My Thoughts After the First Week of Training for a Half Marathon

Training for the Lake Powell 2019 Half Marathon has begun and apart from my extremely sore legs, I’m feeling great! Sunshine and endorphins do wonders for my mood 🙂

The weather has finally cooperated long enough for us to get outside and start running. Though this first week has been tough, it has been immensely fruitful, which makes me all the more excited for the next 29 weeks of training.

At about Day 3 of our training I realized that if I was going to do this, do it well, and actually enjoy it, then it wasn’t just my body that needed training, but my heart and mind as well.

I didn’t want to go into every run with dread and anxious anticipation of the discomforts my body was about to experience, but rather with gladness and joyful anticipation of the fruit that would result from this training.

But how? How does one do that exactly?

Like anyone who has been accustomed to many attempts at New Year’s Resolutions, I started making a list of goals and plans for my training. As I developed some ideas, checklists, healthy menus and running schedules, my mind returned to an article that I had read by David Mathis about a year ago on DesiringGod.org titled Do You Exercise Like a Nonbeliever?.

I realized that no matter how many changes I made physically; no matter what my exercise habits, times, routines, health choices, or sleep patterns looked like, nothing was ever going to really improve until I addressed the lies and fears that had rooted themselves deep in my heart and mind over the years.

Regardless of the goals that you might have, I want to encourage you as I encourage myself. We need to remember why it is that we do what we do.

For me, my goals consist of physical exercise and training. But whatever it is that you have set your mind to, it is important that we remember the God who grants us the ability to do these things in the first place and worship Him for His grace and kindness in that.

training for the big(ger) race

Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving for it is made holy by the Word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4-5)

As with most things that we set our minds to, there are some internalized lies and fears that we may face about ourselves and our ability to accomplish the goals that we set.

For me, since I have never really considered myself a natural runner, I have spent years believing that no matter how much I try, I will never actually enjoy running or be good at it.

After recognizing this lie, the real work began as I started discrediting this fear with helpful truths from Scripture and the wise-counsel of those who have gone before me.

Truth #1: You were made to move.

Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving…(1 Timothy 4:4)

This includes exercise and physical activity. The ability to run 13.1 miles is a precious gift, yet one that I have quickly and easily disregarded because I knew it would likely involve some discomfort at times.

Therefore, Step 1 in making my half marathon training holy and pleasing to God is to thank Him explicitly for the ability to run and train; for lungs that work, strong legs and arms, balance, and the endurance to keep going.

Truth #2: Physical exertion is valuable.

…for it is made holy by the Word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:5)

This involves knowing and understanding what the Word of God says about our bodies and then responding appropriately (in prayer).

Step 2 then in making my half marathon training holy and pleasing to God is to understand and dwell on what God says about my body.

  • My body belongs to God.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

God not only created us, but also bought us back at the infinite cost of his own Son. Therefore, God emphatically means for us to honor him by making use of the bodies he has given us and to not leave them unnecessarily inactive.

  • God commends bodily exertion.

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. (1 Timothy 4:8)

God is pleased when we are active and exert our bodies through the effort of work (Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:10), hard work (2 Tim. 2:6), and bodily training (1 Tim. 4:8).

  • Spiritual health is ultimate; physical health is not.

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. (1 Timothy 4:8)

The charge to bodily exertion is always subdued for the Christian. God does indeed value the exertion of our bodies, but it is important to remember that physical exercise only has some value in light of godliness.

This becomes fruitful then when the practice of physical exertion and training pushes us rather than hinders us towards a greater enjoyment of Christ and greater discipline in our pursuit of godliness.

Truth #3: Exercise is a means of worship and supplication.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

Because of this, Step 3 in making my half marathon training holy and pleasing to God is to start praying, asking God for help in this process.

Here are a few prayers provided in David Mathis’ article that I have considered and put to memory. I would encourage you to tailor them and use them as well as you pursue your goals.

Father, please give me the will to overcome laziness tomorrow; to lace up my shoes and take the first step – and then work such discipline throughout my life in my fight against sin.

Father, give me the drive to push my body beyond what is merely comfortable, to ‘discipline my body and keep it under control’ (1 Cor. 9:27) and work in me, by your Spirit, so that physical training may serve as the ripening of the spiritual fruit of self-control (Gal. 5:23).

