Day 31: The Part Where You Go Out and Swim It

Howdy, pardner! Welcome! This post is the last in a series called Swim Your Own Race, which I’ve worked my way through, writing each day in the month of October. If you’d like to start at the beginning (good choice) or find a link to each day in the series you can do so, at Day One. And P.S. … it appears, among the many issues with my website at the moment, that my comments might be BROKEN… sorry about that.


So, if you’ve been following along for a few (or many) of the last 31 Days, you’ve gathered the idea that I’d like to encourage/challenge you to swim your own race. And, since we pulled a lot of concepts out of that one simple metaphor over the past month, there are just a few things I’d like to say in summary so that if this is one of, or, the only post you read from this series, you’ll “get” the main things I want to say.

First — you are second rate to no one. Do you remember the scene at the end of the final movie of the Lord of the Rings trilogy where the King has been rightfully placed on his throne and the hobbits are standing there, knowing that they had a part in making that a reality? They’re bowing to Aragorn, and he turns to them, and honors them by saying, “You bow to no one.”

Well my friend, hear those words, and know that they’re for you.

Now, I’m certainly not saying you belong on a pedestal higher than our one true King, Jesus, but what I am saying is that you do not need to compare your story with the stories of the people around you to determine whether or not it matters.

You are not on the bench and you are not second string. 

Your story doesn’t need to have the drama that makes it made-for-Hollywood material. You don’t need to be aspiring toward ridiculously outlandish endeavors that might one day get you famous, or try to create something that will “go viral” and change the world.

You are already changing the world, my friend. You’re here.

So don’t worry about comparing what you’re doing, the race you’re swimming, to anybody else’s. Do your best to ignore the hype from the world around you, trying to convince you that fame and fortune are synonymous with living a life that matters. Remember that faithfulness to the God who loves you and has a purpose for you is the standard for measurement.

Love God. Serve God wholeheartedly. Love the people around you and be faithful to follow where He leads you. Let Him take care of the rest.

Your race is going to look different from everybody else’s, and it’s going to look different this month from next month.


Those words — abide in me — that Jesus repeated five times, just in the first eight verses of John 15, those words are crucial. How will you know what to do next month? How will you know what faithfulness is going to look like in that job, that place, that situation you haven’t encountered yet?

If you abide in the Vine, you will bear fruit, and be a disciple.

Remember that there are times when postponement makes the best become possible. You will sometimes feel like you’re treading water instead of moving forward. But the Lord is not wasteful with our hearts or our lives — He loves us too much for that. You can trust Him.

Don’t swim back to where you feel safe when opposition comes. Overcoming opposition is always a part of the greatest stories. There is going to be resistance until all things are made new, and anything worth doing is going to meet resistance on the journey.

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Sometimes it’s hard to feel joyful. Even just thinking about the race ahead of us, we perhaps want to furrow our brow and get determined that we are going to give whatever time we’ve got ahead of us all we’ve got. Believe these words with me: God cares more about you than about what you can do for Him.

He tells us the truth, and the truth should give us joy. 

We know we are redeemed! We know this life is a gift! We should be THE most joyful people in existence! We have the privilege of knowing and loving and serving this amazing God who loves us so much He gave His Son for us!

In the southern part of the United States, we have a saying for a person who might be silly, a child that might be rambunctious, basically anyone who might’ve once had it all together but forgot where they put it. We say, “He’s a mess! She’s a mess! They’re a mess!”

But let’s be honest: WE’RE ALL A MESS!

And that God who created the universe finds us worthy. So worth loving that He would send His Son to reconcile us to Him, even when we were such a mess that we disobeyed Him and totally blew it.

The simple fact that God loves us in our mess is enough to put a smile on my face and even make me start laughing!

Find your joy in His truth today. There is a lot to think about when you’re racing. Your pace, your timing, your breathing, the right moment to start a good hard sprint-to-the-finish… but in this race, you can relax all those concerns and let go of all the worry. Our Coach decided to make it simple for us.

Abide in Me, and you’ll bear fruit. Keep my commandments, and you’ll abide in My love. Apart from Me you can do nothing, but abide in Me, and you will be a force for good that the powers of darkness will not prevail against.

