Saturday, May 31, 2014

Exercising Faith

Our capacity for knowing God is enlarged when we are brought by Him into circumstances that cause us to exercise our faith. So when difficulties block our path, may we thank God that He is taking time to deal with us, and then may we lean heavily on Him. ~ L.B. Cowman

It was a blustery day here in Bulgaria. Today, the temperatures topped out around 50 degrees with wind gusts upwards of 15 mph. It was quite chilly by my standards and very crazy for this final day of May. Cloudy and overcast, but zero chance of rain - I'm not sure what happened to the weather forecast that I had seen a few days ago, or maybe, I am! :)

On a day when most people were wearing their heavy winter coats and had their scarves wrapped tightly around their faces, I think I was the only person in Sofia showing her legs. I was again thankful for S's purple rain coat, a last-minute addition to my suitcase as I was trying to anticipate all that Faith Ana might need during these two weeks. I never anticipated weather quite like this! The clothes that I had left at the orphanage for her birthday and Christmas came in handy today as well. So this morning I bundled her up in a few extra layers, and me with my bare legs, we braved this windy day and headed for the park!

I've always loved cold morning runs, and I was surprised how much Faith Ana genuinely seemed to enjoy our faster-than-usual pace and the brisk air in her face and the wind blowing through her shiny, black hair! Each day, I am growing more adventurous and more confident that I can't get lost. Today I think we pretty much made one giant lap around this huge park. I was able to run almost the entire time, except for the few occasions the path was too bumpy and rough, and then Faith Ana in those silly sunglasses, would look back up at me, as if to tell me to pick up the pace!

I never imagined that Faith would be such a good trainer!

{Web, you will appreciate this. At one point, I felt like Bear Grylls on Man vs. Wild, and if it weren't for the giant stadium lights rising above the tree tops, I might have thought (again) that I had ventured too far.}

By the time we circled back to more familiar territory over an hour later, I was breathing a little heavier than normal and Faith Ana was still smiling! I had worked up a sweat, and she had {finally} worked up an appetite.

Me and my Faith, both growing stronger, day by day!

After she finished off a whole banana {one tiny, smushed-up bite on my finger at a time} and some applesauce, we enjoyed the swings. She loves to sit in my lap and swing high! I squeeze her tight, and she smiles big!

I'm thanking the Lord this morning for sweet time with my Faith. Right now as I'm writing, she's doing her own version of exercise. You would not believe the positions this girl can get into!

As I'm watching her roll around and stretch, trying to make her little legs move, I keep thinking about the ways the Lord exercises our faith.

It seems that most people have a love-hate relationship with exercise. They dislike the experience, but they love the results. Slimmer bodies. Well-toned muscles. Stronger hearts. Better health. We all know that exercise is good for us, but we often come up with a thousand and one excuses why we can't do it on any given day.

I think the same thing is true with our faith. We know what makes it stronger. We've been talking about it here for the past few days. We know that the outcome is always for our good, and, even more, for His glory, yet we still tend to shy away from those things that exercise our faith. The challenges. The difficulties. And especially the trials. Just like I have been navigating these bumpy paths with their many puddles and potholes, we do the same with the very things necessary to make our faith stronger. We sidestep them or jump over them. Or sometimes we avoid them altogether. We turn around and choose a different path. Perhaps an easier one. 

For example, you wouldn't believe how crowded that Starbucks that I spotted yesterday was. I passed by it this morning on our way to the park, and it was filled to capacity. A warm place to sit, a comfortable chair, and a latte are definitely inviting on a day like today.

And, just so you know, I don't think there's anything wrong with choosing a  cup of coffee over exercise. In fact, I'm one of those crazy people who sometimes likes too much of a good thing. I love to run. Sometimes I like to run too much. Over the past few years, I've had to learn how to be still. I've had to learn how to rest, and some days this has meant laying off the running and choosing that cup of coffee! For me, that's often a better choice than pushing my body too hard. Some of you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but my guess is that there's a few of you {compulsive :) exercisers} out there who might possibly understand. Exercise, although incredibly beneficial, can also be just as damaging. {My back and knees can testify to this!}

But, that's one good thing about exercising our faith. There is no such thing as too much of a good thing. We have a Faithful Father, the Perfect Trainer, who knows just what we need. He knows when we can't take another step, when our backs are about to give out. He knows, and He sets the best course. The workout that challenges and stretches just enough, but never more than we can handle. The weights that won't be too heavy or the repetitions too many. The ideal workout to best strengthen our hearts and make us most fit for His kingdom purposes. 

Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ.  ~ 2 Cor. 2:14

May we learn that in all the difficult places God takes us, He is giving us opportunities to exercise our faith in Him that will bring about blessed results and greatly glorify His name. ~ L.B. Cowman


P.S. I think I spoke too soon this morning when I was writing this post, and perhaps, I was a little over-confident about my ability to find my way around this city. My adventurous spirit got the best of me, and this afternoon, the inevitable happened! We got lost! Really, really lost. We saw some really, really neat things along the way {the farmers' market, the Botanical Gardens, and the Chinese Embassy to name a few}, but 2 1/2 hours later, I had no idea where we were and was completely turned around. And when I could no longer hear the busy street noise of the main road (the thing that helps me keep my bearings straight) and when we had passed the same school twice, I knew it was time to ask for help. Praying for someone who could speak English, I spotted two policemen and told them the name of my hotel {next to the big cathedral} and asked them for directions. They both looked at me like I had lost my mind, but eventually I was able to communicate where I was trying to get to. They pointed a direction and said, "Only this way." I stopped counting how many blocks I went and how long it took, but, eventually, through the trees...

There it was, shining gold, that cross standing high. And for the second day in a row, I've found myself thanking God for golden domes and paths of faith and His faithfulness that never lets up!

Needless to say, tonight I am exhausted! Tomorrow, I might be visiting that Starbucks after all. I think I'll have a tall half-skinny half-1 percent extra hot split quad shot latte with whip. Anybody know how to say that in Bulgarian? 

We "have never been this way before," but the Lord Jesus has. It is all untraveled and unknown ground to us, but He knows it all through personal experience. He knows the steep places that take our breath away, the rocky paths that make our feet ache, the hot and shadeless stretches that bring us to exhaustion, and the rushing rivers that we have to cross - Jesus has gone through it all before us. As John 4:6 shows, "Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down." He was battered by every possible torrent, but all the floodwaters coming against Him never quenched His love. Jesus was made a perfect leader by the things He suffered. "He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust" (Ps. 103:14). Think of that when you are tempted to question the gentleness of His leading. He remembers all the time and will never make you take even one step beyond what your feet are able to endure. Never mind if you think you are unable to take another step, for either He will strengthen you to make you able, or He will call a sudden halt, and you will not have to take it at all. ~ Frances Ridley Havergal

      Good Night from Bulgaria!  :)

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