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From Ashes to Growth

Do Not Ever Be Afraid Of Ashes

What seems like Ashes in your life
Can be the actual fertilizer
that grows your life.
Souls grow most in soil
Made rich by Ashes.

Fire makes a fertilizer for growth, and
Ashes can be the best soil for
The best soul growth — period.

That flame of
the Unexpected,
the Unwanted,
the Unnerving,
that can make
Kindling of your life,
that disaster that burns up
Your people
and burns down
Your dreams?

What you can’t explain in your life
Could be explained as gift.

The Way of Abundance ~ Ann Voskamp

Authentic God experience always “burns” you, yet it does not destroy you (Exodus 3:2-3), just as the burning bush revealed to Moses. But most of us are not prepared for such burning, nor even told to expect it. By definition, authentic God experience is always “too much”! It consoles our True Self only after it has devastated our false self.  —Richard Rohr

Above All Else – Focus

SEEK TO PLEASE ME above all else.
Let that GOAL be your FOCAL POINT as you go through this day.
Such a mind-set will protect you
from scattering your ENERGY to the winds.
Jesus Calling ~ Sarah Young

Above all else…this is a high standard! Seeking to please HIM! In EVERYTHING! This means I will think first on HIM and of HIM. I will consider my thoughts, my words, my actions..first…for His sake. This seems a most difficult, lofty task, and yet when I consider how being ‘in love’ with someone makes even hard things easy. Then after all, this does not seem such an extraordinary request…for myself or any of us others who claim to love and follow Jesus.

As I consider this appeal from the perspective of my running life, I acknowledge the value and power of keeping my focus. And as a runner, the finish line is a mighty enduring focal point. A finish line, any finish line really, provides immense purpose and drive to keep one’s momentum moving forward. And today, with this devotional reading appearing before my eyes, I am reminded again that the great I AM desires to be at the center of my focus: SEEK TO PLEASE ME ABOVE ALL ELSE!

This is an energetic goal to train towards, is it not? To give the Divine One our attention and preference? This goal alone can consume one’s entire life’s purpose. If ever I considered myself an ‘athlete’, how now would I train myself to succeed in achieving such an ambitious goal? What sort of athletic maneuvers does one perform to become strong towards this end…to seek His pleasure above all else? When I contemplate this imperative, perhaps this task is not too difficult when love is at its core.

Focus your attention on the path just ahead of you
and on the One who never leaves your side.
Jesus Calling ~ Sarah Young

To please the One who is above all and above all others simply requires my trusting focus; narrow my attention to the path just ahead. Never forget His promise, “I will be with you always”. Yes, of course, this makes perfect sense. Isn’t this what I do when I run a race or run a long distance? Isn’t this how I stay above the fray of defeating thoughts when I am weary and full of worry and feel faint. When I lose heart and breath, this is my sign to focus on the path just ahead…not a mile ahead…not 10 minutes ahead. Just focus on the present moment…just attend to the rhythm of my moving feet, beating heart, breathing lungs.

POUR ALL YOUR ENERGY into trusting Me.
It is through trust that you stay
connected to Me, aware of My Presence.
Jesus Calling ~ Sarah Young

When I consider my true reality, that I inhabit any present moment in the confines of time and eternity simultaneously, I wake up to my strength in the ETERNAL ONE, because I am body, soul, spirit. I felt that strength on Sunday last. I felt it while I was slogging through mile 13…mile 14…mile 15…the steps toward the end were painful indeed. BUT when I thought of the One who lives and moves in Me, of how time and eternity co-exist in ME, I felt energized and lifted up towards the object of my goal…the finish line. For those present moments, I was able to transcend the momentary discomforts of putting feet forward. When I focused on my present reality, my weakness became my strength because His presence gave vigor to my breath and joy to my pain.

And now you know what I know; now you know what kind of thoughts give me GO and FUEL my fire. These kinds of thoughts propel me towards a seemingly un-obtainable goal…running for 26.2 miles…in ONE DAY. These kinds of thoughts fueled me forward last Sunday; even though the thoughts sputtered and flickered off and on, in and out. These thoughts of the ONE…ABOVE ALL ELSE…nourished my flagging reserves.

To think of His Presence…in Me…beside Me…lifted me onward and upward into something like bliss. Those last miles taught me, educated me, via aches, pains and fears of every imagining, that ultimately all things are possible when a mind and heart are focused…ABOVE ALL ELSE!

Matthew 6:30-33 The Message (MSG)

30-33 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Of Fire and Ice

Today marks six weeks.
Six weeks ago I took to bed a pounding headache,
Six weeks ago I awoke in a firey furnace.

But today, like so many days recently passed,
I awoke with gratefulness.
Not just because my health is much improved,
But because the remnants of my affliction
Reverberate still within me.

And with each new day I find a way,
To embrace the scrappy reminders with affection.
Like glowing embers after the inferno’s blaze,
The crackling sparks remind, remand, revive;
Jolting consciousness to awaken!

Wake Up!
To gratitude in gratefulness,
To acceptance in peacefulness,
To mystery in wonderment,
To strength in weakness,
To growth in restfulness.

Today marks six weeks.
Six weeks of persisting amidst the refiner’s fire.
Six weeks of re-learning, re-remembering, re-renewing!
Six weeks of gifting, receiving, and growing through it all;
Six weeks later, fully awake, fully alive!

 

Never fear the moments
you imagine will FREEZE you:
unexpected blasts of cold
can be what DRAWS you nearer
to the FLAME of His love.

Darn the COLD.

Thank God for the FIRE.

Welcome to the CLUB
of those braving the cold blasts
in a thousand DAILY ways. 

Every one of US,
in one HURTING WAY or another,
is in this CLUB.

The grace that’s in this MOMENT
is your MANNA.

Wish for the past
and you drink POISON.

Worry about the future
and you eat FIRE.

Stay in this MOMENT
and you eat the MANNA
needed for NOW.

The Way of Abundance ~ Ann Voskamp

grow through

The Refinery

In Going All Out, I describe my return to my running self and how energized I felt to be training for my first Marathon race. Since that post from May-2018, my race venue changed from NYC to Arlington, VA, but the change in venue did not reduce my delight in purposefully running again.  During the early summer months, it seemed surreal, the long runs, the speed workouts, challenging as they were, all of them gave me delight in knowing I was prepairing my body and mind for an epic event…running 26.2 miles on October 28, 2018!

If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.
Kathrine Switzer

Then, on August 10th, the wheels came off. Over a 24-hour period my body went from seemingly healthy and turned into a raging conflagration steeped in the melting pot of a full-blown shingles viral attack. I could not believe that this hideous malady had found me out. For all my good health and strength and well-being, I was laid out in such weakness, and racked with the firey pains so common to this hideous malady. How could this happen so suddenly, without warning? I was dumbstruck…awestruck really…with my unhappy fortune and especially for the disruption this had brought to my marathon training!

For three weeks I did little more than rest; and I use the word metaphorically. Sleep did not restore or invigorate; sleep could not be caught or latched onto; sleep only took me away from myself and cast me into strange, mysterious places of unknowing. Perhaps it was due to a lack of sleep together with a steady dose of unrelieved pain, but whatever the cause, I also realized a fermenting growth of anxiety sprouting like ugly weeds in my garden. Something like dispair seemed to ooze into my consciousness. I noticed these downward thoughts even while I accepted and acknowledged the fact that I am no different or exceptional from anyone else. None of us is immune from illness and disease. Even people who do everything right for their body can and will, from time to time, succomb to break-ins or break-downs in their well-being.

If we were to examine our diseases poetically, we might find a wealth of imagery that could speak to the way we live our lives. Following up on that imagery, we could attune our lives and allow ourselves to be corrected by the disease. That is what I mean when I say that without sickness we wouldn’t be cured, physically and psychologically. Care of the Soul ~ Thomas Moore

Thankfully, by the end of week three, I had an ephipany, a bolt out of the blue, rekindling the dark place of my pitiful thinking. Like an arrow finding its bulls-eye, the thought hit center and ran my runner’s soul clean through: You may actively recover your running (body) with the mindset of starting the marathon race! You may not be able to finish all 26.2 miles, but at least you may purpose to begin training…again. YES! YES, YES, INDEED! To toe the start line, come what may, would be my very own victory. Victory over illness; victory over dispair; victory over defeated thinking. The barb hit its mark!

A funny thing happened on my way to the Marathon…to be continued!

MCM

 

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Endure

There’s a lot of happiness in this world that depends on being brave enough to keep working when it’d be easier to quit. Nothing good gets started without getting to work —and nothing great gets finished without staying at the work.
The Way of Abundance ~ Ann Voskamp


Endurance is not just the ability to bear a difficult thing, but to turn it into glory.
William Barclay


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In Pursuit

EXCELLENCE IS NOT RANDOM.

It is also more than a short-term ambition, accident, or accomplishment.

It is developed by design and achieved by setting and tenaciously pursuing high, competitive goals.

The greatest champions in history have all had a long-range vision and plan of what they wanted to accomplish in tandem with a complete daily devotion to their specialization.

Having daily or weekly improvement goals to meet will help ensure that you are always working right.

Stay focused on performing daily acts of excellence in the face of temptations to get sidetracked.

The Champion’s Mind ~ Jim Afremow, PhD


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FROM: LET YOUR MIND RUN by DEENA KASTOR

At the core of many of his stories was a distinction between success and excellence. Success was “having“: money, awards, status. Excellence was “being“: living your values, having them guide your daily life. Pursue excellence, Coach (Joe Vigil) would say, and success will follow.


Philippians 4:8 (NIV ~ Bible)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.


 

Going All Out

I’m back! Back to running that is. I’m almost afraid to make such a public announcement, afraid I’ll jinx myself, because I’ve been away from my running self for well over a year. That my slump coincided with the passing of my mother is understandable, on an intellectual and emotional level, of course.

But on the physical and cognitive level, I could not accept that this once happy activity flat-lined without my permission. While I faithfully moved my legs on the treadmill, I could not muster the desire to go outside for runs around town. Something had changed for me and my running life. I do not know when or why or how I lost my happy running self. All I know was this: that girl was long gone! And she left me to run alone!

I eventually came to terms with the change, and I settled into a solitary routine which moved my body, but not my spirit. I accepted the fact that I was doing my body good even though I wasn’t experiencing the familiar endorphin rush. I entered 5K and 10K races here and there throughout the passing months, but more and more I felt like I was running in someone else’s body. I continued to run because I could, but I was lost, disconnected from by best self.

During those long months, I found solace by reading about running, or about famous runner athletes; I read about sports psychology and the power of the mind to enhance performance. All these things kept my head and heart in the sport. Most importantly, reading about running gave me hope…hope that I would eventually rediscover my focus, my muse, my love for happy running in the near future.

And then as providence would have it, this past January, an email appeared in my inbox. It’s subject line singularily suggestive and ultimately sinister:

Apply Today for the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon

What sort of a joke was this? I don’t run marathons! Why did those people from New York send me this email. I almost deleted the email without opening it. And I’m not sure why I even felt compelled to open it. But I did. And before I could think the whole thing through, I actually found myself applying for the marathon entry raffle. It took me less than two minutes to complete my registration. With one final push of the SUBMIT button, I became a player. What did I have to lose? Nothing!

More importantly, what did I have to gain? First and foremost in my mind, I would have to schedule a trip to New York City for sure. A trip to the place of my birth, which of course I have always wanted to visit since I was raised on the west coast of southern California from the age of 2 onward.

But wait, if I won an entry, that meant I would need to TRAIN to complete a marathon: 26.2 miles of running in one day! I’ve heard myself say out loud, on many occations, and often in mixed company, that running a marathon is a crazy, over-rated amount of running to ask a body, especially MY BODY, to do! Good grief, what had I done? What was I thinking? I had potentially committed myself to run a marathon! 26.2 MILES! Oh my, that was and still is a frightening thought. But wait, what are the chances of my winning an entry? 1 in 16,000! HA! No worries…I am not that lucky. But what if I am?

If I am that lucky, then there is no time to lose! I can not waste a month, or any months, of unfocused running because 26.2 miles is a very long way! Wait a minute…I signed up to run a Marathon? Well, no… not just yet. That happens later. I would have a month of anxious waiting to do before I would know the outcome of the raffle.

You can probably predict the outcome of my raffle entry. However, I will not spoil that story in this post. In the meantime, though, you should know that during the days of waiting for the raffle announcment, I was pretending to be a runner again. I was running and pretending to train for a Marathon. And while I was pretending, a funny thing happened along the way…I met and found my happy running self again.

And I think I like this new, updated version of me. The reluctant marathon girl. I think I like what she has become; what she has done for me. She has given me a purpose for running. She has given me a goal to aim towards; she has renewed my focus which I thought I had lost for good. She has given me a reason to run (achieve) and a distance (fear) to overcome. Yippee! I have met my hero, and alas she is me!

Now all I need is a plan…but first, I will need to run…did I mention I’ve never run 26.2 miles at once…EVER?

Even though I may never know what propelled me to submit that fateful lottery entry, I am so very glad I did, because I’ve never felt so good, so alive since I’ve begun my training. I AM ALL IN! To be continued…

Nothing beats the inner peace of mind of knowing that you went all out with your best attitude and expended your full effort. Doing your best by discovering the borders of your physical limits is also your own true gauge of personal success.  Jim Afremow ~ The Champion’s Mind