Mar 29, 2012

Thursday SHINE.....


Today's Reading: 2 Samuel 17

Good morning, SHINE! 

It is my pleasure to introduce to you a fellow SHINE girl, Kelly McLeod, as our guest blogger. Kelly and I have been friends for, oh gosh, maybe 5 or 6 years?

Anyway, Kelly is one of my very closest and dearest friends. We have gone through a whole lot together in our friendship. I have watched my sweet Kelly grow in so many ways over these past 2 years especially.

I asked her to guest blog this week, not having any idea what she would post about. Let me just say, that after reading her post I am challenged! This post was meant for me to read and I hope you feel the same way.

Be blessed and inspired, precious SHINE girls!

Setting the Pace
by Kelly McLeod

So I got word yesterday that Chad and I got in the Peachtree Road Race…we officially have a number!  Am I excited?  No, not really.  If I’m honest, when I signed us up for the lottery I never dreamed we’d get in.  As a matter of fact, I ONLY registered us thinking it would win me favor with my husband.  Chad has wanted me to run the Peachtree with him for years but I have resisted, as the thought of getting up early on July 4th to run in the sweltering heat 6.2 miles…particularly on a day that I could be chilling out on the dock at our lake house, just didn’t inspire any excitement for me.  I’m not much of a runner.   

As a kid, I participated in summer track.  I tried several events, distance running, sprinting, hurdles, and long jump before I discovered where my true talent lied.  Years of gymnastics training created flexibility and strength, I was a natural born high-jumper.  By the time I was 12, I made it to Nationals and placed 5th…not too shabby.  It came very easy for me and I employed strategies to avoid putting in much effort while still coming out a winner. 

I’m very good at doing the things that make me look good, with as little effort as possible.  It’s true that I can be charitable, but usually when it benefits me in some way.  And my spiritual walk was more of the same… sure I showed up for church at Easter, Christmas, a time or two in between.  I attended weekly Bible studies, a prayer before dinner, (led by Chad) prayers when life was particularly difficult.  No real, meaningful time spent in the word.  No real emphasis placed on developing my relationship with Christ.  The pace of my walk with the Lord was just a slow, leisurely stroll.  This is the antithesis of Faith in action. 

FAITH IN ACTION…

God has blessed me with a sister, Jessica.  She understands me in a way that no one else can or ever will.  We share a love of good books, movies, and games…usually involving cards.  We have a lot in common, but in some ways we are very different.  I was always very outspoken, the center of attention if you will.  Popularity was extremely important to me.  I often changed who I was to fit in with whichever group deemed cool at the moment.  I tried to set the curve…I made good grades, was involved in school and youth group, and sports.  All the things that look really good on a college application…I worked my way through college at UGA, made the Dean’s list, graduated and got a good job.  I bought a house, married the love of my life and saved for our dream house.  Success by worldly standards…and I craved the accolades and acceptance that accompany success in the eyes of man!

In contrast, Jessica was quiet and avoided the limelight at all cost.  She was well liked, but she valued true friendship and maintained relationships with a select few life-long friends.  I would describe Jessica as an introvert.  She was extremely smart and loved to read and write.  I remember she used to cut out pictures of the people in her magazines and she’d use them as the characters in her stories.  I always thought that she was clever.  She was a swimmer and although she was very talented, she wasn’t an aggressive competitor.  Jessica was always very good, soft-spoken, and gentle-natured…pure of heart, never concerned with gaining “worldly” approval, but rather seeking to grow in her faith.

I found a post from my sister a few weeks back that really summarizes who she is really is; a daughter of Christ…

 “To live is Christ.  To die is gain.”  To me, it means that my whole life is about Christ. I am dead to self. Selfish pursuits must end. I am no longer a slave to worldly standards of worth and wealth. It means that all I have and all I am is Christ's. It means I can be obedient until death.  It means that I can love unconditionally both friend and foe because no matter how I’m hurt or punished I still have hope, peace and joy in Christ.  It means no matter my circumstances I can be content and no matter the danger, I can be bold.  It means I can run this race for the prize set before me, knowing that my future is secure and I have nothing to fear.

My sister and I are very close.  She may be seven years younger, but she is wise beyond her years and so mature in her spiritual walk.  It’s hard to admit that I aspire to be more like her in this regard.  She is well versed in the scriptures.  She lives her faith out loud.  In a few short weeks, she and her family will walk out in faith.  They will move to North Carolina for the summer to work at a youth ministry.  This is something she and her husband have had on their hearts to do since their wedding.  Only married a few months, they learned they were expecting a baby boy…talk about a game-changer.  Fast-forward 5 years and 2 girls later and God is providing the opportunity for them to fulfill their desire to minister the youth and share their walk with Jesus.  I imagine the idea of picking up everything, moving to a new place with 3 children, 4 and under would be a daunting task for most people.  It may even be for them, but they aren’t letting fear keep them from serving the Lord.  This, for me, is such a great display of faith in action.   

