A Prize Worth Hiking For: Three Lessons on Endurance

I had never hiked a 14er before. It was something that I had wanted to do for a while, but was hesitant because of the almost guaranteed altitude sickness that I get every time I visit Colorado.

Simply driving through Rocky Mountain National Park requires a lot of endurance for me, much less hiking up one of those rocky mountains.

There were several times that I was convinced I might not make it; that the challenge was simply too much for me to handle; and the fear of suddenly getting lightheaded or sick always being a nearby probability.

Yet, in the weeks following our hike (yes, I did make it to the summit!), there have been so many lessons that I have gleaned from that experience that have encouraged me greatly in the faith. As I’ve unpacked those lessons and worked through the truths about God’s character and promises that somehow seemed more clear at 14,000 feet, my desire to share what God has been teaching me continues to grow.

three lessons on endurance

How do we press on when the path we’re on is rocky, steep, and difficult, with no end in sight?


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV

In climbing a mountain, as it is with faith, one of the many graces that the Lord gives us is the wisdom and experiences of others, which is intended to both encourage us to keep going and turn us towards repentance when necessary.

In the early stages of our hike, the excitement must have gotten to my head, as I sped along the trail and took to it at a rather brisk pace. It was a moderate trail at this point, which made it even more tantalizing to move quickly.

However, my husband, who had experience with hiking 14ers, told me that I needed to slow down and follow his pace. I didn’t really want to, and I didn’t for quite a while, until regret that I could feel in my lungs and legs caused me to humbly change my approach.

My husband and I enjoying a new adventure together.

Several hours later, as I labored up the steepest part of the mountain, barely able to keep up with my husband’s steady pace, I let out a groan as the false summit ahead revealed more steep, rocky trail. “Oh my gosh, it’s never ending,” I said to no one in particular.

But just as I made my discouragement known, a stranger on his way back down the mountain graciously encouraged me to keep going. “It’s so close,” he said. “Keep going, you won’t regret it!”

God intentionally and mercifully surrounds us with people who are intended to aid in our sanctification process. We see this in relationships like marriage, our families, church communities, and work environments. All are on purpose and all are put in our lives as sources of encouragement, conviction, wisdom, and strength.

As we faithfully listen to those whom God has granted much wisdom through trial and experience, we are encouraged to endure in one of two ways: 1) by throwing off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (like my pride and ignorance); and 2) by fixing our eyes on Jesus (the summit) and running with perseverance the race marked out for us.


Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12, NIV

One thing that my husband encouraged me to do as we prepared for this hike was to talk. He told me that especially when the hike becomes difficult and when the aches and pains of the body consume our thoughts, the best thing to do is to talk; to get the mind to focus on something else.

What the mind focuses on either aids in or quickly deteriorates our ability to endure. If you think about how heavy and sluggish your legs feel, they will only feel that way that much more because you’re focused on it. The same thing is true in life and faith.

With so many internal and external circumstances that vie for our attention and demand our focus, we can quickly feel overwhelmed by and consumed with feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, and doubt if we allow ourselves to focus on them. The only way to get our thoughts off of how we feel is to talk about what we know.

Praying for safety and strength before the hike.

God has granted us the most beautiful form of communication and union with Him through prayer. We have direct access to the God of Creation; to our Savior and Redeemer, who promises to be close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18, NIV).

When the difficult circumstances of life tempt us to put our heads down and go into survival mode, we must remember that Jesus Christ, His saving grace and promises are our greatest means of survival. When we remain faithful in prayer, the roots of endurance grow deep as our hearts and minds focus on what is true rather than on what we feel.


But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly…you have come to God…to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant…

Hebrews 12:22-24

From the trail head 3.5 miles away and 2,719 feet below, the summit stood in plain sight. And if you looked close enough, you could see the trail going up the side of the mountain, giving the illusion that this hike wouldn’t be too difficult.

Starting the 3.5 miles hike to the summit, an elevation gain of 2,719 feet.

