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.

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.

A giant wolf spider who took up residence in my bathroom cabinet, Haven, KS

Running from trouble gets you nowhere

My house is full of spiders. Granted, it’s not as bad this year as it’s been in previous years, but it’s still pretty bad. I snapped this cell phone shot of a wolf spider who was living in my bathroom cabinet.

Believe it or not, I almost left him alone because wolf spiders are the natural enemies of brown recluses, one of the most poisonous spiders ever. And my house is loaded with brown recluses. Seriously. I have a ton of them. But they are recluses for a reason and usually run away .

In any case, the wolf spider didn’t make it. But in case you’re wondering what this has to do with anything, I was sitting at the computer in my hotel in Bellevue, Washington, and a spider came crawling down the wall. And I’m pretty positive that it was a brown recluse. At least, it looked like one, and it behaved like one.

And I couldn’t help but laugh because the rainy, cold Pacific Northwest was the last place I thought I’d find another brown recluse. I usually only find them in the hot, dryness of summer in Kansas.

But it made me think about something. When I see a spider now, I squash them. Or I spray them. Or (in some rare cases) I leave them alone. But I made the decision years ago on how to handle them and have taught myself through years of experience how to deal with them. So whenever a see a spider, I know what to do.

Now what if I hadn’t done that? What if I hadn’t trained myself how to handle spiders? I’d go running and screaming every time I saw one, no matter where I went. So I’d run and scream at home, and I’d run and scream at my hotel in Seattle. The spiders aren’t going to change. There are spiders everywhere. But how I respond to them can.

It’s just like troubles in our lives. We all have them. They just look different. But when you run away from them, you’re just going to find the same problem farther down the road. You can’t escape them. You have to learn how to face them.

A giant wolf spider who took up residence in my bathroom cabinet, Haven, KS

A giant wolf spider who took up residence in my bathroom cabinet, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Lamentations 3:30.

Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them
    and accept the insults of their enemies.

Dealing with people who don’t like you can be really difficult. And I’m not saying to fall down and allow people to beat you up. That’s not the point.

Sometimes, it’s better to be the one who backs off. Sometimes, it’s better to be humble. Sometimes, it’s better to be the one who takes it on the jaw.

As Christ-followers, we’re strong enough to take it. God gives us the strength to go through anything. And we need to remember that in this life, we’re going to have trouble. We aren’t going to find the perfect solution to living on this Earth because this isn’t our home. And if we keep packing up and moving on to every new situation that comes our way, we won’t learn the lesson God is trying to teach us through the struggles He has allowed into our path.

You’ve heard that the grass is always greener on the other side? It’s not. It’s the same grass. It’s just your perspective on it. Grass is grass wherever you go, and it’s subject to the same problems and difficulties everywhere.

So if you don’t learn how to handle the problems you’re facing today, you won’t know what do to when the same problems pop up a few miles down the road.

So stop running. Face your troubles head on. Let God help you, let Him make you strong, and let Him show you what you need to learn.

Spiders come in every shape and size, but they all squash the same. Learn how to deal with the small ones, and the big ones won’t be that scary.

Sunrise over Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

God’s rescue comes even though the waters keep rising

You’ve got to love David. If you’ve ever spent any time in the Psalms, you know what I’m talking about. David just had a gift with words. He could turn a phrase just right so that it got right down to the heart of the issue. Most of the time I think it’s because David was honest and earnest about who he was and who God is. But one of my favorite “psalms” of David’s isn’t in Psalms at all. In fact, it’s in 2 Samuel.

It’s long, like 50 verses, but I’m only going to post the first 30 this morning, mainly because those are the ones that really stuck out to me as I read them. (I should correct yesterday’s post too, since my best friend’s novel is actually based on verses 17-18 of this passage; I saw deep waters and got my verses mixed up!)

Sunrise over Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Sunrise over Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are 2 Samuel 3-30:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
    my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
    and my place of safety.
He is my refuge, my savior,
    the one who saves me from violence.
I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and he saved me from my enemies.

“The waves of death overwhelmed me;
    floods of destruction swept over me.
 The grave wrapped its ropes around me;
    death laid a trap in my path.
 But in my distress I cried out to the Lord;
    yes, I cried to my God for help.
He heard me from his sanctuary;
    my cry reached his ears.

“Then the earth quaked and trembled.
    The foundations of the heavens shook;
    they quaked because of his anger.
 Smoke poured from his nostrils;
    fierce flames leaped from his mouth.
    Glowing coals blazed forth from him.
 He opened the heavens and came down;
    dark storm clouds were beneath his feet.
 Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew,
    soaring on the wings of the wind.
 He shrouded himself in darkness,
    veiling his approach with dense rain clouds.
 A great brightness shone around him,
    and burning coals blazed forth.
 The Lord thundered from heaven;
    the voice of the Most High resounded. 
He shot arrows and scattered his enemies;
    his lightning flashed, and they were confused.
 Then at the command of the Lord,
    at the blast of his breath, the bottom of the sea could be seen,
    and the foundations of the earth were laid bare.

“He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.
 He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
    from those who hated me and were too strong for me.
 They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress,
    but the Lord supported me.
 He led me to a place of safety;
    he rescued me because he delights in me.
 The Lord rewarded me for doing right;
    he restored me because of my innocence.
 For I have kept the ways of the Lord;
    I have not turned from my God to follow evil.
 I have followed all his regulations;
    I have never abandoned his decrees.
 I am blameless before God;
    I have kept myself from sin.
 The Lord rewarded me for doing right.
    He has seen my innocence.

“To the faithful you show yourself faithful;
    to those with integrity you show integrity.
 To the pure you show yourself pure,
    but to the wicked you show yourself hostile.
 You rescue the humble,
    but your eyes watch the proud and humiliate them.
 O Lord, you are my lamp.
    The Lord lights up my darkness.
 In your strength I can crush an army;
    with my God I can scale any wall.

David sang this song after God rescued Him from his enemies, but there is a lot in this passage that applies to life as we know it today. So much that I don’t really have time to go over all of it. I could spend a month on this chapter alone. Maybe I should.

But what I love about this–one of the many aspects–is how it depicts God coming to the rescue. Part of me thinks it’s ironic to see God’s rescue being depicted in natural disasters; maybe there’s a point in that. But when God comes to the rescue like that, who could doubt Him? He charges in with thunder and lightning and earthquakes and terror and reaches down to us to pull us out of our distress and our fear. I love how this passage ends too. God is our light in the darkness, and with Him nothing is impossible.

I’m not sure if we can really wrap our heads around that concept, but we can try. So the next impossible task you face, remember this passage. Remember that when you’re in trouble, you just need to cry out for help, and God will be there. He’ll come charging in to rescue you, to draw you out of the floods that are threatening to overwhelm you.

True, the verse doesn’t say God will stop the floods. But it does say God will be there to help. And if we have God’s help, there’s nothing we can’t do.

Dragonfly - Galveston, TX

Just because you can’t see Him doesn’t mean He’s not working

I’ve got troubles. How about you? I have stuff in my life that blows up on occasion, and it’s really hard to recover sometimes. I want God to fix it. I want Him to intervene and make everything right again as quickly as possible so nobody gets hurt, including me. But He doesn’t always work like that. Actually, He rarely works like that. And so I have to go through even more difficult situations, where people are angry or where people make foolish choices and I have to pick up the pieces and start all over again.

If you’ve never been there, you don’t know how discouraging that is. To have invested your life in something only to have something outside your control ruin it all. And you have to start over from scratch.

When I was young, my favorite hobby was writing (not much has changed). And I would sit and write as often as I could. I had this huge book series I was working on. Back then the power grid out here in the country was unreliable at best, and we had an old computer that had never heard of “Auto Save.” You already know where I’m going. I was typing along, just minding my own business, and the power went out. And I lost four whole single-spaced pages. And they weren’t even scenes with basic description or simple dialogue. They were scenes with complicated, plot elements.

I was devastated. This probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to anyone, but if you’re a writer, you can identify with the loss. I had to start those pages all over again. And this was before I worked with an outline, so I had to recreate what I had pulled out of thin air. And all I could think about when I got to the end of those four new pages (and saved them six times) was that it wasn’t as good as the first attempt.

I don’t do this very often, but I’m posting an entire chapter. The whole chapter is just wonderful, one of my favorites. And since I’m going to put the whole chapter up, I’m putting it up in The Message (emphasis is mine), but if you want to read it in New Living Translation, it’s also very good.

Dragonfly - Galveston, TX

Dragonfly – Galveston, TX

2 Corinthians 4

 Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.

 If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way. No, it’s because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.

Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!

 We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

***

God has a plan. Even when nothing makes sense to us, it’s comforting to know that He’s got it all handled. The trouble with following Christ in this world is that we can’t always see the difference God is making to people. They’re either too ashamed to admit it or too afraid or too proud. But even if they don’t say anything, even if they act out, even if they lash out in anger, you can know that it’s probably because God used something we did or said to unsettle them.

God is working, but in the areas that He’s working, we can’t see. Because He’s changing people in a way that will last forever, and that’s something that is invisible, at least at first. So we have to trust that He’s doing something, even if we can’t see it. Especially if we can’t see it. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing.

That’s difficult for me sometimes because it’s frustrating to watch something I gave so much of myself to torn down.  But nothing happens without a reason, and as long as we keep our perspective straight and keep doing what God has called us to do, He can use it to bring about our greatest hopes, to fulfill our dreams. But starting over again is exhausting, and there’s the fear that it will be torn down again. But let’s be honest: sometimes starting over again is the best thing that can happen, even if it’s for reasons we don’t understand.

As a child, I hated those four pages that I had to rewrite. But I tell you what, I learned the importance of saving my work. And a few years later … I ended up rewriting the whole scene anyway. And it turned out ten times better than it ever could have when I was younger.

Just saying.

Sun almost set - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Never give up.

I avoid hatred. I don’t think hate solves anything. Ever. It’s one of those emotions that can move you to do terrible things, and if you get into a lifestyle of hatred, you will become a miserable person. And even Scripture tells us that we’re never supposed to hate another person. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done to us or how they’ve treated us or how they’ve treated someone you love, hate never improves the situation. It just makes you miserable.

But what about our enemy? Our real enemy. Not Osama bin Laden or any of the men and women who have done such evil things to each other. Not people. Because people are never our enemies. Satan is. And he hates us so very much. Is it okay to hate him?

And the moment I start talking about Satan many people may start rolling their eyes because we don’t like to think about him as a real person who’s truly after us. But he is. And he’s not some costumed clown in a red suit and pitchfork as our culture would like to believe. He’s not a man in a suit. He’s not a terrifying monster. He’s brilliant and he’s beautiful and he’s alluring, and he knows us better than we know ourselves.

And he tears people apart. And he takes things that are good and corrupts them. And he gets in between people who are making a difference and tempts them to hurt each other, and before you know it, they can’t even talk to each other anymore. He fills our heads with lies, and because we are broken people we listen. And the only consolation is that God is big enough to take the situations that Satan had destroyed and can still do something great with them.

Paul and Barnabas are a good example. They disagreed about a young man named John Mark. You can read it in Acts 14:36-40. But they fought about it so much that they split up because they couldn’t work together anymore. Did their ministries end? No. God still used them. And maybe some would say that it was God’s will for them to go their separate ways. But I don’t think it’s ever God’s will for us to be in conflict with another believer. Not like that. Not the kind of conflict that splits you apart and leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

God still used Paul and Barnabas separately. They still did remarkable things around the world. But as far as we know, they never reconciled. Now they’re together in heaven. I wonder how that went when they spoke to each other again for the first time in so long.

Sun almost set - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sun almost set – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Micah 7:7-8.

As for me, I look to the Lord for help.
    I wait confidently for God to save me,
    and my God will certainly hear me.
Do not gloat over me, my enemies!
    For though I fall, I will rise again.
Though I sit in darkness,
    the Lord will be my light.

Satan is going to throw everything he has at us. I don’t think any of us really understand how much he hates us. What we have to do is to realize what is happening.

Satan hates us and wants us to fall. He wants us to go to pieces. He wants us to focus the sum of our disappointment and our fears and our loneliness on each other. If he can’t separate us from God (and he can’t, by the way), he will manipulate us and use us to hurt each other, to drive each other away. And we’re so good at rationalizing that we are always in danger of listening to his temptation and supporting it with our own reasoning … so it makes sense to us. And we think we’re doing something good, but we’re really just playing into his hands.

But if whatever path you’re choosing to act on contradicts Scripture in any way, don’t do it.

So what if you’re in the position of watching people give in to Satan’s taunts and threats?

Pray.

And if you know them well enough, confront.

And if that doesn’t change anything … let them go. God will take care of it.

Quite “by accident” this morning, when I logged into Biblegateway.com to get the verse, it was set on The Message as the translation. I use the Message sometimes because I like to get the feel of a whole passage. This is the whole context of the verses for today:

But me, I’m not giving up.
   I’m sticking around to see what God will do.
I’m waiting for God to make things right.
   I’m counting on God to listen to me.
Don’t, enemy, crow over me.
   I’m down, but I’m not out.
I’m sitting in the dark right now,
   but God is my light.
I can take God’s punishing rage.
   I deserve it—I sinned.
But it’s not forever. He’s on my side
   and is going to get me out of this.
He’ll turn on the lights and show me his ways.
   I’ll see the whole picture and how right he is.
And my enemy will see it, too,
   and be discredited—yes, disgraced!
This enemy who kept taunting,
   “So where is this God of yours?”
I’m going to see it with these, my own eyes—
   my enemy disgraced, trash in the gutter.

We have an enemy, and he hates us. And he’s going to do everything he can to break us down and tear us apart, and there are going to be days when he succeeds. But God is bigger. And God is stronger. And God is going to make everything right again. And Satan is going to see that. Actually, Satan already knows that.

It’s up to us not to give up. It’s up to us to keep doing the right thing. To keep living lives that please God, living according to the Scripture, living according to the Spirit. And God will work everything out.

Elephant at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Eating elephants

Everyone I know is busy. Some are in school. Many are planning weddings. Others are having babies. And the rest of us are overwhelmed with work and ministry and general family stuff. But “busy” seems to be the standard answer to the “How are you doing?” question we always greet each other with.

Doesn’t it feel like too much sometimes though? Do you ever feel like you have so much to do that you can’t ever accomplish anything? I constantly feel like I’m spinning my wheels. Or like my life is a treadmill and no matter how hard I run I never actually make any real progress. That’s not true, of course. If I were honest with myself I accomplish a lot in a full day, but when I compare it to the rest of the things I need to do (and the unrealistic expectations I put on myself), it never makes much difference.

When I look at the pile of things I need to accomplish in a day, I feel like I’m trying to eat an elephant. And it’s far too much for me. And when I start focusing on how there’s no way I can ever do all that I need to do, I start getting discouraged.

Elephant at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Elephant at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse(s) are Hebrews 6:11-12.

Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.

This verse is really referring to salvation and how to grow in your faith, but it struck me this morning that it applies to the rest of life too. That’s what I love so much about the Bible. Even when one verse is talking about one thing, oftentimes it’s also talking about something else completely in the subtext.

So much of following Christ on a daily basis is faith. But faith isn’t just some abstract, ethereal feeling you experience on a good day when you hear a beautiful song or watch the sun rise. Faith is a concrete, heart-wrenching choice that you make in the nitty-gritty moments of life. It’s the choice you have to keep making every day, sometimes every hour, to let go of what you’re worrying about and trust God with it. It’s a choice you have to keep making. Over and over and over.

Yes, you choose to follow Christ once. You choose to give Him your heart. You choose to trust Him for salvation. Once and forever. And you’re good to go as far as your eternal soul. But when it comes to living for Him from day-to-day? That’s a little more difficult. That’s a choice you have to make continually. Every morning when you wake up, you have to make the conscious decision that your day is going to be about Him. Not you. And you’ll have to remind yourself of that choice multiple times throughout the course of the next 24 hours.

Faith is one thing. Enduring faith — patient faith — is something else. I’m not good at waiting. I don’t like it. I’m all about action and doing and fixing; waiting and waiting makes me feel lazy. And I think that’s why God makes me do it so often because I learn a lot about Him and about who I am in Him throughout the process of waiting.

Great faith takes strong perseverance. That’s something many Christians won’t tell you, but it’s true. Faith can definitely be about those big miraculous moments; but more often than not, it’s about waiting. And waiting takes patience and perseverance and consistency.

So how does that help us accomplish everything we need to do? How does that get us where we need to be? How is waiting a comfort in situations where we’re so overwhelmed we don’t know what step to take next?

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

It’s the same way you climb a mountain like Mt. Everest. You get as far as you can in one day and you rest. Then you wake up and do it again. And again. And again. And again.  Don’t deviate. Don’t change course. Don’t give up. Just keep going. And eventually you’ll get to the top. (And then, of course, you have to come back down, but that’s another point for another Monday.)

When we’re facing a challenge that’s too big for us, just do the best you can and trust God for the rest. And when it feels like you’re just running on a treadmill, take a moment to look back and see all that you’ve accomplished. Don’t let yourself forget the things you’ve done and the successes you’ve had. And always look at where God has brought you.

God is always working in our lives. He’s always leading us forward, even if it is just one step a day. But one step is better than standing still, and add up all the steps you’ve taken in your life, and you’ll see how far you’ve come.

Be consistent. Be patient. Just keep doing what you’re doing. And something will change.