Monday, August 25, 2014

"Money On My Mind"

Lord Jesus, thank you for being the provider of all that we could ever ask or hope for in giving us Jesus.  You have given us life, breath, the ability to run, move, dance, sing, and play outside.  You continually fill our hearts with your peace, grace, and unconditional love.  And yet you know us.  You see us in our weakest hours.  I confess that this week alone you have seen me when I have been literally unable to calm down because I've been so anxious about finances.  You've seen me as I've spent money on things I don't need, and you've seen me as I've disdained money as something awful from the enemy -- neither of which was good...!  And instead of looking at me with disappointment and disgust, you lovingly remind me that you are completely satisfied with me not because of my performance but because of Christ's perfect performance on my behalf.  You are far too good to us, Lord.  I ask that you would fill me with the Holy Spirit and speak through me.  You know I lack so much wisdom and discipline in the area of finances, but I trust that you are all-powerful, Lord, and that somehow your power is made perfect in our weakness.  I pray that I wouldn't write what I want to be true but that I would write what your Word says is true.  May your glory and honor be manifest in my simple words this evening, Father.  Amen.


A few months ago, I was driving through one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Oklahoma City with two of my best friends.  I have driven through that area so many times, but this particular evening, the sun was setting so beautifully that everything from the trees to the rooftops seemed to sparkle.  As we drove along, I envisioned each home with its perfect, little inhabitants -- wearing all J. Crew, praying over their meals, processing through their days as a family, lounging on beautiful Pottery Barn couches after dinner.  Even though I know that is not reality, it's so easy to imagine, "They have everything they could ever want.  They have to be happy."  

I remember the thought running through my head, "Wow.  If I ever get to live here one day...!"  I pictured a life of peace, comfort, and ease -- five mile runs every morning, the perfect marriage, angelic children, cookies always in the oven, rocking chairs on the front porch, every room always clean, every piece of silver always shined and sparkling, the whole nine yards.  Again definitely not reality, but you know how the imagination works.

About the time I was drifting far off into dreamland, one of my friends began to describe a John Piper sermon he had listened to in college.  In the sermon, Piper spoke about how as humans, we are quick to desire for ourselves kingdoms here on earth and forget that our true kingdom -- our forever home -- is in heaven.  So we do everything we can to fill our lives with peace and comfort and ease and security and beauty.  Some days that looks like a new set of dishes from William Sonoma and other days it looks like a fabulous new outfit from Nordstrom Rack (I mean it was on sale, right?!).  But the reality is that every single thing on this earth except for the souls of men will one day pass away completely.  Every lamp, every pillow, every blouse, every iPhone, every candlestick will one day be gone.

Whether it is a big, white house with navy shutters and beautiful flowerbeds or the newest dress from Anthropologie, I see that my fleshly tendency is to lust after the things of this world, thinking that if and when I get those things, my heart will be more satisfied.  I will be one step closer to the future, better version of myself I hope to become.  I know that for me personally, my high (misplaced) value of money isn't so much about the money itself but about what it can buy, what I think it will give me.

For example, I find that when I'm struggling with deeply desiring the approval of others, I want others to think that I'm pretty and stylish.  So I spend any extra money I get on new clothes or getting a manicure or pedicure.  Are clothes and manicures bad?  Absolutely not!  In fact, I think that when done with the right motives and heart attitude, shopping and pedicures can be so relaxing and the sweetest treats!  But admittedly, so often my motives are not pure.  Usually I find that even my purest desires can be somewhat tainted with the desire to build a kingdom for myself.  I want others to think highly of me.  I want others to affirm and validate me.  It's all about me.  

Y'all there is this idol of image that I am so quick to serve.  I want to be seen as the fashionable one.  I want to be known as having expensive taste and good style.  I enjoy eating at nice restaurants.  I want to live in a beautiful, inviting home with fresh flowers on the kitchen counter and a volcano candle burning on the coffee table.