A couple hours later, I discovered that the closer I got to the summit, the less obvious the designated path to the top was, the more switchbacks there were, and the less visible the final destination became.

Disrupted by several false summits, my ability to see where I was going was limited. And with no end in sight (literally!), even the simplest parts of the trail became difficult with discouragement and aimlessness.

There are so many times that we go through seasons like this in life and faith; when our plans don’t work out as we wanted and we’re back to square one; when it feels like we’re turning back to repeated lessons and old temptations; when our vision becomes presently preoccupied with the difficult trail under foot and less focused on eternity.

If I have learned anything from this hike, it is the importance of knowing where you are going. This doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t focus on the mile markers along the way and celebrate and rest when we get to them. It doesn’t even mean we can’t pause, look back, and enjoy the view from which we came.

Stopping along the way to rest and enjoy the view.

These mile markers and breathtaking views are placed in our life by the loving hand of God to be indicators of His blessing; of His guidance, delight, and protection over our lives. However, even as we enjoy the beauty of His blessings along the way, we must never forget the true summit for which we are enduring.

Eternity with God, the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord, is the heavenly summit that we press on towards. Bearing in mind the coming glory of Mount Zion; the city of the living God where thousands upon thousands of angels assemble; where the spirits of our brothers and sisters are made perfect; and the place where Jesus our mediator dwells in victory is the greatest source of endurance we have.

When we know where we are going and how glorious the view will be, we’ll endure many hardships, trials, and sufferings to get there, because we know that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed…(Romans 8:18, NIV).

Strawberries and Cream: Finding Simple Delights in Common Places

One of the things that I love most about living in Kearney, NE is my morning commute across town. Before I moved into my current apartment, which is within biking distance of my office, I lived on the opposite end of town and would have to drive 10-15 minutes to get to work. Since moving though, I am now only able to enjoy this commute once a week when I regularly meet with a friend at our favorite coffee shop on the far north end of town every Tuesday morning.

While this commute might seem inconvenient at times, I’ve come to really cherish the opportunity because it means that around 7:45am every Tuesday morning I get to drive south towards the highest point in Kearney and take in the wide-open horizon illuminated by the rising sun that lingers ahead of me; a delight like no other.

strawberries and cream

In his book In Search of the Common Good: Christian Fidelity in a Fractured World, Lincolnite Jake Meador makes a lovely connection between the Christian life and the lives of two brave Hobbits found in the beloved writings of J.R.R. Tolkien’s, The Lord of the Rings.

In the final pages of his great epic, J.R.R. Tolkien writes of his heroes, Sam and Frodo, and their desperate attempt to reach Mount Doom and cast the Ring of Power…into the fires and destroy it. As they came closer to the mountain, their situation grew more desperate. They were wasting away physically, Frodo’s spirit was failing, and their quest seemed hopeless. In a key moment, Sam attempts to encourage Frodo by asking him if he remembers the taste of strawberries and cream…

Jake Meador

Meador uses Sam and Frodo’s dire situation and Sam’s simple, yet wise remembrance of small delights to cheer Frodo’s heart as instructive for Christian living. Delight in the simple things and faithful fidelity to small places are nourishment for our daily lives.

In search of this kind of nourishment though, I often find myself desperate for a getaway or a chance to break out of the normal routines of life and be refreshed by something new. My husband and I had the opportunity to take such a getaway a couple of weeks ago, and believe me, it was very refreshing. The weather cooperated and we were able to spend much of our time outside, which is rare for this time of year in Nebraska.

However, though we came back refreshed, it only took a couple of hours for us to unwillingly settle back into the routines of work, responsibilities, and household chores. I felt let down, unsatisfied with how the effects of our little getaway appeared to be very short lived.

As with everything in this fallen and broken world though, the temporary sense of refreshment that I felt from our spontaneous trip is not how God intends for us to be nourished spiritually, as I think we often hope for or expect. It is, in fact, quite the opposite.

