Can I/Should I

I stated in one of my earlier blog posts that I was going to start a word study to see how many times the words “can” and “cannot” appear in the Bible. From everything I’ve been able to gather so far, the word “can” appears 213 times. I have taken the time to write down each verse, and I have just started to separate each one into various categories. This has been an ongoing project for quite a while, and I have a long way to go before it will be completed.

The first category is called “can/should”. Every one of us has the ability to consciously make choices. We must weigh the consequences before we make those choices. For instance, with running, I no longer question whether or not I have the ability to run. God has helped me prove that one to myself over and over during the last few months. However, I am now learning to listen to my body. If my heart starts to beat too fast or if I can’t catch my breath, it’s not that hard for me to figure out that I may have a heart attack if I do not choose to slow down. I like to train myself to go faster as much as possible, but occasionally I have to ask myself if I am physically ready to run faster or if I should back off just a little.

People in the Bible also made choices all of the time, just like we do in our lives. Like us, they did not always make the right ones. The first time the word “can” appears in the King James Version of the Bible is in Genesis 4:13. It says, “And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.” The New American Standard Bible translates the verse this way: “Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is too great to bear!'”

If you are familiar with the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, you will remember that both of them chose to disobey God. Their son Cain followed suit. He and his brother Abel brought offerings to God. Both men had the ability to give time and careful thought to their offerings, but only one of them truly obeyed by giving his absolute best (verse 4 says Abel gave of the “firstlings of his flock”). As a result, God gave favor to Abel. Cain made the choice not to give his best. Instead of facing his consequences, he got jealous and killed his own brother . . . another choice. Cain had the ability to choose to do right, but he chose to do wrong instead. God then punished Cain by making the ground he tilled unfruitful and by banishing him and making him a wanderer in his own land. Again, instead of choosing to accept God’s punishment, Cain chose self-pity. The beauty of all of that is that God chose to protect Cain. Verse 15 says, “And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him”.

In running, I make choices all of the time. I make choices about how far I want to run, my running pace, the location, etc. I have to weigh the consequences each time. What are the risks if I choose to go alone? What are the benefits of running in the morning instead of the afternoon . . . or vice versa? The choices I make are based on what I feel is best for myself at the time, and sometimes I fail even when I may have had the best intentions. No matter what, I have to learn to deal with the consequences every single time.

Cain could have chosen to obey God with his offering, but he consciously made the choice to disobey. There has been some debate about whether or not God specifically commanded that the sacrifices brought by Cain and Abel must be blood sacrifices. I have heard arguments on that subject from all sides. The Bible does not seem to be clear about that. Regardless of the specifics of the sacrifices, what is clear is that Cain chose to offer his sacrifice as a last-minute duty, whereas Abel viewed God worthy enough to take the time to offer his very best. Cain’s choices spiraled downward. His choice to murder his own brother is not only a result of not asking himself ahead of time whether or not he should do it or what the results would be; it is a result of his bitter and angry heart. He did not consider his consequences ahead of time.

My choice to constantly overeat was a result of a lack of self-control and anxiety. Even now, I have to consider the consequences of much of what I put in my mouth. I am daily improving with my portion control. Being a member of Weight Watchers has helped me to remain accountable to my health.

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that accountability is God’s way of keeping us from making wrong choices. It is also His way of drawing us back to Himself when we slip up. God could have chosen not to protect Cain in verse 15, but He showed mercy instead.

As much as I ask myself whether or not I should do something before I do it (notice I did not say whether or not I can do it), there have been times when I make mistakes. I am so thankful for the mercy that God extends to me every single time and for the things He teaches me along the way.

Before we participate in anything, we should not ask ourselves whether or not we can do it; we should ask ourselves if we should do it, and consider the consequences ahead of time. As Christians, we should also ask ourselves what God wants us to do. It might save us a lot of headaches . . . and heartaches later on!

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!

