Finish the race

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“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8)

While reading this verse in Ecclesiastes this morning, I couldn’t help but think of Paul’s words in Hebrews 12:1:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

Finishing a race is one of the most satisfying feelings — the rush of endorphins, the pride of accomplishment, the relief from pain, the exhaustion from hard work. But actually running the race is taxing, draining and tiring — both physically and mentally.
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Some people might tackle long marathons, others might take on a 5K, and others might face a mile-long race. Some runners have years of training, with a solid knowledge and awareness for the minutiae of the race. Others are new to running, and it might take time and hard work to get faster.

If runners are diligent and patient with training, they will improve. But to succeed in these races, the runners need more than just physical training. The runner must possess a certain mindset — a resolve to finish, no matter what. Dedication. Perseverance. Motivation. Purpose.

In the same way, our spiritual race requires this same resilience and patience. We can’t afford to be nonchalant during our preparation or when we’re running our race. Paul recognized this in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step.”

We can’t go into this spiritual race that is life without ensuring our minds are fixed with purpose on the ultimate prize and goal. We need to set our eyes on God, as we trudge up difficult hills, coast along flat terrain, gasp for breath, stumble on roots and rocks, pass by other runners, and hit our stride.

So much of the battle with running takes place in the mind. If you convince yourself you can’t take another breath and need a walking break, your body will follow. If you encourage yourself to take another step and another one, your body will respond. If you tell yourself, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me”, you’ll find your resolve. If you focus on the finish line, you’ll reach it.

It might not be a smooth journey and we might not look pretty at the end, but we’ll know that we made it.

“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.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

But it would be silly to think we could do finish this race on our own — through our own strength and resolve. Yes, so much of our journey depends on what we think, how we respond, and what we run toward. But we don’t need to rely on our strength alone, because we have the best coach and running buddy a runner could have — God.

The Lord gives power to those who are tired and worn out; He offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will fall and give up. But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31)

God runs this race with us. He supports us when we think we can’t move. He provides hope when we’re facing an intimidating hill. He offers refreshing water when we need a drink. He encourages, advises and cheers us on. With Him, we can finish the race.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me — the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of His return.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Beyond grateful

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Grateful. That’s the word that seems to best describe me at this point in my life.

I’m grateful because God’s mercies and blessings are so awe-inspiring, generous and beautiful.

I’m grateful because His love is unfailing and His timing is perfect — even when it might sometimes feel slow on our end.

I’m grateful for His presence that soothes, encourages, uplifts and transforms, and I’m grateful that His presence is available to anybody at any time.

I’m grateful because He looked into my heart and saw my desire for Him to use me to encourage others and glorify Him.

And I’m beyond grateful that He made a way for that desire and prayer to be met. His answer to my prayer: An opportunity to write as a contributor for moretolifetoday.net.

Click here for the link.

To see and be seen

The verb “to see” has an assortment of meanings. We can perceive something with our eyes. We can grasp something mentally and understand it. We can have an experience. We can watch, examine or notice something. We can visit or accompany somebody. All of these Merriam-Webster definitions refer back to the first verb — to see.

But what does it mean to see someone?

To truly see someone is to see who they are. To understand what makes that person the way they are. To understand what they enjoy, what they dislike, what makes them laugh. To see their pain and to see their joy. To know their hopes and aspirations. To know their fears and doubts.

Realistically, however, there are few people who truly see us for who we are — both the good parts and the bad. We might even sometimes feel that nobody can really understand what we’re going through because nobody sees us, nobody knows us. But God knows, and He sees us.

Hagar probably experienced similar feelings in Genesis 16. She was running away, scared and abused, and she eventually finds herself in the desert, thirsty and alone. And that’s when God hears her cry of distress and meets her.

“The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?'”

God knew perfectly well where Hagar had been and what she was running away from. He knew details of her own life that she herself couldn’t fully understand. He knew her past, and He knew her future. But He met her in the present, and He revealed just how much He saw and knew about her and about her future son, Ishmael.

“Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, ‘You are the God who sees me.'”

El-roi — The God who sees me.

He sees me. He sees my struggles. He sees my desires, my hopes, my joys. He sees me on my good days. He sees me on my bad days. And yet, His love toward me never fails and never wavers. He knows what makes me tick, and He created me to work a certain way.

God created us as unique individuals, each with certain talents and gifts. He saw us and knew us before we were even born.

“You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered.” — Psalm 139:15-17

He sees us. But it’s more than God seeing us.

After God spoke to Hagar, she referred to Him as El-roi, as the God who saw her. But she continued to speak. “She also said, ‘Have I truly seen the One who sees me?'”

Hagar’s encounter with God wasn’t like one of those two-way mirrors you might find in an interrogation room, where one side can watch someone on the other side without being seen.

To see and be seen.

God revealed Himself to Hagar. He allowed Himself to be seen by her. She caught a glimpse of who He was — of His knowledge, power, love and mercy — and that affected her perspective of God. Her experience of being seen by God — and of seeing Him, in turn — changed her life.

God sees us. He knows us. But more than that, He allows us the chance to see Him. Now, God as a spirit is invisible, and no man has seen God (1 John 4:12). But we can know Him. We can can live day-by-day in His presence. We can experience Him. We can see His blessings. And we can know that He won’t stop loving us, regardless of what He sees in us.

Challenging the silence

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There are times when silence is a gift. Noises and distractions are gone, and it’s you and your own breath.

There are times when silence is dangerous. Atrocities are permitted, boundaries are crossed, and yet nothing is said.

There are times when a voice is silenced by something or someone — fear, doubt, discrimination, shame, loneliness, uncaring and selfish people.

There are times when we silence ourselves — and that’s what scares me. I can be the one to prevent my voice from being heard. It can be all too easy for me to convince myself that I have nothing to say and that nobody would listen to it anyway.

Full disclosure: I started to believe that lie.

And this is what God told me in response: “Don’t quench the words you need to speak. Don’t sit back and let someone else speak different words.”

God has given each of us a voice and He has placed each of us in a position where our voices can be the most powerful. So, use your voice. Use your talents. Use your gifts. Use them to make a difference in your small corner of the world. Because there are a lot of messed up things in the world, and your voice can help bring some good back into it.

At times, it might seem convenient to be silent — and, certainly, there are times when silence is necessary. The danger comes, however, when silence is our answer to issues that require a clear voice for the right choice.

Don’t let silence be your answer.

In Revelation 2:15-16, Jesus is speaking to one of the churches, and He mentions how the people are neither hot nor cold. They are lukewarm. They are non-committed, dispassionate, tepid.

His response to those lukewarm people in verse 16 is this: “I wish that you were one or the other. But since you are lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

We are most effective and potent when we clearly stand for something. If you’re passionate about something, it should be evident in your words, actions and lifestyle. People will notice. People will hear.

Too many people in the world would love to silence your voice. Don’t be the one to do it yourself. Your voice has more power than you realize.

Getting real about “Impostor Syndrome”

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Hi. My name is Jen and I’m an impostor. Or, at least, I sometimes feel like I am.

Some of you might be thinking, Ah-ha! I knew there was something fishy about her. But, really, what I’m talking about here is impostor syndrome.

For those of you who haven’t heard the term before, here’s Wikipedia’s definition of impostor syndrome:

“A psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments, and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.”

People demonstrate impostor syndrome and deal with it in different ways. For me, it shows up in the form of overachieving and striving for perfection in what I do and how I come across to others — all to avoid the fear of failure.

How’s that for being real?

I struggled with low self-confidence for years. I constantly compared myself to others, judging every little thing I knew about myself against what I could see in others. When, in my eyes, I fell short in comparison, I’d get upset at myself. And let me tell you, it’s all too easy to say harsh, demeaning words to and about yourself.

To cope with all that, I did my best to make sure people liked me. This resulted in the formation of my coping mechanism — make ’em laugh. If you get them laughing with you, then they’re less likely to laugh at or about you.


When I began writing this post and started pondering the idea of impostor syndrome, I realized we’re really dealing with the issue of identity, with who we are at the core. Because if we don’t know who we are, it’s hard to fulfill our purpose.

But that’s the thing with impostor syndrome: We’re the ones who know ourselves too well. We know what no one else knows about us. That sometimes we don’t know what we’re doing. That sometimes we’re crippled with doubt. That sometimes we fake it ’til we make it.

And we’re scared to death that somebody will see through our mask and discover the real us. They’ll see us as impostors.

But really, we’re the ones seeing ourselves as impostors, so we become conflicted about our true identity.


Who are you?

I ask this question, hoping you’ll answer it honestly. Because for me, I realized who I was — and my self-worth — only when I answered that question. But more than just answering it, I had to believe the answer and act on it.

Who am I?

I am a child of God.

He created me, knowing — and forming — my talents and my faults. He knew from the beginning how the good and bad parts of me would be used. He took my coping mechanism and turned it into an intrinsic part of who I am, for the good. Because He knew how much I would love making people laugh — not to make myself feel better or to avoid being laughed at, but because “a merry heart does good like a medicine.”

God wasn’t surprised by the various phases — the dips, surges and plateaus — of my life. Instead, He loved me for who I was, even though I didn’t deserve it. And He chose to die for me so I could become who I was meant to be — His daughter.

“But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.” – John 1:12

Staying in tune with God

It can be easy to base our value or success in terms of numbers.

You know how it is: “I have this many followers” or “I make this much money”.

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I mean, even in the old days, families were ranked on the number of children — specifically, sons — they had.

I’ve been reading through 1 Chronicles, and if any of you have done so, you know it can get a tad dense. For instance, “So-and-so had five sons: Son 1, Son 2, Son 3, Son 4 and Son 5. Son 1 had two sons…” And on and on it goes.

Well, eventually, I reached chapter 12 where it describes how many warriors from each Israelite tribe joined David’s cause to become king. Most of the tribes offered thousands of men to support his claim. Seriously, one tribe had 50,000 skilled warriors all ready to support David.

Then I came to 1 Chronicles 12:32.

“From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.”

Two hundred men. Not 50,000. Not brave warriors or skilled soldiers. But 200 leaders who recognized David should be king. They were aware of the situations happening around them. They were alert, and they didn’t hesitate once they knew what they needed to do.

We need to be like that in our walk with God. We need to understand what’s going on in the world around us, so we can make sure we’re supporting the right cause and following the correct course for our lives.

We should focus on making sure we’re in tune with God. Take time to be still and listen for His voice. Then, when we hear His voice, we need to possess the courage and the strength to act on it and follow through.

We don’t always need to have the largest number or reach a certain number to determine our value. Issachar offered the fewest amount of men — by a long shot — to David’s cause, but the Bible describes them as leaders with wisdom who understood the signs of the times.

So, take a lesson from the good ‘ole tribe of Issachar. And, while you’re at it, Paul has some good supporting advice in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14:

“Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything in love.”

A parable of the bread

You know those renovation shows that take fixer upper houses and completely redo them to make beautiful houses?

Well, if I’ve learned anything from them, it’s that renovations normally take longer than expected and they can be difficult.

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Yep, renovations can reveal ugly things underneath the floorboards, unstable supports and poor wiring. Rarely do you see a beautiful new house undergoing renovation.

Now, I know we’d all like to think we’re the beautiful mansion that doesn’t need any additional work, but I doubt that’s the case. Because most of us — like King David, who wrote the Psalm below — mess up and realize we need some help.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” — Psalm 51:10

I heard something the other day that completely stuck with me: Renew = Renovate.

Sometimes, we need to undergo some renovations — in the way we think, the way we act, the way we speak.

Because maybe while we’ve been busy living our lives, some mold has starting growing in the rafters of our minds and has contaminated our dreams and desires. Maybe some carpenter ants have been chewing away at our hearts and weakening our discretion and resolve. And so, it becomes time for a renewing, a renovation.

“And don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” — Romans 12:2a

As we know from most fixer upper renovations, that transformation and renovation process — and the waiting for the renovation to be done — can be painful.

But let me tell you a story.

On Tuesday, I made bread. Yep, homemade bread. I had to prove the yeast, which meant pouring it in warm water and waiting for it to become active. I had to knead, pound, press and mold the dough, constantly flipping it and disturbing it — all to prepare and develop the gluten.

After kneading the dough and placing it in a bowl, I had to wait for it to rise. An hour later, it was time for… more kneading! Punch. Press. Flip. Repeat.

Then, more waiting. Until finally! it was time to bake.

But baking, of course, requires extreme heat. Thirty-five minutes of sitting on a metal rack, waiting in uncomfortable, almost unbearable, heat.

Why did this loaf of bread endure all of that?

Well, without going through that entire process, the loaf of bread would still be individual ingredients, waiting to fulfill their purpose. It took the process of transformation in the creator’s hands to become something more.
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The same applies to us when we submit to God’s will for us.

Yes, it can be uncomfortable. It might not go according to our plans. We might still be waiting for something. And every now and then, it feels like we’re getting punched in the gut, only to be thrown into scorching fire.

But Romans 12:2 doesn’t just speak of transformation and renewing without any purpose. No, it speaks of promise.

“And don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you might prove what is the good, acceptable and perfect will of God.” — Romans 12:2

Just like I had to prove the yeast for it to become active, the waiting and change that comes with renovation will ultimately prove and activate God’s will for us.

And so, I’ll leave you with this reminder that has been a pretty good reminder for me: “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.” — Psalm 37:5

Why I write

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Sometimes it honestly seems like there’s nothing more intimidating than a blank white piece of paper — or, more realistically, the blank white screen depicting the piece of paper humans have traditionally written upon.

Upon that blank page, you’re supposed to spill out your thoughts, your aspirations, your secrets, your mind, your being.

And the paper or screen absorbs those words.

Then what?

Other minds might happen upon the words, read them and take them in. Maybe they’ll remember the words. Or maybe those words will be fleeting black characters that are briefly processed, but which never fully take root within the perusing minds.

And yet, we still write. Perhaps because we think we have something to say. Quite often, because there’s a persistent need that thumps within one’s inner being and begs to be relayed to the external world. The need grows until, at last, it drives the physical body to put itself to work and interpret the metaphysical by actually transferring those messages onto that blank sheet.

And, honestly, it’s easy to ask, after exposing part of your innermost self to the world, “To what end? What’s the use?”

The answer: Who can really tell?

I think it all hinges upon passion and purpose. If I truly believe in something, then wouldn’t I want to show that to others? Wouldn’t I need to?

So, we continue to write, to speak, to relay, because we need to. Because part of our innate human nature is a desire to communicate with and to be heard by others.

But you know what? Other humans will probably let us down in our endeavor to be heard and understood.

And that’s where I insert the source of what drives me to write on those blank screens.

I write because of my love for Jesus.

More importantly, I write because of His love for me.

His ear is always extended to us. He is always there to talk to, to communicate with. He is always there to listen, even if what I have to say feels measly and insignificant or monstrous and looming. And He doesn’t hear only to forget what I said later. He hears, He knows and He cares. And He extends a hand to hold onto.

That’s why I write.

Call me a logophile (or maybe just “a lover of words”)

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Well, here’s a random musing for ya.

The premise of this one emerged when I realized how cool it was that the following sentence actually works as a sentence:
I think that that that that that that describes should be deleted.

Go ahead, put it in Word. No squiggly green lines.

Naturally, I had to outdo myself with my nerdy, wordy weirdness. So I started thinking of words that I can type using just one hand (because I love it when that happens). I mean, come on.

Awed. Bump. Crest. Dread. Eager. Fester. Grade. Hilly. Ilk. Joy. Kill. Limp. Monopoly. Numb. Opinion. Pomp. Rare. Secret. Test. Up. Veer. Weave. You. Zest.

(Yes, I gave up on “q” and “x”.)

So, maybe that doesn’t quite excite you. But what about when you take those same words that once held individual meaning and create something entirely new with them?

It holds a monopoly on abandoned dreams,
for mountains of its ilk have long caused travelers —
once eager and daring —
to stumble, crash and limp along
and exchange joy and purpose for numb torpor.

There the mountain looms with pomp and pride,
causing thoughts of dread to fester,
turning secret opinion to supposed fact:
the journey up will kill you.

Yet up you trudge, veer and weave
up its steep, taunting and daunting grade
you dig deep with rare resolve to master its test.

Now, here you stand upon its hilly crest,
Awed, empowered, with renewed zest.

It was just another bump along the way.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find the ability to do that fascinating. So, call me a logophile… except I should probably just stick with a lover of words.

The voices we choose to listen to

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Words have tremendous power. They can build up and encourage; they can tear down and wound.

To relay and comprehend words — even when reading — we use a voice. Each person’s voice is unique, be it the cadence and rhythm of their speaking voice or the personality and style of their written thoughts.

But what voices are we choosing to listen to?

The world contains millions and millions of voices, and so many of those voices are vying for our attention. Maybe it’s the latest must-see TV show or movie that uses the voices of actors to convey the voices of a director, producer and writer. Maybe it’s a company’s commercial for a “must-have” product that uses its voice to seep into your mind, thereby triggering your own voice that says you need to make a change to become better.

And there — right there — that’s where we become vulnerable. Because our own voices can be both our allies and our enemies.

I’ll speak for myself here, but I imagine I can’t be the only one when I say: Sometimes the loudest voice telling me I can’t do something is my own.

So often, I end up becoming my own deterrent. Because I listen to that voice. I give up on myself before I’ve even allowed a chance to prove to myself and the rest of the world around me that I can, that I will.

We tell ourselves we’ll fail. We tell ourselves we’re alone in the world. We tell ourselves we’re not good enough. We tell ourselves, “Maybe tomorrow.”

Sometimes the voices are like a mob screaming at us and sometimes they’re quiet whispers that snake through our ears. But each voice has the potential to drag us down in defeat, failure and loneliness. Instead of fighting, we convince ourselves those voices are right. We give up on ourselves before we have the chance to fail or succeed.

We’ll never get anywhere if we live like that.

Instead, use your voice to declare the truth and cut through those lies. Use your voice to speak words that are true, right, uplifting, pure, lovely, excellent and full of life.

And then listen to that voice.