In the Heat of Summer

Isaiah 58:11 “The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

Heading out the door, you check the temperature. Already 80 degrees! Sweat begins pouring down your face. Just minutes into your run, you’re already out of breath. The scorching sun feels like your enemy, staring you down.  The humidity is unbearable–sapping all the energy out of every fiber of your weary muscles. Your parched mouth craves water sooner than normal. Tempted to quit, you wonder if you can finish what you’d planned to run. You’d give anything to return to the previous months of cooler temps. But no, this is what it’s like to run in the heat of summer.

Running in extreme heat puts more stress on the heart and our muscles don’t get as much oxygen. The higher the humidity level, the harder it is for our bodies to evaporate sweat, making it difficult to cool down. No wonder we reach exhaustion sooner!

But runners who want to maintain fitness goals and train for fall races have no choice but to run in the heat. So instead of quitting, we must adapt to the heat. There are multiple tips on beating the heat, but the most essential thing we can do is maintain optimal hydration.  We have to drink more than what we’re used to–even when we don’t feel thirsty. Without enough water we risk dehydration, causing muscle cramps, dizziness and nausea. It’s a matter of survival!

Just as runners must hydrate more frequently in extreme heat, Christ followers must run to the source of our living water–especially when we’re in a season of life that feels like a desert. Ever been there? Before the day even starts, a wave of exhaustion washes over you. You dread the day ahead. Can’t I just pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep? You’ve lost your joy. Your motivation to live purposefully has disappeared.  Your faith feels like it’s dried up, leaving your soul parched. Maybe you don’t feel God near you. Perhaps you’ve given up waiting for an answer to your prayer. Every fiber of your weary soul is burdened. Worn out from stress and anxiety, you wonder if you’ll ever make it to the other side of the desert you’re trudging through. Why even bother? Does it really matter?

Dear friend, it does matter! Although Jesus told us to expect trials in this fallen world, he promised to never leave us–even when we don’t feel it. Desert seasons often usher in waves of exhaustion, fear and hopelessness–crashing in and pushing out our peace and joy. But instead of quitting, we must resolve to stay faithful and embrace Jesus with our whole heart. Whether we thirst for him or not, we must fix our eyes on him and cling to him more than ever before. Spending time in prayer. Soaking up promises from his word. Resting in his presence. Reaching out to him desperately. Without him, we risk falling into hopelessness and despair. It’s a matter of survival!

I don’t know how long your desert season may last. But I can promise you that Jesus is with you every step of the way. Your sun-scorched soul will be watered…by him alone. The heavy burdens weighing you down will be lifted…by him alone. The empty places of your heart will be filled…by him alone.

READY? If you’re walking through a desert season, what are you actively doing to maintain your relationship with Jesus? Recall a previous time in your life when you walked through a desert season. What insight did you gain from that time in your life? Claim a promise from God’s word you can cling to for times you may not feel his presence.

 

GET SET.  John 4:14 “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

 

GO! Jesus, I praise your name for your faithfulness to me. Even when I’m going through a rough time, I thank you for your promises. Help me embrace your presence when I’m walking through a desert. May your truth fill my thirst and satisfy my longings. You truly are the living water. Amen.

summerheat

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

 

 

 

 

View From the Top

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to New York City for a fast-paced, adventurous get-away with my mom. A popular landmark constantly being pointed out to us was the Chrysler Building. This skyscraper stands strong at 1,046 feet tall with 77 floors. Straining your neck to look at it from the ground, it towers over you with its monstrous stance. Insurmountable. Overwhelming. You can’t even fathom how tall it is.

The_Chrysler_Building.2  2ndCB

 

But just a few days later we ventured up to the top of the Empire State Building. Once we finally arrived at the observation deck, we peered out at the magnificent view in front of us. We tried to point out the landmarks we’d previously seen. Suddenly it came into view. There it was!

The Chrysler Building….

empirestateview

Really? Was this the same building we observed earlier?

The same building that appeared monstrous, insurmountable and overwhelming now looked much smaller! From the view at the top, you could see the entire building without straining your neck. You could see for miles! The view was breathtaking and spectacular.

The difference between the ground view and the top view was PERSPECTIVE.

As I looked out over the magnificent view of New York City, a powerful truth hit me hard:

From our perspective, the challenges and trials we face appear to be insurmountable, monstrous and quite overwhelming. But from God’s perspective, our challenges and trials are part of a magnificent and spectacular plan that only He can see all at once!

