Called By God To Run: Part 1

It all started with a conversation on Christmas 2013.  Every year, my family goes around the table at Christmas time and shares “where will I be in 5 years”. It’s a little bit of an exercise in sharing our hopes and vision for the future as well as probably giving my parents a glimpse of when they can hope for more grandchildren or a marriage of one of my sisters.

So, back to Christmas 2013… I had been tossing around the idea in my mind of running a marathon before I was 40. Now, this is a CRAZY though for me.  I always said I would NEVER run a full marathon; that was for crazy people.  I had no plans of that. But, for some reason, after having run a couple of half marathons for Team World Vision, the idea of running a full marathon sprouted in my mind.  So, I said it.  I said, “I turn 35 this year.  In 5 years, I will hopefully have completed a marathon.”  That was the first of three threads God tied to my heart.

The second thread was this voice telling me to start praying about some of my commitments.  God so clearly was speaking to me through scripture, BSF lectures, sermons, and friends that I had taken on more than I should.  I was busy all the time leaving no time for quiet time with God, quiet time with my children, or time to think about other plans God may have for me.  I tend to do that, thinking I can do it all and saying yes because I am asked.  I do it to myself all the time and then find myself over-committed, short on energy and patience, and eventually burning out.  God clearly spoke to me and told me to let go of some commitments.  It was going to be hard.  I started saying no to people and was constantly under attack with feelings of guilt and doubt.  My first sign that I was on the path God wanted me on should have been that attack.  Guilt and doubt are not from God but from the one who wants to thwart God’s plans.  I had to continue seeking scripture, prayer, and advice from Godly friends to stay on the path I was on.  That was the second thread – clear my schedule, reduce commitments.

The third thread was an greatly increase awareness of the issue of human trafficking and a burning desire to do something about it along with a sense of helplessness in what to do.  I had had conversations with family members, seen news articles, facebook posts, and blog posts all with this same issue.  I felt deeply saddened by it but didn’t know what a stay-at-home mom in small suburban MN could do about it.

These three thread, though I didn’t see their connection then, continued to wind around my life for 4-5 months.

Then came the email on April 28 that tied all of these three threads together in a way that only God could have done.  I had already begun training for a half marathon that I would run in August with Team World Vision.  I was about to start my training run for that day when I decided to quick check my email first. And I see this subject line “Invitation to 2014 NYC Marathon”.  The email was somewhat standard, formal, saying that Team World Vision had 50 spots open in the NYC marathon for a team that would shift it’s focus off raising money for clean water (Team World Vision’s main cause) and onto the  cause of Child Protection, working to prevent the exploitation of children, protect the most vulnerable, and bring healing to children who have been exploited.

At first read, I sort of dismissed it, assuming that everyone got the email and I was just another name on the list.  But, it got me dreaming on that subsequent training run.  I started to get goose bumps thinking about what running the NYC marathon would be like, about how impossibly AWESOME that would be as my first marathon, about the enormous and seemingly impossible fundraising goal of $5000 in addition to the $1310 goal I already had for my half marathon, about the fear of what training for a marathon would entail and whether or not I really could do it, and so on, and so on.  So, like I said, I sort of dismissed it.  But, then I ran into a friend of mine who was also running the half with me.  I asked her if she got the NYC invite email, assuming we all did and she hadn’t.  Hmm…..

I told my husband about the email that night.  Now, my husband is a very analytical sort of person.  We don’t make a lot of decisions or big purchases without first researching, putting together some sort of spread sheet looking at costs, quality, features, checking out every possible option before committing to one, etc.  So, when his immediate, without hesitation, answer as to if I should consider doing this was “Yes, do it”.  I was shocked.

The next day, having decided to pray on this for a day or two (I only had a day or two, I had to decide by the end of the week if I was going to do it) I went to my BSF lecture.  I distinctly remember that day the teaching leader saying that sometimes it is with fear and trembling that we need to say “yes” to something God is asking us to do for Him but He also promises peace and joy in serving Him if we are living in His will for us.

Ok – message seemed pretty loud and clear!  I took that trembling, fearful leap of faith and committed to running the NYC marathon with a fundraising goal of $5,000 for the cause of Child Protection.  Wow – I remember the giddiness I felt when I realized what I had just done, I had just signed up to run the NYC marathon!   Only God could have placed that immediate joy in my heart at this crazy thing I had just committed to doing.  God tied together all He had been putting in place in my life over the last 4-5 months – the crazy notion that I might run a marathon sometime in the next 5 years, the need to reduce my over-commitments (giving me more time for training), and a way to make an impact for the cause that had been burning in my heart.