Nourishment that stimulates hope and courage was never intended to be a shot in the arm, but more like a vitamin that we purposefully take every morning with our OJ and cereal. It is absorbed into our hearts and minds through daily discipline and routine, fidelity, and simple delight in the small things.

ordinary delights

As Meador’s emphasis on delighting in the simple things and practicing fidelity to small places continues to challenge my thinking, I’ve tried to orient myself more to the simple delights of God’s creation; to the ‘strawberries and cream’ of daily life that can nourish weary hearts back to health.

I felt clumsy at first, noticing something and then getting distracted, only to feel bad about not enjoying it later. But I’ve come to discover that once you start disciplining your mind to look for the small delights in daily routines and simple places, it subtly forces you to slow down, to get off your phone, and to look up.

So, as I looked up from my dashboard on my regular Tuesday morning commute from the coffee shop to my office, my heart was nourished and refreshed by the golden-gray haze that covered the southern horizon, which lingered just ahead of me before my car started to descend down the hill. The haze was illuminated by the rising sun, which was itself beautifully framed by my driver’s side window.

Because of countless moments like this before and because I had grown to anticipate this moment in my week, I was able to behold the delight of God’s creation for as long as possible. And what I found is that when we become more aware of the simple beauties and delights in our daily routines and places, we begin to orient our hearts and minds around God Himself, His beautiful character, and His saving grace manifest on the cross.

When we become more aware of the simple beauties and delights in our daily routines and places, we begin to orient our hearts and minds around God Himself, His beautiful character, and His saving grace manifest on the cross.

“For Christians,” Meador explains, “an ordinary delight in the created gifts of God should nourish our piety and our daily lives – the look of clouds on a stormy spring day; the delight of a good glass of red wine; the feel of wind blowing against our cheek as we walk in the created world spoken into being by God. It also means delighting in the ordinary means of grace that God offers to us – the preached Word of God and the blessed sacrament given to us by a generous God who accommodates Himself to our limitations.”

Nourishment for the hopeless

Perhaps today you feel like Sam and Frodo did on the final leg of their journey; physically broken by illness or disease; spiritually spent by sleepless nights and wordless prayers; or to put it simply – hopeless.

Or perhaps things are good right now, in which case I would strongly encourage you to utilize your strength of body and spirit to train your heart and mind to dwell on the riches of God’s glory and grace to sustain you through the good and bad times of life to come.

Either way, consider the ‘strawberries and cream’ of your life and think about what they tell you about God; about His character and about His love for you. For me, it’s my weekly view of the sunrise, a good piece of instrumental composition, or a fresh bouquet of flowers. These are the things that delight my discontent spirit and cause me to stop and be still.

Consider the ‘strawberries and cream’ of your life and think about what they tell you about God; about His character and about His love for you.

These are the things that take my breath away.

The sunrise reminds me of God’s faithfulness; a good piece of instrumental composition reminds me of God’s delight in intellect and His interwoven beauty in the practiced and diligent skill of man, as well as the sovereignty of God in knowing and directing the complexities of life; and a fresh bouquet of colorful flowers reminds me of God’s delight in beauty and that if He cares for and dresses the flowers of the field as such, then He certainly cares for and preserves my life with His righteous right hand.

As your heart becomes more sensitive to the beauty of the little things and is quick to praise God for the simple delights that are all around you, every day will be a new day filled with hope for tomorrow, because not a day will go by without a sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste of heaven.

Photo by Valeria Bold on Unsplash

Justice for All: Mercy in Light of Justice

Robert F. Kennedy once said that “the glory of justice and the majesty of law are created not just by the Constitution, nor by the courts, nor by the officers of the law, nor by the lawyer, but by the men and women who constitute our society; who are the protectors of the law as they themselves are protected by the law.”

My family loves to discuss politics around the dinner table, and despite their different opinions, there is one thing that everyone seems to agree on and that’s the necessity for justice.

