Getting out of safe mode

How many times have you tried to open a program on your computer and discovered that something was wrong with it? When that happens, sometimes you get the option to start a program in safe mode. Starting a program in safe mode means that it still functions but some of its options are disabled, allowing you to get your work done without jeopardizing your content. So it works, only with decreased functionality.

Anyone ever get there in life? After a good long text chat with my best friend yesterday, I realized that I’m there now. I’m functioning. I’m working. I’m just not doing it as well as I could be. There are some parts of me that aren’t operating the way they should, mostly because of exhaustion of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual varieties.

It usually happens around this time of year. Judgement House is over. The holidays are on the way. I’m relieved that Judgement House is done for another year, and while I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’m exhausted just thinking about how much work they are. Plus with the added stress of my job, my mom’s significant health issues, and the daily requirements of everyday life that I can never seem to stay up with, I feel like I’m in a constant battle to keep my head above water and that most of the time I’m swallowing more water than is healthy.

So the question I’m coming to is how do you get out of safe mode? Well, I know how I do that on my computer. I restart my program. But I can’t exactly do that with my life, can I?

Well, actually, you can.

Program trying to start in safe mode

Program trying to start in safe mode

Today’s verse is Lamentations 3:22-23.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I know I’ve blogged on this verse many times before, but there’s no better verse in my mind if I’m trying to remember the fact that God is a God of second chances and third chances and fourth chances and on and on and on. You get the idea. It’s never too late to restart again, not when it comes to your relationship with God. As long as you’re still breathing, you still have hope. God never gives up on us, so where do we get off thinking we can give up on Him?

Every day is a battle. If you’re a follower of Christ and your life in this world isn’t a daily battle in some sense of the concept, something’s wrong. As Christ-followers, this world isn’t our home. So if your life has trouble, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re doing something wrong. It just means that you’re a stranger in a strange land.

True, there may be trouble in your life for a reason beyond the world’s brokenness. I’m just saying don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that God is out to get you because of it. This isn’t where we’re supposed to be comfortable. This isn’t where we should desire to spend our eternity.

What I’m trying to wrap my head around at this point in my walk is how to restart without repeating the same mistakes. There’s a difference between restarting and starting over. Restarting wipes the slate clean. Starting over means you build on the ruins of what didn’t work the first time.

If I know it doesn’t work, I don’t want to restart on its ashes. I want to get as far away from it as I can. So how do you restart with a new perspective on life in general, especially when you’re too tired and burned out to care about much of anything?

For me, the biggest part of it is being honest with yourself. If you need to restart, don’t just identify the need and do nothing about it. Identify what needs to change and change it. Do something about it. Many times for me that starts with being willing to talk about it with someone.

It’s like trying to get your work done with a computer program that’s only operating with half its functionality. It’s frustrating because you know it can do more—it just won’t while it’s in safe mode.

Restart. Get back to basics. Clean the slate. Your day started off terrible? It doesn’t have to end terrible; God can redeem even the worst day. Your whole day was discouraging and disheartening? Tomorrow doesn’t have to be that way. Tell God about it and let Him walk with you through tomorrow. You spent today running in circles and accomplishing absolutely nothing? Maybe you learned something in all that waste of time that you needed to know for the next day.

Yesterday is done. Today begins new. Today begins fresh. Don’t let yesterday drag you down, especially when yesterday’s troubles won’t leave you alone. Sometimes it takes today’s perspective to tackle yesterday’s problems anyway.

You can restart anytime. So don’t wait. Don’t keep plugging away with a perspective that’s only letting you see half the picture. Restart. Open your eyes. Even if you can’t see everything God is doing, you can see enough to remember that He does have it under control. He loves you. You’re valuable to Him. And He wants to hang out with you today.

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Old disc in the snow

Old, rusted tools aren’t beyond saving

My property is very old. My house is old, my land is old, my trees are old–everything about my home is old. And in the south pasture, next to the foundation of an old granary is a rusted disc. I guess the technical terminology is disc harrow, according to Wikipedia. I’m sure years and years ago, it was used to cultivate soil for crops, removing weeds, tilling up the dirt and so on. But it isn’t used now. It’s old and rusted and just sitting in the back pasture.

Part of me feels like it was irresponsible to let the old thing rust away in the south pasture. But what was I going to use it for? I don’t have horses, and I may have five acres but anymore that’s not enough to raise any kind of profitable crop. So it sits out there abandoned.

Old disc in the snow

Old disc in the snow - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 116:5.

How kind the LORD is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours!

On first thought, this verse really has little to do with that old disc out in my back pasture. But the more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized that it has everything to do with it.

God is the only Person I’ve ever met who could take someone who was abandoned and deemed useless by society and culture and use them to make a difference in the world. God is the kindest, most merciful Person I’ve ever encountered.

If you haven’t already, I really suggest reading the entirety of Psalm 116. The writer is basically talking about how God reached down and saved him from danger.

God doesn’t have to do things like that.

