When Is Choosing the Easy Path Okay?

The last few Saturdays have brought the faintest hint of fall in Florida, just enough to encourage my husband James and me to get back on our bikes and explore new off-road trails. Several months have passed since the last time I went mountain-biking, but I was feeling pretty confident I could handle easy “green” trails. (I use the term “mountain-biking” loosely, because there are no mountains in Florida.)

Croom Wildlife Management Area offers over sixty miles of trails and a few more advanced “blue” ones James wanted to try. We geared up, checked the air in our tires, and started out.

Only a few minutes in, I was starting to feel on edge. Compared to the trails we bike in the Tampa area, the elevation gain here was much more noticeable, and the trails seemed even more narrow. I struggled to get the speed I needed while still feeling in control of my bike.

James took the lead, and although he kept shouting tips at me, his skill level is light years more advanced than mine. What seemed like a gradual downhill to him felt like speeding off the side of a mountain to me.

However, I held things together until I rounded a tight downhill bend in a section of the blue, more difficult, trail.

“Peddle hard!” James shouted ahead of me. “Hill!”

I gave it my best, but my best wasn’t enough. I didn’t have enough momentum to get to the top and watched in terror as my bike started sliding backwards.

James jumped off his bike and grabbed my handlebars to slow my fall, but I landed in a heap of bushes with my bike on top of me, more scared than hurt.

After that shake-up, we came to a sign with two arrows. Next to one was the word “easy,” and next to the other was the word “hard.” I waited at the junction while James tackled the hard section and felt rather bummed that all I could clearly handle was “easy.”

That’s when I remembered there is a time for everything. A baby doesn’t go straight to walking. He crawls first. A girl doesn’t go from biking the smooth Suncoast Trail to off-road biking without a few falls.

Sometimes, we have to be content with easy tasks before we can dare to achieve harder things.

For an over-achiever and recovering perfectionist, that reality isn’t an easy pill to swallow. I like being challenged. I like cresting the hill toward success. I have to remind myself that some situations require me to choose the easy path, and that’s not a bad thing. It just prepares me for one day advancing where I want to be.

Be content with small beginnings

There’s a phrase in the book of Zechariah that offers encouragement on this topic. The context is the rebuilding of the Jewish temple, and the people are feeling discouraged. The rebuilding efforts appear as “nothing” compared to its “former glory” (Haggai 2:3 NKJV).

However, the prophet Zechariah poses a rhetorical question to the people: “For who has despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10a NKJV). In order to rebuild, they had to start somewhere. They had to start small.

I like what the Pulpit Commentary says: “Small as the present work was, it was a pledge of the full completion, and was therefore not to be despised. “

Whether we’re rebuilding or simply starting from scratch, we have to take baby steps. The first few steps might seem embarrassingly easy, yet we have to climb them first before we can get where we want to be.

Embrace the easy tasks and build from there

Despising “easy” tasks will only keep us from reaching our goals. We should never quit because we’re not ready for the advanced levels we want to achieve but welcome the practice needed to reach them.

The bottom line is that it’s okay–it’s necessary– to choose the easy trail until we’re ready for the harder one. The practice might seem unglamorous, but it’s the training we need to grow.

What “easy” tasks do you need to welcome today?

~ Kristen

3 Essentials for Race Day Readiness

My first half marathon is less than a week away! After months of following a training schedule and tracking mileage, I am beyond ready to start the actual race and reach that finish line. However, as I look back over my half-marathon training, I see practical lessons that apply to more than just race day. I hope they’ll encourage you in your personal goals and spiritual walk.

#1: Get rest.

The first time I ran 10 miles, I nearly passed out in the grocery store a few hours later. I was waiting behind another customer in the check-out line when a tidal wave of fatigue swept over me. Of course, the gentleman in front of me was writing a check.

Usually, I’m a fairly patient person, but surely one glance my way would tell this dear, sweet man I’m about to pass out if he doesn’t skip the memo line?

Running demands I rest, and I can’t cut corners if I want to stay upright in shopping lines.

The same is true of our spiritual walk. We need rest and quiet time alone with God to recharge. Jesus Himself modeled the example for us, as we see in Mark 1:35.

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed (NKJV).

Jesus intentionally set apart time with His Father, despite all the demands He felt. How much more should we?

#2: Stay hydrated.

My close friends know I have a fear of dehydration. Seriously. At any given time, chances are there’s at least one water bottle in my car’s cup-holder.

Drinking enough water each day is important for anyone, but when we’re training for a physical dare, we have to watch our intake even more carefully. Are we drinking enough water? Are we replenishing electrolytes?

