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Welcome to My Pleasant Places! Not sure where to get started? You might want to visit the About page to learn the premise of the blog and a little about the author. After that, you might enjoy the Start Here page to check out some of the most popular posts and get a feel for what is written about and valued at MPP. Finally, if you’re looking for help and encouragement in changing some aspect of your life, you’ll definitely want to read the posts on the 30-Day Challenge page.

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Running to Win

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. 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. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Cor 9:24-27, New international Version).

This has long been one of my favorite passages in the Bible because it inspires me to live purposefully. Also, since taking up running, I have come to appreciate it even more because it employs one of my favorite metaphors—running a race. It is very easy for me to make the connection between life and running a race (see My Running Story).

Following are some of my thoughts on what Paul has to say about running (living) to win.

“Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

The New Living Translation states this a little differently: “Run to win!” Clearly, this is not suggesting that we be competitive with one another, because that would be in violation of other directives (see Another Life Lesson From Running for more on this subject of competitiveness). Instead, “ running to win” is about being the best me that I can be. I am running to win my race. And winning my race is about finishing strong. 

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training…”

“The games” spoken of here are, no doubt, in reference to the ancient Olympics. “Strict training” is a mere hint of the effort and commitment required of elite athletes—then and now. Those who make it to the Olympics have spent years—most of their lives, in many cases—training hours a day in their sports. They get up early, train all morning, eat a very deliberate lunch, take a necessary “recovery nap,” then cross-train, stretch, and do focused exercises most of the afternoon. Somewhere in their schedules, they train mentally, as well, usually with a sports psychologist who helps them develop the skill of overcoming nerves, building confidence and mastering distractions and fears. They eat a deliberate dinner, and they hit the sack early so they can do it all over again the next day. And they maintain this type of schedule for years!

“They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever…”

Wuest’s translations reads: “Everyone who participates in the athletic games exercises constant self-control in all things, those, to be sure, in order that they may receive a perishable victor’s garland of wild olive leaves to be worn as a crown of victory, but as for us [we engage in Christian service, exercising constant self-control to obtain] a victor’s garland which is imperishable.”

I have always been struck by the mental picture painted in the Wuest’s translation of the futility of working so hard for something that fades so quickly. I mean, how long does it take for the olive leaves to wither? True, the “crowns” of today are not quite as perishable (the gold, silver and bronze medals), but in the end, it still remains that “you can’t take it with you.”

Thankfully, the prize that Christ’s followers run for does not perish! Still, to win our race and receive that prize, “strict training” is required. This speaks to me of sacrifice, of priorities, of excellence, of commitment, of a cause. It reminds me of Philippians 3:13-14 where Paul used phrases like  “pressing on” and “straining toward.” It definitely bespeaks of engaging resistance. It denotes the opposite of passivity, the necessity for work and a stretching beyond our comfort zones (Getting Comfortable Outside the “Comfort Zone”).

“Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.”

The word, “therefore” references the previous statements. We do not work/run/fight for a crown that fades. No; we are in this for the REAL DEAL! We will live with our prize (or lack of it) for all eternity! THEREFORE, our utmost commitment is required. Our utmost focus. Our utmost “strict training.” We mustn’t go through the motions (running with no destination in mind). We mustn’t play games (shadow boxing, boxing the air).  

“No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave…”

Paul belonged to no one (1 Corinthians 9:19), but he made his body his slave—that is, a slave to his spirit-man. His body did not call the shots. Nor did his feelings, his emotions, his moods. Paul’s spirit was dominant.

The phrase “strike a blow” is further defined in Strong’s Greek concordance as “to tease or annoy (into compliance), subdue (one’s passions).” Usually when I think of this verse and of “striking a blow” to my body, I most often default to the “subduing” definition. I certainly have plenty of opportunities to tell my body who’s the boss.

But the other definition—“to tease or annoy into compliance”—brings to light another means of empowering my spirit to dominate over my body and my emotions. For me, the word “tease” sparks the idea of building habits that get the body (and mind and emotions) to do what is right, what is best. I’m sure there were times that Paul subdued his body to get it to do the right thing rather than to take the path of least resistance, but just as surely, Paul also deliberately built habits which “teased forth” correct actions.

I used to think of habits only in a negative context—that is, habits to break, such as overeating or smoking or hitting the snooze button. However, after some enlightenment on the subject, I have come to see habits in a more friendly light.

For instance, I don’t think twice before brushing my teeth first thing after waking in the morning. I don’t have to “subdue” my body and remind it who’s boss and tell it to submit, that whether it likes it or not, I will brush my teeth because it’s the right thing to do. My body doesn’t even argue the subject; it actually cooperates!

