through it. Run from it.

This philosophy is okay for a while, but running alone gets lonely. Running uphill gets hard. Running on empty is draining.

This is why God put people in our paths, to encourage us, to equip us, to energise us, to excite us. Those people who encouraged me are now seeing me keep up with them, hold a conversation with them. Over the past 12-18 months, I have entered races, run distances I could only dream of and smashed personal bests. All because I am running with others who propel me forward, running in a club that cheers me on.

We were never designed to live alone.

It is no surprise that we were never designed to live alone. We are made in God’s image, and even He doesn’t live alone. He exists as part of the Trinity; Father, Spirit, Son. The Bible is packed with men and women who needed relationship; with Jesus and with other people. God created us to live in community with others, and regardless of whether we are living the dream or lying at our lowest, we need people around us.

This week is maternal mental health awareness week. I have walked (and ran) through postnatal depression and anxiety twice in the last five years. I know first hand that despite all the treatment and all the therapy in the world, it was my community and my church that got me through. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, but I believe it takes a village to raise a mother.

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child,
but I believe it takes a village to raise a mother.

Wherever this finds you today, whether you are a mama who is walking a rocky road alone, or running with others, know that you are not alone. God never left you and He never will. He sent Jesus to crawl, walk and run alongside you. He sent His Holy Spirit to guide you. Even on your darkest day, He will be your brightest light.

God never left you and He never will.

When running, especially uphill, you need to keep your head up and fix your eyes on a focal point ahead. This is the best way to keep going, keep moving and get to the top. Running the race of life is no different. We need to keep our heads up, fix our eyes on Jesus and run towards Him. And He will take you through the deepest valley and over the tallest mountain out to the other side.

R x

Photo Credit: FreePik
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Faith

Strengthen your core

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Running is hands down (or perhaps feet down!) one of my favourite ‘me moments’. It is when I get to pull on my trainers, put in my headphones and tune out the rest of the world for 40 minutes or so, a time when I am no longer wife, mom, leader, writer but just me. In the past year I have taken steps to improve my health and fitness more seriously through running and I have come to love these moments of solitude, not least because in the absence of other distractions this is often the time where God meets me to drop some little pearls of wisdom into my journey.

Today was no exception.

As I ran up the hill alongside some shop fronts, I caught sight of my reflection in the window panes on my left and my reflection surprised me. I had not long started out on my run, and although heading uphill, I felt I was running strong, head up, arms and legs pumping but my reflection suggested otherwise. As I glanced across I saw that shoulders were sloped, my back rounded and my feet were far from flying high above the ground as I had imagined. I instantly pulled myself up, drawing my tummy in to my spine, rolling back my shoulders and lifting my knees higher to resume the running style I had mistakenly believed I was running all along, and guess what? It was much harder work!

You can run as many miles as you want, but unless your core is strong you are not using your muscles correctly to maximise your workout, God whispered into my spirit.

As this revelation dropped into my heart, I was quite stunned by the simplicity of God’s message yet its sheer importance in our lives. Sure you can run 10k, that’s great, but if you don’t engage your core muscles correctly then you will not engage the rest of your musculo-skeletal system, and will therefore not achieve the maximum fat burn and muscle growth you hoped for. In fact, not only will your fitness improvement plan take longer, but you can actually hamper it by running with incorrect form and posture as this puts additional strain on your body and can result in long-term injury.

That’s how it is with us in our spiritual lives. We can attend church, sing praises to God every Sunday and we can hang on the preacher’s every word during the sermon, amen-ing in all the right places, but unless we have a personal core faith in Jesus, strengthening us daily, we will not be running right. After the Sunday service, our posture will be gradually slipping a little more each day, those slumped shoulders struggling under the weight of our circumstances, those feet flailing as we try to find secure footing on uncertain paths, or the stitch of grief, depression or financial difficulties crippling us as we reach for the next milestone in our journey.

Faith in Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to our Father God in heaven. But it is not just enough to believe in Him, we need to know Him, walk with Him, talk with Him and read God’s word. God wants us to have a relationship with Him but He knew we could never live a perfect life, and this is why He sent His only Son, Jesus, to earth to die for us so that we could be made right with God and come to Him as His forgiven sons and daughters.

But there is someone else fighting for your attention. Someone else who wants you distracted, depressed, demoted during your time on this earth. Whether you like it or not, the devil is real, he is an enemy and he will spin you every line in the book in order to avert your eyes from the one who made you. God knows that we are weak, however He promises that in our weaknesses He is strong. Jesus himself was tempted by the devil and so He knows the power and pain of the enemies lies. But Jesus also knows the awesome power and sovereignty of His Father in heaven, and so He overcame the devil.

And Jesus knew He could rely on this power and authority in heaven because His core was strong.

From an early age Jesus devoured the scriptures until they were written on His heart, He talked with His heavenly father day after day and He was obedient and faithful so that He would always be strong. And we can do the same. We need to get fit and strong, both physically and spiritually to endure the twists and turns of life and not crumble every time a curve ball gets thrown at us.