While I’m not as quick to debate politics, I do enjoy a good theological discussion, in which justice is rarely mentioned. It wasn’t until I read Jen Wilkin’s book – In His Image – that the concept of justice suddenly became a vital piece of my Biblical understanding.

“Administer true justice” says the Lord Almighty, “showing mercy and compassion to one another” (Zechariah 7:8-9, NIV).

So what is true justice? Robert F. Kennedy wasn’t too far off. It’s not the Constitution, the court system, or those who defend it, but to show mercy and compassion to one another. It is brothers and sisters in Christ who are themselves protected by justice that administer true justice to others by extending mercy and compassion.

It is brothers and sisters in Christ who are themselves protected by justice that administer true justice to others by extending mercy and compassion.

protected by the law

When we think about the law from an American viewpoint, we know that it is intended to protect U.S. citizens, their rights, and their freedoms.

However, when we consider the Law from a Biblical standpoint, it can be easy to think only of a holy ark carrying two stone tablets and shrouded in a solemn tent. Or perhaps we think of the earliest books of the Bible filled with confusing rules and an angry God ruthlessly raining down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah for not following those rules (Genesis 19, NIV).

If we are not careful, wrong ideas about God’s justice can leave us feeling vulnerable rather than protected by it.

Just as the justice system of the United States is intended to protect those who abide by it, so too is God’s law and justice meant to protect those who are found in Christ; onto whom mercy and justice are imparted daily.

Rarely do we associate mercy and justice, though they are impeccably inseparable. If grace and mercy are sisters, then justice is their big brother (political pun intended 🙂 ).

According to the Bible, true justice would require death as payment for our sins, “for the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23, NIV). Justice according to a holy God is the complete eradication of all sin. Why? Because His “eyes are too pure to look on evil; he cannot tolerate wrongdoing” (Habakkuk 1:13, NIV).

This leaves us asking the same question as Habakkuk – “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous” (Habakkuk 1:13, NIV)?

Why is evil so rampant? Around us and in us? We know the wickedness of our own hearts and we know what the cost of our sin is. So why mercy? Why not fire and brimstone?

Mercy instead of and justice

“Your compassion, Lord, is great; preserve my life according to your laws” (Psalm 119:156, NIV).

Justice is getting what you deserve while mercy is not getting what you deserve. It’s not that justice was set aside so that we could receive mercy, for that would tarnish the perfect and holy character of God. And we know by the fact that our hearts are beating that we have indeed received mercy. So what’s the deal?

According to God’s law, death is the just punishment for sin. As believers, we know that there was one Death that bore the weight of all sin; the death of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:24, NIV).

Without the just punishment for sin that Christ bore on our behalf we would rightly be held accountable for our sins. However, because Jesus received with perfect humility the just punishment for our sin, mercy extended on a daily basis is now an act of perfect justice.

In being flawlessly just, God righteously extends mercy towards us rather than justice not in an act of disregarding the need for justice, but rather in an act of remembering that justice was served wholly and completely on the cross.

This does not mean that we will never face physical death, but rather that we have been reprieved of a spiritual death and eternal separation from God because Jesus Christ took the punishment for sin in our place, which is good news and something that I’m sure we all think of often and find easy to recall when we are face-to-face with our sin. God’s mercy is a comforting reality in light of sin, as it should be.

We have been reprieved of a spiritual death and eternal separation from God because Jesus Christ took the punishment for sin in our place.

Justice on the other hand can sometimes feel like a prickly cactus; not as comforting to hold onto when faced with our depravity, but just as important.

When I experienced crippling anxiety a couple of years ago, I remember truly believing that I was being punished for my sin. Now yes, anxiety due to loving something or someone more than God was a likely consequence for idolatry, but it was not God justly punishing me for my sin.

We make three very critical mistakes when we believe that something negative in our lives, be it anxiety, depression, a loss, etc. is God’s just punishment for our sin…

  1. We grossly diminish the absolute holiness and righteousness of God by believing that the difficulty we are experiencing is the full weight and extent of His righteousness and justice;
  2. We severely belittle the costliness of our sin and wretchedness; and
  3. We sadly neglect the mercy of Christ and dismiss the justice served in entirety on the cross.

Though the consequences of our sin or simply the depraved and broken nature of this world are difficult and painful to deal with, consider the horror of Sodom and Gomorrah as white hot fire and brimstone rained down from heaven as punishment for their sin (Genesis 19, NIV).

That is what the perfect justice of a holy God looks like in response to sin; the complete destruction of sin and wickedness. So when we believe that the consequences of our sin are the full extent of God’s justice and punishment, we seriously diminish His holiness and purity.

Perfect justice has already been served on the cross in whole and therefore to remain a holy, perfect, and impartial God; unchanging and righteous, He remains faithful and just in that because One died for all, all have died and are therefore found in Christ; protected under His great mercy, which is daily imparted on us as an act of perfect justice.

justice for all

What is true justice then? That we show mercy and compassion to one another. Because we have received that which we do not deserve (the assurance of present grace and future glory in Christ), we are compelled to a) stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves (Matthew 7:12, Matthew 25:35-45, James 1:27) in an act of justice, and b) release the wrong done against us by trusting that it was dealt with rightly on the cross (1 Peter 3:18, NIV). This releases us from the need to avenge ourselves (Romans 12:19, NIV) and instead compels us to extend that which we also received when we did not deserve it (Titus 3:4-6, NIV).

We have the assurance of present grace and future glory in Christ!

And how is this done? By first taking God’s righteous justice seriously and in that, recognizing that it was fully served and wholly satisfied on the cross, against Christ on our behalf, so that we could receive mercy.

We are able to act justly toward others with mercy and compassion by reminding ourselves that “when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4-6, NIV).

We realize that God’s mercy and justice place us all on the same, even ground at the foot of the cross which bears all justice and mercy in perfect unity; righteously administered now and forevermore, that we may be free from the punishment of our sins to “act justly and love mercy, walking humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8, NIV).

Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

Today is April 18

Yes, today is April 18.

This is nothing new for most of you, and if it is, you might want to invest in a calendar.

But today will likely be a normal day, though for some it might be a wedding anniversary, a birthday, the day to remember a loved one who has passed, or perhaps the anniversary of when you started your job (I hope your boss gives you a cookie if it is).

You, like myself, probably woke up this morning with a little too much aggression towards your alarm clock. You probably rolled out of bed half awake to start your morning routine. Perhaps you noticed the beautiful blue sky, the warm sun, and the melody of the birds.

Or perhaps you didn’t.

Some of you were probably eager to get to work. Others maybe not so much.

Maybe you’ve got plans tonight, or maybe your only plan is to not have any plans.

Yes, this will likely be a normal day for most of you.

But for me, I guess I thought that today would feel anything but normal. As I think back on what this day a year ago had in store, I suppose I thought I would feel anything but peace and comfort.

I remember waking up excited that I would get to spend the entire day out of the office. I was scheduled to attend a conference to learn more about the health systems in our region, hoping to take back some good ideas for our health program at work. I eagerly anticipated a day of lectures and trainings (yes, I actually find those things enjoyable) and was excited to have something other than leftovers for lunch (because we all know that the catered lunch is the best part of any work conference).

I did not however anticipate that by 4:30pm that afternoon I would find myself lying on my living room floor struggling to gain some kind of control over my thoughts as a crushing anxiety attack swept over me, leaving me deeply afraid and unsure.

Fast-forward several months and you’ll see blurs of fear, doubt, anxiety, and guilt unlike anything I had ever experienced. You’ll see hours of tearful conversations with wise friends and family, heartache, probably a few nights where I angrily shook my fist at God, and then other nights where I crumbled under the weight of conviction.