FAITH IN TRAINING

The past few years, I have seen my fair share of tragedy…to be discussed in another blog, but the point is God started moving in my heart.  He was using my circumstances to draw me closer to him.  I have had to lean on my faith more over the past 3 years than I had the combined first 30!  And God is blessing me through it all.  He’s also filled my life with so many godly women that INSPIRE me.  Jill is one of those women in my life.  So is my sister.  I find myself being envious of their spiritual maturity.  I seek their counsel.  They are the type of Christian I aspire to be.  I have so much respect for the way they use their gifts to glorify and honor the Lord.  The things they are doing in their own walk right now makes me take a closer look at my own lack of action…   
    
After years of making excuses, Chad and I finally visited a new church last week.  It was an interesting message about changing the world…hmmm.  Now, here is what I’ve established in this blog so far.  I am pretty lazy, usually only doing the minimum to get by while still looking good and here is this preacher talking to me about getting on board to help finish what Christ started…I can barely make the time to read a chapter of my Bible each day, I haven’t been to church regularly in years and now I’m supposed to change the world?  Forget a 10k, I feel like he just asked me to compete in the Iron Man!  I don’t have the training, I’m not prepared. 

Well, I’ll at least hear the man out…reading the scripture of John 21:5, “Be Humble” he tells me.  So I want to know what this really means…I look up the meaning of the word humble online at Urban Dictionary.com
“If you were to meet a humble person, he wouldn't be the kind of person who thinks lower of himself than others think he should. Instead, he would not think of himself at all! A humble person isn't interested in saying "I suck" or "I'm not that great". These statements come from a person who thinks he should be better than he is. A truly humble person isn't concerned with who he is or who he should be. He isn't concerned with himself at all, but instead he's concerned with other people.”

Oh boy, have I got an area for improvement!  The only time I thought of myself as being “humble” is when I’m being self-deprecating.  Turns out that isn’t the definition.  Being humble is not just an antonym for being boastful, prideful or arrogant…it’s more of a condition of the heart.  So how exactly do I humble myself?  How do I “die to self” and simply love others?  I think the answers are tied in with the pastor’s second point… 

Continuing on in John 21:9-13, “Be Hungry”…well, surely I’ve got this one wrapped up!  After all, I’ve been on a diet since December…hunger is part of the deal…What? That’s not the kind of hunger he meant?  

Ok, so I’m using humor to deflect the real issue.  Be Hungry…when I am hungry, I scour the pantry for anything that will satisfy my craving…I usually fill up on a lot of junk and never feel satiated.  It has only been recent that I have worked to cultivate a healthy relationship with food.  Maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been a life-long journey for me.  My spiritual life has been much the same…when I allow the distractions of “life” get in the way of my relationship with Christ, I’m left feeling empty…I often try to fill the void with entertainment or work…but nothing satiates me like being in the word, sharing with Him the events of my day, offering thanks for all He’s given.  I believe when we are Hungry for a relationship with Christ, it affords us the opportunity to get to know Him.  To know Him is to love Him and to love Him is to want to emulate Him.  Jesus wasn’t concerned with self but loving others.  So maybe the way I humble myself is by first cultivating a relationship with Christ.  

The pastor finished with “Be His” John 21:15,
After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, do you love me?” Yes, Master, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

“Feed my lambs”…how can I do that?  This is the revolution the pastor is referring to…He wants us to change the world, by loving others, by getting involved in what Christ started…I’m feeling inspired now.  But I’m uncomfortable.  After the service, we visit with a few friends, pick up Ian from the nursery and make our way to Yesterday’s cafĂ©, where we are regulars.  On the way, I confess to Chad that the sermon made me think, really think about how uncomfortable I was with the idea of what the pastor was proposing…I just want to focus on me, on my walk.  I’m still figuring all this out.  I’m not prepared; I’ve not been properly trained.  I feel the same way about my Peachtree road race.  The thought of running 6.2 hilly miles makes me uncomfortable.  I don’t really want to do it because I know it will challenge me and I’m not sure I’m ready to be challenged in that way.  At the same time, I’m intrigued.  I feel God stirring in my heart again.  It’s not the same as those dark days over the past three years.  I don’t just NEED Him to get through the day, but I DESIRE Him to walk along with me on the journey.  I’m ready for some one-on-one personal trainer time!  I know that I love Jesus and because I love Him, I want to be a part of finishing what he started! 

I posted on Facebook Monday night about getting in the Peachtree, making a self-deprecating remark about “running” the race when in all reality my pace is more of a jog/walk…immediately I received comments encouraging me that it doesn’t matter what my pace is as long as I continue to move forward.  Interesting…perhaps God is revealing some things to me.  Continuing to move forward…I feel like my spiritual walk has been a lot of two steps forward, two steps back...wait, isn’t that essentially just standing in place?  That isn’t the race I want to run!  Nope, I’ve never been much of a runner, but I will keep moving forward and with God’s training, my pace is bound to improve… 

Is God stirring your heart too?  Let’s stop making excuses for why we can’t and commence with the training already!  We won’t finish a race we never start…

Chad & Kelly McLeod