As Anton Ego put it in the movie Ratatouille, "... you know what I'm craving? A little perspective. That's it. I'd like some fresh, clear, well seasoned perspective. Can you suggest a good wine to go with that?"
Sunday, June 2, 2013
iPray eVotionals exhorts those who pray. It's the glass of water held out around each month's turn for the runners who can use a quick and easy quench in order to finish strong.
(Approximate reading time: 10 Minutes)
Stretching First... Missy meets Jacky
"I can do the splits!"
All of Missy's sisters and her brother just looked at Jacky, not exactly knowing how to respond to her statement. It's not like they wanted to judge the honesty of Jacky's word, but she didn't quite fit the typical I-can-do-the-splits physique. The children's faces must have told Jacky what they didn't dare say.
"I know what you're thinking." Jacky burst out while she placed herself in the center of the room, "Just because I'm chunky does not mean I can't do the splits."
Chunky? Missy thought her 4th grade teacher Mrs. Farlow was chunky. She was sure that you could fit at least three Mrs. Farlows inside one Jacky. Missy watched as Jacky stood as tall as her body would allow her to stand with her arms out, as if she was an eagle perched high on the edge of a mesa, waiting for the perfect moment of an upwind from the valley below so that it could jump and take flight.
Jacky had only been renting Missy's family's spare room for a few weeks. Since they barely knew Jacky it was impossible to know if this was a joke or not. Missy waited anticipating the moment Jacky would step out of her pose and put everyone at ease, saying that she was just a big joker.
From the doorway Missy's mom broke the silence, "Jacky, are you sure you can do the splits?"
Jacky cheerfully kept her stance, "Sure I can, I use to be a cheerleader." She gave a smile and without much warning Jacky jumped as high as she could, threw her legs out to each side and BAM! Her body slammed hard on the floor as her legs landed in opposite directions. Jacky had indeed landed in the splits.
Missy couldn't decide if she should cheer or laugh. Knowing that laughter was not really appropriate she joined the others in their cheers, sort of. Her little brother Ralph's cheer seemed to be flavored with chuckles. Her little sister Candy's cheers sounded more like a cross between congratulating and reprimanding. Missy's older sister Sherry spoke up first, "That was really surprising Jacky..." her voice cracking just a bit as she tried her hardest to give an honest reaction. Missy didn't want to make a mockery out of Jacky's efforts but it was becoming increasingly funny by the minute.
Jacky's eyes sort of turned inward and her forehead wrinkled up. As she sat in the splits position her smile seemed to resemble the smile Candy use to have when she was a toddler still learning how to pose for a picture. A "frowning smile" as her mom put it. Jacky froze, her arms up high as if she had just stuck a landing as a gymnast in the Olympics, with this interesting not-so-pleasant but trying-to-be-pleasant disposition.
Was Jacky stuck? Missy wondered how Jacky was going to get out of that position. Her mom walked up to Jacky, "Are you all right? Do you need help getting up?" Now that would be a sight... Missy's mom, in her 8th month of pregnancy with her 5th child, helping Jacky, who could be 400 times heavier than the 10 pound limit Missy's mom was allowed to carry in her third trimester, stand up from a full splits position. The situation seemed to get more funny as Ralph looked at Missy trying to hold back. Soon all the children were trying not to laugh with their lips closed tight.
Jacky forced a frowning smile at her audience and said, "Oh I'm fine! I guess I could have stretched first, I haven't really done that in years." She rolled her body back slowly into a sitting position.
"Okay kids, it's time for bed." Missy's mom hurried everyone off into the hallway and towards their bedrooms. Missy glanced back as she saw Jacky lifting her legs up with her hands and guiding them together.
For the next month or so Jacky walked slowly with a slight limp. When asked if she was okay Jacky insisted she was just fine and did not get hurt at all when she tail-dived into the splits. Candy asked Jacky if she would do it again, Jacky cleverly changed the subject.
Jacky's body was far removed from what it had once been. Missy thought about those splits and the spectacle Jacky had made of herself. She thought about how hard it was not to laugh. Missy wondered how that could have been avoided and finally concluded that being aware of the condition of her body was probably essential before Jacky's butt dive...even if the dive had been made before. Missy was sure that if Jacky had stretched first she would have realized that her body was not prepared to do the splits.
The Karate Kick
I have never been flexible. In high school I watched my sister Cari as a cheerleader stretch every day until she was able to do the splits. When I visited my best friend Maria's house she would sit in front of her mirror and stretch as if she had no bones at all. My poor excuse for not stretching was that I couldn't even get my hands to touch my feet. Over the years I have had moments where I really worked at it and would manage to touch my toes only to stop the progress and return to my safer and more comfortable inflexible state. As an adult I have always dreaded the stretching portion of a step aerobic class. I could match the class until it came to that moment when suddenly I looked like a stiff dried out brown branch that could snap at any moment while everyone else's green twigs bent in all sorts of interesting directions.
This year I started taking Karate classes. It's been a wonderful challenge to study the discipline and attempting to mirror what I have been shown. It is quite satisfying to work at a certain combination of moves and after working hard being able to execute. As the months pass there has been a certain kick that seems to give me trouble. It is a side kick where I am to kick with my heel, my hip turned forward and my toes pointed slightly downward. It looks great when others do it. I can't seem to get my toes to point slightly downward.
A couple of months ago this bothered me so much that when I went home after a class I stuck my leg up on a table and forced my foot to face downward with my hip turned forward. Yikes! I was not flexible enough to make this move. I realized that there was no way I could ever execute that kick the way it was to be kicked until I stretched out and became more flexible.
The horror of failing flexibility yet again haunted me. For the first couple of weeks I stretched before class. That did not make much difference. It seemed to be inevitable, I had to stretch every single day in order to make that kick. When a day goes by without stretching I can tell that I have taken two steps back in getting to where I need to be.
"Lord, why is it so hard for me to be flexible?" I finally cried out.
His answer? Because I don't stretch. Ouch! I couldn't help but find out as much as I could about stretching.
iStretch for Flexibility
The Right Position
First of all, according to my research, flexibility comes from several factors (joints, ligaments, tendons and muscle) and some factors should not be stretched. Tendons can be damaged permanently being stretched just four percent beyond their length while muscle can stretch up to one-and-a-half times it's own length. The focus in stretching is on the muscle itself. Therefore it's important to be aware of how your body is moving and what position you are in.
Proberbs 3:5-6 tells us the right position, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not upon your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path." Trusting in God is our muscle. I can't change that my ligaments are limited. It only hurts me tostretch the moral God-factors that can never be changed.
Hey, I get it...tell this little girl (yes, I'm talking about me) that she can't and she has a notion to prove you wrong. Did that counselor really say I had no chance to go to a 4 year college? That's not what my Pepperdine degree says! Still, no matter what my inner drive is I will never become flexible if I am stretching in my own understanding. He made us with certain gifts and talents...stretching them according to His Will results in maximum flexibility. As we get into position to stretch we should be asking ourselves, "Do I feel the sanctification stretch of a calf muscle or am I instead leaning on my own understanding which puts pressure on my knee joint?"
The Right Mindset
Secondly, stretching takes time. Over stretching means tissue damage. That is not very appealing for this get-it-done-now girl. I want to do that kick now. Be that perfect God glorifying leader now, make that impact for His kingdom now. Have full understanding now, be flexible with my situation and with those around me now!
"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them- every day begin the task anew." ~ Francis de Sales
I'm thinking Francis de Sales must have come face to face with someone just like me! Only God knows when I'm ready. Every day begin the task anew, then I'll become ready. It takes diligence for a long time... small steps in a new direction rather than gigantic steps done the wrong way.
When this here gal (I'm talking about me again) lost the use of her legs after experiencing a pelvic split, she found that pushing too hard caused an inflammatory response that made her recovery longer. Nikos Apostolopoulos, director of the Microstretching Clinic in Vancouver explains why this is so. "Any time you cause pain, you actually cause tissue damage," he says. "You don't want to generate any form of pain and discomfort when you are trying to become more mobile and increase your flexibility." A gentle stretch that lets the muscles release and grow longer is the way to go.
God uses time to work out everything that needs to be worked out so that our full flexible potential is realized.
The Right Reaction
Finally, stretching in the right way with the right timing will result in a lengthening reaction. While I work on my Karate side kick it's essential to remember that it's not enough to be strong, muscle flexibility determines how high I can kick while my toes are still pointed downward. Right now I can kick pretty high with my toes pointed in the wrong direction, but the effects of the side kick is zero to none if my heel can't make contact. I want a muscle lengthening reaction so that my toes point downwards while side kicking with my heel. Holding a stretch for a prolonged period of time allows this lengthening reaction to occur, helping the stretched muscles to relax. When I am flexible enough and my muscle memory kicks in my toes will automatically do exactly what they are supposed to do.
God made it clear to the Israelites that it is His Will to stretch for length, "Enlarge the place of your tent, Stretch your tent curtains wide, Do not hold back; Lengthen your cords, Strengthen your stakes." Isaiah 54:2
In the same way I want a spiritual lengthening reaction. My effectiveness for God's kingdom means nothing if my efforts are not pointing up. When I stick with the stretching program God will expand my territory, He will bring to mind His Word hidden in my heart and my efforts will automatically point up. If I kick before I diligently "stretch my curtains wide" I am likely to get hurt while missing the target.
For most of my life I have wanted to be flexible but avoided being stretched in the areas that needed to be stretched. Jumping up and speaking out of turn like Jacky did, thinking I don't have to stretch first, makes a mockery out of me. If I jump up like that, kicking out my own opinions and agendas in God's name then I am the fool and I'm hurting the purity of God's ministry through me. Wanting to be flexible means being willing to get down on the ground and stretching out in between classes. Not just right before class but a little bit every single day. I want to make that Karate kick more than anything, no more avoiding being stretched out.
Slide-up and KICK! Wonder how I made that kick? It's not me, it's God working in and through me. I'm going to keep stretching because I wonder, how much territory can be reached and how much range am I able to have while my efforts are pointing up?
iPray 4 you...
iPray that you will have a willingness to allow God to stretch you in new ways.
iPray that if you have let your prayer life go and feel a bit chunky that you will start stretching again so that you can be ready when the opportunity arises.
iPray that your stretches are stretching muscles and not ligaments, may every stretch glorify God.
iPray that you will have patience as God sanctifies you. May you not go before him but receive what He has for you at His appointed time.
iPray that God will expand your territory and your range as you become flexible.
iPray that God will protect you from jumping up and into the splits without praying first to see if it is God's will.
iPray that you will get on your knees every day and stretch, reach out and be prepared to run the spiritual race.
iPray your every effort points upward and your every kick hits God's target for His kingdom.