Life is a series of delayed consequences

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There’s one bathroom in my 100-year-old house. It has a shower, a sink, a toilet, and a linen cabinet, but it’s very small. Basically a little closet off the kitchen. And I’ve been shaving my legs in this bathroom for over 20 years without any trouble. Granted, it usually requires you to be a bit of a contortionist. But without going into any more detail, let’s just say that a few evenings ago I did something uncharacteristically clumsy.

Basically, I fell. I bruised my arm and one of my legs pretty good. I decorated a hip and my tailbone with bruises too. Oh, and the most important part, I smacked the back of my head on the door of the linen cabinet. The knot that swelled on the back of my head was the most impressive thing I’ve felt before. It was the size of my palm.

Head injuries can be a bit scary, but this wasn’t the first time I’d tried to crack my head open (probably won’t be the last either). I still called my mom to make sure I didn’t need to do anything else other than stay awake for a little while and dump ice all over my head.

The funny thing? It didn’t really hurt. Granted, it felt like one of the old cartoons, where Bugs Bunny or Wile E. Coyote got whacked on the noggin and grew a lump tall enough to throw horseshoes at. But it didn’t hurt. I mean, it felt bruised and swollen, but that was it. I had always expected getting banged on the head would hurt a lot.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]I had always expected getting banged on the head would hurt a lot.[/su_pullquote]

After talking to my mom, we decided to leave it alone and see how I was doing in the morning. She planned to call me halfway through the night to make sure I could wake up. And then my roomie came back out for the night too, just to check on me. Because, see, the thing about head injuries is that the real problems don’t always show up immediately. Sometimes the problems don’t show up until later, and by then you’re in big trouble.

I think it’s interesting because head injuries aren’t the only issues we face that have delayed consequences. Actually, living life is a series of delayed consequences.

Eliphaz, one of Job’s friends, isn’t the best source for wisdom, but he’s right in what he says in Job 4:8. “My experience shows that those who plant trouble and cultivate evil will harvest the same.” That old adage about reaping what you sow? Delayed consequences. Who you hurt today could hurt you tomorrow. That law you break today might come back to haunt you next week.

Tomorrow’s results depend on today’s actions. But it isn’t always a case of today and tomorrow. Sometimes it’s today and next year. Sometimes it’s today and ten years from now. Or even a lifetime from now. But consequences always roll around, and they will be the results of your actions, bigger and louder than what you started with.

Maybe I smacked my head on a linen cabinet on Sunday, but Monday morning I had more bruises than I did on Sunday. And Tuesday morning I had more sore muscles than I did Sunday. One action. More than one consequence. So don’t you want to make sure your one action is a good action?

[su_pullquote]Everything we do has a reaction, and it’s not equal and opposite. It’s the same and greater. It just doesn’t happen right away.[/su_pullquote]

Always remember that the things you choose to do never result in nothing. Everything we do has a reaction, and it’s not equal and opposite. It’s the same and greater. It just doesn’t happen right away.

So if you’ve done good things, hang in there. Keep waiting for your harvest of good to roll around. And if you’ve done bad things, keep praying, and God will help you get through the consequences. You’ll still have to face them, but you have someone to call for help.

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You don’t have to agree with each other to listen

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I watched an episode of a television show the other night where God played a character on screen. Immediately, I knew I probably wasn’t going to agree with it. And I was right. God was portrayed as an absentee parent who had given up on His children and needed a pep talk, basically.

Needless to say, it made me pretty angry. But I kept watching. And the more I watched, the sadder I became. Because is that how people really see God? Is that the lie people have bought about Him? What a hopeless existence if our Creator gives up on us, if our God struggles with the same things we struggle with.

I watched the whole episode, and I disagreed with everything. But I finished it, and I gained some really interesting insight into how the writers of the show see God. And it gave me the opportunity to really question what I believe and why I believe it.

Yet last week I encountered someone who wouldn’t even finish my novel because he disagreed with something I had written. Which is perfectly fine. People are free to like or dislike what I write, but how can you give an honest review about a story without actually reading it?

Christians are expected to lay down and hang our heads. Oh, no! Our beliefs made someone angry! Alas! But what about when people of other faiths make a Christian angry? How is a Christian supposed to react when that happens?

Ask the culture, and they’ll say we’re too sensitive. Aren’t you supposed to show grace and forgive and let it go? Ask a Christian, and they’ll tell you that you shouldn’t have been reading/watching it anyway.

So which is it? Let it go or bury your head in the sand?

I say neither.

Instead, seek to understand it.

I love Proverbs because it’s so full of good advice, and Proverbs 18:2 is a classic example. “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.

Hatred never solves disagreements, and insults rarely make you sound smarter.Too many times we stop reading a story or stop watching a show because we disagree with it. But stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and you can’t always judge the end by the way the story begins. How can you understand a story before you finish it? How can you even know you’ll disagree with it if you don’t even know what happens in the end?

It’s a very personal thing. We all have to make our decision about where (and how) we’re going to stand. And if a book or movie or TV show contains things that you believe will damage you, you should definitely stop. But that line is different for every person.

People really hate Christians now. Openly. That’s new in my lifetime. And, yes, I’m generalizing. Because I have many many friends who don’t believe the same way I do, and I love them, and they love me. But others decide that I’m an idiot without even knowing me. Others decide to hate me and they haven’t even spoken to me.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Since when do we have to agree with each other to be kind to each other?[/su_pullquote]

Since when do we have to agree with each other to be kind to each other, to be civil with each other? I know we get passionate about what we believe, but hatred never solves disagreements. And insults rarely make you sound smarter.

I know where I stand. I stand with Jesus Christ. He is my everything, and the Bible is His Word that tells me how to live. But that’s my choice. That’s my life.

You can stand wherever you want. It’s your choice, and I respect that whole-heartedly. You can write what you want. You can tell whatever story you want to tell. You can believe whatever you want to believe, and I won’t tune out. I won’t shut the TV off or stop reading your book or close my ears to your voice. It matters to you, so it matters to me. I may disagree with you, but I’ll still listen.

And all I ask for in return is the same consideration.

God is who He is regardless of where we are

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I love the idea of spontaneity. I love being free. But spontaneity can be scary sometimes, especially if you’re someone who likes stability and control and predictability. And it’s nice because God is a God of order. God doesn’t do chaos. You can trust that God will alway be who He is, where He is, everywhere, all the time.

But because God is always in one place, does that mean we have to be too?

One of the things I’m learning about God is that even though I may move around, He moves with me. God is the only person in the entire history of the universe who can both stay here and go with me at the same time. So when God says clearly, GO!, you don’t have to go alone.

Like the Bible says in Deuteronomy 31:8, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Maybe your situation has been the same for a while. Maybe your life is stagnant. Maybe it’s comfortable, but nobody plants a flower and expects it to stay a seed. Even if it stays in one place, it’s still growing. It grows up into the unknown. It grows down into the unknown. But all the time, it stays rooted in one place, even though it’s ever-expanding.

[su_pullquote]We’re rooted in truth that can move with us.[/su_pullquote]

-I cannot fail. Trusting the God who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will be well.-I think that’s how our lives are supposed to be. We’re rooted in God. We have our foundation in His truth, His love, His presence, His Word. But that doesn’t mean we stop expanding our horizons. It doesn’t mean we can’t just drop everything and push out into the world, because unlike a tree, we’re not rooted in place. We’re rooted in truth that can move with us.

So where is God telling you to go today? Are you scared? Are you uncertain? Are you reluctant because it sounds crazy?

Ask yourself, who matters more, your peers or your God? Because if God is telling you to go do something, you’d better go do it, regardless of what people think. If you know it’s from God, don’t hesitate. Just go. Just do it.

God will never tell you to do something that goes against His Word. He’ll never contradict Himself. He’ll never tell you to behave in a manner that isn’t consistent with His teachings. So if what He’s telling you meets those criteria, what are you waiting for?

Don’t worry if it sounds crazy. Don’t worry if it feels responsible (you performance-driven perfectionists, you). Don’t worry period.

Because God is constant, we don’t have to stay still. God is who He is regardless of where we are, and that won’t change no matter where you go.

The moments that tell you who you trust

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Throughout my childhood, many of my heroes always talked about how God had directed their lives, and that sounded so fantastical to me. So as I grew, part of me expected God to show up in my life with a big flashing arrow to point me down the right roads. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed when He didn’t.

I’ve been a grownup person for a while now. It’s hard to remember when I still don’t like wearing shoes and would gladly eat ice cream for dinner. I’m not sure when I made the transition from child to grownup, but there were no trumpets sounding, no confetti falling, no awards handed out. Suddenly I had responsibilities and budgets to manage and meals to prepare and deadlines to meet.

Fast forward ten years or so, and I’m still waiting for the heavens to open up and point me in the right direction. God has never popped up in front of me and thundered directions or commands audibly. He has never appeared to me on a grilled cheese sandwich or a ceiling tile.

When the time came for me to make a choice about my life, I tried to make the best choice I could. I used Bible verses. I used what I knew about God. I listened to counsel from godly people. And I moved forward trusting that God would hold me up, regardless of how I felt about the entire situation.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.Trust Him, and He will help you.Sometimes that led me into uncomfortable situations. Sometimes that led me into a lot of stress and responsibility. And every time my life would hit a new, frustrating low, I’d feel peace because I trusted Him to work things out. And every time, He did. I didn’t get to hear angels sing when I made a decision. Actually, most of the time, I felt worse after I made a decision, but I’d cling to the hope that I’d made my choice because I did it for God’s glory. And every time, life would just work out. Not the same day. Not the same week. Sometimes not even the same month. But always eventually.

[su_pullquote]That’s not an accident. That’s a miracle.[/su_pullquote]

From my first job out of college to my last “real” job to where I am now working for myself, His fingerprints are everywhere. I can trace the path of my life back from childhood to where I am now. I can map every bump, every pit, every road block, and I can tell you how what I learned as a result got me where I am today. That’s not an accident. That’s a miracle.

No, God didn’t show up in flashy display of power and majesty, but He did show up. God has always been with me, every moment of every day, but He hasn’t always been obvious because I haven’t always been looking for Him. And that’s the key I think we forget sometimes.

We expect God to bend over backward to get our attention. We look for signs and wonders in the sky to prove to us that He exists, when the very fact that we do exist should be wonder enough.

The Bible says over and over again that we’re supposed to trust God, but how many of us really do it? How many of us even try? Psalm 37:3-7 tells us, “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” It’s not easy to live this way. It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. But God wouldn’t have told us to do it if it weren’t important.

Trusting yourself has limits, because you are limited. Trusting God is terrifying because He is limitless in every sense of the word. But when you put your whole trust in Him, He can take you where He wants you to go. He can do impossible things through you, but you have to trust Him. You have to turn your will over to Him. You have to turn your plans over to Him.

Sometimes you’ll feel stuck. Sometimes you’ll despair. Sometimes it will feel like nothing in your life is going right. Those are the moments that tell you who you trust.

You can’t walk right with two different shoes on

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I went on a walk a few days ago. It was such a beautiful day outside, so I didn’t want to do my two miles on the treadmill. I wanted to be out in the sunshine. And it was beautiful. Blue skies. Puffy clouds. Whispering wheat. But something wasn’t quite right. I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

Yup. Crocs. Just like these. ... Not.

Yup. Crocs. Just like these. … Not.

One mile into my walk, I realized that my right toe was rubbing on the front of my shoe. Now, you avid walkers will probably be cross with me, but I usually wear Crocs when I’m out on my walks. They’re comfortable, and while they don’t really provide any ankle support, I’m not running.

But that morning, my right foot seemed to have grown several sizes. My left foot was fine. But my right toes were rubbing the front of my right shoe, and my right heel was hanging off the end. I was puzzled. But, stubborn as usual, I finished my two miles. And when I got back to the house, I pulled my Crocs off and compared them.

Yep. The right Croc was about three sizes smaller than the left.

The rest of the story? My mom and I both have a pair of tan-colored Crocs, but Mom usually keeps hers in her closet. Well, she’d left her pair out on the porch a few days earlier. When she took them back to her closet, she took one of hers and one of mine.

You guys may laugh at me, but one of the first thoughts that came to me was Ephesians 5:15, which says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.” That word live actually communicates the concept of walking. So basically, it’s saying that a Christ-follower should be careful how he/she walks through life.

Life is full of traps and tricks and enemies just waiting for the opportunity to ensnare us. It’s full of awesome things too, but as a Christ-follower, we need to have the wisdom to know the difference. And that’s great to say. Be wise. Live wisely. Make the wise choice. But what does that mean practically?

Frankly, it means you need to make sure your shoes are the same size. Wearing two different-sized shoes can make you walk funny, which might hurt your ankles or knees, which will hurt your legs, which hurt your back, which hurt your shoulders. You get the point. You also run the risk of tripping because your steps aren’t consistent.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Our own path is our security blanket, so that when God lets us down, we still have a backup.[/su_pullquote]

Maybe that’s a silly example, but think about how we live. With one foot, we stay on the path that God has laid out for us. With the other foot, we break our own ground because even though we say we trust God, we’re really trusting ourselves instead. Our own path is our security blanket, so that when God lets us down, we still have a backup. But your walk isn’t consistent.

So check your shoes today. Are they the same size? Are you limping and stumbling down the road trying to do it God’s way and your way at the same time? Well, stop it. It doesn’t work, and it only causes more trouble for you down the road.

Be wise about how you walk through life. You can’t rely on yourself and rely on God at the same time. You’ve got to choose one.

If I’m a winner, why do I live like a loser?

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I can’t do anything right. I’m a failure at life. It’s not even worth trying something new because I’ll ultimately screw it up and let everyone down. Ever feel like that? I’ve had a month of feeling like that, which is utterly ridiculous because it’s been a great month. A successful month. A month full of positive momentum. Yet emotionally, spiritually, and mentally I’ve been stuck in this unending quagmire of discouragement.

God is gentle with people many times. He calls to us softly in that still, small voice of His. He beckons us closer to Him with promises of peace and assurances of unconditional love.

Well, I’m not people. And gentle promises and soft speeches rarely do anything for me except make me suspicious, and that’s probably a character flaw. But thankfully my God knows how to talk to me. He’s my Shepherd, and He knows how to get my attention. And usually it involves a two-by-four.

I was out on my morning walk yesterday, and I’d started the morning slow and draggy, uninspired, discouraged, beaten down for no real reason. I just felt mopey. But I’d decided to start walking in the mornings, so I got ready to go. To make matters worse, my MP3 player died for no reason, which put me in a bad mood. Walking my two miles was going to be harder without something to listen to.

So I just chalked it up to the kind of day I was going to have, and I started down our old loose-gravel road, struggling against a hard south wind. But because I didn’t have anything else to listen to, I just decided to tell God about all my problems.

The whole two miles, I just told Him what was on my heart and how sad I felt and alone and discouraged. Like nothing I do matters. Like nothing I try succeeds. And somewhere along that two-mile stretch, WHAM! This verse hit me like a ton of bricks:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

That’s Romans 8:37, if you care to know. And it echoed in my empty brain for about five minutes while I walked, stunned into silence. The realization that accompanied left me shaking. Because if I believe that, if I truly believe that God has made me more than a conqueror, I should be living like it. But I wasn’t. I was living as though I’d been defeated.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Why would I choose to live defeated when I have the opportunity to live victorious?[/su_pullquote]

It’s so hard to see the light sometimes. It’s so hard to focus on everything that’s right, especially when you feel overwhelmed by everything that’s wrong. That’s when discouragement hits. That’s when it takes all your strength to pull yourself out of bed in the morning. That’s when you tell yourself that you can’t win, can’t succeed, can’t do anything right. You’re choosing to see all the obstacles in your path instead of the bright, shining path God has opened up for you.

I am a conqueror.

Not will be a conqueror. Not used to be a conqueror. I AM a conqueror. Not in my own strength or abilities or talents. Not by any gift or virtue I possess but through Jesus. God has made me a conqueror through His power. So why would I choose to live defeated when I have the opportunity to live victorious?

Maybe that bright shining path Jesus provided only stretches out for the current day, and I can’t see tomorrow. Isn’t that all right? Isn’t it enough to know that you have what you need for right now? It’s difficult to live that way. It’s hard for this control freak to wrap her brain around it, but there’s no better way to live.

Why be satisfied with the little shack you can build with your own hands when God wants to help you build a mansion?

Against all odds, God has provided for me today, and He has promised to provide for me tomorrow. Do I really need more than that? Do you?

No more choosing to see the obstacles. No more choosing to see what’s wrong. No, that doesn’t mean I ignore them, but I can acknowledge an obstacle without letting it discourage me. God has made me a conqueror. God has made me victorious. Through Him, I can do impossible things.

And so can you.

What’s in your heart is more important than what you do

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We have pear trees at Safe Haven Farm, but they aren’t just any pear trees. They’re wood pears. They’re wicked hard and unbelievably stubborn. Nothing kills these things, and you have to wait until they’re on the edge of being rotten before you can get a knife into them.

I’ve always figured it’s because the trees themselves are so old. The pears are as tough as tree bark because the trees are ancient. At least, the trees are ancient by Kansas standards. Trees don’t always last long around these parts.

But in the last few years, a tree sprang up in the orchard that produced smallish round pears that you could eat straight off the branch. We’re still at a loss as to where the tree came from and why its fruit is so different, but the old trees make me a appreciate the new one.

The Bible has so many stories about farming in it, and it always makes me smile. In Galatians 6:7-8, the Bible says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

God set the Laws of Nature in motion when He created the world, and nothing (except Him) can stop them. That means if you plant a pear tree, you’ll get pears. If you plant a wheat field, you’ll get wheat. If you plant green beans, you’ll get green beans. You can’t plant green beans and expect to get strawberries. It just doesn’t work that way.

Life works exactly the same. If you do good things, you’ll receive good things. If you do bad things, you’ll receive bad things. Yes, in some cases, you can do good things and be rewarded with bad things, but the bad things are usually temporary—a preliminary bump in the road on the way to better things.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]But what I’ve learned about following Jesus is that it isn’t really your actions that determine your success.[/su_pullquote]

But what I’ve learned about following Jesus is that it isn’t really your actions that determine your success. Yes, your actions play a huge role. But more important than your actions are your motivations. Why do you do what you do? What is in your heart?

I mean, look at our pear trees. Sure, they’re both pear trees, and they both produce pears. But the old trees give us big, hard, misshapen fibrous chunks of woody fruit. The new tree gives us soft, sweet, juicy fruit. The old pears are perfectly edible. They just take more work to process because you have to cut out all the bad stuff to get to the parts that actually taste like pear.

You can work with the old hard pears, but you have to dig to get to the good stuff. The same is true if you do the right thing with the wrong motivation. Maybe you do what God says is right, and that’s great, but your heart isn’t joyful about it or happy or humble. You’ll get a good result back, yes, because you planted a good seed. But that result will be tainted by your bad attitude. And if you want to do something useful with it, you’ll have to dig out the unhelpful bits.

It’s so much better to do what God says is right with a heart that’s right too. That way, the results you get won’t just be pleasant, they’ll be useful. And you can build on your results right away because you won’t be spending time separating the bad fruit from the good.

It’s important to plant good seeds, so that you’ll harvest a good crop. But even more so, it’s important to plant good seeds with an attitude that’s right. An attitude that recognizes God as Lord and not just God.