Life doesn’t wait if you take a wrong step

I’ve been walking two miles a day since April or so, with a few breaks in between for vacations and things of that nature. Kansas weather is a little fickle for walking outside, so to keep to a consistent schedule, I use the treadmill downstairs. It’s a pretty nice set up. I get down there, fire up the treadmill, switch on my audiobook, and walk.

Well, yesterday morning, I reminded myself that clumsiness runs in my family. I took a wrong step. My left foot stepped down on the guard, while my right foot was still on the belt. So, yes, my left foot stayed in one place, my right foot ran out behind me, and I tried my darnedest to do the splits.

I didn’t fall. If we’d gotten it on camera, I’m sure it might have even looked graceful. Because somehow I regained my equilibrium and jumped back on the belt, trying to regain my footing. But it didn’t work. I couldn’t get my feet under me, so I just let the belt carry me off the treadmill. And by that time I’d made such a horrendous racket, my poor parents were upstairs thinking I’d passed out or something.

It was a good reminder for me to pay attention to where I put my feet, even when I’m walking on a treadmill.

EE8A129965Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 9:24.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!

Like a treadmill doesn’t stop if you put your foot down in the wrong place, life doesn’t stop when you fall down either. It feels like it should. When you take a tumble and hit the dirt, you feel like your life should stop. When you get hurt or when someone you love dies or when you run into trouble that shocks you or scares you, it feels like the world stops spinning. But it doesn’t.

Life moves forward. It goes on. And it will go on without you. It’s a harsh reality to accept, but it’s the truth.

I remember my first year at college. I went to a school a thousand miles away from home. When I came home for Christmas after my first semester, I was shocked at how everything had changed. My church had changed. My friends had changed. My family had changed. Life went on without me being there.

Change isn’t bad. We need to remember that and embrace it. Change is normal. So don’t let it catch you off guard. But some changes will hit you harder than others. Some things in life will knock your legs right out from under you.

That unbeatable diagnosis. That painful relationship. That bad decision. Something will throw you for a loop, and before you know it, you’ll be doing splits on a treadmill, one foot locked in place and the other one carried away by life’s current. And you’ll probably end up on your face. It’s at that point you have a choice.

You can stay down, or you can get up again. When you run to win, you get up when you fall down. When you’re chasing a prize, you pick yourself up after you stumble. When you have a purpose for doing what you’re doing, you don’t give up. That’s what this verse is about. It’s about living life for a reason.

You will fall. Nobody’s perfect. You may even fall more than once, but just remember why you’re running. Remember who you’re running for. As Christ-followers, we’re not after an earthly prize. We’re in this race to finish strong in the name of Jesus.

So get up. Dust yourself off. Get back on that treadmill. Run to win.

The soap dispenser that doesn’t work

Last week I was in Las Vegas in the strangest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. This week, I’m in Chicago, at one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever stayed in. So I’m afraid my trade show illustrations are going to continue for another week. And again, I’ve got a story from a bathroom!

I was in the airport in Atlanta (yes, I had to fly through Atlanta to get to Chicago from Wichita), and their faucets and sinks and towel dispensers were all motion activated. I got the faucet going and shoved my hand under the soap dispenser, and it made a thunking noise. But no soap came out.

I tried it again. And again. And again. No soap.

I figured it must be empty, so I moved to the next sink. Same thing. Water ran fine but no soap. Just a thunk-thunk-thunk-wheeze. So I moved to the next sink.

Same thing! I had to go to two more sinks to get to a soap dispenser that worked, but at that sink, the water faucet didn’t work!

Just looking at the super nice ladies room in the Atlanta airport, everything looked fine and in perfect working order, but half the soap dispensers weren’t working.

768022_64244093Today’s verse is 2 Timothy 4:7.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.

The difficult part about following God is following through. You can say you’re committed to God. You can say you’ve dedicated your life to Him. But when real life hits, it’s not as easy to do it as it is to say it.

It’s easy to look like a Christian, but it’s not as easy to do what a Christian does. It takes dedication and commitment to Christ.

On the outside, you can look all shiny and perfect and in working order, but when the time comes to actually do the work you were designed to do, you might choke. Because it’s hard. Doing what God’s called us to do is the greatest adventure you can ever imagine, but it’s not easy because our world is broken. It’s worth it, yes, but it will never be easy.

You can go to Bible college. You can go to church every day. You can know the Bible forwards and backwards. But that doesn’t mean when God tells you to do something uncomfortable that you’re automatically going to jump in with both feet. You might end up exactly like that soap dispenser in the Atlanta airport–looking good but not actually functional.