And honestly, sometimes there is absolutely nothing wrong with those things.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to wear a cute outfit or buying a nice dress or going out for a fancy dinner.  I truly don't see anything wrong with creating homey, beautiful spaces and environments where people feel comfortable, relaxed, and at ease.  But I know that often my motives are mixed.  A new dress can just be so fun and such a sweet blessing.  Or it can become something I want to wear to impress other people or to be seen as the one who is "put-together" and pretty.  An inviting home can be a wonderful place for people to come together in community and have fun and be known and safe, but I can also look to nice things to provide me with the comfort and security I should be looking for in Jesus.  Our lives can be all about ourselves.  Or they can be all about Jesus.  We can use the things of this world to try and create heaven on earth, or the things of this world can point us to heaven.

"For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come." ~Hebrews 13:14

We can enjoy a great party, a beautiful dress, an inviting home and think to ourselves, "Wow.  What a great day.  My life rocks."  Or we can enjoy those things with the perspective that no matter how enjoyable the things of this world may be, they are only a mere shadow of the kingdom that is to come -- the kingdom of heaven, where death will be no more.  All the sad things will come undone.  We will be perfectly united to our Father, worshipping and enjoying Him for all of our days.  Our hearts will be fully and completely satisfied.  We will have absolutely no lack, no desire, no want for anything more.  

"Behold!  I tell you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall all be changed.  For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?'  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ." ~1 Corinthians 15:51-57

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.  And He who is seated on the throne said, 'Behold I am making all things new.'  Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'  And He said to me, 'It is done!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment." ~Revelation 21:1-6

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also." ~Matthew 6:19-21

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.  Then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." ~Matthew 13:44

The things of this world can be so appealing, and they can seem as though they'll meet our deepest needs and desires.  But the truth is, have you ever bought a new purse and thought, "I love this so much!  I will never need a new purse again as long as I live!"  Only to find that a few months later, the Kate Spade outlet is having an incredible sale and... "Oh my gosh.  This bag is perfect.  If I get this, I will never need another new bag again as long as I live."  I'm laughing.  I use that example because it's true, as in I've so been that person.  The treasures we think we can store up for ourselves on this earth, which will make us more valuable or important or worthy of love, will be here today and gone tomorrow.  And even if they're still here tomorrow, chances are we'll be tired of them and onto desiring something else.

But there is a treasure that lasts forever.  There is a gift that we can never lose, that will never end, and that is a relationship with Jesus.  It's incredible that God loved us so much that even when we wanted nothing to do with Him whatsoever, He made a way for us to know Him.  He initiated with us.  He pursued us in sending Jesus, who though He was the King of the universe came to earth with absolute humility, bravery, and love.  He came so that we could know God, so that we could see what He is like -- hear His voice, see His actions, experience His love, grace, power, and healing.  He came to restore us back into a relationship with God.  In the beginning when sin entered the world, relationship between God and humans was destroyed -- not because God didn't love us, but because we chose to go our own way apart from Him.  We chose sin instead of God.  We chose our own kingdoms instead of God's kingdom.  But God loved us so much that He didn't leave us to destroy ourselves.  He sent Jesus, who came so that we might be saved from our sins.  He came so that we might have LIFE and have it to the fullest!

Jesus lived the life we never could.  Though He was perfect and didn't deserve death, He died in our place.  And in doing so, He took on our sins and gave us His righteousness.  Everything good Jesus ever did is now attributed to those who call upon Him as Savior and Lord.  He forgives us of all of our sins -- past, present, and future.  And He gives us the gift of salvation, of knowing God intimately and personally -- who though He sees the darkest things about us, loves us more than we could ever imagine.  Jesus is the true treasure, the lasting treasure who changes everything now and for eternity.

"But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.  But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into run and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs." ~1 Timothy 6:6-10

Consider a few of these questions to help you process where you're at in your journey with Jesus in regard to money...

Every dollar in your bank account -- where did it come from?
I once heard that if you want to know where your treasure is, look at your bank statement.
On what do you spend your money?  Your heart will be close by.
Are you storing up your treasures on earth?  Or in heaven?
How are you stewarding what God has given you?
For what purposes do you spend your money?
In what ways do you seek glory for yourself?
What does the idolized "future, better version of yourself" look like?
How are you using money to serve that idol?
Have you sat down and spent time working through your budget with the Lord?
Would you consider sitting down with someone who is older and wiser and asking for help with your budgeting, giving, saving, and spending?
Who could you ask?
Are you giving to the kingdom of heaven?
How can you trust the Lord with your finances?
What is most valuable to you?
How does the fact that this world is not your permanent home affect how you spend your money?