Father, loosen my grip on my own performance and results and personal goals. May my training not ultimately be about me, but about my increased enjoyment of Jesus.

Father, guard me from valuing this training more than godliness. Rather, make these efforts holy, through my acting in faith, so that this training serves my holiness instead of competing with it.

Father, grant that I would know you and enjoy you more through pushing my body in this way. Let me feel your pleasure through this natural gift so that I am spiritually satisfied enough to sacrifice my own preferences and personal routines to meet the needs of others.

Truth #4: This is not for you.

…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Ultimately, my training and this half marathon are not for me or my own personal achievement. Rather, it is for the greater joy of knowing God.

As 1924 Olympic Gold Medalist runner Eric Liddell once said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

While God may not have made me particularly fast per se, He still made me to feel His pleasure in all that I do, including running a half marathon.

“God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Therefore, what can make this training process holy, fruitful, loving, and spiritually beneficial is the prayer that my expenditures of energy will lead not to a finish line or a medal, but to my increased enjoyment of God’s presence and a readiness to expend myself in self-sacrificial love, though it may be uncomfortable, to others for their spiritual well-being.

Whatever your goal may be; whatever your plan of action consists of, may I encourage you as I encourage myself to remember why it is that we do what we do.

Everything that we do here on earth has the capacity to be spiritually driven; to push us closer to Christ and direct us down a path of holiness rather than worldliness. Be mindful of this as you pursue the stepping stones of a career, an education, a bucket list item, or a personal accomplishment.

To God be the glory, above all else.

(Reference: Do You Exercise Like a Nonbeliever? by David Mathis; DesiringGod.org)

A Prayer for the Expectant Heart

Thank you God for not placing expectations on me.

Thank you for dying on the cross so that I would no longer have to live under the law of this world, but rather under the law of grace.

Thank you for allowing me a life where I can live in full expectancy of seeing new mercies every morning.

Open my eyes to the expectations that I place on others that surpass reason; where the ideal exceeds reality.

Show me how I am placing unreasonable and selfish expectations on my loved ones to satisfy any void that only you can fill.

When I seek affirmation, remind me that it is only you O’ God that upholds and affirms me.

  • My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me (Psalm 63:8).
  • Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds the righteous (Psalm 37:17).
  • In my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever (Psalm 41:12).
  • The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down (Psalm 145:14).

When I seek happiness, remind me that it is the joy of your name that strengthens me.

  • Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
  • The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song (Psalm 28:7).
  • When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul (Psalm 94:19).
  • Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).
  • May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as your trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).

When I seek approval, remind me that it is only for you that I live, that you O’ God may be praised and I unnoticed.

  • For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).
  • For in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

When I seek fulfillment, remind me that you are the God who fills all things in every way.

  • …the fullness of him who fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1:23).
  • I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19).
  • It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).
  • For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority (Colossians 2:9-10).

Bless me with unmeasurable grace towards others, that I might not place unrealistic expectations on them, but extend the same love and grace that you have shown me.

May my contentment come entirely from your promises and truths, O’ God.

Help me recognize the plank in my own eye before addressing the speck in another’s eye (Matthew 7:3).

Give me grace to live in expectancy rather than expectation; to respond to others in love rather than place responsibility on them, that we may not be taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human traditions and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ (Colossians 2:8).

May I be a vessel of love and grace rather than expectations and responsibilities.

May it be so – Amen.

This Mountain in Front of Me

This mountain in front of me

A fear, a sorrow, an internal game

Ever growing in greatness and degree

Every day it’s all the same

 

I struggle, I climb, I slip, and I cry

Everything I do bringing me closer to reprise

The smile on my face is just a lie

This too will become my demise

 

I fight to find the prayer oh so deep

The truths of knowledge so far from the heart

My faith in Him I desire to keep

From the love of my Savior I do not wish to part

 

I pray, “God, can you please move this mountain?”

And frantically read of a mustard seed

The thoughts “if only…if only…” through my head they ran

Faith oh so small is all I would need

 

But the mountain is still there God

Why is it still there?

The questioning begins – “Do I not have faith?” “Am I a fraud?”