Maybe you and your body have reached a truce on the subject of teeth-brushing, too. If so, then you have incorporated a good habit into your life that makes doing the right thing a “given,” a near-mindless act. Any of you who have children know this was not always the case. We aren’t born with that bent to brush our teeth; it is a habit that is developed.

Along those same lines, wouldn’t it be nice if we could build other good, meaningful habits that are not only good for our physical well-being, but habits that are good for us spiritually and relationally, as well? Guess, what? We can!

I think that’s one of the shades of meaning behind Paul’s words: “I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave…” He could just as easily have said, “I train my body to do the right thing by teasing out the actions that are necessary to win the prize.”

As an example, not only do I not think twice about brushing my teeth in the morning, but I also don’t have to negotiate and cajole my body to start the day reading the word of God. Over the years, I have trained my body that after getting up, brushing my teeth, starting the coffee, etc., it is time to sit down and spend some quality time with my Father. This activity, this habit, sets the course for my day, and it attunes my spirit to better hear His voice when He speaks to me.

The same goes for exercise. Though I may feel pulled in several directions early in my day, I subdued my body a few years back into prioritizing exercise, knowing that the time and effort invested would return to me many times over in energy and feel-good endorphins. After a few weeks of subduing (also known as “striking a blow”), my body wasn’t putting up as much of a fight. In fact, without thinking about it, I would get dressed for running as soon as I got out of bed. It’s as if my body had been trained to prepare for exercise as soon as awake. Getting out of bed was a “trigger” that teased out a string of actions that eventually resulted in me being outside running.

“…so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

This is very sobering. It appears that it is entirely possible to do the right things and then not win your prize. “The prize” demands consistency, perseverance, and FINISHING! There can’t be starts and stops. You can’t start strong, then like the lazy hare take a break from the race. This is the context for the opening verses of chapter 10 (which indicate that you can be in the right place, with the right people, doing the right things, but somewhere along the way, still miss the prize).

Food for Thought

  • Do you live purposefully? Or are you shadow-boxing, playing games?
  • Are you in “strict training”? Are you running for the prize?
  • Have you weighed life’s “temporary crowns” against the prize that will last?
  • Is your spirit dominant? Or do your body and emotions determine your actions?
  • Have you deliberately built habits in your life that facilitate (tease out) your most meaningful goals?
  • Are you pressing on in your race? Will you finish strong?

I would love to read your thoughts on any of these questions in the comments below.

Also, for more insight on the subject of habits and triggers and strategies for both, check out these links:
Transform Your Habits (give your email address for a free download of this 45-page ebook)
The 5 Triggers That Make New Habits Stick
Ditch Your Bad Habits In 5 Simple Steps

And just so you know, I post these kinds of links and my brief thoughts about them on MyPleasantPlaces Facebook page on a regular basis. If you do not follow my Facebook page, consider doing so and joining my Facebook “community.” Click this link and then click the “Like” button (the “thumbs up” symbol).

Picture is of my grandson, Hudson—straining for the prize!
Posted in Bible, Spirituality | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

A Couple of New Additions to My Morning Routine

I’ve stumbled upon a couple of pleasant discoveries in these cold, pent-up days of winter that have added some quality to my life—wintertime or otherwise. Making new discoveries—no matter how small—adds a little zing to life, and we could all use a little more zing! A key to experiencing more zing is being able to actually recognize a “discovery.”

Maybe you will benefit from my two new discoveries. Or maybe you will benefit from realizing that you, too, have small zing-producing discoveries going on, too, but just didn’t appreciate their full impact.

Coconut Oil

My interest in coconut oil began after reading the book, Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter. Have you heard about the health benefits of coconut oil? My primary attraction to it was for its benefits for the brain. It helps energize the brain, providing fuel for cell repair, but also for stimulating growth of new brain cells. (On a side note, I must add that realizing these benefits requires not only adding coconut oil to your diet, but also subtracting refined carbs such as sugar and white flour. Sorry.)

I do cook with coconut oil, but the “discovery” that has brought a special pleasure to my days was in adding it to my first cup of coffee in the morning. The idea of adding oil to coffee may sound repulsive to you, as it did to me when I first heard of it. However, because the positive benefits of coconut oil were so appealing, I wanted to be sure to get it into my diet the most efficient way possible. Drinking coffee is something I do every day, so that seemed a very likely opportunity. I did a little web research on the subject, and found testimonials in which some people swear that it enhances their alertness in the morning. I won’t disagree, I just can’t say that I have particularly noticed that effect. For me, it is all about pleasure.