As humans, we will never have the top-of-the-observation-deck view of our lives. We will not be able to see the whole picture but only one part at a time. But we can trust our faithful God because He always has the upper view of everything.

We can absolutely trust Him with the things we can’t see.

The challenges that seem overwhelming.

The trials that threaten to strain our souls.

Yes. That is what true faith is, dear friend! Trusting God with the things we can’t see, knowing that He sees it all.

Where are you today? Are you looking up at something that seems overwhelming? Is there a challenge smack in front of you, crowding your vision?

I encourage you to run to your Heavenly Father to the top of the observation deck. Take his hand and let him lead you out to a place of rest. Let your soul soar with peace as you gaze upon the spectacular purpose He has for you.

Proverbs 18:10 The name of the Lord is like a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe.

Blessings to you, dear friend!

Lisa Preuett

 

Healing Our Injuries

Ezekiel 34:16 “…I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak…”

One day you’re running your perfect pace. You feel as if you’re soaring above the entire world and nothing could stop you. Bam! Without warning, you feel a stabbing pain in your hamstring. You slow down, hoping it’s just a slight cramp. But as you continue on, you realize the hard truth: You’ve strained your muscle. With each step you wince in pain.

How could this happen? Why now?

Instead of continuing your run, you limp to your car. Disappointed, you make a doctor appointment.

At some point in your journey as a runner, you might encounter an injury. For some of us, it’s major. A torn muscle. Excruciating knee pain. A sprained ankle. Even the minor injuries can stop us in our tracks and put us on the sidelines for a while. If we keep on going and ignore the pain, it will only make it worse, causing further damage. We have to face the truth and get proper treatment, allowing our injuries to heal. Whether it’s surgery or physical therapy, we must accept the treatment plan advised.The hardest part can be waiting…

Waiting for the injury to heal.  Waiting for the weak part of our body to become strong again.

In the same way, we as followers of Christ will sustain injuries along the way of life. More often than not, these injuries come when we least expect them. Maybe we’re thriving and feel as if nothing could stop us—living in our sweet spot. But one day without warning, we’re bombarded, sustaining a serious injury. One that knocks us off our feet, leaving us wounded with pain.

The most painful injuries are the ones that wound our soul. The kind that make you wonder how you’ll ever take another step. Wounds from family members. Betrayals from friends. Disappointments in the work place. Unthinkable tragedies.

If we keep going without addressing our wounded heart, more damage will surely be done. As deep as our pain may be, we must humbly admit we need help. As much as we want to thrive, we may be slowed down to simply survive. For a season, we hobble over to the sidelines and cry out to our heavenly father–the one who can heal.

Because he heals in a variety of ways, his treatment plan for each of us is unique. If we listen closely, he will show us the next step in healing. Maybe it’s fellow believers walking alongside us for a season. In some cases we might even need professional help. But one thing is for certain. There will be a period of waiting.

Waiting for our wounded heart to heal. Waiting for the weakest part of our being to be strengthened.

But we don’t have to wait alone. That’s where our heavenly father does his best work. He specializes in healing our wounds. He delights in taking the damaged parts of our life, turning the broken pieces into something amazing.

READY? Where in your life have you felt wounded? Have you taken steps to heal from your pain? If not, are you ready to ask God to show you what your next step is? Can you trust him with the treatment plan he recommends?

GET SET. Psalm 34:18 “God is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”   Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.”

GO! Heavenly Father, I am hurting from wounds in my heart. I bring these before you and ask you to strengthen and heal like only you can. It’s so hard to wait because my flesh wants a quick fix. Help me to trust you as I wait. Amen.

injured runner

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

Embracing Our Day of REST

Exodus 20:8-10 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the LORD your God.”

Runners follow a strict training schedule if a race is on the horizon. Short runs. Strength training. Cross training. And of course the weekly long runs. All of these pieces of the runner’s puzzle work together, each one fulfilling a specific role to ensure success. But something crucial that simply can’t be overlooked is the day of REST. Most training schedules have this word in bold letters, calling attention to its importance. At first I didn’t’ understand why this day of rest was part of the runner’s world. Shouldn’t I be doing something ? What if I got behind earlier in the week and needed to squeeze in a quick three-mile run or weight lifting session? Couldn’t I use that day to get ahead in my training? What could it possibly hurt? Besides, I didn’t even feel tired.

It is no surprise that the day of rest comes the day after a long run. Your physical body must have that day to recuperate from the stress placed upon it. It’s a crucial day to recover. A day to let your legs relax, unwinding from the persistent impact of constantly pounding the pavement. A runner’s body needs this time to repair and recover. Miss this day and you’re setting yourself up for injury. Ignore the warning and you’ll regret it later.

Just as our physical bodies require rest to recover, our souls desperately need a day of rest for renewal. After a full week of living at a break-neck pace, we must slow down. We must simply be still in the presence of God. We must pull away from our hectic schedule. We must unplug from the rest of the world–basking in His loving presence. We must put to death the nagging urge to use this day of rest to get caught up on things—to get ahead. No dear friend, our God designed us to rest. He set the example for us when He created the world. This day of rest is included in the ten commandments to His people. If God set the pace for us in this area, then shouldn’t we embrace it and obediently follow suit?

But I have so much to do! I need to get caught up on work, errands and projects!  I feel so guilty resting when everything is piling up!

He calls us to unplug from the crazy pace we attempt to survive in and beckons us to simply sit at his feet.  He wants to recharge us. Renew us. Refresh us. But He can’t do this if we ignore our day of rest. We bypass many blessings when we ignore the call to rest. Just as a runner’s physical body will suffer harm without rest, our souls will ache deeply and our faith will be weakened. When you see the word REST on your training schedule, let it be a reminder to embrace the day of rest God created for YOU.

READY? How are you doing with carving out a day of rest from your busy schedule? Is it easier for you to justify a physical rest compared to a rest for your soul? Why or why not? What do you need to change to allow this day of rest?

GET SET. Matthew 11:28 Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.

GO! Lord Jesus, I struggle sometimes with embracing a day of rest in the quick-paced culture we live in. Help me to slow down and pull away from the cares of this world. Please help me to embrace this day to worship you and be renewed by your peace. Thank you for designing my life with a built-in desire to rest in your presence. Amen

Runner-relaxing-in-grass

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

Peace in the Middle of Prison

Christmas 1994. This year stands out to me above all other Christmases I’ve ever experienced.

My life had fallen apart just six months prior. The tapestry of my heart had unraveled into tiny, fragile threads. My marriage had abruptly come to a halt and would soon end in divorce. My precious 11-month-old son held my focus while I was hurled into the world of single motherhood.  My heart ached so deeply. My son’s first Christmas was supposed to be happy and exciting, yet my emotions didn’t agree.

How would I ever survive this heart-wrenching journey in my life?

I’d hesitantly made plans to go Christmas caroling with a group from my church. We were scheduled to sing at the men’s prison in LaGrange, Kentucky. Exhaustion from working the night shift at UPS almost pushed me to change my mind and cancel.

But something in my spirit said Go Lisa……you will be blessed. 

So off I trudged onto a bus with about 25 other people. The prison building felt so dark and cold, just like the deepest corners of my soul. Once we were ushered through the iron gates by the security guards, our mission began. We had three specific places inside the prison where we’d stop and sing a few carols. As I stood there huddled up against my fellow carolers, my eyes locked with some of the prisoners. The only thing that separated us was the cold, iron bars of their prison cells. Most faces appeared stoic, rough and bitter. Some looked sorrowful. Others seemed to be covered with shame and guilt. My voice cracked because of the lump in my throat.

My heart feels so heavy…..Maybe I shouldn’t have come!

After our last song, we were finally led into the prison chapel. This would be our last stop. The prisoners gathered in this place were regular participants of worship services through the prison outreach ministry. They wanted to be here. No prison bars separated us from them.

These men looked so different than the others I’d just seen. I saw smiles on their faces and heard loud, boisterous laughter. Excitement bustled in that tiny chapel. We crowded together in hard wooden pews and we started to sing. But instead of singing to these prisoners, we sang with them. Our voices mingled together, belting out Silent Night and Joy to the World. The heaviness started to lift from my heart.

Finally one man in the back yelled out that he wanted to sing Oh Holy Night. We hadn’t rehearsed this song. Would we be able to sing it?

As these men began singing the first verse of Oh Holy Night, I could feel my heart almost skip a beat. Their voices rang out with such power. I looked around at these men’s faces and that’s when I felt the Holy Spirit speak ever so gently to me:

Look at them Lisa. Look at the JOY on their faces. Look at the sparkle in their eyes. These men have lost everything, yet they have something so real and powerful that can not be taken away.

And it struck me in that moment what these men possessed: peace…Here in prison!

It didn’t make sense. But peace is mysterious in how it passes all human understanding.  Some of them had served many years, while others were just starting out. But they all had Jesus. They’d chosen to embrace their relationship with HIM even though they were walking through the lowest valley of their lives.

The empty places in my heart began to fill up with something right then…..It was PEACE! And HOPE!

If Jesus could give these men peace in the middle of prison, then surely HE would carry me through the valley of divorce. It wouldn’t be easy, but I knew from that night forward, I craved the peace that these men had. I could trust Jesus with my life even though it felt so messy. He was more than able to take the broken pieces of my heart and put them back together into something beautiful.

I walked into that prison with deep hurt. But I left with dazzling hope.

I walked into that prison with gripping fear. But I left with glorious faith.

I walked into that prison with overwhelming pain. But I left with overflowing peace.

I might not be in a physical prison today, but I sometimes let the troubles of this life take me captive. When I find myself on that path, God gently reminds me of His faithfulness and He lovingly wraps me up in a blanket of peace that only He can give.

What about you, dear friend? Are there crevices deep in your heart full of hopelessness? Cracked places in need of repair? Empty places crying out for hope? Have you locked yourself into a prison of fear?

I urge you to humbly surrender these to Jesus…….the Prince of PEACE.

prison-bars

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

Leave Room for Cream!

If you’re a lover of coffee swirled with oodles of cream, then you understand how crucial it is when you order coffee at a restaurant.

Please leave room for cream! 

Or maybe you’re at a friend’s house and when she gently pours fresh brewed coffee into your mug, you politely stop her from filling it up too far:

Remember…I like lots of cream!

Some of you would even go so far as to say you like a little bit of coffee with your cream! In that case, you are really careful about not filling your cup up too much.

But then it happens. Your server completely forgets you need room for cream, pouring freshly brewed coffee all the way to the brim of your cup. It’s so full, some of it even splashes out, making a nice little puddle right smack in front of you. Ughh! What a mess!

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What a powerful picture of what our lives can be like! When we don’t leave room for any margin– cramming our schedules to the brim–everything splashes out and before we realize it, we have a huge mess right smack in front of us. 

We keep filling our lives up with more and more. We say yes to every request without thinking it through. We scurry around with a sense of urgency, afraid we’re going to miss out on something. And just like that server who thinks we like black coffee, we keep on pouring until there’s no room left.

But instead of coffee creamer, in that moment we realize we have no room left.

No room to just rest. No room to sit still and read a book. No room to have even a five-minute conversation with our spouse. No room to let the kids just play outside. No room to listen to our teen unload about their bad day. No room to be refreshed. No room to be still in the presence of God.

It’s especially easy to find ourselves in this overflowing mess during the Christmas season. We say we want to leave room for cream, yet we keep on filling the cups of our souls to the brim.

Gotta send out those 100 Christmas cards!

We already have three parties scheduled, but I think we can fit this one in too.

We’ve already reached our limit of spending, but a little more won’t hurt.

I wasn’t going to buy anything for that friend, but now that they’ve given me something I need to get them something in return.

I wanted to have a simple Christmas at home, but they’re expecting us to be there!

We really want to go to the Christmas Eve service, but we have so much to do. 

My house isn’t decorated like hers, so I’ve got to go out and buy some more stuff to keep up.

And the list goes on. What’s the one thing that causes your schedule to overflow? Have you left room for anything else?

The thing about a cup of black coffee filled up to the brim is that there are only two ways to make room for any cream.

You can either drink the black coffee until you have enough room, or you can pour it out. Either way, it’s going to be inconvenient. If you’re used to sweet cream, the black coffee can be bitter to the taste. And if it’s really hot, you can’t quickly drink it down to where you want it without burning your mouth.

If you attempt to pour it out, you’re most likely going to make a mess as it drips down the side of your cup. Believe me, I’ve tried this many times!

If the cup of your soul is filled to the brim, and it’s too crowded for the peace of Jesus to flow through, what can you do? Sometimes we may have to drink the bitter cup we’ve poured. It’s not pleasant. Maybe we get burned and experience grueling pain. But going forward, we’ll know better. We’ll know next time not to make a rash decision. We’ll know next time to think through a situation, asking God for wisdom. Even when we make a mess of things, God’s grace is always available. We humbly learn that the next time we will leave room for cream.

What about you, dear friend? Are you leaving room for His peace and rest this Christmas season? Are you intentionally slowing down and keeping your focus on Him? Or do you already feel your cup getting too full? Are you allowing others to fill your cup to the brim without saying stop?

Relax with your family. Celebrate your friendships. Rest in His presence. Enjoy your cup of coffee, but whatever you do…….leave room for some cream.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”

creamers

 

 

 

What If 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.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, dear friends!

Crying

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett