Endurance, Running, and Hope

I hate to run. Running is hard on the body, but it’s also hard on the mind. There was a phase in high school when I gave running a chance. As an uncompetitive freshman, track seemed like the best fit. I knew I could at least put one foot in front of the other, so I decided to give it a try. Because I didn’t seem to have the build of a sprinter, I ended up in the long distance division.

The greatest perk of that track season, besides building some pretty decent calf muscles, was that my best friend joined the track team too. This made practices not just tolerable, but fun. While the rest of the track team ran ahead, we would intentionally fall behind and jog slow enough to carry on a conversation.

photo by Bruno Nascimento

If my friend happened to miss a practice or if the coach caught on to my game, I had to actually apply myself and work hard. At these times, I had to convince myself to keep moving even though I wanted to stop after every milestone. For every step, I battled the internal voice to quit, slow down, or rationalize my way out of the last mile. Then came the track meet. No longer was I trying to slow down and talk. There were too many people watching and too much at stake! Unlike practice, the race was a performance.

Because I had not pushed myself during practices, I did not have the competitive edge and stamina I needed to win the race. Without doing the practice necessary, I lacked the mental and physical endurance to perform well under pressure.

So it is in spiritual matters. In Philippians, the Apostle Paul likens the Christian journey to a race, and races require endurance. When I consider spiritual endurance, persecuted Christians in other countries come to mind, but endurance can also show up in other life circumstances.

For instance, endurance might look like the daily struggle of single parenting or surviving the slow, steady thrum of chronic pain. It might look like bearing up under a hard relationship or dutifully showing up at a job you despise so that you can pay the bills. Endurance comes in many forms.

Spiritual endurance is forged in uncomfortable or painful circumstances. Endurance means long-suffering. It means having grit. It means holding on and setting your face like flint to finish the job. Honestly, endurance sometimes means weakly holding on and praying for the strength to keep going.

I did gain some helpful tools during my time on the track team, one of which was a breathing technique. I learned to breathe in time with my feet hitting the pavement. In this way, the pace was set, and I found a rhythm I could sustain to the end of the race.

Romans 5

As Romans 5 (above) assures us, through endurance character is developed. The end result of building character is hope, and God promises that His hope will not disappoint or put us to shame. So, in whatever circumstance you find yourself enduring, pound the pavement, set the pace, breathe in and out, pray, and keep going, friends. His hope will not disappoint.

Pause: Breathe in and exhale slowly. Read and meditate on Romans 5:1-5. What do you take away from this passage?

Renew: Think about a circumstance in your life that the Lord has used or is using to build your endurance. Can you see character and hope forming through that circumstance?

Next: Pray this week for someone you know who is in a long-suffering situation. Consider writing them a note of encouragement or calling to check in with them.

May the Lord strengthen our faith and build our endurance muscles.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Small Enough: An Interview with Betsy Bolick

My friend Betsy is small in stature but is a powerhouse of the faith. It is my joy and privilege to share her story on this week’s podcast episode. In our conversation, Betsy discusses ways that disability and weakness have affected her life both physically and spiritually. She is honest about her daily struggles, but equally honest about how the Lord sustains her through them.

Betsy Bolick, my guest in this week’s podcast episode and founder of Small Enough Ministries.

Betsy says that, through the process of lamenting and questioning the Lord about the way He formed her, God showed her that He made her “small enough” for the purpose that He had for her. Betsy has since started a non-profit called Small Enough Ministries, through which she ministers to college athletes, leads Bible studies, and speaks at events. She also has a podcast that focuses on encouraging women through the study of God’s Word.

During this podcast episode, Betsy shares a passage of Scripture that is particularly meaningful for her:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

II Corinthians 4: 16-18

When asked about resources she would recommend, Betsy said that she highly recommends any book by Elisabeth Elliot or Joni Eareckson Tada. She also loves The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Currently, she is reading and loving a book about lament called Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy by Mark Vroegop.

I absolutely loved this interview, and I hope you come away from it encouraged in your faith. If it resonates with you in some way, please leave a comment below or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Raising a Generation of Bible-Loving Kids

Unlike my usual blog posts, that focus on 3 principles: Pause, Renew, and Next, this blog post centers on the Next part: practically putting faith into action. Specifically, this post is about how to put faith into action in our homes, and nurture a love of God’s Word in our children.

One of the most important elements of passing faith to the next generation is inspiring a genuine love of God’s Word. No, this is not a how-to article, written by an expert giving you a step-by-step guide of how to do just that. Rather, it’s an honest look at what is working in our home, starting with a few fun resources that my four boys love!