I'm not going to lie.  These questions are SO convicting to me.  It is true that sometimes I can get so stressed out about the money itself.  Do I have enough for gas this month?  Am I putting enough in savings?  Am I giving enough to the church?  How much should I spend on coffee?  Should I never have coffee again?  Is it okay to buy flowers?  When is it alright to buy a new pair of shoes?  How much is too much to spend?   But amidst any anxiety, we can have peace because of who our God is!  When we trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He gives us the Holy Spirit to come and live inside our hearts.  Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit came, that He would guide us into all truth.  We have the incredible blessing and privilege as believers to have direct access to the Lord through Christ and the Holy Spirit.  God does not want us to be controlled by our finances or the things of this world, so I truly believe that when we ask Him for His wisdom and guidance in our spending, saving, and giving, He will lead us in the way He would have us go.  I know that for me, however, so often I just don't ask Him.  I am impatient and want an immediate answer.  I often think I know best and choose what is right in my own eyes, rather than asking for the Lord's direction.  But I know that He knows best, and so many times in life, things would be so much less painful in the long-term, if I would simply ask Jesus and wait for Him to answer in the short-term.  

Just yesterday, the Lord reminded me of when He called Matthew (aka Levi) to come and be one of His disciples.  Levi was sitting in his tax booth, working for the Roman government, basically cheating the Jewish people out of tons of money. Everyone hated him.  He was despised by pretty much the whole of society.  And while he was in the middle of his extortion, his loneliness, his shame, Jesus called to him and said, "Follow me."  And leaving everything, Levi rose and followed Him.  Jesus knows that we are far from perfect.  He sees all of the ways we look to the things of this world to satisfy us instead of looking to Him.  He sees us in the midst of our filth and sin and countless mistakes and invites us to follow Him.  He loves us not because of what we've done or haven't done, but He loves us because He made us.  And by His grace, when we trust Him to be the Lord of our lives, He is committed to us forever.  He will never leave us or forsake us.  He delights in us and will continue to show us mercy, grace, and unconditional love until we meet Him in the best embrace of our lives in the kingdom that is to come.


Lord, we just confess that we are quick to hoard and store up things on this earth that have no eternal value whatsoever.  All of our stuff will one day be burned up, but what will last forever is our relationship with you.  Help us to see you in your glory and desire you above all else.  We cannot change on our own, Lord.  We don't just need to revise our budgets.  We need new hearts.  And in order to receive new hearts, we need you.  Lord, we place ourselves, our money, our misplaced desires for value and status, and all our stuff in your hands.  All we have is yours.  Help us to steward the money you have entrusted to us in such a way that is honoring to you.  Help us to be cheerful givers.  Help us to see all spending in this world in light of eternity.  We need your wisdom, Lord.  We need your grace.  Help us to take steps of faith to trust you in the area of finances.  You are our good and perfect provider, Lord.  Thank you for convicting us of our sin and taking such good care of us.  Thank you that because of Jesus, our identities are not found in the size of our homes or the things in our closets but in the fact that we are deeply loved by the Creator of the Universe.  We don't deserve you, Jesus, but we are so thankful for you.  We love you forever!

Sunday, August 24, 2014


"How big your God is
 directly effects how
 little and worthless
 your idols are."

We have constant access to MORE, BETTER & BIGGER things. No wonder so many people fall into the trap of making an idol out of possessions and wealth.
 Our culture screams at us that we are
     NOT ENOUGH if you don't have ENOUGH nice things.

"I loved owning certain things even when I didn't actually need it. However, by me possessing it-it began to possess me."
-(Organized Heart)

There have been times in my life where money and having excess have become an idol. Here is a Truth that is brought to my heart every time these things tend to come before God in my life:

"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:24 NIV)

I have been learning how our relationship with our money and possessions have 3 phases:

1. Acquisition: when we OBTAIN it
2. Ownership: when we USE or STORE things we have obtained
3. Relinquishment: when we get RID of the things we owned

Now, each of these phases can have healthy and unhealthy manifestations.
-UNHEALTHY-We hoard money/things and we want more than we need. Our possessions become an idol.
-HEALTHY-We exhibit biblical stewardship.

 Now with our sinful, selfish nature it can be hard to give of our possessions and money with a cheerful heart. However, I have realized that one of the best ways to protect myself from the love of money and idolizing possessions is by 
GIVING. So, how do we give and where do we give? My husband and I are currently learning about how to prioritize where our money is spent and here is what we are trying to implement:

1. Giving to OBLIGATIONS:
-take care of your family first
-2nd, give to your teachers (church, pastors, mentors, etc.)

"Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor." (‭Galatians‬ ‭6‬:‭6‬ NIV)

"Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (‭1 Timothy‬ ‭5‬:‭8‬ NIV)

-Give to opportunities that arise in your life where you feel God is wanting to use you.
-Give to those especially in the faith.

"Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (‭Galatians‬ 6:10 NIV)

"But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you —see that you also excel in this grace of giving." (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭8‬:‭7‬ NIV)

A truth that enables me to give is that
This reality keeps me from idolatry and finding happiness in money and possessions.
 The more we love this life's rewards (leisure, power, popularity, financial security), the more we will discover
The best way to enjoy life, therefore, is to loosen our greedy grasp on earthly rewards so that we can be free to follow Christ.  In doing so, we will inherit eternal life and begin at once to experience the benefits of following Christ.

"For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it."
(1 Timothy 6:7 NIV)

So now that we know WHO to give to, let's explore HOW giving should be:

1. Periodic:
-regular intervals out of your income (e.g. tithing)

2. Personal:
-each person should give, no matter the finances of the church, because you are really giving to God, not to an organization.

3. Planned:
-God loves a cheerful giver
"Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭9‬:‭7‬ NIV)

4. Progressive:
-in keeping with your income

5. Plentiful

6. Private:
-our Father sees our giving
"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭3-4‬ NIV)

Here are a few things I have learned about God & money below...

-Our dependence for anything should be on God. He gives and takes away and we are only stewards of what we have been given:

"The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts."(1 Samuel 2:7 NIV)

"The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers." (Leviticus 25:23 NIV)

-God sets the terms for how we can use wealth:

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV)

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth,which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Invest in real, eternal value today!

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." (‭Matthew 6:19 NIV)

"The house of the righteous contains great treasure, but the income of the wicked brings ruin. Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil." (Proverbs 15:6, 16 NIV)

"Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her." (Proverbs 8:10, 11 NIV)


The only thing that lasts into Heaven are God's Word and peoples' souls.  Are you investing in these or things that will be left behind after you die?
Invest in eternity and not in this world where things do not last.   Give in such a way that you honor God every time you spend your money. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Runnin' with Jesus

Lord Jesus, you are so good.  I cannot thank you enough for who you are to me.  In every season, you prove yourself faithful.  You are so gracious to give me yourself each and every day.  Father, I confess that I have so little to offer you today -- apart from some serious anxiety and stress.  But thank you that you can take even the most broken of circumstances, hearts, and minds and make them new.  I pray that you would use me in my brokenness today to make your truth plain to us.  Holy Spirit, I pray that you would fill me.  Exchange my heart for yours.  Exchange my mind for yours.  Exchange my words for yours.  Exchange my eyes for yours.  May I not walk or speak according to my flesh but according to your wisdom.  May I look to you.  You have taught me so much in the past few years about exercise, fitness, and walking with you.  I pray that you would remind me of your truth and ask that your name would be glorified.  I pray that you would use my broken words to make your name great and encourage others to run with you all the days of their lives. You're too good to us, Lord.  Thank you in advance for teaching us more of who you are and how we can draw near to you in every situation.


A couple of years ago, I had the grandiose idea that I ought to run a marathon.  Me.  Caitlyn Kutch.  Ya'll.  I didn't run.  Actually I'm quite confident that at the time I started dreaming all this up in my mind, I had run two or three miles max -- ever.  Yet something within me decided it was time to try something seemingly impossible.  I suppose I'm kind of one of those people at times -- those for whom nothing seems impossible.  

Like all endeavors, my motives in running the marathon were undoubtedly mixed.  I wanted to learn how to depend on the Lord for everything -- even something as seemingly simplistic as running a mile.  I wanted to learn how to trust the Lord for something I thought would be dreadfully difficult.  Furthermore, I remember wanting to establish a pattern of discipline in my life.  And naturally, I know I desired a fit, toned runner's body, which I was sure would inevitably lead to some hunky, dreamy, Jesus-lovin' fella falling in love with me.  Ammiiiirighhhtt?  Granted, I would have never admitted that.  I may not have even been able to articulate those things at the time, but over the past few years, the Lord has graciously made me very aware of the sinful, selfish motivations which are intricately woven into all of my actions.  Oh the sinful nature -- how exhausting it can be...!

All that being said, what began as a desire to run 26.2 miles became a glorious (and painful) adventure with Jesus that I will forever treasure.  Quickly I found that as glamorous as anything like running a marathon may sound in theory, the tune is much lower and darker at 6 a.m. when it's 45 degrees outside, and you need to run 5 miles before a full day of class and work.  Training for a marathon -- like any other athletic event, I'm sure -- is a commitment.  Heck, life is a commitment.  Eventually you have to decide -- I'm either in this or I'm not.  I'm going to press on or I'm going to settle for defeat.  

Eventually, however, I found that though I began with the greatest of intentions of commitment and discipline, my weeks were soon marked by series after series of faithfulness and unfaithfulness alike.  There were weeks I would run every single day, and there were weeks it was a miracle if I ran twice.  

As disciplined as I tried to be, the truth was I just wasn't disciplined enough.  As much as I wanted to be faithful to train every day, inevitably something would come up.  There were simply no worldly factors motivating enough to get me to the end -- or sometimes even the start.  No amount of people telling me I looked good or encouraging my work ethic gave me the strength and endurance I needed to push me to the finish line.  Instead I found that when I was working out of those desires, the path eventually just got longer and longer and longer with no end in sight.

I desperately needed deeper motivation and greater strength than I possessed in my own rite.  I remember the night before I was supposed to run 19 miles.  It was one of our last long runs before the race.  I was driving the route to map it all out for the next morning, and I had to pull over because I was physically sick.  I remember saying, "Lord, there is no freaking way.  There is NO WAY.  I can't do this.  I haven't trained well enough.  I haven't been faithful.  I know we've come a long way, but let's just call it good.  It has been a fun adventure.  You've taught me a lot.  I've run 16 miles.  That's a feat in itself.  Don't you think?"

And the truth is, I am confident that I could have left it there, and the Lord would not have been any more or less pleased with me.  I could have decided that evening I'd had enough, and God's approval of me would not have vacillated or changed in any way, shape, or form.  In His abundant mercy and grace, His approval of us is not based upon our performance, our victories, our failures, or our motivations, but His approval of us is based upon the life that Christ lived on our behalf.  

But yet, while I didn't have to run 19 miles that day for the Lord to love me or to prove my value or worth, I knew that in the stillness of my heart, He was inviting me to trust Him.  

"Run in faith, CaitCait.  Run in faith, believing I will provide for you, not because you did anything to deserve my provision.  Not because you trained well or  represented me well for the kingdom of heaven but because of who I am.  I will be faithful to you ALWAYS.  You are precious to me.  I have loved you with an everlasting love.  No, you didn't do anything to deserve my love or to win my affections, you simply have it -- always and forever.  Put your full weight upon me.  Lean into me, and believe that I am who I say I am.  I will never leave you or forsake you.  You allow me to be who I am when you allow me to care for you and supply you with everything you need.  Fix your eyes on me.  Your strength will come in settling down in complete dependence upon me.  The truth is, you can't do this alone, but rely on me.  Know that I am enough.  I bore the weight of the sins of the world on my shoulders.  I have defeated sin and death.  Believe I will carry you through this.  Trust me.  I love you."

He was inviting me to let go of my pride, my fears, my inadequacies and lean into Him as the One who gives life, strength, joy, and peace to my soul and body alike.  He was inviting me to run with Him.  He was inviting me to depend not on myself or my own efforts but on His sufficiency.

He was inviting me to experience Himself.

All throughout the Bible, God was making a way for us to know Him and experience perfect unity with Him forever.  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, the mountains, the trees, the flowers, the birds, the lizards, and the lily pads alike.  He created everything under the sun and called them good.  Likewise He created man and woman (Adam and Eve), and He called them good too because they were.  They lived in perfect union with God, enjoying Him and delighting in Him and His creation every second of the day.  Until one day, the serpent Satan came to Eve and asked her, "Did God really say not to eat from that tree?"  He made her question God's character and the validity of His word.  And ultimately, she chose to reject God's truth for the lies the serpent was feeding her.  Adam and Eve, thinking they could decide for themselves what was best, chose to go their own way apart from God.  Sin, death, brokenness, pain, and evil then entered the world.  Nothing was ever the same, and that is the world we have inherited.  But God never intended to leave mankind in that wretched state forever.  From the very beginning, He intended to send His one and only son Jesus to take our place and die the death we deserve, so that we might be able to experience Him and be one with Him for eternity.  Jesus delighted in coming to earth to save us from our sins.

God delighted in giving us Himself, so that we might know Him deeply and perfectly forever.  We were made to know God.  We were made to depend on Him.  We were made to experience perfect unity with Him.  And apart from Him, life just isn't as God intended it to be.  But when we place our faith in Christ, God not only saves us from our sins, He gives us even more of Himself in giving us the Holy Spirit.  When we trust that Jesus is who He says He was -- the very Son of God -- and desire Him to be the Lord of our lives, He gives us the Holy Spirit, who comes to live inside our hearts and impart God's power to us daily.  Thus for those who believe in and follow Jesus, the very love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control of Jesus is living inside of us.

Not only has He offered me the forgiveness of my sins through Jesus, but through Christ, God has offered me a relationship with Himself.  And daily He continues to offer me Himself -- in conversations with heart friends, in smiles and laughter, in the beautiful expanse of nature, in the simple joys of early morning cups of coffee, and even in running.

Running is something I have grown to love and value deeply because I've found that more often than not, when I'm running, I experience deep intimacy with the Lord.  By God's grace, exercising has become an opportunity to completely depend upon the Lord.  Every time I run or go workout, I have a choice to either work out of my own strength or to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and work out of the strength of the Lord.  Every time I step outside to run, whether it's one mile or three or fifteen miles, the Lord presents me with an opportunity to trust Him, to believe He's with me, to take a step of faith, and to worship Him.  Every time I run, I get to tangibly experience God's goodness and grace lavished upon me in the way He sustains me until the very end.

Exercise is such a gift from the Lord!  But like any good gift, I know I can quickly demonize it or idolize it.  I can find all of my significance in how much I'm exercising or feel absolutely worthless when I haven't worked out in a couple of days.  I can make it all about myself.  I can use it as a way to manipulate my body to look a certain way to gain more approval and affection from others.  But there have also been times when I've been battling depression, I've wanted more than anything to be able to get outside and exercise, but I literally couldn't move.  I felt so paralyzed and found myself stuck in a place of idleness.  But it was in one of those moments, the Lord impressed on my heart that the enemy wants us to be idle in every sense of the word.  He wants to us to be idle in the way we pursue other people, in the way we share our faith and talk about Jesus, and in the way we live and move and exercise.  But God has not called us to a life of idleness.  He's called us to a life of engaging in activity and relationships with others and Himself.  He's called us to walk with Him, to run with Him, to rest with Him, to dwell with Him and in Him all the days of our lives.  He's called us to follow Him.  And the best part is, He doesn't expect us to just suck it up, take a deep breath, and walk outside.  He promises that with each step we take, He will empower us.  He will give us His strength.

If I could encourage ya'll in any way in this area of your lives, it would be to ask God what He would have you trust Him for today, this week, this month, this year.  Maybe He's asking you to trust Him to supply you with the strength and energy to run 2 miles.  Maybe He's asking you to trust Him that your value is not found in how many miles you run or don't run.  Maybe He's asking you to look to worshipping Him as your sole source of motivation for exercising.  Maybe He's asking you to rely on Him for the big things and the little things alike.

Whatever He is calling you to specifically today, I am confident that in every moment, He is offering Himself to you.  God loves you.  He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because that is what He is like.  He knows our deepest needs will only ever be met in Him.  He invites us to trust Him, to believe He is good, to depend on Him, and to run with Him for a lifetime.  Though we don't see Him physically beside us today, we can know with certainty He's there.  And one day, that sweet, glorious, precious day, we will see Him face to face at the finish line, where I'm confident we will have a greeting unlike any other greeting before.  We could never make it there on our own, but by His grace, He will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up on us.  Thank you, Jesus!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fitness Fetish

This phrase began a long, difficult, but 
journey through my fitness obsession.

If I don't look like this girl, I need to work harder, right?  Well I didn't want to be last so I guess I needed to work as hard I could in order to achieve this "perfect, fit bod".

This belief is where the 
idol of
began to control my thoughts.

Starting my sophomore year of high school, I knew I would be up against hundreds of other, very athletic women to try out for the high school volleyball teams.  I was following behind the legend of my older brother who had not only been crowned 'Homecoming King' and 'Mr. MC' (Midland Christian) but was also the star athlete and quarterback for the football team.   I walked into high school with pressure (I had placed on myself) to be the starting 'Libero' (back row specialist) for the Varsity team and be in the newspaper for any position I could claim for myself…only then, I thought, would I be content and valued.

This goal was exciting and good at first until it became my ultimate purpose.  My exercise addiction started with this goal and I would practice at 2-a-days for hours and come home and run or workout more.   I thought I hadn't done enough unless my body had burned up every ounce of strength and energy I had that day.

With the cycle of eating very healthy and working out anywhere between 1-5 hours each day for 2 years, my body began to eat itself.  Without realizing it, I had gone from
127 lbs. to 103 lbs.
and was on the verge of destroying my body.

I am convinced I had what is called Female Athlete Triad where you can have:

  • Irregular or absent menstrual cycles
  • Always feeling tired and fatigued
  • Problems sleeping
  • Stress fractures and frequent or recurrent injuries
  • Often restricting food intake
  • Constantly striving to be thin
  • Eating less than needed in an effort to improve performance or physical appearance
  • Cold hands and feet

I figured once I got to college "everything would go back to being balanced and happy again" because the high school pressures wouldn't be upon me anymore.  However, the obsession with working out had become so much a part of my life that I believed "if I miss a day I will be off, depressed or gain weight".  So, the idol of fitness continued into my freshman year and if I ran less than 5 miles a day, I thought I had failed that day.  One of my favorite things to hear was "Lindsay, you look SO GOOD and FIT/SKINNY".  I know most, if not all girls, LOVE this compliment.  The more I heard it, the more I accepted it as my identity.  I was the 
"fit/skinny girl" I had to keep this title or I felt like my identity was being taken from me.

Later in college, however, I had a wake up call.  From beating my body for years with under eating and over working out, my stomach decided it needed to riot and take over.  I was burning so many calories that I started giving into the carbs I had seen as "poison" before.  One handful of cereal...led to another...which led to another.  I wish I was kidding, but I privately or publicly would down an entire cereal box in one sitting almost daily because my body got sick of me not giving it the nutrients it needed.

I now thought I needed to work off MORE than this extra amount I was consuming.  In God's goodness and grace, He sent a trial to help me realize

I was slowly killing myself with my addiction to fitness.

I needed to stop and slow down before it was too late.

I was in a 5K race for my sorority in college and decided I wanted to get the fastest time I possibly could. (If you haven't noticed, I am a 
struggling perfectionist, and God is working on me daily:) )

I got close to the finish line and...."RIP"...I felt it send a tingle down my knee.  I tore cartilage in my knee and soon found out I wouldn't be able to RUN, for months!

My identity in being the:
"fit/skinny girl" 
who ran a lot was no longer.
 I gained a some weight and in my skewed self-image, I saw myself as a failure.  My emotions were everywhere...UP one day, DOWN the next.  I hated what I looked like and hated that I was so controlled by my fitness plan, that now, when I could barely walk without pain, my life seemed to lack purpose.

Where did I go wrong?
 This is where I went wrong:

I lived for a created thing 
(fit body, awards, achieved goals, positions, etc.) 

instead of our Creator.

I moved from standing on a Firm Foundation (God),

 to rocky soil (relying on working out for comfort).
-Matthew 7:24-27

Cheesy but true:
 "with every TEST there is a TESTIMONY

and with every MESS there is a MESSAGE."

My mess and trial of tearing cartilage in my knee ended up drawing me
  I experienced more internal joy and satisfaction once I learned to turn to God and not to fitness for my ultimate SOURCE and COMFORT.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8 NIV)

God soon taught me more about what it looks like to seek balance in my life.  He gave me this picture of running a race to help me understand what it looks like to have idols in my life versus running toward Him in this life:

What this looks like:

-over-doing -
 (Getting "off track")
 I run too far to the track by doing something too much and becoming obsessed with it.  The idol becomes something I must do daily, or I feel like a failure.  It becomes one of the first things I think about when I wake up and I would chose it over spending time with God or others.

(Getting "off track")
 After I wear myself so thin (physically and emotionally) from over-doing for too long,  I end up hating whatever it was I was seeking to satisfy me.  So, I become apathetic, lose motivation and give up.  Running in this direction, I start to struggle more with depression because whatever I thought would bring me joy (apart from Christ), sadly failed to satisfy me.

(Staying "on the track")
 This is where God wants us, because this leads to life and peace!  You aren't running off to the right/over-doing things or to the left/under-doing things but are fixing your eyes toward the end of the race.  This is when we are fixing our eyes on Jesus and God's Truth and not toward the crowd who yell at us to "do more!" or "do nothing!".

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. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
(Hebrews 12:1, 2 NIV)

God took my MESS and made it a MESSAGE. He redeemed fitness from being an idol in my life to becoming an avenue for me to worship Him and know Him deeper.  I felt led to use my testimony to help other women who also struggling with finding balance in this area of fitness.  So, I recently finished my Personal Trainer Certification and am looking to use it to help women understand how they can also link their spiritual life to physical exercise.  Below are a few practical ideas of what this looks like for me.


1. Remind myself WHY I workout-

  -remember my "body is a temple"
  -it boosts my energy to serve God and others
  -it helps me sleep better
  -it can be super fun
  -it builds my realtionship with God and others
  -I grow stronger so I can serve and play with my husband & friends (and kids   

2. While I workout out, I read/listen to something that BUILDS
 my relationship with God-

-Listen to a sermon podcast (Mars Hills Church, Village Church, etc.)
-Listen to an audiobook about growing in your relationship with God
-Listen to music without cussing/sexual impurity (aka I stopped listening to secular rap while I exercised and 'Lecrae' Pandora became my jam)

3. Memorize scripture-
        -I write mine on index cards and put them on a ring to flip through them as I     

    "​​The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace." (Romans 8:6 NIV)

4. Set a limit on how much/often I would workout- 
-I committed to not working out more than 5 times a week
- ​​​A healthy range is to at least workout about 30-45 minutes for 5 days or average about 150 minutes/week.

  “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work. (Exodus 20:8-10 NIV)

5. PRAY-
-Use this time to pray for the world, friends, family, others and yourself.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is ​​​God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

6. Build relationships with people -
-Use this time to meet for accountability with a trusted friend
-Train for a race with others in order to grow a friendship with them

​​As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17 NIV)

7. Know your BMI and stay in the HEALTHY range-

I've tried many paths (with over-doing or under-doing fitness), 
and they did bring  happiness 
for a short season.  
But, the "race" in any area of life (food, friendships, family, fitness, future plans, finances and having fun) is only satisfying if you are
running toward Christ.


Be like Paul:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 
-2 Timothy 4:7