Oh, how easy it would be to just stop here and wash my hands of that season in life; to file it away; chalk it up to nothing more than a rough couple of months, and hope that one day it makes its way to the shredder to never be thought of again.

For so long, that’s all I’ve wanted…to simply forget April 18, 2018.

But not today!

In fact, today I want to remember.

There is a necessity in the Christian life to remember. We are told countless times throughout Scripture to remember things like the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8); like God’s miracles (Psalm 77:11, 1 Chronicles 16:12, Psalm 78:42-55), those who have gone before us (Luke 17:32, Hebrews 13:7), where we’ve been (Deuteronomy 16:12; 24:22, Isaiah 46:7-9, Lamentations 3:19-20), the nature of our humanity (Psalm 89:47); and most of all, God’s faithfulness (Psalm 77:1-20).

There is good in remembering. By remembering the Sabbath, we grow in holiness and obedience. We are comforted as we recall God’s miracles and sovereignty displayed throughout our lives and in His Word. We are trained and taught as we remember those who have gone before us. We are humbled in remembering where we’ve been and the frailty of our human nature. We are built up in courage, hope, faith, and worship as we remember God’s faithfulness despite our frailty, disobedience, and fear.

We are built up in courage, hope, faith, and worship as we remember God’s faithfulness despite our frailty, disobedience, and fear.

Though there is a good portion of the last year that has been tainted by the memory of that anxiety attack, the faithfulness of God continues to shine through.

As I remember how utterly frail and weak I felt that day (both spiritually and physically), I am in turn reminded of God’s strength that has carried me since then and helped me to where I am now.

As I remember my stumbling, anger, and fear in the months that followed, I am comforted in recalling God’s wonderful display of patience and kindness towards me; which in turn encourages me in my continued fight against anxiety and sin.

As I recall where I’ve been, I am both filled with gratitude and joy at the many blessings the Lord has poured out onto my life since then, and my hope is renewed in the One who continues to lead me forward, because while I was still weak; while I was still stubborn; while I was still resistant towards Him…while I was still a sinner, God loved me and sent His Son to die for me (Romans 5:8).

I’m sure you have a similar day tucked back in the deep corners of your memory. Perhaps a day that didn’t go so well and that you’d like to forget. But maybe we’ve been wrong in how we view days such as these. Maybe days like these don’t really belong in our shred pile of memories, but rather in a treasured scrapbook of daily reminders of God’s wonderful grace, patience, and love!

Maybe today you need to take a second look at a bad memory, a tough day, or a hard season in life. You might be surprised to find rays of God’s glory shining through the clouds that once brought rain.

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 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;

Best Seller: What the Church Can Learn from Rachel Hollis

I went on Amazon the other day to look for a new book that had been highly recommended to me.

As I searched for Rachel Jankovic’s book You Who?: Why You Matter & How to Deal with It, several other books that are considered to have similar content popped up on my browser.

Among them was none other than the highly talked about, highly sought after by some, and severely rejected by others book Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis.

Tagged above both of these books, of which have two very different and drastically opposed messages, was an icon that read ‘Best Seller.’

It is no secret that Hollis’ book is highly regarded among many…or should I say, Hollis’ books, as in plural. Yes, Hollis has stormed the Christian book industry once again with her recent title, Girl, Stop Apologizing, published on March 5, 2019 and already topping the charts for Christian best seller.

In fact, according to Amazon as of March 6, 2019, the top five most popular Christian products based on sales are 1) Girl, Stop Apologizing Audiobook, 2) Girl, Stop Apologizing Hardcover, 3) Girl, Wash Your Face Audiobook, 4) Girl, Wash Your Face Hardcover, and 5) Girl, Stop Apologizing Kindle Edition.

Girl, it’s time to wake up!

As Hollis’ fame and popularity continues to rise, it is increasingly obvious that women from all walks of life, even Christian, Bible-believing, church-going women are desperate; they are desperate for something and, according to Amazon, they are finding it within the pages of Hollis’ books. Why?

why are so many women buying into hollis’ message?