Give thanks. Find your joy in the Truth and rejoice. Swim deep into the knowledge that you are so precious, and so loved, and so destined to be an important part of the most incredible story ever. Ever.

Keep swimming friends. Thanks for joining me in this journey.


Day 30: How It Isn’t Going to Happen

Howdy, pardner! Welcome! This post is part of a series called Swim Your Own Race, which  I’m working my way through, writing each day in the month of October. If you’d like to start at the beginning (it is a very good place to start, after all) you can do so, right here. You can also find a link to all the posts in this series on Day One. I hope you enjoy diving in! And P.S. … it appears, among the many issues with my website at the moment, that my comments might be BROKEN… sorry about that.


I’m going to let you in on a little secret this morning, in case you don’t make it past this first paragraph today. If you have a Bible and you don’t know where to open it to, John 15 is an excellent place to start. We’re going to be examining that wonderful chapter a little bit today, but I just want to make sure that I’ve well and truly said this thought. You could camp out in John 15 for six months and still be warm by the fire of the truth there. Let’s strike a match shall we?

You know what most of us don’t like being told these days? We don’t like to be told that something is impossible. We don’t like limitations and we don’t like things that can’t be fixed.

I was reminded of this truth just yesterday when I went to a luncheon where a woman after the Lord’s heart was speaking. She spoke powerfully about drawing near to Jesus by being near those who are suffering, and she reminded those present of this particularly uncomfortable truth that Jesus said:

Apart from Me you can do nothing.

I felt like we all shifted in our seats simultaneously under the weight of that truth.


This summer, I made a first attempt at gardening. I almost chickened out, but a friend of mind actually went so far as to start some tiny seedlings for me in egg crates, so I really had no excuse not to stick those things in the ground. Well, I had a few excuses but I decided not to let them be excuses.

I had gorgeous cucumber plants, which was funny because cucumbers aren’t really my favorite. They sprawled out in every direction on long vines and we loved checking for ready ones each day. I had lots of little Italian tomatoes, but only a couple of larger tomatoes ever developed from those plants. And I had a lovely basil plant that I was over the moon excited about, too.

Now it won’t be hard for me to convince you of this truth. Let’s say I didn’t know better and I said to myself, Self, I want a cucumber plant to grow in my kitchen window. And then I went out to the garden, cut a little branch off my cucumber plant and stuck it in my window in a glass of water.

Go branch! More cucumbers please, branch! I believe in you, branch!

For all my cheering and hoping and encouraging, that branch could no more bear a cucumber than I could give birth to a baby cheetah cub. But oh wouldn’t my boys be delighted if I could!

I’m sure you believe me about this: I will not grow cucumbers in a glass of water in my kitchen window. I cannot take those branches away from that vine and expect them to grow a lick of fruit. Not. Gonna. Happen.

Jesus said, in wonderful John 15,

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. {John 15: 5-8}

Our greatest efforts will amount to nothing if we cannot abide in the vine. If we do not work according to the will of God, if we do not stay connected, keep our radio dials tuned in to His station, our efforts will amount to nothing.

For thirty days now, the discussion in this space has been about what it looks like to Swim Your Own Race for Jesus. And this is our arrival at the crux of the matter:

We cannot swim our race for Jesus without staying intimately connected with Him. We will not bear fruit that is worth bearing, we will not be His disciples if we do not abide in Him. 

The source of life for those cucumbers, where they get their nutrition, their nourishment, their hydration? It’s the vine. The vine is their source. The vine is where those branches got everything they needed to bear the wonderful fruit that became Tzatziki and Cucumber Dip at the Collie house this summer.

Whatever the dream, whatever the vision. Whether you’re praying to sing before audiences around the world for God’s glory, or whether you’re just praying to faithfully make it through the day with three toddlers, know that apart from Him, you can do nothing. With men, it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible. {Mt. 19:26}

As you dive into day, remember your source, your lifeline, your very present help in time of need. Abide in Him, friends, abide. Apart from Him, you can do nothing, but with Him, anything is possible.


Day 29: The Last Famous Last Words (It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over)

G’day mate! Welcome to you! This post is part of a series I’m working my way through in the month of October, called Swim Your Own Race. If you’d like to start at the beginning (it is a very good place to start, after all) you can do so, right here. You can also find a link to all the posts in this series on Day One. I hope you enjoy diving in! And P.S. … it appears, among the many issues with my website at the moment, that my comments might be BROKEN… sorry about that.


