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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God’s grace isn’t a Get Out of Jail Free card

Everybody screws up. It’s just part of life. And when you screw up, you should do what you can to make amends. You should pay what you owe. You should take responsibility for your actions, and often that means facing up to the consequences of your choice.

Maybe you have to pay a fine or fee. Maybe you have to do community service. Maybe it’s something like losing privileges at work or even at home. Either way, it takes a good deal of humility to accept punishment or correction after you’ve done something wrong. It’s a lot easier to play the role of a victim, but if you choose that route, you’ll never learn what you need to learn.

Either way, don’t be surprised when consequences come your way after you make a choice. Good or bad, every action causes a reaction, but unlike physics, consequences are rarely equal or opposite of your original choice. If you make a bad choice, you’ll always face bad consequences, and usually they’ll be on a much larger scale.

So what about grace? If we’re saved and we follow Jesus, doesn’t that mean we’re in the clear? Doesn’t that mean we don’t have to face the consequences for our actions?

3BBC051F8BToday’s verses are Romans 6:14-16.

Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 

Christ-followers, we get this whole grace vs. consequences concept all turned around somehow. When Christ saved us from our sins, He freed us from our eternal death sentence in hell. That’s grace. That’s 100% right. If you trust that the price for your soul is paid by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross alone, you’re saved. Absolutely.

But what happens if you take something that doesn’t belong to you? What happens if you lie or cheat or gossip? Do you think you’ll get away with it? Or when you get caught (because you will get caught), do you think people will just let it go? Do you actually think you won’t have to face some kind of consequence for the bad choices you make?

Because of God’s grace, we won’t face hell if we belong to Christ. But if we choose to sin, we will have to face the results of our choices. Like sowing and reaping. Cause and effect. Action and reaction. It’s a natural law.

We blunder through life making foolish decisions without asking God what’s right. We run over people. We run into people. We hurt others without thinking. We selfishly chase our own ambitions and ignore God’s warnings. We do it our way because our way is easier, faster, more fun. And we end up doing things God says we shouldn’t do. And then we’re shocked when God expects us to take responsibility. We accuse Him of abandonment. We shake our fist at heaven and demand to know why He’s treating us this way.

Friends, God’s grace isn’t a Get Out of Jail Free card. We still have a responsibility to live a life that honors Christ. And, no, there’s nothing we can do that will separate us from God’s love, but God loves us enough to not let us act in ways that will ultimately lead to our own destruction.

But God is so good. Even in the midst of our own messes, God is still with us. He’ll step in and give us strength to face our consequences. He’ll give us wisdom when we need it, patience when we need it, peace when we ask for it. But that’s not grace. That’s mercy.

Are you facing consequences today because you made a wrong choice? Or because someone in your life made a wrong choice? Don’t be a victim. Maybe you are innocent in all of it, but take the opportunity to get humble before God anyway. Accept responsibility. Own up to it. And ask God to help you face the consequences of your actions with faith.

He has never turned anyone away who came to Him truly seeking. He won’t stop now.

A bad choice is bad, regardless of who makes it

Imagine that you’re riding in a car with a friend. When you get in the car, you notice that your friend doesn’t buckle his (or her) seat belt. When he’s driving, he doesn’t use his turn signals. And he goes much faster than the posted speed limit. Are you shocked and surprised when your friend gets pulled over by a police officer? Are you stunned speechless because you could never have imagined your friend in that position?

Come on. Be honest.

No, you’re not surprised. You probably figured it was only a matter of time. Why? Because your friend doesn’t obey the rules of the road. That doesn’t mean he’s not a great friend. It just means that neither he nor you should be surprised by the consequences when they catch up.

Today’s verses are Matthew 7:15-20.

Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

How closely do you really pay attention to what people say and do? Would you recognize a red flag in a relationship if you saw it?

You have to be careful with statements that you can identify a person by their actions or choices, because we are more than what we do and say. But it is true that you can identify wisdom in a person by their choices, just like you can identify foolishness. And that’s what we’re supposed to be looking for.

Bad choices lead to bad consequences. Just like good choices lead to good results. That’s common sense. That’s a law God set in motion from the beginning of time.

Somehow this always comes back around to judging and how we’re not supposed to judge, and that’s true. But what this is truly saying is that you have to keep your brain switched on. You can’t just turn off and accept whatever hair-brained idea your friends suggest. You have to think.

If someone is choosing to do something dumb, identify it for what it is. It’s dumb. And you can’t get smart from dumb. Senselessness never magically produced sense. It doesn’t work that way. Just like a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. Just like foolish choices can’t result in a truly positive outcome.

We all run into people like this in our lives, the ones who say they’re our friends but who really only care about themselves. Be aware of them. Learn to recognize them for what they are–not true friends. And keep your distance. otherwise they’ll drag you into their problems, their consequences, their issues.

All of a sudden, even though you’re just a passenger, you’ll still have to face consequences of your own. A bad choice is a bad choice, regardless of who’s driving or who’s just along for the ride.

Wheat heads ripening in the field across from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Waiting on Cupcake

Everyone I know is having a baby. Not literally everyone I know, but some days it feels like it is. This time it’s my good friend and writing buddy who I met in Colorado. Her mom took to calling the baby “Cupcake” so lots of others have picked up on that too. Cupcake was due on January 8. Today is January 15. We finally got the text last night that they had gone to the hospital, but since there hasn’t been news this morning, I’m going to guess that we’re still waiting. I am exhausted for her just thinking about it.

What is it about waiting that tires you out so fast? Maybe that’s just me, but if I spend a whole day waiting on something to happen, I’m more nervous and twitchy and fidgety than if I went outside and chopped down trees. I hate waiting. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably picked up on that. I can’t stand it. I want to get up and go do stuff now. I don’t want to sit back and see what happens. I don’t want to sit around waiting for something exciting. I want to go do something exciting, or at least watch a movie about people who get to do exciting things.

But most of the time, waiting is necessary. It’s something everyone has to do, and if we don’t wait for what God’s doing, we’ll get ahead of Him. And getting ahead of God is never a place you want to be.

Wheat heads ripening in the field across from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat heads ripening in the field across from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are James 5:7-8.

Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. You, too, must be patient. Take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.

I love the example of farmers waiting for their harvest to ripen. It’s so true. Farmers have to have so much patience, especially out where I live. When it comes to the wheat, they plant it just before winter really hits, so the wheat has time to sprout and take root before the snow comes down. Then, the little green bits hibernate (hopefully under the snow) for the winter until the freeze when they start growing again. And then, because it’s Kansas, it freezes again when it’s not supposed to, and everyone holds their breath to see if the wheat is going to survive until harvest.

Eventually the harvest comes. But it takes a long time from planting to reaping. You have to wait. Because if you don’t wait, you’ll harvest a crop that isn’t ripe, and all the time you’ve invested up until then will have been for nothing.

Like Cupcake. I’ve been waiting for months to meet Cupcake. So have her parents. So has everyone who’s known she was coming. But if she’d come earlier than this, that meeting would have been mixed with some concern. Waiting is an important part of being pregnant because the baby has to be ready to be born.

And if you’re being honest about it, life is the same way. There are no real get-rich-quick schemes. There are no free lunches, not really. If you want to be successful, you have to work at it. The Christian life is probably more like farming than real life. You plant seeds and you wait and you wait and you wait–and you probably wait out a freeze or two–and then as long as you’re faithful, the seed will sprout. And maybe eventually it will keep growing, and if you’re very fortunate, you’ll be the one who gets to harvest it. Usually it’s someone else who gets to harvest the seeds you’ve planted though.

But no matter who does the planting and who does the harvesting, following Christ is mostly made up of waiting. There are times when He wants you to take the initiative, yes, but mostly I’ve found that you just have to wait for His next instruction. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s not. But He always tells us what He wants us to do, though He doesn’t always go into how. And He always makes sure that we have everything we need for what He’s called us to do, whether we realize it or not.

