The Halfway Point

Nehemiah 4:6 “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.”

One and a half miles. You’re halfway through a 5K. Just a little bit past a 5K, you’re halfway through a 10K. At 6.5 you’ve hit the halfway point of a half-marathon. And for those who are determined enough to run a full marathon, 13.1 miles is your halfway mark.

Halfway.

Some runners view the halfway point as major progress. Excitement oozes out through pouring sweat. Reaching this place in any race—no matter what the distance—ushers in mixed thoughts and emotions. Look how far I’ve come! I’m halfway through! The hardest part is over.

But others might see the halfway point with a completely different perspective. I’m only halfway through? I can’t possibly repeat the same distance I’ve just come. I thought I was closer to the finish line. I thought my pace would be quicker than this.

In 2009, Jenny Barringer was favored to win the NCAA cross-country championship race.  At first Jenny confidently held the lead. Surely she’d win the coveted first place title. But midway through the race something happened. Jenny’s pace slowed considerably. Runners who trailed her, suddenly whizzed past, leaving Jenny gasping for breath. She dropped to 10th place, then 20th. Struggling to keep up, she later crossed the finish line in 169th place. When questioned after the race as to what happened, Jenny explained, “Halfway into it, I didn’t feel so good. It was sudden. I thought I couldn’t run.” It wasn’t an injury that slowed her down. It was her perception. Discouraging thoughts paralyzed her, leading to utter panic.

In the Old Testament we find the prophet Nehemiah at a crucial turning point. He’d reached the  halfway mark in rebuilding the broken walls of Jerusalem. Compelled to undertake this impossible task, the odds were against him. He courageously led the Jewish people for twenty-six straight days in an ultra building project. That’s when their enemies started taunting and threatening them. Halfway through, a choice had to be made. Allow the enemies of criticism and discouragement to halt their efforts? Or keep persevering in spite of how they perceived the remaining work.

In the same way, we too approach halfway points in our lives. We’re midway through a tough project at school or work. Halfway through a challenging phase in our child’s development. Maybe it’s the halfway point of a business venture, ministry dream or a recovery period in our health. Whatever our halfway point is, our perception of it determines the outcome.

Alan Redpath writes, “The halfway stage is the toughest of all. When the initial enthusiasm for something has departed, you are more conscious not so much of what has already been done, but of what is yet to be done; you are increasingly impressed with the magnitude of the unfinished task.”

If we aren’t further along than we expect at our halfway points, we become vulnerable, intimidation gaining on our heels.

So how did Nehemiah proceed? He chose to embrace faith in God instead of allowing discouragement and defeat to take over. He challenged the people with these powerful words: “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome.” He chose to help put their mind in the right perspective. He reminded them there was no reason for fear. Greater was he who was in them than he who was in the world. The opposite of discouragement is faith. While discouragement looks for and believes the worst, faith believes God and his promises.

READY?  Identify a time in your life where you were at a halfway point. How did you proceed? How did your perception affect the outcome? Are you approaching or standing at a halfway point now? Resolve to embrace truth and faith instead of discouragement and defeat.

GET SET. Deuteronomy 31:8 “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

GO! Lord Jesus, when I find myself at a halfway point, please give me your eyes. May I not give in to discouragement in those moments. Help me embrace your truth and trust you. Give me a heart of faith that will keep me strong for your glory. Amen

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

Hitting the Wall

Psalm 18:29 “In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.”

 

Labored breathing ignites. Weakness spreads through your body. Sore muscles ache with intense pain. Exhaustion soaks up the last drops of motivation. Overwhelmed with the miles left to go, your pace slows down to a shuffle. Negative thoughts saturate your mind. Impossible. I can’t keep going.

You’ve hit the wall.

Sometimes without warning, it’s when sudden fatigue and loss of energy overtake us runners. Some have described hitting the wall like this: A sledgehammer slammed down on my entire body. A charging elephant trampled me to the ground. My legs turned into concrete.

Once you’ve hit a wall, you must embrace some proven strategies to keep going. Slow down your pace and walk. Stretch out your achy muscles. Consume a sports drink or gel to refuel. Whatever you do, don’t just stop. As impossible as it seems, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Break up your remaining distance into segments. Tell yourself you’re going to make it to the next mile marker, street light, intersection or building.