I’m not going to lie, I don’t want to read Hollis’ books, even if it were for the purpose of writing a review. Therefore, I cut a few corners and decided to read the reviews of real women; women in search of something deeper, more personal, and life-changing.

After reading just one page of Amazon reviews on Girl, Stop Apologizing, I was able to compile the following list of reasons why women are so drawn to Hollis’ message:

  1. Women want to feel deep, personal connection. It doesn’t matter who or what with, women are recognizing a deep need to feel understood, recognized, and validated. Women want to feel assured that they are not alone in their hopes, dreams, and struggles alike, and Hollis assures her readers that they most certainly are not alone.
  2. Women want to do better! Yes, women are actually asking for ‘tough love talk’ and a ‘kick in the butt,’ which Hollis gives will flair, gusto and humor. Women, like Hollis, want to excel as mothers, wives, friends, and businesswomen and Hollis creates an opportunity for them to do that together.
  3. Women are feeling hindered in their pursuit of ‘bigger and better things in life.’ Majority of reviews are applauding Hollis for her ability to help women recognize how much they are hindering themselves and then help them overcome those hindrances.
  4. Women are exhausted. Women everywhere are feeling the strain of daily life, motherhood, marriage, and work, all while trying to self-inspire and be self-driven enough to do what makes them feel fulfilled, successful, and important. Hollis can relate and helps her audience by telling them what she did to create her own fulfilling life.
  5. Women are afraid. Women are fearful of taking steps and leaps towards their dreams and goals, resulting in ignored or ‘shelved’ aspirations collecting the dust of failure, disappointment, resentment, and low self-esteem. Hollis helps them address and overcome those fears by looking to the capable woman within.

Though there are many other reasons why women are reaching for Hollis’ books, one thing can be concluded from all of this…

Women have become satisfied with the temporary, surface-level fulfillment of Hollis’ words. The reason why so many women are flocking to Hollis’ books, to her Instagram board, to her Rise and Rise Together conferences, and her ChicSite is because Hollis is offering what they want – hope (though it is empty and false) for a better, more fulfilling life.

Women everywhere are content with Hollis’ message of self-inspired, self-driven fulfillment and the ‘hope’ that it offers while fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are idly standing by letting it happen.

why is hollis’ message so enticing?

Self. It’s as simple as that. Hollis assures her readers that focusing on self is a good thing; a necessary thing in fact if you’re ever going to become your ‘best self.’ According to Hollis,

“The real you is destined for something more . . . your version of more. This is who you were made to be, and the first step to making that vision a reality is to stop apologizing for having the dream in the first place.”

To get to ‘your version of more’, Hollis encourages her readers to “first learn to love yourself well and give yourself credit; then reach for more.” (Hollis; Girl, Stop Apologizing)

This is the overarching theme of Hollis’ books and the fuel that keeps her fame going. Women keep coming back to Hollis and her message because she has convinced them that there is a ‘real you’ that you were destined to be and right now, you’re not it. That’s where Hollis, with all her charm and humor, steps into the picture.

Hollis claims that the best way to truly become the ‘real you;’ the ‘you’ that you were destined to be is to learn how to love yourself well, which sadly is not a hard message to sell in today’s world.

Hollis helps her readers do what we already do so naturally. Because the bedrock of her platform is that she understands you, she knows you, she can relate with you, and she can speak directly to you, Hollis is able to assure her readers that they are not alone or even wrong in feeling the way that they do and then acting on those feelings, even if they are selfish and egocentric.

Though attractive and glamorous on the outside, Hollis’ message is actually quite dangerous because it encourages and helps its readers look to themselves for their worth and value, when in reality, the only thing that we will end up finding if we look closely enough at ourselves is depravity and insufficiency.