Goals, Gamuts, and Getting It All Together

I did something today that was a little different and exciting for me: I tried on two pairs of pants. You may wonder about the significance, but when you’re on a weight loss journey like I’ve been on for a year and a half, trying on clothes is a significant event every time! These pants are also not the kind I’m used to either. I’ve been in the mood for a few changes, and I was excited to try on those pants. Even though they didn’t quite fit (they are very close), I’m still keeping them. One day in the very near future, I will be able to fit comfortably into them. The reason is because I have learned to set goals for myself with fitness and weight loss. I have an ultimate goal for both areas, but I have also learned to set small attainable goals along the way. It gives me such a sense of accomplishment and freedom to look back and see all of the things God has accomplished in and through me during the last year and a half. Fitting into those pants is one of the many ways I can celebrate my weight loss victories.

My running is also slowly improving. Again, I have an ultimate goal, and I am gradually chiseling off my running time by a few seconds at a time. I am learning the importance of strength, balance, and core training to keep every area of my body in sync.

When I look back at the whole gamut of things, I see how fitness and weight loss go hand in hand with my overall health. I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that my dad’s death was a huge wake up call for me. That was one of the hardest times I have ever faced. Watching someone you love go through what he did and knowing there is nothing you can do to make it better is absolutely gut-wrenching. During that time, I responded to my anxiety by shedding lots of tears, not exercising, and eating everything in sight. I was trying to trust in God to take care of Dad especially during his last few days, but I was having a hard time. During a particularly difficult night, God gave me a sense of peace that He was taking care of everything. I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I knew at that moment that everything was going to be okay. I was still neglecting my own health though, and it was quickly catching up with me. Even though none of us would have ever asked for Dad’s death, I know now that it was God’s best for him. Dad is in no more pain, and he is sitting at the feet of Jesus at this very moment! As a Christian, it is such an encouragement to remember that nothing is EVER a surprise to God, even when we feel like the circumstances are insurmountable curveballs. Everything that happens to us is custom-made by God Almighty specifically for us . . . from the plans He has for us here on earth as He said in Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

. . . to the details of the mansions He describes in John 14:1-3:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you [emphasis mine]. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Did you get that? Every single mansion in Heaven has been pre-planned and custom-made by God Himself specifically for the person He has reserved it for! How incredibly AWESOME is that!! We must all remember that everything that happens to us has been chosen by God especially for us to draw us to Himself and to make us more like Him. When we look at the entire gamut of our lives, we have to realize that every aspect . . . whether it be health, fitness, occupation, creative talents . . . everything works together to bring honor to God. The beauty is that even if I fail, I can learn from the failure, get back up, and keep going.

That’s one of the things I have learned with running . . . I must keep on going no matter what! Even when I feel like I’m not having a good run (and I do have those times), I just keep reminding myself that every run is better than no run at all. I focus on all of the calories burned each day, and I don’t give up. When I see that weight loss at the end of the week . . . even if it’s only 1/2 pound . . . I finally begin to see how all of the pieces . . . good food choices, portion control, cardio and strength training . . . fit together for optimum health.

The same goes for the Christian. We may feel like we are beating our heads against a wall, but we can’t give up no matter what the circumstances may be. We must daily stay faithful to God even though it seems our efforts are in vain. Jude 23 & 24 says:

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

“To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”

When I can’t, God can! Nothing is too big for Him. He can help me with the small things . . . like doing what it takes to fit into my new pants or running a race . . . and He can help with the big things . . . like dealing with the death of a loved one. He just wants me to trust Him to guide me every single day . . . one step at a time.

Until next time, let’s keep on running!!

Back in the Groove . . . With a New Perspective

This week has been all about slowly getting back to a new sense of normal. It feels great to return to my running routine. I didn’t pack any exercise clothes when Mother and I evacuated from Hurricane Florence since we only thought we would be gone for a few days. I was also unfamiliar with the terrain where we were staying, and there was a lot of mental and emotional unsettlement going in inside me regardless of what I did to try to ease my mind.

