In All Conditions

Philippians 4:11-13 “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

 

What are the perfect conditions when pounding the pavement? Ideal weather. No aches and pains. Fastest pace ever. When we’re fortunate enough to run in ultimate conditions, we soak it up—adoring every moment. This is what we call the runner’s high. This is when we tell anyone who’ll listen, “Running is the best thing ever!” Our best-case-scenario runs make us feel on top of the world, like nothing could ever steal our passion.

But what if it’s below freezing? Frigid wind blowing in your face. How about rain?  Not just scattered showers, but a torrential downpour—sloshing through puddles, water streaming down your face. Does your passion begin to melt when running in blistering heat? Maybe you run your slowest pace ever in a race, knees throbbing at the finish line. How do you survive your worst-case-scenario kind of runs?

We can’t control extreme weather. But we adjust our wardrobe—acclimating to the outside temps. The temps remain the same, but our attitude changes our perception. Our bodies won’t always function the way we want. But we recover, and keep going.

As Christians, we can apply these same strategies in our difficult seasons of life. We can’t control the circumstances swirling around us, but we can choose to be content in every situation. Is that really possible? According to the apostle Paul, it is.

His journey led him down a path of extreme persecution. He was flogged, beaten with rods, stoned and thrown into prison multiple times. He plunged through other worst-case-scenario seasons, too! He was shipwrecked three times, spent an entire night and day in the open sea, faced danger from robbers and frequently experienced thirst, hunger and sleepless nights. (Imagine showing up to a race start line completely dehydrated, famished and exhausted!)

He couldn’t control the extreme persecution he faced. Yet he chose to be content—even in prison, where he penned many pages of the New Testament epistles. Even in horrendous circumstances, he accepted where he was. How in the world could he possibly do that?

The key is found in today’s scripture: He could do all things through Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit ignited a supernatural strength within him, allowing his soul to acclimate to his surroundings.

Although we long for perfect living conditions, that’s not reality. We don’t always get to live life in our sweet spot. Just as our physical bodies acclimate to extreme temps, Jesus pours his strength and peace on our weary souls. When we embrace the Holy Spirit, he leads us in every situation, no matter how extreme it feels. As strength ignites within us, it changes our perception of what lies ahead.

We must embrace Paul’s words and trust that we can do all things through Christ. When life’s bitter-cold winds blow fiercely in our face, we keep moving. When the journey feels like a desert, we seek the streams of living water.  When hard times slow us down, we don’t give up. We keep on trusting and stay as close to Jesus as possible. No matter what kind of season we’re facing, we resolve to keep running the race.

READY? Identify a time when life’s conditions were not so good for you. How did you get through it? Where in your life are you struggling to be content right now? Like Paul, are you willing to surrender, claiming the strength of Jesus?

GET SET.  2 Corinthians 12:10 “For the sake of Christ, then I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

GO!  Lord Jesus, I thank you for the reminder today of your powerful strength. When I feel like drowning in difficult circumstances, help me cling to your truth. Instead of focusing on the stuff I can’t control, please help me focus on who you are. Amen.

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 Embracing The Race: 40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

When Your Body Wears Down

2 Corinthians 4:16 “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 

She loved running. This passion fueled her for many years. But one day the excruciating pain in her knees and hips drove her to see her doctor. After waiting for x-ray results, the dreaded diagnosis hit her smack in the face. “I hate to tell you this, but you have osteoarthritis,” the doctor informed. Unfamiliar with the condition, she pleaded with her doctor to explain this culprit—the very thing interfering with her running. Losing heart, she dropped her head in despair.

Osteoarthritis. Not something any runner wants to hear. But the truth is, as we age, osteoarthritis becomes an issue for one out of every two people. Also known as a degenerative joint disease, it causes inflammation and pain in one or more joints. A lifetime of walking, exercising and moving around in general takes a toll on our cartilage. Once arthritis of this type sets in, the cartilage deteriorates, which can lead to bone scraping against bone. Even if you don’t develop osteoarthritis, the stark truth remains: We lose muscle tone and bone strength the older we get!