He’s God. He is self-sustaining, eternal, and all-powerful. He knows all and sees all, and He can do everything. He doesn’t need us. He doesn’t need anyone. So when faced with the choice to reach down and help someone who can do absolutely nothing for Him in return, why would God do it? Why does God insist on helping us, especially when we can’t repay Him?

What does it mean to be merciful? What does it mean to be kind?

Mercy and kindness, to me, go hand in hand. Because mercy is giving someone something they don’t deserve. Mercy is being kind to someone who doesn’t deserve kindness.

Mercy is extending a hand of forgiveness to people who have hurt us. Mercy is accepting punishment for someone else when you’ve done nothing wrong. Mercy is offering to help someone who can offer you nothing in return simply because it’s the right thing to do.

And that’s what God does for us every day, whether you believe in Him or not.

Some days I feel very much like an old rusted tool that isn’t useful for anything anymore. I feel used up and worn out and run down, like I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel to find some grain of creativity when I’ve already given it all away. Some days I feel like I’ve lost whatever usefulness I had and that I’m not good for anything anymore. But on the days when I feel like that, I need to remember the old disc in my south pasture. And I need to remember Psalm 116.

God is merciful and kind. And no one is beyond His ability to save and restore. Even those facing death aren’t beyond His reach. He’s God. He can do anything, and He can use anyone, no matter who they are or where they came from.

That old disc out in my south pasture is beyond my ability to restore. Just like I know some people (including myself) are beyond my ability to help. But no one is beyond God.

And the irony is that we don’t even have to ask Him to use us. He does it anyway. But if we ask Him first and if we go along with it, we can experience a lot of joy.

View from a family palace throne

The only throne room where boldness won’t get you flayed alive

One of my favorite places in the world is the Mayan ruins of Tikal in Peten, Guatemala. I love history and ancient cultures, and Tikal is a spectacular place to study both of those things, an amazing reminder that no matter how great a civilization may become they are still vulnerable when they have no moral foundation. There are a number of palaces standing in Tikal where ruling class families lived. Palaces are kind of like apartment complexes where the whole family lived.

Every ruling family had a skill or had some form of knowledge that they hoarded, astronomy for example or medical knowledge. Something that the rest of the culture needed to survive but that the family wouldn’t share with anyone else. In the palaces, there is a throne area with a long, wide courtyard in front of it. I took a picture from the throne when I was in Tikal in July 2011.

View from a family palace throne

View from a family palace throne - Tikal, Peten, Guatemala

What’s really cool about this is the acoustics. The guy in the red shirt is my friend, Jim Dinsmore, and from where he is standing, he could speak in a quiet voice, and I could hear him clearly. This area was designed so that the person sitting on the throne could hear everything that was whispered in the courtyard.

I can only imagine what it must have been like for people to approach the head of one of these families. I’ve never been in a situation where I had to address anyone like this. But I have an active imagination, and I can feel the fear and trepidation something like this might cause. To be so small and so far away from someone so much bigger and more powerful than me would terrify me. I’m not sure how these situations played out in Tikal, but I know that the Mayans weren’t exactly known for their mercy. So putting one toe out of line probably resulted in a particularly painful death.

Today’s verse is Hebrews 4:16.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

This verse is out of a passage in Hebrews that is talking about Jesus as our High Priest. In the Jewish religion, there was a High Priest who was the intercessor between God and people, who followed a strict set of guidelines and fulfilled all required expectations to be able to approach God on the peoples’ behalf. When Jesus came and died for us, He became our High Priest. He is now the intercessor between God and Mankind. And what the end of Hebrews 4 and the beginning of Hebrews 5 is talking about is our ability to come before God and speak to Him.

If you have chosen to follow Jesus, that means you have full access to God Himself. He isn’t some distant ethereal being floating out in the universe somewhere who doesn’t care about your everyday life. He is a real, living Person who wants to help you and who wants to know you.

Hebrews 4 says was can approach God’s throne with boldness. The Amplified Version uses the adverbs fearlessly and confidently.

Think about that. And think about this photo from Tikal. If I were in a Mayan’s position, there would be no boldness in me, not in approaching the head of a family on a throne like that. I would be as far away as I possibly could be. Put that in perspective and imagine approaching the throne of the God of the universe. It doesn’t even compare. But Hebrews is saying that we could walk right up to the throne of God and talk to Him.

And we won’t be shunned. We won’t be mistreated. We won’t be punished.

We will receive mercy and grace when we need it most.

Can you wrap your head around that? Because I can’t.

So wherever you are today, whether you’re having a good day or a bad day, just remember that as a follower of Christ, you have free, open access to God Himself. You can walk boldly up to His throne and tell Him what’s going on in your life. Yes, He already knows, but He wants to hear it from you, in your own words. And He’ll help you.

If what you’re going through is something you don’t deserve, He’ll help you. If what you’re going through is something you do deserve, He’ll help you. Even if the trouble in your life is of your own making, He’ll help you. There may still be some consequences, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to face them alone.

Be bold. You can. God wants you to.