Sometimes the best lessons are the hidden ones

Picture this. You’re working away in your office, cranking out pages as quickly as you can, getting loads done. And just when you finish the last sentence of the article you’re writing, the power goes off. Not all the way. Just enough to send your computer restarting.

No biggie. You’ve got auto-save. Ah, auto-save. Without you, writers would lose page after page after page of hard work.

So you get your computer restarted. You re-initiate all your programs. You find the last version of your article, and all you have to do is tack on that last sentence. Great! You get it down, and the power goes out again. But this time it doesn’t come back on. It stays off. For three hours.

So you do what you can in the mean time. And then when it comes back on, you jump back into working, finish that darned article and get it shipped off before the power cuts out again.

Nope. Not making it up. That’s been my day since Thanksgiving evening. Never knowing when the power is going to cut off, never knowing how much work gets saved from outage to outage. I’ve been a nervous wreck, let me tell you. But it’s funny how facing the irritation of power outages is good proving ground for real life, because if you can bounce back and smile after you’ve lost an entire article, you can bounce back when something worse happens.

renewable-energy-wind-generator-wind-turbine-environment-8546Today’s verses are 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

Perspective. It’s vital if you want to make it through life with all your marbles. Bad stuff happens all the time. Irritating stuff. Annoying stuff. Heartbreaking stuff. Stuff that knocks us back on our heels or slows us down or tosses our mood in the dumper, but ultimately the person who can change all of that is our own selves. It’s how we look at our life and our situation and our circumstances that determines how we’ll handle it.

We’ll either give up because it in’t worth it. Or we’ll keep on keeping on because we believe there’s something better coming.

Like this passage says, we don’t give up because even though our bodies are dying (everyone is dying), our spirits are being renewed through Christ every day. Every day we learn something new. Every day we get to know Jesus better. And even though we face impossible odds, we can push forward knowing that we’ve already won the war. God says we have.

So who cares if you lose what you wrote in an article? It’s a pain in the butt to rewrite it, but maybe your second draft will be better than the first. And that goes the same with other life lessons too. Just because it didn’t work out the first time doesn’t mean it won’t work out the next time or the next time or the next time. Just keep trying. Don’t give up.

Just because you can’t see the results right now doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Sometimes the best lessons we learn are the invisible ones.

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Booker the Basset Hound looking down the trail on the hike at Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

What I learned from a basset hound on a mountain hike

Have you ever faced a challenge you were sure would defeat you? Have you ever started a task and understood a few minutes into it that you’d never finish it? Life seems to be full of experiences like that, those moments when the mountain in your path seems too high to climb and too wide to go around.

If you’ve been there (or if you’re there now), you’re not alone.

So this morning, I want to tell you a story about Booker the Basset Hound. I met Booker on a mountain hike in Colorado over Memorial Day weekend. We’d found a pleasant hiking area in Cheyenne Canyon called Helen Hunt Falls, and we decided to go for a walk.

Well, on the way up, we’d passed a family with an adorable basset hound who was just having the time of his life. And he amazed me because he was climbing steep steps and leaping on tall rocks and making really great time. He wasn’t intimidated. He wasn’t scared. Sure he looked awkward and silly teetering like an overweight slinky up the worn wood steps, but he was having the time of his life. And when his family started to take him back down, he decided he wanted to keep going. And he ended up dragging one of the kids walking him up to the top of the mountain trail.

And, as funny as this may sound, I identified with that silly basset hound. Yes, the awkwardness and lack of coordination too, but mainly that desire to do more, to be more, to see more, to achieve greater things than I should be physically capable.

When you dream big, you face big obstacles. Even if you don’t dream big, you’ll still face challenges in life that are too big for you to tackle on your own. And in those moments, you’ll be tempted to just stop trying.

Booker the Basset Hound looking down the trail on the hike at Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Booker the Basset Hound looking down the trail on the hike at Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Galatians 6:9.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

We face so many difficult circumstances in our lives, some more than others, but in general we all will encounter resistance every day. Even more so if we are followers of Christ.

And doing the right thing is hard. Making the right choice over and over and over again with no guarantee of success or victory or advancement is excruciating. And giving up sounds so nice, so restful, so relaxing.

But believe me giving up is anything but that. Because you’ll always be tormented by “what if.” What if you hadn’t given up? What if you hadn’t stopped trying? What if you hadn’t turned around?

You might have made it to the top of the mountain. It might have been just around the corner. It might have made all the trouble worth it.

The thing about God-given dreams, they have to happen when God is ready for them to happen. Our plans are no different. We can lay our lives out carefully and specifically, but if God isn’t ready for our plans to work out, they won’t. The time has to be right.

We just don’t know when that time is. So we have to keep moving forward until that time gets here. And if we’re paying attention, if we jump when He says jump, we’ll experience the joy of a dream fulfilled.

So what challenge are you facing today? Do you feel like poor Booker, trying to climb a mountain with short stubby little legs (and obnoxious tourists with cameras who keep taking his photograph)? It’s tempting to give up, but in those moments, you have to remember what you’re climbing toward. You have to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing, why you’re striving to achieve your goal, why you’re working to make your dream come true.

Life is hard, but don’t give up because the view is worth the climb. Don’t let the struggles you’re going through make you forget why you’re climbing.

Wheat at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Endure when it feels like nothing will change

For me, the hardest part of endurance is the length of time I have to wait before I see results. I’ve mentioned before that I really hate waiting. I don’t mind training and preparing and planning, but once what I have trained and planned and prepared for has happened, I want immediate results. I want to see a ROI–a return on investment, as we call it in the marketing world. But most of the time that’s not how it works.

Following Christ and living for God is less like a marketing campaign and more like wheat farming. In a marketing campaign, you do the work, you submit the materials, and you wait for your leads to come in so you can track them down and try to convince them to buy product. It’s all very rapid, and you get fast results. In wheat farming, or other types of farming, you plow your ground, you plant your seed, and then you wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And pray that it doesn’t get hailed to bits or blown away. And pray that there’s enough rain but not too much. And you keep waiting until it’s finally time to harvest.

That’s what the Christian life is like. And that’s why we need to learn how to endure patiently because some things can’t be rushed, and if you give up too soon, you’ll miss out.

Wheat at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Galatians 6:9.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

It’s hard to do the right thing. It’s hard to press on and do good when all it seems to accomplish is to get you in trouble or to encourage others to take advantage of you, but that’s what we are called to do. As Christ-followers, we are called to live a life that honors God, and that means living according to the Bible. And maybe you didn’t know this, but the Bible isn’t exactly popular anymore. If you want to be politically correct, the Bible isn’t really the source for that.

It’s tiring to live the way the Bible says in a culture that mocks everything you believe. And it’s growing more and more difficult every day, it seems. And sometimes, in that quiet dark corner of my heart that I don’t like to admit is there, I wonder if it’s really worth it.

Have you ever been there? Where you’re just tired of being treated like a fool? Or you’re tired of always having to do the right thing and be branded as a goody-two-shoes? Or be labeled as “The Christian” when you really know the label means “self-righteous” to the people who use it?

Or are you tired of having to deal with other Christians? I think sometimes we focus on how frustrating it is to work in a culture with people who don’t believe the same way we do, but what about having to work with people who do believe the same way you do? It’s twice as frustrating because we have expectations for how Christians are supposed to behave, and when they don’t meet those expectations, it’s easy to get angry.

I get tired. I get worn out. I get exhausted with dealing with people and situations and circumstances, and there never seems to be an end to any of it. But then, I see a verse like today’s verse and I remember that many times I’m just in the growing phase of the season. People are growing. I’m growing. And if I try to harvest too quickly, I’ll kill my crop.

That’s why we have to endure. That’s why we can’t give up, whether you’re dealing with believers or unbelievers. We’re planting seeds every day, and maybe we’ll see something sprout. Maybe we won’t, but most of the time we’re going to harvest something. Maybe we won’t recognize it. Maybe we won’t even realize it, especially if we aren’t looking for it.

So don’t give up. And if you’re frustrated, try shifting your focus. Instead of seeing only how long you have to wait, try looking at how much your crop is growing while you’re waiting. We had so much moisture recently here in Kansas that the wheat outside my window has turned the most brilliant shade of green I’ve seen since last March. I got so used to the dull, dead colors of winter that seeing so much green nearly brought tears to my eyes.

And it reminded me that even in a season when it feels like nothing is growing, something is. You just have to look for it.