Run your race…

…run the race marked out for you…

A melody pierced the darkness, tickling my ears… the alarm on my phone was notifying me that morning had come… Though the sun hadn’t received the memo, I’d have to rise-and-shine anyway.

Quick as I could, I donned my Brooks gear and set out for the island… Antelope Island. It would be my first 5k race in years, and I was excited to participate!

As I drove up to the marina, runners were already trying to stave off the morning chill with a brisk jog. With every step, their breath hung in the air, white as the clouds.

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What seemed like an eternity later, it was our turn to race. Stopping at the park’s stone cold bathrooms more times than I’d like to admit, I was replete… not an ounce remained within me.

“3, 2, 1… Go!”

We were off!

The first hundred yards were uphill. Adrenaline raced through my blood… my legs were like jelly, but seemed to be running on autopilot. As I quickened my pace, I began to pass people on the uphill climb. Before I knew it, there were only 3 people ahead of me.

I could tell I was running too fast, but I couldn’t seem to slow myself down… Towards the mile mark, I reminded myself of my task… Sarah, run your OWN race. Yes, that was it… Focus. Run your OWN race.

Rather than compare myself to where I was in the pack, who was ahead of me, who was behind me, I needed to stay focused on my race… my breathing… my stride… my pace…

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And, life is like this, too…

More than I’d like to admit, I’ve compared my life to other people’s lives, at times coveting and craving their path through life.

But comparison is a killer. It will kill our joy, our motivation, our value. Comparison dismisses our own uniqueness… our personality, our upbringing, our one-of-a-kind figure, our lineage…

“We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”*

God meant for it to be this way. For you to be, YOU. He prepared in advance the path our life would take… the hills, the valleys, the scenery… Custom made for you.

 

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Rounding the halfway marker, I focused on my breathing… with each swing of my arms, my lungs breathed out. I focused on my steps… each step firmly planted on the blacktop. I focused on my goal… to get up that last hill… around that last bend… down the final stretch…

Finish line in view, I gave it all I had left…

“And here she is finishing with a time of 27 minutes…”

I’d done it. I’d run my race. And it felt good.

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”**

We each have our own race. We will finish in our own time. We will run at our own pace. And this is to God’s credit. He loves us too much to give us all the same journey. So, run your race and don’t look back.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”***

 

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*Ephesians 2:10

**Hebrews 12:1

***1 Corinthians 9:24

pc: Sarah Coffey, Antelope Island, Utah

…when it’s beyond reason, believe…

…keep on believing…

Several years ago, my mom gave me this little decorative sign… Outlined letters spelled the word BELIEVE and below was engraved the following phrase…

Believe when it’s beyond reason to believe.

At first, I’ll admit, I didn’t really appreciate it… It was nice sentiment, but it almost sounded too pithy for me to think it a serious philosophy to adopt. However, in recent months I’ve been more convicted that this is actually the key to the Christian life…

There are times that God moves in unmistakable and undeniable ways in our lives. We cannot help but give credit to God, boasting of His presence in our lives…

And then, there are other times we go through life as if in the dark… it seems like we’ve entered a great silence… Our prayers soar up to the heavens, only seemingly to float back down to us with question marks attached… Where are you, God?

I’m at a place in life right now where I feel both simultaneously… On the one hand, I can see God moving in my heart and life… On the other hand, my own impatience gets the best of me as it seems God isn’t answering or He’s moving WAY too slowly…

During a recent church service, the pastor made reference to the life of Kurt Cobain, the composer and lead singer of the band Nirvana. He lived a life of inner turmoil, never really able to find peace… He ended his life before he was thirty years old, thinking the world would be better off without him. At his funeral, his band mates recalled one picture that Kurt carried around in his billfold simply because he thought it was the only “good” photo of himself. In the background was a sign reading, “Believe in Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” Rather ironic… The man searching for hope, peace, joy, purpose had the answer behind him all the time… But I suppose his heart was clouded by his own shortcomings and disappointments to even consider that somehow God or Jesus could have been the answer.

At times, I’ve felt like this… how do you keep from getting disillusioned? How do you keep yourself from going down the path of disenchantment? And then I realized…

Believe when it is beyond reason to believe…

“We live by faith, not by sight.”*

*2 Corinthians 5:7

pc: Sarah Coffey, Macedonia

Along the highway…

…carry each other’s burdens…

We live in a big world… So many news organizations, media threads… Inundated with an excess of information can leave us feeling overwhelmed… wondering, what can I do?

Recent news of the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey has left me feeling similarly helpless… And yet, I’m reminded of things that I can do despite being so far removed from the situation…

As we traveled in 2016, we were often left feeling a bit overwhelmed… We’d arrive in the country, ready to help out, only to find the need was far greater than what we could ever do in a single month. During times like these, I was grateful to be working alongside locals who served in the community year round. They lived, breathed, and sweated alongside the lay person, so they knew intimately the true needs of the people…

Coming home to the USA, I had similar feelings… A year abroad meant a year of missed information, missed events in the lives of my loved ones, my community, my country… And yet, I longed to make a difference…

After touching down in Chicago and a few days with friends, a teammate and I embarked on a road trip cross-country that I’ve often reflected on…

We stayed with friends along the way, entering into their world for a brief moment. But out on the highway, the rubber truly hit the road…

While driving through Missouri, we came upon a roll-over wreck. Steam rising from the crumpled hood indicated it happened only moments before. Wanting to help, we pulled over, ran across the street and asked those already on the scene what we could do…

The truck was on its side, a tree lying on the shattered windshield, the driver pinned in… He was unconscious, blood running down his skull… I thought he was dead… I felt completely helpless… We all stood around assessing the situation… But what could we do?

At that moment, it dawned on me one thing I could do… I could pray.

Further on in our journey, we came across some drifters at a highway rest stop. Seeing them there, cardboard sign in hand, again I wasn’t sure what to do… So, I went about my business, stretching my legs, visiting the restroom…

As I walked back to the car, I saw my friend chatting with them… Apparently they were recently unemployed and had lost their housing… the current future looked bleak… Moved to compassion, my friend offered them our meager snacks to tide them over. Then, he prayed with them… Though in the moment we hadn’t changed their circumstances, their demeanor was changed, more hopeful… The burden had been lifted as they knew someone actually cared

One of the greatest joys and game changers I’ve found is the simple act of entering in Entering into someone’s situation, whether it be joy, pain, or bewilderment… So often I feel helpless at knowing how to help someone, especially a stranger and especially not knowing their full story…

And yet, simply opening up a conversation with them so that they might be heard and then offering what I can, albeit spare change, the offer of a ride somewhere, or simply the act of prayer, can be transformational in that moment, for them and for me… Suddenly, the skies aren’t so dark, the duffel not so heavy, the way not so grim…

Is this not what we are called to do? Who we are called to be? So, where and how can I stop along the highway to help my neighbor?

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”*

*Galatians 6:2

pc: Sarah Coffey, South Africa