You can’t walk right with two different shoes on

live-walk-shoes-wisdom_1170x350

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.

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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.

Life is shorter than we think

I turned 33 yesterday. It’s honestly kind of shocking when I stop to think about it. I don’t feel 33, but then what is a 33-year-old supposed to feel like? When I was a kid, I thought 25 sounded so far away. But now? Well, just the other night, I was hanging out with a bunch of 25-year-olds, marveling at how young they all were. Where did the time go? And how does your perspective change so much in just 10 years?

If you’re not careful, your life will get away from you. If you aren’t paying attention, years will slip through your fingers. And then one day, you’ll wake up, and you’ve lived your entire life. It really does happen that way. So what can you do about it?

10Q7Y8YST0Today’s verses are Psalm 90:10-12.

Seventy years are given to us!
Some even live to eighty.
But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble;
soon they disappear, and we fly away.
Who can comprehend the power of your anger?
Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve.
Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
so that we may grow in wisdom.

If I remember correctly, this is one of the Psalms that Moses wrote. Yeah, burning bush, Ten Commandments, Let My People Go Moses. He wrote Psalms too. He also wrote the first five books in the Bible.

He understood this concept of how brief life is, and he lived a long time. What he also tells God is that even our best years still brim with sorrow and frustration. I can identify with that. It’s been a great year. I’m chasing my dream for real–for the first time in my life, and I couldn’t be happier. But I’ve had a lot of crap going on this year too. My goodness. It’s almost unreal the level of irritation and craziness I’ve had to put up with.

And then, just like that, life is over, and it’s time to go home. What do we get on earth anyway? 70 years? 80 years? Some get more. Some get less. But regardless how long you live, in comparison to eternity, it’s not a lot of time.

Life is short. It doesn’t feel short when we’re young. When we’re young, it feels like it’ll stretch out forever, and no one is immune. When I was in junior high, I really made a concerted effort to appreciate the time I had. I didn’t do a good enough job because I still ended up in high school way faster than I expected. I tried the same thing in high school, but it flew by even faster. And on and on it went until I realized just a few days ago that I’ve been out of college for 10 years. 10 years!

What the heck?

The point is don’t take your life for granted. You’re still here. You’re reading this. That means you’ve still got a job to do, so don’t just shove that fact to the side to think about later. You may not get later.

Live each day the best you can. Make the most of every moment with all your strength. When you’re looking for ways to bring glory to God in everything you do every moment of the day, you’ll find them. Don’t hold on to regrets either. Try to live a life that keeps you from having them, but when you do, let them go. They’re time wasters. Just like guilt. That doesn’t do anyone any good.

So let’s all wake up and get busy doing real work that really matters. Life is shorter than we think, and none of us have a lot of time left. So let’s make the most of it while we can.

This world isn’t supposed to work

Most days, living is a privilege. Being alive is a gift. But I’m fully aware how blessed I am, and that not everyone can agree on whether life is a blessing or a curse. At least, as far as this life is concerned. A lot of it depends on your perspective.

But something I’ve learned through the years of following Christ is that we shouldn’t get too comfortable here. Whether life is fun or not, whether it’s joyous or not, life here isn’t permanent. None of us are staying. I’m not home yet, and neither are you.

dawn-landscape-sky-sunset_1540x1004Today’s verses are Hebrews 11:13-18.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

How many millions and billions of people have died before us? How many people went into eternity before we were even born? The world may have 6 or 7 billion people living on it now, but other people pre-dated us. And the Bible says none of them have ceased to exist. They’ve continued to “live” but their mailing address has changed to one of two places.

The whole chapter of Hebrews 11 is a beautiful tribute to many of the Bible legends we’ve grown up with. It’s a fast, awesome read, and I highly recommend it. And it points out a number of really important facts about the Christ-followers who preceded us.

None of them got to see the answer to God’s promises while they were alive on Earth. They lived their lives for Him, and He took care of them. He guided them. He was their friend. But in this life, they didn’t get to experience what God has promised.

Hebrews 11 is a tribute to Old Testament heroes. We could write a similar tribute to the heroes of the New Testament, and their story would be the same. They followed God with everything they had. Some gave their lives. But they didn’t get to experience all that God promised while they were walking on the Earth.

The same is true for heroes in other time periods too. And if the Lord continues to be patient with our world, it’s the story others will tell about Christ-followers of my generation. We followed Christ, but we didn’t get to see all of His promises fulfilled.

So here’s the question: Do you only do something right because you’ll be reward for it? Do you only maintain a relationship for what you can get out of it? Or is it enough to know what what you’re doing is right and that you get to play a role in a bigger story?

Don’t be frustrated when life doesn’t work out the way you want. Things in this world aren’t supposed to work. It’s broken, remember? And don’t even be frustrated when God’s plan doesn’t go the way you expect. He knows what He’s doing.

God has made promises. And, make no mistake, He’ll keep them all. But as a Christ-follower, we have to willing to accept that we may not see them while we’re alive on Earth. What’s great, though, is that we will see them. We just need to remember that this life isn’t about us and what we want. This life is about Jesus. Sort of like how eternity is about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. So make your life about Him and watch what happens.

How much time do you have left to look?

What is alluring in the concept of procrastination? Why does it seem so much better to do something tomorrow instead of today? The “grass is greener on the other side” concept makes more sense to me. So why is it so easy to procrastinate?

At least with the “grass is greener” concept, you are actively doing something. You’re feeling jealous. And even if what you’re accomplishing is negative, at least you’re accomplishing something. But procrastinating? What does procrastinating accomplish? Wasting time?

In my case, procrastination usually rears its head when I’m too busy and I have too much work to do. I have too many projects to know which one is the one I should work on, so if I give into procrastination I don’t work on any of them. I have too many novels or short stories to write, so I don’t write any of them. Recently, procrastination has been really easy for me.

But the problem with procrastination is that even though you stop working, time keeps moving. Time isn’t on our side, fellow procrastinators, and one more day that passes with us doing nothing is one less day we have to get our work done. And when our deadline hits, we’ll be out of luck and there will be no more time to waste.

In that case, you have two choices — you can either scramble around a few hours before and do a crappy job. Or you can give up.

Now, I usually end up scrambling around and producing a half-decent piece of work which is why I can procrastinate so long . . . because only I know how much time I really wasted in its production (the guilt from things like this really cured me of the vast amount of my procrastination issues before I got out of college).

But some deadlines you can’t extend. And some responsibilities have a definite time limit. And there is no scrambling around to get it done at the last minute.

Today’s verse is Isaiah 55:6.

6 Seek the Lord while you can find him.
      Call on him now while he is near.

When it comes to our relationship with God, we should never procrastinate, but it’s just as easy to do it as it is with anything else. Maybe it’s because humans are wired to think that tomorrow will come like it always has.

But no one is guaranteed tomorrow. Shoot, we’re not even guaranteed today. I could get in my car to drive to work in ten minutes and hit a loose cow in the road and be killed. Someone driving in front of me could lose something off the back of their truck, like they did in June 2008, and I could go flying off an overpass and die. 

The point is, no one knows what today holds for us. And no one can be 100 percent certain that we will even see tomorrow. So why are we so confident that we have enough time to procrastinate? How can we procrastinate when we don’t even know what our deadline is?

The deal is this, I personally believe that as long as we’re alive on earth, if you seek the Lord, you will find Him. I don’t think God ever gives up on people. I don’t think there is ever someone who is too far away to come back. There are no examples in Scripture of turning anyone away who is genuinely seeking. 

The problem is, how much time do you have left to seek? Because if your life ends and you’re not right with God, you won’t be able to find Him anymore no matter how hard you look.

This even applies to those of us who already believe. We should still seek God in our lives after we have decided to believe in Christ. But even as believers, we have a limited amount of time on Earth and if we seek only the things of the world, what good will we accomplish for God while we’re here? And then, even when we get to heaven and even though God will be near to us, we will no longer have opportunity to serve Him where it matters.

I don’t know how much time I have. But whatever time I have, I need to make the most of by being focused on the things that matter and seeking God with everything I have. Because even though procrastination is easy, it’s never the right thing to do. And nothing worth achieving was ever easy.

Gotta eat to live . . . but is living what matters?

What do we need to survive? What do we need to keep living in this crazy world? Do we need food and water? Shelter? Clothes?

Well, yes. All the above. If we want to keep living, we have to eat. Part of our limitations as humans include the necessity of eating. But the world would convince us that we can’t just eat anything. We have to eat in the best circles, the most expensive restaurants with the most exotic fare.

The world would have us believe that we need a host of other things to survive. We need money, for instance. And we need a huge, fancy house and a fast car. We need cell phones and computers. We need the latest fashions and the hottest trends.

And that’s not really the case.

So what do we really need to survive? Yes, we have to eat and drink, or we’ll die. This is what I got to thinking about today when I read the day’s verse.

Matthew 4:4 

 4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,
   ‘People do not live by bread alone,
      but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

We may need to eat to survive, but we have life because God has breathed it into us. We can live by keeping our bodies alive with food and water, but we weren’t created simply to live. We were created to thrive.

This is one of those verses that has been used so many times I think a lot of its poignancy has been overlooked. To put it in context, Christ said this to Satan during His temptation in the wilderness. This was arguably the most important point in Jesus’ life on earth because if Satan had won–if Jesus had given in to temptation–He would have sinned. And that would have made Him incapable of paying for our sins on the cross.

But Christ didn’t sin.

Interestingly enough, the verse He quoted was Deuteronomy 8:3, which reminding the people of Israel what God had done for them when they were wandering around in the wilderness without food.

 3 Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

The people of Israel wandered the wilderness for 40 years. The only food they had to eat was manna, a bread that fell from heaven overnight, which the Israelites could gather every morning. They could only take enough for that day, and they had to trust that God would provide more for them the next day.

But even though the manna fed them through the wilderness, it wasn’t the bread that kept them on their feet. Think about it. Millions of people wandering in the desert with no extra clothes, no extra shoes, no extra wagons, no extra supplies and no human contact aside from with each other. 

It was God who kept them on their feet. It was God who protected them and cared for them. Yes, it was God who made them wander in the wilderness to begin with because the generation who was leading at the time was not the one who could inherit the Promised Land due to their lack of faith. God provided bread for them, but what kept them going was His grace.

Fast forward a couple thousand years, and Jesus had been in a desert for 40 days without food. And Satan saw it as the perfect opportunity to get Jesus to fall. But Jesus used this story to illustrate the fact that while we may need food to live, we need God to survive.

Fast forward another couple of thousand years. Here we are in 21st Century America. We have luxury sedans. We have cell phones. We have high-speed internet (I live in the middle of nowhere and I have high-speed internet . . . and it’s finally working again today! Hooray!). We have fancy houses. We have access to delicious foods from all over the world. We have movie theatres and blu-ray discs for home entertainment. We have air conditioning. We have ice cream, people!

But nothing has changed. People are the same. Satan is the same. And God is the same as He was when He provided for the people of Israel.

God created us to have a relationship with Him, and Satan will stop at nothing to interfere with that. And he will lie to us and tell us that we need all the extraneous things that life can offer us. But it’s not true.

Now it’s not necessarily bad to want some of them. I can tell you what, a bowl of ice cream would have been pretty stupendous during our 110 degree day yesterday. But my whole life and future doesn’t hang in the balance of whether I get a bowl of ice cream or not. I don’t need it.

What I need and what everyone else needs is God. We need Him in our life. We need Him in our hearts and in our minds. And if we can get our heads around that, it doesn’t matter if we’re eating herb-crusted cibatta bread . . . or if we’re eating plague-infested corn tortillas in the middle of the jungle somewhere. Food will sustain our bodies, but God sustains the real us.