I bought a tiny little “bullet” blender for the sole purpose of creating my morning concoction. I simply add a tablespoon of the oil (more or less) to a fairly large mug a coffee, a half-tablespoon or so of cream (I generally drink my coffee black, so this is a pleasant addition, too) and then blend it for a few seconds (less than 10). The blending not only mixes it up really well, but it also creates a nice thick froth on top. It’s like a warm blanket on cold winter’s morning, the very essence of “comfort food.”

I must make one quick disclaimer. I have learned through experience that I must forego this treat on my running days—until after the run, that is. The coconut oil seems to act as a laxative, and when you’re out jostling about (as in a run) this effect can make for some serious discomfort. It took me a few “seriously discomfortable” experiences before I eventually made the connection between the coconut oil and my gastrointestinal distress. Since then, I wait till after my run before enjoying my newly-discovered treat.

Foam Rolling

I was inspired to try foam rolling on a daily basis after reading this article: Feel 10 Years Younger With These 5 Foam-Rolling Exercises.  I’ll admit; the title sucked me right in. 10 years younger? Count me in!

Foam rolling, as the article explains, is an inexpensive substitute for deep-tissue massage. It makes sense that if you start your day with a quick, targeted “massage,” loosening up your muscles first thing, why yes, you should feel a little younger.

I read the article and watched each of the brief videos included in it. The next morning, I got up, turned on my coffee maker, and while the coffee brewed, I went through the routine. It was pretty interesting how I could tell which muscles needed the quick massage (by the “knots” that I could feel as I rolled) and which didn’t really appreciate it (no noticeable effect). Nevertheless, shooting for all ten years younger, I continued with the full routine for about a month. After that month, however, I dropped all but a couple of the exercises and I added one that I kind of created myself by focusing on the areas that needed it.

I actually felt that this process made a difference from that first day. Granted, I had no aches and pains that I was dealing with, I just wanted to feel less “tight.” And I also wanted what the title promised—to feel 10 years younger. This has become an easy routine to stick with because of the fact that I do it the first thing every day—even on weekends. It takes no more than 10 minutes, and it is a nice, soothing way to wake up: not too much of a contrast from the sleep state that I have just come out of (you’re supposed to roll nice and slow), but enough activity to not lull me back to sleep, either.

I think this practice would probably be especially beneficial for people in their mid-thirties and up and/or younger people who are experiencing muscular pain somewhere in their body.

Be Your Own Guinea Pig

These two new additions to my routine are a by-product of my appeal towards experimenting with new ideas for the purpose of becoming more efficient, more productive, or just enjoying life more. I read a lot of stuff, and I’m attune to concepts that might help me be a better me.

By the same token, I might quit some practice just as readily as I begin a new one if I think it will improve my life in some way. For instance, around the same time that I read the foam-rolling article, I also read that the oft-recommended “aspirin a day” advice is not necessarily beneficial for women under 65 (Low-dose Aspirin and Women Under 65). This information was on a reputable site with research to back it up, so I promptly quit taking my aspirin a day. Not as dramatic as my nice frothy cup of coffee in the morning or my foam-rolling discovery, but if it saves me some pain and suffering later on in my life, well, who needs the dramatic? Right?

Have you made any fresh discoveries lately? Please tell me about them in the comments. I would love to hear what simple “discoveries” are impacting your lives!

Here’s some additional reading if you would like to check out the health benefits of coconut oil:
The Diet Which Postpones Brain Aging 
Exercise Halts ‘dementia gene’ from being expressed, keeps your brain healthy
10 Proven Health Benefits of Coconut Oil
Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers, David Perlmutter, M.D.

Photo compliments of Selena N.B.H. via Flickr

Posted in Anti-aging, Health | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

A Very Special Post, Too

I am personally very vested in Prism Education Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas (you’ll soon see why). Please watch this brief video (click the link) about Prism and then read my comments below.

Prism actually started from a couple of mothers’ desire to provide their children a solid education with an equally strong emphasis on values and the development of the whole person.

These two mothers, Misty and Krisite, spent hours talking about “the ideal school.” They even debated about the possibility of collaborating together to create a world-class “homeschool” for their children, but that couldn’t work for a couple of reasons: 1) they both had jobs, and 2) it just felt too selfish; they knew of other children who needed the same things their own children needed.

They continued talking, though, and their talks began to pull in others who had similar ideals. The dream expanded from “a small local school” to a template—a model school—that could be exported and replicated around the world. As the group of ‘believers’ grew, they all began to see that their dream could actually become a reality.

By faith, they formed a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, chose a Board of Directors and Misty took the reins as leader of the project.

The Prism team was long on inspiration and creativity, but as with many great causes, they were short on funds. There were no financial backers. In fact, their first bank statement showed a whopping balance of $1.18 (Woohoo! They were operating in the black)! Clearly, if Prism was going to get off the ground, it was going to do so with hard work and some creative financing.


By “happenstance,” Misty drove by an empty building one day and felt compelled to track down the owner and see how much the rent would be. Turned out, the building was owned by the city, and after some discussion, it was agreed that the city would rent the building to Prism for a token $1/year—provided that at least 51% of the children who were served fell within the lower income levels. This, of course, was not a problem, as one of the core values of Prism is that children of all economic backgrounds have access. Scholarships were offered based on family income levels.

This “free” building was exactly the kind of break Prism had been looking for! Prism opened its doors almost immediately as a preschool and an after school program in January of 2012. Misty continued to work her “other job” (which, thankfully, offered her a lot of flexibility) while writing grants, recruiting staff and sharing the dream with others. As word got out about the new preschool and the after-school program, more parents began to enroll their little ones. Some were able to pay, others were not.

Meanwhile, In My Basement…

During this same period of time, I was homeschooling the first two school-aged children in my home office (I mentioned this in A Look Back). We playfully referred to my school as Prism Satellite School. We all knew these two children were “the seed” for what was to come.

Every day at 3:00 p.m., I would shut my little school down and deliver my two students to the Prism Education after-school program. Almost daily, it seemed, the numbers were increasing—both in children and in the necessary personnel. And every morning, I would listen to my two students enthusiastically recount the projects they were working on in the after school program. It was clearly far more than a baby sitting service for working parents.

Misty was able to find grants and programs that helped offset the costs of running Prism. In addition, many of the staff worked for free—for they believed in the vision. Misty herself worked for a year without a salary—even though she was putting in far more than 40 hours a week!

More Breakthroughs

After getting their feet wet that first semester with the preschool and the after-school programs, Prism launched a full-fledged private school in September of 2012 (and thus, my little satellite school dissolved into Prism Education Center, and I entered teaching retirement), starting out with 45 children from ages 2 to 12, serving kindergarten through 7th grade.

Word from happy parents and transformed children spread quickly. Prism almost immediately acquired a waiting list. And then, something incredible happened. The city offered another old, empty building to the school so long as the same criteria was met—at least half the children served be from lower-income families. Thus, in September of 2013, Prism opened two campuses with 136 children from ages 1 to 13, and added the eighth grade.

The ‘powers that be’ in the local government, liking what they were seeing at Prism, offered yet another facility, an old head start building that had closed down due to government funding cut-backs. Could Prism use that building? Absolutely! They had a significant wait list for preschool children under the age of 5.

A Blow!

Does all this seem too good to be true? The part about transformed children and pleased parents is true. I’ve seen it firsthand. And the part about the three free buildings is true (well, not entirely free; they were $1 a year). But then, in mid-2014, Prism got a blow—actually, two blows one right after the other.

First,  one of the “free” buildings had been sold and Prism was given notice of the need to vacate within a year. Shortly thereafter, Prism was notified that the city was going to tear down the second building. Prism must vacate that building by 2016.

As a real estate agent, I was part of the team charged with finding other facilities in which to school these children. We got on the ball and started searching for a new building, preferably one that could accommodate all three campuses. Other than the size (and, of course, the price), the location was a determining factor in the considerations. It had to be in the part of town that would best serve those families with the greatest needs. We looked…but we did not find.

Though no building was found, we did discover a beautiful 10-acre piece of property on which to build. It would make a beautiful green campus with lots of trees and areas for gardening projects. It is off the beaten path, so it presents a country setting, though it is well within the city limits (and is precisely in the area of town that will best serve the Prism target). An offer was made (with guarantors), it was accepted, and now Prism awaits the closing date on that property.

And then a building will have to be built. Probably costing in excess of $1 million.

“Feel Good” Stories

We’ve all read “feel-good” stories about people and/or organizations who are making a difference in their world, not because of what they get out of it, but because they wholeheartedly believe in the cause. Such individuals and organizations struggle to make ends meet, they endure indifference—even opposition from naysayers—lack of appreciation and the constant stress of lack of funds. But they persevere for “the cause,” selflessly serving for the good of others. And the “feel good” part of the story is that somewhere along the way, word somehow gets out to the masses what these groups are doing, and suddenly, resource begins to flow their way—from people in other countries, from children, from celebrities, from people with similar values, from the rich, and from the poor!

This blog post is my tiny contribution at trying to get the word out about an organization that is sacrificially serving the needs of others. I can personally vouch for the character of those in charge of Prism Education Center. I can personally vouch for the difference “the Prism way” makes in kids’ lives. I’m thinking if my readers knew about the need, and more importantly, about the positive impact that Prism has already made with so little funds, they would be willing to contribute something to the building fund which must begin immediately after closing on the land purchase (already, we are behind schedule). I am thinking we could make Prism a “feel good” story!

As I have mentioned throughout this post, Prism has operated from a position and spirit of sacrifice from day one. No one is in it for the money! The staff works for minimal wages. Public school teachers have left their secure jobs and taken over a 50% decrease in salary to help build a model school that can be “exported” around the world. As the school director, Misty takes a small salary, even less than many on her staff. There have been no financial backers, no people of means picking up any part of the bill.

What’s In It For You?

Allow me to suggest four good reasons to contribute to the Prism building fund:

1. Because you won’t receive any benefit or personal advantage for doing so. Yes, you read that right. I believe that the majority of my readers have giving hearts and a desire to be altruistic, even if they only have  limited means. Isn’t altruism giving without receiving anything in return?

2. Because the less-fortunate will be served by your gift. Not all the students at Prism are in the lower income brackets, but over half of them are. In fact, over 25% of them live in families of 4 making less than $18,000/year.

3. Because your gift will serve the “servers” as well. Those who are serving at personal sacrifice will feel your support; you will bolster them!

4. Because Prism is much more than a local school in a small city. It is being built as a model, a template, for others to replicate in the days to come. Just as my two little homeschool students were the seed for Prism Education Center, so Prism is a seed for similar schools around the world (you will note in the video that Misty refers to it as a “model”).

Will you consider giving? Every little bit will help, but if 1000 people would contribute $100, that would be $100,000—a good dent in the finances that are needed immediately to start the project. Click here to go straight to the page where you can make your donation. Any gift will be appreciated!

One More Thing

Another way that you can help is by spreading the word about this worthy organization and its great need. Whoever you are, wherever you live, would you consider sharing this video (and this blog post) on your social media sites? Do you know a corporation that might be willing to give a sizable donation to an organization like Prism? Do you think we could make Prism Education Center one of those “feel good” stories?


I said you’d soon see why I am personally vested in Prism, but if it’s not already apparent, let me enlighten you. Misty is my daughter. Some of the transformed children are my own grandchildren and other children that I love. And because I sowed my time and energy into the “satellite school” in the very beginning, I feel a great sense of “ownership.”


Posted in Children, Giving | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

A Special Post

Would you please click this link and watch the brief video? It is about a project that is near and dear to my heart. I will share more about it later. For now, I am simply requesting that you have a look. And just so you know, the pretty lady that does most of the talking in the video is my daughter, Misty. :)


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Increasing Your Fitness Level Without Killing Yourself

Every year, I set some kind of fitness goal (doesn’t everybody?). It used to be something vague like “walk at least three days a week” but ever since I started running, I have become much more ambitious. My goals nowadays are usually in the form of mileage; that is, how many miles do I want to run, walk, bike—move—this year?

This is a fun goal for me (more of a “challenge” goal than a “change goal”), and I give it a lot of consideration. I don’t want to push myself to the point of injury or exhaustion. Exercise is, after all, not the only thing I do, and it is a means to an end: making me healthy and giving me energy for the most important things in life. But I don’t want to be too easy on myself, either. I want to Continue reading

Posted in Fitness, Goals | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Principles for Setting and Reaching Goals

In my last post My Plan for Transformation in 2015, I shared one of my goals for 2015 and I promised to re-visit some of the principles I used to arrive at that goal. The purpose is to assist you in determining what your goals should be this year and then to help you reach them!

Keep A Short List

A short list of goals, that is. You might have lots of dreams and plans for changes you want to make in your life, but don’t get overly ambitious and make a long list of things you want to work on all at once. Instead, Continue reading

Posted in Goals, Strategizing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

My Plan for Transformation in 2015

Even if you have been 100% successful with your New Year’s goals so far, we are, in fact, only a couple of weeks in! Still, I think it is cause for congratulations because, as you may know, most people don’t stick with their resolutions past January. I am hoping for better odds for MPP readers, so I thought I would offer a little extra encouragement by continuing to write on this subject during this month. If you can stay strong throughout January, then you have a much greater chance of being successful throughout the year. I would say that January is the “hump” that you have to get over (Getting Over the Hump in Building Life-changing Habits).

I thought now might also be a good time to open up and share a little about my goals this year. Continue reading

Posted in Goals, Strategizing | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments