SOLD OUT

SOLD OUT

twinkie shelves from blogs.etruth.com

Sold out. It’s usually not a good feeling when you hear that.

You searched all over for it.

You located it.

You had to have it.

You waited for it to go on sale. Then, just as you were to retrieve your reward —

“Sorry, ma’am. We SOLD OUT.”

Nothing left.

Like the shelves of every convenience store the day after Hostess announced the end of the Twinkie.

GONE.

And such is the tendency of this world. We look for something to fill us up and realize it has the same ability to disappear as quickly as we attained it.

 

But when you leave it to God, the Master Creator, He has the power to create something from nothing.

“The Lord merely spoke and the heavens were created.” (Psalm 33:6)

“In the beginning…the earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis1:2)

And then there was sky, and dry ground, and seeds and plants, and seasons, and day, and all the fish, birds and animals, and mankind…

“So the creation of the heavens and earth and everything in them was completed.” (Genesis 2:1)

And it was good.

Not bad for 6 days work.

And don’t we all like to think we can create some pretty terrific things in our weeks? See, I think I have things figured out in my life. I love being the master creator of my “weeks” and my own little world. How I act and dress, where I work, what I do, how I spend, what I eat and who I choose to be with. Everything I accomplish — I like to take credit for.

And, there are some really cool things that we humans can “take credit for.”

 

Like the Twinkie. What a creative invention we humans came up with! Who was the genius that said, “I am turning this cake thing upside down and inside out!” They created a cake where the frosting is protected. A moist, spongy, yellow cake infused with creamy, sweet filling giving each mouthful the perfect amount of sweetness paired with cake; all wrapped up and easily enjoyed anywhere! Plus, their shelf-life guarantees you will always have the ability to enjoy them, like, almost forever. Almost.

My mom loves these things! She always has two or three boxes on the snack shelf at home. She calls them her “fountain of youth” and believes all those preservatives help keep her young. But NOTHING in this world lasts forever. Nothing.

Poof.

Nearly overnight, my mom’s shelf was bare. The Twinkie was no more. Hostess decided it’s “shelf-life” was over. Everywhere you turned, Circle K, Wal-Mart, Safeway, Piggly Wiggly and even AMAZON, the world’s largest marketplace—SOLD OUT.

Moments of accomplishment can quickly dissipate; feelings of happiness are fleeting and temporary. Stuff of this life, is just…stuff.

And, as Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that working for you?”

Nothing in this world lasts forever.

Enter Jesus.

God not only created all things, He also took on flesh and lived among us. (Emmanuel translated means “God with us.”) God shows us the true example of how to live in this world and to not end up with that empty feeling.

Jesus–

“I am come so that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

Leave it to God to come to us, meet us where we are at and bring fullness from emptiness. He takes everything we think is right and turns it upside down and inside out.

Jesus, born in a manger.

God made human.

One innocent, murdered for all the guilty.

A King for all eternity and for all creation.

He tells us to have everything, you must lose everything about yourself. To have Jesus and life to the fullest, you must be SOLD OUT to what this world expects from you.

 

When in doubt, TRUST

When in need, GIVE

When persecuted, LOVE

When betrayed, FORGIVE

 

He says to love our enemies, even as they hate us. He asks us to extend mercy, even when we aren’t shown any. He shows us how to live in gentleness and humility even in a barbarian world. He tells us how to live everlasting when all else will fade to nothing. Give Jesus your heart, literally “selling out” to Jesus and the opposite of nothing happens.

Matthew Chapter 5 tells us:

Those who find themselves in utter desperation for Jesus will be given the Kingdom of Heaven.

The persecuted will be blessed.

The broken will be made new.

And the meek will inherit it all.

With Jesus, you will never thirst again, you will not hunger and you will have peace beyond understanding.

So, when the world has stripped your shelves bare, eaten away at every last grain you have to offer and you feel you have nothing left. That is when you experience the fullness a life with Jesus can supply.

God is our endless supply

Jesus is the Hope to fill the shelves of our hearts.

To have everything, be SOLD OUT.

And it was good.

 

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Going Into the Darkness

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“Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” Hebrews 12:2

It’s winter (I use that term loosely in Arizona!) but it’s 5 a.m. and it’s pitch dark. The path I usually run became so boring, I decided on an alternate route. It takes me in front of a deserted school. Who knew this road would have ZERO activity on it and not a single street light?!