But, God didn’t stop there.  The lead up to me signing up for the marathon is awesome but God’s provision throughout the last 6 months of training that has been unbelievable.  I will share more about that in my next post.

To learn more about Team World Vision and their mission as well as the work World Vision is doing in the fight against human trafficking, you can visit my fundriasing page and follow the links I have at the bottom.

www.teamworldvision.donordrive.com/participant/heathermwilford

 

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A Gift From God

Anyone who knows me knows I love Team World Vision.  I love that I can do something so amazing for the Kingdom of God – bring clean water to those who need it most and provide protection for our world’s children and at the same time promote a healthy lifestyle, stretch myself to reach new goals and challenges and do it all for the glory of God!

I am almost halfway in my training this year.  I will be running a half marathon in two weeks and then continuing on to train for my first full marathon this fall.  And, as I am reflecting on how God has been working in my life through Team World Vision this season so far, one of the biggest impacts I have seen is through Halima.

This year, Team World Vision started a “This is Personal” campaign, asking runners to consider sponsoring children through World Vision who then could be our ‘running partners’ as we train.  Having a child to sponsor puts a face to the mission we are on in bringing clean water to children in Africa.

On and off for the last several months, I had toyed with the idea of sponsoring a child through World Vision.  We already sponsored children through an orphanage in Jamaica but the idea of another child through World Vision kept coming to me.  I wasn’t sure my husband would be on board or that it was right for our family.  So, when Team World Vision sent the email explaining the “This is Personal” campaign, I wasn’t sure how I would respond.

But, then I met Halima.

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Our packet came in the mail, with Halima’s face on the front.  And when I read her personal information, I realized that her birthday is almost the exact same day as the day we lost a little baby girl in a miscarriage nearly 6 years ago.  Wow!!!  Some my say that is an amazing coincidence… No way – that is only, can only be, an amazing loving gift from my Heavenly Father who loves each of us so much.  Only God could have brought this together.  Such a gift!

So, of course, we said yes to sponsoring Halima right away.  Being able to help her have a better life has been amazing for our whole family already.  Although we have only “known” Halima for about a month and a half, she is already a part of our lives.  My children make her cards and ask about her, wondering what her life is like, if she has clean water and can go to school.  It has given them a better worldly perspective, that God wants us to reach out beyond ourselves to help His children in need worldwide.  And it has helped fill a space in my heart that was hurt so badly six years ago.  Only God can do this.  He is an amazing loving God.  I pray that you know Him too!

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”  Matthew 25:40

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

 

To learn more about Team World Vision and why I run, visit:

Half-Marathon

http://www.teamworldvision.donordrive.com/participant/heatherwilford

or

Full Marathon

http://www.teamworldvision.donordrive.com/participant/heathermwilford

 

Where is your spinner landing?

The other day, my four-year old said to me in the car, “Mom, my brain is like a spinner from a game.  And lately, my spinner seems to always be falling on TV.”

I asked him, “What else does the spinner land on?”

“Well, sometimes books, and sometimes Hi-Ho Cherrio [the game], and sometimes God, and sometimes playing outside.  But, mostly right now it lands on TV,” he answered.

I love how his young mind works; so honest and insightful at such a tender age.

And, it got me to thinking, what does my spinner land on?

• Well, now that I am two  and a half weeks into my training for my half-marathon with Team World Vision, my spinner lands on when I am going to run, how I am doing with my training, and how is my fundraising going.
• My spinner lands often on food – being gluten-free, corn-free, and dairy-free isn’t easy and making sure I have something to eat that won’t make me sick consumes a lot of my spinner.
• My spinner lands on my children and how I can be a better mom and how to work through the temper tantrums that seem to be growing exponentially in my three-year old.
• My spinner lands on my husband and our marriage and thinking about where we need work and what is working well.
• Of course, I desire my spinner to be landing often on God, His Word, and His truths.  Does it land there often? Hmmm, not as often as I would hope, to be honest.
In all of this, I have to wonder, does what my spinner land on reveal anything to me about idols I may have in my life? God says pretty clearly in scripture, “Do not make any idols” in Exodus 34, verse 17.
What are idols?  I see an idol as anything that takes up more importance in my life and in my mind than God.  So, if my spinner is landing most frequently on food, is it an idol in my life?  Perhaps.  Or, if I am consumed with thoughts about running or my personal appearance and fitness, I may have an idol there too.
So, I decided to dig deeper into what God desires our spinners to land on.  Here are a few truths I found:
“Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:2
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
“Therefore holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.” Hebrews 3:1
It is clear that the main things our brain spinners should be landing on are thoughts of Jesus, His truths, His love.  And, yet it is so easy to get distracted.  It is easy to let our thoughts be consumed with all of the earthly things around us that ultimately have no value. And have you noticed like I have, that when I am completely focused on The Lord that I am much more at peace, much more filled with joy, and much better at handling anything else that is on my spinner – running, food, children, marriage? When my thoughts stay focused on Jesus, all the rest falls into place.
So, my challenge to myself this week, and to you, is to be observant of where the spinner is landing.  Are you spending too much time thinking about food, yourself and your needs, about things that make you angry or bitter, about past hurts?  How can you be vigilant, disciplined, and focused on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy, on Jesus?
For me, the key to that is daily time in the Word.  No, strike that.  Daily, frequent time in the Word – not just “Once a day and check it off the to-do list” time in the Word but continually seeking His truths throughout the day.  Perhaps it is a quick daily bible verse in my bible app on my phone; it is reading the verses I have posted around my house, it is working on truly memorizing scripture so that when I have nothing on hand I can recall the scripture I need to redirect my thoughts, it is being in constant communication and prayer with Jesus.
And so my prayer for today is this…
Lord, thank Your Word and Your Truth. Thank you for convicting me to seek out and destroy idols in my life. Please help me to be aware and in control of my thoughts, keeping my focus on You and Your truth, goodness, righteousness, and beauty.  Please guide me back when my mind strays. In Jesus precious name I pray. Amen.

Where is your spinner landing?

 

Not What I Expected…

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Ezekial 36:26

This week was supposed to be my first week training for another half-marathon with Team World Vision.  I was excited to have the new season kick off and on fire again to bring clean water to those who need it most.  And, then, I got sick last Friday with a doozy of a  cold – a knock down, drag out type of cold that put me in bed for several days.  And, I have not done a single run this first week.  And, so when I thought about writing today for training week one, I thought I would be saying something about how God can overcome this little set back, God’s work can never be thwarted, especially by one cold, etc.

Then, today, I was sitting out on my front porch and seeing all the new growth and fresh starts happening around me.  Now that Spring seems to have officially sprung here in Minnesota with all the nice weather we have had this week, the plants in my front yard are beginning to grow and the trees and shrubs have those tell-tale buds coming out that will turn into beautiful green leaves.

Every Spring, God produces a multitude of little miracles, of new beginnings, fresh starts.  God cleans up the dirty brown dead-ness of winter with fresh growing life.  And I can’t help but compare that to myself.  On what was supposed to be my fresh start of a new running season, God instead is showing me that the fresh start I need is inside of me more than outside of me.  There is much that is brown and dirty and dead inside of me that only He can bring new growth to.

I have been sick this week and perhaps some would say justifiably cranky, fully of self-pity, and impatient.  Especially with my children… I have been a cranky, impatient mother this last week.  And yet, deep down, I know that I have been acting like this for longer than just this week.  I just simply have been using my cold as the excuse for the past 7 days or so.

I have let the sins of selfishness and self-pity and self-focus creep  in more and more each day over the last couple of months.  I have been short with my boys when what they need is a patient mother.  I have been self-focused trying to get that “5 minutes to myself” when what God has called me to do is get 5 minutes focused on them.  I have missed opportunities to connect, snuggle, show love because I have wrapped myself in self-pity.

So, I confess those sins today.  I lift them up the the Lord of fresh starts, of Spring miracles.  I don’t need just a fresh start to my running season, I need a fresh start to who I am inside.  And, thank goodness, God never gives up on us.  He loves it when we reach the end of ourselves and see that we are desperately in need of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Because, it is only through Him that I can get that fresh start.

I was brought to Ezekial 36: 24-36 today in light of all of this.

25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
28 “And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will cleanse you of your filthy behavior. I will give you good crops of grain, and I will send no more famines on the land. 30 I will give you great harvests from your fruit trees and fields, and never again will the surrounding nations be able to scoff at your land for its famines.31 Then you will remember your past sins and despise yourselves for all the detestable things you did.32 But remember, says the Sovereign Lord, I am not doing this because you deserve it. O my people of Israel, you should be utterly ashamed of all you have done!
33 “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: When I cleanse you from your sins, I will repopulate your cities, and the ruins will be rebuilt. 34 The fields that used to lie empty and desolate in plain view of everyone will again be farmed. 35 And when I bring you back, people will say, ‘This former wasteland is now like the Garden of Eden! The abandoned and ruined cities now have strong walls and are filled with people!’ 36 Then the surrounding nations that survive will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruins and replanted the wasteland. For I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do what I say.

The idol I was worshiping (v. 25) was myself and “me-time”.  I was putting my needs and my desires and my agenda ahead of the desires and agenda God has for me which includes being the mother He called me to be for my children.  I am that desolate nation in need of rebuilding, a dry, brown land.

But Praise God, that He will continue to rebuild where I have destroyed in my sin, He will replant what is desolate in my heart.  And, not for my sake but for HIS GLORY!  Praise the Lord that He makes me new every day.  He will take my stony, stubborn heart and give me a tender, responsive heart.  He is such a generous, loving God.

I know that He will be working on me for a long time, my fresh Spring start begins today.  Like the plants outside and the buds on the trees, the leaves won’t suddenly be mature over night.  It takes time and the amazing power of the Lord to bring the leaves to maturity and He will do the same for me, in my heart, in my parenting, even in my mission to run to bring clean water to those who need it in truly desolate lands.  Isn’t God amazing!!!

Lord, thank you for loving me enough to show me where I need to change.  Thank you for bringing the beginning of a new season to my heart and into my family.  Please help me to keep my focus on Your plans for me each day.  Amen.

 

To learn more about Team World Vision, visit http://www.teamworldvision.donordrive.com/participant/heatherwilford

The Perfect Motivation

Last night as I was setting my alarm for 5:15am, I was grumbling to myself about getting up for such early run.  And then I got to thinking that if it weren’t for those children in Africa there is no way I would be getting up that early!

I finished setting my alarm and settled in to read my nightly devotional. I should have known that God had the perfect reminder of why I run already in place for me. The main verse was from Mark 10:45.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Ok, I am not exactly giving my life here;  I am running a half-marathon to raise money to bring clean water to children in Africa… But, I am giving my time, my sleep, my energy, and doing so to serve “the least of these”, the sick, the hungry, the thirsty, the needy, as The Lord tells us to.

Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”

What better purpose can I be doing this for than that? How can I complain when I know that this small sacrifice pales in comparison to the ultimate sacrifice of Christ! No more grumbling about early mornings allowed!!!!!

Thank you, Lord, for Your gentle loving reminder that it is not ourselves that we serve on this earth, but You! Amen

Please check out the children we have been able to bring water to on my page www.teamworldvision.org/goto/heatherwilford.  Please donate now!  $50 can bring clean water to one person for life… you can save a life too!  (And you don’t even have to run the half-marathon… unless you want to!)  🙂

 

 

Half-Marathon Training – Week 1 (Habakkuk 3:18-19)

And, so it begins!!!  Base training is done and tomorrow I officially start my 12 week training for the half-marathon I am running with Team World Vision.  The first few weeks are actually going to seem easier (not easy, just easier) than base training.  The last two weeks I had been up to running between 4-6 miles three to four times a week.  This coming week we will run distances of 3, 2, 3, and 4 miles.  Not too overwhelming, right?  In addition, one day of the week is dedicated to cross-training, another to strength/core, and the 7th day, rest, delightful rest!!!

One of my favorite tactics to distract my mind while I run is to memorize scripture.  At the distances for this week, I don’t find I need mental distraction as much as when I get up to running long distances, like 6 miles and more.  For the longer runs, I think it really becomes a mental battle to complete certain distances.  But, now is the time to train your brain to turn to God when the going gets tough.  When I am talking to God, repeating His Word, and listening to praise music, the miles go by much more quickly.  And, it seems that God calls to mind just the perfect scripture at the perfect time when I am feeling weak or tired or like I can’t go another step.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have compiled a list of scripture verses for each week for our Team World Vision team to memorize while running. This week, our verse is Habakkuk 3:18-19:

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God, my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer.  He enables me to tread on the heights.”

I LOVE this verse.  Taken as is and out of context, it is a beautiful picture of praising and worshiping the Lord of our lives, who is truly in control and is our strength.

But, I love the verse even more when I dig a little bit deeper. In this short book of the bible, Habakkuk raises a question that resonates with me in our world today – why does God permit evil/pain/suffering in the world to go seemingly unpunished…

1:2-3 “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?  Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.”

We don’t always understand why things happen in our lives and the lives of others around us… Why there are millions of people around the globe who are sick and dying from lack of clean water, why there are leaders in power who allow and promote violence among their people, why children have heart defects or cancer or any number of such illnesses…  The list could go on and on.  My heart aches at times from trying to understand it all.

Such was the same in Habakkuk’s time – the pain, the violence, the destruction seemingly unexplained by God.  Habakkuk even questions if God is listening to him cry out for help.  And, yet, here is the Lord’s response:

1:5 “Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told.”

And, isn’t that God’s answer to us now – just watch. Wait and see what I can do!

Ultimately we most likely will never understand why God allows certain pain, suffering, and evils in the world.  We can’t fathom the depth and width of His greater plan in all the challenges we face on both a smaller personal scale and the greater world scale.  All we can do is trust in the one, true, sovereign God who knows all of history past and future. We can know that He is listening to us at all times.

Habakkuk comes to the place of trusting that God does have a plan, He does know what is going to happen, and in the grand scheme, God will do all of this for His great purposes.  God has done so throughout history and will continue to do so in the future.  For all of chapter three, Habakkuk praises God for what He has already done and in anticipation of what He will continue to do.

I don’t want to come across as trite, because there is some pain, some suffering that I may never understand…   I do believe, however, that when you are faced with an injury, the illness of your child, when you are feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of your day or the pain that exists in our world, when you are wondering if God hears you, remember that He has plans greater that we can fathom in the works.  Turn to His word, His promises, His history, His strength, and His love. And, in that moment, praise Him in anticipation of all that He will do, amazing things we would not believe even if we were told.

3: 18-19 “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights.”

To read more in depth about the book of Habakkuk, feel free to visit the following link.  I am not affiliated with them at all but thought the synopsis was very informative.  http://www.raystedman.org/bible-overview/adventuring/habukkuk-history-is-in-gods-hands

Running for His Kingdom – Or, why I run with Team World Vision

“As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news.”‘ Romans 10:15b.

Two years ago, I could barely run to the end of my block.  I had had a baby six months earlier and was suffering from some pretty severe post-partum anxiety. My counselor suggested that adding exercise of some form might be one component to reduce my anxiety.

We didn’t have a gym membership and seeing as I was getting intermittent sleep, waking early to exercise before my husband left for work was not really an option.  Fortunately, I was blessed to be able to borrow a double jogging stroller from a friend. Around that same time, a good friend from my church asked if I would be interested in running a 10k with her.  So, I said, “Sure.  Why not?”

For the first six weeks, I hated my training and vowed that this would be my only race!  But, God, in His infinite wisdom, and humor, had another plan for me.  I completed that 10k and a half-marathon the following year.  Beyond that, however, God wanted me to do more, much more.

See, my runs had become an important part of my one-on-one time with God.  As a mom with two young children, no where else could I spend 30-60 minutes (and even more depending on how slow I was running) praying, listening to praise songs, and memorizing scripture without interruption. I knew that every step I was taking was because God was right with me, holding my hand, and helping me.

“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear.  I will help you.”‘ Isaiah 41:13

Now, it’s not to say that running was or is easy… but I know that each step I take I have someone far greater than me pushing me through.  I knew I had to find a way to share this gift from the Lord with others.

Enter Team World Vision!  Team World Vision is a branch of the greater organization, Word Vision, that focuses on training non-runners to run half and full marathons while raising money to provide clean water access to people in Africa.  This year, I am running a half-marathon with people from my church and Team World Vision to help change lives in Zambia. God told me to not only keep on running but to make a difference, a big impact for others by running.

Just $50 provides clean water for life for one person.  I have a personal goal of $1310 ($100 per mile) and we have a team goal of $15,000.

We have been working on base training for about six weeks, slowing building up an ability to run for longer periods of time.  The training plan is basically a modified and shortened Couch to 5k program.  We are about to start our half-marathon training the week of August 5th.  I have compiled a list of scripture that our team is memorizing each week as encouragement while we run.  I plan to share those scriptures as well as how training is going each week.

If you would like to learn more about Team World Vision or feel the Lord calling you to make a tax-deductible donation to support us, you can visit www.teamworldvision.org/goto/heatherwilford.  I would love your prayers for our team – for health for the runners, for generous giving from friends and family, and for all to be done to the Glory of God!!!!  Amen!!!

P.S. For those who are curious, here are the scripture verses from our first six weeks.

Week 1: “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Week 2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us through off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2a

Week 3: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, he will receive the crown of life the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

Week 4: “For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear.  I will help you.”‘ Isaiah 41:13

Week 5: “Do you now know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own, you were bought at a price.  Therefore, honor God with your bodies.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Week 6: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11