Luis Manzo, a sports psychologist and running coach, recommends recruiting a running partner to jump in with you at a point where you anticipate a struggle in the run, almost as if fighting for you.

After years in the wilderness, Joshua and the Israelites came face to face with their wall. The city of Jericho, surrounded by walls 12 feet high and five feet thick, stopped them in their tracks.

It looked impossible. Insurmountable. Thoughts of giving up and turning around flooded their minds.

Yet God led them—through Joshua—to courageously conquer what appeared impossible. They were instructed to march around the city walls one time for six days in a row. It probably didn’t make sense to them. But they kept marching, one step at a time. Finally on the seventh day, God told Joshua to have the people march around seven times!

Imagine being in that crowd of people. Exhausted. Nothing left. Feeling stuck.

In that moment they could’ve walked away and given up hope. Yet they kept on going. Faithfully moving forward one step at a time. And there in front of their very eyes, they watched those seemingly impenetrable walls come crashing down.

In our own lives, we sometimes feel like we’ve hit a wall. We come face-to-face with something that stops us in our tracks, knocking us off our feet. Suddenly crushed to the core, we think, I can’t get through this!

What’s a real life wall look like? A troubled marriage. Diagnosis for cancer. Losing your job. Financial distress. A strained relationship. Your wall may look totally different though. But it’s anything that appears impossible or insurmountable. Whatever it is, there is hope. No matter how wide or how tall your wall looks, it’s not the end.

Just like the Israelites, we can choose to trust God’s unique plan, even when it doesn’t make sense. We keep moving, one foot in front of the other. We don’t run in the opposite direction. We don’t stand still as if paralyzed. We persevere and keep going. We let God do the fighting for us.

When we focus on the actual wall in front of us, despair and fear overwhelm us. But God promises to go ahead of us, making our path straight.

READY?  Identify a wall you’re facing right now. Are you standing still or running away from it? What’s the next step you can take to get through the wall? Are you willing to keep going even when God’s plan doesn’t make sense?

GET SET. Hebrews 11:30 “It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.”  (Also read Joshua 6:2-16)

GO! Dear God, I thank you for your faithfulness and patience with me when I’m facing a wall in my life. Help me to focus on your truth and strength instead of the obstacles in front of me. Help me to walk obediently with confidence, just as the Israelites did when Joshua led them around the city walls. Amen.

If you enjoyed this post, check out my devotional book.

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

When you don’t FEEL thankful

This time of year everyone focuses on things they’re thankful for.  We post our thoughts on Facebook of what we’re thankful for. Our kids make crafts at school and proudly display what they’re thankful for. Maybe your Thanksgiving gathering will include a time for each person to express the favorite things they’re thankful for.

It’s usually pretty predictable what we’re truly thankful for: God, Jesus, our family, our friends, good health, employment, and of course all the food we will stuff ourselves with on Thanksgiving Day.

These are all wonderful gifts to be thankful for. I would be the first one to speak up that I am thankful for everything I just mentioned.

But what about those things we really are NOT thankful for? What about the things nobody would dare to mention on their top 10 things I’m thankful for list? What about those things that hurt deep inside us that we just couldn’t possibly imagine being thankful for?

*Your doctor grimly explains to you that you have cancer.

*Your boss informs you that you are no longer employed.

*Your check book balance is lower than the total amount of your bills.

*Your marriage is hanging by a thread and you are ready to call it quits.

*Your child does something that leaves you heart-broken and your stomach in knots.

*Your loved one is not here with you on this earth any longer.

*The sin that so easily entangles you continues to drag you down.

*Someone you thought was your friend has betrayed you.

*Your aging parents are needing you more than ever but it’s causing major stress.

*As a momma of young children you’re overwhelmed, spiraling into despair and depression.

Seriously….are any of these things on your top 10 list? Are any of these things gushing out of your mouth when it’s your turn to declare what you’re thankful for? I didn’t see any of these things on anyone’s Facebook status in the last 30 days. I’m pretty certain that nobody’s child came home with any of these things plastered on their Thanksgiving craft from school. Nope.

Why in the world should anyone be thankful for anything like this? Why would we even consider it?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we read the following words from the apostle Paul: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Really, Paul? What were you thinking when you wrote those words? You’ve got to be kidding me! Who is he to tell us the conditions under which we should be thankful?

He was beaten and stoned multiple times. He was shipwrecked multiple times. He went without sleep and food. He was imprisoned. He even spent an entire day and night in the open sea.

Yet he could still pen those powerful words in his letter to believers.

I’ve read and re-read that verse countless times, it still says the same thing. Give thanks in ALL circumstances. It doesn’t say give thanks only when things are going your way. It doesn’t say give thanks only when your marriage is thriving, your kids are well-behaved, your bank account is full, your health is stellar and nobody is saying anything offensive to you. (It would be MUCH easier to give thanks if everything were perfect in our worlds!)

So what is the secret of expressing thankfulness in our worst circumstances? How can we really do this?

Here are two things I’ve gathered from this challenging command:

1. The verse does not say to be thankful for these things, but to be thankful IN them. What’s the difference? It’s just one little word. To be thankful IN something is to trust that God is still good no matter what. It’s not a feeling, but an attitude of surrender. It means that although my heart may be full of hurt, my spirit is still full of hope. I don’t deny the pain I’m feeling, but I take it to the foot of the cross and thank God that He is still in control.

2. If you back up to verse 17, just one phrase before this command, you’ll see something that a lot of people skip over. I missed this for years! Here it is: Verse 17 says to pray continually. I used to think this verse was only meant for monks and nuns who lived in isolation from the world and could be on their knees in a continual state of prayer. But it’s meant for all believers! For me. For you. When I am in a continual conversation with Jesus throughout my day, talking to him about everything and being aware of his presence moment-by-moment, then my heart can focus on him in every situation….the good and the bad.

I can focus on Him when I feel hope, but also when I hurt.

I can focus on Him for the victories throughout the day, but also when I blow it and can receive his grace over and over again.

I can thank Him for the blessings, but also for the challenges that drive me crazy at times.

This is not an easy thing to do! It is truly a process. A process that builds character in us. A process that brings us to our knees….bringing us closer to the heart of God.

I want to encourage you to truly search your heart and not only express the blessings you are thankful for, but to offer up a sacrifice of praise for those things you wish to be thankful in, and see what God will do. His love is overwhelming. His grace is powerful. His mercy is never-ending.

 

Crying

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Who Are You Competing Against?

2 Corinthians 10:12 “…When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”

 

Just a few hours after the 10K, the race results glared on the screen in front of me. Every single person who finished the race could be searched. From the winner all the way to the last person who crossed the finish line. Plugging in my name, I viewed my results. There in front of me I could see my total time and average pace.

Just as I was starting to feel good about my accomplishment, I looked at the next column over and saw another set of numbers: Number in age group; my placement in that specific age group; my placement in the entire race. A lot of other women in my age bracket finished sooner than I did! Now I didn’t feel so good about my time. Shouldn’t I be able to run at a faster pace like these women my same age? Feelings of defeat washed over me.

To make myself feel better, I searched the results of women 20 years older than me. Now as I scrolled through finish times longer than mine, I felt a sense of pride. Well, at least I beat these women.  I didn’t come in last place.

Unless we’re the first one to cross the finish line, there will always be someone faster than us. But if we focus on comparing ourselves to these people, we’ll be left with disappointment. The opposite is true as well. If we compare ourselves to slower runners just to feel better about ourselves, we get puffed up with pride and a false sense of security.

In the same way, we sometimes mimic this behavior in other areas of our life. When we compare ourselves to people who are more successful, wiser and richer we find ourselves feeling defeated. I should be further along, like her.  Before we know it, we continue the comparison game. To brush off these feelings, we turn our attention to those whom we feel are beneath us. Those who may be struggling in areas we are strong in. Those who are just beginning a journey we’ve been on for years. At least I’m better than those people.

Oh how foolish we are to do both of these! Gazing at others ahead of us—through the lens of comparison—leaves us discontent. Looking at those who are struggling—through a lens of judgment— leaves us prideful.  Instead of comparing, shouldn’t we focus on where we are? Shouldn’t we strive to live the life God has called us to? Using the gifts and talents He’s blessed us with to fulfill our purpose—instead of comparing them to others.

When we stand before God one day we won’t be standing alongside anyone else. Each one of us must give an account for the life we lived. God won’t scroll through a list of people and say, Look, you should’ve done better than her. And he won’t say, Great job, you performed better than these other people.

Most runners embrace a PR approach in races. Personal Record. Instead of comparing our finish time with other runners, we compare our finish time to our own time in a previous race. We attempt to beat our best time. The person we aim to compete with is ourselves.

Maybe that’s how we should approach this journey of faith we’re on. Instead of comparing our lives to others, we focus on making progress with our own struggles. Instead of judging others, we embrace humility, thanking God for rescuing us from our previous ways of sin. And when we conquer one area of sin, He takes us further and shows us something else.

READY? Can you identify an area of your life where you compare yourself to someone else? What effect does this have on you? Ask God to reveal a current struggle you need to commit to him.

GET SET. Galatians 6:4 “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction for a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” (NLT)

 GO!  Heavenly Father, forgive me for the times I’ve foolishly compared myself to others. Free me from any chains of discontentment or pride. Give me direction to focus on the life you’ve called me to. Help me walk in humility. Give me victory over the sins I struggle with. Amen

comparison

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Figuring Out Your Course

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”

For most official races, runners can view the course online. You can view every single twist and turn. In detail, you can see the highest point of elevation. You know precisely at which mile markers the path will ascend to steep hills. You can sigh with relief knowing exactly where the path will descend, giving you breaks throughout the race. Some runners will even determine whether or not to register for a race based on the course layout. Too many hills! I want a flatter course. Better not run this race, the elevation is too steep towards the end. I’ll be too exhausted.

You can even view the places where water stops are located. Knowing this beforehand, runners can train to run specific lengths, spacing out their water intake. Mentally you can prepare for worst case scenarios, seeing exactly where medical tents are located. Most importantly, you can see exactly where the finish line is. You tuck the names of the intersecting streets in the back of your mind. That’s where I’ll finish the race. That’s where my family will meet me afterwards and congratulate me.

All of this information we are privy to is great!  Can you imagine how cool it would be to see the course of your real life? To actually see in detail what was in your future? You’d see every exciting milestone awaiting you. In wonderful elation, you could anticipate all those mountain top experiences in your future.

But if you examined the course a little closer, you’d also see the dark valleys up ahead. What?! Just around that corner you’d see a marriage crumbling, ending in divorce. The unexpected job loss—the one you thought was secure just a few miles back. Huh?! And when you keep looking further down the course, you’d find that one of your kids has broken your heart. And you don’t even see a medical tent anywhere in sight. What would you do?

Maybe you wouldn’t even want to continue your race of life any longer. I can’t bear the thought of these things coming. I want an easier course. I won’t be able to live this kind of life.

Thankfully, we don’t get this kind of information in our journey of life. That’s not how God designed us to live. While we don’t get to see the whole course of our lives mapped out in front of us, God does. We don’t know the details of trials and challenges headed our way, but He does. We can’t fathom the abundant blessings He has in store for us, but He knows and can’t wait to lavish them upon us.

He’s designed us to live one moment at a time, in total dependence on him. Our flesh craves to see an entire mile at a time. But God wants to lead us one step at a time. We desire to know how long a certain trial will last. But God wants us to trust.

When we register to run the race of faith with Jesus as our guide, we run with all our might. We run with boldness and perseverance. We run like there’s no tomorrow. In fact, we don’t know what a day will bring forth. We may think our course is quite long, but we don’t know exactly where our finish line will be. Whether it’s a quick 5K or multiple marathons back-to-back, we must keep on running. Keep on trusting. Keep on thriving.

So while we don’t know where our earthly finish line will be, we know who is leading us on the course. And we are promised that He will greet us at the intersection of time and eternity. Now that’s something to get excited about!

READY? If there was one thing you could figure out about your future, what would it be? Are you willing to surrender this concern to Jesus? Take some extended time to pray about your fears and worries and lay them at the foot of the cross.

GET SET. Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.”

GO! Lord Jesus, help me to trust you with every twist and turn of my life. I’m so prone to worry and wanting to know what’s up ahead, that I’m missing out on knowing you more intimately. Help me to let go of the things out of my control and trust you completely. Amen

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

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One Piece of the Puzzle

Grasping one piece of a puzzle tightly in her stubby fingers, my daughter wailed, “Mommy! Help me! I don’t know where this goes!”

I gently bent down in the floor with her and took the puzzle piece out of her hand. “Let’s see what you’ve got so far.” She’d completed about a third of her Little Mermaid puzzle but was stuck on where this one piece should go.

I reached over and picked up the puzzle box, which revealed the entire completed picture. Looking at her one piece, I tried to show her how it would fit into the top right portion of her puzzle.

