When the road gets dark

Toward the beginning of September, I went for a walk on the narrow gravel road that runs by Safe Haven Farm. Since spring of this year, I’ve been walking about two miles almost every weekday. It’s a great way to clear the cobwebs out of my head, and I love to see the wheat growing.

As the summer progressed, though, the days got to be sweltering. So if I couldn’t walk in the morning, I waited until evening. That strategy works great in summertime because even at 9 p.m., there’s still enough light to see by. But all that changes in September. That’s when the days grow noticeably shorter. But I didn’t really think about that.

I left the house at 7:30 p.m. As I started down the road, I realized the sun had already set. But I didn’t think much of it. There was still plenty of light left. But in half an hour, as I was coming back toward the house, I realized just how dark it had gotten.

[su_pullquote]It’s easy to get scared in the dark. Fear and uncertainty can creep up on you without warning. [/su_pullquote]

We live in the middle of a wheat field. Like 640 acres of it. There are no streetlights. There are no neighborhood lights, because there isn’t a neighborhood. My house is the only inhabited house in a square mile.

And as I walked toward the yard light, the only visible light in the dusty evening, I started to hear skittering feet around me. Mosquitoes attacked in force, and I passed through thick curtains of gnats that stuck to my sweaty neck and crawled on the lenses of my glasses.

It’s easy to get scared in the dark. Fear and uncertainty can creep up on you without warning. The what-if scenarios can start whirling in your mind if you let them. In the middle of the prairie, in the dark on the central plains, you’re alone. And even if you have your phone, even if your phone has signal, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to dial for help in time to prevent an animal attack.

But what are you going to do? Stop?

I could have stopped. I could have called for help. I could have refused to take another step until someone came to get me. But I’m not sure that would have solved the problem.

I was out in the dark on a country road, trying to get home. Stopping would have made me an easier target for whatever might have been out there. Waiting around would have only provided the mosquitoes an easier meal. So the only viable option was to keep walking.

And I mean, come on, that road hasn’t changed in the 20+ years I’ve lived on it. I’ve walked that road from the time I was 12 years old. My house has been in the same place for over 100 years, and it hasn’t moved. So it wasn’t like I could get lost. If I just kept walking straight, I’d get there eventually.

If something was going to attack me, I couldn’t stop it. So worrying about it wouldn’t do me any good. The best chance I had was just to get home. Realizing that, I calmed down. I could enjoy the cool air of the post-sunset evening. I could smell the dusty sweetness of the milo fields. I could smile at the crunch of gravel beneath my walking shoes.

And in 15 minutes, I reached the driveway at Safe Haven Farm. And everything was fine, although my legs were covered in mosquito bites, and it did take me a little while to get the gnats combed out of my hair.

What changed?

My situation didn’t. I was still stuck on the dirt road in the dark being eaten alive by bloodsuckers. What changed was how I chose to see my situation. I did what I could do, and I left the rest up to the Lord.

race-post-1We’re all stumbling around in the dark. Just admit it. None of us know where we’re going or where we’ll end up. We can make goals. We can have dreams. We can predict what the next ten years will be like, but nobody really knows.

Cancer strikes. Drunk drivers and drug overdoses steal our loved ones. The economy tanks, and the job we thought we couldn’t lose slips through our fingers. Nothing is certain. Or is it?

In the dark, in those moments when you can’t see where you’re going and unseen enemies are gnawing at your heels, you have to focus on what you know is true: God hasn’t changed, and the road is the same.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:13-14

God is who He’s always been (Hebrews 13:8). You still get to Him the same way—through Jesus and Jesus alone (John 14:6). The road is straight. The path is clear. You know the way. It may be dark and scary, but the only viable option you have is to keep walking. Stopping won’t help. Going back won’t help. Just keep moving forward. You’ll get there eventually.

Do what you can. Let God take care of the rest. Run toward the future with open arms, and don’t be afraid.