Paul summarises this brilliantly in 1 Corinthians 9;

“So I run with purpose in every step, I am not just shadow boxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.” 1 Corinthians 9:26-27 NLT

Each of us has a God-given purpose and destiny on this earth. We are not here just to enjoy the ride of life, we have a job to do during the race of life. If we want our physical bodies to be strong we need to train hard, bear weight and keep correct form and the same is true of our spirit. We cannot build muscle without putting pressure and strain on our muscles, and so to improve our core faith and relationship with Jesus we will have to endure hard times that force us to rely upon Him even more. In order to run the race of life strong, resisting temptation, overcoming hurdles and achieving all that God has set out for us then we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and keep His word fixed in our hearts.

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired and young men will find exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:29-31 NLT

Do you feel like you are struggling on your journey? Feel that the load is just too much to bear? Don’t panic and don’t give up. This is your core strengthening exercises and your mind, body, soul and spirit WILL come out of this stronger, fitter and closer to God than ever before.

Let’s start that core work and get ready.

R

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Faith

Let’s keep running the race

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I love running. The fact that I even profess that has come as something of a surprise to me however. I have never been what you might call a natural athlete, always the curvy girl (or downright fat in my university days), however I have always been fairly active and enjoyed the great outdoors.

Exercise and I have had a somewhat tumultuous relationship in the last 30 years, with spurts of activity before my wedding and after the birth of my first son when it was clear that breastfeeding and healthy eating was not going to get me back to my pre pregnancy state. However I really got into fitness and running in a big way last Summer and have been particularly committed to getting fit in 2015. Taking the obligatory pre-fitness regime photographs was painful, but I was ready and raring to go with 5k runs, regular workouts and a moderate nutrition plan all mapped out for the next few months. However only a few weeks in I was already getting despondent. I couldn’t understand why the scales still weren’t telling me something different, why my clothes didn’t feel any looser yet. Worse was yet to come, when after three months I still didn’t feel that there was anywhere near a significant enough change in my appearance to match the discipline and effort that I had put in.

My CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) and hubby, Dave, was super supportive, telling me how great I looked and how he could really see a difference. He reassured me that I had shaved inches off my face, arms, back and hips (that troublesome mum tum appears to be the last thing to go!), but the most vital thing he kept telling me was that I was embarking on a lifestyle change, not a four week wonder diet to shed weight only to regain it shortly after. Dave also reminded me that if anything, I was likely to put on weight initially during my fitness programme as I was asking my muscles to hulk around my excess weight on all these runs and work outs, therefore the muscles would have to bulk up to accommodate the additional load. In time, when they were larger and stronger, and burning more calories, these muscles would then start to burn the fat away and begin to reduce in size and elongate, giving me the strong, toned physique I was longing for.

I think that our journey through life can feel so much like a workout programme, especially when we are walking with God and testing new boundaries and developing new skills. It is only when we are physically pushed that we learn, grow and strengthen. Our muscles must first bear weight and pressure in order to grow. During the workout itself the tissues will endure injury and tearing in order to knit back together and grow larger and stronger.

When we are going through tough times at home or at work, or simply turning away from our old ways, the physical pain and despondence we feel can seem unbearable and endless, and everything within us screams run back to the beginning, to the familiar ways, to our old self. God promises that He will never give us more than we can bear, (1 Corinthians 10;13-14) but he also tells us that living a faithful life is like running an endurance race. There is no sprint finish, we must run, and run, and run, through traumatic childhoods, through failed relationships, through abuse, through addictions, through dysfunctional families.

“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 NLT

When I run uphill, my legs burn incessantly as my muscles bunch together and force my legs to continue pounding the tarmac. It is only my sheer will and determination that stops me from walking, because I know the elation that awaits as I reach the summit and start to go downhill. Ah yes, the stretch is my favourite part of running uphill. When your legs are screaming at you to stop, your lungs are burning and the sweat is running down your brow, you suddenly start to descend. As gravity pulls you faster, the cool breeze fans your face, rushing into your thankful lungs and your legs stride out, stretching and elongating your bunched up muscles with each footfall.

In life, faith in God is the driving force that will see us up and over that obstacle. Faith in the fact that Jesus loves you, He died for you and He is with you every single step of the way will push you through the pain barrier, help you to press in and run on with endurance to reach the summit. And then, when you have fought with all your might to get there, God’s abundant, immeasurable grace is like the gravity that will remove the pressure, ease your struggles and speed up your journey.

God knows where He wants to take you in your life, but He also knows that you need to do some learning and growing on the way, and the only way that our faith muscles grow is by bearing weight. If you are under pressure today, carrying a heavy burden or desperately trying to run from a past, a sin or an addiction that keeps catching up with you, don’t despair. God sees you clenching your fists and pressing on, and He will guide you and strengthen you as your muscles begin to repair and rebuild during the uphill struggle. But the most beautiful miracle awaits you on the other side of that hill. Rest assured that when you reach the summit post workout your once flaccid faith muscle will now be strong, and your toned limbs will be able to stretch further than you could possibly imagine in to all the things of God that are awaiting in your future.

” I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.”
Philippians 3:12-16 The Message

The best is yet to come. Stay strong my friend, as a son or daughter of the King you are in training for reigning.

R

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