It’s a deep, deep darkness.

Cold fear prickles the nape of my neck.

I can barely see the pavement in front of me and when a car drives by, the headlights blind me.

Even light seems treacherous when you are engulfed in darkness.

This dark, shadowy stretch of unknown is only about ½ mile. I know street lamps will light my way once I make it to the corner. “Will I make it to see those lights around the corner? Come to think of it, no one knows where I am this morning”… As these thoughts taunt me, a car blazes by and I nearly stumble over a fallen tree branch. –I pick my feet up higher.

I think about hungry coyotes, gnarly javelina, and other hidden predators as I suddenly recall every episode of Criminal Minds. –My breathing accelerates and I increase my pace.

I step further into the roadway in hopes that fewer things will trip me up. I nearly jump out of my skin as I hear the “crunch” of something off to my left. I focus on where the sound came from and see a dark figure walking what appears to be a dog.

Just as I am about to completely freak out, I come to the corner, turn and see the lighted street stretch out before me. –The pace of my heart and my running form return to normal.

Funny thing, this lighted path is where I let my guard down and stumbled up a sidewalk ramp. I scraped my hand and knee and jarred my back out of whack. Hmm…

Just like this run, you can be gliding by on your normal path and easily get tripped up by the human tendency to fall back into bad habits. And it usually hurts.

A few days later when I head out for my morning run, I head straight for the street with the school; the “dark and scary street.”

I tell myself, “If Lara Bowman can run in Colorado’s below zero temps, at 0-dark thirty, every day to honor her son in boot camp, then I can face this!”

I refuse to fear this time. I approach the black abyss and pray to God, “Protect Lara from freezing to death on her run and protect me from this fear of what could be in this darkness. Be our shield and go before us. Please light the way.”

The more I run that “shadowy run,” and refuse to fear that darkness, the stronger I feel.

Day after day, as Lara braves the freezing temperatures; motivated by her love and a promise, she understands how much farther she can push herself.

If we avoid our fears, or are not willing to do the work, we are held back from growing stronger and accomplishing amazing things.

Beyond protecting us on our running adventures, I believe that God honors each of us when we are courageous enough to face our own inner dark places. Whether it’s a past mistake, a recurring sin or addiction, or the associated worry, doubts and shame; if there’s anything making us stumble and keeping us from a full and abundant life in Christ, He will help us conquer it.

And, the more we rely the light of Christ to guide us through the darkness, the stronger Christ’s power can be revealed in us.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 1 Corinthians 12:9

And this new power and strength is intended for the good of all. It not only empowers us to face the dark places in ourselves, but also emboldens us to help others struggling in darkness.

There are many people in desperate need of some light. They (and you) may not know it, but you might be the only light that they know.  You might be the person to encourage them through their dark time and get them back on their path.

And the hard work of getting through those dark places reminds us to treasure the ease of “walking in the light.” Remain vigilant for the sin and old bad habits that so easily entangle, (as well as those sidewalks that sneak up and can cause us to stumble when we get too comfortable!)

“Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.” Isaiah 60:2

 

May you be fearless and courageous as you allow Jesus to en-lighten your race.

“This is your brain on…”

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“This is your brain on…”

For those of us growing up in the 80’s, we know this phrase all too well.  The commercial for a “Drug Free America” that began with a picture of a whole egg: “If this is your brain…” then they crack the egg and fry it in a pan. “Then this is your brain on drugs.”

The brain unraveled.

This last weekend I attended a seminar/retreat on Love and Joy (and getting more of it in life!).  The instructor, Christy Osborn, was a corporate trainer for over 20 years. She utilized studies of the brain to understand and train/retrain individuals in the corporate world.

In summary, (or if you remember from science class) your brain communicates through a system of neurons and dendrites. Thoughts are neurotransmitters (chemicals) that travel from the neuron and through/out the dendrite. Picture a tennis ball at one end (neuron) and a stem coming out of it with a bunch of tree branches at the other end (dendrite).

When a negative thought happens (and test subjects were asked to dwell on negative things), the neurotransmitter (chemical) travels from neuron, down the stem and out through the dendrite where it makes paths to other nerve cells.

