Today, Rebecca provides an update on where we are at after the first couple of months of 2016 and we introduce our March blog topic! You don't want to miss it!
This week Abbey and I got to make the first delivery of 2016 and delivered 51 hats in the Knoxville, TN area. We donated to Thompson Cancer Survival Center (West) and Blount Memorial Hospital. Many of the hats came from our event at Calvary Baptist (Oak Ridge) a few weeks ago. God has been so good this year and we are so excited to see how we continue to grow this year as a ministry. Here's to a fruitful 2016!
-Rebecca Dotson (Founder)
We are so excited to announce the March topic - Hospitality! There is a lot for us to learn throughout Scripture about our call to love others through hospitality and we are excited to share what the Lord has put on our hearts about this topic. We will begin THIS Thursday, March 1st! Join us!
1 John 2:3, Deuteronomy 6:5, Luke 10:27, Ephesians 6:1, Matthew 28:19-20
We are called to disciple with diligence and perseverance, trusting not in our own strength, but relying fully on the wisdom, guidance, and goodness of God.
Following Jesus is not passive. Being a follower of Jesus is an active lifestyle that all believers must obediently commit their lives to. First John 2:3 says, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.” We are called into action, and that action is to keep His commandments.
What are some of the commandments that we are given? First and foremost, we are called to love The Lord (Deuteronomy 6:5). Then, we are called to love our neighbors (Luke 10:27). Some others include obeying your parents (Ephesians 6:1), and also, we are called to go out to make disciples.
In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus directs His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is how the Holy Spirit chose to end the book of Matthew. Matthew goes out on a great challenge, a Great Commission. Note, we are commanded to go out and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them God’s commandments. This is discipleship.
Paul gives us a good example of discipleship in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Discipleship is a beautiful cycle of continuous building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ. We may be called to lay the initial foundation of truth in someone’s life, or we may be called to disciple in such a way that we build upon an already existent foundation.
Along with our Great Commission, we also have great assurance. In the last portion of the Great Commission, Jesus said, “I am with you always.” Jesus calls us to the great task of discipleship, but He does not send us alone or in our own strength. Discipleship is not a daunting task. It is not burdensome. First John 5:3 reassures us, “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” Therefore, God calls us into action, to obey him. Then, He equips us. Obedience to God is not a burden but a blessing as we get to experience God’s strength in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Thinking of discipleship may generate many feelings inside of you. Reflecting on all of the women who have discipled me, I initially get excited thinking about how I am called to share the best news ever with the women around me. However, at times, discipleship can feel overwhelming to me. Feelings that I continuously must give to the Lord include feelings of inadequacy (Hebrews 13:21), weariness (Matthew 11:28-30), and fear of rejection (2 Corinthians 10:18). We are called to discipleship, but it is not always going to be easy.
So how do we faithfully and diligently go out and disciple others? How do we persevere in the face of rejection and in times of discouragement?
First, we must not rely on our own strength. Haggai had a huge task set before him, to rebuild the temple. In the midst of his seemingly overwhelming task, the Word of the Lord came to Haggai to encourage him. Haggai 2:4-5 says, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.” When we see the huge task of discipleship ahead of us we must not be strong in our own strength, but we must be strong in God. The Word of God commands us to “work” and assures us that He is with us, in our very midst, in the ins and outs of our daily routine.
Then, have confidence in the mission God has called you to. Nehemiah was called by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He had great adversity that challenged him as he faithfully completed the work God called him to. In the midst of adversity, Nehemiah remembered his goal, and he remember God who equipped him for the work set before him. In Nehemiah 6:3 Nehemiah sent messengers to tell his adversaries, “Say to them, ‘I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” Nehemiah, through God’s wisdom and insight, discerned the attempts of his adversaries to derail his works. But, he remembered the goal and task to which he was called, and he refused to stop working until it was done. We must take this stance while making disciples. Especially in the face of adversity and discouragement, we must proclaim, “I am doing a great work, and I will not stop until it is done!”
Finally, we must believe that even the most seemingly trivial works for the Kingdom are not done in vain. In 1 Corinthians 15:58 we read, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” We can be confidently steadfast. We can be confidently immoveable. We can be confident in the abounding work of God. And even when we feel shaken, tired, and like our work is not amounting to what our expectations are, we are assured that all of our works are used by God to grow His Kingdom. Proverbs 3:5 tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Our limited understanding of the smallest of details of life are unable to be compared to His omnipotent and intricate plan that He has designed.
Therefore, go! Make disciples! And do so with perseverance. In Hebrews we are encouraged to, “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of our faith” (12:1-2). Lay aside your fears in discipleship! Lay aside your disappointments! Lay aside your unmet expectations! And when you do face adversity and disappointments, recall James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
God has called us to the work of making disciples. We can do that work because God is in our midst. We can complete our work without “coming down off of our wall” because we are assured that God equips us to complete the tasks He has called us to. We can persevere in discipleship, because He goes with us to the ends of the world.
Valentine’s Day made my heart skip a beat this year. And I don’t mean the kind of beat you get when a guy picks you up for a first date or you get flowers delivered to your desk at work (because neither of those things happened this year unfortunately). This Valentine’s Day, 2/14/2016, I had the opportunity to run my first full marathon. It was in Jacksonville, FL – the 26.2 with Donna National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer. I found it in a magazine a couple of years ago at a race expo when, not 5 minutes prior, I was having a conversation with a close friend about my mom’s recent diagnosis with breast cancer and the conversation turned to marathon training. “I just really want my first one to be flat and at a beach…and you know what, how cool would it be if it benefited breast cancer research?” Then right then and then in October of 2014, the Lord turned my attention to the back of the magazine where I found “my race” and two years, later there I was at the start line.
There were 4.5 months (18 weeks) of training that led to that big pink START sign hanging above my head as my whole body shivered in the T-shirt I had designed for one of the most meaningful days of my life (with the 818 logo on the front – obviously). It was a little overwhelming to think about all the time, energy, money, tears and grit that went into that moment. I wish I was exaggerating when I say that blood, sweat and tears went into this day, but I’m not (see picture below). I quickly found that marathon training can’t be “one foot in, one foot out” and sometimes a 15 mile long run has to happen at 6AM on Saturday morning because that’s when all your friends want to run and then you end up face-planting because you missed a curb (I wish I could say I only did that once) because you’re tired, clumsy and you can’t see.
There were a lot of 5 AM Knoxville Endurance (www.KnoxvilleEndurance.com) practices on work days that led up to this day. There were a lot of days when I doubted my ability to run 26.2 miles. In those times the Lord always reminded me that every good and perfect thing comes from Him (James 1:17) and He knows the desire of my heart (Psalm 37:4). There were also many days where I thought I had it all together. For instance, the day that I ran 15 miles for the first time. Yes, it was just 15 (which is a far cry from 26.2) but it was still my “first first” of marathon training. The next day I woke up with a pain so horrible in my ankle that it was difficult to walk. After a couple weeks of physical therapy I was back on the road but my pain level continued at about a 3 throughout the duration of training. The Lord continued to remind me daily that I could not run my first marathon as a product of my own strength (Isaiah 40:29, Isaiah 40:31) – but I continually had to rely on Him mentally and physically as I continued progressing into the long weeks where there wasn’t much of a light at the end of the tunnel. My race turned into “our race” and my first marathon became much less about me and much more about God showing Himself faithful as the ultimate Healer and also about celebrating my mom’s victory over breast cancer.
So as I stood there with adrenaline pumping through my veins, me and Jesus had a lot to celebrate. We came pretty far together over those 4.5 months. 562 miles to be exact – from October 1st to February 14th. I had a lump in my throat as the National Anthem was sung and when the gun went off and pink confetti flew in the air, the feeling as I started my Garmin watch was almost surreal.
I thought about the day that I watched my dad finish his first marathon. I have never been more proud as a daughter to see my dad accomplish such a huge goal at the 50 yard line of Neyland Stadium at the Knoxville Marathon in 2012. I thought about the endless conversations I’ve had with friends who gave me advice about what that day might feel like.
There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about the first 10 miles, to be honest, other than trying to calm my nerves down so that I wouldn’t start out too fast. There was a ton of support along the streets of A1A and Ponte Vedra and by around mile 4 I was running along the beach looking up at the most beautiful day. It was about 50 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Somewhere between mile 10-11, I saw my first familiar face screaming my name as I passed by, extra blue Gatorade in hand ready to refill my water belt and cheer me on for about half a mile. Becca Mabry (our Becca here at 818) came with me to Jacksonville and rode a shuttle along the way to see me at this stop and at mile 18. At mile 10-11, I greeted her with a smile and was able to talk a little bit before she turned around to head back to the bus and go to the next stop.
At mile 18, it was a different story. My quads were starting to get tired and I was starting to feel the effects of going out about 15-20 seconds per mile faster than my coach told me to (sorry, Robin!). I saw Becca, she cheered for me and gave me a high five. “How are you doing?”, she asked. “Tired,” I said. “Just talk to me. I can’t say much.”
She ran with me about 4-5 minutes, wished me good luck and rode the bus to the finish line. Every mile became exponentially harder than the last, and I started to question why I was running this kind of distance in the first place. GU packets became hard to swallow. I started getting hot. My quads felt like I did “leg day” about 8 days in a row and then decided to go on a run afterward. Even though I was hot, my body kept chilling because of the wind outside. The wall…it was real. And then, while texting my dad an update of where I was, I finally crossed the 20 mile marker. I had been so far, but still had so far to go.
By about mile 23 I was over it and ready for some social interaction. Between watching people dropping to a walk and putting their head between their knees…I realized I had been keeping a steady pace with a husband and wife. I ran up to them and asked what their finish time goal was. “4:15…but we won’t get there in time…” they said in a “not so nice” tone of voice. At that moment, it was as if Jesus was saying, “Girl…these last 6 miles are between me and you.”
So I continued onto an exit ramp that led to this legendary bridge everyone talks about when they talk about the 26.2 with Donna. It has a beautiful view and the sky was clear blue as far as I could see. All of that was great until I realized what a steep incline it was turning out to be…at mile 24. Like everyone else, I took frequent short walk breaks, making deals with myself like, “At the 4th orange cone I will walk until the 7th one!”
Between mile 24-25 I got a text message from Becca that was a picture of the finish line. Almost instantaneously, I could also see the finish line in the distance – the Mayo Clinic. As I continue climbing up the bridge, I got way more emotional that I had anticipated (let me tell you – running, drinking water and crying is NOT a good combination). Up the bridge they had signs posted with inspirational words like empower and succeed that had notes written on them from marathoners written TO the person they were running for – 2 of which I had written on for my mom at the expo the day prior. Amongst these were other posters of women who had beat breast cancer. Also, as soon as I pulled myself together from seeing a sign I had written on, a survivor passed me wearing a T-shirt that had the day she “finished” breast cancer on the back. I was a wreck.
I realized I had saved a song for this point in my race from Elevation Worship’s new album. The song is called Yaweh. I saved it because I knew I would need it at this point in the race and I wanted to listen to it while I was gazing out over the most beautiful view of Jacksonville. I turn it on as I’m going down the other side of the bridge and I got overwhelmed as the song reached the bridge…
He who was and is to come is the One who lives in us…the Great I Am, Yaweh.
Those words are what carried me to the 26 mile marker and eventually to the finish line. God stopped me dead in my tracks and reminded me Who was giving me the strength and grit to persevere and finish in the first place. I saw mile 26 and looked up and saw the finish time clock. I gunned it and was able to finish with a good stride and a smile on my face. As soon as I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch, it was all worth it. 4 hours, 24 minutes and 37 seconds. The Lord had given me the opportunity to do something I didn’t know if I would ever quite have the guts to do. And as the woman put the medal around my neck, I don’t think she had any idea the significance of that moment.
I’ve recounted that day in many conversations since Valentine’s Day and the number one question I get asked is a simple, “How’d you do?” For me, that is a very loaded question. Did I reach my time goal? Yes, because I didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself apart from finishing and enjoying the ride. Was it the hardest thing I’ve ever done? Physically, yes. Will I do it again? Absolutely. Probably this year.
But I will never cross the finish line of my first marathon ever again. And it is a memory I will never forget. So to me, that’s what it was all about. A memory of something I’ve always wanted to do and the #1 item on my bucket list for the last 5 years.
My encouragement to you is this…stop staring at your bucket list and check something off this year. Make it memorable. Surround yourself with people who will push you toward your goal. Soak it in and you will have memories that will last a lifetime.