An unchanging anchor for your soul

I think it’s safe to say that autumn has finally arrived in Kansas. It’s been cold enough for the last few evenings that the leaves are beginning to change colors. Fall is my favorite time of year–the bright colors, the chill in the air, the pumpkin-flavored everything. Just makes me want to wrap up in a sweater with a cup of tea and read all day.

We get used to the seasons changing, especially here in Kansas. We get every season in the course of a week sometimes, so weather changes are common for us. But even though life changes just as frequently, it’s more difficult to handle than the weather. If the weather is changing, you just put on more layers or take off more layers. You grab an umbrella or a pair of boots. Or you bring your sunscreen and a hat. When life changes, we’re often left stumbling around in circles, trying to make sense of things that just don’t make sense anymore.

Life is always changing. In our human experience, it’s the one thing we can always count on. Life will change. That’s life. It is a fundamental part of our existence, even down to our language. A language that doesn’t change is called dead. A life that doesn’t change isn’t really alive.

So if change is part of life, why is it so hard to handle? Why is it so difficult to face changes in our homes or our families or our relationships? Isn’t there a way to face change without the heartache it inevitably brings?

leaf-autumn-16016Today’s verses are Hebrews 6:16-19.

Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

Change always brings some level of hurt, maybe small, maybe big, but it’s always there. Even if the change I’m experiencing is good, I still feel a slight twinge of sadness for the way things used to be. But it’s not the good changes I worry about. It’s the big ones. It’s the ones that mean I have to leave everything I know. It’s the ones that mean I have to do something I’ve never done before. It’s the change that means I have to get uncomfortable. That’s the change that scares me. That’s the change that hurts me.

Change hurts. It always does. And if you think you can escape it, you’re wrong. So instead of trying to avoid being hurt, maybe it’s a better idea to take steps to learn how to manage the hurt before it hits.

How do you deal with change? How can you stand your ground when no ground feels certain? You just have to find somewhere to stand. You need an anchor, something that won’t change no matter what. And that’s God. God always keeps His promises. Always. And for His children, those of us who’ve chosen to follow Jesus, He’s always promised to love us, to provide for us, and to guide us.

When our lives change, when everything turns upside down, we just need to run to Him. We need to tell Him what we’re going through, what we’re feeling, what we need, and then we just need to stand on His promises. We need to trust Him as our Rock, the solid ground that will keep us standing even through the storms of life.

It’s not easy to do, though. Not because it’s difficult but because it goes against our inner programming to throw all our abilities to the wind and depend totally on God. But that’s the only way we’ll survive. That’s the only way we’ll get through life’s changes, the good ones and the bad ones.

God is our anchor. He’s the one unchanging point throughout history. And if we make Him our anchor, we’ll always have a safe place to be. We’ll always have a sure place to stand. And from that one, sure place, we can take a new step forward, trusting that He’ll catch us if we fall.

Life doesn’t wait if you take a wrong step

I’ve been walking two miles a day since April or so, with a few breaks in between for vacations and things of that nature. Kansas weather is a little fickle for walking outside, so to keep to a consistent schedule, I use the treadmill downstairs. It’s a pretty nice set up. I get down there, fire up the treadmill, switch on my audiobook, and walk.

Well, yesterday morning, I reminded myself that clumsiness runs in my family. I took a wrong step. My left foot stepped down on the guard, while my right foot was still on the belt. So, yes, my left foot stayed in one place, my right foot ran out behind me, and I tried my darnedest to do the splits.

I didn’t fall. If we’d gotten it on camera, I’m sure it might have even looked graceful. Because somehow I regained my equilibrium and jumped back on the belt, trying to regain my footing. But it didn’t work. I couldn’t get my feet under me, so I just let the belt carry me off the treadmill. And by that time I’d made such a horrendous racket, my poor parents were upstairs thinking I’d passed out or something.

It was a good reminder for me to pay attention to where I put my feet, even when I’m walking on a treadmill.

EE8A129965Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 9:24.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!

Like a treadmill doesn’t stop if you put your foot down in the wrong place, life doesn’t stop when you fall down either. It feels like it should. When you take a tumble and hit the dirt, you feel like your life should stop. When you get hurt or when someone you love dies or when you run into trouble that shocks you or scares you, it feels like the world stops spinning. But it doesn’t.