The Action Bible

This fun, beautifully illustrated, comic-book style Bible is a hit in our home. When our children opened it for Christmas one year, they could not put it down. You know it’s a winner when you find them reading on the couch for fun, at a time they could have been playing. There have even been occasions when one of my children has told me about Bible stories that I couldn’t remember teaching them. When I asked where they learned that story, often it was the Action Bible that taught them.

The Action Bible is exciting, bringing Bible stories to life for young readers.

This comic book has inspired a passion in my boys for the stories, characters, and plot line of the Word of God. They come back to it over and over, so in my book it’s a winner.

Seeds Family Worship

Every year at Christmas, my husband and I give our children each three gifts that represent the gifts the Wisemen brought Jesus: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Gold is the fun gift, Frankincense is something they will wear, and Myrrh is a spiritual gift. One year, for their spiritual gift, I gave each of my boys a Seeds Family Worship CD. We were so pleased to discover that each song was written directly from Bible verses. The best part: the songs were actually fun to listen to!

This is just one of many Seeds Family Worship albums that my family loves!

Unlike a lot of Children’s music, the songs aren’t cheesy. They are catchy, however. Once, one of my kids complained that a Seeds Family Worship song was stuck in his head. I responded, “Great, I’m glad to know that Bible verse is in your mind.” Without trying, he had memorized Scripture!

The Daily Audio Bible

The Daily Audio Bible for Kids is such an easy, accessible, and attention-sustaining way for children to hear the Bible.

One of our family’s newest traditions is quickly becoming a household favorite. We listen to the Daily Audio Bible for Kids each night before our boys go to bed. My husband and I have both listened to the Daily Audio Bible app for years. Recently, we discovered there’s a kid version of the app, in which a child reads one chapter of the Bible per day. My kids love listening to another kid read to them. While the adult app reads more Scripture and loses their attention, the kid’s version is only one chapter per day, so they listen much more attentively. Sometimes my oldest son reads along while he listens. I give a big thumbs up for this app, as it presents the Bible to our entire family and ends our day with time in God’s Word.

The Beginners Bible

The Beginner’s Bible is a gentle and fun introduction to the Bible through stories.

We have the Beginner’s Bible on CD, and my third-born child loves to listen to the stories as we drive. As a younger sibling, he sometimes spends hours in the van, accompanying his brothers to school and various appointments. Listening to these Bible stories as we drive is a great way to not only fill up time, but also instill a love of God and His Word.

Of course, the most important way to instill a love of God’s Word in our children is to love it ourselves. Let your children catch you reading the Bible. Share what you’re learning with them in conversation. Ask them what they’ve been learning in Sunday School or Children’s church. Talk about Scripture around the dinner table, in the car, or while taking a walk. Your kids seeing that your faith is real and active is a key element in desiring it for themselves. No one wants a regimen. We all desire authenticity and relationship – with God and with each other.

The list above is not exhaustive, but these are a few resources our family is loving. Feel free to try them out for yourself and pass them on. If you have other ideas, music, books, or apps that your family enjoys, please comment below or share on PRN’s Facebook page! We are in this thing together friends, and raising a new generation of believers is a gift and a calling. Let’s spur each other on!

Pause, Renew, Next!

The Art of Losing: An Interview with Marti Ahlman

In this podcast episode my guest, Marti Ahlman, eloquently recounts her experiences of grief and loss. She shares how the Lord has provided for and sustained her through each loss: from losing material possessions, to the loss of her husband. As a retired English teacher, Marti appreciates fine literature, and she uses the poem, One Art, by Elizabeth Bishop to illustrate her experience.

Marti Ahlman wears many hats: Daughter, Caregiver, Mother, and Grandmother

Marti shares about how through each loss she has encountered, she found the Lord faithful to provide for everything she needed: from food, to clothes, to a place to live. She also talks about relationships in which she was cared for during seasons of loss.

In the episode, Marti expressed that one book she appreciates is Hinds Feet on High Places, because it makes sense of the different seasons of life. More than any other book, however, she has found the Bible to be the book that she returns to and meditates on.

Scripture passages that she mentions in this podcast include:

  • Psalm 23 – which became literal for her, walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and living beside still waters.
  • Philippians 3: 7-9 – counting everything as loss for the sake of Christ
  • John 15 – the painful pruning process of suffering and the fruit it produces
  • II Corinthians 4: 17 – affliction preparing us for an eternal weight of glory

If something you heard in today’s podcast resonated with you, please comment below, or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

Pause, Renew, Next!