When there is always more; when there is always a better version of yourself out there, then you will never have or be enough according to the world. Hollis assures her readers that there is a pot of gold at the end of ‘More Lane.’ She’s right in saying that we were made for more, but falls short in believing that we could ever find it in this world or within ourselves.

Church, it’s time to wake up

Many of the articles and reviews that I have read in opposition to Hollis’ message are based on the argument that Hollis’ books encourage self-love rather than self-denial.

As accustomed as we are to the concept of self-love within our culture, it is a different story all together when a message promoting self-love and full on faith in self is considered ‘Christian.’

Jesus says deny yourself. Hollis says believe in yourself.

Jesus says take up your cross daily. Hollis wonders if you’ve got time for that.

Jesus says follow me. Hollis says follow yourself—and her.

(Jen Oshman; Girl, Follow Jesus)

I agree 100% with these arguments and believe that everyone, especially Christian women, need to be aware of the dangerous traps that lie within the pages of these books that are so ‘pleasing to the eye.’ However, I also think it is just as important that we recognize why women, even Christian, Bible-believing, church-going women are buying into Hollis’ message.

Hollis actually gets a lot of things right in that she knows what women want and she knows how to relate to and connect with them and meet them where they are at. She’s just giving them false hope in place of the real, life-giving hope of the Gospel.

Perhaps the church, primarily women in the church, could learn something from Hollis’ approach to the rapidly growing culture of exhausted, worn-out, unfulfilled women. If we as the church could better understand why women are paying so much attention to Hollis, then maybe we could better address those same issues but from the standpoint of the Gospel, offering true hope in Christ rather than in self.

“If we as the church could better understand why women are paying so much attention to Hollis, then maybe we could better address those same issues but from the standpoint of the Gospel.”

Women are longing for deeper, more personal connections with other women. Just as Hollis offers empathy and relatability, so too should women within the church be open and vulnerable with one another; willing to go deep with one another and come alongside one another with empathy and grace.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness or compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind (Philippians 2:1-2, NIV).

Women want to do better! Women want a little kick in the butt and some tough love talk. It would be a great dishonor if the church and brothers and sisters in Christ ignored this and allowed one another to remain stagnant, indifferent, and unmotivated in life and in faith. Hollis speaks directly and firmly to her audiences. Perhaps its time we start doing the same.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:23-25, NIV).

Women want to pursue their hopes and dreams; to live out their passions and interests and what they feel called to do. Yet they feel hindered in doing so. Hollis goes to great lengths to encourage her readers to never give up on their hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, she takes it too far and identifies the accomplishment of those hopes and dreams as the source of our identity and worth rather than Jesus Christ.

However, lets not allow the church to be a place where hopes and dreams are diminished or disregarded. Encourage one another in pursuing God-given talents and passions, all the while pointing to Christ as the place where our worth and value lies.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his 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, NIV).

Women are exhausted. Women everywhere are feeling the strain of daily life, motherhood, marriage, and work. Hollis jumps right into the mess of every woman’s life and tells her that it’s okay; that she’s not alone, but that it’s time to wash your face and pick yourself back up. Brothers and sisters, let’s not be a church that ignores the weary, but instead comes alongside to help them, encourage them, build them up in the Spirit, and at times carry them to the ‘spring of living water.’

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2, NIV).

Women are afraid. Even more than they are afraid of taking steps towards their dreams and goals, women are afraid of not taking those steps; of remaining stagnant and unmotivated, stuck in the daily routines of life. That is probably the primary reason why Hollis’ message is so attractive, because it is a welcomed kick in the rear to get motivated and get going.

However, Hollis looks within to her own strength and her own sufficiency for inspiration and hope and encourages her readers to do the same.

Therefore, let’s be a church that acknowledges the deep needs and struggles of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s be a church that comes alongside men and women alike, encouraging them in their hopes and aspirations, helping them surrender their fears to the Lord, and taking steps of faith together towards Him, all the while looking within to find Jesus and not ourselves, for if Christ is in us, then who can be against us (Romans 8:31, NIV)?