My sister Peggy Lively and I just completed our 16th marathon in our 16th state. We have high hopes of completing one in all 50 states. We are often asked, "Why in the world are y'all doing this crazy thing?". Honestly, we just fell into it. Maybe I shouldn't use the word "fall" when talking about marathons. But truly, we've sorta gone into this adventure blindly (hmmm, another poor word for safely accomplishing 26.2 miles). Before my first marathon, I had never run in ANY race. Well, I do remember the three-legged race on field day in elementary school, and that wasn't very pretty, at all. Peggy and I can't explain it; something came over the both of us at the same time and within only minutes, we both decided to "just do it". And so, the 50 marathons in 50 states began.
With this being number "sweet sixteen", I took a moment to think about the marathons to date, and these are the things we have gained in this journey:
Togetherness. Our marathon weekends, believe it or not, are therapeutic for the both of us. We cover a lot of ground even sitting in our hotel room as we listen to each other's triumphs and trials of life. We laugh a lot, and we cry too. Also, throughout the weekend and the race, we pray for the particular state we are in. We pray for ministries, schools, communities, government, marriages, and families. The 26.2 miles cover not only the roads within the cities we walk, but our words reach heaven's throne with fervent faith. These extra long treks have helped me understand the meaning of "persevering in prayer" (from Eph. 6:18), and it helps me stay the course when I get back home.
Outreach. "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24). Both Peggy and I have come to realize that the marathon weekends are about much more than the 5 1/2 hour-ish trek on marathon day. It's about the people we meet (airplane passengers, hotel managers, marathon participants) and the friends and family we visit (old neighbors, nieces and nephews, ministry partners). I will not be able to express in a small paragraph the giant things God has done in and through our travels. Our hopeful goal each time we go to these cities is to spread the love of Christ and encourage others in their own personal journey. Just like a marathon, life is not a feel-good-all-the-time-experience, and if Peggy and I can help encourage someone even a little bit, we call it a successful weekend. In our different travels, we've met complete strangers and they are now dear friends. We've reconnected with people from years past. As a result, the blessings of these relationships have been immense. I'm excited for what's in store.
Adventure. I must add here that our dear mother sends Peggy and me off with some spending money each and every trip. Bless her for making these trips doable. She supports "our mission", which is real simple: live full, love well, and pray much. With that being said, who knew we would go to a World Series game in St.Louis, or see the Grand Canyon in AZ, or peer out into the Atlantic ocean in Maine, or go to the Dairy Queen in North Dakota? That's pretty awesome for this introvert who loves her comfy chair in the confines of her own four walls! I'm thankful for each of these trips and eager for more. God knew I needed to GET UP and GO FORWARD...to His people and to His world. I'm thankful for the privilege.
I finish these memorable moments with an encouraging word for your very own marathon of life. Hear the Forerunner say:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
Recently, I read two passages of Scripture that had the same idea in it, yet their meaning was completely opposite.
The first phrase is found in I Samuel 16:49 which speaks of David killing the giant Goliath:
And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.
The second phrase that caught my attention was when I flipped to the passage found in Ezekiel 1:26-28 which gives details of the prophet’s personal encounter with the glory of God:
…there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance…and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain…such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.
How interesting…same posture of both the giant and the prophet, yet one face planted due to pride and the other due to humbled awe.
I guess the hard question I have to ask myself is this: which one of these men am I like in every day life? Do I call my own shots, make my own judgments, and plow forward with my own head-strong plans like Goliath intended to do? Or do I sit long enough with the Lord to meditate on His majesty, that is marvelously transposed with His mercy, to where the only thing I can do is, like Ezekiel, fall on my face in response to His glory and grace?
As we know, things did not end well with the prideful giant. Enough said. But with the humble prophet, bowing low was just the beginning:
And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet and I will speak to you.” And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet…” (Ezekiel 2:1)
May you and I be more like Ezekiel today. Let’s bow before our Creator and wait to hear His voice. And then, when we do hear him, let’s be ready to stand on our feet and do exactly what He says, filled with His power, doing all for His glory.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:10
What can I give my President? What can I give my country?
I sit with a group of women once a month who have committed to pray for the President, Vice President and their wives. This group, formed by Lori Rydberg and April Eshleman, called the Glove Club (representing Melania’s glove underneath the Bible during the inauguration ceremony), has opened my eyes to the powerful gift that each one of us can give Donald and Melania Trump and Mike and Karen Pence on a daily basis.
I’m humbled and excited to say that we are using my devotional book,The Heartbeat of God, as the daily guide for our prayers. For example, today’s devotional is entitled, “God, You are the Author of Faith.“ Particular scripture pertaining to faith is claimed throughout this prayer. This name of God and these scriptures are what we are giving our President, Vice President and their wives… today. Tomorrow we will pray a new name, Perfecter of Faith, and we will claim new scriptures for them. And the next day will be another new name, the One Who Prevails, and more scriptures to pray on these leader’s behalf. The prayers go on and on, and they are new every morning!
Prayer. A powerful gift.
There is nothing we can give our country’s leaders that is better than the gift of His name and His word. God is the One who can transform hearts and minds. Our passionate words spewing back and forth to each other do very little other than add to our ongoing chaos. Our prayers to God will actually get things done because we are talking to the One who is REALLY in control!
God promises to answer prayer concerning His name and His word.
If you want to join in this simple yet monumental growing movement, please do! Every day, pray. Many of you already have a copy of The Heartbeat of God and are currently using it in your daily devotional time. (These books can be purchased on Amazon). Let’s truly become one nation under God by uniting together in prayer.
Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Hebrews 11:6
The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God–it is dynamic and can have tremendous power]. James 5:16 AMP
Prayer. A powerful gift that brings great reward.
A prayer from my book, The Heartbeat of God:
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. John 15:1
O God, You are the Vinedresser. First of all, I want to thank You that I am even considered a branch on the vine. For I know that I was once considered a wild olive, and was grafted in among the original branches and that I became a partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree. Again, I humbly thank You for this act of grace on my behalf. Now, dear Jesus, I hear You say to me, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, My Father takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.” O God, I want to be a fruitful bearer of Your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; but, I must confess, sometimes Your pruning hurts. I know Your intentions are for my good and for Your glory, and in the long run, I will most certainly bear more fruit under Your knowledgeable care; but right now, Your pruning hand has afflicted me. You have taken away things that I thought I needed. I do realize, because of these losses, I have had to become more dependent upon You. Indeed, You now have become my all in all. And through this enduring process, I am learning to say from a sincere heart of faith, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing You as my Lord.” Therefore, let me hear again, Your beautiful words of assurance as I continually submit to Your shaping, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” Yes, wise Vinedresser, please continue Your good work in me.
John 15:5; Rom. 11:17; John 15:1; Gal. 5:22-23; Phil. 3:8; John 15:16
A prayer from my book, The Heartbeat of God:
So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me…?” John 21:15
O God, You are the God of True Love. And now, You ask each of one of us to be an outpouring of this same love. You explain with clear conviction in Your word: If you speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, you have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if you have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if you have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, you are nothing. And if you give all your possessions to feed the poor, and if you deliver your body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits you nothing. Dear God, these words are strong words, words that make me think about the motive of my heart and actions. Please Lord, help me to understand what true love is so that I don’t fall into “vigorous nothingness”. Your Word defines love by saying, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Ah, so I see and understand that love begins with You. Indeed, we love, because You first loved us. I must receive Your true love inside of me before I can give it away; because if I don’t have You, I truly have nothing. But with You, I can bear Your fruit. Again, Your word attests to this: We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. So Lord, please hear my request for my own heart as well as others far and wide, “I pray that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith; and that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ who surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” And then, as a result of this true love welling up inside of me, cause me to tend Your lambs…and shepherd Your sheep.
I Cor. 13:1-3; I John 4:5; I John 4:19; I John 3:16; Eph. 3:17-19; see John 21:15-16
A prayer written on behalf of a dear friend of mine, whose walk with the Lord is remarkable:
He leads me beside quiet waters. Ps 23:2
O God, You are the God of the Low Whisper. Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life. I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. I need You, O God, to come to my rescue. Right now, my days are chaotic and out of control. My strength is nearly gone. My courage is next to nothing. I have no idea how to handle the days ahead. O Lord, keep me attentive to Your voice in the midst of this storm. Help me to hear and embrace the sound of Your low whisper. Let me rise above the clamor and hear You say to my heart, “Come to Me. Listen, that you may live.” Yes God, Your whisper is full of hope. You say with compassion, “Do not be afraid”… “I will give you rest”… “I know the plans I have for you”… “I am the good shepherd”…”Come, follow Me”. O dear Lord, Your tender voice calms me; Your quiet words soothe me. Keep me attentive, for Your low whisper is my delight. Yes, You calm the storm within me while it continues to rage about. Thank You, Gentle One, for firmly steadying my soul.
Ps 69: 1-3; Is. 55:3; Matt. 14:27; Matt. 11:28; Jer. 29:11; John 10:14; Matt. 4:19
(364 more prayers like this one can be found in my book, The Heartbeat of God)
Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord. - Psalm 27:14
Dear Lord, help me to remember that as I am waiting patiently You are working perfectly. Build my trust in You. Yes, in the waiting, I will praise You. In the waiting, I will obey You. In the waiting, I will declare Your name to the world.