Drum ornament hanging on the Christmas tree, Haven, KS

Being a Christian doesn’t mean you can drive like an idiot

People in Wichita don’t know how to drive. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s never more obvious than when the weather is bad. The worse the weather, the worse the drivers out in it are. They either go too fast or too slow. I usually get to see the colorful variety of Wichita’s most inept every Monday through Friday morning as I drive into work. It’s an odd mixture of people and an even odder mixture of vehicles.

One morning last week, I drove a couple of miles with a big white van riding my bumper. I was going five over, and I couldn’t see their headlights they were so close. I got over out of their way as soon as I could, and they shot around me like I was standing still. Not a big deal—except that the conditions were somewhat treacherous. That same day, a newish SUV with big tires and bright lights crept along the highway, hovering in the middle of both lanes, taking up too much room on both sides and not letting anyone pass. The guy was going at least 30 under, which is never a good idea on K-96 on a weekday morning around 7:15.

I thought it was ironic, the giant under-tired white van was clipping along like it ruled the road and the new SUV, designed for foul weather conditions, was afraid to accelerate. And that got me thinking about how many circumstances we encounter in our own lives that are exactly like that.

Drum ornament hanging on the Christmas tree, Haven, KS

Drum ornament hanging on the Christmas tree, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 18:39.

You have armed me with strength for the battle;
    you have subdued my enemies under my feet. 

Have you ever charged into a fight when you weren’t prepared for it? Have you ever walked into a situation you weren’t equipped to handle? I have. There’s no worse feeling in the world than realize you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Why? Well, it’s not exactly like you can bow out; you’ll lose respect. But at the same time, you don’t know what you’re doing, so you can’t help but fail, which means you’ll lose respect. But have you ever considered the flip side of that situation?

How many times, as Christians, do we hang back and fear our own inadequacy when we are more than capable of doing what needs to be done? This is me. This is me all the way. All my life I have struggled with feelings of insufficiency and inadequacy. People laugh at me when I say that, but it’s the absolute truth. My greatest fear is failing to perform to the expectations of people I love and respect, and that fear has kept me bound in silence many times when I probably should have spoken up.

Mentor a child? I’m not good enough. Share Christ with someone who doesn’t believe? I don’t know enough. Volunteer for a church ministry? I’m not talented enough. Any of those sound familiar? This isn’t really a Christmas post, but what better time of year to consider this issue?

How many of us live our Christian life like a fully equipped SUV crawling along in the snow? How many of us Christians are so burdened and weighed down with fears of our own inadequacy that we never even try to run? We’re so afraid that we never move faster than a walk, and we don’t get nearly as far as we might have if we would have used our gifts to their fullest. This is a reminder to me today. I convince myself that I’m not good enough, not talented enough, not fast enough, not brave enough to do the things that God has called me to do. But those things that I tell myself aren’t true. God has promised to equip me to accomplish everything He’s planned for me to do.

As it usually works with things in my life, my life isn’t about me; it’s about God and what God wants to do with my life. Now, that doesn’t mean we should be like the rickety old van, barreling down a snow-covered highway when it’s not designed for that kind of speed. God has a plan and a purpose for all our lives. Like me. I’m a writer, a communicator, a storyteller. I’ve known that since I was little. So if I try to make a living using mathematics, not only am I going to fail miserably at my job, I’ll be miserable. God has equipped us for whatever task He intends us to complete. We just have to be willing to take Him at His Word.

So ask yourself what you’re afraid of this morning. Are you crawling along when you could be running? Or are you running down a road you should be walking? Personally, I prefer speed. I’ll always go fast if I can, but pushing my limits on an icy road when my car has bald tires is more than irresponsible. It’s just plain dumb.

So don’t be dumb. Know your limits, but don’t be afraid to push them when you know you’re where God wants you.

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Samurai pretty much rock

I am a student of Japan. I have always been fascinated by their history, their culture and their people. I’m not sure where this fascination comes from, but ever since I was old enough to know what a samurai was, I’ve wanted to know more. And on that same note, I love armor. Armor is a terribly fascinating study, especially the armor of the samurai.

Medieval armor was interesting, yes. But the samurai, to me, were on a different level.

I know my writing habit is what drew me to first begin studying Japan and the samurai, but the more I study it, the more it intrigues me. I actually even bought a book called the Code of the Samurai which is actually a translated text about bushido; it’s actually a really good read and I’d recommend it for anyone who wants to know more about the rules by which the samurai lived.

I think one of the things that fascinates me the most about samurai armor is that they all look different. Google samurai armor sometime and see what you come back with. They are beautiful examples of craftsmanship. Art, really. Passed down from generation to generation, each one symbolizing something in that particular family. Medieval armor is different; it all looks very much the same. Why else do you think people had to come up with heraldic symbols and colors? They couldn’t tell each other apart. But not samurai. The samurai were all unique and you could identify them by the armor they wore.

The verse this morning is familiar. One of those ones that gets quoted a lot but it’s one that people actually don’t really think about because it’s kind of freaky.

Ephesians 6:12-13

12 For we[a] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

Other translations say that we fight against spiritural forces. Creepy huh? Do you ever think about that? About the fact that there really is spiritual warfare going on all around us? And no, you children of the 80’s, not Spiritual Warfare as in the awful old Nintendo game where you wandered the streets and converted nonbelievers (anybody remember that? Ugh).

There is a battle going on around us every day that we can’t see. It’s a struggle for our attention, our faith, our belief. Demons and angels. God and Satan.  God already dealt Satan a blow he can’t recover from; when Jesus died on the cross it ended Satan’s hold on us (we have to choose it, though). But Satan hasn’t backed down yet. He still thinks he can win, so he’s throwing everything he has at us.

But God has given us everything we need to resist him. God has given us his armor.

I don’t usually do this, but I’m including the rest of the verse.

Ephesians 6:14-17

14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.[d] 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.[e] 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Truth. God’s righteousness. Peace. Faith. Salvation. The Word. Those are the pieces of armor that God has given to us to fight against what Satan throws at us. If we wear them, nothing can hurt us. But do we use them? It’s rare. I know I don’t always use my armor when I have the option. I’d rather fight and struggle through a situation unarmed, but that usually ends up injuring me and the people around me.

Would a samurai have forgotten to put his armor on before he left for battle? Unlikely. His armor was the symbol of his family, his heritage, his honor . . . . and, let’s face it, folks, it was just common sense.

So we who are Christians need to remember that every day is a battle. And we’re not fighting against what we can see. We don’t fight against our coworkers (no matter if they annoy us) or our family (even if they frustrate us) or our government (even though The Man is getting a little big for his britches). We are fighting the remnants of a war that God has already won for us.

So don’t forget to put your armor on. It serves a dual purpose, after all. It keeps you safe and you look totally awesome wearing it. =)

samurai warrior in armor

Samurai, circa 1860