When your mind dwells on negative thoughts, it produces toxic neurotransmitters.

And it isn’t pretty–

Your brain on disappointment

Your brain on sorrow

Your brain in anger

Your brain in contempt

Your brain on bitterness

Your brain on unforgiveness–

Picture that tennis ball as a dried up prune and the extending branch as a dead and gnarly, blackened, spindly thatch of thorns.

It is a sickness that translates into our lives.

My sister calls this her “bad berry theory in management”—Those people who arrive to work in terrible moods, never smiling, always complaining, gossiping and grumping about everything. Their negativity spreads like a mold or a cancer through the workplace. It happens in life and in our bodies. When we dwell in the negative, our immune response decreases, our bodies are weakened and our pain tolerance levels decrease. We are more prone to illnesses when under stress; when someone dies, when we dwell in the negative.

And just a little more bad news—as it would turn out, those negative thoughts reproduce like a cancer. They stack up on themselves like a heaping, stinking pile of rotten produce.

Negativity perpetuates negativity.

Of course, we all will experience negative thoughts from time to time (the loss of a job, a divorce, losing a loved one, etc.,); the secret is to not get stuck there!

Ready for the good news?

Positive thoughts also reproduce themselves.

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

For positive thoughts, the same process occurs with the neurotransmitters traveling from the neuron to the dendrites–

Your brain on joy

Your brain in compassion

Your brain in forgiveness

Your brain in acceptance

Your brain in encouragement

Your brain in love!

Picture a robust golden apple and a stem emerging from it with branches loaded with a bounty of beautiful, shiny green leaves.

These positive neurotransmitters are like a shot of pure joy straight to the heart. They result in emboldening the immune system, increasing your tolerance for pain and strengthening your whole body and mind.

And ready for a little more good news?! (A good practice for that idea of MORE positive!) 😉

“I’m trading my sorrows. And I’m trading my shame. And I’m laying it down for the joy of the Lord.” Israel Houghton & New Breed

Remember that stinking, rotten pile?– It can be brought back to life!

 

The power of HOPE.

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5)

We have a God who knows everything we’re going through.  He knows our hearts and our minds. He created us! And with His power in us, there is nothing man can do to us that He can’t transform to good.

“In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (Psalm 118:5)

For the doubters, unbelievers or many who are just stuck in the negativity, there is a place you can take it all and be changed.

“Anything is possible if a person believes”…“I do believe, but help me with my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Take your burdens to Jesus-He can handle your disappointments, your discouragements, your hurt, your pain, your unforgiveness and your unbelief.

“We take every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

With his power, given to you by the Holy Spirit, you can overcome; you can trade in your sorrow, your hopelessness and your pain for hope, love and joy.

Retrain your mind by taking a negative experience and locating the hope in it and the negative can transform to positive!

How does this work? Here are a couple of examples–Knowing that with Jesus, though you sorrow for your loved one who left this world too soon; you find hope in knowing you will see them again!

Or, spreading hope in the walk of life by being there for a friend who is diagnosed with cancer. Helping guide her because you survived that same diagnosis.

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Hope is knowing that:

When chaos surrounds you, there is One that can calm the stormy seas (Matthew 8:24, Mark 4:35, Luke 8:22)

When things look their darkest, there is One who can light your way (John 8:12)

There is a safe place you can lay all your grief, unforgiveness, shame, anger, bitterness, negativity and contempt

There is nothing new or negative in this world that you can think up that He doesn’t have the power to transform for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

Picture Jesus Christ betrayed, battered, bloodied and wearing that awful, thatchy, spindly crown of thorns, taking his last breath hanging on the Cross, paying the final debt for mankind and thereby enabling us all to live free from the negativity of sin–

That, my friends, is your brain on HOPE.

This is gonna hurt like…

Love to run two

THIS IS GONNA HURT…

“Hold on…Hold on to yourself. For this is gonna hurt like hell.”–Sarah Mclachlan

Two things you should know about me:

I LOVE to RUN

My day isn’t quite right if I miss out on my daily run. My thinking is foggy. My heart doesn’t beat as strong. My legs don’t hold me as upright. And if something comes to knock me out of balance, it is much easier to do when I haven’t had my run for the day.

