In Max Lucado’s Cast of Characters: Lost & Found, he has a chapter about the woman who was caught in adultery and dragged before Jesus by the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. It’s a great illustration of the tension that exists between two of our common desires: the desire for justice and the desire for mercy. Continue reading “Soaring Over The Bar”
(First posted December 2013. I wanted to revisit a Christmas post from a few years back that is just as pertinent today.)
At Christmas, it’s easy to get caught up in all the celebration and miss the real meaning. Our lives are so busy and sometimes, when life is rough, it hits hardest at Christmas. Our non-Christian friends will look at us not understanding why we say they should have hope when their world gets rocked. Sometimes it seems that Christians get a reputation of being people who blindly follow without closely examining their faith.
“Your church is great when everything is going well, but what about in my life? When things get off track? It just won’t fit.”
How do you find God at the children’s cancer ward, the mortuary, Christmas morning after a bitter divorce, or a night at the bar? After calling nine one one, or an ambush in (fill in the city).
Praising God is easy(?) in church on Sunday morning, but does He really exist in our world, now?
To me, in any circumstances, I have to praise Him, proclaim him. I’ve met Him.
I can’t say He doesn’t exist. I’ve met Him.
I can’t say He’s not relevant today. I’ve met Him.
I can’t say He doesn’t care. I’ve met Him.
And He’s given us all a message that he’s here with us, in any situation. Even in a manger. Emmanuel doesn’t just speak about His physical presence, but also His emotional presence. He does care.
That’s what Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “I Heard the Bells” was all about. He was one of America’s most beloved poets, but his life had been rocked the year he wrote this. His wife had died and the Civil War had just broken out.
Where does anyone go to look for hope at a time like that?
In two of the strangest, most illogical places. A manger and a cross.
Jesus is still here with us. Just sometimes it’s hard to see Him through the dust, smoke, and tears.
Recently, we got a journal called Christ Walk, a 40-Day Spiritual Fitness Programby Anna Fitch Courie. In the Introduction, she describes herself as “average, average height, average looks, average intelligence, average Christian, average person.” That’s pretty average. She had trained as an RN and worked as a health promotion coordinator for the 1st Infantry Division. So she should have some insights on how to be healthy.
She started a walking program at her church, and that’s the basis of most of this book. It’s more of an encouraging journal than a how-to exercise manual. In other words, instead of a coach in your ear, she’s a friend who goes through the journey with you.
The book we got was especially interesting because it was second-hand and someone had already filled it in. Reading through it was like watching someone else go through the program.
But the lady who had the book ran into some of the same problems that many of us encounter. She had great plans, but life jumped in. She wanted to walk on the treadmill each day. Now, treadmills are great, but not so much everyday. It’s easy to get bored and they’re never in a convenient place.
On day four, she journaled that her family schedule conflicted with her goal, that she hurt, and she didn’t do anything. “She failed.” Her words. Day five was also a bad day and you could see the trend building on her. One bad day often leads to another, and then to abandoning the plan.
I was proud of her though, she kept with it. She gave it another try toward the end, but she’d lost heart. If she was like many of us, clothes were hanging on her treadmill.
The last few weeks were underlined, but the journal part was blank. And you could tell it had become a burden. She was probably in a class doing her homework.
Her goal of growing spiritually, mentally, and physically turned into just another chore. Been there, done that.
Here are a few tips I would have given her:
Keep your program flexible. The treadmill is tough because you can’t fit it into your daily life. I like tracking steps with a fitbit (mine is a Garmin Vivofit) because I can do a little here, a little there, it all adds up. But a treadmill is great as the days get colder, shorter, and wetter. I have an indoor bike and I can ride it and still be home with Madison. But, when the weather permits, I want to walk in the neighborhood. And little bits add up. You do have to do it all at once.
Don’t jump in the deep end. She expected herself to hit her goals from day one. That’s why she wrote, “She hurts.” Start light, not necessarily easy. Remember, this was a forty day challenge. You don’t want to do on day one, what you’ll do on day 40. Allow yourself to build up to it.
Pack extra rope. She didn’t leave herself any room for error. Something will happen to murk up your plans and schedule. Your family will have sports, sickness, something. Your work will require overtime. Be ready to allow yourself to miss a day or to work around the conflict.
And finally, you may fail, but you aren’t a failure. Any step forward is a step forward. Again, like I said in the last post, life is a marathon. You will have a lot of starts and stops. But don’t let your stops be final, make them timeouts and get back up. In running, there’s a formula:
This means, read backwards, Dead Last is better than Did Not Finish, which is better than Did Not Start. At least you got off the couch. It’s about doing better than you think, or you did before.
Our goal should be to keep striving to get better; physically, mentally, and spiritually. Remember, this side of Heaven, you will always be a work in progress.