One thing I have learned to do as a Christian is to ask God what He wants to teach me every day. I ask Him daily to show me areas in my life that need to change, and to do whatever is necessary to make those changes. One of the areas God has shown me that I need to change is in the area of self-centeredness. When Mother and I returned home a few weeks ago, I began to notice all of the devastation from people whose houses flooded just five minutes down the road from my house. It made me start to think outside of my box. I started to ask myself what I could do to try to help others. As a single woman in my fifties with no children, I’ve always enjoyed the freedom of doing whatever I choose without having to consider anyone else. As enjoyable as that sounds, that’s not how God intended for us to live our lives. As Christians, we are to live in such a way that will point others to Christ and encourage them in their walk with God. That does not mean that we have to stand over them and beat them on the head with a Bible. It means that everything we do should be others-focused in order to influence our communities and our world for God. We must find ways to reach out to others, and make an effort to do what we can to help them. If we never step outside of our comfort zone, we will never experience the joy of making a real difference in someone else’s life!

I am definitely staying on my running/health/weight loss journey, but it’s with a new perspective. I’m not just doing it for myself. I have reached out to friends and family in my community to join me on a run or workout. So far, I have one partner, and I’m working on a few others who have expressed interest. My running partner even dubbed me as her “coach” a few days ago. I never really considered myself as a coach before since I’m not a fitness expert. I have many fond memories of my high school coach though. He always did little things to encourage all of his students and coworkers. He would walk up behind us in the hallway and say he was “behind” us 100%!! We used to laugh at that, but deep down, I always knew what he meant. That was his way of saying he was praying for, encouraging, and supporting all of us. I guess I am a “coach” to some degree too, because I know what has been working for me with health and fitness, and I am trying to encourage others to do whatever is necessary to reach their optimum health as well. That’s what coaches do . . . they instruct, encourage, and inspire!! My running partner and I use our time not only to run, but we encourage and pray for each other. The way I see it, the better the health I’m in and the more I take care of the body God gave to me, the more chance I will have to be a productive servant to God, my family, friends, and my community.

I Corinthians 6:19 & 20 says, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s”. I believe those verses not only apply to godly living, but to a healthy lifestyle as well. If we truly see our bodies as God’s temples, we will be a lot more conscientious about what goes inside our bodies as well as how we use our bodies to serve and encourage others in our communities.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!

Hurricanes, Helping Hands, and Hearts of Love

I decided to take a slight detour this week from my usual theme of running, workouts, etc. A lot has happened since my last post. I think I speak for many (if not all) in my community when I say my emotions have been all over the map during the last two weeks. Just a few days before Hurricane Florence hit Wilmington, NC, she was still a category 5 storm. My mother and I had already made the decision to evacuate about 300 miles away to the western part of the state to be with other family members. When Florence finally arrived, she had downgraded to a category 1 which was a relief in many ways. However, what no one expected was the drudgingly slow speed at which Hurricane Florence travelled, the six or seven tornadoes that hit, nor one of the worst tropical storms that came afterward. The majority of our entire community was flooded like none of us had ever seen. Due to the huge amount of rain, the road structures on the interstates and highways crumbled in many places so that those of us who evacuated could not get back in. The state department of transportation could not update its website fast enough since road conditions changed daily. Flooding in my neighborhood occurred right around the corner from my street to the point where people had to be rescued by boat. Even though Mother and I were safe in the mountains 300+ miles away, my stomach was in knots. I was so concerned about what was happening to my house, but I had no way to get to it.

As harrowing as that experience has been, I still have so many things to praise God for. I praise God for family members who agreed to take us in, and for incredible new friends who helped us return. The day of the hurricane, a tree fell in our front yard that missed our house by about a foot! We had our roof repaired a few months ago, so we lost no shingles, and the gutter is still intact. When the flooding came in my neighborhood, not one house on my street was affected.