Either that or He is just not fair

 

“Don’t go there,” I say

Oh, but I can’t

Don’t believe those traps the dark one lay

Don’t trust the lies he is sure to plant

 

My God is more

He is more than the mess I’m in

My body may be poor

But Abundance flows from within

 

My God can do more than move this mountain

He is more than the devil’s scheme

I will put my trust in the life-giving Fountain

If only to see His glory gleam

 

My God can do more than move this mountain

His power knows no end

He knows the names of stars by the thousand

And I know my heart He will defend

 

To see the powerful glory of God Almighty

I will calm my heart and bid it still

This mountain is oh so tiny

In light of His perfect and glorious will

 

Be it mountain, valley, or ocean

In His loving hands my future I see

His glory is my soul’s devotion

Even with this mountain in front of me

Stay Gold Ponyboy

Nature’s first green is gold

Her hardest hue to hold

Her early leaf’s a flower

But only so an hour

Then leaf subsides to leaf

So Eden sank to grief

So dawn goes down to day

Nothing gold can stay.

– Robert Frost

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was my favorite book in High School and still has a place in my ‘top five’ list today. I read it several times; over and over again, willing the story between the two worn covers to never end. I fell in love with the honesty expressed by Ponyboy as he retold his story and how it coalesced with the stories of Sheri Valance, the Socs, the rest of the Greaser gang, and of course with Johnny Cade.

I related to Ponyboy at that time in my life, and even still do now because he stood apart from the average hoodlum that he was commonly associated with. He saw deeper, he allowed himself to feel stronger, and he loved longer and harder than any of his counterparts.

I admired Ponyboy.

I wanted to see beauty even when life got ugly. I suppose that’s why the scene in Chapter 5 was always my favorite when Ponyboy recited the poem by Robert Frost as shown above.

He was in the deepest, darkest time of his life; having simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time and was now paying for it. Yet, what does Ponyboy do?

He watches the sunrise.

The whole point of Robert Frost’s poem titled Nothing Gold Can Stay is one about the fleeting essence of this world.

Life is fleeting.

Good is fleeting.

Nothing good can stay.

Johnny remarks that the mist of the morning sunrise was the prettiest part; how it gleamed golden and silver hues.

Mist is fleeting. It doesn’t stay. In fact, it fades as quickly as it comes, gracing the watchful eye with its beauty for a few precious moments.

Later on, as Johnny is lying on his deathbed, he pulls Ponyboy close and whispers the iconic saying,

Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold.

Johnny knew that Ponyboy was unique; that he stood apart from the rest of the gang. He knew that Ponyboy saw things differently than the others.

He was innocent.

He was like a child with uninhibited and untarnished faith in all that was good in the world.

He was golden like the mist of an early morning sunrise. Though his innocence, like the mist threatened to vanish at any moment with the coming of day; the coming of judgment.

The coming of a life hardened by the harsh realities of their world.

Stay gold Ponyboy. Stay gold.

Hold onto the good.

Romans 12:2 tells us to not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Though our lives here on earth are fleeting, our spirit and our faith is not. We can stay gold. With the renewal of our minds, our hearts and our hope for greater things can remain untarnished by the dark and evil of this world.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Our hearts and minds are renewed when we set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2). When we set our minds on things above; when we look deeper, allow ourselves to feel stronger, and love longer and harder, we will be graced with the knowledge of a love that surpasses all knowledge.

We will be able to know that which is unknowable.

We will be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God.

This truth; this very reality that is ours for the taking is what sets us apart. It is what allows us to walk on water; to have a faith that is completely uninhibited and untarnished, even by the deepest of depths and the darkest of times.

Nothing gold can stay?

I beg to differ Mr. Frost.

While this world around us is fleeting, and yes indeed, even the good in the world is brief all the same, there is eternal good that will never fade.

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you…(1 Peter 1:4).

We have this living, everlasting hope that not all that’s good will fade. We have a goodness in us that is eternal and unending.

We have a King whose love for us will never fail.

We have a Home that will never perish.

We have a faith that can never be spoiled.

Hold onto all that’s good. Remember to watch for the golden hues that the Lord graces us with, reminding us of all the good that is yet to come.

Don’t stop looking deeper into the hearts of others, feeling the strength of the Holy Spirit within you, and loving the Lord your God and those around you longer and harder.

Stay gold my friend. Stay gold.