LenBanks

a continuing story of trust, grace and community

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Together We Thrive!

“Together We Thrive” is the new ad line for the Kaiser Permanente.  It seems they are on to something very spiritual and direct from the pages of the Bible.  On another, soon to be related, note, I did speedwork with the Coastside Running Club this morn.  I am enjoying it as I can learn from others who are very experienced.  Not just about improving pace, but form, the concepts of tempo runs, and more.  And yet on another, soon to be related, note, I have joked that I have my very own wellness team, “Team Len” comprised of Mark, my chiropractor; and Trevor, my personal trainer.  They have been invaluable to me for getting and feeling healthy.  Shortly after the Kaiser commercial ran this morning, Diane joked that I had new members of Team Len – the running coaches of the club.  My reply, “Together We Thrive!”

I have seen and learned many spiritual principles on this journey towards fitness.  And one of the most important? I can’t do this on my own!  From the Ultimate Leadership team, to Dr Arnold who I spent a year with, to the fellow running friends from Church, to the previous mentioned “Team Len” members; I need(ed) each and everyone of them.  From the real deep work to put pieces together to the passing encouragements, it all plays a part in this idea of “thriving.”

And of course that is what God designed for us.  He wants so much more than survival for us.  He wants us to live, to love, to serve, to thrive! And the key to all of that is together – the one-anothers!  By nature I am not the most social person.  I love people, but I am a bit shy or awkward in new situations and I am not the best follow-through friend.  I have been described by some as aloof, and I think there is some truth to that at times or situations.  And so this lesson of interdependence is so valuable to me.  I have grown to cherish the role and interaction with others.  I look forward to growing friendships through all of this in the future.  It’s not just an ad campaign, it’s truth – Together We Thrive!

To thriving!

Running on Grace

This morning I left the house feeling GREAT! I had just done an hour of speed work interval training for the first time with a local running club and I am wearing new jeans in a size that I haven’t worn since probably I was 25. I was walking out the path just filled with self-satisfaction that quickly moved to a gratefulness toward God. And not a false-humility, oops-I-feel-guilty-for-taking-any-credit, kind of gratefulness. I think there is a place that God allows for us to feel a joy for our part of the relationship we have with Him. But that said, I am quite mindful of just how insignificant my role is in all the changes I have gone through in the last few years.

Now that the “number”, the amount of weight I have lost, is public (currently now at nearly 210lbs), I am getting all sorts of positive comments from people. I have been getting the ‘you look good’, and ‘how are you doing it?’ sort of statements, to which I appreciate. I am human, and compliments and acknowledgement does feel good. But it has now ramped up to a level of how inspiring I am and how I have motivated people to make changes and that I represent hope. And of course I know these are nothing but well intended and I accept them as nothing but pure compliments. But I still get a bit uncomfortable with them nonetheless as the changes REALLY are not about me.

Yes, I have had to follow-through with good behavior and choices on eating and exercise. But if you have heard or read my story you know that before there was any weight loss, there was a year or more of counseling and prayer and “dot-connecting” as to why I had developed reactionary and self-sabotaging habits. God had clearly begun a deep work of heart and I have come to realize just how much I failed to trust God’s plan to deal with stress and pain and chose my plan to self-soothe with food.

And that is ALL God! I am so immensely grateful that He loves me enough to continue to reveal in me just how much I need to continue to grow and trust. The work of “forming Christ in me” is a long and beautiful process. It isn’t easy and frankly is so difficult to discern when you are trusting in Him vs self. I really was shocked when I had those numerous AHA-moments that wasn’t really fully trusting Him. But once I saw it, I knew nothing but good was coming. Such a huge weight lifted, that was greater than any amount of fat on my body.

This new stage and passion of running may not last (although I hope it does), but what will last is the ever-growing reliance on Him. When I run, it is on a “path” of grace. “Eat less, move more” is the simple lifestyle change strategy I share, but the REAL change is found in trusting God’s plan and not your own.

Again, I don’t mind the compliments (keep ’em coming), I know they come from nothing but a great place of love and encouragement. But please know there is a BIG God behind what has happened in my life. And I would love for you to join me on that run!

Your Strength Just Might Be Your Weakness

I have been really running and training a lot lately.  In the gym I am lifting heavy and on the trails I am going far.  I am, as you have read in other posts, been so excited to see just how fit I am becoming.  It’s a great feeling!  But a couple of weeks ago while running, my knee tweaked.  I stopped running at the moment and then took a few days to ice it, care for it.  But it didn’t really seem to be going away.  Admittedly I was inwardly concerned that this might sideline my new passion and I would be out of running, losing all the money invested in registrations and equipment, and worse, reaching my newly set goals.

Jumping ahead a few weeks, still running, my lower back/right hip area was a bit tender.  I just brushed it off as random body aches.  But it got worse, so I went in to see my chiropractor.  Post adjustment, I felt great and went out to run…my longest run to date.  I did a complete half marathon in training!  FELT GREAT!  The entire rest of the day I was wonderful.  But morning came and my back was so bad I could barely get out of bed.  Now I have been icing it and visiting the chiropractor.

Thankfully both knee and back are on the mend!  And it happened through something I found to be revolutionary!  Stretching!  (DUH!) I in fact had not “injured” anything.  I got too strong, worked some muscles too tightly, and let them pull my body out of whack.  The knee pain almost left entirely when my trainer helped me to identify a hamstring that needed to be stretched out.  What a relief both of pain and hope for future goals.

The back is a current malady and I am still working on it, but again, my trainer helped me to see that all my squats and dead lifts were strengthening my lower back and running was strengthening my thighs.  Both are good things and sound great.  I am getting strong.  But something called a hip flexor was getting tight and combined with my lower back muscles tightening they both were pulling my pelvis forward causing a misalignment.  He showed me a series of stretches and again, I found immediate relief.  This one is a bit more settled in so the stretching regimen will take a bit more time.  

But a lesson learned.  Getting strong is not enough!  Packing on the miles, racking up the weight, doesn’t cut it.  One has to slow down and stretch out.  We all hear about stretching, but so many, myself included, don’t give it the place it deserves.  We take short cuts, doing just a few quick ones, but the goal is to get right to the run or the weights.

So why am I taking time writing about this?  Because I saw spiritual life parallels.  

I find in my own life and have observed in many others that we have some transformational experience and it’s exciting.  We ride the wave of the new feeling, changes, and generally go forward in our new found life with confidence.  We should!  God has brought healing or new awareness, or a lingering sin issue has finally been overcome.  That is what God does in us.  And again, it feels great!

But then some twinge of pain happens and we get discouraged or we get sidelined with some sort of “fall” through destructive choices.  What do we do?  Well some, give up.  Just as in running or another sport, saying the injury took them out.  Others gut through it, still working on getting strong and ignoring the pain, the signals telling them something is wrong and should be adjusted.

I suggest a third option.  Taking to time to stretch out.  Sometimes our getting too strong too fast throws our body out of whack.  Spiritually we seek or let ourselves ascend to areas of leadership too quickly.  We get over confident in “our” ability and become self-deluded.  We do as so many in the fitness area do, we take short cuts.  We don’t take time to do the full stretch routine.  We fail to recognize it’s vital part of the process.  What is the “stretching” part of our spiritual life in my illustration?  Resting, delighting, meditating.  I am a charge ahead doer.  I recognize and relate to Christ on the go.  I see and feel Him work through me and in me as I serve and do my tasks.  BUT that doesn’t negate the necessity of slowing down and resting in Him too.  I need to not just work the muscles of faith, but stretch them out so they don’t get out of balance.

Too many seemingly strong people of faith have crashed and burned I think for this very reason.

I don’t want to overplay my spiritual application of this illustration.  But I clearly had this aha today and wanted to pass it on.  On the physical fitness track, be mindful, build and strengthen, but don’t get wound too tight.  Listen to your body and discern if the pains are the good ones from building strength or the signals to slow down and pay attention to some other needs.

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.

Psalm 37:3-7a (NLT)

My life-passage here reminds me to wait on Him to act.  It’s hard to be still when you’re feeling so strong and fit.  There are times to charge ahead, to take the land, to get caught up in the “overcoming”.  But don’t neglect the Delighting, Trusting, and Being Still.  Our spiritual growth, just like our physical is a holistic and multifaceted endeavor.

This is a hard but necessary lesson I come back to all the time!  I suspect I am not alone.  

 

Thanks Runner’s World

Welcome to all of you who found your way here from the motivational bio profile that Runner’s World posted of me on their site at RunnersWorld.com

I HATE having to talk about actual scale numbers so having this posted was really difficult.  But it’s not like I was ever fooling anyone that I was significantly overweight, right?  So here we are.  I hope my story will inspire and help people, not just to lose weight or to find fitness, but to find that trusting God’s plan over your own is the best.  That really is the whole point of my story these past few years.

Weight loss and fitness are wonderful byproducts of the bigger journey I have been on.  I still struggle each and everyday to not get in my own way and gut it out with will power and obsession.  It never has worked and never will.  Yielding to God’s plan does.  Now, that’s not some cop out and letting go of responsibility.  I have worked hard, I have changed my eating and exercise habits.  I am running or going to the gym or getting on my bike nearly everyday!  But I had to find internal peace and healing first.  All previous attempts failed because I short-circuited that step.

Do I have everything figured out – NO!  That’s what we in the church call sanctification.  I am in process.  Participating with God each day to grow more like Him and let go of self-direction.

I hope you are inspired to join me on such a life!

BUT God…

Following is the text of my portion of the Good Friday 2014 message at Mariners Church.  Paul, our lead pastor, and I shared the speaking and it was interspersed with worship music.  I welcome you to listen to the full service and get caught up in the worship of the evening.  But I also include my text below as it will serve to encourage you as well.  Paul opened the evening by setting up our sin condition and Christ’s suffering on the cross.  It was followed by the song: Blessed Redeemer.

My message section 1…

As we’ve spent some time recognizing that our sin has created this absolute separation from God, I think of that cinematic effect where the view of something moves further and further away from our grasp as I am pulled back in some sort of tunnel. My SIN…MY sin…has left me lost and hopeless and broken and far from the God who loves me and created me to have a full life with Him.

BUT GOD…

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8 (NLT)

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) Ephesians 2:4–5 (NLT)

Today is GOOD Friday. The crucifixion, the blood, the gore, the pain and suffering. We could focus on them. But WHY? When we could focus on BUT GOD! His love and pursuit of us is what drove Him to the cross.

Our sin forced this great divide from God that we have no ability to fix or repair. We try. But we fail.   I know this doesn’t sit well with us. We hate to hear this. We muster up all our efforts and self esteem to make ourselves look good to Him and others. But dead is dead.

BUT GOD never gave up on us.

Even though we don’t deserve forgiveness…He forgives.

Even though without God, we are worthless…He has chosen to love us.

The apostle Paul, after listing all the things that he and others would think made him worthy and a great man, said,

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness … rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.  Philippians 3:7–9 (NLT)

This is why we devote our lives to following God. He has rescued us. This is why we worship. He is great and loving and has restored hope to us. This is why we sing and become joyful. He has brought us back from death in our sins to a full life in Him.

As we continue this evening we’re going to sing some songs that put this in the proper perspective. We bring nothing to our relationship with God. He is the one who pursued us. My goodness is not good enough. His is, and He gave it to us. My strengths are not strong enough.

BUT GOD…

This next song’s chorus says,

Our sin was strong, but Jesus is stronger.

Our shame was great, but Jesus you’re greater!

As we sing that, I invite you to get lost in a “BUT GOD” moment.

SONG: Raised to Life (Elevation Worship)

SECTION 2

So if Jesus is greater and stronger than our sin and shame, why do so many of us still struggle?

I’ve observed in others and in myself, times when I let my shame get the best of me. I see people let the victory over sin pass them by.   The victory Christ has freely and fully made available to us.

I want to go and shake that person and say, YOU’RE NOT THE EXCEPTION!

Your shame…Your guilt. They’re not a shock or too great for God!

He’s able to bring real change and freedom to all of us. To you!

We need to stop trying to gut out our plan and willpower to overcome the struggles in our lives. God can be trusted. His plan is best.

Please stop standing on the edges. Stop staring from the outside looking in wondering why you’re the “only” one not experiencing the joy that we talk about. Again, you are not the exception!

Paul writes,

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.  Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.

This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.  So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.  He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.  He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:3–8 (NLT)

This is why it is GOOD Friday. It was God’s plan all along to pour out His grace and mercy on us. To pursue us, to give us freedom! This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

I hope tonight something that has been said here has helped you to move God’s grace, His free gift of forgiveness, down into your heart to defeat this cycle of shame, to experience His great love.

He pursued you. So what does it look like to pursue Him? To respond to him?

What does it look like to show gratitude to the one who has rescued you? What does it look like to live your life in that freedom and pursuit of more of Him?

Our worship team is going to come and lead us in songs. Again, I invite you to focus on what He has done for us. FOR YOU!

Perhaps tonight you come here having been wrestling with letting go. Maybe you’ve felt it really didn’t seem to be for you. Or that somehow, you accepted forgiveness, but didn’t let go all the way. To live in that real freedom He purchased for us.

Maybe that cycle of shame – of going back over and over again to the same exhausting destructive choices, has left you feeling hopeless.

Maybe you’re here this evening and this is all new to you and something in you is saying to dive in. To give in. To let go.

Then please do.

His love is crazy and irrational and His pursuit of you is passionate. He never has or ever will give up on you. And He doesn’t ask that you that you fully understand it, just that you receive it.

As you sing these songs, pause and just say something to God like, “I want this. I want you to lead my life, to give me that freedom. To learn to trust you. Thank you for rescuing me, for loving me.”

In a few moments we’re going to take communion together – to remember His death on our behalf – by taking the bread and cup. It’ll be a bit later and Mark will let you know when you can come up and get them. When you do, please take them to your seat and wait with them until we all take together.

SONG: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, Your Glory/Nothing But the Blood of Jesus (All Sons & Daughters)

Communion

SONG: I Stand Amazed

100.3 miles…

Disney Marathon Desktop

I am very excited, a bit nervous, and likely a lot of crazy.  But I have now officially added the “Dopey Challenge” to my list of running events over the next few months.  That will be 4 runs in 4 days that will span 48.6 miles and take me through all 4 parks at DisneyWorld.  It will also be my first marathon!  I know that when I jump in, I go deep.  It’s the all-or-nothing part of my personality.  But this is what will keep me motivated and again, I am
excited.  Looking at the training plans and magazine write-ups, I actually am way ahead of the game to get ready.  So the nervousness is more of the “idea” of the runs than the reality of being able to complete them.

The total miles I will have run at official events in 11 months will be 100.3!

  • 5K in February (Cinderella Royal Family)
  • 10K/Half Marathon combo in August (Dumbo Double Dare)
  • 5K/Half Marathon combo in November (Avengers Super Heroes)
  • 5K/10K/Half Marathon/Full Marathon combo in January (Dopey Challenge)
  • 5K Castaway Cay Challenge in January (part of the DW Marathon weekend)

This was never on my bucket list, but I think it will be a great accomplishment.

I am so grateful to God for the place I am at.  All the time as I am running I am thanking Him that I am getting fit. That at 50 years old, I am the fittest I have ever been – emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  These past three years have been amazing and I know it is the work that God has been doing in me that has brought it about.

 

RetroFit Ministries Shares My Story

A college buddy of mine and more recently a participant on NBC’s Biggest Loser, Ken Andrews, has posted an interview of me and my weight-loss journey.

Ken and I traveled together in a music group for our college back in the day.  He played trumpet and I sang.  We would sit on the bus together and play Rook.  I later to came to realize (through his blog and post-Biggest Loser conversations) that he was struggling with so many issues of pain that were leading to his weight gain.  Many of which I identified and was struggling with at the time as well.  It’s so sad how we mask our fears and pain and find ways to manage it that fall desperately short of God’s best plan for us.  If we had both just opened up to each other and others and experienced the grace we needed then, imagine how different things could have been.

But life is a journey, sanctification is a process, and better to find healing later in life than not at all.  Ken and I have both been doing that!  He now is an advocate for healthy living and faith and has started RetroFit Ministries with his son and fellow teammate on Biggest Loser, Austin. Check out their blog and ministry!

UPDATE:  I continue to lose weight and have now lost even more than the interview states.  I hate giving out actual numbers as it is really is embarrassing, but I felt it necessary to do so for his interview.

“Squirrel!”

That’s how I feels these days.  Like the dog in Disney/Pixar’s UP.  I am not generally an ADHD type person, but I do tend to get distracted and caught up in my latest obsessions.  So I went through a season of posting multiple times a week to not showing up for a while.  I was off chasing other interests.  This is the way I am wired.  I get bored and obsessed easily.  This has wonderful results as I learn and experience a breadth of things.  But it also has negative fallout in living for the long-haul.

I remember in college hearing a message from our college president, Dick Foth, that the Christian life was not about sprinting or even a marathon, but plodding.  I don’t recall all the details of his message, but the word plodding stuck with me all these years.  I hate plodding.  I walk fast, make decisions fast, get distracted fast.  There is nothing remotely attractive to plodding to me.  But there is wisdom and truth to this behavior, at least where serving God is concerned.  Pressing on, leaning in, holding fast – these are marks of commitment and growth.

But as to my being regular in my blog posts, well, plodding will likely never be a good description.  I do have stuff to say and share and process externally, and so I will continue to do so.  But as God made me to be one who gets caught up in things, I will from time to time be off on my latest adventure.

My first 5K!

My first 5K!

Currently that adventure is tied into my long journey of getting healthy.  I have NEVER been one to love sport and fitness.  But I have been bit by the running bug.  Well less about running, and more about Disney’s events around running.  I did my first-ever 5K last week at DisneyWorld. It was an amazing experience.  I was personally proud of the achievement.  Again, I am 50 years old and this fitness thing is all new to me.  And because it is Disney, they go all out to create experiences; the fireworks marking your run start, the swelling soundtrack throughout the park as you run, the giant finish line with crowds cheering you on, and the draping of a medal around your neck.  It is VERY cool.  And as I am one who gets distracted, this type of event is a great tool for me to keep focused on the exercise journey.  So I am already signed up for the next run event.  On August 30 and 31 I am going to do the “Dumbo Double Dare” at the Disneyland Half Marathon.  On Saturday I will run a 10K and then on Sunday a half marathon.  So while the training regimen is boring, dare I say, like plodding, the goal is worth it.

Hey, that sounds like our faith journey, huh?  (Did you see what I did there?  😉 Flipped it right back.)  Yes, we are in our journey to live for Christ and the day to day may seem uneventful and boring, but the goal for which Christ has called us is worth it!  At least in the area of your faith journey, don’t get distracted by the squirrels, and stay the course.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.  Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)

Added Note:  My goal of participating in the run in August also includes raising money for the children of St Jude hospital.  If you would like to encourage my personal journey of getting fit AND help children get treatment for cancer, then check out my info and donation page at http://heroes.stjude.org/lenbanks

Exchanging What Seems Right for What is Really Right

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Proverbs 16:25

I have heard and quoted this verse so many times in my life, but it really didn’t mean a whole lot to me because, first of all, I was already “saved” so it didn’t apply to me any longer regarding that.  And of course I was trusting God for the leading of my life – going into vocational ministry and all.

But this past few years, and especially this last, I have come to realize that I still was keeping control of so many areas of my life.  And in fact may unknowingly still be doing so.  I had developed deeply embedded coping skills to manage hurts and pains from my childhood.  And even though I would pray about it, “trust” God for His answers and help, I kept on my path thinking my ways were succeeding or enough.  How foolish and useless.  Cuz as Dr Phil says, How’s that working for you?”  My answer?  Not so well.  I still would find my responses were more like reactions.  Rather than truly dealing with issues, I would mask them or self-medicate with food.  It all seemed right.  I spoke the Christianese and I love God, so how could it not be?  But I found myself going round and round the same issues with no resolve.  For the longest time I wasn’t even aware I was even in need of some healing.  But eventually I did allow God to show me I had some issues, and once He did, I was ready to work some things out.

Praise God for His patient grace!  That we are in a process of change and becoming.  That He is wise and loving and knows we are frail and take time to made complete.  It’s easy to think we are disappointing Him and making Him mad and that He may get so frustrated with our (lack of) progress that He drop-kicks us away.  But that is most definitely not God.  He is long-suffering and His love never fails and He forgives and forgives and forgives yet again.  So if you find yourself struggling over and over with the same sin issues or patterns of behavior that don’t move you closer to God or find yourself saying, “Why does this keep happening?”, instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself, am I working my plan or God’s.  I can pretty confidently tell you it is yours!  But you need to own that and then figure out God’s.  For me it took more than prayer and Bible reading.  I needed outside sources to help me connect the dots and I needed to trust God enough to let others have that kind of access into my life, past, pains and psyche.  I think that is needed for all of us, cuz if we could figure it out on our won, we likely would have already.  But we are on our own plan that seems right.

I think it originated from Rick Warren, but at our church we say, “It’s not your position, but your direction that matters”.  And by that such amazing grace can be experienced.  Because none of us are in the “perfect” position yet, but as long as we are in the direction pointed to a desire to be like Jesus, then there should be no guilt or condemnation from self or others.  Because certainly there is none for our God.

That, however, is not license to just be a blob where you are at.  We do need to suck it up, put our big boy pants on, and lean in to being/becoming mature.  Don’t beat yourself up, but also don’t give yourself a continual pass.  Grace has no problem or conflict with effort.  The key being an effort working God’s plan, not ours.  One of the major lessons I have learned and hinted to at the beginning, is that even though I thought I was trusting God, I really had not been.  And even though God had broken open huge areas of my life, I still have not arrived.  So what else am I unaware of?  What more is God going to work out in me?  The more I trust, the more I see I need to trust.  The healthier I become, the more I see I need to become healthy.

Do I think everyone is unhealthy and has such issues?  Of course not.  But I do think that everyone has to mature and lean into maturing and that takes more and more trusting and less and less relying our ways that seem right. In that process perhaps we discover we were less healthy than we thought.  But most definitely we will all discover that we need to decrease so He can increase.  And that won’t happen until we let go of what seems right for what is really right.

Lessons I Learned In 2013

2013 has been a profound year for me. Losing significant weight and discovering the why’s behind it, selling our home and seeing God arrange things powerfully through it, and moving our church into a newly purchased building. These events and more taught me many lessons. I hope I can remember them all to post here.

1. I have much more in me than I give myself credit for.
2. I think too highly of myself.
3. There are far more incredible people giving of themselves far more freely than I ever have realized.
4. My wife is more wonderful and amazing to me than ever.
5. God actually is trustworthy.

That’s the summary list but there is so much more to it. I have been challenged and stretched and so changed this year.

In regards to my weight I keep getting asked what have I been doing. What diet or program? And there just isn’t anything special about it – “move more/eat less” is the basic thing. But the deep work was done in the heart and head. God has shown me areas where I really didn’t let Him heal me of hurts from childhood. Areas where I put my plan in place to cope with the hurt instead of trusting His plan. When I began to peel those layers away is when the weight really began to drop. I still have and always will struggle with weight. I like to snack on high-fat foods and have a metabolism that doesn’t burn it fast. But I am well on my way to keeping it off this time around.

Along the way I dreamed and learned about risk taking and came to realize that I have a lot to offer. I desire to make a difference for the Kingdom and want to see God do huge things. I saw areas in which I sabotaged myself instead of stepping up in confidence using the gifts God has given me. I also believe I have untapped gifts and dreams that I want to see developed.

But those dreams also set the sinful part of me going off to overreaching places thinking more highly of myself than I ought. I continue to realize that it isn’t God who needs me, but me who needs God. His kingdom will go on without me and my efforts. I am humbled by the reality that He desires to use me and that I get to go on this ride with Him, but I need to make sure I keep that in perspective.

God’s GRACE and TRUSTWORTHINESS have been huge themes the past few years. This year mostly trustworthiness as grace was really hit on last year for me. But I have seen the grace of God strongly in people this year. Acts of undeserved kindness shown to me personally and major sacrifices made on behalf of our church in getting into our new building. It has been beautiful to watch. I am so undeserving of people’s service to me, and yet that has been one way in which I saw God’s plans for me being far better than to rely on myself – to control and avoid real trust.

This has been a fun year with my wife. 27 years of marriage to this wonderful woman and I love her more than ever. As I stripped away the layers of brokenness and did the heart work that God intended, there was more room in my heart for her. I gave over to her areas that I had been protecting. To be honest we bicker a bit more, but I think it’s because we care more to be understood and real with each other. Walking through the home sale and my weight loss and the health scare and the church move I have seen at the same time both a strong and fragile woman emerge to really co-direct our steps. Her openess to reframe our lives has been exciting and her belief in me is inspiring. I am sure she believes in me more than I do (which I know frustrates her too). All of this has led to a much deeper love for her.

I meant to say it just as I did. God is actually trustworthy. I know biblically He is. I even know personally He is. But somehow this year He has taken me to greater levels of experience of this. It’s one thing to say He is trustworthy, but to experience is quite another. I have had to really confront my control and hanging on to my “baggage”. I have never doubted His trustworthiness, I just came to realize that I also never gave whole areas over to Him to actually trust Him with. And here I thought I had. A mind-blowing year. This of course has left me wondering what other areas I am still holding on to. But I still have the rest of my life to figure that out and grow in Him.

To 2014!

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