I praise God for His protection and provision for my family, but my heart aches for those in my church, my coworkers, and other close friends and neighbors who have lost everything. Before Mother and I returned home, I determined in my heart to do what I could to reach out and help others. People all over my community have been doing the same thing in so many ways. I have seen women carrying hot meals across the street to linemen who have worked tirelessly to restore electricity. Other friends of mine have loaded up trucks with supplies and delivered them to people who cannot get out of their neighborhoods. Churches and other organizations have given out tons of food and supplies to those in need. The most incredible thing I’ve seen is that ALL of us . . . regardless of social status, religious affiliation, or political preference . . . have come together to help each other. It’s people helping people! That’s what I call “living out the love of God”.

The truth is that it should not take a hurricane or any other tragedy for us to show compassion. Every single one of us should be reaching out to our friends and neighbors every day. I Peter 3:8 & 9 says:

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

“Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing”.

One thing I have learned . . . I should not be saying “let me know if I can help you”. I should be asking “what can I do to help”. There is a huge difference between those two phrases. All of us can do something to help each other. Like I told one of my friends, I may not know how to chop down a tree, but I can certainly walk around a yard and pick up sticks or other debris!

None of us asked for this hurricane, but my heart has been warmed by the spirit that has emerged in so much of my community as a result. My prayer is that our spirit will continue in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. Let’s all make it a reality right where we are.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running . . . right along with each other . . . encouraging and constantly lifting each other in prayer!!

Staying Fierce, Focused, and Moving Forward

If you read my post “Things I Have Learned” from a few weeks ago, you know the frustration I felt after my third race. I was not focused at all, and I was aimlessly trying to improve my speed without having a plan. My head was everywhere except for where it should have been . . . in the race!!

Going back to my idea of proving to myself that I am physically able to do anything with God’s help (see my earlier posts), I proved it to myself at least twice last week. Since my cousin and I have gotten into a routine with Map My Run, I wanted to test my strategy in another official race. I went online to see if there were any local upcoming races, and I found one that was held last Saturday morning at 8:30. I work a night shift on Fridays each week, so I wasn’t sure I could handle running a 5K that morning. After talking with one of my coworkers who also runs lots of races, I decided to go for it.

On race day, I was determined to remain focused unlike the last time. I also had a plan. The first item on my agenda was to make sure I found the tent where we were starting (see my last post). I was given directions the day before when I picked up my registration packet, and I found it with no problems. The next item on my agenda was to remember to pull up Map My Run to keep track of my progress during the race. When the race started, I just followed the same routine I did during my workouts. I kept checking my app from time to time, and I had a really good feeling. My goal was to knock off a few seconds from my best race time which was 48:55. When I looked at the clock while crossing the finish line, it said 46:55!! Not only did I run a 5K after finishing a 12-hour night shift, but I also turned in my best race time to date, and I did it with two severe clubbed feet . . . talk about fierce!!

As Christians, we cannot wander aimlessly through life and expect to accomplish anything. We’ve got to know what we’re after (stay fierce), have a plan (stay focused), and daily work toward our goal (move forward). I love what Paul said in I Corinthians 9:24-27:

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

When God has clearly given us a calling, we must stay fierce and be determined to do whatever it takes to accomplish that calling. We must stay focused on the plan, and keep moving forward no matter what happens along the way.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!

Switching It Up

Now that I’ve been using Zen Labs Fitness since January for my 5K training and endurance, I’ve also started using a few other apps to kick up my training to another level. I downloaded the Map My Run app to help with timing accuracy. I ran a 5K in 46:02 this morning with an average pace of 14:45. I’ve also learned a few tricks to help me increase my speed. For instance, I’ve been power-walking the first 5 minutes, and then I run until I reach a mile, alternating 60 seconds fast/60 seconds slow. Once I reach a mile, I power-walk the next 5 minutes, and then start running again using the same routine. I’ve found that incorporating the 5-minute power-walk between each mile helps get my heart rate back to normal. It also prevents me from running out of energy so quickly. Due to my work schedule, I cannot run in very many races since most of them are held on weekends, so I downloaded the Yes.Fit app and ran my first virtual race. It was a lot of fun . . . I even got a medal for just completing it!

Switching up my training from time to time keeps it from getting monotonous. When things start getting mundane, that’s when I know something needs to change. My body starts getting used to the same old thing, so it starts taking longer for it to respond to the same workouts. Our bodies need a “revival” from time to time.

My spirit needs a daily “revival” also. When I start getting satisfied with the status quo in my Christian life, it is time to switch things up. I have to start evaluating why I do what I do. Am I reading my Bible every day just so that I can check it off of my spiritual to-do list, or am I doing it because I truly desire to learn more about God so that I can show His love to everyone I meet? Have I found someone who I can mentor so that they can experience the same love of God that I do now? Is there something in my own life that is keeping me from having a pure relationship with God?

The Psalmist David was heartbroken when his eyes were opened to the sin he committed with Bathsheba. He experienced a revival in his own heart:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me. . . . Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Psalm 51:10, 12

We should never be afraid to switch up our routines from time to time. If our bodies are remaining the same each week, we must be willing to do an honest evaluation to see what needs to change. I am daily learning how to switch things up in my Christian life as well. God is working with me every day by very patiently showing me what needs to change, and He is helping me to learn ways to make those changes . . . one day at a time.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!

Just Wait

For a few weeks now, my weight has started to plateau. I know it happens. When we lose weight, our bodies change, so we have to learn how to change with them. The process can be frustrating though! When we don’t have as much weight to lose, it becomes harder to get that last stubborn twenty pounds to come off. Part of my problem over the last few weeks has been my mindset. When I did not see the weight coming off, I got frustrated. I started to fret every time I stepped on the scale. I decided to change that last week. I chose to focus on the total amount of weight I had lost up to that point. I also chose to celebrate and be thankful for the things I have learned on this journey instead of browbeating myself if things weren’t going the way I thought they should. When I stepped on the scale last week, I lost weight! I lost more this week too! Both losses were small, but that’s okay. I learned that stressing over my weight can actually add to it instead of helping to take it off. I just have to stay dedicated to my healthy lifestyle and let my body do the rest.

As Christians, it can be so easy to get discouraged when we face hard times. I and all of my former coworkers got laid off from work a few years ago due to our company downsizing. I sent resumes’ and had interviews all over town for over six months before anything started to happen. I remember crying my eyes out one day. My bills were steadily coming in, and I had no income to pay them. I had reached a point where I was having a hard time trusting in God’s guidance. I would read my Bible, but my Bible reading became more of a duty than a desire to learn about God. What’s funny is that I was afraid to admit to God that I was having a hard time trusting . . . as if He didn’t already know!! That afternoon while I was sobbing, I begged God to give me the strength He knew I needed to trust Him. I told Him that I felt like I had done all I could do to find work, but I couldn’t understand why no one was calling. At that moment, it was as if I could hear Him whisper in my ear, “Just wait”. Isaiah 40:28-31 says:

“Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

As soon as I finished praying, an overwhelming sense of peace came over me. In my heart, I said, “Okay, Lord”. A few weeks later, I was employed! Looking back on that time, I can see how God was already working. He just wanted me to let go and submit everything to Him!

One thing I have learned with weight loss is that if we do our part, our bodies will eventually do theirs. We just have to relax, give it time, and trust our bodies to do their work. The same idea goes with the Christian life. Yes, God wants us to do our part to take care of our finances and our health (among other things), but we also have to remember that God is ultimately in control of every part of our lives. He will guide us in the direction He wants us to go. All we have to do is trust Him, and just wait for His Perfect Time.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!