If you want to achieve God’s best for you in this life, you have to be willing to do the things He tells you to do when He tells you to do them. You have to be committed. You have to finish the race you start.

People don’t get recognition for stopping a race in the middle of the run. I have friends who run marathons, and they train and train and train and train for ridiculous hours to get their bodies to the point where they can run a race. After they train, they don’t stop in the middle of the race because they get tired. Even if they finish last, they still finish.

Welcome to the Christian life. Following Jesus isn’t easy, and He never promised it would be. But He did promise He’d never leave us, and that it would be an awesome life. You’ll just never experience it if you aren’t totally committed to doing what He’s called you to do.

So think about your commitment level. Think about where you are in the race you’re running. If you’re still breathing, you haven’t finished it yet, but you may not be running anymore. You might not even be walking. You might have stopped somewhere along the road because trying to get to the finish line is just too much trouble.

It’s not. You’re just seeing the finish line through the eyes of someone who isn’t running the race. To someone who doesn’t care, finishing the race will never matter.

Don’t be a soap dispenser that doesn’t work. Don’t be a race-runner who’s standing still. Be committed. Follow Jesus where He leads you, when He leads you, how He leads you. It won’t be easy, but it will be awesome.

Pleasant Valley Road leading to Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Living is more than just shadowboxing

In Wichita, there is a lovely carved axiom in the decorative stone of an overpass. “The journey is the reward,” it says. I’m fairly certain the city planners had it inscribed there in an effort to stem road rage along Kellogg, especially since that particular stretch of the road is nearly always congested. And it’s a lovely saying. Poetic. Philosophical sounding even. Like a line you could pull out in a college classroom to impress your teachers with your depth.

But is it true? Is this journey we’re on (the one called life) its own reward? I don’t think so.

Pleasant Valley Road leading to Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Pleasant Valley Road leading to Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Corinthians 9:24-26.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.

Life isn’t a journey; life is a race. Everyone runs this race, some faster than others, some “better” than others, some more driven than others. Some walk. Some crawl. But everyone participates. It’s like a great big marathon, one of those televised ones where hundreds of people all bunch up and try to finish the race. Some people break away and race ahead; others are just glad to still be upright by the time they cross the finish line.

And I’m sure that you can really enjoy the run along the way in a marathon. I’ve never run one. But I do love to walk, and whenever I walk I have a goal. Walk to Point A and then return to where I came from. And when I’m walking at home down my road, I do love to look at the scenery (yes, Kansas has scenery), but I’m not walking just for that reason. There’s something I want to accomplish, and I can’t accomplish it until I finish walking.

Finishing is the reward. Not the journey. Like in a race, the winners receive a prize.

I love this passage because Paul makes a beautiful comparison between living our earthly life and living for Christ. Both are races. In a race, you run to win, and we should approach our life with Christ the same way because we aren’t running for a reward that will fade; we’re running for a reward that we’ll have for eternity. And for you non-competitive people out there (you folks who sabotage yourself in games so other people will win), remember this race for Christ isn’t about competing with others; you’re competing with yourself. It really is like a marathon. You aren’t running to beat the person next to you; you’re running to top your personal best.

Now this isn’t to say that I haven’t had marvelous experiences in my journey. I love my life. I love this race that I’m in. I have seen God do miracles, and I have witnessed the impossible become possible. I have seen lives transformed and families established and rebuilt and friendships renewed. Many rewarding things have happened in the course of my journey, but my journey isn’t the reward.

We get so attached to our little lives on Earth. It’s easy to do because they’re all that we can see, so sometimes it’s easy to forget that this world isn’t our home. We have a better home coming, a perfect home with no more sorrow or suffering or pain. That’s what we’re running for. That’s why we’re in this race. We aren’t racing for racing’s sake. We aren’t training for training’s sake. Everything we do should have a purpose, and that purpose should always come back to glorifying God.

So where are you in your race? Are you out front leading the pack? Are you in the middle with a bunch of other people who are moving at the same pace? Or are you at the back? Wherever you are, why are you running? Are you running to enjoy the run? To enjoy the scenery? To enjoy being around people who enjoy the same thing as you do? Nothing wrong with any of those, but eventually that motivation will fade.

Run to finish.

And in those moments where you want to give up, in those times when your race seems too long, too hard, too grueling to keep going, don’t stop. Keep moving forward and remember that the journey isn’t the reward. The reward comes after your journey is over.

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.