Posts tagged ‘strength’

Do You Know Your Weaknesses?

…For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:10

I stayed with my sister in Florida the summer after I graduated from high school. It was a great summer with many life lessons along the way. Among the greatest lessons I learned was the limits of my own abilities. I have always struggled with an ongoing dichotomy in my soul. At one extreme there are days when I think I can do anything. And then there are the days I don’t think I’m good enough to accomplish a single thing. The fact is that each of these attitudes are simply opposite sides of the same coin, self-worth.

That summer I was given the opportunity to paint the living room, kitchen, and master bedroom of a church member’s home. I would be leaving Florida                        in a week and thought I had plenty of time to complete the task. The pay was attractive and I had painted for my brother-in-law back in Indiana the past two summers. So this would be easy. After four days on the job and not even close to being half done, I discovered that painting was far more complicated that I had realized. It was one thing to focus on a single task for the day as one following instructions, but quite another thing to be responsible for every aspect of the job. That is when my sister came to my rescue and helped me complete the job within the next two days.

There are times when I  think I can lead a church, make life decisions, and overcome any temptation without God’s help. The real problem is that I can do quite a bit without His help. We all can. But then along comes the bumps in the road. Every road has them. These bumps include the projects I can’t quite complete, the temptations I can’t quite overcome, and the life decisions I can’t quite get a handle on. Not only do the bumps inevitably come, but they come at the most inopportune times. They come four days into a project with no hope of completing it. They come right after I thought victory was a done deal. They come immediately after I was certain I had all the answers.

The apostle Paul learned to embrace the bumps in his road once he learned to embrace his weaknesses. Once he recognized his weakness as an opportunity to experience God’s grace, goodness, and strength, his self worth actually grew. And so it can be with us. The more clearly we identify our own weaknesses, the greater the blessings we will be prepared to receive from God. I have learned in leadership that general ideas never lead to specific actions. And so the more specifically I understand my own weaknesses, the more specific are the blessings and power God is yearning to bestow upon me.  

The strength I receive from God is in proportion to the weakness I recognize in myself. It is in this context I believe Paul could say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) I am spending time today identifying my weaknesses as I submit my life once again to the power and strength to Him who can do more than I could ever ask or think. The road to strength comes in the bumps of recognizing my own weaknesses. Do you know your weaknesses? 

What is Your Source of Strength?

And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”  Nehemiah 8:10

I have often been asked why I chose obstetrics and gynecology over such specialties as general surgery, family practice, or any one of a dozen other options. I usually tell people that I love surgery and primary care, which are both present in obstetrics and gynecology. But perhaps the underlying reason is that after 8 weeks of intense study in this specialty as a junior medical student, I took the final exam which was not a written exam, but an oral one. There was something about this specialty that made learning fun and exciting. I read the textbooks with interest and understanding. I attended the surgeries and births with joy and excitement  And when I walked out of that oral test that October day, I felt as if I were walking in the clouds. I was overjoyed. I was ecstatic. And I wanted to celebrate. The joy I received from knowing and understanding the medical principles of that specialty propelled me into an amazing career as an OBGYN physician.

This is exactly how the Israelites felt after returning to Jerusalem from 70 years of captivity in Babylon. They had rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem before even rebuilding their own homes. Once the wall was rebuilt they asked Ezra the scribe to read the Book of the Law of Moses as they gathered at the town square. We are told they listened closely and were excited by what they heard. In fact, they were overjoyed. They couldn’t get enough of God’s Word. It was music to their ears and lit a fire in their bellies. They digested every word as they got a fresh glimpse of God’s love, concern, and power for them. No wonder Nehemiah told them to go and celebrate. Why? Because “the joy of the Lord is your strength!” 

I must admit that I have overlooked this source of spiritual strength. I haven’t thought of my emotions as being a source of anything other than perhaps understanding my thoughts and behaviors. But it makes sense. When I am filled with joy, I am ready to take on any task, overcome any obstacle, tackle any problem. But when I am filled with sadness, I am not ready for much other than avoid tasks, turning away from obstacles, and succumbing to my problems. Of course Nehemiah is not talking about just any joy. He is talking about the joy of the Lord! The source of our joy makes all the difference in the world. The joy of the Lord grounded in His Word has the power to transform our lives. 

You have heard that knowledge is power. Well, it’s true. The person with the most knowledge can answer the tough questions and solve the impossible problems, which motivates people to follow her. When we understand God’s Word as it applies in our personal lives to answer our questions and solve our problems, we are overcome with joy. When we understand God’s love and grace and how He is present with us in every situation, our joy becomes our strength. Perhaps if we celebrated God’s Word in our lives, threw a party rejoicing over His Law, ate rich foods and sweet drinks as they did at Nehemiah’s request, we just might have enough joy and strength to change the world. At the very least, we would spread cheer and happiness to everyone we would meet. 

What is your source of strength? Do you have joy? 

Whom Do You Trust?

This is what the king says: Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you. He will never be able to rescue you. Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the Lord…  Isaiah 36:14-15

King Sennacherib of Assyria came to attack the fortified cities of Judah and conquer them. He sent a message to the people of Judah that there was no way they could escape his army. And so he mocked their king and their God. 

Sennacherib believed in his own strength as do we most of the time.  In fact, we are taught from an early age to rely on ourselves. We study, work, and strive to achieve in our own strength. We too often believe willpower is the solution to our trials and temptations. We think the way to overcome the enemy is through white knuckling it. But God tells us to trust in Him, rely on His strength, believe in His word. It is the enemy who tells us to distrust God. 

In my journey to better physical health, I have found that as I lean into God, listen to His voice, and seek His will, He takes care of me. He replaces my desires with His desires. I don’t rely upon willpower to eat the foods that are best for my health, I desire this food. Just a few weeks ago I was living in despair as I felt my recurrent heart symptoms indicated a hopeless situation. As I have focused on God and experienced His deep love for me, my despair has turned to hope, and my weakness has turned to strength. God is the source of our hope and strength. 

It’s a simple message really – trusting God with my problems. So why is it so hard to hear this message and apply it in our lives? Why do we constantly insist upon doing life in our own strength? Perhaps we just think it’s too good to be true. Or we don’t know how to “let go.” But if we simply meditate daily on His grace, read His Word, and allow Him to fill our hearts and minds with His love, He will change our desires and supply us with strength.

Looking Beyond

Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on. Whoever believes need never be shaken.  Isaiah 28:16

In chapter 28, Isaiah warned the northern kingdom of Israel to follow God before they were conquered by the Assyrians. They were trusting in their own wisdom, strength, and power. They were focused on the battles and struggles on this earth and had forgotten about the bigger story of the earth that would be made new. Isaiah reminded them of the coming Messiah who is a firm and tested stone upon whom they could trust. If only they would believe in Him they would never be shaken.

And so it is with us today. How often we fall into the same trap of looking for solutions this earth has to offer when faced with trials, temptations, struggles, and battles. I am discovering that my current health challenge brings into focus two worlds. One world is here and now while the other world is beyond. The anxiety in this world is that it is always changing and we never know what to expect. It can feel like we’re chasing rabbits in every direction without any hope of ever catching them. But there is comfort when I look beyond this world and see that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)  What does this even mean in a world that changes constantly?

My strength does not come from the latest remedies as much as I seek and welcome them, but “from God’s grace.” (Hebrew 13:9)  It is God’s grace that allows me to have Jesus as my foundation. When I believe in Him, I have peace to know He is in control of the bigger story that lies beyond this earth. And with peace comes the ability to gain wisdom on this earth and apply it. This is a wonderful gift because troubling news, no matter what form it takes in our lives, can cause us to lose perspective. It can even cause our brains to freeze, becoming unable to process any information. I witnessed this hundreds of times as I shared a diagnosis of cancer with a patient. I always had to schedule a second, and sometimes a third appointment to give the same information again because they could not hear what I had to say on that first visit after they heart the word “cancer.” But it is God’s grace that brings peace that allows us to hear the information we need. 

When I build my life on Jesus, allow Him to be my foundation, then nothing can shake me. I can embrace the journey of this life with the confidence that there is more beyond the horizon than I could ever think to ask or hope. And with this confidence comes clarity, peace, optimism, and even excitement about the journey. I think this is because there is something exciting about the change on this earth when I know that He never changes. 

What battle are you facing today? What changes in your world are you facing? Have you thought to look beyond your battle and simply focus on Jesus? 

 

The Mind Body Connection

Two days before I began my ride across America to raise awareness and money for diapers, I talked with my coach, Chris POSTERBagg. He had only been coaching me for 3 weeks, but his training schedule had made it possible for me to at least begin the ride with a reasonable certainty that I could complete it. In this last conversation before the onset of the ride, he talked about the mind body connection. He warned me there would be times my body would hurt. When the pain becomes intense, the mind has the option of telling the body to continue or to quit. So Chris had me think about images I would visualize at such times that would divert my attention away from the pain and allow me to complete the ride. He also told me to focus on the process – the next 10 pedal strokes. This would give my mind something else to focus on while improving my form at the same time.

So this is what I did. When the pain in my legs or my back or my neck became the focus of my thoughts, I chose to visualize Mount Rainier or the beaches of Hawaii. I focused on the mechanics of my pedal strokes. I focused on the most vulnerable in our society and the increased abuse of the infants who are not appropriately diapered. It was an amazing experience. As I focused on the needs of others, the beauty of God’s creation, and the calling I had to take this message across the country, I always had the strength to complete any ride on any day. I completed 108 miles in oppressive heat in Washington state, stiff head winds going to Yellowstone, the monotony of Kansas, the 18% grades in the Appalachian mountains, and the horrific traffic in northern Virginia. Without the mind body connection, I would not have been able to complete this ride.

We read in Luke 2:52 that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” What a picture of health! We were created to function holistically as a single unit with a perfect blend of the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional aspects of life. And so when Jesus described His death to the Greeks who saw life as divided between an immortal soul that transmigrates from one being to another at death and a mortal body that simply houses that soul, He said the following in John 12:24… “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus, who is described in Luke 2:52 as a living Being who is an integrated whole of body, mind, soul, was to lay down His integrated life so that we could do the same and experience His transforming resurrection power to become a “new creation” as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17.  We need every aspect of our being to overcome sin and bear the fruit of the Spirit that naturally develops in our new life with Him. This is the mind body connection at its best. When we understand the power of this connection as the integrated beings we are, we experience God’s power in our lives. And we can then “do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Have you discovered the mind body connection? If not, I highly recommend you do!

 

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