And

I LOVE JESUS

I desire to live a life honoring God. I try to reflect the love of Jesus in what I do, how I live, how I treat others and in my heart. If I miss out on my time with the Lord, my thinking is foggy, my heart is weak, my walk is not upright and I am very easily knocked out of balance.

These two things are so entwined, interlocked and ingrained in the fibers of my life. My running time is often my time with the Lord; it is when I pray, seek and ask.  My time with the Lord is what keeps me running in this race of life.

“I’m not sick. I’m not sick. I’m not sick.”

It was the start of my weekend and I had lots of plans. I breathed deep and felt the gravelly, wheezy heaviness in my chest. I cleared my throat and began my mantra again, “I’m not sick. I’m not sick. I’m not sick.”

And as my weekend of denial progressed, the coughing began; the inability to breathe through the heaviness in my chest ended my restful nights and …

I got sick.

I hate getting sick because I know if I get out of my running regimen beyond two weeks, I have to start all over re-activating my cardio level, opening my lungs’ passageways and rebuilding atrophied muscles. The months of hard work, hills, interval training and hours pounding the pavement and in two short weeks of illness it’s flushed down the toilet.

So I fought it. Besides quoting my mantra of “not being sick,” I pushed through to keep my lungs open; I jogged, hiked and walked.

I got sicker.

It’s going around.

If you haven’t gotten it, you probably will. Your co-workers, friends and the seemingly harmless (yet, sneezing) 67 year old lady in seat 14D will ensure your immune system gets to partake in this.

Bedridden and nursing myself back with rest and fluids, I had to let go and realized a few things–

Coming back from illness is tough. Regaining wholeness and health is always an ongoing journey, and the next time I strapped on my running shoes—

–it was going to hurt like hell.

 

We live in a world steeped with sickness.

Sin, like an infection, is rampant in our world. If you are free from it now, you will catch it sooner or later. (We all fall short and we all will fall ill). And, if you are healthy, upright and steadfast, you will still teeter toward temptation. Worldly illnesses like selfishness, lying, envy, pride, hatred, bitterness, anger are just a few of the beastly infections we will face.

So how do you prepare? How do you fight them off? Even Olympic trained runners end up injured, even the healthiest of us will end up falling ill from time to time.

If we take a lesson from our bodies; we have to let go, we have to take time to rest, and we must realize we need help at times from a source other than ourselves.

Jesus, The Great Physician, came to heal the sick.

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)

If it’s a deep rooted illness–(an on-going addiction, a dangerous dance with drugs, a penchant toward pornography,) or whatever your struggle is–STOP.

Continuing on in that same sick (sinful) direction brings worse repercussions. It will lengthen your “illness.” By not allowing grace into those broken places in our lives, we stretch out our pain and suffering.

Quit doing what you are doing.

To repent simply means to turn…So turn around–Let the HEALER examine your heart and prepare your spirit, cause this is gonna hurt like…

“I came to realize that spirit, as much or more than physical conditioning, had to be stored up before a race.”-Herb Elliott, Olympic champion and world record holder in the mile.

As my physical condition was deteriorating, I built upon my spiritual conditioning.

What I desire is the freedom to breathe in the forgiveness, the hope of redemption and the power of Christ. His mercy through our “illnesses” allows a new direction. This turning and allowing a Healer’s guidance brings new strength to face the path set out before us.

 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

 

As I strap back on my running shoes, I take a deep breath. All that sitting, resting and re-hydrating as I was recovering will make my next few weeks tougher to push through what has built up in my lungs, my heart and my body. But I press on, because I know health and wholeness can be obtained again. My Healer will reward my repentance. My Healer will help me push through difficulties and rebuild me for the next time.

And I am assured that there will be a next time. –

“In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33)

So, as I continue in His direction, running this race, I know I will be more prepared to handle stumbling blocks and more able to battle future illnesses. I awaken my vision so I may know where to turn around when I get lost, and I find my hope in knowing that there is nothing in this world that  can come against me that, with the power of Christ in me, I cannot face.

May you be encouraged as you run your race.

“I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”  (Philippians 3:14)

 

May you find renewed strength as you face your own obstacles and illness and, may you always find rest and healing on your journey.