Quick question for you to think about. How do you handle failure?

{Pausing for a moment for you to ponder that…}

Like, how do you handle it when you really mess up?

Are you able to get your head back in the game pretty quickly, or do you kind of want to drag yourself across the coals for a while?

Hold that thought.

For the past two days of this Swim Your Own Race series, I’ve been discussing some of the last things Jesus said to His disciples before He headed for the sky. Each gospel we’ve covered (Matthew, Mark and Luke) had something very specific to say about going out and being witnesses that testify to Who Jesus was and what He did while He was here on planet Earth.

The last conversation recorded in John’s Gospel is fairly different, but some of the same conclusions can still be drawn. We probably need to briefly look at the backstory for it to all make sense.


Peter was perhaps the most bold and brazen of all the disciples. He was quick to speak, eager to participate, and usually had something to say in just about any situation. He answered Jesus’ Who Do You Say That I Am with “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus cheered for Him for receiving this revelation, and in the very next passage rebuked Peter for his attempt at telling Jesus that He couldn’t be crucified. (That was that Get behind me, Satan moment you might remember.)

Towards the end of Jesus’ life, as the story continues, Peter is still eager to make good choices and do the right thing. When Jesus tells him again that He is going somewhere Peter can’t immediately follow, Peter says, “Lord, why can’t I follow you? I will lay down my life for your sake.”

Jesus answered him, “Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.” {see John 13:36-38}

Now you might remember, as the story goes on, that bold and brazen Peter cuts off the ear of one of the High Priests’ servants in an attempt to protect Jesus during His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But immediately following that arrest, Peter begins to follow at a distance, and a servant girl sees him, and says, “You are not also one of this Man’s disciples are you?” And Peter says, “I am not.” {John 18:17}

Twice more in the time that follows, Peter denies Jesus, even to a relative of the man whose ear he’d cut off, and immediately the rooster crows.

I imagine at this point, Peter felt like a total failure. He claimed he’d die for Jesus, and yet he denied even knowing Him to a servant girl.

Perhaps you’ve never made a mistake that has felt like it was of this magnitude. Or maybe you think your mistakes are even worse. But, praise God from Whom all blessings flow, Peter’s story wasn’t over yet. (And neither is  yours…)

After the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, Jesus appears to His disciples on more than one occasion. And one of the final occasions, which we’ve discussed over the past couple of days, was the breakfast by the sea.

We find Peter at this point, and it looks like he may have decided he was no good at being a disciple, and he’s given up. He was with the other disciples when he said, “I am going fishing.” Peter, whom Jesus called to become a fisher of men, is probably thinking in his mind, “Maybe I should just stick with fishing for fish.”

But Jesus calls to them from the shore, and they come in and eat breakfast together. And then this conversation takes place.

So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”

He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”

And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” {John 21:13-19}

What’s going on in this interesting conversation? A number of things. Perhaps Jesus asks Peter the love question three times because Peter denied Jesus three times. Perhaps He wants to emphasize what His disciples are supposed to do is they love Him. Three is an important and significant biblical number and we could spend six months just considering that… but let’s just take this at face value and look at what we know for sure.

Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, and when he said he did, Jesus told him to Feed My lambs. Now, this should be familiar to Peter. Jesus has spoken before about being the Good Shepherd Who knows and loves His sheep. The disciples understood that God’s people were His sheep. Jesus was calling Peter to feed His sheep — in the spiritual sense, teaching them who Jesus was and how to follow Him, and in the literal sense, knowing that concern for the poor would be one of the signs that followed the people of God. He told Peter to Tend His Sheep, too. Peter will assume the responsibility of leadership in the early church.

How could we sum this up in a nutshell? Perhaps Jesus could’ve said, “Peter, it ain’t over till it’s over. You think that you’ve messed up so badly that you need to go back to fishing. But I know you love Me. And I’ve got a plan for you.”

Jesus went on to tell Peter a small glimpse of what would happen to him as he did continue to follow Jesus and feed His sheep. And those bold and brazen words, “I’ll lay down my life for your sake?” Well, they most certainly became a reality. Peter was a pillar in the New Testament church, had incredible influence in the growth of the early church, and would eventually be martyred as a follower of Christ.

It ain’t over till it’s over.

What about you? Did you have a vision of doing something incredible for God? Are you settling for a slice of humble pie? Or do you perhaps feel unacceptable to God — as if you’ve just gone so far over the line that there’s no hope for you?

Let Peter’s story remind you of this important truth: God loves you. He has an incredible plan for your life, and He chose to spend some of His last words restoring someone who denied Him when, by human standards, He needed a friend like never before.

Let this truth speak to your every day. Perfectionism isn’t going to get you anywhere. Humility — the willingness to recognize that we’re all flawed and we’re all going to make mistakes — this is the stuff that will help us bounce back when we fall short.

Know that on the race you’re swimming, there are going to be days when you will just plain miss the mark. Like Peter, you might get out of the boat and walk on the water, but also like Peter, you may start to sink. The Good News is that Jesus didn’t come for the perfect, He came for the willing. He came to pave a path back to God for the flawed failures of the world, for those of us who aren’t even sure we want to get back up.

You are so loved! You are so welcome and so accepted!

Forgiveness is a gift worth unwrapping. Dive into a bold swim today friends. God isn’t looking for perfect. He’s always just been looking for you.


Day 28: More Famous Last Words

G’day mate! Welcome to you! This post is part of a series I’m working my way through in the month of October, called Swim Your Own Race. If you’d like to start at the beginning (it is a very good place to start, after all) you can do so, right here. You can also find a link to all the posts in this series on Day One. I hope you enjoy diving in!


Just a few weeks ago we piled into our minivan to head west. Not too far west, just quite close to Charlotte. The Hubs was second shooting a wedding, and I was very excited that the close proximity of the wedding was an excuse to go and visit one of my bestest friends in da whole wide world.

We hadn’t seen each other in real life for ages, but we’d been in touch often, just texting or calling or interacting on Facebook. I hadn’t seen my friends’ sweet little daughter, Sophie, since she was like nine weeks old, and now she was well over a year old, and, as babies do, she had changed so much since I saw her last.

But, thanks to Facebook, when I saw her, I wasn’t surprised in the slightest. I might’ve even said aloud, “I feel like I know her already!!” I’d looked at pictures of her very often since our last visit, so she looked exactly how I expected her to look. Sophie’s bright eyes, her sweet round face and even the cute little pigtail atop her head were all very familiar. I felt like I’d known her all along.

But as the weekend progressed, I truly got to know my friend’s little girl. I watched her and saw what a peaceful and content baby she was. She always seemed very thoughtful, always observing, always learning. She rarely fussed and seemed like such a patient and wise soul, inside this tiny little body. Watching her unique and precious ways, studying and learning her, made me realize I didn’t really know her at all.

Sure I’d seen pictures and watched her grow up month by month for quite some time, but those were just pictures. She was a real baby with a real personality I hadn’t seen before.

Sometimes it’s easy to think we know something, but maybe we don’t really know.


Yesterday, we dug into a conversation about Jesus’ last words. What’s recorded in each of the Gospels is slightly different, one from another, but they all bring forward the same basic themes, recounting different sections of all the things that probably happened in those final moments when Jesus was with His disciples before He left the Earth.

One particular instruction that Jesus gave His disciples was very clearly spelled out, quite similarly, in both Matthew and Mark’s Gospels.

Matthew’s version is often called “The Great Commission”and it reads:

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” {Matt. 28:18-20}

Mark’s version, also called “The Great Commission” reads:

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” {Mark 16:15-18}

Now in both of these accounts, one specific theme emerges. And that theme can be perhaps be summarized Go out there, tell about Me.

Luke’s account said first hang on, and receive the Holy Spirit, (and we covered that conversation yesterday) and these two pick up after that instruction, in agreement with what was recorded in Luke, You are my witnesses.

In each of these different accounts of Jesus’ Famous Last Words, we are clearly instructed that we are to be witnesses. In a courtroom, we know the witness is the one who testifies about their personal experience.

Now let me ask you a question. Do you feel like you know Jesus the way I knew Sophie before our visit? Do you feel like you just kind of have an idea of what He’s probably like based on pictures you’ve seen, stories you’ve heard, and so on?

Or do you feel like you’ve seen Jesus in action? In your own life, in prayer, while worshiping, and in the ways you’ve seen the hand of God move over the course of your lifetime, have you seen enough to be a witness?

Before I went on that little trip west, I thought I could tell you all about Sophie. The blonde hair, the pigtail, the bright blue eyes, and the round face with the lovely complexion.

But once I was in her presence, I really started to get to know her. She was different from what I expected. I had no idea she’d be such a calm, and peaceful and observant creature. I loved being around her.

If we are called to be witnesses to Jesus, we have to be in His presence. In. Real. Life. We can’t base what we know on what other people have experienced. In a court of law, that would be perjury. We’re to testify to what we’ve seen and heard and experienced ourselves, as we’ve formed our own relationship with Jesus.

Are you swimming your race with Jesus as a distant ideal you’re aspiring toward? Or is He right there with you in the water, through the Holy Spirit, coaching you stroke by stroke when you’re willing to listen?

Do you have a deep and abiding sense in your heart that He already swam the perfect race for you, that you are already accepted by God, and that the swim of your life is a privileged opportunity for you to walk with God and glorify Him?

Jesus closed out His time on earth with a commissioning — He gave us the mission to be His witnesses throughout the world. As we dive more deeply into close and abiding interactions with Him, through reading His word and studying His ways, and praying and stopping to listen for His still small voice, our witness for Him will be more and more effective.

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t feel like you can say Yes! I deep and overwhelmingly know Him! Just know that He deeply and overwhelmingly wants you to. He wants to reveal more of Himself to you, and wants you to know how deep and abiding His love for you truly is.


To change the world for Christ, we’ll have to transition from having an idea of what He’s like to truly knowing Him.

Be still and know today, friends. You are loved deeply by an incredible Savior, and there is so much more to know.


Day 27: Famous Last Words

G’day mate! Welcome to you! This post is part of a series I’m working my way through in the month of October, called Swim Your Own Race. If you’d like to start at the beginning (it is a very good place to start, after all) you can do so, right here. You can also find a link to all the posts in this series on Day One. I hope you enjoy diving in!


This morning, I spent some time reading and thinking about the last words Jesus said to His disciples, after the Resurrection, and just before the Ascension took place. Each of the gospels has a different account of what was said in that key moment, but they are all similar in theme and purpose.

Now in this little space, we’ve been for the last twenty-six days or so considering what it means for us to swim our own race to the glory of God. A lot of what we have discussed has involved focus on ourselves, our feelings, our hopes and fears, our purpose and what the Lord might want to say about all of that.

But it wouldn’t be right, I don’t think, not to give some time and space to specifically considering what it means to be like Jesus, in the sense that Jesus was sent by the Father. He is our example, and based on His (famous) last words, He made it clear that He is now sending us, to be His people, doing His work in this world.

Each of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ final words brings an outwardly-focused theme to the table. In one way or another, each is saying Go, but just one of the gospels seems to also say wait. As in, first wait, then go.


During His final moment on the beach with the disciples, Jesus opened the Scriptures for the disciples to understand them. I take that this is not a literal action – He didn’t open a book for them to look at and get, He was busy opening their eyes, opening their hearts, helping them piece together all the things that had happened.

Afterwards He said,

“Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” {Luke. 24:46-49}

Like the other gospels, Jesus specifically speaks about His people being a witness to what has happened and to Who He is. Like a witness in a courtroom, the calling is to see and observe, and then to testify truthfully about what the believer has seen and experienced. We’ll speak more about this later, but today, I want to focus on that last little part:

… but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.

Jesus is instructing His believers to go out into the nations, to tell people about Him. Why? Because, as a wonderful speaker who was visiting our church recently put it, He wants everyone to get to the Father’s house. It is not God’s will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. {2 Pet. 3:9}

But His expectation was never that we would go out in our own ability or in our own strength.

His intention was to send a Helper, the Holy Spirit. We spoke about this Helper on Day 10, in the discussion about keeping pace. But, although it is an incredible gift to us to receive the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Holy Spirit is not just for our benefit.

Over the next few days, we’ll talk more about Jesus’ famous last words, but for now, just let this sink in as much as possible:

Whatever God is calling you to do, He has a plan to give you what you need to make that possible. 

And He is calling all of us to testify to the Truth of Who He is and why that is Good News to a world in need.

But He also says wait — receive My power to do My work.

I constantly have conversations with Moms where the topic of homeschooling comes up. They ask how I like it, and I tell them that I love it, and I’m enjoying it so much. The immediate response, nine times out of ten, is “Oh I could never do it. I couldn’t homeschool my kids.” Sometimes they cite education as the reason, but most times they just don’t feel like they get along with their kids well enough for it to be possible.

I try to say something like If God leads you to do it, He will make it possible.

Here’s the thing. It’s probably good that we know that we’re small. It probably helps us not to get too prideful. But we often forget, or at least underestimate the power of the God that is at work within us.

You can homeschool your kids if the Lord leads you to do it. You can serve with excellence in a workplace that is full of people who are complaining, bitter, backbiting, and unwilling work hard. Even when you are surrounded by people who are not doing it, understand deeply that because of the Holy Spirit God placed inside of you, you can do it.

If we are Jesus’ disciples, we should be doing incredible things in the world for Him. And many of His disciples are. As I said yesterday, your life doesn’t have to sound like a Hollywood story to be an important story. We don’t have to believe that we’re awesome — what makes it amazing is that, we’re pretty ordinary, but an extraordinary God chooses to use us and to work through us.

As we swim our race to the glory of God, we receive His Holy Spirit and He can make anything possible.

Jesus didn’t choose well-educated Scribes or disciplined Pharisees to be His disciples — He chose fishermen, tax collectors, and basically a few ordinary people to turn the world upside down.

As you swim your race today, invite the Holy Spirit into your life, and ask for a greater measure of the Spirit of God. Know that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things, further demonstrating just how incredibly awesome and glorious He is.

You can, because He is.




Day 26: Perhaps Timing is Everything

Hi there! Welcome to you! This post is part of a series I’m working my way through in the month of October, called Swim Your Own Race. If you’d like to start at the beginning (it is a very good place to start, after all) you can do so, right here. You can also find a link to all the posts in this series on Day One. I hope you enjoy diving in!


You know what can really throw you off your game when you’re preparing for a race? When one of your competitors false starts. You’re standing on the blocks and the buzzer is about to buzz, you’re focused on swimming your race and you know what you need to do once you hit the water. The buzzer goes and you spring into action and you’re on your way, and then you hear the loudest, most unpleasant repeated honking sound and you know — somebody false started and you’re going to have to get back on the blocks and do this thing again.

Those were the rules when the hubs swam in South Africa years ago, and when I swam in high school. It was quite an inconvenience to have to swim back to the wall, get out of the pool, and prepare yourself wait for that buzzer and spring into action all over again.

The rules in swimming (and track and field) have changed now, and if a swimmer false starts at the Olympics, they will automatically be disqualified. The race will carry on. Like one swimmer in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, you could train your whole life for this moment, miss the timing by false starting and lose the chance to swim your race because you moved a fraction of a second too soon.

Over the course of the conversation this month, we’ve talked about When to Get Up, slowing down to make Room in the Margins, Keeping Pace, and even trusting God In the Waters of Postponement. And yesterday, we added the important concept of Rest to the discussion, as a reminder that our life has to take place inside a balance of time when we are focused and working, and time when we are allowing our souls to breathe and giving our bodies the rest they need.

So, you might ask, how do we know? How do we know when our race is in the waters of postponement? How do we know when to get up? When to rest?


Here’s a little story about that, with a little backstory that I’m very fond of.

In 1 Kings, the story of Elijah the prophet is told. He has a boldness that I enjoy reading about, and the gifts that he has kind of make him seem like a stealthy spiritual super hero. Where we’re picking up in the story, things are not so nice in the nation of Israel. The wicked king Ahab is ruling, with his exceedingly wicked wife Jezebel steering his hand, and the people are worshiping Baal instead of the God of Israel. (Worshiping Baal often involved self-affliction, ritualistic prostitution and even child sacrifice, so in addition to the fact that this is a completely false god and they’re turning their back on the true God who loves them, this is a pretty nasty deal.)

Jezebel has gone on a rampage to kill any prophets that belong to the God of Israel — anyone who could continue to share His truth and speak against the way this wicked king and queen are steering the nation.

Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a sacrificing contest. He says, “Let’s head to Mt. Carmel, each build and altar and sacrifice a bull on it, but we won’t light the sacrifice on the altar. We’ll pray and see whose God accepts their sacrifice. And you guys can go first.” So the prophets of Baal build their altar, pile up the wood, load up the bull, and promptly start a prayer ritual to pray that their “god” will accept the sacrifice. They holler and scream and dance and shout for hours. They cut and lance themselves and they’re leaping around their altar and bleeding all over the place.

Elijah looks on, and teases them. One translation of one of his comments is that they should “Cry louder…maybe their god has gone to the bathroom.” HAHA!

Nothing happens to their sacrifice, and finally, in the evening, Elijah draws the people’s attention. He finds twelve stones to build an altar. He digs a big trench around it, puts the wood in order, lays the bull in pieces on the wood, and then proceeds to pour water on the sacrifice. He dumps gallons of water onto the sacrifice until the trench he’d dug around it is full of water and everything is soaking.

Then, he prays and calls on the name of the Lord and the Lord sends fire, which consumes the sacrifice and the wood and the stones and the dust, and even the water in the trench is “licked up” by the flames.

It’s clear who the true God is, and he orders the false prophets of Baal to be killed. Those false prophets were Jezebel’s minions, so she is furious.

She sends a message to Elijah that she will make his life like the life of the prophets he destroyed by tomorrow. He sees the message and runs for his life. He travels to Beersheba, leaves his servant there, and then goes a day’s journey further, sits down in the wilderness under a broom tree and asks the Lord to take his life before Jezebel does.

He has just had this mountaintop victory and now he’s on the verge of total meltdown.

He lay down to sleep under that tree, and an angel of the Lord touched him and encouraged him to arise and eat. He ate and drank and lay down again, and the angel returned again, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose, ate and drank, and then” traveled in the strength of that meal for forty days and forty nights.” I suppose he was so full of fear, he was a bit like Forest Gump and he just felt like running.

Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.

Psalm 103 puts the concept I want to emphasize quite well in verse 14: The Lord knows our frame, he remembers we are dust.

Elijah had an amazing victory on Mount Carmel, but immediately afterward, he was shaking in his sandals. The Lord knew his frame, knew him inside and out, and knew that when he saw that message from Jezebel, he was going to start running. So what did the Lord do? He prepared him for the journey. He gave him water to drink and food to eat, twice, before the journey began. There was a time to prepare for the journey and there was a time to set about the journey.

Although we might not experience a So You Think You Can Sacrifice kind of moment, where we face off with 400 prophets to prove the existence of the one true God, we are likely to have some mountaintop moments in our lifetime, and there will be other moments where we will completely despair our own existence. In every situation, the God who created us can look deeply into us, heart and soul, and lead and guide us, based on His plans for our life, but also just because He knows our frame.

It turns out, when Elijah finished running, God simply asked Him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah explained the situation from his perspective, and God responded by reminding Elijah of His incredible power —  the scene where He was not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire that He caused to pass Elijah by on the mountaintop, but He was the still small voice. Elijah heard that still small voice, wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out to listen to what the Lord would say to him.

God gave him directions to go back, and if I could I’d play music from Simba’s decision to go back to the pridelands in the Lion King right now, because it would really just fit.

God knew Elijah would run, so He prepared him to run, allowed him to run, met him where he was, and then gently encouraged him to head back, not to be afraid.

Elijah waited through the strong wind, the earthquake and the fire, and eventually found the still small voice.

Similarly, we often need to be still and listen for the still, small voice of God. It may seem like the world is falling apart all around us, we might be fearing for our lives, or just dreading another day, but if we can quiet our souls and listen, we will hear a voice, willing to lead us. If we are willing to live with a yielding to the Spirit of God, God can tell us when it’s time to get up, when it’s time to trust Him and wait, and when the journey is too great for us, and we need to eat and drink and prepare before we dive in again.

While a false start will not disqualify you from the race that you swim to the glory of God, I think it’s fair to say that you’ll always be thankful for the outcome if you choose to listen for the gun, and hear the voice of God leading you in His perfect timing.