After several attempts, my daughter finally found the place for her piece of the puzzle. Giggling with delight, she said, “I see it now! It’s almost done, Mommy!”

Curling up on the couch to continue watching my daughter, I felt a gentle whisper tugging on my heart.

Lisa, your daughter’s frustration with the puzzle piece is how my children act when life doesn’t make sense.

You only see a small part of my purpose and plan for your life. You have to trust me because I’m the one who holds the puzzle box with the completed picture.

Wow. My eyes were opened wide to this astounding truth as I continued watching my child finish her puzzle.

How often do we feel stuck in our journey of life? Like a frustrated child, we throw up our hands, wailing out to God, “I don’t understand! This doesn’t make sense. I don’t know what to do.”

Just imagine God looking over at His completed picture of our lives. Maybe he smiles and says, “I can’t wait for her to see where the next piece goes. What a day it will be when she sees the whole picture.”

In the meantime, we have to wait. We have to trust. We have to surrender our urge to see the entire completed picture NOW.

I had access to the puzzle box with the completed picture to help my daughter. But in our faith journey, we don’t get to hold the puzzle box. Only God has that power.

So instead, we must trust that he sees and knows. Along the way with each step, God will give us strength and wisdom to handle the piece of the puzzle we currently hold. He longs for us to cry out to him. He loves to watch us giggle with delight when we finally see something that once was unclear become clear.

Some pieces of our life puzzle will make sense to us while we walk this earth. But others will not. And for those unknown pieces, we can look forward to a day when we see him face-to-face. When it all will make sense. When all will be well.

As a little child maybe we’ll say something like this:

“I see it now! It’s all done!”

1 Corinthians 13:12(NLT)  Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

In the Darkness

Ever felt like darkness surrounded you? Like it completely engulfed your entire being?

You know what I mean, right? Those times when you just can’t see anything clearly. Your path is hidden. You have no idea what is ahead. Like a thick forest you can’t penetrate, darkness overtakes you.

It’s in those times of darkness when we feel like God is not there. He’s abandoned us. He’s forgotten about us. Does he even care at all?

Our hearts may resonate with David in Psalms 139:11 when he says this:

Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me.

We usually try to avoid the darkness. We want to stay in the light as long as possible. We absolutely FEAR the dark places of our journey! Every thread of our soul unravels away at the mere thought of walking into darkness.

But I found a nugget today that I’d never seen before. A powerful nugget of truth that jumped off the page as I read it. May it encourage you today and give you HOPE if you are in a place of darkness.

Moses had just returned from the top of the mountain. Face-to-face with God, he received the ten commandments to take back to the people.

The people were trembling with fear. In fact, they stayed as far away from Moses as possible because of the thunder and lightning show at the base of the mountain. And here’s the nugget of truth….

Exodus 20:21 “The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.”

Did you catch the last three words of that verse??? Where. God. Was.

Huh?? You mean, God was IN the darkness? Seriously??

Yes. God was IN the thick darkness.

I don’t know about you, but that gives me hope! Those three words strengthen my soul! Those three words melt away the fearful thoughts of what darkness brings.

Those three words assure me that God is not only with me when my path is full of light, but he’s right there with me when darkness threatens to blind my eyes.

Just like the Israelites, we tremble when the lights start to flicker. We keep our distance from the approaching storm. Like a child afraid of the dark, we beg someone–anyone–to turn on a light.

Have you ever wondered why we’re afraid of the dark?

I think it boils down to this one truth: We can’t see anything!

We honestly believe that if we can’t see something, we can’t depend on it. What you can’t see is untouchable. What you can’t see is unknowable.

But our almighty God breaks down our human thinking with his all-powerful truth.

In him there is no darkness!

(2 Samuel 22:29) “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.”

(Psalm 112:4) “Even in darkness light dawns for the upright…”

(Isaiah 42:16) “I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.”

Maybe the very reason he can turn our darkness into light is because he’s there…in the midst of the darkness….with us.

Where are you today, dear friend? Are you trembling with fear because of an approaching storm? Are you keeping your distance from the darkness, paralyzed to take another step? Maybe you’re right smack in the middle of a dark valley and you can’t see one single thing.

Although your human eyes may not be able to see the path, his sovereign hands are wrapped tightly around your soul. He won’t leave you. He is with you in the darkness.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett