3 Keys to a Successful Year

Success

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14, ESV

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi, he gives us insight into his personal walk with the Lord.  You could call it a “formula for success” or as I prefer, “keys to success in our walk with the Lord.”

THREE KEYS TO SUCCESS IN 2022

1.  Release the past.  The Apostle Paul said, “….But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind….” (Vs. 13).  He is not saying that he actually lost memory of the past, he is saying that he put the past in the proper place–behind him!  He knew that the past can cause us to lose focus on the present and block our vision of the future.  He knew that the past can sometimes riddle us with guilt, lure us, haunt us, taunt us, rob us of intensity and passion, and even cause us to rest on our laurels.  Regardless of what we faced in 2021, let’s learn, let go, and move forward.

2.  Reach for the future.  Paul seems to say, “don’t look back, but BE SURE to look forward.”  He describes it as “…..straining toward what is ahead.”  I can remember running my first 10K race when I was 30-yrs.-old.  Because of my excitement, I started the race at a pace that was too fast for my fitness level.  As a result, my side began to hurt at mile 3 and I desperately wanted to stop and walk.  At that point, I saw my wife standing on the side of the road, so I didn’t want to quit in front of her.  Somehow, I kept plodding along and shortly after I passed the 5-mile marker, I saw the finish line about a mile away.  Something about seeing the finish line lifted my spirits and injected bounce in my step.  I finished fairly strong even though I had almost stopped to walk just a few miles earlier.  Paul seems to say that he keeps the finish line in view and it encourages him to do his best.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, let’s set some goals for 2022–spiritual goals, financial goals, vocational goals, fitness goals, nutritional goals.  Let’s “reach” for those goals day-by-day throughout this new year.

3.  Run for the prize.  What is Paul talking about when he talks about “the prize”?  We know he is not saying that we can live in such a way that we earn salvation because he just said in Vs. 9 that righteousness is “through faith in Christ.”  I believe Paul is saying that he is running for the goal of pleasing Jesus with his life and running for the satisfaction of knowing that he gave his best.  He is saying what he later says in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  If God tarries His coming and if He allows us to live to see 2023, I pray that we will be able to say the same about the way we served the Lord in 2022.

PRAYER:  “Lord, please help us remember the lessons you taught us in 2021, but Lord, help us to release last year and not relive it.  Help us to see Your plan and goals for 2022 and strain towards them in the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Help us to cherish your divine approval as our highest prize!  Be glorified in our lives!  Amen.”

2 Ways to Eliminate Hurry

Speed Limit.25One of the great books on spiritual disciplines is John Ortberg’s book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted:  Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People.  You can read my review of the book by clicking here.

One of the spiritual disciplines he talks about in the book is the practice of “slowing.”  Have you ever thought about “slowing” as a spiritual practice?  One of his mentors told him that if he wanted to grow spiritually that he must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from his life.  Listen to a great quote from his book:

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.  Hurry can destroy our souls.  Hurry can keep us from living well….Again and again, as we pursue spiritual life, we must do battle with hurry.  For many of us the great danger is not that we renounce our faith.  It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it.  We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them.

Most of us battle the hurry sickness, but how can we treat it–how can we cure it?  There are two main practices that can help us swim against our culture’s current of hurry.

2 Ways to Eliminate Hurry from Our Lives

1.  Slowing.  Slowing involves cultivating patience by deliberately choosing to place ourselves in positions where we simply have to wait.  Slowing will seem like such a “waste of time,” but it is invaluable.  Here are some examples.  Deliberately drive in the slow lane.  Chew your food slowly.  Get in the longest check-out line at the grocery store.  Go through an entire week without wearing a watch.  Read each sentence slowly–then read it again even more slowly.

2.  Solitude.  Solitude is a more traditional spiritual practice.  I’m not saying that we should take it to the extreme and join a monastery.  I’m just saying that solitude is the one place where we can gain freedom from the forces of society that will otherwise relentlessly mold us.  When we’re “alone” with God–He molds us!

We need some small measures of solitude every day.  A walk, a run, a short drive, working in the yard, sitting in the car before going into the office, a quiet time–all these serve as moments of solitude.  On occasion, we need longer periods of solitude.  Take an afternoon to yourself or even an entire day.  Go to a place where you will be uninterrupted and alone.  Spend the day relaxing, reading, walking, napping, etc.

Both of these practices have been vital to my spiritual growth and to my ability to hear from God.  By the way, if you haven’t read John Ortberg’s book on spiritual disciplines, you must do so.  Here’s a link to Amazon where you can purchase the book and get started.  I wish I had read this book as a new Christian and learned about the practice of “slowing” and many of the other spiritual disciplines that have helped me to grow in recent years.

Bring on the Rain

If you see me head out the door of my comfortable, dry house during a torrential downpour, you probably will think that I am BONKERS, CRAZY, CUCKOO, DERANGED, FRUITY, NUTS, SCREWY, UNGLUED…..or just plain WACKY.  But actually one of the things I look forward to most as a runner is running in the rain.

Think about it for a minute.  When you were young, your parents rarely allowed you to venture outside during a storm and even more rarely allowed you to splash through deep puddles in your good tennis shoes.  But now that I’m an adult (I realize that’s still being debated in some circles), I can do whatever I want.  My two or three top running memories all involve the rain, so BRING ON THE RAIN!

One of my favorite Christian recording groups, Casting Crowns, has a song called Praise You in the Storm.  I couldn’t help but think of the following powerful lyrics as I was having an awesome, soggy moment on a recent morning run:

I’ll praise you in this storm and I will lift my hands.  For You are who You are no matter where I am.  And every tear I’ve cried, You hold in your hand.  You never left my side and though my heart is torn, I will praise You in this storm!

BE ENCOURAGED my friend.  The God of the sunshine is also God during the storms of life.  Praise Him in all things for He alone is worthy!

What Is A Mentor?

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

I use to dream of running in the historic Patriot’s Day Boston Marathon because it is the world’s oldest annual marathon. The most infamous portion of the 26-mile, 385-yard course is called “Heartbreak Hill.” The “hill” only rises 80 vertical feet over a half-mile portion of the race, but the hill comes between miles 20-21 when the runners are often near exhaustion. Every year, on the third Monday of April, thousands of spectators gather there to cheer on the runners.

During one race, a young man was near total exhaustion as he approached Heartbreak Hill. Halfway up the slope, an older man, in better shape, came alongside the younger man. He put his arm around him and quietly encouraged him. Together, step by step, they painstakingly made their way to the top. What an awesome picture of affirmation and comfort! The Bible reminds us that God comforts us so we will pass comfort to others. When God encourages us, He wants us to encourage others. When God forgives us, we should forgive others.  When God shows us patience, we should extend patience to those who need it.

What a perfect picture of what we often do as MENTORS!

There are times when mentoring is nothing more than putting our arm around someone and helping them take the next step. Mentoring is also a picture of the overflow of Christ in our lives. As we grow toward spiritual maturity, we respond more and more as Christ would respond in the same situation. His reaction becomes our reaction.

Find someone today who needs to be encouraged. Speak words that strengthen and comfort. Show kindness and extreme patience. Put your arm around someone and run with them during a difficult hill of life. Forgive, care, cry, laugh, be there, be real! Be, to them, what God has been to you! Amen!

6 Steps to Run Faster

When you first start running your goals usually center on distance. You may set a goal to run around the block, to run a mile, or to run a 5k. After you run for a while you typically add time to the goal equation. In other words, you begin to ask the question “how can I get faster?” Here are some steps to seeing your times improve if you’re fairly new to running:

6 Steps to Run Faster

1. Consistent slow, base-building running. Over time this improves your cardio capabilities and builds running muscles. The pace of this run is called “conversational pace.” In other words, you can carry on a conversation during the run without getting short of breath because you’re running slow enough to do so. Most coaches teach that 80% of our weekly running should be at this pace. I personally believe that the percentage can be even higher for newer runners.

2. Increased volume. Continue to increase the number of miles you run each week, but do so carefully. Never increase your weekly mileage more than 10% at a time. Every 2 or 3 weeks you should decrease your miles during that week for recovery purposes.

3. Weight loss. Any excess weight that we carry slows us down, so as you continue to eat healthy and lose weight you will naturally see improvements.

4. Cross training. It will be helpful if you do more than run. Stretching, light weight lifting, yoga, cycling, swimming–any of these will help you improve and give your legs a break.

5. Speedwork. Personally, I would not worry about speedwork as a new runner. I would substitute hills for speedwork. Hills are actually speed work in disguise without the pounding and risk of injury. When running a hill, shorten your stride, keep your head up, and pump your arms with the feeling that your elbows are reaching behind you. Your pace will actually slow down while going uphill, but your effort level will stay the same or even increase a little.

6. Cadence. “Cadence” refers to how many steps you take per minute. Strive to increase your cadence to 170-180. A higher cadence ensures a shorter stride. In turn, a shorter stride produces better form and protects against injury. An uninjured runner will be able to train more consistently. All these factors often lead to faster times.

More running-related posts below:

6 Tips for Beginning Runners

Bring on the Rain

You Light My Path