The Spiritual Discipline of Training vs. Trying

Training vs. Trying

Last week I started a series on spiritual disciplines. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart, because, well, I didn’t even discover spiritual disciplines until I was over forty. At that point in my life, I was so exhausted from the “Good Christian” rat race that I couldn’t go on. I didn’t have any spiritual or emotional energy left and no boot straps with which to pull myself up.

Trying hard is such a burden. And it’s one we were never meant to bear.

John Ortberg summarizes it this way in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted:

Let’s say that I decide I want to run a marathon. A lofty goal for sure, but not completely out of the realm of possibility.

(My husband may be laughing at this one, but hey, if I gave up Diet Coke, I’m pretty sure I could do this and read Moby Dick. . . if I wanted to.)

So on the day I decide to run a marathon, I vow to give it my very best and to try as hard as I can. I am absolutely committed and determined to do this thing.

I get up off my couch and head to the starting line. I’m fully prepared with all the right equipment and head knowledge about how to run well. I’ve studied and carb-loaded and rehearsed mentally, mapping the race out in my head and planning my strategy.

Enthusiastic, I start the race with single-minded purpose. No one has ever tried harder to run a marathon than I am trying right now.

But it doesn’t matter. I simply will not and cannot reach the finish line.


We all know the answer.

Because I haven’t trained for it.

Training vs Trying

Every marathon runner trains before attempting a marathon. The human body just isn’t designed to run 26 miles without working up to it, no matter how determined and devoted a person may be.

To run such a race requires months of training and hard, disciplined physical work. In fact, it requires a lifestyle of training rather than trying.

Sometime kids at the schools where I play piano will ask, “How did you get so good at piano?”

Well, I didn’t just wake up one day as a prodigy.

I’ve spent years — about 40 of them — honing my craft. I’m a good pianist, but you know what? I’m still learning new tricks. I’m still in training to be even better, to improve my art. It’s a lifelong process and it’s second nature to me at this point. I don’t try harder to be a better musician. Instead, I’m constantly in the mindset and physical discipline of training.

playing piano

The same premise is true with spiritual disciplines.

Contrary to the “try-hard” religion that I learned growing up, spiritual discipline is all about training — real, physical and mental training — with the goal of drawing closer to Christ. The apostle Paul compares our Christian journey to an athlete’s race with precisely this idea in mind.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

As Ortberg says,

“Trying hard can accomplish only so much. If you are serious about seizing this chance of a lifetime, you will have to enter into a life of training. . . learning to think, feel, and act like Jesus is at least as demanding as learning to run a marathon or play the piano. . . Following Jesus simply means learning from him how to arrange my life around activities that enable me to live in the fruit of the Spirit.”

Once I learned to wrap my brain around the concept of training vs. trying, everything changed for me. I was finally able to begin letting go of my own legalistic way of thinking — the idea that I’d drilled into my own head that God was more pleased with me when I checked off my prayer and Bible study and “good girl” boxes.

I started viewing spiritual practices as activities that I “get” to do rather than chores that I “have” to do.

So many Christians never get the concept. I certainly never did.

But this simple change in mindset from trying to training is the road less travelled. It has made all the difference.

It’s a small thing, but if you grew up thinking and learning the way I did, acquiring such a radical new perspective is nothing short of revolutionary.

Tell me what you think! Have you learned about spiritual disciplines, and if so, which ones do you find most helpful? I’d love to read your ideas in the comment section below.

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What I’m Into {February 2015 Edition}

what i'm into february 2015

The end of February is drawing nigh and I’m sharing What I’m Into with Leigh Kramer and What I Learned with Emily Freeman. (Have I ever mentioned how much I love these posts?)

What I'm Into

Books I Read

For the first time, I shared some quick book reviews mid-month as part of the Quick Lit link-up with Modern Mrs. Darcy. You can read my suggestions here.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I listened to this one on Audible and loved it. It is about a Nigerian immigrant, her trials and successes, and the love that eventually draws her back home. My favorite part of the novel was its often witty but spot-on commentary on racism in America. The section about what black women have to do to their hair was eye-opening to say the least — and something I’d never thought about before.

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

A beautifully written book that ties together two women from different eras and their individual love stories in a lovely way. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.


Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott

Is it gushing too much to say I love everything St. Anne writes? Because I do. I especially love listening to her on audiobooks because her wry sense of humor really comes through. Adored this one.


The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

This novel has been in my “to-read” pile for years. Years, I tell you. I finally picked up the Audible version during the January sale, and I flipped back and forth between it and my paperback version. This is a beautiful story with several different stories that amazingly come together in the end. Krauss is a fantastic writer!


Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans by Michelle Tam

This is a cookbook based on the blog by the same name. Not your ordinary cookbook — very informative and funny with great visual impact. I’ve only tried a couple of the recipes, back when I was doing Whole30, because I checked this out from the library and had to turn it back in. I’m thinking I’ll need to invest in my own copy.

The Martian by Andy Weir

Very cool science fiction-y book. Similar plot line to the movie Gravity with Sandra Bullock, except this one takes place on . . . well. . . Mars. I hear there’s going to be a movie starring Matt Damon. Yes, please.


Favorite Online Reading

A Letter to the Mom I Used to Be by Shawna Wingert at

I Am THAT Parent by Karen Copeland at

5 Things Special Needs Parents Don’t Want to Hear by Scary Mommy

For When You Wish You Had a Mentor by Katie Orr at

8 Reasons Every Christian Should Sing Hymns at Ponder Anew

7 Reasons Your Wife Is Stressed Out All the Time by Samantha Rodman at The Huffington Post

My own most read post:

Why I’m NOT Protesting Fifty Shades of Grey


What I Watched

On TV, Downton Abbey and The Middle. Not much else. We started watching a few episodes of The Goldbergs. I have to admit I do love all the 80s stuff. Especially that mom’s hair. Classic.

We had two days off from school/work when an ice storm hit, so there was a whole lotta movie watchin’ going on around here.

Big Hero 6 

This is an animated film that my kids saw in the theater with their grandparents but I had never seen. It’s very cute, and I’m picky about which kid movies I will actually watch. This one kept my attention.


Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day 

A funny, goofy, family-friendly film. Not earth-shattering but great for a family movie night. We could totally relate. Some days are like that. Even in Australia.

Fed Up

A documentary about the food industry, particularly about the additives in our food that are making us sicker as a nation. The number one culprit? You guessed it. Sugar. It’s bad stuff. I’m glad I watched this when I did — and we made the kids watch it, too — because right after a Whole30 is a perfect time to really pay attention to what you’re putting in your mouth.

The Judge

I probably would never have picked this movie (even though it stars my longtime crush, Robert Downey, Jr.), but my husband chose it. Wow. It was really good, though tough to watch. There’s a plot line about a lawyer defending his father — the judge — in court, but the underlying story is about a boy and his dad and the intense emotions surrounding their relationship. I bawled my eyes out after this one. Top-notch performances, but rated R for language, so beware.



I’d never heard of this film until Oscar night, when J.K. Simmons won Best Supporting Actor for his performance. We watched it and boy, was it intense. HEAVY rated-R language, but it’s crucial to character development. Reminded me somewhat of Black Swan from several years ago. It’s about a musician’s drive for perfection and the lengths to which he’ll go and the abuse he’s willing to take to get there. Very dark but an excellent movie.

What I Ate:

I’ve been eating this Whole-30 approved Balsamic Vinaigrette almost constantly. I’ve made my own salad dressings for years, but this is the first one without any kind of sweetener that I actually like. It is so good, and super easy to whip up with my Mini Food Processor/Immersion Blender (which I love by the way).

I also made these San Francisco Chops by Mel at in my slow cooker and the family gobbled them up. They’re great served over brown rice with a vegetable. Easy and delicious.


What I Learned

1. I shaved my pants and I liked it.

Yes, that’s right. In my head I’m singing that to a Katy Perry tune. Thank you, Super Bowl.

So I have these black ponte knit pants that I love because they’re like leggings — except they’re pants. So comfy. Anyway, after several wears, the fabric started to pill up, especially between the legs. I went to pinterest and found out I could use a disposable razor to get those pills off and I did and it totally worked!!

I’m not sure why, but when my pants aren’t all pilled up on the inner thighs, I just feel skinnier. Instant mood lift! 

2. The Sweater Stone is a cool little tool that really works!

While I was researching “how to remove pills from pants” on Pinterest, I stumbled across this Sweater Stone  and I was intrigued so I ordered one. When it arrived, I started working on some of my favorite old sweaters and they look like new!!! I was very excited because it really works like it says it will.


3. Ash Wednesday service is one of my new favorite things.


4. I’m not a very good sports mom, but I am good at making cute little graphics to post on Facebook during a game.


5. I must be really old, because this looks exactly like the typing class I remember.



6. This might be why my husband just doesn’t get me sometimes: 10420085_10152653483926662_3846890728477001568_n

What about you? Have you been into or up to anything that you’d like to share? Learned anything new in February? Tell me about it in the comments!

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4 Ways Special Needs Parenting Changed Me {For the Better}

4 ways special needs parenting changed me for the better

Being the parent of a special needs child is hard. It causes stress, anxiety, and often depression. There is a level of chronic grief as well, as you mourn the loss of a particular dream and embrace a different life than you imagined.

I’ve experienced all of it.

But I’ve also experienced tremendous joy — joy I wouldn’t know if it weren’t for my autistic son.

My child has changed me. Were I to list all the ways, there wouldn’t be enough space on the internet. But today I’m sharing a few over at Different Dream Parenting. Visit me there to discover four ways special needs parenting has changed me for the better!

Four Ways Special Needs Parenting Changed Me {For the Better!}

(Click here to read article)

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