Here’s an even deeper question: Are we spiritually thirsty, and how do we seek to satisfy that thirst? Recently, I read the story of the woman at the well. You’ve probably heard it before. Jesus met a Samaritan woman with a scandalous reputation for failed relationships and offered to satisfy her thirst the way no well and no man could.

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13-14 NKJV)

Only those who believe in Jesus Christ and accept His salvation can experience living water and true refreshment (John 7:38). Without Jesus in our lives, we’ll remain spiritually dehydrated.

#3: Just do it.

I’ve nearly forgotten what sleeping in on a Saturday feels like. Without fail, I set the alarm just as if it were a work day and am running some trail by 7 or 7:30 am.

Getting out of bed early isn’t fun, but I know that to be ready for race day, I have to make the sacrifice. I have to run when I’d rather hit snooze or when my knee aches or even in the eerie pre-dawn darkness under the glow of my street lights. (My overactive imagination tends to imagine Hound of the Baskervilles scenarios. Maybe that’s why my morning runs are usually faster.)

Seriously, though, what has God called you to do? Are you willing to sacrifice to achieve it, or would you rather stay comfortable and complacent? Comfort zones are dangerous places. They present the aura of safety and security, but they can in fact turn into deep graves of wasted time and life.

We have only one life to live. Steward it well, and whatever you do, don’t waste it. 

~ Kristen

Tweetables

3 Essentials for Race Day Readiness – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

We need rest and quiet time alone with God to recharge. – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

Dare to Know God’s Word

Gutenberg Bible, Library of Congress

Know that God’s Word has to be front and center. We have to be thinking about it, be able to quote it. Refuse to let fear and discouragement hold us back; for wherever we go, God will be with us.- Lysa TerKeurst.

Last week, I introduced you to TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes, which challenged me in the area of priorities. My running friend gave me a daily calendar based on the book to help me focus daily on some key principles.

The above quote reminded me that I not only need to train physically for this half marathon, but I also need to prepare mentally for the spiritual endurance life demands. Together, we’ve challenged ourselves to memorize the book of Ephesians during the training weeks ahead.

As a teen, I committed books of the Bible to memory through the Christian Alliance Church’s Bible quiz team. Those years memorizing God’s Word built a foundation of Scripture and truth in my life that have seen me through some tough times. Recently, though, I haven’t been intentional about memorizing God’s Word, and I want to change that.

Why should we know God’s Word by heart? Psalm 119 reveals Scripture’s priceless value and offers several truths that show why we need the “living and powerful” Word (Hebrews 4:12) to be active in our lives.

God’s Word …

  1. Cleanses (Psalm 119:9). If we stray from a path or lifestyle that’s pleasing to God, we can immerse ourselves in the cleansing power of Scripture.
  2. Guards (Psalm 119:11). There’s a sign in my chiropractor’s office that says, “Prevention: the best cure for disease.” We hide God’s Word in our hearts so we won’t go places and do things that contradict God’s will.
  3. Revives (Psalm 119:25). Have you ever felt worn out with life’s trials? God’s Word provides a source of comfort and refreshment like nothing else can offer.
  4. Strengthens (Psalm 119:28). We can’t build physical endurance if we don’t exercise, nor can we grow our spiritual “muscles” if we don’t spend time in God’s instruction book.
  5. Prepares (Psalm 119:42). We can’t know what challenges, conflict, and criticism we’re going to face from people. God’s Word equips us to answer beyond our own wisdom. It won’t return to us void (Isaiah 55:11).
  6. Gives life (Psalm 119:50). The Gospel of John describes Jesus as the Word who “became flesh” (John 1:14). He came, lived, and died so that we can enjoy eternal life. Maybe the here and now presents problems that threaten to overwhelm us, but we can rest in the assurance of our eternal life, if we know Jesus as our Savior.
  7. Offers hope. (Psalm 119:76, 81). The Bible is full of “precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4) that we can pray. God’s mercy today is just as deep and wide as it was thousands of years ago, and the Word provides us with hope for tomorrow.

We’re privileged to live in a time where the Bible is more readily accessible than ever before. With a few keystrokes, we can look it up online, download it on our portable devices, and even have Scripture texted directly to our phones throughout the day (with apps like GoTandem).

Yet its availability sometimes gives us a complacency regarding its worth.

Are you spending as much time in God’s Word as you’d like? If not, what’s holding you back? Romans 12:2 says:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (NKJV).

The only way we can renew our minds and discern God’s will is to know God’s Word. 

Will you join me? You don’t even have to start with a whole book. Choose a chapter or a few verses. I encourage you to comment with your favorite passage that you’d like to know by heart.

~ Kristen

Tweetables

Dare to Know God’s Word – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)

7 Reasons to Memorize Scripture – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)