A big part of waiting, I think, is preparing for what God is calling us to do. I get frustrated by having to sit around waiting for God’s timetable to match up with mine, but if I look back over my life, the waiting periods I’ve experienced have been training periods. The in-between times have been the moments when God brings things along in my life to teach me what I need to know to ultimately move forward with His plan for my life.

So, if I look at the waiting periods like that, maybe I won’t despise them so much. Sometimes you have to wait, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit around doing nothing. You can keep your brain turned on, and as long as you’re focused on God, you can learn something even in the silence.

Nothing in life happens without a reason, even waiting.

Wheat almost ready - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Who needs a paycheck?

I’ve been praying for my neighbors because we are hovering on the edge of one of the most amazing harvests I can ever remember. The wheat has never looked so beautiful. The photo for today comes from a week or so ago, and since then most of the fields around my home have turned almost completely golden. There’s no sight like it on earth.

Now if we can just hold on for a few more weeks with no major storms, no major floods, Kansas could have a very good year. And about time too. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good harvest in these parts.

I think farming and writing are very similar in some ways, especially when it comes to harvests. Because in both professions you can pour your heart and soul into what you do and never see a positive financial return. You can farm and farm until you’ve planted acres and acres of every crop, and (at least in Kansas) one bad storm can wipe it out. It has nothing to do with your dedication; it’s just life.

Writing’s the same in some cases. I realized the other day that I’ve been writing for almost 20 years, and I have yet to see an actual return on any of it. Granted, I only started letting some of that writing out into the public eye in the last five years. But still. If you run the numbers, you can get discouraged pretty quickly. And then you stumble into a verse like today’s?

Wheat almost ready - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat almost ready – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Luke 6:38.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

How does that work? I can honestly tell you that I’ve worked my fingers to the bone writing since I was a child. My dream since childhood was to be a published author. And I haven’t cut corners. At all. I’ve never expected a free ride, and I’ve dedicated every free moment to it. Even my vacations have been an opportunity to pursue writing.

So according to this rule, the rule of sowing and reaping, I should get back what I invest. And I should get back more of it. This is a law of nature that God created when He made the world. Newton figured it out too; for every action there is a reaction. Cause and effect.

So where does Jesus get off telling me this today?

Farmers plant fields and harvest crops, unless you live in Kansas. Then, generally, you plant crops and harvest dust. Much like writers write books and harvest disappointment when no one wants to buy their work. Am I wrong?

I’m only being partially facetious.

I would be right, yes, if Jesus were only talking about financial returns. I can’t really speak to farmers because I don’t farm (unless you count weeds), but when it comes to writing there is something more satisfying than being paid for your work. And that is when your work touches someone else.

No, I haven’t published a novel yet. But you’re reading this blog post, aren’t you?

No, I haven’t received a financial return on anything I’ve written, but I didn’t really start writing to get rich and famous. I started writing and telling stories because it was an outlet where I could share what God has done in my life. And so much more important to me is communicating that truth to other people, whether it’s in blog posts or articles or short stories or novels. And maybe I haven’t written anything that’s made money. And maybe I never will. But if you count up the people I’ve been able to share my story with through words, that vastly outweighs a paycheck of any kind.

I’ve invested 20 years of my life in writing, in learning how to tell stories, in sharing what God has taught me through words. And I can tell you, the returns I’ve seen, while not financial, are greater than what I originally invested. I’ve given my life to writing, and I’ve watched God take that and make it into something bigger than what I could have imagined, not only being a blessing to people but encouraging others to start sharing their story too. And that’s worth more to me than almost anything.

So whatever you’re doing in your life today, remember that the whole principle of sowing and reaping applies. It really does. It just may not pay off in the way you’re expecting. If what you’re doing in your life honors God, you will see a return. That’s a promise. So don’t give up.

Who needs a paycheck anyway, right? … Like I said. Partially facetious. =)