Dear friend, don’t let this truth bring you down. It’s an uncontrollable fact that our physical bodies will wear down. They won’t last forever. Even the bodies of the most elite runners will eventually wear out. Living in a fallen world, all human beings have a common condition. It’s called sin. But as followers of Christ, we don’t have to lose heart. We don’t have to drop our heads in despair. We can rejoice! Why? Our soul doesn’t waste away. Our soul is renewed day by day.  We become more like Christ through the process of sanctification. The more we seek after him, the stronger our faith becomes. The more we rest in his presence, the power of sin loses its grip on us. The more we humbly surrender to his calling, the more he increases in us.

And the good news gets even better. Even after our physical bodies wear out and we take our last breath on this earth, we are immediately ushered into the presence of God. We’ll see him face-to-face. He promises us a brand new resurrection body. A body that won’t wear out. A body that won’t deteriorate. A body without any pain. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get to continue our running journey in heaven. No shin splints. No cramping muscles. No torn ligaments. No aching knees. Can you imagine that?

So until that day comes, we keep on running. We keep pressing on. We run our hearts out until we can’t take another step. No matter what type of physical diagnosis we receive for our earthly body, we’ll graciously accept it when that time comes. In the meantime, we keep running in our spiritual race. We keep pressing into Jesus. We run our heart out until our last breath. We can rejoice in the fact that we’ve already received our spiritual diagnosis. We are sinners saved by grace.

READY?  Is your life currently affected by any physical pain? What are you most looking forward to when you will experience living in a brand new body in heaven? Whether you have physical pain or not, is your faith growing stronger? What steps do you need to take to keep God the center of your life?

GET SET. 1 Timothy 4:8 “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

GO!  Lord Jesus, I feel weary sometimes living in this physical body! Help me not to focus solely on my physical condition, but to embrace caring for the soul you’ve given me. Thank you for the promise of a new body in heaven. But even more so, thank you for the promise of seeing you face-to-face one day. Help me live in such a way that my life pleases you for the days I run my race of faith on this earth. Amen.

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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

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If you liked this devotion, check out my Book!

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Who’s Ahead of You?

Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Just when you think you’ve arrived at your fastest pace, whoosh! Another runner speeds past you like a bolt of lightning. You can almost feel a breeze from the force of their speed. You see them quickly disappear from your view and before you know it, they’re long gone. How in the world does she keep up that pace? I’ll never be able to catch up!

Unless you’re the first one to cross the finish line in a race, there’s always going to be someone running ahead of you.  We are definitely called to run at our own pace, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from others who are ahead of us. Beginning runners seek out training tips from veteran runners. Runners who’ve sustained their first injuries could gain valuable wisdom from others who survived those same injuries. The first race ushers in a wave of anxious nerves. What should I expect? What should I wear for this kind of weather? Who else out there would know answers to these questions? Runners ahead of you! Their pace may not necessarily be faster than you, but they’ve pounded the pavement far longer than you have. Instead of putting them in an unreachable category, those of us who are behind them could instead reach out and ask for guidance and insight.

Dear friend, if you’re a follower of Christ, there’s always going to be someone ahead of you—further up the path of life. People who have been following Christ for many years longer. People who have long ago passed through the very same season you may be walking through now. People who have much wisdom and insight to offer if only we will ask. As you enter into a difficult season, perhaps a wave of anxiety is rushing into the depth of your weary soul. How will I ever get through this? Will I ever make it to the other side? And then you may wonder with great curiosity. WHO do I know that perhaps has ventured through this same kind of challenge?

Let me tell you without a doubt that someone is ahead of you that can gently and lovingly guide you. Maybe it’s an older mom who survived the season of raising teenagers. Maybe it’s the woman you’ve heard about who survived her nasty divorce and is on the other side now. Whatever challenge you may be facing, you’re more likely to gain peace and strength with someone else helping you through. So go ahead. Reach out. Ask. Humbly wave the white flag of your soul and courageously say, “I need your help!”

