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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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.

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.