Life moves forward. It goes on. And it will go on without you. It’s a harsh reality to accept, but it’s the truth.

I remember my first year at college. I went to a school a thousand miles away from home. When I came home for Christmas after my first semester, I was shocked at how everything had changed. My church had changed. My friends had changed. My family had changed. Life went on without me being there.

Change isn’t bad. We need to remember that and embrace it. Change is normal. So don’t let it catch you off guard. But some changes will hit you harder than others. Some things in life will knock your legs right out from under you.

That unbeatable diagnosis. That painful relationship. That bad decision. Something will throw you for a loop, and before you know it, you’ll be doing splits on a treadmill, one foot locked in place and the other one carried away by life’s current. And you’ll probably end up on your face. It’s at that point you have a choice.

You can stay down, or you can get up again. When you run to win, you get up when you fall down. When you’re chasing a prize, you pick yourself up after you stumble. When you have a purpose for doing what you’re doing, you don’t give up. That’s what this verse is about. It’s about living life for a reason.

You will fall. Nobody’s perfect. You may even fall more than once, but just remember why you’re running. Remember who you’re running for. As Christ-followers, we’re not after an earthly prize. We’re in this race to finish strong in the name of Jesus.

So get up. Dust yourself off. Get back on that treadmill. Run to win.

Sometimes moving makes things better

Moving is hard work. It’s frustrating and exhausting and irritating. You lose stuff. You misplace stuff and think you lose it, and then once you replace it, you find it again. I had to pick up all my office stuff and move over the last few days. Not far. Just a few blocks away. But I had to spend days shoving all my files in boxes and labeling them so that they would be easily identifiable.

And of course there was a miscommunication. So the box that had all my important files in it got taken too soon, and it wasn’t properly labeled. So now it’s lost somewhere in the storage rooms of our new office building.

But for as frustrating as the move has been, the new office is awfully nice. It’s roomier and brighter and cleaner. There are more windows, so that means there are more sunlight. So going through the move was worth it, even though it was hard, frustrating work.

Sensing any life parallels?

VLUU L310 W  / Samsung L310 WToday’s verses are Hebrews 8:11-12.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.

God told Abraham to move. And he did. The Bible doesn’t say he asked questions or wondered where he was going. God said leave, and Abraham left.

Have you ever found yourself in that situation? Where God told you that you had to pack up and leave immediately? Maybe not in an audible voice, but you just knew you needed to go?

Scary, isn’t it? It’s intimidating to leave the place you’re comfortable at and go someplace new. Someplace where you don’t know the layout. Someplace where you don’t know the parking garage or the bathrooms or the coat closets.

But just as it’s important to change so you’ll grow, sometimes changing and moving results in a better situation all the way around. Like a building with new carpet and a better climate control system. A bigger cubicle and more building amenities. And closer to more places to eat.

Moving can be hard and scary and frustrating, but many times once you move, things get better. True, that’s not always the case. There are times when moving means you lose status or position, but in my experience, the times I’ve moved have been because I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work and I’m choosing to do what works.

So are you facing a move in your life? Maybe you’re changing jobs. Maybe you’re changing houses or schools or churches. Maybe you’re changing cities or states or countries.

Don’t approach it believing that it’s always going to be great. You’re moving, and moving is always hard. Instead, face it realistically. Yes, everything is going to be chaotic for a while. You’re going to misplace things. It’s going to be more complicated than you think, take more time than you think, and cost more money than you think.

No, that’s not a defeatist attitude. That’s just being prepared for the way life is.

Because when you’re prepared for it, then it doesn’t take you by surprise. When you’re prepared, then it’s a lot easier to keep seeing God in the details, because you aren’t panicking about everything that’s going wrong.

And when you finally get settled, when you finally reach your goal, you might be surprised how much better things will be. Sure, it’s a hassle to pick up and go somewhere different, and you may not know what the road will be like on the trip, but while the journey matters, it’s not the point. The destination is.

My faithful little cubicle at the Epic Center, Wichita, KS

You have to change if you want to grow

Change is good for us. It keeps us on our toes. It helps us stay focused on the things that matter, because the things that matter don’t change.

My company moved to a new office yesterday. In actuality, we’ve been moving for over a week now, but my department moved yesterday. It was bittersweet, packing up my cubicle and all my papers and stuffing them in boxes. I’m excited to move to our new building, but at the same time I’m sad. I have a lot of good memories in that cubicle.

It was the cubicle where I worked when I used my degree for the first time. It was the cubicle where I worked when I turned 30. It was the cubicle where I worked when my favorite little HooChild was born.

But even though I love that little cubicle, there are a host of reasons why we can’t stay in that office anymore. Mainly, my company is growing so rapidly, we’re running out of room. We need a new office that has more space and more room for all the people we expect to hire in the coming years.

I’m sad to leave a place where I experienced so many happy years, but how many more happy years are in front of me? It’s easy to stay put because there’s no challenge in it. You don’t have to get uncomfortable if you stay put. But sometimes if you want to accomplish great things, you can’t stay put. Sometimes you have to take a risk and leap without necessarily looking.

Today’s verses are Genesis 50:19-20.

My faithful little cubicle at the Epic Center, Wichita, KS

My faithful little cubicle at the Epic Center, Wichita, KS

But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”

If there were ever anyone who had justification (in our minds) to be upset with God about the path his life took, it was Joseph. Joseph couldn’t catch a break. He couldn’t win for losing, or so it seemed. But God made it apparent that Joseph was never on His own, and that all the changes that Joseph went through–especially the bad ones–were all part of a bigger picture. And that bigger picture was good.

Change is part of life. Everything changes. You can’t get away from that, and the older you get, the more you realize it. But change doesn’t’ have to be something you’re scared of. Change can be something you embrace. And it should be.

God is just as present in our times of change as He is in our times of stability. It’s tempting to think that He disappears when things go crazy, but that’s not true. That’s just our enemy telling you lies to make you doubt.

What would we be if our lives never changed? What would our lives look like? What kind of people would we be if our lives stayed the same?

We’d never grow. We’d never learn. We’d never know just how awesome God is.

Think about it. How many times has sudden and unexpected change hit us and sent us reeling? How many times have we had to rely on God completely for our wellbeing when we didn’t know the area, the people, the rules, the expectations, whatever? How many times has God proven Himself faithful in those moments? And would you ever have experienced His faithfulness like that if your life never changed?

So in those moments of change, don’t look at them like negatives. See them as great opportunities to experience God’s faithfulness on another level. Because who doesn’t want to see a miracle?

How do you stop being afraid of change?

Do you live a steady, predictable life? I know a lot of people who do. Even in my own life (which has its tumultuous times), there is some comfort in routine. It’s nice to get up and know exactly what you’re going to do, exactly when you’re going to do it, and exactly how you’re going to do it.

You don’t face challenges. You don’t face uncertainties. You don’t have to worry that you’ll encounter an obstacle you can’t overcome because you’ve faced it all before. And while that’s nice in many ways, you never grow.

Routine is a blessing at times, but when you get stuck in it, routine can do more damage than good. But that doesn’t make facing a rapidly changing world any easier. And believe me, your life is going to change. Even if you stick to the same old routine for as long as you can, something always changes. And when that moment comes, if you aren’t ready for it, you’ll be swept away.

A mountain on the hike to Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

A mountain on the hike to Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Isaiah 26:4.

Trust in the Lord always,
    for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

Change is a part of life, and the best way to get through it is to base your life on something that doesn’t change. It’s like building a structure on a good foundation. If your foundation shifts and moves, your structure won’t be able to withstand the storms that beat against it.

So what does that look like in the life of a Christ follower? Well, there’s a reason God is called a Rock throughout the whole Bible. Rocks are big and strong and they last a long time. God, in this verse, is called an eternal rock.

A big, solid, strong rock that isn’t going anywhere. He won’t change. He won’t alter His course. He won’t fail when you need Him. If you have that certainty in your life, you can face any change that comes at you. But what does that look like? Because you can talk about building your life on the solid rock all day long and still have no idea what it means.

Making God your rock means that you stop relying on your own strength to get you through difficult times. The change that’s coming for you? That situation you don’t know how you’re going to handle? You don’t have to face it by yourself, and you don’t have to handle it in your own strength. God is offering you His strength, and all you have to do is accept it.

But to accept it, you have to be willing to do things God’s way. You can use a chainsaw all you like, but it won’t do you any real good until you plug it into a power source. It’s the same way with God.

God has given you resources and all sorts of tools in order to live your life, but if you insist on doing things your own way, you’re going to keep bashing your head against a wall.

The idea of change can be scary, but if you are firmly grounded in what God says is right, you can stand up to any challenge. There’s nothing life can throw at you that is bigger than God.

So don’t be afraid of change. Change is going to happen for good or for bad, and if you run away from it, you’ll stay a child your entire life and you’ll live a childish faith.

Embrace routine while you have it. It can be a blessing. But embrace change too because it’s in the moments of change in our lives that we learn how much like a Rock God really is.

Snow on the front yard cedar at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

It’s all part of the plan

Isn’t it strange how plans can change? At the drop of a hat, in the blink of an eye, your plans can turn on their head. And suddenly everything you thought was certain isn’t so certain anymore.

I planned to go to work this week, but most of this week I’ve spent at home. Working from home, yes, but it wasn’t what I had planned. I planned to have a meeting with a friend about drama on Wednesday, and that didn’t happen. And I have plans to eat dinner with friends tonight, but if I still can’t get out of my driveway by the end of the afternoon, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Plans change because we have very little control over the big moments of our lives. The only control we have is how we react when inevitable change smacks us upside the head.

Snow on the front yard cedar at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Snow on the front yard cedar at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Numbers 23:19.

God is not a man, so he does not lie.
    He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
    Has he ever promised and not carried it through?

Our lives change all the time, mainly because we don’t understand our lives. If we could see our lives like God sees them, I think we’d get a different perspective on who we are and what our purpose is here.

God doesn’t change, so His plans don’t change either. His plans for us are the same today as they were when He build the foundations of the universe.

What we have to wrap our heads around practically speaking is the fact that even though our plans have changed, we don’t have to freak out about it. Because God’s plan is the same. Everything that happens to us is all part of the plan. There’s nothing that happens to us in our everyday lives–or even on extraordinary days–that God can’t fit in to the masterpiece that is the story of our universe.

Look back over Scripture. Can you find a time where God let someone down? Now, I’m not talking about a time when someone was disappointed. Or a time when someone thought God had abandoned them. Those times are all over the place, but those times are none of God’s doing. Those times are people giving up on God and choosing to strike out on their own.

Throughout the length and breadth of human history, God has never once let anyone down. He hasn’t once turned His back on us. He hasn’t once given up on us, although we give up on Him all the time. Every promise He’s made, He will keep. There are some outstanding, yes, but the fulfillment of those will change everything and the longer He waits, the longer the people of our world have to get their heads on straight. So I don’t mind waiting a bit longer.

Don’t give up on God. When your plans don’t work out the way you think they will, don’t throw your hands in the air and decide that God has abandoned you. When you don’t get to do what you wanted to do, don’t decide that God is determined to squash you or that He’s up in heaven looking for a way to make your life more difficult. That’s not the case at all.

God has a plan. It’s a good plan, and He will keep His promises. So when change happens (and it always always does), don’t freak out about it. When you find yourself face to face with events and circumstances that you can’t control (like a driveway full of snow and subzero temps that make shoveling practically impossible), don’t decide that God has left you to figure everything out on your own. That’s not the way He works.

God has a plan, and it’s big enough to include the unexpected changes you’re going to encounter. So keep holding on to God. It won’t be easy. And understand that change isn’t something that bothers Him because He knew it was coming, and that has to make it easier for us to deal with. If He knew it was coming, He knows what we need to make it through.