Fruity Fridays: Peace is a Product

Lots of ads are promising peace. That’s not what they say, but that’s what they’re subliminally promising the consumer.

  • You’ll find “peace” when your hair is straight
  • You’ll enjoy “peace” when you sway in that hammock in Aruba
  • You’ll secure “peace” when your retirement portfolio has “x” cash value

Peace is a product of contentment. Be picky where you buy it, what you become dependent on to guarantee it.

“You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭26:3‬ ‭

The key to the peace of mind that Isaiah guarantees is built on trust in God. That trust, like any other trust in our lives, is built through shared experiences and time. That trust comes through what Paul is writing about in Galatians 5, walking with the Spirit. Only through a consistent walk can we have the product of peace. We will want less of what we see in ads and more of the Creator of all things.

I am finishing a book by Dallas Willard entitled The Allure of Gentleness. He said this about living and acting with God, about walking with the Spirit:

One of the problems as a church is that so many of the wonderful statements in the scriptures that are meant to reflect the honest experiences of those who have learned to live in interaction with God are in fact ritualistically and magically quoted by people who don’t believe a bit of it, because they are scared to death! Nothing has ever happened to them that they are certain is the personal hand of God in their lives. And it drains the life out of those verses.

One passage he references is Psalm 23. If a Christian walks in belief that “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” peace is a normal, everyday product of that belief; God’s hand will be seen and will produce peace. Willard says that Psalm 23 wasn’t written just to recite at funerals. Those 6 verses, when sewn into the fabric of life, dispel fear and produce peace. 

The product we need is God’s presence. Take Psalm 23 with you today. Look for God’s hand. Experience the product of peace.

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The God Who Brings You Out

I’m reading through Leviticus. If you’ve never read it or it’s been a while, consider giving it a read. It is a rich book. For example, here’s a thought from chapter 19:

“I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” ‭‭Leviticus‬ ‭19:36‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

This declaration comes in the middle of several admonishes regarding stealing, treating foreigners nicely, respecting family and the elderly, and conducting business fairly. These follow the beginning statement God told Moses to share with the Israelites: “Speak to the entire Israelite community and tell them: Be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy.” Leviticus‬ ‭19:2‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

When they were in Egypt, they endured injustice as foreigners, were forced to disrespect family members, and certainly were on the receiving end of unfair business. God wants them to remember that this is what He rescued them from, this is what He is not for, and this is what they need to resist.

God brings us out, rescues us, sets us apart to be like him. Do you remember where He found you and brought you out? It may be worth a prayer to say, “Thank you, God. Thank you for bringing me out. My desire is holiness. Continue to take out of me what you brought me from.”

Running Tuesdays: Shoe Size Matters

It was 2007. I had just ran my first 5k. I had the bug.

I had a discount card to the New Balance store in Sarasota from the race goodie bag. No more guessing at buying shoes. I was entering the world of taking running seriously. I had read an article in Runner’s World, similar to this one, that suggested my shoes may be too small. Up to that point, I had always bought the same size (7 1/2 or 8) in every pair of shoes I owned, no matter their purpose. I had determined that I was going to be open minded to whatever the shoe salesman said-not my normal MO.

He did the runthrough of sizing and testing to assess which shoe I needed, then went to bring some options out for me to try. They were all 9s or 9 1/2s. Yeah, I know. I’m sure I had the same “What  Are You Thinking?” look on my face. But I didn’t question. I tried them on. Even went outside and tested them up and down the sidewalk. 

Shocked. Amazed. My feet said, “Who Knew? Well, now you know. Get in there and pay for these sweet things.”

I’ve never looked back. That next week I ran more than my usual times and distances. I felt like a legit runner. Moving forward, I stuck with New Balances for a while, but have since tried Asics, Sauconys, Brooks, Nikes, and Mizunos; the shoe I like most right now is Brooks Pure Flow

As long as it’s a neutral shoe I’m good- in a 9 1/2, please. Shoe Size, most definitely, Matters.

Turning Back

Been here?

  • Standing at a very familiar life intersection wondering how many times you have to keep crossing
  • Staring in the face of prior pain dreading its possible return
  • Knowing you’ve taken a step backwards but not sure how or why
  • Believing you heard and followed the right path but unsure it’s going to be as advertised

Congratulations! Welcome to the human race! It’s been going on for centuries. Here’s an example:

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses: “Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you must camp in front of Baal-zephon, facing it by the sea. Pharaoh will say of the Israelites: They are wandering around the land in confusion; the wilderness has boxed them in. I will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he will pursue them. Then I will receive glory by means of Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am Yahweh.” So the Israelites did this.”

‭‭Exodus‬ ‭14:1-4

Yes, they turned back as instructed, but soon began to challenge the decision. That’s what we all are tempted to do. 

  • “What are you doing, God?”
  • “Why are you making me turn around into the face of pain that I thought you had rescued me from?”
  • “This makes no sense at all. God, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

We find ourselves at the intersection of Faith and Pain, or Trust and Doubt, or Follower and Fool. We are faced with the choices from being turned back. 

  • Will we believe in God’s salvation for this moment
  • Do we believe that He truly cares
  • Can we trust this God who dishes out unbelievable promises

If He says it’s for His glory, shouldn’t we want to see the outcome? Getting to the other side of the sea ain’t easy when all we do is question God. It’s much more awe-filled, beautiful and serene when all we’re doing is resting, walking and trusting in all His knowledge and power. When He says, “Turn back,” our response should be, “How Far?”

Here’s a Turning Back Prayer you might say if you’re having a difficult time saying, “How Far”:

God, thank you for Exodus 14. Thank you for turning them back so now all of mankind is still talking about your power, your glory, and your willingness to fight for your people. I have no reason to fear. I have no reason to believe you will make a mistake. I have every reason to remember you have always remembered me. Forgive me for wanting to run forward when you may want me to turn back so you can be glorified. Fight for me. I’ll do my best to be quiet.

Fruity Fridays: Internal Peace

by Eric Vorhies

I have a mother that worries. But I guess everyone has a mother that worries. The difference is that my mother’s worry has in many ways robbed her more often than it has protected her. It has taken moments that should have been enjoyable and given her stress. Since observing this while growing up, I knew that there had to be a better way. I just didn’t know it was going to come from the Dalai Lama in the Brad Pitt movie “Seven Years in Tibet.”

“If you have a problem and can fix it, then why worry about it. If you have a problem and can’t fix it, then why worry about it.”

My mind was blown. That articulated why there was no reason to worry…and that might worry some of you right now.

This week’s fruit is peace. I wrestled with how I divided peace and joy because they seem to be so similar and overlap greatly. I landed on the difference being timing. Joy is the ability to be happy despite our present circumstances. Peace is the absence of conflict and, which in many ways, is the opposite of worry – the feeling of uncertainty about how a situation will eventually play out.

Here’s an example from my life to better illustrate – I live in Florida. To me, it’s like living in an over-developed swamp. It always hot and muggy, and everything here, from gators to mosquitoes, is trying to kill you. Now, have I enjoyed Florida? Most definitely. I have met so many great people and have had the best jobs ever here. But I have not always had peace about living here. Though the plan has always been to be here for a period and then move, I worried that it might not happen, or not happen soon enough. Despite finding much joy here, I had this internal conflict for a long time. Though both joy and peace are closely related to our given situation, I think joy is focused more on the present and peace is concerned with the future.

Let’s be clear about something. The peace that God offers is not an outward one. It’s not a peace that will protect you and your family from harm. It’s not even a peace that guarantees that you have the right to bear arms, read your Bible, go to college, and not be picked on. The peace that God offers is an internal one. One that says, “Eric, even though you live in a swamp, it’s ok, and it will be ok if you never really leave.” It’s a peace that overcomes conflict within a person. It overcomes fear and inadequacy.

Now, let me lean in a little bit…

Are you lacking peace?

Not sure? Well, are you easily offended? Do you rant on social media? Are you the Angry Aaron or the Nervous Nelly in your group? Do you think of all the ways that something can go wrong before you consider that it doesn’t really matter? What worry is robbing you of your time and energy?

Is it how you will be paying for Christmas? Maybe it is something much deeper, like a sense of failure or shame. Fear and regret?

Philippians 4:6-9 – Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — If there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Look, external conflict is unavoidable, and sometimes you will need to take action against it. But internal conflict, the unseen battle that people wage war with, that is unnecessary. If we can fix it, then don’t worry. If we can’t, don’t worry. You don’t have to stew on how things are wrong in the world….You can think about how things are right in the world. Yes, the glass is half empty of water. But it is half full of water and half full of air, and man I know some people who could use that air and take a breather. Am I right?

I can say all of this because my worries will be taken care of…and taken care of by God. I don’t have the time and energy to put toward worrying. I have an amazing wife, three young boys, and, praise God, I’m busy packing to move out of Florida. I will not give fear and worry power, because, my God, who willingly bears that burden for me, IS WAYYYY more powerful. And that right there….that gives me PEACE.

Don’t be like my mom in this way. Don’t let worry rob you of the peace that God wants you to have.

PS – My mom has other characteristics that everyone should have, but that’s a different blog

Do You Know Your Values? 

I just finished reading a chapter in a book (Becoming a Professional Life Coach) I’m reading for one of my coaching courses. The chapter was entitled “Steering Your Life by True North.”  The following statement sums up the chapter’s intent:

It’s impossible to lead a fulfilling life that does not honor or that is out of alignment with our core values.

This question then rises: do you know your core values?  To clarify, core values aren’t the things you think you should value. They may not even be the things you currently have chosen to value. Your core values are the qualities that when lived you are unashamed and satisfied with how you’re living life.

To help you identify your core values, here’s an exercise from the chapter:

Think back to the qualities you had as a child. List 5 to 10 qualities that were true of you between the ages of 6 and 12.

You’ve been naturally drawn towards certain things ever since you were a child, and some qualities were just naturally part of you. You may have been naturally creative or thoughtful, or a lover of nature or beauty. You may have been a natural helper of others or may have been drawn to things that were new or different. Or perhaps you were an experimenter or explorer. These qualities may be among your core values or may be clues to help you identify them.

Sit down and quickly list 5 to 10 of these qualities right now. Circle all of those qualities that are still a part of your life and that come naturally to you. Include anything you would be and do if your work, time, and life supported you in fulfilling them. Also include things that people cannot stop you from doing.

May you know your core values! May you know your true north!

Running Tuesdays: Protecting Your Piece of Art

by Michael Wilder

​In case you haven’t realized this fact, you only have 2 feet. Those 2 feet are the only feet you get. Logic dictates then you should probably take care of them, right? 

Imagine for a second if you had a one-of-a-kind piece of art. The artist created that one piece and no other one exists in the whole world. What would you do to keep this piece of art safe? Would you take insurance out on that piece with some type of monetary value, or would you hire an armed security guard to protect it around the clock? This same logic to keep that one-of-a-kind piece of art safe should be the same with our feet. Like I said, we only get those 2 feet, so the best way to take care of them is with shoes. And not just any shoe but the right kind of shoes!

​To start the process of taking care of your feet it all starts with finding the right kind of shoe. If you head to the internet, there are tons of articles about finding the right kind of shoe for your feet. Those articles range from what type of runner you are in relation to where you strike the ground to how many miles you run in a week. I have used this before http://www.runnersworld.com/shoemine as a launching point, but the best way to narrow in on the right shoe for you is to go to a store that specializes in running shoes. By going to the store, they can give you an idea of what shoe to buy based on some tests they give you. One of the test is watching you run and video recording it to give you a better idea of the shoe needed for your running style. For me, I need a shoe that is neutral with high cushion. A neutral shoe helps absorb impact, relieving pressure on knees and joints. With the combination of having high cushion in the heel area, it helps me cushion the constant impact of my joints and knees. Unfortunately, the high cushion does wear off with the amount of miles you put on the shoe. To offset this, I put in a heel insole to get more miles out of the shoe.

​If there is one bad news in finding the right shoe for your feet in order to protect your 2 feet, that is the price. Let’s face it, finding the right running shoe is expensive. An average price on a running shoes is around $160. One way to offset this is to add an insole to prolong the longevity of the shoe, but eventually you will have to buy a new shoe. Experts recommend getting new shoes around 500 miles. The best way to track those miles is either a running journal or with a running app like runkeeper. Another way to offset the cost of shoes is to buy several year models older than the current one. Like cars, shoes have model numbers and years. You can save a bundle on getting “last year’s” model. Regardless of cost, bottom line is you need to protect that one-of-a-kind piece of art that you have. You don’t need to take insurance out for your feet, just need to find the right “security guard” aka a shoe!

Fruity Fridays: Possessing Joy

by Danny Bote 

As we are full-fledged into the Christmas season, I believe there is no other season that brings so much joy for some and so much emptiness and heartache for others. As a father of three younger children, we are still in the incredible excitement phase with Christmas. The anticipation of Christmas morning is truly great, and I love it as a father (I’m usually the first one up on Christmas morning). I truly am trying to soak up these moments and Christmas mornings as time speeds by and the kids grow up. Why? Because one day we will wake up Christmas morning to our kids being all grown and out of the house with them potentially having their own families and their own family Christmas traditions. That season will also bring me much joy, but there will also be an aspect of sadness and mourning as we no longer have a house of small children anticipating Christmas morning.

As I sit and think about joy and the Christmas season, I wonder, what does the culture define as joy? Merriam Webster dictionary defines joy as “a state of happiness” or “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” If you dig a little deeper, Webster defines happiness as “feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.” What do we learn from this definition of joy and happiness? That joy is based upon our feelings of pleasure, or our circumstances. If that is true, isn’t that worrisome to you? Because you and I both know how quickly those can and do change. 

As I read the Webster definition, the part that struck me the most was “the prospect of possessing what one desires.” This opens the door to answering how you and I can have true joy. Ecclesiastes 3:11 states: “He(God) has put eternity into man’s heart…” You see, God has placed the prospect of possessing eternity into our hearts. We desire to possess eternity and true joy, but we try to fill that desire with things that are only temporary. Every single one of us is taken by this desire. We believe that if we just possess that car, that person, that relationship, that job, that number in our bank account, that child, that spouse, that house… if we just get that(fill-in-the-blank), we will have joy forever! And let’s be honest, when we get that temporal thing it does bring us a momentary feeling of pleasure and enjoyment, but what happens when that feeling or circumstance is gone? Usually, we continue to try and fill that void with the next temporal thing, which leads to more fleeting moments of joy and pleasure. And over and over we go, trying to grasp something that we just can’t seem to get. What a desperate cycle, isn’t it? We have all experienced this personally and continue to see it in our culture today. So, what is the answer to this never-ending cycle? 

Galatians 5:22 states: “But the fruit of the Spirit is joy…” Stop, read that again. Did you catch it? Joy comes from having the Holy Spirit! Possessing God himself in our hearts! If we have the Spirit of God, then that means we have the righteousness of Christ! Joy is not based on an emotion, or success, or good fortune, but on the possession of the eternal! If you received the grace and mercy that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ, then you have that which brings true joy, no matter the circumstance! Yes, it’s ok and even healthy to have feelings of joy and happiness or feelings of sadness and mourn, cry, and be upset by circumstances, but through the changing circumstances of life you can have true joy! Why? Because it’s based on filling that eternal void with a righteousness the eternal, unchanging God only provides through His Son Jesus Christ. That which truly satisfies the soul.

No matter how great or how hard the Christmas season may be for you, if you have the righteousness of Christ, you can truly say, or even sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” 

And if you have Christ, you have the Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is joy.

Running Tuesdays: Shoes Matter

by Lorraine Kennimouth-Williams

Are running shoes an important component of running? Some say they are, some say they’re not, and others, well others say “run barefoot!”

First, let’s establish a few truths … to the masses. Shoes matter, and shoes should matter. There are in fact a handful of runners who prefer to run barefoot, but that space is very small. The masses realize that wearing a good running shoe is an essential part of the sport. I am with the masses – I believe “good running shoes” are a necessary evil. 

So, let’s break down the definition of “good running shoes.” I think it is safe to say a good place to start is to run in “running shoes.” I want to make that distinction up front since that is probably one of the first basic steps to take – do not attempt to run in shoes that are made for walking, aerobics, climbing, etc.; find a good running shoe. 

And….it doesn’t stop there; there are many types of running shoes. For instance, we don’t all run the same way. Some of us tend to run more from our heels, others from the inside of the heel, some from the outside of the heel, etc. Some of us are fortunate enough to run from the balls of our feet to our toe – neutral runners. Those who don’t necessary run primary using the ball of the foot – toe and are more prone to “heel striking” could probably benefit from a support shoe. A support shoe is designed to aid in rectifying a certain running style in an attempt to bring the runner back to the ideal form which is considered neutral running. Scientific research has shown that less injuries occur when a neutral running form is used therefore making shoes available to correct all other forms of running. Shoes have been designed for pronation (over-pronation and under-pronation) otherwise known as supination. These are all fancy terms that mean a “non-neutral gait” (please Google terms). 

And …it doesn’t stop there. Whether running neutral or not, running shoes come in different “heights” otherwise referred to in running parlance as “heel-to-toe drop.” This refers to the number of mm between the heel and the toe of a shoe essentially giving it a lift or not. Some shoes have 0 “heel-to-toe drop” suggesting an entirely flat shoe; even though the shoe may have a thick sole, it can still have a 0 drop. I throw the term out there because “heel-to-toe drop” is VERY important to me and the shoes I wear. I require a high “heel-to-toe drop”, the highest being 13mm. I need this because I suffered with strained Achilles for many years and after discovering this “heel-to-toe drop” trait and then switching to a shoe with a large drop, it help me considerably! 

It could take a while before you find the right shoe that works perfectly for you, but with patience and tenacity (which are traits required in running) you will! And when you do, oh wow! You now have an essential element to your running sport. They will be your new best friends.  

There are several other elements to a running shoe that we have not talked about in this article, but one more that I would like to mention before finishing is “custom orthotics.” I personally use custom orthotics. They were prescribed for me many years ago by my podiatrist, and although they have helped, I am now totally dependent upon them. SO… it is my recommendation that unless absolutely required, I would say to stay away from them (my subjective opinion only). Why? Simply because of the level of dependency – if you can help it at all, you’re better off not being a slave to anything that is not available over the counter. It becomes a huge (and expensive) inconvenience. Again, if you need them and they’re doctor recommended, do it; but if you can get away with over-the-counter orthotics or none at all, you have just acquired more freedom.

In summary, are running shoes an important component of running? Absolutely! Take the time to find what works for you. Start with a professional such as a good running store. They have the tools to watch and discern your gait and prescribe [hopefully] the right shoe for you. Once you find the “right shoe,” you will know when you’re in the wrong shoe – your body will react. Your legs will hurt, your knees will ache, your legs might feel like lead; and then, you put “your shoes” back on and it’s as if you’re running on air. Good luck on your search.

First-Step Paralysis

I had a two-hour conversation today with a friend. We identified big problems, discussed big projects, dreamed big ideas. Of course the tag lines of where to start eating the elephant and taking the first steps were spoken.

So what exactly keeps us in a state of inaction, never moving from identifying/discussing/dreaming, in essence a state of paralysis?

  • We think we have to have all the answers?
  • We think all the details have to be worked out prior?
  • We think since we aren’t the experts then we are disqualified?
  • We think someone else can solve/accomplish/tackle/produce/promote better than we can?
  • We think failure is more likely the outcome than success?
  • We think too much?

Is it possible that the answer to our inaction and paralysis is found in the ridiculous pressure of the pronoun “we”? To be more personal, “me”?

Is it possible that all we need to do is take the obvious first step, which may be the only one God has given us right now, and just trust He also has the next step?

Is it possible that we’ll forever be paralyzed without knowing more than the first step?

If only we could talk with Abraham or Noah or Nehemiah or Esther or Daniel or Mary or Paul.

Or better yet, if only we could follow their example and just start walking, just give up accepting paralysis, just take the first step.