In the Bible we meet a young man named Timothy, a new believer who needed some guidance and direction. The apostle Paul was running his race ahead of Timothy. Paul poured his very life into this young man! Without Paul, Timothy would’ve floundered in his faith. Grown weary. Lost his hope. But instead he clung to Paul. He humbled himself and listened with a teachable heart. And then he flourished into a bold teacher of the gospel. He could keep running his race at a fierce pace because he walked in the footsteps of Paul. Who’s ahead of you?

READY?  Identify an area of your life where you feel challenged and could use some guidance. Ask God to show you someone who has walked through a similar challenge. Are you willing to reach out and ask for help? Pray and ask God for strength and wisdom to take the next step.

GET SET.  Proverbs 1:5 “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” Proverbs 11:14 “Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.”

GO!  Heavenly Father, this life can feel so difficult at times! I feel weary trying to navigate through the hard times on my own. You’ve called us to carry each other’s burdens, so I humbly ask you to show me someone who’s ahead of me who can walk alongside me during this season of my life. Help me set aside any pride that may stand in the way. Amen.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

At the Crack of Dawn

Psalm 5:3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

Darkness hovers. Most people still slumber in deep sleep. Our alarm clock blares. Eyes widening, we quickly bound out of bed. Careful not to wake anyone else in the house, we throw on our clothes. We’re ready to do what we planned all along. It’s the crack of dawn. Time to run.

Why is it that we runners choose to run so darn early? For heaven’s sake, it’s still dark outside! Our non-runner family members and friends question our motives to exchange another hour of sleep to run. Why not run later in the day when it’s not so, umm, dark?

Most runners claim that it’s beneficial to run in the early morning hours before other things start to interfere. Once the demands of the work day are underway or kids are bounding out of bed, it can be much harder to squeeze in a run. Feeling wiped out after a demanding day, the thought of running later in the day can seem daunting.

Running in the early morning gets your metabolism geared up for the rest of the day. Energy you didn’t have at first rushes through your blood vessels and you’re suddenly ready to face the day ahead with a more positive attitude. You’re also more likely to be aware of the food you put into your mouth after putting in hard work.

Runners claim it’s worth getting up early to see a sunrise first thing in the morning. The beauty and sheer joy of watching the sun come up is invigorating. Breathing in the cool air of the morning. Breathing out gratitude for such an awesome part of creation. With a refreshed perspective, you’re more able to tackle the day ahead.

While running early in the morning is good, seeking God in our first waking moments is even better. David writes in Psalms that his requests are brought to the Lord, in the morning. Early in the morning before we fall into our break-neck pace of life, we are urged to put our focus on God. Before we get distracted with work and interruptions from our kids. Before we start tackling our to-do list. Before we pick up our phone to check social media.

Seeking God first puts everything in perspective. Fixing our eyes on him before anything or anyone else grabs our attention sets the pace for the rest of the day. Humbling acknowledging him first allows the holy spirit to flow more freely through every part of your soul. Asking for his guidance makes us more cautious about what we choose to put into our mind throughout the day.

Even Jesus got up early in the morning to spend time with his heavenly father. He was fully man and fully God, yet he modeled for us what we should embrace first upon waking. His example should challenge us to follow in his footsteps. Footsteps that ran to God early in the morning.

It’s well worth rising early to encounter Jesus. Sitting still in his presence washes peace and joy over us like nothing else can. The power he infuses upon us is invigorating. We can then breathe in his grace. And this prepares us to breathe out praise to him throughout the rest of the day. Before we start our day, we’re refreshed with an eternal perspective. He prepares us to not just tackle the day ahead, but to thrive in it!

READY? How are you doing with spending time with God before your day gets going? Are there any changes you need to make in your schedule? How does spending quality time with God affect the rest of your day?

GET SET. Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

GO! Lord Jesus, thank you for the truth of your word. Help me to realize the importance of acknowledging you first in the morning. Forgive me for the times I’ve put other things ahead of you. Help me carve out the time to be still in your presence. Praise you for the promise that when we seek you first, you will provide all that we need. Amen.

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Blessings to you!

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.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett